On Spec has had its own dismally familiar comments from
the Canada Council juries lately.
But here's something that really bothered me when I read Joel's article in Solaris: according to the letter On Spec got regarding funding for 2000, there is a paragraph that reads:
"Participation in the program is by no means automatic; magazines must demonstrate considerable professionalism and excellence in arts
publishing. This year, declines in grants have been limited to 20%, to ensure that magazines admitted to the program do not suffer precipitous
drops in their grant amount."
Okay, I've never been known as a math whiz, but if you cut 20% from $4000, doesn't that mean Solaris should have received $3200? Or are
francophone magazines on a different program from anglophone magazines?
Or are sf magazines on a different program from "literary" magazines? After email and phone conversation with Joel Champetier, I'm convinced that
the Canada Council juries consider sf magazines to be some amateurish and clumsy second-cousin to "literary" magazines, and that unless jury
members can be objective and free of bias, they have no business decided who is "worthy" of funding and who is not.
I've sat on provincial granting juries, and I can attest to the fact that it's difficult for me, a magazine editor and publisher, to make truly informed
judgements about a project in the film or music industry -- but because the jury members were chosen with care from ALL industries, we could each
answer questions about our own industry. This put all the applications on the same level, no matter what the applicant was requesting.
This should be what's happening at Canada Council, but it's not. The Writing and Publishing Section needs to take a hard look at how jury members
are selected; whether these jury members are objective and unbiased; and applications need to be reviewed to ensure that ALL genres and interests are
Both the editors at Solaris and the editors at On Spec feel that the juries are biased; they don't like sf, they feel it isn't "literature" but some lowly
form of "paraliterature," and unless something drastically changes in the way Canada Council juries are chosen and how they make their decisions,
Canadian sf is going to go the way of the dinosaur, and vanish.
So what's next for On Spec? Is the 2000 jury going to be made up of the same group, and have the same kind of comments? Are we going to see our
funding requests turned down because the jury wants us, like Solaris, to be something *they'd* like us to be rather than what our readers have told
us they want? Maybe that's what they dislike the most about publications such as On Spec and Solaris: we have a niche, we have loyal readers and
subscribers, we know what we want to do -- the same thing our readers want us to do -- and we're doing it. Maybe we need to be publishing
something no one but a select and elite few understand and want, struggling against all odds and against all intelligent business concepts, before we're
considered "literary" enough to be worthy of Canada Council funding.
Please forward your comments either to On Spec care of Jena Snyder, General Editor, or send them directly to Canada
Josiane Polidori, Writing and Publishing Section Officer
Phone: toll-free at 1-800-263-5588, ext. 5576, or (613) 566-4414, ext. 5576
Fax: (613) 566-4410.
Hearing-impaired callers with a TTY machine can contact the Canada Council for the Arts at (613) 565-5194.
Please cc: all correspondence to Ms. Polii's boss as well:
Gordon Platt, the Head of Canada Council's Writing and Publishing Section
Phone: toll-free at 1-800-263-5588, ext. 5570, or (613) 566-4414, ext. 5570.
General Editor, On Spec Magazine