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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.

Give a subscription of subTerrain as a gift to someone you love—even yourself. Extended until January 16, only $20 for two years.

Darryl Gillingham illustration

» 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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» Featured

Cover image for #59

Vancouver 125

Our Special Van125 Poetry Issue (#59) features 125 poems inspired by the fine city of Vancouver. Includes work by Al Purdy, Earle Birney, Brad Cran, Roy Miki, Peter Mitham, Sachiko Murakami, Nedjo Rogers, Carleton Wilson, Alan Twigg, Brian Kaufman, Tom Osborne, Lakshmi Gill, Roy Kiyooka, Larissa Lai, Joanne Arnott, Renee Rodin, Daniel Zomparelli, Phillip Quinn, Ray Hsu, Patricia Smekal, George McWhirter, Sharon Thesen, Fred Wah, Phinder Dulai, Clint Burnham. Copies still available.

» Read more

» Poetry

» Book Reviews

» Commentary

« strong voices »

By the Editors

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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Lush 2015 Winners!

The winning entries in the 2015 Lush Triumphant Literary Awards are:


Winner: George K. Ilsley (Vancouver, BC) for "Royal Birds"

Runner-up: Tricia Dower (Brentwood Bay, BC) for "Blind Letsky"


Winner: Elise Godfrey (Vancouver, BC) for "Influenza"

Runner-up: Jordan Mounteer (Winlaw, BC) for "Five Poems"

Creative Non-fiction:

Winner: Tricia Dower (Brentwood Bay, BC) for "Graceful"

Runner-up: No Runner-up this year


The winning entries will appear in Issue #72 (Winter 2015). The 14th Annual Lush Triumphant Awards competition will be open for submissions December 1st (click the link at the top of the page!)

All entrants receive a complimentary one-year subscription to subTerrain magazine.



Better Than Evens

At the opening of Samuel Beckett’s 1953 tragicomedy, Waiting for Godot, we see two “tramps,” Estragon (Gogo) and Vladimir (Didi), waiting beside a dead tree on a desolate country road. They are waiting for a man to arrive, a man named Godot. They appear to have bet the farm on this chance meeting and are down to their last carrot and turnip, their clothes and shoes worn to tatters.

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A Few Thoughts On subTerrain’s Origins and Intent

subTerrain started out as a dream, an idea of literary rebellion, a shadow-self calling out to be born. It was 1988, the nascent days of desktop publishing, and truly a transitional period in the world of print. For the first time in the history of printing, the means of production were actually in the hands of the masses. Armed with only a Personal PC, a “typesetting” software program (not some expensive commercial typesetting equipment such as a Compugraphic machine) and a laser printer, virtually anyone could produce a professional looking publication.

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