Over the Darkened Landscape - By Derryl Murphy


Julie Czerneda

Being Canadian is a rather odd thing. Our love of this vast, beautiful landscape comes wrapped in an obsession with weather. Our civility, for we are admittedly civil and patient depending on how long the queue is at Timmie’s, goes hand-in-hand with a keen disdain for organized stupidity (especially from those we elect, but any group who wilfully misbehaves on or off the ice is fair game). At our core, though, is a strength derived from caring for those around us. Family, friends, community. Even when they drive us bonkers.

All of which brings me to the collection of stories you’re about to enjoy. They span speculative fiction from hard SF to horror, Murphy’s craft sure-handed and determined regardless of genre. Like any skilled artist, he uses the medium of his choice to illuminate why we are as we are. He explores what’s possible at the interface between human and other, be it technology or monster. His protagonists range wildly—from H.G. Wells to a curious child, from a group of discarded astronauts to a woman waking from sleep. There’s a dog. A living ship. Magic here; starships there. What ties them together is how Murphy paints, all too convincingly, the evil we are capable of—and the good.

As I read, however, it wasn’t only the imagination and ideas here that caught my attention. It was how Murphy’s nailed what it is to be Canadian—warts and glory—in a way I didn’t see coming.

You can read these stories for what they are: flights of fancy, occasionally wicked, often poignant, and always entertaining. But if you’ve ever blinked away tears from a minus 20 wind, stood patiently in a queue, or shook your head at bureaucratic “wisdom,” (quite possibly all at once), you’ll feel at home here.

And, if you’ve ever cared about those around you, your heart will, too.

Julie Czerneda

Orillia Ontario

September 2012

Body Solar

Breathebreathebreathebreathebreathe . . .

I can’t remember how to breathe, he thought. Panic began to set in, but he managed to fight it back down, turning it into a cool lump in the pit of his stomach, rather than a piercing starburst.

There’s a breath now. He felt himself begin to relax. Remember what the lady said . . .

The voice in his head seemed to become urgent. He turned his mind away from the new sensations and tried to concentrate on what was being said. Words and thoughts danced away from his grasp for a moment before he found the ability to focus.

“Simon, this is Anna.” The voice sounded lovely, and familiar. He imagined himself frowning as he tried to place it. “We need to test all systems before you get too far away from us. Can you please try to take a breath?”

A breath? With a shock he realized for the first time that he hadn’t been breathing. Fear started to override his somewhat dulled senses and he tried to take a great, shuddering breath, like a swimmer who had dived too deep and only just made it to the surface in time. Instead, he felt his chest lift very slightly and a small amount of air move into his lungs.

It didn’t feel like enough, and he struggled for another. His body wouldn’t cooperate.

“No, Simon,” said the voice in his head. “Don’t try to take another. Your body knows what to do now and will breathe when it needs to.”

“Who is this?” He had tried to speak, but rather than hearing words from his mouth, it felt like he had spoken inside his head.

“It is Anna, Simon. Dr. Schaum. Do you remember where you are?”

His thoughts slowly stirred about for a moment, then as they neared the answer they seemed to pick up speed, making him think of the rats in Africa scurrying about when newslights were turned on them. When he managed to pin one thought down, it struck him as the right one.


His back felt warm. Kind of itchy, too. Turn my head, he thought. Then, I remember, it takes a long time. But I can wait.

His eyes took in everything around him. Mostly, it was just blackness, punctuated by dots of light. Nothing but stars all around me. Stars and me and my sail.

He hadn’t turned his head enough to see the sail, yet. Funny how he hadn’t thought to look at it before now.

How long have I been out here?

Eyes still seeing the black velvet with the pinholes, he tried to remember the name.

Oh. “Anna?” There was no answer, but he didn’t feel hurried. He easily remembered that patience