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Monday, August 18, 2014

HOW YOU CAN HELP, IN LIGHT OF ON SPEC'S CANADA COUNCIL FUNDING CUT

THE FOLLOWING POST WAS WRITTEN BY DIANE WALTON, Managing Editor of On Spec Magazine, and Jen Laface, Publisher's Assistant, but it represents all of us on the On Spec team in regards to our thoughts about the Canada Council's decision to cut On Spec's grant funding. If you feel moved to help the magazine, if you wish to support speculative fiction in Canada, you might consider the following suggestions.

TO ALL OF OUR FRIENDS, READERS, AND FOLLOWERS, thank you for your moral and financial support. We really appreciate it.

We’ve asked our supporters and ourselves, “what should we do?” There are many avenues available for continuing to publish great speculative fiction stories. One idea suggested to us at Calgary’s When Words Collide convention, was for us to ask our supporters to send letters to their MPs advising them of Canada Council’s cut to On Spec’s funding.

If you wish to let your feelings about the funding cuts to On Spec  be known to public officials as well as to the Canada Council, below you will find a list of names and addresses. Remember to cc your letter to your local Member of Parliament.

We aren't providing a form letter, because those tend to get ignored by the intended audience. Instead, look below for some salient points to our argument. Feel free to put them in your own words and use for your letters.

Here’s a guide to the points below:

  • Reasons why the Minister of Canadian Heritage should know about On Spec’s loss of the Canada Council grant.
  • Points related to how On Spec contributes to Canadian culture and values, and the economy.
  • Concerns about the recent cut in Canada Council funding to On Spec.
  • What On Spec is doing to deal with the cut in funding.
  • Who to contact with addresses below.

How can telling the Minister of Canadian Heritage about the loss of the Canada Council grant help On Spec?

The Honourable Shelly Glover will be aware of On Spec’s importance to Canadian culture, as offering a distinct voice in a genre of fiction. As the Minister of Canadian Heritage, she sets directives and policy on the promotion of Canadian culture, including funding.

What points to communicate regarding On Spec’s contribution to Canadian culture and economy:

  • On Spec Magazine is a multiple Aurora award-winning publication, and the Aurora is Canada’s main prize for excellence in  the genre of science fiction and fantasy.
  • The Copper Pig Writers’ Society, a non-profit organization, has printed On Spec for over 25 years, showcasing Canadian talent in science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction. The magazine publishes short stories and poetry, including non-fiction.
  • On Spec recognizes the importance of well-written genre fiction for the Canadian economy. Genre fiction is popular as a commercial genre as well as a literary genre, which is observed with the current popularity of science fiction and fantasy movies, books, games, and other forms of entertainment. The commercial genre produces writers employed in different industries (video game development, television and movie screenplays, novels).
  • On Spec provides writers of genre fiction a starting place to be recognized. Genre writers in the commercial field in Canada generate taxable revenue and require a significantly smaller investment than many other industries, leading to a higher return on investment and additionally the promotion of an industry that is environmentally friendly. In the case of On Spec, that investment is $20,000. It is important to note that most of these writers support themselves through other taxable employment in addition to developing their skills.
  • On Spec celebrates Canadian values. We’ve published stories and artwork by Canadians from diverse backgrounds, including minorities, First Nations, women, LGBT, youths, and more. The magazine was started in 1989 in response to several Canadian speculative fiction authors receiving rejection letters from American publishers, which stated the stories were “well-written” but had a “different voice” that was too distinct for their markets.
  • On Spec has printed established and emerging Canadian writers recognized in Canada and beyond, including award-winning novelist Robert J. Sawyer, co-founder of PopCap Games Jason Kapalka, and novelists Peter Watts, Charles de Lint, Leah Bobet, Cory Doctorow, and many more authors. For many of On Spec’s writers, their first publications were in On Spec Magazine. On Spec provided a place for their voices to be heard in publishing, and several have gone on to publishing novels and works in other fields, including film and game writing.
  • On Spec showcases artwork by Canadians, including Aaron Paquette, First Nations painter, writer, keynote speaker, and workshop facilitator.
  • The On Spec story “Beach Head” by Daniel LeMoal was selected and printed in Best Horror of the Year, Volume 1, by award-winning editor Ellen Datlow. Stories appearing in On Spec  receive Honorable Mentions in several “Year’s Best” anthologies.
  • On Spec’s editors are volunteers, devoting time to On Spec as a labour of love to showcase Canadian talent. The editors come from a variety of backgrounds, including educators, biologists, and more. Since the magazine’s inception in 1989, there has been a strong women’s voice in the publication that was unusual in science fiction and fantasy.

 Concerns about the recent cut in Canada Council funding:

  • The shortfall of $20,000 will make it difficult for On Spec to operate and cover production costs. On Spec must find other options to continue showcasing Canadian writers and artists, and sharing Canadian content with our readers. The amount represents about 30% of On Spec’s total budget.
  • The lack of an appeals process with the Canada Council jury decision. The finality of the decision is legislated without offering an opportunity for another review and perspective. This makes it difficult for On Spec and other arts organizations to find an avenue to engage Canada Council on how to meet the jury’s criteria for following years. In the City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Arts Council established an appeals process for non-profit Arts Operating Grants.
  • Canada Council only provides summary information without measurable goals and reviews to help arts organizations keep on track from jury warnings. The comments are provided in a vacuum without providing On Spec and other organizations with the opportunity to show improvement and engage Canada Council on better meeting the jury’s requirements.

How On Spec is dealing with the cut in Canada Council funding:
  • On Spec Magazine will continue publishing well-written speculative fiction short stories and poetry, with a focus on showcasing voices from Canadian writers with diverse backgrounds.
  • The editorial staff and other members of On Spec will discuss and determine new directions for the magazine, with the goal to continue providing our subscribers with well-written fiction.
  • On Spec will concentrate on promoting our digital editions of our publication and subscriptions, with the plan to extend to online distributors such as Kobo. Currently the digital edition can be found on Weightless Books:
  • A Patreon account has been set-up to encourage sustainable monthly donations from On Spec supporters.
Please feel free to send the reasons why you support On Spec Magazine to have your voice heard by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, The Honourable Shelly Glover (Min.Glover@pch.gc.ca). You can also cc the Chair of Canada Council, Director and CEO Simon Brault (director@canadacouncil.ca).

Sending separate letters to your Member of Parliament, the culture critics Pierre Nantel (NDP) and Stephane Dion (Liberal), and Elizabeth May of the Green Party, allows your voice to be heard.

Note that letters sent to Ministers or MPs at Parliament Hill do not require a stamp. Addresses are available online: http://www.parl.gc.ca/SenatorsMembers.aspx?Language=E

The Honourable Shelly Glover
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

For regular mail:

The Honourable Shelly Glover
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada
K1A 0A6

Simon Brault
Director and CEO
Canada Council for the Arts
150 Elgin St
P.O. Box 1047
Ottawa, Ontario  K1P 5V8

Thank you for your support. We appreciate it takes many voices to be heard.

The On Spec Team.

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