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Tesseracts Nine: New Canadian Speculative Fiction

by Nalo Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman, eds.

Nalo Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman selected 23 of the best recent works of Canadian speculative short fiction and poetry, from both established and emerging writers, moulding an anthology that places the genre firmly alongside fantastical satirists such as Gogol and Bulgakov while also pushing the genre’s boundaries.

Ryman opens the anthology with a spirited essay that rejects notions of national identity in favour of the argument that Canada has become a universal, and therefore useful, venue for speculative fiction, concluding that Tesseracts Nine proves that there is no such thing as Canadian fantasy and science fiction. Hopkinson closes the book pondering what makes this speculative fiction Canadian and concludes that it’s the work’s diversity, concern for
community, and abundance of humour.

Many selections are enthralling: the fairy-tale quality of “The Coin” by Casey June Wolf, the suspense of Elizabeth Vonarburg’s “See Kathryn Run,” the touching hilarity of Candas Jane Dorsey’s “Mom and Mother Teresa.” But the fashionably modern excerpts from “Fugue Phantasmagorical,” by Anthony MacDonald and Jason Mehmel, dispersed throughout the anthology left me cold. So, too, did the poetry selections.

But no piece in Tesseracts Nine misses its mark completely. Artist and comic writer E.L. Chen’s “Fin-de-siècle” is a well-crafted and entirely humane vampire story, while “The Writing on the Wall,” by Steve Stanton, tells the tragic tale of the unexceptional midlife crisis of an exceptional man. On a similar Kafkaesque note, Claude Lalumière’s “Being Here” takes the theme of the man estranged from his partner to a thought-provoking and heart-wrenching end.

Particularly touching is Newfoundland musician Dan Rubin’s “The Singing,” a beautiful and vivid account of an elderly woman inadvertently saving the planet by drumming and singing as she nears death. Aliens, poised to demolish much of the Earth to make it fit for colonization, are so moved by the song that they leave peacefully, while broadcasting it to all known frequencies in the universe. I wish no less a hearing for the Canadian writing presented in this delectable anthology