Craig Boyko’s Blackouts BlowOut! Shane Koyczan and more

It was derek beaulieu that suggested I check out Craig Boyko’s Blackouts and beaulieu’s description intrigued me. “He went through the whole creative writing program at the University of Calgary” says beaulieu. “He never really showed up much to events but just kept quietly writing stories and those stories kept winning prizes. Then bam his first book is published in hardcover from McClelland and Stewart. The Globe and Mail not only prints a favourable review of his book but also a full-page article on him.” Boyko’s Blackouts in short is something of an auspicious start.

The book is a collection of short stories — which makes McClelland & Stewart’s publication of it all the more laudatory — that centre on the idea of a blackout of erasure and absence. “I wanted to do an ‘interconnected’ series of short stories for a long time perhaps as a sort of nod to the idea that only novels are to be taken seriously” says Boyko. “In the end the stories are less interconnected than very loosely thematically linked. The blackout theme occurred to me during a blackout several years ago. It seemed like such a good dramatic scenario.”

Asked how much he identifies with beaulieu’s description Boyko concedes “I’m basically shy. I feel no real urge to perform in public though I certainly enjoy some people who do. Having said that I might add that I have [probably everyone has] also been to some lousy readings. So I don’t attend them religiously. Add to that the fact that I’m basically a bookish homebody and that should complete the picture.”

It’s somewhat ironic then that Boyko returns to Calgary at the end of this month to read at the Calgary BlowOut! “I am a little nervous but Calgary is still in many ways like home to me so there are few better places to read” he says. Born in Saskatchewan and currently based in Victoria Boyko lived in Calgary for nearly eight years during which he completed degrees in both English and psychology at the University of Calgary.

It’s tempting to think that Boyko’s background in psychology informs his fiction — the protagonists of these short stories range from a computer programmer to a bored 13-year-old girl from a middle-aged man looking back on his days as a 10-year-old arcade king to a seemingly normal man who as it gradually dawns on the reader is in fact a psychologically disturbed stalker. Reviewers have much praised the versatility and believability of his voice. Yet Boyko attributes neither the complexity of his characters nor the elegant precision with which they emerge as convincing human beings — almost despite the brevity of his stories and the tricks and terseness of his style — to his psychology degree.

“By definition writers are interested in humans and human nature which is also what psychology is ostensibly concerned with. But I was quite promptly disillusioned: too much focus on numbers and statistics too much trivial or otherwise dubious research too many multiple-choice exams. And I learned rather belatedly that I’m a recalcitrant student — more of a self-directed learner. Anyway the psychology degree did not give me any esoteric [or fiction-izable] insights into human nature.”

You can hear Boyko read from Blackouts during the Saturday night gala reading of the BlowOut! on August 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arrata Opera Centre (1315 Seventh St. S.W.) along with the rest of this year’s stellar lineup. To tide you over until the BlowOut! here are this week’s events:

Spoken-word performer Shane Koyczan the mainstage emcee at this year’s folk fest will stick around in Calgary an extra day to give Calgary a performance of his own Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long. Kirk Ramdath will open the show hosted by Red Mile Revenge’s Selina Clary . The reading takes place on Monday July 28 at The Marquee Room (612 Eighth Ave. S.W.). The show costs $10 at the door and is restricted to audiences 18 and older. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m.

While the flywheel reading series typically takes place on the first Thursday of every month some shifty juggling of the time-space continuum has been done by the event’s new host ryan fitzpatrick so that the flywheel can serve as a warm-up for BlowOut! The reading features Christopher Blais Emily Carr Jocelyn Grossé and Jonathan Ball and takes place on Thursday July 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Pages Books on Kensington (1135 Kensington Rd. N.W.). The event is free and open to the public.