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Crossing the Line


by Robert J. Sawyer

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.

Crossing] 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.

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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