SOL Rising

Number 22, May 2000

Nalo Hopkinson: New Book Midnight Robber a success
View From The Chair: Does Size Count?
Collection Head: We've Come A Long Way...
Interview With The Chair Man: Dennis Mullin Talks About Chairing The Aurora Awards
SF Canada: David Nickle, New President
Hidden Treasures: Which Necrinomicon?
Little Green Man: Merril Collection Acquisition

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Nalo Hopkinson
New Book Midnight Robber a success!

Award winning author, Nalo Hopkinson, read from her new book "Midnight Robber" this past March. Her second night in a row, she gave a smashing performance about a six year old girl, Tan-Tan, living on a planet of culture amidst a huge celebration. Hopkinson read on, "Let he give speech" and did he ever. The Robber King stood in front of our main character(s) and sang a speech so loud you forgot that you weren't a character in her book. "Midnight Robber" creates a possible new culture based on different history, and develops a language that co-relates by "code-sliding" as linguistics call it. Author Hopkinson reveals, "I realised after a while that I was using a Trinidadian mode of address for emphasis/irony and a Jamaican one to signal opposition." Listen up Burgess, you might learn another thing or two! Hopkinson has created this believable little girl in a fictional Caribbean world. A whole planet celebrates in the tradition of Trinidadian Carnival, in which the young Tan-Tan must recreate herself within her culture to survive.

After regaling her audience with colorful words describing Carnival's Robber King, the response was slow. Her audience sat stunned, breathless, still swallowing the sweet taste of a Canadian best seller! The author's intent was clear even though ninety percent of the audience was not well versed in Caribbean culture. Those not familiar with Caribbean culture will definitely learn a lot from this book, and those who are familiar will enjoy this, a new language for science fiction. Read her book and you won't be disappointed. Check out her website at

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View From The Chair
Does Size Count?

Even when we agree that bigger isn't better, in fundraising as in life, there are times when size does count.

We all know that it takes money to keep the Merril Collection going. Despite solid support from Toronto Public Library and the City of Toronto, our good fortune to be in a wonderful new building, and our efforts and good luck of the past, more funds are always needed. We can't resist if we want the Merril Collection to grow and prosper as a unique, fascinating collection of (inter)national importance.

There are opportunities that slip by because of the lack of funds - the sale of the John Wyndham papers and the Aldiss Library - to name but two. It's hard to admit that they could have could have added immeasurably to the Collection except for the small matter of money. Or should I say big?

The Friends exist to support the Collection. The question is how best to support the Collection? Of the many possibilities, the Executive Committee has determined that one of its long-term goals will be the creation of an endowment fund. The Fund would allow the Collection to acquire one or two major assets each year. Among our shorter-term goals we want to establish stable financial support for SOL Rising, the readings and other events.

In order to do this, we have established a fundraising committee to spearhead our efforts. The committee is developing both our long-term and short-term goals and looking at the legal and financial aspects of each goal. There will be more on this in future issues of SOL Rising. But there is a lot that needs to be done now, and your help would be invaluable.

Here are some suggestions how you can help;

  • Encourage someone to join the Friends. How about your creative writing instructor, your mum, a colleague, or that person always in front of you at the book store?
  • Make a donation to the Friends using the membership form on the back of this issue. If we each give according to our abilities, we can begin to make a big difference.
  • Give a Friends membership for birthdays or Christmas.
  • Volunteer to help with Friends events, SOL Rising or other tasks.
  • Buy a Merril Collection mug for yourself or for a friend.

Your support of the Collection is vital. Your membership is important and your personal efforts - large and small - do make a diff erence. I know your time and money are precious. The Merril Collection is also a rare and precious resource; I think the two are a good match.

Lucy White, Chair

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Collection Head
We’ve Come A Long Way…

I enjoyed the reading that Nalo Hopkinson gave at the Merril Collection last month. She read from her new novel, Midnight Robber, and answered questions after the reading. After everyone had left and the staff were cleaning up, I was thinking about how the Friends reading program has evolved. Long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I first came to the Merril Collection, it was customary to host one event a year. (We were allowed to have wine back in those halcyon, by-gone days, without posting a million dollar bond, either). Even though the TPL provided a subsidy for programming back then, one event a year was all the staff thought that they could handle.

Since then, the Friends have developed a regular reading program. They invite the guests and they do the work associated with the reading. The members pay for the annual reading - the TPL subsidy disappeared long ago. Over the years many of the SFWA and SF Canada's most talented authors have passed through the Merril Collection. They usually read from a forthcoming work, answer questions and generally are available to meet people in the local community.

As always, the easy interaction in the sf field between the authors and the readers leaves me surprised and grateful. Last year was the third time Orson Scott Card has come to the Merril. Each time he has been more successful and more polished, and each time he has talked to everyone who wanted to talk to him, and signed all the books that his readers brought. This past time, 137 people came to hear him speak. It was an extremely large crowd; Mr. Card said he was good until midnight, one AM if necessary, but fortunately the line-up disappeared at 10:30. Great courtesy, from a great gentleman.

This was greatly appreciated by the staff as well as The Friends. The Friends get a chance to publicize the Merril Collection, they and the attendees get to meet someone whose work they are interested in. The writers get a chance to publicize their forthcoming work. This happens so regularly that the Friends don't even notice it anymore. As the Friends add wider horizons of fundraising to their concerns, I think people tend to overlook what an excellent opportunity the current events offer for meeting and talking. Last year the Friends hosted nine events, which is quite a development from one annual reading. In 1999, The Friends of the Merril Collection hosted Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman (twice), the 3rd annual pulp show, the annual general meeting, the Christmas Cream Tea with readings by Tanya Huff and Michelle Sagara, Elisabeth Vonarburg (as the keynote speaker for the Annual Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy), writer Sean Stewart and editor David Hartwell - a stellar line-up, excuse the adjective.

The Merril Collection has always tried to serve as a communication nexus for the Canadian sf&f community, which is spread out across an extremely large country, that speaks in two different languages, with completely different views of what should happen and how to achieve it. At the Friends of Merril events people exchange information, sometimes professional, sometimes personal - sometimes the meetings look like swap meets and spin off into a hundred other communities of extremely specialized interest. The Merril Collection is a part of this process, facilitating and evolving, with the Canadian sf community.

Like all communities of interest, one of the goals of the group is to reach people who don't know that we exist. Both the Friends Executive Committee members and staff are often deeply frustrated when they think that we are only reaching those people who are already converted to the sf way. It may be that we are too passionate about our own interests to see clearly here.

The Friends of Merril provide a unique opportunity for people to learn about the Collection and about science fiction and fantasy. The Friends provide information for those who have never been aware of the Collection before, while also providing a wealth of intellectual stimulation and entertainment for the rest of us. Next time bring a friend. See you there!

Loma Toolis, Collection Head

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Interview with the Chair Man
Dennis Mullin Talks about Chairing The Aurora Awards

This is the 20th year of the Prix Aurora Awards. They are the awards presented annually for the best Canadian SF&F. The awards are financed by voting fees, by donations and by the host convention. There is no permanent funding. Each year a different convention hosts the awards and this year they are going to be a hit at Toronto Trek 2000, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Beyond. It will be held at the Regal Constellation Hotel in Toronto on the weekend of July 14-16.

Much has changed in the past twenty years, we can now celebrate ten different categories, a jump from only one award given back in 1980. In 1997, SOL Rising was nominated, not a winner yet, but who knows what the future holds.

What exactly are the Aurora Awards? Dennis Mullin is Chairing the Awards this year. He discovered fandom in 1975, spent over ten years helping run Wilfcon and has been involved with the Aurora Awards committee since 1991. Dennis was more than happy to clarify my understanding about the awards in an interview.

How did you first hear of the Awards?
I was involved in editing a fanzine called Starsongs. Undoubtedly, one of the zines that we traded with was with one of the ones produced by Robert Runté. He was involved with running the awards (actually award, since only one was given out at that time) in 1982.

Why did you become involved?
In 1991, Wilfcon won the right to host the awards for 1992. I was secretary-treasurer for Wilfcon and ended up on the Aurora committee as well (probably since I convinced the concom that hosting the awards was a good idea). Paul Valcour chaired the Aurora committee that year. In one form or another, I've been involved ever since.

The Awards have changed over the years, from one to ten different awards. What was your involvement in these changes?
Minor. My first active involvement (beyond nominating & voting) was in 1989 when I attended my first business meeting. At that meeting the proposal was put forward to add awards for artists. After much discussion, what emerged was one award for artistic work (fan or pro). Since it takes 2 years to approve changes, 1991 is the first year to have an Artist category.

Why the changes?
There seems to be some fundamental urge in people to add categories for the things they're interested in, or a desire to cover everything. Every couple of years people propose additional categories at the Canvention business meetings. Most get shot down. My personal point of view, is that we don't need to cover everything and that we should concentrate on awards that reward individual/small group achievements. A well done book fits. A well done movie does not (since the movie is typically the effort of 100's of people, many who may not be Canadian).

What would you like to see for the future of the Awards?
I would like it to continue to be awards for good Canadian SF work. It would be nice if whoever handles this in the future does not have to worry about the worthiness of the award.

It's year 2000 and you are chairing the event! What is that like?
Large demands on your time, particularly in the preparation of eligibility lists.

From your position within the SF community, where do you think the direction of Canadian SF is heading in the new millennium?
Compared to the early 1980's, Canada has a healthy SF community. In 1985 when I was involved with selecting an author guest of honour for Wilfcon 2, our committee had trouble coming up with more than 5 names for Canadian SF book authors. There's a much bigger group to select from now (or it could be that I'm just better attuned). Technology is going to have a very big impact. I've watched the number of Aurora nominators/voters with e-mail addresses go from almost zero to over 70% in less than 5 years. The Aurora website is less than 3 years old. The cost of communicating has dropped considerably. Postage used to be the number 2 cost in running the Aurora awards (the trophies are still the top cost).

In terms of the actual proceedings of the Awards... What is the [Hugo] method for selection?
The Aurora award selection method is based on that of the Hugo awards (which are presented by the SF Worldcon). First there is a nomination phase to select a short list. Then a voting phase to pick the winner from the short list using the Australian voting method (this method has the voter rank their choices in each category).

Who can be nominated for the short list? (Published authors? Criteria?)
The exact criteria vary depending on the category. In general, work by a Canadian citizen or by a permanent resident of Canada, available in Canada in the previous calendar year. The book categories currently have a 2 year eligibility rather than one, but this will change next year if this year's business meeting approves the amendment to make all categories eligible for just one year.

Who can do the nominating?
Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada.

Who can vote for the final Awards?
Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada who have paid the voting fee.

Are the Awards more of a public response to the works or are they the response of the critics of the SF community?
By it's very nature, this is a populist award.

How does the Awards actually contribute to the SF community?
I don't know that the awards do much more than raise awareness that there are Canadian's producing work worthy of recognition. At least I hope they do that.

Do the Awards encourage new authors or to they commend established ones?
It's the nature of the beast, we tend to read books by authors we like. If you read short fiction, you may buy an anthology or magazine for the authors you like, but you tend to read the other stories as well. And since people tend to nominate based on the stuff they've read, I'd say the bias would be towards established authors in the long-form (book) category and more open in the short fiction area.

So that is what the Awards are all about. If you are looking for more information on the Aurora Awards please check the 1997 SOL Rising issue and this website;

The members on this year's Aurora Awards subcommittee are Dennis Mullin, Ruth Stuart & W. Paul Valcour. Ruth Stuart has been on the committee since 1994. Paul Valcour has been on the committee five or six times and chaired it in 1992, 1995 and 1999. Members of the Aurora Awards subcommittee are not eligible for any of the awards, and there is no award for running the awards (even though there should be), however they should be commended for their positive influence on Canadian SF&F. Take their example and get involved! Support Canadian writing. Come to the Awards this year and vote in the different categories for your favorite authors in the Canadian SF scene.

A special thanks to Dennis Mullin for this interview and thanks to the organizers of the Prix Aurora Awards from the SF community on behalf of SOL Rising.

Kate Corkery Hustins, Editor

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SF Canada
David Nickle, New President

David Nickle, the award-winning short story writer, has been elected President of SF Canada. David was elected and will lead SF Canada for the next twelve months.

Fans of horror and science fiction stories will be very familiar with David's work as he has been widely anthologized. Most recently, "Dummy Ward" was selected for Northern Suns (1999) and "Rat Food", co-authored with Edo van Belkom, was originally published in ON SPEC. David also has the distinction of being included in Northern Frights volumes 1 - 5 and Tesseracts volumes 4, 5 and 8.

David has won many awards for his writing including a 1998 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Short Story for "Rat Food", an Honourable Mention in 1995 from The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror for "The Summer Worms" (Northern Frights 3), and an Aurora Award for Best Short Work in English for "The Toy Mill" (co-written with Karl Schroeder) in 1993.

Clearly, David is well qualified to stand at the helm at SF Canada.

SF Canada is an organization of Canadian writers, artists and other professionals working in the fields of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Speculative Fiction. SF Canada works for its members by fostering community among its members, by supporting quality writing, editing, and publishing of speculative fiction and when necessary lobbying on behalf of its members. SF Canada is a bilingual association and, perhaps uniquely, promotes the translation of Canadian speculative fiction.

SF Canada publishes a newsletter, "Communique" as a forum for members to share their opinions and their news. Published six times a year, subscriptions to Communique are available to nonmembers.

For more information about SF Canada, upcoming events, membership criteria, and other items of interest look on the SF Canada website at:

For a more complete bibliography of David Nickle's writings and awards, see:

And, to read "Rat Food" online, see;

Lucy White, Chair

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Hidden Treasures
Which Necronomicon?

The Hidden Treasures column highlights books which the staff think are unusually nifty and, due to the unfortunate restrictions imposed by closed stacks, no longer immediately available to the avid gaze of the public. There are times when the fantastic nature of the material is supplemented or amplified by the nature of the storage, as when staff are able to retrieve material so rare that the patron had thought it was apocryphal. Then there are the books the Merril Collection holds which really are apocryphal, such as The Necronomicon.

That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die...

They don't write books like that any more. Howard Philips Lovecraft was a writer of weird fiction in the 1920s and 1930s. He communicated with a number of other gifted writers, some of whom amused themselves by using the same background and imaginary literary allusions in their writings. In time this came to be known as the "Cthulhu Mythos".

Stories by Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, August Derleth and many other major writers were studded with allusions to The Necronomicon, or Book of Dead Names. The Necronomicon was supposed to be a Latin translation of an Arabic text, the Al Azif. The book contained malevolent ancient wisdom which infallibly drove the reader mad before Things came out of the dark and destroyed them. As such, it has been in enormous demand since readers decided that since there were quotations from The Necronomicon, it must be a real book. It has always struck me that my patrons are optimists.

In the Merril Collection we have not one, not two but three different books titled The Necronomicon. Regrettably, none of them will assist the reader in turning his teachers into toads. The most interesting of these is edited by George Hay, with an introduction by Colin Wilson giving a detailed history of the apocryphal book, quite a lot of quotations generated by the various writers, some interesting essays about Lovecraft and a bibliography of source material.

The Al Azif published by the Owlswick Press in 1973 printed just 348 numbered copies and reproduced the ancient malevolent wisdom in a script not known to man, which was no doubt just as well.

The Necronomicon from Avon Books, edited by Barnes, states that "as a matter of policy we cannot honor any requests to see the Necronomicon in its original state". It moves from a cheerful discussion of Lovecraft's fiction to a chapter of the editor's own, on to Alistair Crowley and from there on into Sumerian magical practices.

Thirty years ago Lin Carter, at the time editor of the Ballantine Del Rey Fantasy Discovery series, was quoted as saying that if the Neconomicon existed it would be published and available in mass market paperback. This of course, was before the internet. The Cthulhu Webring lists 184 sites. For patrons interested in ancient, apocryphal texts, is a good place to begin. For the truly committed or committable, there is also - a web site which specializes in Cthulhu haiku.

Because the stacks are closed, patrons look at the staff with dark, questioning eyes. Are we in on the conspiracy? Will we actually retrieve the Necronomicon for them? The urge to say that "we gave it to some guy last Tuesday who legged it for the door" comes close to overwhelming staff from time to time. Instead of which, our catalogue records will be available on the internet and people all over the world are going to assume that the staff will retrieve an ancient worm-ridden text which will allow them to understand the dark forces which rule the earth, however briefly. It gives us all something to which we can look forward.

Library stacks hide
Forbidden knowledge festers

Loma Toolis, Collection Head

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"Little Green Man"
Merril Collection Acquisition

In June 1999 the Merril Collection purchased the original cover art recreation of Kelly Freas' famous illustration for Fredric Brown's "Martians Go Home". The original illustration was the cover for the March 1954 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It was also used as the cover of the paperback collection of the same name. The illustration was purchased at Sotheby's during the auction of the estate of the late Sam Moskowitz.

After the Collection purchased the painting, the Friends contacted Mr. Freas and arranged to purchase the reproduction rights, so readers and members of the Merril Collection will be seeing more of the little green man!

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© 2000 Friends of the Merril Collection