Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

John Robert Colombo inducted into Hall of Fame

by Rob - August 20th, 2023.
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Yesterday, my great friend John Robert Colombo (pictured on the right with me at the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal) was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. I was one of those who nominated him; this was my nominating letter:

It is my privilege and honour to nominate John Robert Colombo for the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. I am nominating him in the “non-writer” category, as he is principally an editor and compiler.

John is a towering presence in Canadian letters. He is a member of the Order of Canada and is Canada’s premiere folklorist and collector and compiler of Canadiana (best known for his seminal Colombo’s Canadian Quotations and its sequels) as well as a significant poet, broadcaster, publisher, and editor.

Although he has over 200 books to his credit, it is his twenty pioneering works in the field of Canadian speculative fiction that are my reasons for nominating him, most significantly his massive historical retrospective Other Canadas: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy, published in 1979, forty-four years ago, by McGraw-Hill Ryerson. It was 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 Carolyn and I edited Tesseracts 6, we dedicated the book thus:

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

Among John’s other significant genre books are:

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;

Worlds in Small (1992), an anthology of stories of fifty words or less, most of which are SF; and

Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories (2010, co-editor).

John has also published several significant genre bibliographies and he has the distinction of being the first-ever academic keynote speaker at a World Science Fiction Convention, the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal.

His manuscripts and papers, certified as being of “outstanding significance and national importance” by the federal government’s Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, are housed at the McMaster University library, alongside those of Pierre Berton, Margaret Laurence, Farley Mowat, Canadian publisher Jack McClelland, Bertrand Russell, myself, and—yes—H.G. Wells:

John was instrumental in founding, in 1982, what was then called The Friends of the Spaced-Out Library, and is now The Friends of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy. He was also a mainstay of Hydra North (later renamed Ontario Hydra), Canada’s first association of SF&F professionals, hosting seven of that organization’s 38 meetings in his home:

And, on a personal note, John 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 then-emerging writers, Andrew Weiner and Terence M. Green, in Leisure Ways, the magazine of the Canadian Automobile Association:

Born in Kitchener, Ontario, in 1936, turning 87 years young on March 24, 2023, and still active, it’s high time that John Robert Colombo be inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, which, after all, honours a field of literature that he himself was the very first person to ever recognize.

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