canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Top 10 Canadian SF&F Writers

by Terence M. Green

Read a TDR Interview with Terence M. Green

I confess, I'm not keen on ranking/rating 10 books as you suggest. But, another suggestion... Perhaps 10 writers worth considering, for a variety of reasons. Readers look for different things. Perhaps I might bring these names, and their work, to attention. 

  1. Robert Charles Wilson. He's been writing notable fiction, mostly unheralded, for some years now. Lives just north of Toronto. His latest, The Chronoliths (Tor, 2001) is a very fine book. I was impressed with his novel The Harvest about a decade ago, and enjoyed Darwinia back in 1998. 

  2. Again, mostly unheralded, is Andrew Weiner, another Torontonian. Weiner's body of work includes one novel from 15 years ago, and another published only in France. But his main literary contribution is the short story, a selection of which have been collected in two volumes: Distant Signals and Other Stories (Tesseract Books, 1987) and This is the Year Zero (Pottersfield, 1998). "Going Native," "Waves," "One More Time"... Terrific stories. 

  3. Septuagenarian Phyllis Gotlieb's fiction is a rarefied taste. Once a Governor General Award finalist for poetry, she brings that sensibility to the truly alien all about her in such novels as Flesh and Gold (Tor, 1998) and Violent Stars (Tor, 1999). Like Weiner and Wilson, she too hovers in a Toronto neighbourhood. 

  4. And in Mississauga, just west of Toronto, Robert J. Sawyer is unquestionably one of Canada's most successful novelists. Clearly, he has found an audience, one that enjoys his brand of scientific intelligence, provocative speculation, and solid storytelling. The Terminal Experiment (HarperPrism, 1995), Calculating God (Tor, 2000) and Illegal Alien (Ace, 1997)--which Margaret Cannon of The Globe and Mail called "the best Canadian mystery of 1997"--provide a ranging sample of his work. 

  5. Vancouver's William Gibson is arguably the SF writer who has had the widest influence. While other writers explored outer space, and more literary ones delved into inner space, he went sideways, into cyberspace. His 1984 novel Neuromancer was a watershed book of sorts for the genre, generally considered to have been the first true example of "cyberpunk.". 

  6. Toronto's Nalo Hopkinson has corraled a whole field within the genre to herself. She writes of---and from the perspective of--a black Caribbean woman. Midnight Robber (Warner, 2000) opens: "Oho. Like it starting, oui? Don't be frightened, sweetness; is for the best. I go be with you the whole time.Trust me and let me distract you little bit with one anasi story." If you want something quite different, try her work. 

  7. Montreal's Yves Meynard's first novel in English, The Book of Knights, was published by Tor Books of New York in 1998. Along with Ursula LeGuin, I blurbed the back of it after reading an advance copy by saying, among other things, that it was "wonderfully new and wonderfully wise." I still think so. You are in the hands of a fine storyteller. 

And for 8-9-10, let me lump several names together: Charles de Lint (Ottawa), Scott Mackay (Toronto), Karl Schroeder (Toronto), Donald Kingsbury (Montreal). They are all writers worth reading for a variety of different reasons, depending on taste and what one is looking for. I know, I know... Where are all your own favorite names? I dunno. These are the names on my own admittedly idiosyncratic list. There are a raft of Canadians now working in SF&F (Science Fiction and Fantasy). Tor Books of New York (owned and distributed throughout the U.S. by St. Martin's Press) has given many of them a home (including myself, currently under their "Forge" imprint). 

It is peculiarly Canadian that so many of us must end up being published across the border (Tor, Warner, Ace, Harper) then come back into our own country for distribution (very well, I might add, by H.B. Fenn and Company), often unrecognizable as Canadians due to this circuitous publishing path. Perhaps this list of names will bring some modest, belated, deserved attention to such writers. And so it goes, Canada... Names for exploratory reading, with an open mind. Why not... 

Terence M Green author of, most recently St Patrick's Bed (Forge, 2001) A Witness to Life (Forge, 1999) Shadow of Ashland (Forge, 1996) Blue Limbo (Tor, 1997) Note: Shadow of Ashland will be broadcast on CBC Radio's Between the Covers, Fall, 2002.







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