Review of Slow Reveal, a novel by Melanie Mitzner

Slow Reveal by Melanie Mitzner is a unique story about family, relationships, art and life. Katherine, a film editor, is in an open marriage with Jonathan, an artist whose work was panned for being “too political.” She is also in a long-term love affair with Naomi, a successful poet who has been kept out of Katherine’s family life, and in particular, the lives of her two now-adult children. The story is also about these two children: Ellie, an artist like her father, and Brigitte, a possibly budding writer who struggles with drug dependency. The reader meets other characters such as Jonathan’s father and sister, Katherine’s brother, and an assortment of people who circulate in and out of our main characters’ lives. 

The setting of the novel is New York City in the nineties, and the author’s depiction of this time and place is both understated and convincing, comparing favourably with usual “sweep past the Empire State Building, peek at the Brooklyn Bridge, flash on Times Square” approach of some who place their stories in the city of my birth. Likewise, Mitzner’s characters are portrayed in a way that is both realistic—including selfish thoughts and deeds—and kind. We see how people faced with struggles including the death of a loved one, mental health, betrayal, financial instability, and loss of intimacy still manage to keep going, and in some cases, to continue making art with integrity.

One difficulty I had with the novel was all the head-jumping. One moment you were in the thoughts of a certain character, and the next moment, without warning, you were in another’s. For this reader, the result was confusion rather than a sharpening of the characterizations, and a feeling of always being a little behind the ball since it took a moment or two to figure out in which point-of-view we were now immersed. On the other hand, this approach created a kind of collage or mosaic effect, which helped to nicely reinforce thematics around art and connectedness.

I strongly recommend this novel, especially to readers who enjoy LBGTQ+ stories, stories about art and politics, urban fiction, and novels about family and relationships.

Renaissance Virtual Conference

My publisher,  Renaissance Press, has put together a free virtual literary conference that will take place on the weekend of June 5th to 7th. There are a lot of cool panels, a virtual vending room — even the possibility of chatting on Discord. I  think this is going to be a lot of fun, as well as a great opportunity to talk about books and the craft of writing.

Check out the programme here:

If you would like to “browse’ in the the virtual vendor’s room, follow this link: Vendor’s Room  and the FB event page is here:

I am excited to be on several panels and I plan to attend a lot more. I may even do a reading! There will be a lot of interesting books on sale in the virtual vendors room, where you will also be able to find both my novels.

It is great that Renaissance has taken the initiative of organizing such a conference during this time of social confinement.

Hope to “see” you there!


My second novel is about to be launched!

RUN J RUN, my second novel, is coming out soon with Renaissance Press!Renaissance

Run J Run is a riveting tale of friendship, love, and chosen family. Using the tools of psychological drama and erotica, it presents a compelling critique of both the treatment of mental illness in our society and the false boundaries we construct in our personal relationships. 

Jeremy, a high school English teacher coming to grips with a shattered marriage and haunted by the brother he lost, unexpectedly falls in love with his best friend, Zak. Attractive, wildly unconventional, and happy in an open relationship with his partner Annie, Zak seems to embody everything missing from Jeremy’s life, but when the arrest and death of a marginalized student at the Brooklyn high school where they both teach trigger Zak’s mental breakdown and slow descent, Jeremy and Annie are compelled to cross boundaries, both external and internal, in a desperate attempt to save him.

A character-driven story with a cast of diverse and realistic protagonists, Run J Run celebrates the day-to-day heroism of ordinary, flawed individuals faced with trauma, loss, and marginalization.

Run J Run can be preordered from the publisher here.

Cycling to Asylum on its Way to Becoming a Film


Su J. Sokol’s ‘Cycling to Asylum’ Headed For The Screen After Kiss Off Entertainment Options the Anarcho-Pacifist Novel

VANCOUVER, B.C. Oct 9th – Kiss Off Entertainment is taking Cycling to Asylum into development as a feature length film, to be adapted and directed by Sara Beth Edwards.

The Sunburst Award long-listed novel revolves around young parents whose views are at odds with authoritarian government in near-future New York. Laek is a history teacher with a secret radical past while his partner Janie is an activist lawyer representing the city’s most disenfranchised. Together they struggle with how to instil anti-authoritarian values into their two kids, without those beliefs endangering their children’s welfare in an increasingly hostile political climate. How can they live with integrity and still be safe?

When Laek is nearly beaten to death at a protest, hospitalization in a high-tech facility exposes gaps in his documentation. As Laek clings to life and scrutiny on the family grows, Janie plans a covert escape from the United States, traveling by bicycle into Canada. With no reliable information available about outside countries, the family must take a chance on underground rumours Montreal has declared itself a sanctuary city that accepts refugees. It’s the only place they could start over – if they can make it there at all.

“The subversive themes and non-binary characters absolutely drew me to this story,” said Edwards. “But also the depth of emotion as they fight not just for physical survival but the preservation of their beliefs, their humanity.”

Sara Beth Edwards wrote on season one of the Netflix series Travelers. Her debut feature Fall Back Down, a punk RomCom set to be released mid 2019, is executive produced by Chris Moore (Good Will Hunting) and Ziad Touma (Before the Streets, Le bruits des arbres).

Su J. Sokol is a social rights and anti-border advocate originally from New York City where she worked as legal services lawyer. Her short fiction has appeared in The Future Fire, Spark: A Creative Anthology and Glittership: an LGBTQ Science Fiction & Fantasy Podcast among others. 

Cycling to Asylum is published by Deux Voiliers Publishing, who specialize in first-time novelists. Sokol’s latest interstitial fiction novel, Run J Run, will be published by Renaissance Press in 2019.

Updates on development and production will be posted to: as well as Instagram and Facebook:

For more information contact:


Towards a Liberated (Un)imaginable


Towards a Liberated (Un)imaginable

  • liberated unimaginable.pngDATE:  Thursday, June 21st, at 7:30pm
  • LOCATION:  Left Bank Books, 92 Pike, Seattle, Washington

Join visiting Montreal-based author Su J. Sokol (author of Cycling to Asylum) and local writer Magpie Leibøwitz as they read from their respective works and engage in a facilitated discussion of the relationship between speculative writing and activism.

Su J. Sokol is a social rights activist and a writer of speculative, liminal, and interstitial fiction. A former legal services lawyer from New York City, she now makes Montréal her home. Cycling to Asylum, Su’s debut novel, was long-listed for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her short fiction has appeared or is upcoming in The Future Fire, Spark: A Creative Anthology, the TFF 10th Anniversary Anthology, Glittership: an LGBTQ Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcast, the Glittership: Year One anthology, and After the Orange by B-Cubed Press. Her new novel, Run J Run, is scheduled to come out in 2019 with Renaissance Press.

Magpie Leibøwitz is a liminal critter open to the vøid/veil, as well a purveyor of experimental and speculative writing. In addition to work in/on the Resilience Anthology of trans fiction, Magpie is the author of the novella Superscript :: Subhuman, the longform poem Raft/Rupture, and the tape zine Wind/Wound. Their works in progress include the experimental autobiofictional autopsy, Worm Eats Bird, and a collection of short fiction, Moon Phases.

Doors at 7:00, reading to start at 7:30-8:00. Left Bank Books is partially wheelchair accessible. Please be respectful of scent sensitivities and other needs.

Speculative Fiction, Resistance, and Social Change

Speculative fiction has a long history of creating stories that challenge our assumptions about what is possible. Some say that this makes it a natural tool for aiding social justice movements. Others would argue that speculative fiction, like other literary genres, merely springs from and reinforces current social mores and ways of thinking.

This panel will bring together writers of speculative fiction to discuss and debate such issues as the role of dystopian and utopian fiction as social commentary, whether science fiction’s technophilia reinforces capitalist and imperialist thinking, and to what extent is speculative fiction inclusive of works by women, racialized people, and the lgbtqia+ community.

WHEN:  Thursday, May 24th, at 7pm

WHERE:  QPIRG Concordia, 1500 de Maisonneuve West, suite 204


H. Nigel Thomas (moderator) is the author of ten books: four novels: Spirits in the Dark (shortlisted for the QSPELL Hugh MacLennan Fiction Award), Behind the Face of Winter, Return to Arcadia, and No Safeguards ( finalist for the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction in 2015); three collections of short stories: How Loud Can the Village Cock Crow, Lives: Whole and Otherwise, and When the Bottom Falls Out and Other Stories; a collection of poems, Moving Through Darkness; and two works of non-fiction: From Folklore to Fiction: A Study of Folk Heroes and Rituals in the Black American Novel and Why We Write: Conversations with African Canadian Poets and Novelists. He is a former Montreal high-school teacher and retired professor of United States literature at Université Laval. He is the founder and English-language coordinator of Lectures Logos Readings.

Claudie Arsenault: Squids, bread, and hot air balloon have little in common… except how much nerdy squeeing they can draw out of Claudie. Excitable and passionate, Claudie writes quirky science-fiction and fantasy that lets the best tropes shine through, haters be damned, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. As an aromantic and asexual writer, she gives full breadth to stories that centre platonic relationships. Her latest novel, Baker Thief, features a bigender aromantic baker and explores romantic narrative arcs applied to aromantic characters. Claudie is also well-known for her database of aro and ace characters. Claudie is also a founding member of The Kraken Collective, a group of indie writers who love queer SFF, and she is devoted to its promotion. Find more on her website!

Paige Cooper’s stories have appeared in The Fiddlehead, West Branch, Michigan Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast Online, Canadian Notes & Queries, The New Quarterly, and have been anthologized in The Journey Prize Stories and Best Canadian Stories. She’s a fiction editor at Cosmonauts Avenue and her first book, Zolitude, came out this year with Biblioasis.

Su J. Sokol is a social rights activist and a writer of speculative, liminal, and interstitial fiction. A former legal services lawyer from New York City, she now makes Montréal her home. Cycling to Asylum, Su’s debut novel, was long-listed for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her short fiction has appeared or is upcoming in The Future Fire, Spark: A Creative Anthology, the TFF 10th Anniversary Anthology, Glittership: an LGBTQ Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcast, the Glittership: Year One anthology, and After the Orange by B-Cubed Press. Her new novel, Run J Run, is scheduled to come out in 2019 with Renaissance Press.


f you require childcare, please contact the organizers at 48 hours before the event.

QPIRG Concordia is a wheelchair accessible and scent-free space see for further details

This event is being organized with the support of QPIRG McGill

Review of Ariah by B R Sanders

I recently moderated a virtual roundtable discussion on polyamory in speculative fiction, and one of the writers who participated was B R Sanders. After the discussion, I decided to read their novel.

ariah_final_frontcoverIt’s said that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I was immediately intrigued by the image of the triad which appears on the front of the book. Strong, proud, protective, a little defiant—the three characters were depicted in a way that made me want to learn more not only about them but about their world.

When I was younger, I read a good deal of fantasy, but these days, I generally prefer character-driven, realistic science fiction. This is because, for whatever reason, as an older adult I have often found it difficult to suspend my disbelief when reading certain types of fantasy. In fact, at the very beginning of Ariah, I admit to having inwardly rolled my eyes at the first mention of elves. However, it couldn’t have been more than a few paragraphs later that I was speeding smoothly along, reading about these fascinating people (elves) who felt authentic and were compelling.

The characters in Ariah are nuanced and complex. They were similar enough to people I have known or could imagine knowing to make me feel grounded, and different enough that I was intrigued and eager to learn more. The protagonists had flaws but it was easy for me to care about them. I found myself cringing when they screwed up but I never stopped hoping that things would work out in the end.

Ariah is a story that is filled with many different types of relationships. Along with the characters, we experience the richness and particularities of these relationships, which ranged from the bond between a student and their teacher, the love and loyalty of friends,  romantic love whether sexual or asexual, and the intense (and sometimes dysfunctional) connections between members of blood or found family. I very much enjoyed exploring this with Ariah and the people around him. I also liked that the story took place within a certain political context, with all the ugliness, pain, and injustice that we find in our worlds, and with all the hope and courage too. Finally, Ariah is also a classic adventure story of a young adult growing up and learning to understand himself and his world while meeting interesting people and going on grand adventures filled with both fun and hardship.

The world building was well done. Sanders is very good at avoiding exposition, instead just letting you work things out for yourself. I actually did not figure out every detail of Ariah’s world or worlds and still had some questions at the end. Although I think this was a small flaw (since I am generally pretty good at putting things together), I much prefer this situation to being the victim of an information dump that pulls me out of the action. In fact, not being certain of every detail concerning how this world functioned made me interested in learning more, perhaps by reading other books that might take place in this same world. I think I’ll start looking for some right now.

Review of The Other Oscar by Cora Siré

the other oscarGood things do indeed come in small packages—even novels, as is demonstrated by Cora Siré’s The Other Oscar. Although the book is only 87 pages in length, it manages to accomplish more than many books that are four times its length.

Oscar, the main character in this story, is a Canadian musician who’s been hired to play his cello for a bit role in a movie being filmed in the city of Iquique, Chile. The problem? He must do the playing on a small raft in the middle of the ocean, and he can’t swim. Oscar is a young father, divorced, a little socially awkward, good-natured, and a devoted son to a father with mental health problems. In fact, Oscar is somewhat obsessed with madness, which happens to also be the topic of the film in which he has been called upon to play.

Siré does an excellent job of gaining sympathy early on for her protagonist. In addition, she has created a whole cast of additional characters who are both believable and interesting, including Clave, who stars in the film; Sarah, the director; Noemi, who works at the hotel; a street musician, his daughter, and a monkey; and a second Noemi … but to say more would be a spoiler.

Suffice it to say instead that I happily followed Oscar through the twisty streets of Iquique and the equally twisty plot turns, and in the end, I learned some more about madness, art, devotion, kindness, hope, and new beginnings.

Review of Fae Visions of the Mediterranean: An Anthology of Horrors and Wonders of the Sea

Fae Visions of the Mediterranean: An Anthology of Horrors and Wonders of the Sea, Edited by Valeria Vitale & Djibril al-Ayad

This is the fifth Future Fire anthology that I have read. The first three—Outlaw Bodies, We See a Different Frontier, and Accessing the Future—are each linked by a common theme or idea, and the fourth one, TFF-X: Ten Years of The Future Fire, is a mix of new work and selected reprints published to celebrate the tenth year anniversary of The Future Fire magazine. The most recent anthology, Fae Visions of the Mediterranean: An Anthology of Horrors and Wonders of the Sea, is a collection of stories, poetry and artwork connected by geography rather than ideas.

I read and appreciate a fairly wide spectrum of what can be called speculative fiction, but my preferences tend to run more towards science fiction and realistic fantasy than to other sub-genres. As in art, music, and romance, there is no accounting for taste, but for some reason, stories about sea monsters and other mythic ocean creatures don’t usually float my boat (excuse the pun.) I am also not very drawn to horror. Nevertheless, though this anthology is filled with such elements, there is something about it that was pleasing to me, something that has to do with the impressively diversity of the pieces contained in the collection. Not only is there prose, poetry, and artwork, but a wide range of writing and artistic styles are also represented. The stories likewise come from a large number of nations, cultures, and traditions, all linked by their physical connection to the Mediterranean Sea.

The inclusion in the collection of many of the languages of the region was particularly effective. Though the anthology is still primarily English (and can be enjoyed by a unilingual anglophone), I appreciated the opportunity to see some work in its original regional language followed by the English translation, and the fact that in some cases the translation seemed truncated or at least secondary somehow made the story feel more authentic for me. In fact, while the collection has an almost mythic feel to it, at the same time, it seems very “grounded” in the history and legends of the Sea, thereby giving it a well-researched or even academic solidity

Here are some of my favourite pieces:

“The Miracle Town” by Mattia Ravasi: I was very drawn in by the story-telling skills of this author. I did not know what the story was about for a while (no spoilers) but it did not matter because the writing was so enjoyable, and the build and reveal were very well-done.

“The Wisps of Tabarka” by Hella Grichi: I enjoyed this both as a story and a work of art. There is a lovely integration of the original language with the English telling. It is written as a fairy tale, but not like a western fairy tale.

“Ghanja Bla Flus/A Free Song” by Maria Grech Ganado: This is a beautiful poem, filled with passion, sharp wit, and mystery.

“The Minotaur in Pamplona” by Rhys Hughes, is a well written tale filled with longing and regret, with just enough mystery mixed + foreshadowing to make the ending satisfying.

“Bilaadi by S. Chakraborty”: This is beautifully written, with a very successful use of second person narration. It is a deep, a very human story at the same time that it is a tale of gods and myths.

“The Return of Melusine” by Angela Rega is a well-told story that reads both contemporary and as an ancient myth.