SOL Rising

Number 12, February 1995

An Interview with Glen Cook (Part II)
The View From A Chair
News from The Merril Collection
National Library Exhibition in Progress: Update
Meetings at the Merril: Star Trek Toronto Inc.
The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Foundation
Neither Sleet Nor Slush

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An Interview with Glen Cook (Part II)

by Mici Gold


(Glen Cook was in Toronto on April 10, 1994, to read from his latest "Garrett, P.I." book and from Glittering Stone, a work-in-progress. Afterwards he gave SOL Rising a 30 minute interview, the first part of which appeared in our last issue. Part II appears below.)


MG: You also mentioned that you had taken sometime off work to get some projects finished?


GC: No, work's taken time off from me. The board of directors at General Motors, in their infinite wisdom, have decided that a plant which was designed to build subcompact cars and was actually designed to build luxury cars is the best place in the world to build commercial vans. They're going to close the place where they build commercial vans now and move their production to our plant, which entails about a third of a billion dollars of changes inside the plant in order to put new machinery in it. It's going to take about fifteen months to take out all the old production stuff and put in the new, and in the interim, I had just enough seniority so that I didn't have to stay; so I get fifteen months off with partial pay while they do that. It's entirely possible that I won't go back at all and then take an early retirement. They're trying to get some of the top seniority people to take early retirement and get out 'cause they have so many people on the rolls. I'm not sure I know the economics of how it works, but it's to their advantage to get some of their people to retire. Next week I'll be going to a meeting to see how I could qualify—I've had twenty-nine years and some months of service and, theoretically, you're eligible to retire at thirty years, regardless of your age, although it's not a full retirement. One of the things they were offering was full retirement at age fifty, and I failed qualifying for that by nine days.


MG: No fair!


GC: Yeah. I kind of whined and looked at that, "Oh, man, cut-off date was the first of July and my birth date was the ninth!" Whimper, whimper, whimper. I know a guy, last time they offered it, about five years ago, who missed it by about twelve hours. He was born just a couple of hours after midnight of the day of the cut-off. He whimpered a lot, too.


MG: That would give you some benefits that would allow you to look after writing in a bigger way.


GC: Yeah! The principal reason that I have stayed working for General Motors is for the benefits package, the health benefits and what-not that you get. The whole package includes dental, birth, eye care, and, I believe, legal representation for some things. That all covers part of the benefits package that you don't have as a self-employed individual. It costs so much for an individual to get them, I just can't make that much money writing. I didn't want to go out where I'm at now; I probably would have quit if I thought I could have my family covered. I didn't, so I stayed working. And I will continue to work as long as I need to. Here I am, sneaking up on fifty years old, and I have a kid just starting kindergarten next year. That's another consideration.


MG: Kids can go through a lot of orthodontics stuff...


GC: I've been real lucky on teeth so far. And school costs! Mine are going to Catholic schools. The public school system where I live is really bad and they got teachers that can't spell their own names, never mind the kids'!


MG: You also mentioned that the "Dread Empire" series has possible novels but that they might not see the light of day.


GC: There's a lot of stuff. I've got whole file drawers full of short fiction from that setting. The first thing I set out to do when I started writing was to create and write in that world. There's lots of stuff that's never been published and probably never will see publication simply because there doesn't seem to be any market for it. There are individuals who are very much interested in it and like it, but it takes a lot of individuals to make something commercially successful, unfortunately.


MG: Unlike your "Garrett" or your "Black Company" series.


GC: Yeah, those have both been very successful commercially. The "Garretts" don't have a fanatic fan following, but they sell well. They sell better than anything else. "Black Company," there's always people bugging me... [Laughs] There's a very strong feeling there, I'm not sure what the difference is or why, but a lot of people get attached to individual characters ....


MG: I admit to being interested in the character Croaker. Is he going to be around in the next two books?


GC: He'll be around, I guess. When Shadow Game came out and he apparently died right at the end, boy, I got some flak! [Laughs]


MG: I was devastated!


GC: I got some real flak. When I was writing the book called All Darkness Met, I had a girl who was typing for me. She was fifteen, the daughter of a friend. She was typing the manuscript and she called up at six o'clock in the morning. And the phone was ringing—ring! ring! ring! ring!—"Um, what d'ya ya want?" "You son of a bitch! You killed—" "What? Who is this?" She was really put out that I had killed this one character. Called me up at a ridiculous hour to let me know in no uncertain terms that it ought not to be that way; that was her favourite character.


MG: There are a few of your characters that are dead and then they aren't dead, it turns out.


GC: With the "Dread Empire" books, characters can come back in the sense that, as the books go along, you keep seeing certain events from different viewpoints. You might follow two or three characters in an incident here and the story goes on, but later on in another book, there'll be characters over there and they see the same things from a whole different viewpoint. That's really partly what those books are about, important incidents interpreted completely differently by different people around them. Even the importance of a particular incident is interpreted differently. There's one time where—I don't recall what book it occurs in—there's an assassination of a prince, a whole bunch of people were out to get him. And it just happened, coincidentally, that all of them went after him about the same time. He ends up getting killed, and as things work out later, the characters in these various groups of people all think they did him in. Their whole direction is predicated upon the fact that they believe they were responsible for the death of this particular person. And it may or may not be true, but you keep seeing the same assassination during the course of the various books from different viewpoints, seeing different people who were involved in some plot against the particular character. I had fun with those books... I have lots more to do to work it all out.


MG: Are you likely to do it, though, unless you have a publisher?


GC: No... I used to write entirely just for my own pleasure, and I still do, to an extent. I don't write stuff, for the most part, just because somebody wants me to write it. I write stuff that I enjoy but, if I could take my pick of three different projects to work on, I'm going to write the one that I enjoy that's going to make me a few dollars, too. [Laughs] Every time I have a good run, something happens, I sell books. I did a convention in Boston a few weeks ago that turned out to be very lucrative, very successful commercially, and I got home and the very next day when I went in to wash my dirty clothes from this trip, the washer died, it just blew out, smoke pouring out of it, stuff like that. It had to be replaced. By the time I got home from going out and ordering one of those, one of my kids was home from school and came running down the stairs to me; "Dad, there's something wrong with the television; come and look!" Sure enough, it would show only red. It wasn't showing anything after about half an hour. I talked to various friends and they said it was a cheap TV, it would be cheaper just to go out and buy a new one than to have someone work on this one and fix it. The picture tube was gone. It would cost eighty bucks or something like that for a picture tube and to have it put in, if they could find one, 'cause for these off-brand Korean TVs, you got to find the right tubes that'll fit them. I ended up going out and buying another TV, and by the time I was done with the various things there, the profits were all gone from that wonderful weekend. I just expect these things... I had a real good weekend last week in Minnesota and came home and spent 200 dollars on the car.


MG: Is this a pattern?


GC: Well, I'm not making a bunch of money from this one, so maybe there won't be anything waiting for me. I certainly hope not... Well, that's life. I take the Garrett approach and expect the worst and I'm pleasantly surprised.


MG: Is there anything you always wanted to write but haven't yet gotten around to it?


GC: Not really... One book I started in 1973 or '74, that I never really abandoned. It seems to get shot down by current events... frequently. It's supposed to be set in the late twenty-first century, but technological advances keep going faster than what's going on in it. [Laughs] When I first started writing it, I had about maybe a quarter of it done, and one of its basic themes, other than the things it was being written around, was that the guy who was head of basically the ministry of information, whatever propaganda people were in it—they, of course, didn't call themselves that—the men who put out the news—had a daughter who got kidnapped by some kind of screwball revolutionary. As it happened, at the point I had gotten to, Patricia Hearst was kidnapped by the lunatic Symbionese Liberation Army people in California; and that just shot the guts of the thing for me for a long time. Picked it back up and something else happened, and by the time, about 1981 or 1982, I was looking at it again, a lot of the communications technology I was making up was already real. It had gone from being just boy-would-this-be-neat-to-have to being at least will-be-on-line-down-the-line-before-too-long. I'd have to go back through it; a lot of the stuff, relationships and things like that, can still be imagined... but I don't know if I'll ever be content with it. It was an experimental sort of thing for me. I write these adventurous things and this was not an adventure novel. It was just a really dark future. Sort of like lots of news clips, and little flashes of life and what-not. And you see somebody working at this job and somebody doing this... For a few pages there would be just part of a page of a newspaper. And you get things that are going on in various places in the world. Just trying to create a map of the future that I wouldn't want to live in...


MG: Except that life kept making it happen!


GC: Every writer's seen that, everybody in science fiction thinks something up he believes is real original and here it's been done a hundred times... There's an early story, a fairly long one... I sent it to my agent and he sold it right away but he wrote back and said "You realize that this is the same story as Shane." And I said, "Huh?" Now, I saw the movie Shane when it first came out, when I was a little kid, and I had never seen it since... And, as luck would have it, Shane was on that weekend on one of the channels late at night, and I stayed up and watched it... And it was almost the same story! So I wrote back and I said, "Boy, if you're going to have trouble with plagiarism or something, let's not sell this!" And he said, "No; it's too good a story! It's not a direct one-for-one plagiarism or anything; it's just basically the same idea." He said it's an honoured story tradition that goes back to Homer, so why not? Let's do it... It's powerful when you get a story that great. Things like that happen all the time.


MG: It's a short story?


GC: Actually, it's a short novel, about twenty thousand words, which is not much for a book. It was in a collection.


MG: An anthology?


GC: I bet I can find it right here. [As we happened to be sitting in the anthology section of the collection, Glen turned to the shelves of books behind him and found a 'proof' copy of the volume! To his surprise.] I have it in paperback. Most of my books I don't have the proofs of. They don't send them to the authors... They only do about six to a dozen of those and send them around to people that they have reason to hope will actually read it and make some commentary.


MG: Is there anything you've always wanted to say to your readers directly that you've never had a chance to, always wanted to tell them about Glen Cook?


GC: I can't think of anything. [Laughs] I'm always puzzled that there's any interest at all. I'm boggled by it. Never really thought of it as doing anything special... I'm putting on weight now. On the other hand, sometimes I do see people getting made a fuss over, and I think there's no excuse in the world for that particular person when I'm so much better, or something like that. Mostly I don't see that I do anything that's that special that there should be any fussing over it.


MG: Well, you do have quite a few readers that appreciate your work, Glen. That shouldn't be a big surprise.


GC: [Laughs] More and more, it seems like it. That's nice. That's good for the ego, I guess, to know that, even if they're not in my own neighbourhood or something... I wrote for about fifteen years before anybody in the local area, newspaper writers, ever noticed. Every year they'd have a thing in the Post Dispatch, there'd be a special section on local writers, and they'd have like fifteen romance writers and our local, big name mystery writer, and someone who writes very humorous columns on every day life and a few other writers, and I'd like to write 'em a nasty letter saying "Why don't you ever mention Glen Cook?" Finally, they did. Now the last few years, occasionally there's something in the local papers here and there, by somebody desperate for a story! [Laughs] He comes out and walks around the house, going "Ooh, have you read all these books?"


MG: You've got quite a collection, I hear.


GC: Yeah, I've got about thirty thousand paperbacks. I've got virtually all the digest science magazines ever published in the United States and Canada. And a lot of the old pulps. I've been doing that, collecting, since the 'sixties...


MG: You could open your own library!


GC: Yeah, I probably could. There's collections around that are better than mine. In Memphis, Tennessee, there's a guy, Doc Richardson—who's got to be 120 years old, 'cause he retired from two different jobs. He was a preacher for twenty years or something like that, then he retired from that and did something else for 23 years, but anyway, he collects not only one of everything, but one of every edition of everything. He's got shelves and shelves and shelves full of multiple editions of Heinlein and what-not... well over two hundred thousand books, I gather, though I've never seen the collection myself. Just incredible mounds of stuff.


MG: In your own collection, do you have favourites? Someone who maybe inspired you or meant a lot to you?


GC: Oh, I have particular authors I like, but strong influences, I thought were great at one time, like Jack Vance, Fritz Leiber, Tolkien, of course... let me look around...


MG: That's cheating!


GC: [Laughs] Guys I don't like: Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov... I find Asimov tedious, boring, transparent and various other things. Bradbury's just too artsy for me. Couple of his stories are okay, but overall, the body of his work is not appealing to me. Just a matter of personal taste.


MG: What about in the fantasy area?


GC: Well, Leiber and Vance... in fact, mostly the fantasy is what I like. Leiber's "Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser" stuff and Jack Vance's Dying Earth book. I still reread Dying Earth every once in a while, and that's his first thing published, that first came out in 1949...


(So ended Mici Gold's interview with Glen Cook last year. In the next issue we will have an interview, also by Mici Gold, with Toronto-area writer Marian Hughes who has just published her first novel, Initiation.)


Books by Glen Cook


Dread Empire Series:

A Shadow of All Night Failing. 1979 Berkley

October's Baby. 1980 Berkley

All Darkness Met. 1980 Berkley

Reap the East Wind. 1987 TOR

An Ill Fate Marshalling. 1988 TOR


Haroun Ben Yousif Series (related to above):

The Fire In His Hands. 1984 Pocket Books

With Mercy Toward None. 1985 Baen


The Black Company Series:

The Black Company. 1984 TOR

Shadows Linger. 1984 TOR

The White Rose. 1985 TOR

Silver Spike. 1989 TOR

Shadow Games; First Book of the South. 1989 TOR

Dreams of Steel. 1990 TOR

Glittering Stone. (in progress)


Garrett PI Series:

Sweet Silver Blues. 1987 Signet

Bitter Gold Heart. 1988 Signet

Cold Copper Tears. 1988 Signet

Old Tin Sorrows. 1989 Signet

Dread Brass Shadow. 1990 Penguin

Red Iron Nights. 1991 Penguin

Deadly Quicksilver Lies. 1994 Penguin


Starfisher’s Trilogy:

Shadow Line. 1982 Warner

Starfishers. 1982 Warner

Star's End. 1982 Warner


Darkwar Trilogy:

Doomwalker. 1985 Warner

Warlock. 1985 Warner

Ceremony. 1986 Warner


Other Books:

The Heirs of Babylon. 1972 Signet

The Swordbearer. 1982 TOR

Passage at Arms. 1985 Warner

A Matter 0f Time. 1985 Ace

The Dragon Never Sleeps. 1988 Warner

The Tower of Fear. 1989 TOR

Sung in Blood. 1990 NESFA

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The View From A Chair

By Hugh Spencer


I don't think the last ten months as Chair of the Executive of The Friends of the Merril Collection could have contained more action and adventure... even if it had been written as a science fiction story. The last year has been a period of tremendous activity, made much more enjoyable by the efforts and support of the Library staff and Friends.


There is a lot to talk about, but the following are my views of last year's highlights:


1.      The first annual Worldcon meeting of The Friends of the Merril Collection—showcasing the work of The Friends to the national and the international science fiction communities.

2.      An active and dedicated Executive. Doris Bercarich, Mici Gold, Kathryn Grimbly-Bethke, Peter Halasz, Larry Hancock, Don Hutchison, Do-Ming Lum, John Millard David Nickle, Jean-Louis Trudel , and Theresa Wojtasiewicz... Some of these names you may know, some may be new. The Friends and the Collection are very fortunate to have their help and dedication.

3.      Discovering what a Friend is. The TPL Board recently made a number of recommendations regarding issues with some wide-ranging implications—from possible user fees, the need for fund-raising by The Friends, and the future roles of The Friends. The Executive has been working on behalf of all of The Friends to ensure that we continue to serve as a community advisory group and promote the appreciation of The Merril as a world treasure of fantastic and speculative writing. We are continuing to work with the Board regarding the role of The Friends and the future of The Merril. Our primary goals are still to promote the Collection—and all of fantasy and science fiction—to the community, and to work to protect and celebrate the Collection in its present and future homes.

4.      A new role for The Merril Collection in Toronto. Most of us are aware that this most special of special collections will be housed in a new building by next fall. But soon The Merril will work beyond its walls. As of January 1, 1995, a pilot project begins where the staff of The Merril will select science fiction and fantasy works for many Toronto Public Library branches. This new practice has enormous implications for The Merril, building on the expertise and resources of the Collection, and giving it an active and important role in the whole community.

5.      Meeting new challenges. Our programme of author readings and receptions continues and we are pleased with the results. Theresa advises me that membership of The Friends is rising steadily. But there are those new challenges; owing to budget cuts, TPL no longer funds SOL Rising—our main organ of communication. The Executive is currently preparing a new, self-sufficient SOL Rising.


We must also respond to economic realities and develop programmes that will both promote and raise funds for the future well-being of The Merril Collection. Right now we are working in several areas—promotional products, film series, literacy kits, and even an SF walking tour of Toronto. Any and all suggestions and support from The Friends are welcome.


If you'll forgive the narrative analogy one more time, the story is continuing... you know some of the cast of characters (one that includes you!)... and we're hoping for a happy resolution... with your help...

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News from the Merril Collection

by Lorna Toolis


Preparing to move The Merril Collection to the new building at 239 College has been the main goal for staff in the past year. TPL's Implementation Team is responsible for seeing that the new building is furnished and set up appropriately, as well as recommending to the TPL Board a time to close the old building and open the new building. (A notice will be sent out as soon as the Board determines these dates.) A citizen's advisory committee provides public input.


As the new building at the corner of 239 College rose, staff got together to discuss the services that would be offered in the new building and the layout and design necessary to support these services. Carpet, colour of paint and decorative flourishes are added to make a whole building.


Other projects include the science fiction exhibition co-sponsored by The National Library of Canada and The Merril Collection. The exhibition opens on May 12 in Ottawa. It is timed to coincide with Can-Con, an annual convention celebrating Canadian science fiction and fantasy. It will be available on World Wide Web for people who don't care to travel.


Other than these two projects, staff worked as usual, assisting patrons, acquiring materials and making them available to the public.


In selection, every year staff target one area of the collection for development. This past year we tried to develop the pulp collection.


The Merril Collection started with a good pulp collection from Judith's initial donation, but replacing missing and damaged issues is a necessary step in collection development. It is in the nature of this kind of material that it becomes rarer and more expensive to purchase every year. Accordingly, we are trying to complete the runs of pulps while they are still cheap, relatively speaking.


Pulps are popular and frequently requested by patrons. Some patrons are reading the pulps as a form of nostalgia, others have only recently discovered them and are fascinated by the exuberance the magazines display, still others are using them as research materials. In 1994, the pulp, The Shadow, was popularized by a movie of the same name and patrons immediately appeared, asking to see original issues of The Shadow magazine.


In books, the most popular themes in science fiction and fantasy change from time to time for no apparent rhyme or reason. In 1994 vampires were extremely popular, to the point where the staff complained bitterly. In 1993 a lot of science fiction revolved around memory and what happened if you lost it, acquired someone else's or remembered a previous life. Now memory isn't a concern anymore, but it appears from the forthcoming publication lists that ghosts are back, popular for the first time in several decades.

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National Library Exhibition in Progress: Update

by Andrea Paradis


Work continues on the National Library of Canada's exhibition on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, with new developments occurring daily.


The exhibition co-curators Hugh Spencer and Allan Weiss have worked with the staff and collections of the National Library and the TPL's Merril Collection (partners in the project) and honed a long list of books, comics, magazines, fanzines, manuscripts, television and radio memorabilia into the two hundred items which will form the nucleus of the exhibition. Additional artworks, artifacts and audio-visual elements are under development. The exhibition title has now been confirmed as "OUT OF THIS WORLD" ‑ "VISIONS D'AUTRES MONDES" in French.


The exhibition will start with a brief world history of fantastic literature followed by seven main themes: Identity Variations; Fantastic Voyages; Strange Worlds & Strange Peoples; Quebec Fantasy and Science Fiction; The Genre Variations; The Media Variations; and Who Reads This Stuff? The Publishers of ...and Audience for ...Fantastic Fiction.


The opening date of the exhibition has also been confirmed, and will take place early on the evening of May 12,1995, at the National Library of Canada. Can-Con will be a collaborator for the events of the opening evening, which lead into Can-Con's full slate of weekend activities, including an academic conference; the Canvention and Boréal national conventions; workshops, seminars, readings, panels and entertainment; and presentation of the Boréal and the Aurora awards on May 14th [Tel: (613) 596-4105 for information].


The exhibition opening will also be the launching pad for a new anthology of essays on Canadian science fiction and fantasy. The books, produced in English and in French, will be co-published by the National Library of Canada and a private sector publisher. Essays have been submitted from across Canada, from France and from England. Contributions are from your favourite sf&f authors, broadcasters, historians, scholars and teachers, and include sketches by Heather Spears and a graphic story collaboration by Larry Hancock and Michael Cherkas. Retail price of the anthology will be announced at a later date.


The National Library will also launch a reading list based on the bibliography and the media resources list prepared for the exhibition.


Another step forward—the exhibition is currently being formatted for distribution on World Wide Web. Following the outline of the exhibition themes, and using the covers of the books in the exhibition as the points of reference, the medium will allow us to include sound and a rich cross-referencing of information on authors, their books and other threads of the exhibition.


The National Library's annual "Read up on it" program, which promotes the reading of Canadian children's books and is distributed in schools across Canada, will feature an sf&f theme in 1995, including lists of suggested reading for children and young people in both English and French.


To underscore the importance of the sf&f genres, an education program for grades 1-9 is being developed. May and June will be scheduled for groups from outside Ottawa. The activity will include a tour of the exhibition and an interactive game that "will transport students into the sphere of Canadian science fiction and fantasy."


A smaller "spin-off" exhibit will be planned for the opening of the new Merril Collection facility in the fall of 1995.


The last element of the exhibition will be a reading corner, where visitors can sit down and leaf through some of what they have seen in the exhibition, some of what was not in the exhibition, and expand their horizons by discovering new authors, new titles, or re-discovering their old favourites. Contributions for the reading table will be happily received at the address below. Items sent will not, however, be returned.


For a brochure on the exhibition or a copy of the National Library News featuring an outline of the exhibition themes and background information, contact the National Library of Canada, Marketing and Publishing, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa ON, KIA ON4. For general information on the exhibition or the education program, contact the same address c/o Andrea Paradis, Telephone: (613) 992-3052/Fax: (613) 943-2343, or via Internet:

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Meetings at the Merril: Star Trek Toronto Inc.
To Boldly Go

by Lorraine Pooley


Star Trek Toronto Inc. is a non-profit corporation centred in Metropolitan Toronto. The club is comprised of approximately one hundred Star Trek fans living throughout Canada and the United States who conduct their monthly general meetings in the Canadiana room at The Merril Collection.


Star Trek Toronto's primary objectives are to encourage an interest in Star Trek, science fiction, fact, fantasy and related interests/activities and to provide a common meeting place for persons interested in the aforementioned activities. Star Trek Toronto also assists Toronto Media Fan Club Conventions Inc. with the operation of its annual Star Trek convention, Toronto Trek.


August 1995 will mark the ninth anniversary year of Toronto Trek. Guests scheduled to appear at Toronto Trek IX will include Mira Furlan (Ambassador Delenn of "Babylon 5"), Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Janice Rand) and Majel Barrett Roddenberry (Nurse Christine Chapel/Lwaxana Troi) from "Star Trek," and science fiction writer Timothy Zahn (author of the Star Wars trilogy comprised of Heir To The Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command).


Star Trek Toronto meets on Saturday afternoons from 1:30 to 4:40 p.m. General meetings frequently feature guest speakers on such diverse topics as fanzines, the environment, and space camp. Some guest speakers featured at past Star Trek Toronto meetings have included Lorna Toolis (Head of the Merril Collection), Star Trek writers Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (authors of Memory Prime, Prime Directive, and Federation), Richard Chaves (who portrayed Lieutenant Colonel Iron Horse on "War Of The Worlds"), science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer (author of Golden Fleece, Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter, Foreigner, and End of an Era), and media personality David Onley of CITY-TV (author of the science fiction novel Shuttle).


Practical scientific demonstrations have been given by some speakers such as Julius Grodzki of Toronto's Defence and Civil Institute Of Environmental Medicine who combined a virtual reality viewer with a practical application to contemporary robotics research being conducted at the institute, and Wolfgang Reichmann of Genetron Systems Inc. who constructed a self-contained ecosystem for club members illustrating how various compatible life-forms can co-habit in a common environmental habitat harmoniously.


A raffle of Star Trek and related SF merchandise is also a featured event at each meeting. Trek Talk gossip sessions comprise the balance of the meeting. Annual social functions include a July barbecue/picnic at Toronto's Centre Island, a Hallowe'en costume party, and a Christmas party.

The club corresponds with and/or meets with other Star Trek clubs through-out Canada and the United States whose members visit Toronto. Groups of Star Trek Toronto members attend other Star Trek and science fiction conventions held within commuting distance of Toronto.


Star Trek Toronto publishes a newsletter, The Trekletter, six times a year, on a bimonthly schedule. This newsletter contains letters and articles on club activities, as well as information on what's happening in the local Star Trek and science fiction communities in general. Star Trek Toronto has also produced two volumes of a fanzine, Continuing Voyages, which contains short stories, poems, and artwork created by club writers and artists.


Club members also receive a ten per cent discount on purchases made at Bakka Books, but must present a valid club identification card to qualify for this benefit. Individual memberships in the club cost $20.00 annually. There are special rates for family memberships and out-of-town members who cannot attend monthly meetings. For further information about Star Trek Toronto and current club activities, contact President Martin Miller at (416) 699-0479.


(This is the first of three articles about the organized groups who use The Merril Collection facilities regularly.)

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The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Foundation

By Kathryn Grimbly-Bethke


There is a new national organization for those interested in speculative fiction and related arts which has undertaken the challenge of "enriching the community through the promotion of imaginative works."


The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Foundation / La Fondation canadienne de la science-fiction et du fantastique is a national, non-profit organization of individuals and groups aiming to give this vision form by:


  • encouraging the growth of Canadian imaginative works;
  • increasing the accessibility of imaginative works in Canada;
  • providing support, education, liaison, resources and communication across Canada and internationally; and,
  • promoting literacy.


First introduced at Worldcon in Winnipeg this past fall, the Foundation came about as a reaction to some of the challenges facing The Merril Collection. Increased strain due to the poor state of the Canadian economy on both financial and human resources had put this fantastic collection at risk of reduced access, growth and utilization.


Although The Friends of the Merril Collection have been working diligently in concert with the Toronto Public Library Board to forestall these possibilities, a group of concerned supporters felt that it was time to pool the resources of our widespread and faithful sf&f community across Canada to create a safety net against similar occurrences in the future.


At Worldcon, we were heartened by the support we did receive, not just from Canadians, but from others abroad. Obviously, the Merril's reputation as an exceptional resource makes it an easy cause to back. Currently, we have almost fifty members, from B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Québec, the United States and England. We are especially grateful to Rob Meades and The Friends of the Science Fiction Foundation (England) for their generous financial and moral support. For those of you who may not know of it, the Science Fiction Foundation (England) was created in 1970 with the aim of "promoting a discriminating understanding of the nature of science fiction; of disseminating information about science fiction; of providing research facilities for anyone wishing to study science fiction; and of investigating the usefulness of science fiction in education." The Foundation has its own collection, "the largest SF collection attached to an institution of higher education outside North America," and the collection, under its head Andy Sawyer, is housed at the University of Liverpool.


Aside from just this one issue, however, a national foundation could accomplish other goals that would be of benefit. In October, the founding committee circulated a vision questionnaire and interviewed a number of contributors and fans in the field in order to amass as much information as possible before hammering out a mission statement and draft objectives at an all-day planning meeting. The response was supportive of our initial starting position, and from the ideas and comments we received Foundation volunteers have been working on the establishment of specific goals and objectives for the organization. Long term plans will certainly cover such issues as fund-raising (the Foundation will be applying for charitable status); the preservation and growth of the Merril Collection; encouraging the translation of Canadian works into English from French and vice versa; establishing a communications network for the sf&f community; and providing support for researchers, new authors and artists. Also of importance will be the introduction of young readers and "reluctant readers" (those who currently do little or no reading at all) to works of Canadian imaginative fiction.


Of course, these plans are ambitious, and of course, the Foundation does not expect to accomplish all these objectives immediately. Short-term, we will have to concentrate on building a solid membership base, establishing the communications network and providing support for already existing resources, such as the Merril.


The Foundation will be holding its first official annual general meeting and elections this spring. At the moment, Candas Jane Dorsey (Chair), Kathryn Grimbly-Bethke (Executive Director), Peter Halasz, David Nickle, Robert Runte and Élisabeth Vonarburg have been acting as interim directors, with lots of help from many enthusiastic volunteers working on various committees.


In preparation for this general meeting, we will be circulating complete details about our mission statement, by-laws, goals and objectives and plans for the immediate future. We want to have as much input as possible, from as many sources as possible, so that the Foundation remains truly national in character and action.


We are encouraging interested parties to write to the address listed below to be added to our mailing list. At the moment, we have no formal membership fee and will send limited information at no charge. However, we have been seeking (and receiving!) start-up funding. Most members to date have given a minimum amount of $50, which will be applied towards the first full year of membership, once the by-laws have been passed. Any amount would be most appreciated and would help to offset the costs of incorporation and mailings in this intensive start-up period.


The first Annual General Meeting of the Foundation will take place at Can‑Con, May 12‑14, to elect the board of directors and to vote on its mission statement and by‑laws. For more information about the Foundation, please write to:


Executive Director

The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Foundation

42 Park St.

Scarborough, Ontario


or call (416) 267‑3933

fax: (416) 267‑8800


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Neither Sleet Nor Slush

By Cory Doctorow


Ok, the next time you're at an sf convention, go to the slush panel. Usually, it's called something like, "It Came From the Slush Pile!" and it features editors reading selections from the unsolicited manuscripts that have crossed their desks at one time or another. The readings are stupendous, the perfect blend of stupidity and illiteracy, and the net effect of having them read to you is a sort of wincing laughter, the guilty pleasure that comes from knowing that you're laughing at some poor schmuck's life-work coupled with the raw hideousness of it all.

I've been to a bunch of these. I stopped going. I figured that the editors were picking out only the worst of the lot, and that seemed somehow mean spirited. It was like a story in which the author chooses only to illuminate the awful and the petty, painting the world as a place populated by thugs and bastards.


But last week, I found myself in New York City with a day to kill, before the annual Science Fiction Writers of America editor-author reception. I found myself in New York City, in midtown Manhattan, in the offices of a major genre publisher. They put me to work.


When a hopeful author mails a manuscript to a publisher, chances are, she addresses it to the Senior Editor or the Publisher of the company. Presumably, the editor or publisher will read the manuscript, carefully consider it, and either buy it or send it back with a damn good reason why not.


Nothing could be further from the truth. When slush comes in, someone, usually one of the near-minimum-wage folks in the bullpen or a doin'-it-for-free intern, opens the envelope, makes a note of the name of the author, the title of the work, and the date, and then rubberbands the whole mess together and throws it onto a pile, where it languishes until someone has nothing better to do than to have a look at it.


This takes a while. Publishers are chronically understaffed and overbusy. I get the impression that slush is read only when it grows so massy that it threatens to rip the slush-shelves free of their brackets. Paper is heavy.


But since the reception was that night, and since a bunch of writers had dropped in for the day, we all ended up with piles of manuscripts on our laps, a stack of form-rejections in the centre of the room, the lot of us overcrowding the bullpen.


The instructions were simple. Read as much of the manuscript as you needed to determine whether it was written by someone who had the faintest idea what he was doing, and once you discovered that he didn't, stick a form rejection into the self-addressed, stamped envelope that is supposed to accompany each submission and drop it in the big box that the mailroom guys would cart away at the end of the day.


It's telling that the editor who briefed me didn't bother to say what I should do if I found anything good. I asked, and he laughed hollowly and said, "Make a pile."


The publishing house that I was at receives about twenty manuscripts per day, six days a week, year round. In six hours, I cleared some 150 manuscripts. I could have cleared more, but some part of me insisted that I read the first page or two before rejecting someone's novel. The more experienced hands sometimes bounced a manuscript on the first paragraph.


Never again will I complain that editors don't give manuscripts a fair chance before rejecting them. Everyone has one book in them, and in most cases, it should stay there. What I'm trying to say is, most people write tripe.


Look, I got into writing because I liked to read, but so much of what I found between the covers was abysmal; "I could write better than this!" I thought. Time will tell whether I was right, but I'm dead sure that nearly none of the people I found in the slushpile that day will ever write as well as even the worst crap on the bestseller list.


How bad was it? You wouldn't believe me if I told you. There were about ten real, totally outre slabs of ten pound bond with cover letters that threatened death or promised millions if the editor had the thick-headedness to reject it or the far-seeing bravery to buy it. There were manuscripts tied up in pink ribbons; manuscripts that the author had printed and bound in hardcover, complete with dustjacket, press kit and poster; manuscripts typed on both sides of onionskin paper with a fading ribbon; manuscripts printed out in teeny-weeny Eyestrain-O-Rama™, and manuscripts that used enough typefaces to do any ransom note proud.


There was not a single manuscript that followed the publisher's standard format guidelines. These guidelines are freely available, and apply to virtually every publisher in the world. They're widely reprinted in how-to books, trade journals, and documents circulated on the 'net.


This may sound picky. What bearing does the format have on the quality of the novel? In theory, very little. In practice, however...


Over the course of six hours, I noticed a distinct correlation between the degree to which the presentation approached professional standards and the degree to which the content approximated English. I wasn't alone in this. As editors passed in and out of the bullpen, nodding sagely at us writers, who would break the monotony by reading particularly dumb passages aloud, I asked one if any of the weird manuscripts on purple paper with silver ink, bound in red leather and accompanied by a box of Godiva chocolates had ever proved to be publishable. "Of course not," he said. "Then why bother with them at all?" "We need the chocolates."


Being fresh and unjaded, I actually read large chunks of these manuscripts before sending them to the recycling bin. The writing fell into a few loose categories:


* Illiterate.


Many manuscripts were written by people who apparently didn't speak any human language. They had seemingly thrown random words onto several hundred pages and then put the resulting mess in the mail. A few spelling errors, typos and punctuation problems are understandable. Misspelling the title of your novel isn't.


* Derivative.


Biblio the Bobbit lives his happy, roly-poly life out, but is disrupted when his old friend, Glandulph the Wizard drops in to sweep him away on an exciting quest! (This manuscript didn't actually show up. We did, however, get one called Meet Bucky Gump, Forrest Gump's Cousin.)


* Dull.


It's important to have something actually happen fairly early on in the manuscript. When your character is still in bed, contemplating his hangover and thinking about the day to come on page ten, you've got a problem. This was easily the most common inanity in the slush.


* Hyperactive.


"The rock whizzed over John's head and he turned and played his flamethrower over the massed aliens; they crisped up nicely but his grim labour was interrupted when the UFO swept out of the sky and aimed its laser cannons at him! He dodged but fell down the tunnel of the dragon! John pocketed his flamethrower, knowing the dragon's legendary resistance to jellied gasoline and whipped out his sword! Etc! Etc!"


* Over-written.


"In the lush central valley of the enchanted, ancient kingdom of Buttheadia, whose praises are sung from one comer of the world called Wankeranda by its denizens, be they human, elvish, dwarfish, trollish, giant-esque, sylph-like or semi-hemi-demi-ogre-tastic, there lived, humble and alone, a small child, possessed of skin the colour of a saucer of cream licked by the pink tongue of a silver, majestic unicorn; of eyes the green of a pine in the brightest moment of winter on the continent of Thehelliwillia, of features of the surpassing delicacy of the most fragile strand of spider-silk that rests at the heart of its web; yes, there she dwelt, and she was feelin' blue."


* Illegible.


Picture the oldest typewriter ribbon imaginable. Now age it by ten more years while submerging it in bleach. Type 400 pages with it. Send it to a publisher.

It's no joke that you can usually tell within a few sentences whether anyone, anywhere, would ever pay any money to read the manuscript you hold in your hands.


It's hard to understand why a publisher would even bother. In a good year, one or two manuscripts will climb out of the slushpile and into print.


But those one or two manuscripts will be killers. An agented submission by a known writer will get a thorough reading, even if it is substandard. The author has a track record, the editor has good reason to believe that the book will be OK. On the other hand, J. Random Bozo with his novel in the slushpile can't afford any mistakes, because there is no forgiveness for him.


Thus, the writers who climb out of the slush are damned hot. Just this year, Wilhelmina Baird's acclaimed novel Crashcourse made the trip.


It would've been nice to find its equal on my day on slush-duty, but it just wasn't in the cards. More's the pity.


But I gotta say, I like the competition.


(Cory Doctorow is a Toronto-based science fiction writer and multi-media developer.)

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