On January 21st, I attended the first Chiaroscuro Reading Series, or, as it is more colloquially known, ChiSeries Toronto, event of 2015 at ROUND venue. ChiSeries promised a delightful evening of readings and music, and it did not disappoint.
The first author of the evening was Geoffrey W. Cole, a sci-fi/speculative fiction author with a Biology background who read from his unpublished short story “Billy-Ray’s Small Appliance Rehabilitation,” a dystopian vision of Toronto’s future in which memories can be reviewed like video, genetic modification has become so commonplace and so destructive that many babies are born defective, and most “natural” people live in sealed-off cult-like compounds dominated by religious fervour and 1950s nostalgia. Cole is an excellent reader, and I look forward to reading the rest of his story. He has just recently moved to Toronto from Vancouver, and it was easy to tell how much he is enamoured with this city.
The next reader was Noah Wareness, who has just self-published his first novel, Meatheads, from which he read. Set in post-apocalyptic San Francisco, Meatheads follows the struggles of punks so stupid they haven’t actually noticed the world has ended around them, and who cannot, Wareness said, “distinguish between making things, and death.“ In the excerpt Wareness’ read, as the punk protagonists attend a Black Flag concert and debate with each other over the extent to which Henry Rollins can teach them the true meaning of hardcore, the concert is attacked by a horde of yuppies, zombie-like both in their behaviour and their attempt to appropriate an underground culture, who must be killed before they ruin the show.
After each of these two readings, I was delighted by brief ukulele-and song musical interludes from Kari Maaren. Kari is delightfully geeky, and her songs, the first about how students invariably fail to read assignment instructions, and the second about common tropes in fiction, helped keep up the crowd’s energy.
The final reader of the evening was Leslie Livingston (twitter), winner of the CLA Young Adult Book of the Year 2010. Instead of reading from newest novel, Transcendent (third in the Starling Saga), Livingston read the journey-into-the-underworld chapter from the second book in the series, Descendant. Livingston apologized for how often she “magically blows up chunks of New York City” in her novels, which set mythological figures from Norse and other pantheons in adventures in the real world.
Overall, this was a lively evening full of good people, a great atmosphere, and great literature. The authors and the crowd were incredibly welcoming, and the mixture of genres kept it very fresh. I took a minute to speak with Sandra Kasturi, chair of the Chiaroscuro National Reading Series and Co-Founder of ChiZine Publications, who was the night’s MC. Kasturi founded ChiZine in 2008 in order to showcase what she calls “kick-ass books.” From one night at this reading series it’s easy to see how ChiZine has become so successful. Between their motto, “Embrace the Odd,” and the variety of genres being showcased, ChiZine has developed a reputation as a trustworthy publisher. “What we hear a lot,” said Kasturi, beaming, “is ‘I don’t really like horror, but I like what you do, so I’ll buy your horror titles.” That’s a reputation a press should be proud of.
ChiSeries Toronto is a monthly reading series on the third Wednesday of every month, held at ROUND Venue, in Kensington Market, starting at 8pm. The “Post-Valentine’s Day Apocalypse Show” on February 18th will feature Violette Malan, Matthew J. Trafford, and others. ChiSeries will also be hosting the Toronto Speculative Fiction Colloquium on March 7, 2015.
The ChiSeries, which is funded partially by grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, regularly features independent authors. Interested authors should contact Sandra at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ChiZine Publications (CZP) is British Fantasy Award-winning and three-time World Fantasy Award-nominated independent publisher of surreal, subtle, and disturbing dark literary fiction hand-picked by co-publishers Brett Alexander Savory and Sandra Kasturi, Bram Stoker Award-winning editors.