Edited by Claude Lalumière 

Red Deer


264pp/$16.95/August 2003

Open Space

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

If you think that Canadian science fiction must mean stories set in the vast empty tundra of Nunavut or the seaports of the maritime provinces, Claude Lalumière’s Open Space:  New Canadian Science Fiction will come as a shock to you.  Following by several years the publication of Glenn Grant & David Hartwell’s Northern Stars and Northern Suns, and Mark Shainblum & John Dupuis's Arrowdreams, Lalumière has only included original fiction (no reprints) and focuses the spotlight on many of the lesser known luminaries of Canadian science fiction.

The stories contained within the covers of the book vary in length, topic and style as much as a Quebecois and an Albertan farmer.  They include stories of varying lengths, espousing science fiction, humor, horror, fantasy, and other genres as the authors strive, and usually succeed, to tell interesting and insightful tales.  Despite this vast breadth and editor Lalumière’s own Montreal background, only one of the authors comes from the Francophonic regions of Canada, Marcelle Dubé.

Some of the stories in Open Space are difficult for an US reader to completely understand because their own national sensibilities overshadow the possible intentions of the Canadian author.  For instance, “Growing Up, Sam,” by Melissa Yuan-Innes, may be seen as an indictment of the anti-abortion movement.  Whether this was the intention of the author is debatable.  Similarly, Murray Leeder’s “The Traumatized Generation,” which looks at a young boy whose family disagrees with the government stance on zombies who have taken over the world.   Paul is taken by his teacher, Mr. Land, and a military Captain to witness an anti-zombie rally.  Just as Yuan-Innes’s story can be read as a statement on current affairs, so, too can Leeder’s conscientious objectors be placed in any number of roles in the modern world.

Canadian science fiction does not, of course, have to be set in Canada, as demonstrated by Colleen Anderson’s “Hold Back the Night,” about a priestess of Kali who is bent on avenging abused wives in modern day India.  While the women’s characters are well defined, Ashok, the abusive husband, never fully comes to life with the result that “Hold Back the Night” seems more diatribe than story.  On the other hand, Drew Karpyshyn successfully merges humor and ancient Aztec mythology in “Feast of the Gods,” a short piece about Quetzalcoatl and the other gods’ attempts to curry favor with him.

Horror also features in Open Space.  Richard Gavin takes a Lovecraftian view of the estate of a family in “Leavings of Shroud House:  An Inventory.”  A man is drawn in to the world of the macabre when he begins to research the items taken from the estate of the Shroud Family and determines that there is a supernatural story connected to each item.  For such a story to work in literary terms, there needs to be a twist ending, which, unfortunately, Gavin does not provide.  Catherine MacLeod’s “Postcards from Atlantis” is a series of short short horror stories.  Taken on their own, all of the stories, with their ironic twists, are effective, however when read as presented, they lose some of their successfulness simply because the reader knows what to expect after the first couple.  Each of them, however, could easily form the basis of a longer (and perhaps more effective) work.  Perhaps the most horrific is Jes Sugrue interesting look at immigration in “The Banshee of Cholera Bay.”  The language and situation she uses implies the slave trade, however it quickly becomes apparent that Sugrue is referring to the horrible conditions suffered by people who immigrated to Canada by choice.  Although the language does produce a slight barrier, the story is worth the effort to understand the character’s  speech patterns

The stories in Open Space should not be read because they are by Canadian science fiction authors, but rather because they are quality science fiction, fantasy and horror tales which work independently of the authors’ native land.

Melissa Yuan-Innes Growing Up Sam
Richard Gavin Leavings of Shroud House:  An Inventory
Murray Leeder The Traumatized Generation
Colleen Anderson Hold Back the Night
Jes Sugrue The Banshee of Cholera Bay
Mark Anthony Brennan March on the New Gomorrah
Catherine MacLeod Postcards from Atlantis
John Park The Image Breakers
Shane Michael Arbuthnott Of Wings
Steve Vernon The Woman Who Danced on the Prairie
Ahmed A. Khan The Curse of the Science Fiction Writer
Janet Marie Rogers A Gift of Power
Nicholas Knight Appetite
Leslie Brown Chimère
Matthew Costaris Help
Drew Karpyshyn Feast of the Gods
Aaron V. Humphrey The New Paranoia Album
Marcie Lynn Tentchoff Eye of the Storm
Vincent W. Sakowski It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Ragnarok
Derryl Murphy More Painful than the Dreams of Other Boys

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