Publishing Tips

Writing Canadian Speculative Fiction

Evelyn Deshane

In the April 2018 Publishing Tip, Evelyn Deshane has five tips to help you find your way into the Canadian speculative fiction scene.


Evelyn Deshane's work has appeared in Plenitude Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Bitch Magazine. Their chapbook, Mythology, was released in 2015 with The Steel Chisel. Evelyn (pron. Eve-a-lyn) received an MA from Trent University and is currently studying for a PhD at Waterloo University. Visit them at:

Last year, Sandra Kasturi announced that her publishing house's reading series would not receive a grant like it had years previous. The Chiaroscuro Reading Series is a small facet of Chizine's output, but it's an important community effort which hosted some of Canada's most accomplished speculative fiction authors such as Charles De Lint and Michael Rowe. While Chizine Publishing still runs on Canadian grants, the discontinuation of the Chiaroscuro government funding demonstrates a clear genre bias in the Canada Arts world, one that Kasturi has spoken about in the past.

Canada produces distinct speculative work, but it is work that exists in a perpetual liminal state. In order for writers of speculative fiction to receive grants, awards, publications, and gather an audience, they must become fluent in both US and Canadian markets, customs, and cultures, in addition to being good writers. It means, like so many supernatural creatures, being able to navigate two distinct worlds while also being adaptable. I always felt as if I needed to pick a side as a speculative fiction author: literary recognition in Canada or genre-fame in the US.

This article is an attempt to provide a bridge between the worlds of national pride and genre cache, in hopes of carving out a spot for those who are tired of being lost in a strange place.

1. Go to conventions

This is the best advice I can give anyone who wants to enter the world of Canadian speculative fiction because so much happens at Ad Astra, Can-Con, The Toronto Speculative Fiction Colloquium, and the Limestone Genre Expo. These events are usually an array of author readings, academic and casual talks about the genre, and a place to meet and mingle with authors and Canadian publishers like EDGE, Exile Editions, Bundoran, and Chizine. There is a strong DIY-feel in many of these conferences since the organizers are usually authors (like Liz Strange of Limestone Genre Expo), publishers, or fans. Enthusiasm—and insider information—abounds.

2. Talk to people. In person. And not always about your work.

When I participated in the Chiaroscuro Reading series, it was alongside well-established spec fic authors Kate Story and Fiona Patton. I was thrilled to talk to them, but the event itself—hosted by seven-time Aurora winner Derek Newman-Stille—also gave me access to a huge community of reviewers, fans, publishers, and writers who I wouldn't have met if I hadn't made the effort to talk beyond my own work. So often, the friendships formed at these events lead to bigger projects, and if they don't, you've still had an amazing conversation about Vincent Price. Be nerdy together. Embrace it.

3. Send work to Canadian markets first

On Spec is Canada's main speculative fiction magazine, but there are other avenues. One of my favourites is Lackington's Magazine, run by Ranylt Richildis. Lackington's keeps the stories online for readers as well as available for purchase as an e-book. Some literary publications—like Agnes and True—may not seem the like best place for speculative fiction, but they do accept 'any' genre. Challenge that listing by sending in the work that straddles the line between literary and genre fiction.

4. Enter awards

Once you've been published, it's time to nominate yourself—and other Canadians—during awards season. In addition to the US ones like The Hugos, Nebulas, and Rhyslings for poetry, Canada has the Aurora and The Sunburst Awards. The main categories are for novel, short fiction, and poetry—but there are also awards for fan publications, fan video and song, and lifetime achievement.

5. Have fun

In my opinion, the best aspect of Canadian speculative fiction is the way in which it has fundamentally transformed the way I see Canada. Thanks to Charles De Lint and his novel Jack The Giant Killer, Ottawa is forever an underground fairy portal to another world; and through the Chiaroscuro Reading Series, I've met people who understand the allure of monsters and goblins who live down the street.

Canadian speculative fiction can seem like a lonely genre, but the community is there. Right now, it's the community of readers, writers, and fans who are keeping Chiaroscuro Reading Series afloat. Canadian spec fic writers are passionate, and the worlds we create are becoming better than ever before.

To read more about the Chiaroscuro Reading Series, go to their website:

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