Good news this week is the release of the anthology Casserole Diplomacy and Other Stories: An On Spec 25th Anniversary Retrospective by Tyche Books. It includes my story “A Taste Of Time” (in fact, the blueberries in the bottom right corner of the cover would be mine, I believe). To have a story chosen as one of the best representatives of such a high quality magazine from the past twenty-five years is an incredible honour. Once I’ve had a chance to read the anthology, I’ll certainly put a detailed review on my Goodreads page, but frankly, as a reader, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this book sight unseen. It’s guaranteed to be a showcase of Canadian speculative fiction without many equals, and that means a juicy read, to say the least.
That brings me to the bad news of the past week, the news that the Canada Council for the Arts has turned down On Spec’s application for funding for 2015. This means a loss of up to $25,000 to cover production costs (including paying writers). Certainly a shock to the Canadian SF community (and very unfortunate timing, to have the elation over the launch of the anthology punctured by such a disappointing decision). But even harder to understand was the jury’s criticism of the magazine’s quality of writing and production values.
On Spec holds a special place in my heart because my very first short story sale was to them, a story called “The Wind Man”. That was a tremendous validation because I had great respect for the quality of writing that On Spec consistently displayed. In fact, “The Wind Man” didn’t end up being my first published story because On Spec’s commitment to thorough proofing and editing took more time than other publications. On Spec doesn’t just supply the mind-expanding ideas and lustrously-imagined landscapes of good science fiction and fantasy, but also the richness of literary prose. For the Canada Council jury to criticize the quality of writing in the magazine is mystifying. Some of my compatriots in Canadian science fiction have suggested it’s because of an age-old prejudice that genre writing of any kind cannot rise to the level of “literary fiction”. I hope it isn’t that. One would think that in light of work by David Mitchell, Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, and so many others, such a bias would once and for all have been put to rest.
I haven’t submitted to On Spec in some time because I’m concentrating on long fiction these days, but I would do so again in a heartbeat, and my subscription to the magazine is my best endorsement. If you’re not familiar with On Spec or Canadian SF in general, give it a try. A year’s subscription is a bargain. Or buy the anthology. Or both.
I don’t want to envision a future without On Spec.