I’m thrilled to announce that “Ursa Major” has just been published in Rampant Loon Media’s Stupefying Stories 1.15 (August 2016) . “Ursa Major” is my black humour novelette (or very long short story, if you prefer) about menopausal werebear sisters dealing with a murder in Northern Canada. I hadn’t seen the brilliant movie, Ginger Snaps, until after my story was accepted, but in some ways it’s similar: both deal with female hormonal life changes, which come with a soft and magical side, but also with empowerment, and a sharp edge. Sometimes a very sharp edge. And sometimes, you’ve just got to laugh at it all.
While puberty does seem wolfish, to me, menopause is really more bearish – you’re less interested in running with a pack, hopefully you’re stronger and more of a presence, you’re probably likely to be bigger, and if you’re a parent there are still those damned cubs to protect. Plus, your vision gets bad and you’re supposed to eat more salmon.
In the process of writing the story, I also enjoyed raising one of those conversations that speculative fiction writers get to facilitate - between my Northern wildlife biologist brother (who also advised me on tranquilizer guns) and my female pharmacist friend about what dosage of Midol, if any, is appropriate for a werebear in either of her forms, or during her transitions. Like many animals, bears should *not* have Midol at all, women should follow the package directions, and after some discussion, considering all the variables, it was decided that I could do as I pleased. So I did. All dosage errors in the tale are mine, and I’m not releasing my friend’s and brother’s names in case any litigious werebears have complaints.
Be forewarned that in this tale, menopause and menstruation are discussed plainly though not graphically. Some people are uncomfortable with the topic so I’m just letting you know in advance. I think the murder bits are somewhat more graphic.
As a former resident of Northern and Western Canada, I love the North and its amazing people, and I
love bears. This story is my paean to The Change, to werebears, and especially, to fiercely independent women. Some will like it and some won’t. I hope you enjoy it.
MENACING ENTITY OF THE MONTH: GRIZZLY BEAR
(Ursus arctos horribilis Ord –even the name is menacing)
I dithered over whether to choose grizzlies for this month’s feature entity, because, let’s face it, our large Canadian predators already come under a lot of inaccurate fire for being crazed killers, when all they are doing is going about their business being bears, and having stupid people feed them or leave out food so the bears get all nonchalant and hungry around us. On the other hand, these are not cuddly, tame, teddies, or even as easy-going as black bears. And if you, as I have, ever come across a pile of grizzly poop, so fresh it’s steaming, while hiking along a remote subarctic forest path - well, trust me, that feels pretty menacing. These creatures are fast as racehorses, stand approximately 1 metre (3 feet) at the shoulder, 2 metres (6 feet) when erect, and can have a reach of up to 4 metres (12 feet) up a tree (and the young ones can climb high). They weigh 200 kg (440 lbs) to over 450 kg (990 lbs) of muscle, with long claws, and very sharp teeth. Grizzlies prefer to avoid people, and rarely attack, but can turn nasty if surprised, cornered or are with cubs. These things don’t mess around: even wolves and cougars surrender their prey to grizzlies. To learn more about the grizzly bear and how to stay safe around them, read this helpful information from the Government of British Columbia, BC Parks, here. And do keep an eye on little Johnny. In the woods. At dusk. When the shadows grow.