Farewell to a Real Mensch: R.I.P. David G. Hartwell

News of the tragically accidental death of David G. Hartwell left the SF writing and publishing world reeling with the shock.  I first learned about his accident from a brief post on Facebook on the evening of his fall, and realized that any chance of recovery was slim. Yet we continued to hope. It’s no exaggeration that I had trouble sleeping that night, and equal difficulty concentrating on anything the following day.  Our SF family was sharing in the vigil. Wednesday night, after my weekly community choir practice, I immediately checked my phone’s Facebook app to see the sad news of David’s passing. Even when I’d expected the news, reading the words on the screen made me feel like I’d been hit with a blunt object.

Almost immediately, the tributes to this amazingly intelligent, noble, always charming, kind and generous man began to appear on personal blogs, websites and all manner of social media. Some people had been lifelong friends and professional colleagues, and others may have had just a brief encounter with David when he stopped by to visit their dealer table at a convention, to chat about the genre they both loved.

I knew David casually, and was constantly in awe of the fact that he actually knew who I was. He always showed a professional courtesy to me and my On Spec colleagues as fellow editors, and that meant a great deal.  Some famous folks will only give the time of day to other famous folks. David was not one of those. When he spoke with you, he engaged with you fully, and was happy to be there in the moment, and not looking at his watch to see how quickly he could leave to go see someone more important.

David was, as they say, the genuine article.

Yes, he knew about On Spec.  In fact he became a champion of Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy literature at a time when our little writing and publishing community was just beginning to spread its wings. He read the review copies of On Spec that we sent him, occasionally selected one of our stories for his annual “Honorable Mentions” list in the “Year’s Best” anthology, and above all, he paid attention to what our home-grown writers were saying. And when he edited their work he made sure he brought them to the attention of the rest of the world.

David wasn’t a writer, but he sure made writers look good.

I saw David at last year’s World Science Fiction convention in Spokane, and like the rest of us, assumed there would be many more conventions before he hung up his plaid jacket for the last time.   He will be missed.

Podcasts for Writerly Types

I love winter. Any excuse to stay inside and read a good book is a good excuse, and winter delivers. Cold, snow, biting winds…no thank-you! Give me a comfortable chair, a mug of something hot, and a good book to curl up with any day.

But with Canadian winters providing such an extended period of excuses, there are times (brief, horrifying times) when I don’t have a book at hand. And that’s when I turn to my podcasts about, what else, writing and books. There are a plethora of literature oriented podcasts out there. Whatever the genre you’ll find a podcast or six to entertain and spark your imagination.

For those new to podcasts, I’ve chosen three of my favourites to get you started. Even if you’re a podcast aficionado I hope at least one of these will be new to you, and deliver hours of entertainment. I’ve linked to their websites, but all of these are available through iTunes if you want to subscribe.

WriteReads – WriteReads is “a Canadian book club podcast that will change the world of literature forever.” A bold statement, but given how many books I’ve personally picked up based on their recommendation, they might manage to pull it off. Hosted by Kirt Callahan and Tania Gee and produced in On Spec’s home town of Edmonton, the duo list the books they’ll be reading on their website. Listeners are encouraged read the monthly selections and take part in the discussion. But even if you don’t read along, the podcasts are highly entertaining and informative. There is always something wonderful in listening to passionate people talk about the thing they love, and it’s clear that Kirt and Tania love books. That alone makes it worth listening to, and it’s almost icing on the literary cake that you also get smart critique and great book recommendations.

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff – This crosses the streams for me a little bit, as it could be argued that Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff is primarily a table-top gaming podcast. And while that is the reason I started listening, I think it safe to say you’ll get just as much from the episodes as a writer, even if you never go near a gaming table. Robin D. Laws and Kenneth Hite are both well-published authors as well as game designers. When they discuss role-playing games, what they are really talking about is story construction. And they talk about it so well, you can ignore fussy little details like what media is involved. I highly recommend listening for the wealth of story ideas this podcast generates; you may never run out of inspiration again, especially if your writing tends to the odd and macabre.

Sword & Laser – The longest running of my three suggestions, and with good reason, Sword & Laser is hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. Each episode features lively discussions about news in the world of sci-fi and fantasy (not always related to literature), interviews with authors, and the podcast also runs an ongoing book club to foster a sense of community. Community building is actually one of the stated goals of the podcast, and they seem to be doing a great job. I recommend tracking down the video episodes when they were part of the Geek & Sundry Network on YouTube and giving those a watch. They had a lot of fun with them, and you can continue to watch snippets of interviews and such on their YouTube channel. Probably the best general-purpose podcast for both staying on top of news in the SF&F world and discussing the books you love.

Okay, that’s three of mine. If you’re new to podcasts I hope this gives you many entertaining hours and leads you on to more. If you’re already immersed in the podcasting world, what are some of your favourite writerly podcasts? Drop them in the comments below.

Aurora Winner!

We at On Spec are thrilled to have the “Aurora Winner” image on our website for the coming year. At the award ceremony held at Toronto’s SFContario6 on November 22nd, 2015, the prize for Best English Related Work was accepted on our behalf by the Aurora Awards Administrator, Clifford Samuels.

We are also thrilled that artist Dan O’Driscoll won for his cover art with both On Spec and Bundoran Press.

We at On Spec want to thank the loyal readers and supporters who  both nominated and voted for us once again. We will do our best to continue publishing a magazine worthy of your support.

Congratulations to our fellow nominees and to all the winners.

2015 Aurora Award Winners

 

Subscriber Update

To our subscribers,

Recently we were dismayed to find that Canada Post had returned 30 copies of our Spring 2015 issue, rather than delivering them to the subscribers. It appears to be completely random, and the address labels have absolutely nothing wrong with them, so we are investigating this issue with our mailing service. The copies will be re-posted as soon as possible.
Thanks,
Diane Walton, Editor-in-chief

2015 Alberta Book Awards

Continuing our run of good news: Our friends at Tyche Books have THREE titles in the running for the 2015 Alberta Book Awards Speculative Fiction Book Award . Since the On Spec 25th anniversary anthology “Casserole Diplomacy and Other Stories” is one of those titles, and since “Seeing the Light” by our own Eileen (E.C.) Bell is another, Eileen and Diane  will be at the awards dinner on September 18 to join Tyche for the announcement of the winning book.

For a full list of the nominees, check out the 2015 Alberta Book Awards site. And join us in congratulating all our fellow nominees!

Comes the Dawn

I know the recent Canada Council letdown(s) have hung a pall over doings here at On Spec. We’ve all tried to stay hopeful, “…at dawn, look to the East” and all that. But it does feel like we are due some good news, right?

Well it came. On September 1, our mighty Editor-in-chief Diane Walton announced on Facebook:

Happy to report that On Spec will be receiving funding this year from the Alberta Media Fund, courtesy of the department of Alberta Culture and Tourism. We’ll continue encouraging donors to support our Patreon campaign, to help us sustain the magazine’s future.

This news couldn’t come at a better time. It goes without saying we would like to give a huge thank-you to the Alberta Media Fund and Alberta Culture and Tourism. But we would also like to say thank-you to you, the loyal readers who stuck by the magazine while we figured out how to weather this storm. While the clouds seems to be breaking, we’ll still be sailing a bit more carefully.

But one thing we are happy to announce is that all subscribers who have been patiently waiting for print copies will receive them. As soon as we have the funds in hand, printing and disbursement for the recent issues will commence. We don’t have a firm timeline on that yet, but stay tuned here; as soon as we know, you’ll know.

If, buoyed by this good news, you are looking for something new to read, why not check out our sister magazine Sleuth? We’re really proud to have taken a step in a new direction, and if mystery and suspense is your thing we’d love for you to take that step with us.

 

Canada Council Update

About this time last year, we at On Spec received the disturbing news that our application for funding from the Canada Council for the Arts during 2015 had been rejected. It was rather stunning, especially accompanied by jury comments about how poor our fiction selections were, and how sloppy the magazine’s production quality had apparently become, in the jury’s opinion.

There is no appeal process, so we did what we could do under the circumstances: severely reduced our production and organizational and staffing costs; depended even more on our volunteers; and tried to increase fundraising efforts with our Patreon campaign. We have managed our dwindling resources very cautiously, and we are grateful to our other granting agencies, the Edmonton Arts Council and the Alberta Media Fund, for their support.

A few weeks ago, we received the news that once again, the Canada Council jury had deemed On Spec unworthy of support in 2016. To add insult to injury, instead of a few vague criticisms, we were provided with a scoresheet, showing our high, low and median scores from this year’s jury, based on the criteria they used for judging. Magazines are judged on: quality of writing, design, marketing and production; ability to identify a target audience and reach readers; quality of the magazine’s administrative and financial management; excellence of content and quality of writing and editorial work; achievement of mandate and editorial vision; and contribution to the development of the practice.

While we certainly cannot argue that we should pay writers more, being told that we don’t demonstrate an ability to identify our target audience, or that we lack a strong editorial mandate, clearly shows that the jury pretty much ignored or discounted everything we had carefully explained in our application, along with the testimonials we provided on the quality of our fiction and our value to the development of the genre in Canadian writing.

Once again, there’s no appealing the decision.

Some hard choices had to be made, and the first is that, starting with our Spring 2015 issue (delayed due to several family emergencies among the members of our senior editorial staff), On Spec will temporarily suspend print production, and be available as a digital magazine only. We trust that, as soon as funds become available, On Spec will be printed for our subscribers, and we appreciate their support. As soon as the issue is available, our subscribers will be informed by email or by letter, and given a means to freely access the digital issue in their preferred format.

In times to come, our marketing and fundraising efforts will increase to the best of our abilities, and we look forward to publishing more excellent fiction and poetry for many years to come.

We are also proud to announce the launch this month, of Sleuth Magazine, a new Canadian digital journal of mystery and suspense. The first issue will be presented at When Words Collide in Calgary.  We hope that Sleuth will fill a niche in much the same way On Spec did, 25 years ago.

Thanks, as always, to all our contributors, subscribers, and donors for their ongoing support.

 

 

The Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic

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