A not so long time ago, on a not so far away planet, the future was obvious and clearly defined, as its beacons were either the glorious USSR, or the glorious USA. Therefore, the scifi was also very clearly Soviet or American, and the Soviet/American countries the most scifi on that tiny planet. Everything was well established and everybody rather happy with that state of facts.
Then the USSR cracked and crashed, became Russia, and Russia decided to go back towards Stalin happy time (anyone dares not to agree to the mandatory happiness? State your name and wait right where you are!), while the US of ducking A voted to turn medieval and try out some nice Atwood style dystopia (not yet done, but working on it). And suddenly nothing was obvious in scifi anymore, and many people became rather confused.
Well, there are 2 choices left right now: to keep marching the path of glory, alongside the rising half-Red China, and we all saw where that goes (Stalin or dystopia), or look elsewhere and forget about being the greatest. So what else could we try for a worthy future?
Well, instead of (drums please) grrreaaat again!, we might go for the unthinkable and try nice. Maybe a nice future sounds good enough to be worth working hard for it, and then the most scifi country in the world is actually the nicest one. You know it, it’s called Canada.
Skeptical? Let’s just quickly check not one, not two, but five different scifi genres, and you’ll end up thinking: Of course! Scifi Canada! Shall we?
1. Frontier scifi. Everybody loves a good old school scifi about colonizing harsh planets through hard work, wits and technical ingenuity, while struggling against alien, hostile climates, beasts and simply some very far away-ness. Tales about enterprising men and women leaving behind the comfort of home and venturing into the unknown, building and rebuilding colonies, all the while growing together as a group and using their imagination to tame the frontier. There were quite a lot of peoples that did just that in reality too, form the Spanish conquistadors to the Wild West cowboys, but throw in some extra Ice Age style nasty Winter is coming! and you’re left with only two. Siberia, where millions got free one-way train tickets without asking, and thus collapsed after the USSR, and a very different country, where colonists went on their own, managed to adapt to the lands and to stay, becoming not only a viable state, but even a successful one. Canada, the most frontier scifi country.
2. Post-apocalyptical scifi. Who doesn’t enjoy a scifi story about bleak futures, deserted, freezing wastelands, endless tracts of wilderness inhabited only by very few people, and, simply, about a darker, but people-less world? Quite a lot of readers don’t, actually, but for those who do, there are three obvious choices where they might get a feeling of just about that in the real world. One is Siberia, and everybody knows you don’t choose Siberia, Siberia chooses you. Trust us, Russia’s neighbors: you don’t want to try Siberia. The second is Alaska, and, besides the certain risk of getting mauled by grizzly bears (so says Hollywood, so it must be true), we agreed the USA is not likeable enough right now. So that leaves us with just one good post-apocalyptical scifi country. Canada.
3. Hard scifi. In hard scifi, people go to difficult places and establish a future by working with technology, developing science and research, building modern, high-tech industries, exploring space in their spaceships and, let’s admit it, constructing fine warcrafts to battle the baddies. Canada did all these, starting from nothing. They have a Canadian space program and Canadian astronauts from their Canadian Space Agency, they have given the world some great scientists (like Arthur B. McDonald, who demonstrated that neutrinos need to have mass, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, who found a way to use insulin in people with diabetes, Sir Sandford Fleming, inventor, instrumental in the adoption of the system of international standard time and many, many more), they are so science oriented they have a Ministry of Science, they sure have highly developed industries of all kinds. And they did build good weaponry and bravely used it when needed, not to defend their own land, but to save and protect the freedom of foreign people from very far away. So, way to go, hard scifi Canada!
4. First contact scifi. You want to win a war? Send in the (Space) Marines! But what if you want to win a peace? Everybody knows the answer to that: send in the Canadians! When one watches a documentary about some civil war, be it Yugoslavia or Congo, sooner or later there comes a moment when the UN tried to organize negotiations, provide safety exits for some beleaguered force, save civilian refugees and so on. And, more often than not, the envoy sent to provide a middle ground is either British, well-known world-wide for their negotiation-minded politics (well, maybe not any more, Brexit style, sadly), or… what, I ask you? Or what? A Canadian, of course, since nobody hates Canadians! Always, the best approach for a first contact is a Canadian. Let’s think for a second. When the aliens finally arrive, and we need to welcome them, who you gonna call? The Russians, Americans, Chinese? Well, maybe, if you want a war, military or commercial. But if they come in peace, and peace is on our mind, we all know we’ll send the future Canadians.
5. Space opera scifi. The space opera genre is so extensive that is has a lot of defining characteristics. Yet when we go to its core there is one essential idea: space is vast, there are a lot of species out there, and we’ll probably mostly get along and work together. There will always be some baddies, but most of us and them will be… us. And in that, none did it better than the Canadians. Even since their first stages, those coming from the United Kingdom had to work with a fascinating, strange, incomprehensible and rather moody alien civilization (they called themselves Français or Québécois), and, amazingly, not only managed to get along (the US managed that, too), but to get along AND keep their distinct cultures alive. Therefore, they are the prime example that different civilizations can co-exist and a future of many alien species does not necessarily mean being engulfed and converted, but can mean live together, enrich each other culturally and prosper.
A principle the nowadays Europeans in general and Romanians in particular begin to forget and need to be reminded by us, the scifi fans and writers. Canada is the perfect example of what we could build in the EU if we worked together honestly and hard. It is also a very nice example for a nice, scifi future, and that’s why I wanted to wish them all Happy Canada Day (the 1st of July)!
And that is also why in this July issue of Helion we’ll provide you all, our friends, with a good Canadian scifi sample, including: two stories from Canadian writers, one anglophone, Richard Salter’s Yestermorrow, the other (also) Francophone, Claude Lalumière’s Maxim Fujiyama and Other Persons, a story from our man in Canada, Costi Gurgu’s The Time Collector, a review of a Canadian scifi novel, R.C. Wilson’s Spin, an article about Canada’s scifi lady, Margaret Atwood and, of course, this editorial.
I wish you all, Romanians and Canadians alike, a nice scifi future!