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Gemma Files

Gemma Files

Gemma Files is the author of over 100 short stories, five collections of short fiction and five novels, all horror or dark fantasy. She won the 1999 International Horror Guild Best Short Fiction Award for her story "The Emperor's Old Bones," the 2010 Black Quill Award for Best First Novel for A Book of Tongues (first in the Hexslinger series), and the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel for her book Experimental Film. Files was born in London, England, "within the sound of Bow Bells," which supposedly makes her a Cockney. Actual British people can feel free to laugh outright at the very idea, however, given she knows very well that she comes off on first (and second) glance as being Canadian as a sack of wet maple leaves.

A Canadian citizen since the age of three, she has lived her entire adult life—thus far—in Toronto, Ontario. Her parents, Elva Mai Hoover and Gary Files, are both professional actors who met when they attended the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal, Quebec, then separated when she was eight years old, after which her father returned to Australia. The less said about that, the better.

Files graduated from Toronto's Ryerson University with a BAA in Magazine Journalism, then went on to a career mainly characterized by getting and then losing a series of jobs, beginning with that of vibrator room floor attendant at a high end sex shop called...wait for it...Lovecraft. She spent nine years as a film critic for defunct Toronto free paper eye Weekly, a field now rendered almost entirely obsolete by the steady rise of Internet comment culture, followed by almost ten years teaching screenwriting, TV series development, film history and Canadian film history at the Toronto Film School. That job ended when the school was unexpectedly shut down by its parent company around the same time her son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Files's relationship with poetry has been an enduring yet ambivalent one. On the one hand, she counts Canadian poets Gwendolyn MacEwen, Pat Lowther and Susan Musgrave as three of her earliest muses, and her earliest professional sale—in 1979, at age eleven—was a poem called "Earthquake!", to Cricket magazine. (Payment: $50.00 US and a copy of Bunnicula.) The last two verses go as follows:

Your father writhes in unnamed spasm
And hurtles down a darkening chasm
Don't stop, for now the darkness has him

Your lungs are crushed by gasping breath
You do not see the ending cleft
You hurtle to an unknown death.
Eventually, however, Files stopped regularly writing poetry, for the usual reasons—embarrassment, social discomfort, the fact that she mostly wrote stuff like a cycle of poems chronicling the original Planet of the Apes movie series, not to mention that one titled "d'arcqueangel", with not only a d-apostrophe but a c and a qu. It wasn't until Sonya Taaffe suggested she try it again as an adult that she realized maybe, just maybe, she wasn't so crap at this poetry thing after all.

Since then, her pieces have been published in Mythic Delirium, Not One of Us, Goblin Fruit, and Strange Horizons, as well as Spectral Realms (S.T. Joshi, ed.) and Lovecraft's Monsters (Ellen Datlow, ed.). She has also published two chapbooks of poetry, 2004's Bent Under Night (Sinnersphere Productions) and 2007's Dust Radio c. 2007 (Kelp Queen Press). Her interests remain speculative, narrative-driven, archaic and mythological. This is the result.