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Canadian SFF

Postby eleika » Fri Mar 09, 2007 3:59 pm

Okay, there's notable exceptions. Robert J. Sawyer, Charles de Lint. But I want to know what you think.

When I pitched my novel to the agent, I completely forgot to mention the fact that my Earth setting is in Canada. (It's set in two worlds, this and another). It is one of the reasons I feel my manuscript may have been declined. I have very specific reasons for the, and changing the location to an American one would completely compromise the story, so that is out of the question. I am confident about the story itself.

And from talking to everyone, the impression I get is that, no matter how good the story is, while Canadians don't mind reading about Americans, Americans don't really want to read about Canada. Not even in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I even had a published Canadian author tell me, upon hearing that, something along the lines of, "You should have told me it was Canadian, I would have warned you".

So I sent it to a Canadian publisher, and I guess we'll see what happens.

But what are your thoughts? Is this true? And did the "exceptions" break the rule only after they got famous? This is my first novel.
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Postby Bread Butterbeard » Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:07 pm

Hmmmmm I feel personally it probably more has to do with you being an unknown then it being set in Canada. However Your fears may have merit, Americans tend to, at least for where im from, have a certain disdain for any foreign settings when it takes place on earth, now my home town is quite small so maybe its just where I grew up... just my two cents, and please don't lose faith and keep up hope!!!
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Postby Bmat » Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:26 pm

I haven't noticed a problem with settings in other countries. In fact, settings in other countries are exotic and interesting. Canada is an interesting country. I really have not encountered anyone saying that they didn't like a story because it was set in another country than the USA.
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Postby eleika » Fri Mar 09, 2007 11:47 pm

Fair enough. I want to make it clear that I'm not complaining about my rejection, or trying to stereotype Americans, but I have still noticed this trend. And I was wondering how much of a factor it might have played, because I really haven't seen a lot of it out there, and the bit that is has been written by people who are definitely not unknowns.

I know that in the SFF genres of all things people are more open to new ideas and settings, but if you look at it from a marketing perspective, which is unfortunately what many editors and agents do, you'd probably think that people are more interested in reading about things that happen in their own country. Unfortunately, all the major publishing houses are in New York.
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Postby jerico » Fri Jun 29, 2007 4:23 pm

Setting a story in Canada would be a risky move if trying to target an american audience, but I guess it entirely depends on how it's written, and what the subject matter is. Take The Shipping News for example; a story that's (mostly) set in Canada takes place in the abstract and often bizarre Newfoundland/Labrador province. This world is so foreign, and the the characters so strange and bizarre to most readers - American, Canadian or any nationality - that they completely forget about the Canadian aspect; it's irrelevant.

The problem occurs is Science Fiction when you're talking about a future world that the reader is somehow supposed to relate to or sypathize with. For instance, if you tried to tell the story The Day after Tomorrow but set it in Toronto, do you think it would be a hit in America? Not a chance; because the reader needs to place themselves in the story and Americans don't score that high in imagination points when it comes to seeing the world beyond their borders. Canadians and other counties on the other hand do so much easier because we've all been raised on successful novels and Hollywood movies where the main stage is always...yes, America.

So I guess my advice is: make sure what drives your tale is an intriguing plot, and fascinating characters, and don't focus too intensely on geographic, or geo-political topics if you want to target an American audience. Being a Canadian myself, I sypathize with you completely, but the sad fact is America is where many of the dollars are; publishers know that, and of course for publishers, it's all about the dollars.
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Postby Ariel » Sat Jun 30, 2007 5:31 am

I'd read it and I'm in America. :D
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Postby Neurolanis » Tue Jul 03, 2007 5:32 pm

It is true that American publishers take for granted that American readers prefer reading stories which involve Americans. Of course this isn't always true, but it is a very common bias. I feel that Canadian authors can still get published abroad, although, with an American publisher it could understandably be a little more difficult, but the story would most likely have to be set somewhere in the US or involve America in some personal and central way, etc. In fantasy, it should be somewhat different, or so I imagine...

The same is true for television. Canadian television producers tried to get around this with TV shows like Boardertown -- a pretty good Western series that was actually successful in the US, however it was cancelled for being Canadian-made -- and later Due South, where a stereotypical Canadian mountie goes south to pair up with an American cop.

But I imagine it should be possible publish or air a story where an American comes north to Canada. I believe such things have been tried, but they usually, for some reason, involve making fun of Canada.
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