Canmore-raised author's sci-fi book gets Governor General nod
Paige Cooper's Zolitude is full of fantastical elements because that's what she grew up on
Women who built time machines when they were just nine years old, police horses with eagle talons and weredeer. These are just some of the fantastical elements in a new book called Zolitude.
The collection of short stories is among the finalists for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Awards. Montreal-based author Paige Cooper, who is originally from Canmore, talks to The Homestretch all about it.
This interview has been edited and paraphrased for clarity and length. You can listen to the complete interview here.
Q: What's it like to get this kind of acclaim for your debut book of short stories?
A: It's unnerving in a way because now people know all my secrets. Not that it is particularly autobiographical in any way, but I feel like I have laid it all out.
That's what I have. To have people respond positively to it is incredible.
Q: Is there a theme that ties the stories together?
A: I would always joke years ago that I kept writing lonely women stories because I would have these protagonists who are struggling with these fundamental questions. Am I unlovable? What is the world and why I am not feeling connected to it in the way everyone else seems to be?
I tried to dress it up and escape that kind of obsession. But this is what my question is, this is what my project is. I can't really avoid it.
Q: Why did you want to include some of these fantastical elements?
A: I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy. I don't think I read a literary short story until I was in university.
So that's just naturally where my imagination goes. I feel like monsters are supposed to be terrifying in certain ways. I can't help that my mind goes there.
Q: What are weredeer?
A: It's pretty enticing to a lot of artists, this notion that an animal comes to the human realm and interacts with us before going back to their home.
Growing up in Canmore, what do I relate to? A lot of deer.
Q: What is it about end-of-the-world stories that fascinate us so much?
A: This has been my favourite dinner party conversation for the last couple of years.
I am always curious where a person philosophically stands. How long do you think we have, as a civilization? Fifteen years or are we a good couple of thousand years out?
It's an interesting way to understand how other people look at the world. We all have differing levels of optimism when it comes to imagining the end.
Q: How did growing up in Canmore influence your work?
A: It's a tourist town, so I grew up thinking being a tourist would be the worst thing in the world and lo and behold, I feel like a tourist most places I go.
I live in Montreal and my French is terrible. I don't feel like a Montrealer.
I've done a little bit of travelling but even then I always feel very aware of the privilege and difference involved in being somewhere that is someone else's home.
Growing up anywhere in the Rockies, you are constantly aware of that dramatic, sublime landscape. That has affected a lot of my tastes.
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With files from The Homestretch.