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White Pines and Werewolves...

More on Temagami and queer role-playing games

Copyright 1996 by Lynna Landstreet. This column originally appeared in Xtra magazine. Published by Pink Triangle Press, 491 Church Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4Y 2C6.

A couple of updates on items from past columns:

Just over a year ago (Xtra 285, to be precise), I wrote a piece about the struggle to save the threatened old-growth red and white pine forests of Temagami. In it, I reflected on the idea that queers might have an intrinsic affinity with threatened wild spaces for more reasons than just the fact that both on Mike Harris's hit list: "Isn't it the same fear of the Other, the uncontrollable, the wild and chaotic, that moves both the gaybasher and the developer who wants to cover the world with concrete? Both hate and fear what they can't understand; both seek to erase difference and impose a sterile, ordered conformity on messy, disorderly, animalistic nature."

Since then, Temagami has increasingly hit the headlines as a rapid-fire series of new developments have heightened tensions in the area and spurred environmentalists and Natives into action. As anyone who's been keeping an eye on the news knows by now, the blockades that catapulted Temagami into the public eye in 1989 are back, and a total of 50 protesters have been arrested as of this writing.

The Comprehensive Planning Council (CPC) appointed by the former NDP government have finally released their plan for the area. While it does recommend protecting some areas outside the existing wilderness park, many ecologically sensitive areas, including nearly half of the old-growth pine stands, are now open to logging and mining. And the current government didn't even adopt the whole plan -- the headwaters of the Lady Evelyn river, which the CPC recommended protecting, are to be left open to development, despite the fact that this could seriously damage the ecological integrity of the park.

In addition, the land cautions filed by the local Native community in the early 1970's, which had protected the area from development until now, have been lifted by the courts, as land claim met with yet another defeat. The result has been a frenzied claims rush as opportunistic prospectors leapt at the slim chance to get rich by gutting the wilderness, in search of minerals that may or may not be there.

Trees are falling now in the Owain Lake old-growth forest, where Earthroots have set up their protest camp, with support from the Mekominising Anishnawbe. They have vowed to stay as long as is necessary, but they need support from the community to be able to do it. As of my deadline, the camp is still going strong, but help is needed for it to continue.

Most of all, they need people who are willing to come to the camp -- whether or not you intend to risk arrest. Earthroots has shuttle buses twice a week, and can advise you on what to bring. If you can't make it, there are many other ways to help. Donations of food are always welcome, as are financial contributions. And extra sleeping bags, blankets and warm clothing are badly needed now that the weather is getting colder. If you have some time you can spare, the Earthroots office, which is starting to bear an increasing resemblance to Grand Central Station, can always use volunteers.

Just consider it your comradely duty toward those other forms of wildlife...

For more information, e-mail Earthroots at eroot@web.ca or check out their web page.

(Update: the Owain Lake blockade is now longe since over, but you can visit Earthroots's web site to see what else they're doing...)

More recently, my last column (Xtra 311) was devoted to queer themes in fantasy role-playing games, particularly those put out by White Wolf Games (Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, and Changeling: The Dreaming, for example), to which I am quite thoroughly addicted. So appropriately enough, a certain portion of that issue's cheque went to buy more White Wolf products...

And intriguingly enough, I found in some of the books I bought some more explicitly queer content than anything I had written about in that column. The Verbena Tradition Book, for the Mage game, starts out with stories of the lives of various Verbena Mages before their "Awakening" -- and one of them is a gay PWA. The story that opens the Cult of Ecstasy Tradition Book could have come straight out of a better-than-average lesbian romance novel. The Black Furies Tribebook, for Werewolf, details a militantly feminist tribe of werewolves, and while the queer element isn't quite as overt as in the Mage books, it's strongly implied that most of the Furies are dykes.

The same holds true for fiction, which White Wolf also publishes a fair amount of. The Splendour Falls, an anthology of Changeling-based short stories, includes one about a gay teenage runaway, and another that features a pair of bashers who get an unpleasant surprise when they pick on a real fairy. When Will You Rage?, a Werewolf anthology, has a hermaphroditic werewolf and a gay ghost who can only find rest by losing his internalized homophobia. Seems I'm not the only one who finds that White Wolf's "World of Darkness" setting meshes fairly well with queer experience.

And did I mention that a rousing game of the eco-warrior-themed Werewolf is just the thing to get one in the mood for a trip to Temagami?


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