Statement from SF Canada about the attack on Salman Rushdie

On Saturday, August 13th, the Booker-winning author Sir Salman Rushdie was attacked in Chautauqua, NY, by a knife-wielding assailant. At the time of writing he is expected to live and no longer on a respirator, but it is reported that he may have lost an eye, and suffered other possibly-permanent injuries. SF Canada wishes Sir Salman a speedy recovery.  We would also like to voice our support for Rushdie’s work, and for writers everywhere who write on controversial topics.
The attack appears to have been in retribution for Rushdie’s authorship (in 1988) of the magic-realist novel The Satanic Verses. While in one sense it was the act of a lone would-be murderer, the attack was encouraged by a fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and by blood money offered by entities connected to the Iranian government.
Of course, being controversial does not in itself make a piece of literature worthwhile. The quality of a piece of literature depends upon numerous things, in many cases subjective, and controversy in the service of bad writing is no virtue. However,  a writer may legitimately make use of controversial material. It is perhaps not widely enough remembered, three decades after the publication of The Satanic Verses, that the passages so widely objected to were not presented as true representations of the prophet Mohammed and those around him, but as the delusions of a mentally ill protagonist, aggravated by the stress of his experience as an immigrant.  It is ultimately the reader’s decision whether this, or any other, piece of writing succeeds: many have thought that The Satanic Verses succeeds brilliantly.  But, whatever the reader’s opinion on a piece of fiction, violence or persecution of the author are never legitimate responses.

SF Canada Statement re: Russian Speculative Fiction writers’ Ukraine comments

A week ago, eighty Russian speculative fiction writers wrote an open letter about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They were not (as one might have hoped) opposing the invasion, but supporting it enthusiastically. A list of the signers may be found here: .

These writers describe themselves as being involved with a con entitled “Stars over Donbas” that has been held annually for three years. It is held in Donetsk, a region of the Ukraine taken over by pro-Russian forces in the last round of aggression eight years ago. It’s not clear what, if any, local involvement there is: it appears to be a political tool, intended to normalize and celebrate Russian control of the Donbas area. The organizers are now extending this to the all-out invasion of a sovereign country.

The letter is based on Russian propaganda that accuses the Ukranian people of atrocities during the earlier war in the Donbas, and on Russian claims that Ukraine harbors significant numbers of “Nazis.” Reports by reputable organizations such as Amnesty International suggest that while serious abuses took place on both sides, the great majority (including anti-Semitic and anti-Roma attacks) were carried out by the Russian-backed rebels. The situation was not helped by the fact that much of the fighting on both sides was carried out by independent “militias” with inconsistent training and little central oversight, some (on both sides) dominated by right-wing extremists, some not: No reputable source supports the Russian claims of “genocide.”

SF Canada asks our members and friends to ensure that their information about this complex situation comes from reliable and objective sources. While we realize that Russians who actively oppose their government’s actions do so at significant risk, and that the truth is sometimes hard to come by in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, we call on the signatories of the “Stars Over Donbas” letter to educate themselves, to give up their inaccurate and one-sided view of recent history, and retract their support of Russia’s cruel and illegal invasion of Ukraine.

SF Canada Board of Directors

URGENT: New Zealand National Library



A possible issue has come to our attention, and we wanted to pass it on quickly so that our members can spread the word to their agents and friends as soon as possible.


 Michael Swanwick’s blog has pointed out that the government of New Zealand is planning to upload the entirety of their Overseas Published Collection to the Internet Archive. While this collection contains many volumes which are in the public domain and are excellent candidates for digital preservation, it also includes  hundreds of books which are still under copyright, including several by recently deceased and still-living Canadian authors. Among them are many names that we can all recognize: Margaret Atwood, Guy Gavriel Kay, William Gibson, etc..

SF Canada Member Cory Doctorow has assured us that this donation will not be harmful to the authors whose books are included in the Archive. Modern books still under copyright are loaned with DRM attached, which makes them available to a single borrower at a time. The primary users of these scanned digital copies will likely be researchers and academics.


To learn more about how Controlled Digital Lending works through the Open Library, see this link:


Authors and their representatives do have the right to opt out of this donation to the Archive. The Executive Board have already written quick notes to the agents and estate agents of Margaret Atwood, Guy Gavriel Kay and A.E. Van Vogt. If any of our members in Ontario have contact with The Bella Pomer Agency, who represent the great historical novelist Pauline Gedge, one of her books is about to be uploaded to the Archive as well.

This issue goes far beyond the Canadian border. Many American and U.K. writers are affected as well, including C.J. Cherryh and the estate of Brian Aldiss.


Many agents and authors may already be aware of this situation, and have already taken steps to opt out. But given that the government of New Zealand has not widely publicized its intentions, we believe it’s better to be safe than sorry, and to allow authors and their representatives to make their own choices in this matter.


Please take a look at the list yourself, and spread the link to download the database information widely.


Authors and their representatives have very little time to opt out–the deadline is December 1, 2021.



Thanks very much for your time.


The SF Canada Executive Board
President: Arinn Dembo (British Columbia)
Vice President: Matthew Bin (Ontario)
Secretary Treasurer: Jane Glatt (Ontario)
Director-at-Large: Robert Runté (British Columbia)
Web Administrator: Adam Israel (Ontario)

Lorna Toolis – A Celebration

a photo of Lorna Toolis smiling as she was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame

The following eulogy was delivered by Allan Weiss at a recent memorial service for Lorna Toolis. Allan was kind enough to represent all of SF Canada at this event, and generous enough to allow us to publish his words here for posterity.

Lorna Toolis was a cherished member of our community, and she will be greatly missed.


I would like to thank both Mike and SF Canada for the honour of asking me to speak at this event; I am here to represent not only myself, but also the organization of which she was a long-term member. I can’t say as much about her as others among you, those who knew her better—that is, those who joined her in weekly battles against Cthulhu (or whatever you folks did on Tuesday nights). I knew her well enough to confirm what others have told you about her remarkable intelligence, sense of humour, and fundamental decency. She was a delight to know and to talk to whenever I had the opportunity.

I can speak about her best in terms of what she meant to those of us who write and study fantastic literature. I knew her as a kind of associate member of the Cecil Street Irregulars, a group unofficially led by Mike Skeet and that benefited from her support, both overt and covert. She was a welcome addition, for example, to our retreats at Hart House Farm.

Lorna was deeply involved in the fan and writing community in Edmonton, participating in the Edmonton Science Fiction and Comic Arts Society and acting for a time as the editor of its newsletter, Neology. When the summons went out for someone to head the Spaced Out Library in 1986, she answered the call. To say that she was needed is an understatement. My first encounter with the library was in 1984 or so when I was doing research for my bibliography of English-Canadian short stories. While the collection Head at that time was well-meaning, she was more of a fan than a librarian. I appreciated the way she had separated out the Canadian texts, but not so much how she shelved them—or to be more precise unshelved them. The books stood in a row, spines up at least, on the floor before one of the shelving units. I didn’t think that was how the Faculty of Library and Information Science, as it was then known, would have recommended handling archived material.

Lorna arrived and immediately put the collection to rights. She brought a degree of professionalism to her job that could not be surpassed. In fact, in all my dealings with her she was the consummate professional. You may be aware that the Canadian SF community includes a number of, shall we say, unique and challenging characters, including some who thought nothing of walking off with desirable items from the library. She handled the real-life characters with all the class with which she handled the fictional ones, putting both in their proper places wherever necessary.

In my research, I have visited many repositories, from the Bodleian Library at Oxford to the Salvation Army Archives. Frequently, those who were in charge of specialized collections did not entirely know what they had or put up pointless roadblocks to my access. Lorna knew when to direct me to what she had and when to get out of my way. I never felt less than welcome. Above all, she knew her stuff. She was more than a librarian or collection Head; she was an expert. She helped make the Merril Collection a third home, after my small book-packed apartment and my parents’ larger chocolate-packed one. One day, when nobody else was around, the phone in the Collection rang. Rather than let the patron be disappointed, I answered the phone with “Toronto Public Library, Merril Collection; may I help you?” (Don’t tell the union!)

One of the scholarly projects of which I am most proud was co-curating, with Hugh Spencer, the National Library of Canada’s exhibit on Canadian science fiction and fantasy, mounted in 1995 in collaboration with the Merril Collection. Hugh and I found the Collection and Lorna herself invaluable sources of information. To this day, if you look around the Merril’s periodical collection, you’ll find some folders bearing the abbreviation “CAN” in my handwriting, denoting the fanzines and other magazines published here at home. I can’t thank Lorna enough for giving me the opportunity to work on that wonderful exhibit.

In association with that exhibit, the first-ever academic conference on Canadian science fiction and fantasy was held in Ottawa. I later took over the conference as Chair, and in 1997 moved it to the Merril Collection, where it, like myself, found a supportive and comfortable home. Lorna offered not just her space but also her personnel and volunteers with the Friends organization, including and especially Annette Mocek, and for that I am truly grateful.

If you will indulge some science fiction and fantasy right now, I can tell you about other proud moments. I was there when the photographer from the Oxford English Dictionary came to take her picture to use as their definition of “Reader, Voracious.” I was there when John Clute sent his techies to digitally upload her mind in order to create the revised editions of the Encyclopedias of Science Fiction and of Fantasy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there when she finally conquered Cthulhu’s tentacled minions, but others can speak to that.

Lorna was a deeply valued friend, colleague, supporter, mentor (I still have the lists of absolutely essential F&SF she compiled for me), and guide. I was shocked by her passing, but proud to have known her. Thank you for everything, Lorna. And I know that if there is a heaven, it is wall-to-wall-to-sky books.

Allan Weiss, October 23, 2021

Lorna Toolis (1952-2021)


a photo of Lorna Toolis smiling as she was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame

This week SF Canada mourns the passing of Lorna Toolis, the head of the famous Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy at the Toronto Public Library.  Born in Winnipeg in 1952, Toolis developed a love of science fiction early in life which would blossom into a thirty-year career as one of the most important academics, curators, and community leaders in Canada. Through her efforts the Merril Collection has become a world-class library of speculative fiction; its holdings have grown from 5,000 items when Judith Merril first donated it to the Toronto Public Library 1970 to over 75,000 items today.

Toolis was a founding member of SF Canada, and a guiding light to the larger community of SFF creators and fans. Through her work, her warmth and her wisdom, she touched the lives of many.

In celebration of her life and work, the members of SF Canada have made a $500 donation to the Merril Collection, so that the important work she began can continue.

We encourage all members of the Canadian SF community to Join the Friends of the Merril Collection and support their ongoing mission in the future. Membership will support the maintenance and growth of the collection, events sponsored through its organizers, and the publication of Sol Rising, its annual newszine.

Those who have fond memories of Lorna to share with fellow mourners can visit her digital memorial here. She is survived by her partner Michael Skeet, who also authored an obituary for Locus Magazine at this link.


SFC Statement on ChiZine and Professional Behaviour

In the last week, many people have reported financial irregularities and unprofessional personal behaviour by the owners of ChiZine Publishing. SF Canada has delisted this publisher from its market list and is in discussion as to further steps necessary to both uphold our mandate and assist the authors (members and non-members alike) who have been harmed. With unfortunate timing, the unfolding situation occurred too late for voting by members on a plan of action at our currently-running annual general meeting.

We do not have the resources or authority to act as a court or professional disciplinary body; however, SF Canada strongly believes that it is unethical for a publisher to withhold royalties or royalty statements, to pressure or bully an author, or to take advantage of staff, contracted editors, or interns. We recognize the important role of volunteer activity; but exploitation and degrading treatment of others have absolutely no place in our community.

We encourage CZP authors and others who experience similar issues now or in future to contact Writer Beware and/or the Writers Union of Canada; but we are supportive of all affected writers, whether they choose to come forward or not. We also encourage affected CZP authors to add their name to Dora Badger’s list for the purpose of promoting their other work outside of their CZP publications. A StoryBundle is also being created for this purpose; contact Doug Smith at if you are an affected ChiZine Publications writer wishing to participate.

We are striving to continue our mandate of encouraging professional and ethical behaviour throughout the Canadian speculative fiction community. This occasion is a reminder to writers and publishers alike to be attentive to business practises, and to encourage associates and colleagues to ask for and give advice and help.

This statement has been issued by the President and Executive of SF Canada.