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» #73 on newsstands now!

subTerrain #73 (SECRETS) features an interview about Big Data with Simon Fraser University professor Catherine Murray; new fiction from Lisa Aitken, Alice Stinetorf, Bob Thurber, Leo Brent Robillard, Meaghan Lorass, Martin West, and Joe Zucchiatti; poetry from Brad Buchanan; nonfiction from Leni T. Goggins, and Jim Christy, plus commentary from Peter Babiak; a new column, “The Crank & File” by Matthew Firth and our regular column, The Last Word (The Biography Channel) by Nathaniel G. Moore; plus the 2015 Lush Triumphant contest runners-up: Tricia Dower (Fiction), and Jordan Mounteer (Poetry) along with our regular batch of discerning reviews of new books by Hasan Namir, Sonja Larsen, Libby Creelman, Jim Bartley, David W. McFadden, Michel Houellebecq (trans by Lorin Stein), Dinty W. Moore, Jeff Steudel, and Gustave Morin.

Cover and interior photography by Simon Clarke.

» Fiction

Nine Murderers Look at a Lake

She’d read that the skin was the body’s largest organ, that it could easily weigh fourteen pounds, and imagined it folded like a blanket, a wetsuit, or a flap of tripe. She put her hands to her face and explored the contours of her bone structure, tracing the ridge of her nose, the span of her cheekbones, the shallow depressions at her temples. She moved her fingers around to the bumps behind her ears then slid them across the wall of her brow, moving the skin and feeling its slippage over the bone.

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Fifteen Miles South of the Arctic Circle

The river valley is broad and shallow, smooth unblemished snow, from the western ridge where I stand, to the steeper eastern side. The river itself is deep and fast but it’s frozen over, and except for the line of trees along the banks, you can’t tell where it is.

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One day they were standing outside the annoying theatre where they worked, smoking a horrible menthol cigarette they’d bummed off a horrible patron, when a pale guy with black spiked hair, black acid wash jeans and a black Metallica T-shirt came up to them and said in an almost undetectable Scottish accent, “You look cool. Want tae run away with the circus?”

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» Creative Non-Fiction

Halfway to Happiness

In my apartment taped to the fridge is a photograph I took in the summer of 1989 on the west Coast of Ireland. In it is the form of my father—now more than twenty years gone—middle-aged, stooped, overweight, nearly a shadow, walking away from the camera into the blue-green water, the only human figure on a vast, empty beach.

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Quiet Pipelines

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be saying to you guys. What do you want to know? I just found out what this was a few minutes ago. Pretty sad, isn’t it? Not good. It’s not good where I come from too. Actually, I’m from Fort Chip. I was working in the oil industry for about eight years. And I just got diagnosed with cancer this year. So I’m battling for my life right now. I got diagnosed with breast cancer.”

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Illo for Working in Steep Ditches Working In Steep Ditches

So why did I go again? Couldn’t tell you. Actually I could tell you. I could tell you it’s because I woke up and I knew it would be a good day. That after the free hockey tickets, the overtime comeback, and the smile from the cute girl on the train, I knew it would be a good night. I could tell you it’s because I was due. No one runs so bad for so long. Maybe I’d run cold again, but I wasn’t going to run bad. My favourite, the one that always gets me moving, is that I’d only stay a couple hours, till two at the latest, and then I’d go. Right. This time for sure though.

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« strong voices »

The Archaeologists — Chapter 24: June — Saturday, April 19

The doorbell rings. It’s 7:30 in the morning. June shifts into Norm and sighs. Her head is on his shoulder. Her legs are wrapped around his. It’s her second true sleep in weeks.

A fist pounds against the door. Then the doorbell, ringing again.

June stirs. Norm?

A muffled yell—Open up! OPP!



The doorbell—ringing.

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The Archaeologists — Chapter 19: Susan—Thursday, April 17

Wasn’t that amazing? Jared is saying. Wasn’t that just…so freakin’ cool? The four others in the room—also college kids from Jared’s local branch plant university—all nod and agree and talk among each other about how cool and awesome and freakin’ it was. Susan considers Jared, sitting erect in her father’s favourite armchair. He has not-quite shoulder length straight black hair. He’s wearing scuffed leather boots and a jean jacket. His eyes are hazel, bright with the thrill of having been out in the world, having actually done something. He reminds her of young Susan, fifteen years ago.

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The Archaeologists — Chapter 14: Tim and Charlie—Monday, April 14

When Tim wakes up he’s back on his back. The ground underneath is cold and hard. He rubs his eyes against the soft, filtered light. It’s late afternoon, he guesses. He remembers leaving his father’s place. He remembers moving automatically, inexorably, back to the woods, back to his woods. He climbed the tree. He smoked another joint. And then another. The black night going bleary. Flattened cut-outs of the house, the backyard, the hole in the ground…all of it swirling around him like a cheesy dream sequence in one of those old black and white movies Carly likes to watch, special effects made with glue and scissors, orbiting mobiles, the scenes so long Tim wants to shout at the screen, yeah, yeah, we get it already.

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The Archaeologists — Chapter 9: Tim—Friday, April 11

Nighttime. Tim feels like he’s the only one on foot in all of Wississauga. He pulls up the zipper of his thin jacket. Army surplus, its drab green lends him a menacing don’t-screw-with-me vibe, helpful for dealing with the rich kids, the hockey and football types who think they can intimidate him into discount dime bags. He bought it after Clay pressed him into service. Welcome to the team, Clay said unctuously, slapping him on the back. He hasn’t told Carly he’s been promoted to dealing pot in the alley behind the bar during breaks and after work. She’ll be pissed. She’s right. It’s a bad idea. But he said yes anyway. What else was he going to do? He already owed Clay a few grand by then. The situation, Clay said, speaking in that slow careful way of his, is becoming untenable. Tim hadn’t actually known what the word meant at the time. But he’d gotten the idea.

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The Archaeologists — Chapter 4: June—Thursday, April 10

June parks in the driveway. As she gets out of the car it suddenly occurs to her that she didn’t actually accomplish the one thing she left home to do. There are no groceries to haul into the kitchen. No reusable bags bulging with organics to virtuously heft over to their gleaming new stainless steel refrigerator with French doors and a digital thermostat. No cases of Lime Perrier, Coke Zero, and Diet Green Tea Ginger Ale to lug to the basement, no frozen shrimp and T-bone steaks to store in the freezer chest for spontaneous you-should-stay! quick defrost barbecues. There’s nothing for supper, June thinks absently.

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Zero Street? Where Are We?

In the fall of 1994 we had been in our new offices in the Lee Building at the intersection of Main & Broadway for close to three years. The old office was above Guys & Dolls Billiards, across the street, and was sort of funky. But the new premises were more impressive. Cleaner and seemingly more organized.

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Mr. Pink Schools Us on Good Cover Design

You don’t work for a literary magazine for the money. You work for a literary magazine for the fringe benefits. And one of the advantages of working for a magazine like subTerrain is getting to attend a professional development symposium—you know, for free.

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Gritty Terrain

Before Vancouver’s Main Street became a Portlandia branch plant there really wasn’t much reason to spend any time on its sidewalks. There were no single-origin coffee shops, craft-beer meccas or faux rec-room restaurants. With the noble exception of Neptoon records, and a couple of places along Antiques Row, it wasn’t much of a shopping destination either. No shops trumpeting local designers, organic materials, locally sourced handicrafts and oddball wares. Twee was pretty much absent on Main back then. Irony too.

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On Value

For those lucky enough to have survived it, the worst thing that happened in the 20th century was the malaise that defined it: the ubiquitous and relentless attempt of every political power to terminate public discourse, as reaffirmed by Mikhail Gorbachev and George H.W. Bush at the Malta summit on December 3, 1989. Only weeks before, the world had witnessed the fall of the Berlin wall, as West and East Germans engaged in a spontaneous populist movement to tear down the symbolic barrier that had divided not only them, but also the rest of the world.

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The Harper Conservatives and Their Dirty Oil Pipeline

There is always a balance to be struck between driving “development” and protecting the “environment.” Despite the present government’s claim that their new legislation will provide both increased development and protection of the environment, it is obvious that their legislative initiatives are moving Canada toward more development and less environmental regulation & assessment. Whether that is good or not is a political question, of course, but here are some of the particulars.

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subTerrain gratefully acknowledges the support of our funders: The BC Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts, the Canada Periodical Fund (Department of Canadian Heritage), and the City of Vancouver.