Canada Council Removes Funding from On Spec

I have some bad news for you, fellow writers.

For anyone reading from outside of Canada, one of the largest funding powers we have here is the Canada Council for the Arts, which provides funding to individuals and organizations involved in producing art across the country – including writing. Funding is awarded based on annual applications, and the Council is very choosy in who they dole out money to (I’ve been rejected before, along with a lot of other, much more talented writers). I just read this morning that, despite having funded it for some time, the Council decided a couple weeks ago to withdraw its support of On Spec, which is regarded by many as the most premier speculative fiction magazine in our country.

Diane Walton, managing editor of On Spec, details the entire situation in a guest post on Susan MacGregor’s blog. I’m kicking myself for not having gotten wind of this sooner. According to Ms. Walton, the Council’s decision was based primarily on the judges’ opinion that On Spec publishes poor-quality stories in a format that is rife with grammatical and formatting errors, making the magazine sound like it spelled its own doom.

Can anyone say “absolute bullshit”? I’ve been reading On Spec for about a year-and-a-half now, and was lucky enough to have one of my stories published in a recent issue. Every writer I mentioned this to was astounded – not because they judged the quality of my writing, but because On Spec is such a big name in Canadian spec fic. Looking at the stories they’ve published in the last year-and-a-half alone, I can’t understand how any judge could label On Spec‘s content as poor quality. Take “Operation Hercules” by Ron Collins. Or “Palimpsest” by Kevin Cockle. Or “The Ash Queen” by Leslie Brown. The stories that On Spec publishes are simply phenomenal. And the Council’s suggestion that Ms. Walton and her staff focus on attracting bigger-name writers is simply ridiculous. Many of the spec fic magazines that I’ve researched are looking for new and emerging writers, and are more concerned with the quality of a story than whether the writer behind is a recognizable name. On Spec shares this focus, and it is part of what makes it an excellent magazine.

The Canada Council has made a mistake here, and while it’s too late for them to correct it now, next year’s grants are another story. If you disagree with the Council’s decision – like I do – I encourage you to contact info@canadacouncil.ca and ask that your comments be forwarded to this year’s judging panel. On Spec is such an important part of the growing strength of spec fic in Canada, and it deserves whatever support our country can provide.

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2 thoughts on “Canada Council Removes Funding from On Spec

  1. On Spec is a good speculative fiction magazine. Diane Walton’s relation of the sudden shift in the jury’s comments makes this sound like another case of literary people getting snobby about what is literature. As though Canada doesn’t already have enough “literary” magazines…. It’s the same bullshit that makes creative writing programs less hospitable to science fiction.

    • I was wondering the same thing, unfortunately. I know that in some literary circles speculative fiction gets looked down upon, as much as there are a lot of literary figures here in Canada – I’m thinking of Margaret Atwood specifically, as well as writers I’ve worked with – who support it. I’d be curious to find out if the Council applies the same specific criteria to its evaluation of On Spec and more literary magazines.

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