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Canada's vibrant SFF community

by Vanessa Ricci-Thode, about 3 years ago

Stories have the power to change hearts and change minds, to offer enrichment and teach empathy. This is especially true in stories told from a Canadian perspective because our diversity is our strength. We have storytellers from all over the world with the capacity to bring hope through story to every corner of the globe. Just as we have a diversity of authors, we have a strong diversity of genres as well. Canada has a vibrant but often overlooked SFF (science fiction and fantasy) community with just as much power to enrich.

I have been a storyteller my whole life, creating picture books before I was old enough to even write. I have two novels published through a small Canadian press and will soon embark on an online self-publishing journey with a short story series. I am always writing something, always have a story in progress. In all this time, I have been strongly rooted in the SFF community and it never ceases to amaze me how this community of made up worlds and made up creatures can make me feel closer to humanity. How it always gives me hope and inspires me to do better, to be better.

I love writing (and reading) SFF precisely because it is not constrained by reality. Part of that love is about escapism, but mostly it is that these fantastic worlds have the power to use the filter of awe and wonderment to focus more directly on what makes us human and what connects us to each other. SFF writers are able to take readers out of their comfort zones, out of the real world, show them something new and fascinating, and also show the reader truth. I love that I can write about mental health or motherhood and still frame it in a sense of wonder, express it through adventure. I love that SFF allows me to bring readers entertainment AND growth. I'm a proud member of this community and I only want to see it expand.

I love that stories are expanding beyond print, that authors now have more opportunities than ever to reach readers. While I will always prefer print, I find the possibilities with digital and audio exciting. For me, it has never been about the medium but about the ability of stories to reach an audience, to bring hope and maybe change. There is more opportunity than ever to bring Canadian content to more Canadians and by more Canadians, but also to help Canadian stories and values reach beyond our borders.

With this growth, of course, comes many challenges. The rise of digital content has also given rise to the notion that art should be free. This mindset hurts creators, and moving forward we need to do so much more to protect artistic creators and ensure they are fairly compensated. Like most writers, I make very little from my work and I am only able to keep doing it because I come from a place of privilege. I always wonder at how many voices, how many moving stories we're missing out on because authors can't afford to tell them.

The Canadian SFF community has powerhouses like Kelley Armstrong, Margaret Atwood and Guy Gavriel Kay, but there are so many others whose stories are lost. I hope the digital world can make it easier for all of us, that the government continues to take an active role in helping Canadian storytellers of all stripes reach their audiences. There is so much to gain.

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