Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Fifteen years of Crossing the Line

by Rob - October 1st, 2013.
Filed under: Editing, Short Fiction.

I’m being honoured this weekend with a lifetime achievement Aurora Award, which isn’t just for my writing — it’s also, I’m told, for my work as an editor, teacher, and advocate.

And one of the things I’m proudest of as editor is the anthology Crossing the Line: Canadian Mysteries with a Fantastic Twist, which I co-edited with David Skene-Melvin. Our anthology was published 15 years ago today by Lesley Choyce‘s Pottersfield Press in Nova Scotia.

When the book came out, I was president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; David, the king of Canadian crime-fiction anthologists, had recently retired from long service as administrator of the Crime Writers of Canada.

The anthology included stories by Robertson Davies, Charles de Lint, James Alan Gardner, William Gibson, Terence M. Green, Tanya Huff, James Powell, Spider Robinson, Robert J. Sawyer, Edo Van Belkom, and Andrew Weiner.

Here’s the introduction I wrote to Crossing the Line: Canadian Mysteries with a Fantastic Twist:

Whenever they travel to the United States, Canadian writers get asked a question they’re not used to hearing: what kind of stories do you write? By that, the American questioner means, do you write mystery or horror, western or science fiction, fantasy or romance?

Americans are natural categorizers of literature, and I suppose that’s not surprising: tens of thousands of books are published in the United States by presses big and small each year. That prodigious output has to be organized somehow.

The problem, of course, is that not just the books but also the authors end up being categorized. Stephen King? He’s a horror writer. Tom Clancy? Technothrillers. John Grisham? Courtroom dramas. Lines have been drawn around categories, and writers end up, by market necessity, staying within them.

Not so in Canada. Here, writers tend to produce whatever it is that strikes their fancy at a given moment, and so we’re not surprised to learn that Margaret Atwood wrote a very good science-fiction novel (The Handmaid’s Tale) or that Eric Wright, best known for his Charlie Salter mystery novels, has also written a biting satire of academic life (Moodie’s Tale).

Still, there are three genres that have a long history of blurring the lines between them: science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Many authors — even in the States — work in all three forms, and often the reader who enjoys the fantasies of J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles de Lint will also enjoy the SF of Isaac Asimov and William Gibson or the horror of Clive Barker and Edo van Belkom. Because of this, SF, fantasy, and horror are often referred to under a single umbrella: speculative fiction.

But even that giant playground isn’t enough for many writers, and so they often cross the line into crime fiction. There, the fantasists see a natural arena for the struggle between good and evil; the SF writers recognize that forensics and physics are sibling disciplines; and the horror writers realize that fictional Paul Bernardos are as terrifying as any supernatural demon.

And, of course, to a crime-fiction author dealing with death, detection, and the dear departed, what could be more natural than occasional forays into the worlds of horror, science fiction, and fantasy?

The stories in this book all involve crimes — mostly murder, but also suicide and theft. But the venues include a Toronto that never was, alien vistas, impossible courtrooms, and the glowing matrix of cyberspace. And the villains and heroes number among them ghosts, vampires, computer hackers . . . and, of course, cops (some of whom have laser pistols instead of revolvers) and private eyes (one or two of whom just happen to be working in outer space).

Sit back and enjoy these eleven speculative-fiction crime tales . . . but remember that danger may lurk in the most unexpected places. After all, you’re crossing the line.


Table of Contents

Notes on the Contributors

Rob’s Hugo Award-nominated story from this anthology

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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