[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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Tesseracts 6


by Robert J. Sawyer

Copyright © 1997 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved

Tesseracts 6 is the sixth in an ongoing series of anthologies of Canadian science fiction and fantasy, published by Tesseract Books of Edmonton. Robert J. Sawyer and Carolyn Clink edited Tesseracts 6, which was published in December 1997. What follows is the introduction that appeared at the front of that volume.

Tesseracts 6] My wife Carolyn Clink and I first met in 1975 in our high-school science-fiction club. Back then, we tried to come up with some Canadian content for the club to discuss, but although what did exist was of high quality, there was precious little of it. The prominent American editor Judith Merril had relocated to Toronto a decade earlier, and McClelland & Stewart had done a mass-market collection of her short fiction, Survival Ship and Other Stories, in 1973. Phyllis Gotlieb was the only major SF writer in Canada.

But soon things began to change.

John Robert Colombo was the first to spotlight Canada's unrecognized wealth of fantastic literature, with his 1979 anthology Other Canadas. And in 1984, Judy Merril sent a letter to all the Canadian SF writers she could find announcing that a "critical mass" had been reached in this country.

Ever since, things have been booming.

In 1985, the first of the Tesseracts anthologies came out. Not only has the series been going strong ever since, but it's increased its publication frequency from every two years to every year. A wonderful Canadian horror anthology series has also appeared: Northern Frights, edited by Don Hutchison; four volumes have been published to date by Mosaic Press. And some notable non-series anthologies have appeared, too, including Ark of Ice: Canadian Futurefiction, edited by Lesley Choyce (Pottersfield, 1992).

French Canada embraced speculative fiction early on. The SF magazine Solaris was founded in 1974, and imagine . . . began in 1979. Both are still publishing excellent work. In 1989, On Spec, Canada's first nationally distributed English-language SF magazine, debuted. In 1994, a second English SF magazine, TransVersions, was launched, and, in 1995, a third, Parsec, appeared.

[Rob on SPIN] In fact, there's been so much great Canadian short speculative fiction published that three "Best of" reprint anthologies have appeared: Northern Stars: The Anthology of Canadian Science Fiction, edited by David G. Hartwell and Glenn Grant (Tor, 1994); On Spec: The First Five Years (Tesseract Books, 1995); and a collection of the finest French-Canadian SF in English translation, Tesseracts Q, edited by Élisabeth Vonarburg and Jane Brierley (Tesseract Books, 1996).

Canadians are prospering at longer lengths, too. Bestselling Canadian fantasy writers include Charles de Lint, Dave Duncan, Tanya Huff, and Guy Gavriel Kay. Our leading horror novelists include Nancy Baker and Nancy Kilpatrick. And the science-fiction end is held up by William Gibson, Spider Robinson, and Robert J. Sawyer. Prolific French-Canadian novelists include Daniel Sernine, Jean-Louis Trudel, and Élisabeth Vonarburg.

Not only does Canada have its own thriving SF publishing house, Tesseract Books, but Tor Books in New York has started a Canadian-author program. Their list already includes such novelists as Charles de Lint, Candas Jane Dorsey, Phyllis Gotlieb, Terence M. Green, Donald Kingsbury, Scott Mackay, Yves Meynard, Spider Robinson, Robert J. Sawyer, and Robert Charles Wilson. And Canadians Don Bassingthwaite, Ed Greenwood, and Edo van Belkom are all bestselling authors of gaming-related fantasy fiction.

Canada has had its own SF awards, the Auroras, since 1980. Trophies for the best novel and short story of the year in each official language are given at the Canadian National SF Convention, or "CanVention," which alternates between eastern and western Canada.

In addition, Canadians do very well with international awards. Major award winners include Élisabeth Vonarburg, who won Le Grand Prix de la Science-Fiction Française (France's top SF award) for her 1982 novel Le Silence de la Cité; William Gibson who won the 1985 Hugo Award for Neuromancer; Robert Charles Wilson who won the 1994 Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium; and Robert J. Sawyer, who won the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment. Recent nominees for major awards include Michael Coney for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story of 1995 (for "Tea and Hamsters"), Edo van Belkom for the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel of 1995 (for Wyrm Wolf), Élisabeth Vonarburg for the 1995 Philip K. Dick Award (for Reluctant Voyagers), Terence M. Green for the 1997 World Fantasy Award (for Shadow of Ashland), and Robert J. Sawyer for the 1997 Hugo Award (for Starplex).

Nor are Canadians slouches when it comes to headline-grabbing publishing news. Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana hit number one on The Globe and Mail's bestsellers list; William Gibson got over a million Canadian dollars for North American rights to his novel Idoru; and the first printing of the paperback edition of Terence M. Green's Shadow of Ashland was a whopping 250,000 copies.

In 1995, the National Library of Canada held a major exhibition devoted to Canadian speculative literature, and that same year, The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy — the world's best public-library SF&F collection — moved to bigger, modern quarters in Toronto.

In 1989, TVOntario introduced Prisoners of Gravity, a weekly half-hour program about science fiction, fantasy, horror, and comics. The series ran for five years. In 1996, the CRTC licensed a Canadian SF cable channel, Space: The Imagination Station.

With so much going on, it's not surprising that our writers have formed groups for networking and support. In 1984, Judith Merril founded Ontario Hydra, the first-ever association of Canadian SF professionals. In 1989, SF Canada, a national bilingual SF writers' association was formed. And in 1992, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America created a separate Canadian Region. Local groups continue to flourish coast to coast, including the Burnaby Writers Society, Calgary's Imaginative Fiction Writers' Association, and Toronto's Cecil Street Irregulars. And in 1994, a national bilingual advocacy group, the National Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, was created.

Canadian SF has also come under the critical microscope, most notably in David Ketterer's Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy (Indiana University Press, 1992) and the essay collection Out of this World, edited by Andrea Paradis (Quarry Press, 1995). Meanwhile, Books in Canada devoted a special issue to Canadian SF (March 1993), and Prairie Fire, one of Canada's finest literary magazines, did an all-SF issue in the summer of 1994 with guest editor Candas Jane Dorsey. Nor have we ignored the information superhighway: there's a Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Resource Guide on the internet, founded by Ottawa fan Paul Neumann.

Yes, Canadian speculative fiction has come a long way in the twenty-odd years since the days of that high-school SF club. And where will the next two decades take us? Well, Sir Wilfrid Laurier said, "The twentieth century belongs to Canada."

Perhaps he was off by a hundred years.

More Good Reading

Table of Contents to Tesseracts 6
Afterword to Tesseracts 6
About the Contributors to Tesseracts 6
Cover Art for Tesseracts 6
Press Release

Encyclopedia Galactica entry on Canadian SF
Is Canadian SF Different From American SF?

My Very Occasional Newsletter

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