Sunday, October 3, 2010

What is Canadian Speculative Fiction and Why Should We Care?

by Helen Marshall

“What is Canadian Speculative Fiction and Why Should We Care?” is a primer for the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium, Saturday, 23 October 2010, at the Hart House and has been written in support of the Sunburst Awards. To register for the Colloquium, visit here.  Spaces are limited!

I've been in the midst of helping out with any number of projects that aim to support Canadian speculative fiction -- that is, broadly speaking, the major genres of horror, fantasy and science fiction. Many writers have claimed that publishing, as an industry, is going through something of a crisis with the introduction of eBooks, the decline of independent (and chain!) bookstores, the possibilities of self-publishing. I don't want to debate the excitement or fear that accompany those changes. We all know we're moving towards a new landscape -- what that landscape looks like, no one is quite sure about yet.

But how is that landscape Canadian? Is there anything to be said for a Canadian aesthetics of genre writing?

I think there is.

Canadian horror writing, for example, a branch of speculative fiction and a particular passion of mine, has begun to move in strange and provocative new directions, becoming something altogether different from its American counterpart and wholly itself. In a recent blog comment, Rose Fox of Publishers Weekly praised the ingenuity of Canadian authors: “Horror is profoundly cultural. Over a couple of decades of reading a great many books, I've developed something of an immunity to American and British horror. I still can't really describe what exactly [Canadian horror authors] do differently, but it is different.”

The last several years have shown a revitalized interest in publishing darker fiction. Psychological horror dominated the short stories of the influential anthology Tesseracts, published by Calgary-based Edge Science Fiction and FantasyChiZine Publications too has demonstrated that horror (in Canada at least) is moving away from the splatter-and-gore stories of the eighties into a distinctly literary arena, giving us strong characters and themes that underpin provocative and unsettling narratives.

Things are moving here in Canada. There's a kind of excitement in the changes we are seeing, and it's generating some fantastic new literature.

And here comes the plug.  The Sunburst Award for the Fantastic, Canada's only jury award for genre writing, has been a long-valued institution. Unfortunately, the Sunburst Awards have run into a hiccup.  They do not have enough operating capital to keep going as they currently stand. This sad news comes at a particularly critical juncture in the award's life--the operating committee is in the process of getting the Sunburst organization registered as a non-profit, and getting it "national arts organization" status.  As part of a fundraising drive to shepherd the Sunburst through this change of status and structure, we’d like to ask fans, writers, editors, and publishers from the speculative fiction community to help raise awareness of this vital institution...

How to Participate

We're looking for short (30 second to 2 minutes) videos that say what you think about Canadian speculative fiction. These should be interview-style videos in the vein of Speaker's Corner and can be recorded as simply as with a web camera. Prior interviews or footage can be submitted provided that you have permission to do so.  We will host these individually on a YouTube channel (sunburstaward), but will also edit them in order to create a series of short videos to promote awareness of the fundraising campaign. A longer video will be shown at the opening remarks to the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium.

Not savvy with a camera? Send us a high res image of yourself and either a short paragraph in text or a recorded audio track.

Not Canadian? Never fear. If you have something you want to say about Canadian speculative fiction then we want to hear it.

 To participate, send your name, contact information, submission and a short release statement giving us permission to use the video/image to by October 15, 2010.

Possible Topics:
-favourite Canadian authors and/or stories
-the relationship between Canadian writing and the rest of the world
-publishing speculative fiction in Canada
-the state of Canadian fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc
-how does Canada inspire your work?
-favourite Canadian settings to use in your writing

Of course, these topics are intended to be a jumping off point. Feel free to think outside of the box. And, above all, show your enthusiasm!

To donate directly, visit


Helen Marshall spends the majority of her time pursuing a Ph. D. in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto where she gets to travel across England to examine fourteenth-century manuscripts. Of course, her fascination with the making and writing of books extends well into the present. Her poetry has been published in ChiZine, NFG and the Ontarion Arts Supplement. "Mist and Shadows," published originally in Star*Line, appeared in The 2006 Rhysling Anthology: The Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Poetry of 2005." "The Gypsy" and "Crossroads and Gateways" both received honourable mentions in the 2009 Rannu Fund Contest, while four other poems were short-listed. She also works as an editor and slush reader for ChiZine Publications.

No comments:

Post a Comment