Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

My Worldcon highlight: John Robert Colombo

by Rob - August 17th, 2009.
Filed under: Academics, Canadian SF.

Anticipation, the Montreal World Science Fiction Convention, had John Robert Colombo as keynote speaker for its academic track. I introduced him, and he gave an amazing speech. My introductory remarks:

It is my staggering privilege and honour to introduced to you John Robert Colombo, the keynote speaker here at the Montreal World Science Fiction Convention’s academic track.

John is a towering presence in Canadian letters, a member of the Order of Canada — Canada’s equivalent of knighthood — and is Canada’s premier folklorist and collector and compiler of Canadiana, as well as a significant poet, broadcaster, editor, and publisher.

Although he has 200 books to his credit, it is his six pioneering works in the field of Canadian speculative fiction that we celebrate this weekend, most significantly his massive historical retrospective Other Canadas, published in 1979 — thirty years ago — the first-ever anthology of Canadian science fiction and fantasy, a beautiful hardcover gathering 21 fiction pieces and 28 poems drawn from 400 years of Canadian history.

Prior to that book, no one had made the case that there was such a thing as Canadian science fiction and fantasy: it was John who proved to Canada’s publishers, editors, academics, writers, and readers that the field actually existed. When my wife and I edited Tesseracts 6, we dedicated the book thus:

“To John Robert Colombo, whose pioneering Other Canadas blazed the trail for the all the Canadian science fiction and fantasy anthologists who followed.”

Colombo’s other significant genre books include:

  • Mostly Monsters (1977), a collection of “found poetry” — prose text that Colombo has rearranged as verse, gathered mostly from SF sources;
  • Friendly Aliens (1981), a collection of thirteen SF stories by foreign authors set in Canada;
  • Years of Light: A Celebration of Leslie A. Croutch (1982), a biography of Canadian fanzine publisher Croutch (1915-1969), as well as a general look at SF fandom in Canada; and
  • Worlds in Small (1992), an anthology of stories of fifty words or less, most of which are SF.

He has also published two significant genre bibliographies.

And on a personal note, he was the first member of the Canadian literary establishment to take my own contributions to science fiction seriously; in 1982, he published new stories by myself and two other emerging writers: Andrew Weiner and Terence M. Green in Leisure Ways, the magazine of the Canadian Automobile Association.

John is my friend, my mentor, and my hero, and it is with great joy that I present him today to you, Canada’s master gatherer — and Canada’s master catalyst for the fields of fantastic literature.

Photo: Robert J. Sawyer and John Robert Colombo at Anticipation; photo by C. Mak.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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