Books·Canadian

Try Not to Be Strange

Try Not to Be Strange is a book by Michael Hingston.

Michael Hingston

The book cover features a black silhouette of an island surrounded by water and a beige sky. Squiggly blue lines cover the entire illustration. The book title is in blue text in the sky with three groups of black silhouetted birds in the sky.

On his fifteenth birthday, in the summer of 1880, future science-fiction writer M.P. Shiel sailed with his father and the local bishop from their home in the Caribbean out to the nearby island of Redonda—where, with pomp and circumstance, he was declared the island's king. A few years later, when Shiel set sail for a new life in London, his father gave him some advice: Try not to be strange. It was almost as if the elder Shiel knew what was coming.

Try Not to Be Strange: The Curious History of the Kingdom of Redonda tells, for the first time, the complete history of Redonda's transformation from an uninhabited, guano-encrusted island into a fantastical and international kingdom of writers. With a cast of characters including forgotten sci-fi novelists, alcoholic poets, vegetarian publishers, Nobel Prize frontrunners, and the bartenders who kept them all lubricated while angling for the throne themselves, Michael Hingston details the friendships, feuds, and fantasies that fueled the creation of one of the oddest and most enduring micronations ever dreamt into being. Part literary history, part travelogue, part quest narrative, this cautionary tale about what happens when bibliomania escapes the shelves and stacks is as charming as it is peculiar—and blurs the line between reality and fantasy so thoroughly that it may never be entirely restored.

Michael Hingston is an Edmonton-based writer, journalist and the co-founder of Hingston & Olsen Publishing. 

Interviews with Michael Hingston

Michael Hingston talks to Shelagh Rogers about what inspired the Short Story Advent Calendar and what to expect in the 2018 edition.

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