The strange story of Antlers

In 2014 I published a book called Dangerous Spirits about the history of an evil spirit (the windigo/wendigo) in Indigenous religion and belief. Yes, my research agenda is all over the place, but I like it that way. It turns out that there was a movie called Antlers being made about this being, and it was set in Oregon. The movie maker -Dale Cooper, who was working with Guillermo del Toro- reached out to me for my advice in 2018. But it was when I was moving across the country, so I suggested that they contact Dr. Grace Dillon in Indigenous Studies instead. I later heard -almost by chance- that my publisher and the film-makers had agreed that they could use my book in the movie. But then COVID came, and the movie didn’t come out. I didn’t hear any other news.

Last night I got a text from my daughter, who had gone to see the movie in a theater in Vancouver. And it turns out that they used my book about a third of the way into the movie. It’s a silly thing, but it makes me happy because this will be the only time my work will ever show up in pop culture.

Out of curiosity, I went and looked up the book’s availability on Amazon, where it was selling for $974 when I looked. But the Kindle version was only $9.53 U.S. But if anyone is looking for a physical copy of the book, you can order it for $19.95 Canadian from Heritage House, a small, independent publisher.

I’m currently on sabbatical, and doing historical research regarding the 1918 influenza pandemic in southeast China, using records from Macau that are now stored in Lisbon, Portugal. I don’t think that Antlers is playing here, so it may be a while before I see it. But I want to thank the film-makers for including the book in the movie.

I also want to thank the Ruth Landes Foundation, because the Ruth Landes Memorial Research fund made the book’s research possible. If you haven’t heard of Ruth Landes, I really recommend Sally Coles’ biography. She was a cultural anthropologist who did research on everything from Candomble in Brazil to Indigenous narratives in Kansas, Minnesota and Ontario. Her approach to using narratives inspired my book, and she’s someone whose work I deeply admire. I grew up outside of Hamilton in Ontario, Canada, where she taught at McMaster University. I wish I could have met her just once.

As for Antlers, even the trailer scares me.

Shawn Smallman, 2021

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