Northern Stars: The Anthology of Canadian Science Fiction

Northern Stars: The Anthology of Canadian Science Fiction


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From the earliest days of modern science fiction, Canada has given readers some of the most important authors in the field—and many of the finest stories. World Fantasy Award-winning editor David G. Hartwell has teamed up with Canadian writer and critic Glenn Grant to compile Northern Stars, an anthology of stories by the writers who have built Canada's rich science fiction tradition. Now in paperback for the first time, Northern Stars is the definitive overview of science fiction's northern frontier, a valuable addition to any fan's library.

Contributors include:

Joel Champetier

Lesley Choyce

Michael G. Coney

Charles de Lint

Candas Jane Dorsey

Dave Duncan

James Alan Gardner

Wiliam Gibson

Phyllis Gotlieb

Glenn Grant

Terence M. Green

Eileen Kernaghan

Donald M. Kingsbury

Judith Merril

Yves Meynard

John Park

Claude-Michel Prevost

Garfield Reeves Stevens

Spider Robinson

Esther Rochon

Robert J. Sawyer

Daniel Sernine

Heather Spears

Jean-Louis Trudel

Elisabeth Vonarburg

Peter Watts

Andrew Weiner

Robert Charles Wilson

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765393326
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 03/21/2017
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 394,532
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

DAVID G. HARTWELL (1941–2016) was the critic, editor, and publisher of scores of science fiction and fantasy novels. He was also editor of numerous anthologies including The Ascent of Wonder, The Dark Descent, and Twenty-First Century Science Fiction (with Patrick Nielsen Hayden).

GLENN GRANT is a book reviewer for the Montreal Gazette and the editor of Edge Detector, a Canadian magazine of speculative fiction. He is the author of the collection of short stories Burning Days. He lives in Montreal.

Read an Excerpt

Northern Stars

The Anthology Of Canadian Science Fiction

By David G. Hartwell, Glenn Grant

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1994 David G. Hartwell and Glenn Grant
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-16296-0


We Have Met the Alien (And It Is Us)

Judith Merril

Judith Merril is one of the central figures in the science fiction field. Both as a writer from the 1940's to the 1970's of such classic stories as "That Only a Mother" (1948), and as a leading reviewer of the 1950's and 1960's, she had a major impact. But it was as perhaps the most important anthologist of the 1950's and 1960's that she most influenced the development of modern science fiction, particularly the ten annual volumes of Best SF (1950–1960), which established the currency of the term "speculative fiction" as a broader (and more literary) umbrella than "science fiction." During the years in which those anthologies were published, she was perhaps the most influential arbiter of taste in the science-fiction world. And this is not to belittle the impact of her greatest single anthology, England Swings SF (1968), the book that introduced the British "new wave" to America.

At or near the height of her popularity and influence in the late 1960's, she "dropped out." She moved to Toronto and withdrew from activity in U.S. SF circles. Never a prolific writer, her output of SF nearly ceased as she moved on to another life, in broadcasting and in Canadian literary circles. The rest is chronicled in her distinguished afterword to the first major anthology of Canadian SF, Tesseracts (1985). This fine anthology hit Canadian SF with such force that it might be said to have been a major cause of the contemporary renaissance of Canadian SF. The writers were there. The fans were there. All that was missing was a publication to serve as a market for writers, a market that identified them as a group with unique characteristics and a unique history within the greater body of world SF. So Judy edited another anthology and gave Canadian SF a local habitation and the beginnings of an identity crisis.

* * *

Now, how could I have told you up front that what this book is about is critical alienation? I mean, and still have you read it?

Actually, I couldn't tell you, because I didn't know.

Had I but known — well, at the very least, I'd have tried to balance things out more.

And that would have been a mistake.

In any event, after all the readings and re-readings, separately and in sequence, I knew everything about this book except what its overall theme had turned out to be. I found out from someone who had never seen the book at all.

* * *

I was thinking about what I wanted to say back here, and I started asking people — everyone, anyone — to tell me why they thought SF (science fiction, speculative fabulation, sometimes surreal futures) is so popular now. What social value does the genre have, now, here?

I got a lot of familiar replies, about rehearsing future options, opening one's mind to alternative realities, using exotic sets and lights to focus on familiar problems, generally practising thinking the unthinkable.

True. It was science fiction, future fiction, SF, that taught us how to think about death and despoliation by radiation, chemical waste devastation, Big Brother, Star Wars and Nuclear Winter. So what's "unthinkable" now?

My daughter, appropriately, gave me the answer that curled my toes and shivered my neurons and made me see the whole book for the first time:

It's the only place you can do any useful thinking about the idea that there might not be a future: the terminal fear that proliferates abortions and suicides, mass murders, mad leaders, terrorists and technical errors; the ultimate anxiety that makes people sorry they had children, and children not want to grow up.

And of course that's what most of this book is about: the children finding ways to grow up, the parents trying to help them. I didn't plan it that way; it's just that those were the stories that seemed to work.

* * *

You must understand that I am really a most improbable anthologist. I'm a poor scholar, not much of a collector or compiler, not at all a historian. (Call me a generalist, maybe, disseminator — someone once said neophiliac.) Nevertheless, this volume is my twentieth SF anthology, and the first nineteen brought me just enough dribs and drabs of fame and fortune so that I can now say brazenly (like in the Modern Art Joke): I don't know anything about literary criticism, but I know what I like.

What I like is getting my head turned around. I get off on fresh perceptions, widening horizons, new thoughts, and I like them best when they occur as a process in my own mind, rather than an exposition at which I am a passive spectator/receiver. What I look for in SF is the story (or verse — occasionally film — sometimes even essay) conceived and written in such a way as to suggest alternatives that will cause me to exercise my own imagination to broaden my own vision. To "ask the next question."

A Martian with a mangled spear
Is stuffing tarts in my left ear.
If I turn off my hearing aid,
Will I still taste the marmalade?

This synaesthetic gem was probably the beginning of this anthology. It was handed to me in December 1968 in an unhallowed hall of Rochdale College by an idealistic young academic already highly respected as poet, publisher and editor, but not yet famous for Alligator Pies, Garbage Delights and other tasty (not non-) sense. It turned my head around. I put it aside for my next anthology, which was some time coming.

* * *

Twenty is a nice round number.

The first SF anthology I edited, in 1951, was called Shot in the Dark, not so much for its interior surprises as to enable Bantam Books to pass it off on mystery readers if necessary. The saleability of SF was an unknown quantity at the time.

The time, as it turned out, was right. In the next eighteen years I did eighteen more collections. The last two, SF 12 (Delacorte) and England Swings SF (Doubleday), were published almost back-to-back in 1968.

That was the same year I arrived in Toronto, a newly-landed immigrant with a U-Haul full of books, papers, plastic milk crates and foam pads. My new job as resource person at Rochdale would pay only room and board. I expected to have to do more anthologies for car-fares and cigarette money, and I figured Dennis Lee's verse to be my first Canadian inclusion for SF 13.

Thirteen was the lucky number: I never got around to doing it. (SF 12 was the twelfth annual in the "Year's Best" series, and twelve years of claiming to present the Best — of anything — was more than enough. Better iconoclast than inconescent.) But by the time I realized I was not going to do another SF annual, I had learned a couple of things about Canadian SF.

In all the far reaches of Canada in 1968 there seemed to be only two people (well, make it 21/4) writing recognizable science fiction seriously: Phyllis Gotlieb and H. A. Hargreaves (and Chandler Davis very occasionally; adding my own output at the time, make it 21/2). But in odd corners and coach houses (especially the Coach House Press) Canadians of rare talent and sensibility were writing truly-fabulous funny-serious social-commentary SF: Dave Godfrey, Ray Smith, D. M. Price, J. Michael Yates, Gwendolyn MacEwen, P. K. Page, Robert Zend, Christopher Dewdney and more, were stuffed in with the marmalade.

The seventies: I was becoming a Canadian and a broadcaster, and not thinking about anthologies at all. But (yes, Dennis, you'd still taste it) every switchoff was another switch on. I gave my SF collection to the Toronto Public Library to start the Spaced Out Library, and so became an occasional consultant. I was putting a lot of energy into The Writers' Union of Canada, so became involved with a schools-curriculum project outlining available Canadian science fiction. I wrote radio documentaries and magazine articles, and kept getting asked to do pieces on science fiction. No way I could miss out on what was happening in Canadian SF.

A lot was happening. Here, as elsewhere through the seventies, the most visible events were in book publishing (and selling). But we're talking Canada: the busiest and healthiest area was of course academic. And to me, inquisitive immigrant, the most intriguing phenomenon was half-hidden under the surface of the literary mainstream.

As I read Canadian authors, and met them personally, I kept finding myself touching what I think of as "science fiction head space." Sometimes it was overt SF imagery, or a certain way of thinking about environment, a casual mixture of magic-and-realism, or an oddly familiar structural tension in the work. Then, one by one, leading Canadian authors began telling me about the impact of science fiction on their development: Berton, Laurence, MacEwen, Acorn, Purdy, Engel. Finally, I began to catch up on Canadian criticism. CanLit, I was told, is about survival and, characteristically, the environment may become almost a character in the story!

Of course! Just like SF. (Is this why Canadian mainstream authors, when they turn to SF, usually do a good job of it? U.S. and U.K. mainstreamers generally muck it up.)

Another (used-to-be) Canadian Fact I was learning was the prevalence of "secondary materials." You know — Canada was famous for documentaries, but never made feature films? That kind of thing.

* * *

In 1968, when the prestigious Modern Language Association officially declared the study of science fiction a suitable pursuit for scholars, Canadian critics and teachers were already doing it. Harry Campbell, then Chief Librarian in Toronto, must have followed a sure Canadian instinct when he offered to relieve me of my unwieldy collection and establish SOL (the Spaced Out Library) in 1970. By that time, Arthur Gibson and Peter Fitting were already organizing science fiction classes at the University of Toronto, Madge Aalto (the first SOL librarian) was teaching at York, Darko Suvin had a course at McGill and Tom Henighan was just about to start at Carleton.

SOL provided a focus, and increasingly, a resource. In '72, SOL and McGill co-sponsored SeCon, the Secondary Universe Conference which brought scholars, critics and teachers of SF together from all over Canada, along with their counterparts from other countries, and a scattering of SF writers. In 1973, a serious scholarly journal, Science Fiction Studies, began publishing in Montreal.

By the mid-seventies, most major Canadian universities had SF courses, and colleges and high schools were rushing to catch up. Some of the best teachers were encouraging students to write original stories for their term papers. And there were at least five-and-a-half working SF writers across the country, because Spider Robinson had moved up to Nova Scotia from the States, and Britishers Michael Coney and Andrew Weiner had settled in Victoria and Toronto.

(Actually, it was at least six-and-a-half, if you count the blessedly brief extrusion of Harlequin's kid brother, Laser Books, into the field. Laser published a whole series of a single cloned novel — same plot, same characters, different names, titles and bylines — before they discovered SF readers don't like predictable formulas. I won't count them.)

Other publishers were doing better, sometimes spectacularly so. True, most of them didn't know they were publishing SF, and most of the authors didn't know they were writing it, but at least twenty at-least-readable novels and one short-story collection of Canadian science fiction were published in Canada during the seventies, and some of them were very fine science fiction indeed: Ian Adams' The Trudeau Papers, Christie Harris' Sky Man on a Totem Pole, Blanche Howard's The Immortal Soul of Edwin Carlysle, Bruce Powe's The Last Days of the American Empire, and others of varying quality by John Ballem, Stephen Franklin, William Heine, Basil Jackson, Richard Rohmer, David Walker and Jim Willer. Monica Hughes, Suzanne Martell and Ruth Nichols, writing juveniles, were genre-identified; so was Marie Jacober, with a prize-winning adult novel in Alberta. H. A. Hargreaves' short-story collection, North By 2000, in 1975, must have been the first book labelled specifically as Canadian Science Fiction. Gotlieb, Coney and Robinson, of course, were publishing novels and short stories regularly under SF labels in the U.S. and U.K., and towards the end of the decade two new Canadian novelists were launched by U.S. genre publishers: Crawford Killian in 1978 and Edward Llewellyn in 1979. (Llewellyn's The Douglas Convolution was the first of only five novels completed before his untimely death in 1984.)

Actually in 1979, you might well have used up all your fingers and toes counting Canadian SF writers — if you could find them. One man did. No one, not even John Colombo, would seriously have tried to produce an anthology of contemporary Canadian science fiction at that point, but he did bring out a very different collection: Other Canadas.

* * *

John Robert Colombo is a good deal more than just another CanCult household name. I called myself an improbable anthologist; Colombo is the real thing: scholar, historian, careful compiler, indefatiguable researcher, voluminous reader, aggressive correspondent. The marvel is that an editor of these accomplishments should have had the imaginative flair to wish to use them in the service of a genre hardly anyone (except thee and me, John — and sometimes I wondered about me) believed existed — indigenous Canadian SF.

Other Canadas used the broadest possible definitions of source, form and content. It brought together a discriminating collection of science fiction and fantasy written by Canadians and/or about Canada over a time-span of more than two hundred years, including short stories, poetry, novel excerpts and critical essays. The selections, enriched with Colombo's informed and engaging notes, established once and for all the existence of the territory, and in effect proclaimed it open for exploration and settlement.

* * *

I am not a scholar. My files are famous for their gaps, and my notes for their irrelevance. It is time to apologize in passing to all the people unmentioned here (Susan Wood! How could I never have spoken of Susan Wood?) who were creating Canadian science fiction in the seventies, as I hasten to disclaim any ability to document the burgeoning productivity of the eighties.

(I was straying into television, returning to work on a novel. Still —)

Even the most casual reader had to be aware of the emergence of Eileen Kernaghan (choice science fantasy), William Gibson (all over Omni) and Donald Kingsbury (Hugo Award nominee for Courtship Rite). I knew that John Bell and Lesley Choyce brought out an anthology in 1981 similar in its premises to Colombo's book, but more modestly limited to the Atlantic provinces. I knew that an annual Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award had been established. I was invited to Boréal, the Francophone SF conference, and realized that on the other side of the language barrier a positive ferment of activity was going on. And back in Anglophonia I kept hearing names I hadn't heard before.

So when Ellen Godfrey of Press Porcépic suggested a new anthology in 1984, I was only briefly surprised. Of course — the time was right (again). Canadian SF — a uniquely Canadian expression of perspectives on change and the future — had developed as inevitably as (say) Canadian feature films or Canadian Studies courses in foreign universities, from the same ongoing Canadian dynamic: a dialectic of international/immigrant influences and a growing awareness of a specifically Canadian cultural identity. Colombo did not invent the concept of Other Canadas; he located and described it.

* * *

The first big surprise then was realizing I really wanted to try to do the book.

Twenty is a nice round number. I guess I'd been away from it long enough. (Like sex and bicycles, it seems to come right back when you start again.)

The surprises kept coming. The next big one was not having to fight with my publishers (or educate them). Right from the beginning we were in agreement about the book we wanted to do: a sampling of some of the best contemporary Canadian SF — as described in the Foreword. ("We" were Godfrey, myself and Gerry Truscott, the Press Porcépic editor who did all the nitty-gritties: correspondence, contracts, copy-editing and consultation on selections.)

Another early surprise was the size of the mailing list compiled with help from John Colombo, John Bell (Ottawa-based editor/author/archivist), Rob Sawyer (young author with wide SF-fandom connections) and Doris Mehegan of SOL. Announcements of the project went out initially to more than seventy authors. Some were novelists who just might do a short story; many were mainstream writers who had occasionally done a bit of SF; but almost half of them were actually published science-fiction writers!


Excerpted from Northern Stars by David G. Hartwell, Glenn Grant. Copyright © 1994 David G. Hartwell and Glenn Grant. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Introduction by Glenn Grant,
We Have Met the Alien (And It Is Us), Judith Merril,
A Niche, Peter Watts,
Mother Lode, Phyllis Gotlieb,
Home by the Sea, Élisabeth Vonarburg,
Under Another Moon, Dave Duncan,
Remember, the Dead Say, Jean-Louis Trudel,
One, Heather Spears,
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer, Lesley Choyce,
User Friendly, Spider Robinson,
Distant Signals, Andrew Weiner,
The Woman Who Is the Midnight Wind, Terence M. Green,
The Winter Market, William Gibson,
The Byrds, Michael G. Coney,
Soluble-Fish, Joël Champetier,
Memetic Drift, Glenn Grant,
The Reckoning of Gifts, James Alan Gardner,
The Cauldron, Donald M. Kingsbury,
Happy Days in Old Chernobyl, Claude-Michel Prévost,
Pity the Monsters, Charles de Lint,
Carpe Diem, Eileen Kernaghan,
Xils, Esther Rochon,
Stolen Fires, Yves Meynard,
Retrieval, John Park,
Outport, Garfield Reeves-Stevens,
Just Like Old Times, Robert J. Sawyer,
Stardust Boulevard, Daniel Sernine,
Ballads in 3/4 Time, Robert Charles Wilson,
(Learning About) Machine Sex, Candas Jane Dorsey,
Towards a Real Speculative Literature: Writer as Asymptote, Candas Jane Dorsey,
Appendix: Canadian SF Awards,
Tor Books by David G. Hartwell,
About the Authors,
Copyright Acknowledgments,

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