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Domestic Canadian SF? You Bet!

by Robert J. Sawyer

First published in the May 1993 issue of Alouette: The Newsletter of the Canadian Region of SFWA

Copyright © 1993 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved

I recently heard someone claim that there's no such thing as a domestic Canadian SF and fantasy market. That's nonsense, even if you set aside the large array of French publications. Consider what was published domestically in English just last year [1992]: 29 works in Tesseracts 4, 18 pieces in Northern Frights, 22 stories in Ark of Ice, and 28 pieces in three issues of On Spec. That's a total of almost 100 pieces, all paid for, all published domestically. Are there ten times that many open paying slots for short SF&F in the States? Perhaps. Twenty times? No way. On a per capita basis, we have a short-form market about the same size as theirs.

But wait: surely 1992 was a fluke, right? Wrong. A new volume in the Tesseracts series has been published every second year since 1984. Northern Frights 2 is now almost full. Starting in January of this year, On Spec has switched to a quarterly schedule. Granted, Ark of Ice was a standalone book, but it was Pottersfield's third volume of short SF, and, anyway, Shivers 2, another Canadian dark-fantasy collection, is in the works for 1993.

Ah, but what about novels? Well, in 1992, McClelland & Stewart published Terry Green's Children of the Rainbow. Viking Canada brought out the worldwide first edition of Guy Kay's A Song for Arbonne (which debuted at #1 on the Globe and Mail bestsellers' list); Viking's edition was completely separate from the American Crown edition or the British HarperCollins one. And Beach Holme, which has been building a respectable line of SF titles, released Passion Play by Sean Stewart, and then sent the author on a three-city promotional tour, something U.S. SF publishers rarely do.

(Indeed, all three of these books made the Aurora ballot, meaning that, for the first time, there were more domestically published English novels nominated than there were American-published ones.)

More: Both Bantam U.S.A. and Ace proved the legitimacy of first publishing in Canada. Bantam brought out Élisabeth Vonarburg's The Silent City under their prestigious Spectra Special Editions imprint, and Ace bought U.S. rights to Sean Stewart's Passion Play — both books had previously been published here by Beach Holme. Likewise, Garfield Reeves-Stevens's novels originally published in Canada continue to be reprinted by Warner in the States.

Canadian SF&F also continues to appear in the little magazines that are the backbone of CanLit, journals easily as prestigious as a Pulphouse or an MZB's Fantasy Magazine. In 1992, Jim Gardner and Lance Robinson both placed genre tales with The New Quarterly, for instance. And then there are nascent markets, such as Alberta's Senary and Quebec's Edge Detector.

No, there can be no realistic question about whether a separate Canadian market for SF exists — which, of course, is exactly why we need a Canadian Region of SFWA.

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