Research Snapshot: The Purple Bill

CHEMICAL VALLEY was a heavily researched book, so I’m going to start sharing occasional insights into the research process. Here’s a little purple snippet: In 1971 the Bank of Canada issued a $10 bill as part of their “Scenes of Canada” series. The bill featured a “portrait of Sir John A. Macdonald engraved by George Gundersen appear[ing] on the front.” On the back of the bill, inked in regal purple: Sarnia, in particular the Polymer Plant in what is now called “Chemical Valley” (the riverfront cluster of 62 petrochemical refineries, which encroach on the territory of Aamjiwnaang, the local First Nation).

Photo Credit: The Bank of Canada Museum (

The Bank of Canada Museum notes that the back of the bill “features the Polymer Corporation in Sarnia, Ontario. The image was engraved by De La Rue based on a photograph by George Hunter. A Bank memo states that the Polymer plant was chosen because, unlike most industries ‘carried on in buildings of massive simplicity.'”

Furthermore, a “bank memo states that the Polymer plant was chosen because, unlike most industries ‘carried on in buildings of massive simplicity,’ it ‘provided detail ideally suited to engraving’ and, as a profitable and innovative Crown Corporation, had “achieved a world-wide reputation.”

In the book I call this bill a “Jetsons wet dream,” because Orbit City has a particularly gorgeous purple flavour in my mind as a child of the eighties.

Photo credit: ps://

It remains amazing to me that as early as 1971 Sarnia was seen as a beacon of progress, and that the entire oil industry was understood likewise. As always, the story of oil moves with astonishing speed. It wouldn’t take long, though, before the buildings began to rust and sprout weeds, for the air quality to deteriorate, for suspicious reproductive ratios to emerge in studies about birds.

The bill as homage to petrochemical progress also, of course, makes no mention of the settler-colonial violence required to “energize” this shore of the river, though the nearby street names contain the story–Chemical Valley itself lies at the end of Tashmoo Avenue, a stone’s throw from Confederation Street.


CHEMICAL VALLEY Available for Pre-Order

I am thrilled to announce the impending publication of my second book of short stories, Chemical Valley, now available for pre-order from the publisher, Biblioasis, or your local independent bookstore. There are lots of people to thank, including editor John Metcalf, designer Ingrid Paulson, my agent Stephanie Sinclair, and all the wonderful folks at Biblioasis. Also, as always, Natasha, for weathering the storm of my making.

I have several events lined up, at which I’ll be reading from this new work. Please do consider joining, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like more info.

Promotional events:

Mid-Novemeber, Chemical Valley online reading and interview, hosted by On Paper Books (online, exact date TBA)                

Mid-October, 2021, Online launch, Chemical Valley, sponsored by Biblioasis (online, exact date TBA)

September 24th, Lunenburg Literary Festival

September 17th, 18th, or 19th (exact date TBA) University of King’s College Literary Society Eco Themed Reading, at King’s in Kjipuktuk/(Halifax) [in-person event]

August 27th, Wild Threads Literary Festival, PEI, morning workshop and evening reading (in-person events):

August 17th: Frye Jam, The Frye Literary Festival, 8 p.m. Aberdeen Cultural Centre, Moncton (in-person event)

Oil People!

I’m very pleased to have my latest story, “Oil People,” appear in the most recent issue of Maisonneuve. This story is a revamp of the standard run-of-the-mill oil museum, Chernobyl babies, mutants, and juvenile sexuality tale. Thanks to Madi Haslam for her keen editorial ear and eye, and to Franziska Barzyk for furnishing the story with a beautiful illustration. This story is particularly close to my heart because it’s the impetus for a novel-in-progress. The story is available free for a limited time on the Maisonneuve website. If you happen to read it, and want to share some feedback, I’d love to hear from you.

Journey Prize Finalist

Holy cow. My story, “Chemical Valley,” first published in The Fiddlehead, has been named as a finalist for the Writers’ Trust McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize! The story is up against Lisa Foad’s “Hunting” and Jessica Johns’ “Bad Cree.” I’m looking forward to reading both those stories, and all the other finalists, when I get my hands on The Journey Prize Stories 32. The winner will be announced on October 21, during an online Writers’ Trust event.

Here’s what the jury had to say about my story:

“In David Huebert’s ‘Chemical Valley,’ the narrator’s remarkable voice is laced with dark humour while displaying a tremendous depth of feeling as he cares for his dying partner and navigates a dangerous workplace replete with unpleasant coworkers. This is a complex story about love, death, and grief set in a contemporary Canadian community plagued by petrochemical-induced diseases and environmental ruin. The attention to language is so meticulous that tragedy is imbued with an aura of beauty. Each exquisite sentence in ‘Chemical Valley’ produces a sense of wonderment as the narrative crescendos to its harrowing conclusion.”

— 2020 Journey Prize Jury (Amy Jones, and Doretta Lau, and Téa Mutonji)

I feel enormously fortunate, and I’ve got many people to thank. First, I’m hugely grateful to all the hard-working staff and volunteers at The Fiddlehead, where this story was first published, and particularly to Fiction Editors Mark Anthony Jarman, Clarissa Hurley, and Gerard Beirne, and to Editor Sue Sinclair. I’m also hugely thankful to The Writers’ Trust of Canada, McClelland & Stewart, and Editor Anita Chong for making the Journey Prize happen and giving an opportunity to young writers. I’m also grateful to James A. Michener, who inaugurated the award by donating the Canadian royalties of his 1988 novel, Journey.

This whole thing is a big deal for me as “Chemical Valley” is the title story of a new collection I’ve been working on for some time now. Getting closer and closer to book meets world–can’t wait!

Biophilia: Call for Submissions

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Calling all biophiles! I’m pleased to announce a call for submissions of fiction, poetry, and CNF for an upcoming special issue of The Dalhousie Review on the theme of biophilia (love of life). Please share away and consider submitting. Deadline July. Send work to Complete details on submissions here:

Biophilia__Call for Submissions




Atlantic Book Awards Shortlist

What a thrill! Peninsula Sinking got shortlisted for two Atlantic Book Awards: the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award and the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction. This means I get to go to a gala (which means I have to buy a new pair of dress shoes). I’ll also be doing a reading at Garrison Brewery on Wednesday May 9th. Needless to say I’m thrilled for this little homecoming excursion, and to be among such fine company on the ABA shortlists. When I think of recognition, I think of people back home. Maybe I’ll toss a copy of PS off the harbour to celebrate.

Book Cover and Launch!

I’m really excited to reveal the super snazzy new cover (thanks Biblioasis!) of my short story collection, Peninsula Sinking, which is launching this September. Can’t wait to get my hands on this bad boy! I’ve just finished working over the proofs and should be getting advanced copies before too long. I’ll be launching the book in Hamilton, Toronto, London, and Windsor, alongside fellow Biblioasis authors Kevin Hardcastle, Alejandro Saravia, Cynthia Flood, and Pino Collucio–super excited to read all of their new books! Here are the dates and times for the book launches:

Tuesday, Sept 19 @ Bryan Prince Books in Hamilton (Doors 6:30 PM, Readings 7:00 PM)
Wednesday, Sept 20 @ The Garrison in Toronto (Doors 7:00 PM, Readings 7:30 PM)
Thursday, Sept 21 @ Attic Books in London (Doors 6:30 PM, Readings 7:00 PM)
Friday, Sept 22 @ Biblioasis in Windsor (Doors 7:00 PM, Readings 7:30 PM)

Gavin Trilogy Complete

Suture, the third and final story featuring Gavin, my electric wounded picaro, has been published as part of The Puritan 36. It’s been really rewarding working with Puritan editor Tyler Willis on this cycle of stories, all of which have been published by The Puritan and are now set to appear in Peninsula Sinking, my fiction collection coming out this fall with Biblioasis. My life right now mostly consists of furiously editing and frantically second-guessing and trying to make the book the best it can possibly be. So it’s nice to have this story out there naked and exposed to the world, for better or worse. Thanks to all the lovely volunteers at the Puritan for their vigour and commitment and care.

Book Deal: Peninsula Sinking

Unbearably happy to report that my short fiction collection, Peninsula Sinking, is now under contract with Biblioasis. I’ll be fine-tuning the stories over the next few months with editor extraordinaire John Metcalf, whose work as both an editor and a writer I deeply admire. The book will be in print some time next year, likely fall 2017 or spring 2018. Needless to say, I’m ecstatic that the book landed at Biblioasis, its ideal home. I’ve been eagerly reading recent Biblioasis short fiction collections by the likes of Trillium winner Kevin Hardcastle, Jack Hodgins winner Kris Bertin, and Giller-nominated Kathy Page, and I’m excited–if a little intimidated–to add my work to this catalogue. I’m also deeply grateful to all the friends, writers, agents, editors, and teachers that have helped me out along the way.

New Story: “Joustmaestro9”

I’m super excited that guest editor Lucas Crawford picked my story, “Joustmaestro9,” to be included in the trans lit themed issue of Matrix Magazine. As a proud ally of all things trans, I’m honoured to be part of this important and timely contribution to Canadian culture and letters. The issue is a gem, with lovely cover art by Annie Mok (below) as well as transily awesome explorations of dissected pigs (Janis Maudlin), emetophilia (merritt kopas),  lobster men (Tanis Franco), and so much more. My own story explores the dark underworld of through a character troubled by repeated sexual reassignment surgery rejections. Here’s a short excerpt:

Darkknight26, you belligerent Californian knave, I implore you to resign. How I loathe your gleaming beach-bum body, your talentless nonchalance, your corn-syrup ringlets, your peroxide grin. Can you not see that your game has consisted of a series of irreparable and humiliating blunders? One insipid attempt at the forked liver attack—so cliché!—and now nothing but forced exchanges and haphazard retreats. How blind must you be, Darkknight26, not to realize that defeat is inevitable, that your back row is helpless, that it’s in your own best interest to give in and move forward with your flickering bonfire of a life?

trans cover