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Crossing the Line
Copyright © 1998 by
Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved
Crossing the Line is a standalone reprint anthology of
Canadian mystery stories that also happen to be science fiction,
fantasy, or horror. Robert J. Sawyer (the President of the
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and
David Skene-Melvin (former administrator of the Crime Writers of Canada)
edited this book, which was published by Pottersfield Press
of Nova Scotia in October 1998. What follows is the introduction
(written by Sawyer) that appeared at the front of to that volume.
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
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:
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
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.
More Good Reading
Table of Contents to Crossing the Line
About the Contributors to Crossing the Line
Cover Art for Crossing the Line
Encyclopedia Galactica entry on Canadian SF
Is Canadian SF Different From American SF?
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