Canada! Stretching from Halton to Clarington, from the Lake north to Brock, and beyond, Canada’s fabled history stretches back several years… Perhaps Canada has a future as well. If so, what sort of future awaits the bucolic occupants of Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, and other places one famed author called Samarkands of the North? A number of authors set out to answer that question, with varying degrees of optimism.
Exxoneration by Richard Rohmer (1974)
In the far distant year of 1980, America moves to annex Canada. The goal: to solve US energy shortages with Canadian resources. Given the vast American military-industrial complex and the miniscule Canadian armed forces, immediate surrender seems the only reasonable course of action.
Following the American surrender, Canada grapples with another challenge: enhancing Canadian security through the acquisition of Exxon. Will this corporate bid be as successful as our defense of Canadian sovereignty? Or will Canada finally face abject failure?
However you imagine Canada might defeat the American invading forces, I assure you the method used in the novel is far more implausible.
Oath of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (1981)
Sir George Reedy, Deputy Minister for Internal Development and Urban Affairs, Dominion of Canada, travels south to Los Angeles. Todos Santos is a single vast building, the first successful arcology. Is Todos Santos the model that future urban development in Canada should use?
As it happens, while the inhabitants of the panopticon/gated community are content with their domicile, relations between Todos Santos and the rest of Los Angeles are not so much strained as actively hostile. Will the community survive escalating conflict or will the arcology soon be a smoldering memory?
Informed readers will note the “Sir.” This is not, as I assumed in 1981, because the authors were unaware of the Nickle Resolution. They assumed Canada would revert to a nation of obsequious forelock-tuggers. As it turned out, that was just Conrad Black.
Arboreality by Rebecca Campbell (2022)
Faced with rising carbon dioxide levels and consequent climate change, Canadians did what Canadians do best: ignored the problem until it was too late, then embraced desperate coping mechanisms. Vancouver Island being particularly vulnerable, the Federal government abandoned the island to focus on more viable regions, while British Columbia’s provincial government effectively evaporated.
Throughout the 21st century, a dwindling population of Vancouver Islanders struggle to come to terms with the legacy of 20th century folly. Soaring temperatures, wildfires, and rapidly shifting ecologies mean that old methods of survival are obsolete. Nevertheless, the Islanders prevail.
Whether or not this beautifully written novel is sad or not depends on reader focus. What’s more important: that so much needless misery is visited on the world, or that despite end-Permian-level calamity, civilization survives and humanity does not quite go extinct?
Moon of the Turning Leaves by Waubgeshig Rice (2023)
The Anishinaabe of Shki-dnakiiwin never asked Canada to annex their lands, attempt to erase their culture, or to forcibly relocate them to the far north. The villagers miss some amenities lost when the power went out and civilization collapsed…but the Anishinaabe do not miss the overbearing settler government.
More than a decade of hunting and fishing has depleted wildlife near Shki-dnakiiwin. Migration to their former homeland near the Great Lakes could be the solution…depending on conditions in the once heavily populated south. A small band of volunteers are sent as scouts into regions long silent. They face wilderness, radiation, and armed invaders foraging north. Not everyone will be coming home.
While the novel is not at all sentimental about Canada, the author is clearly aware that the erasure of advanced technology (thanks to a Carrington event, pandemics, and what happens to nuclear reactors left untended) has profound costs. Living in the woods may sound like fun, but staying in one place will deplete the ecosystem and minor ailments become fatal.
The Everlasting Road by Wab Kinew (2023)
Anishinaabe teen Bagonegiizhigok “Bugz” Holiday vanquished her Clan:LESS online rivals. Victory is hollow. Cancer claimed her brother Waawaate. Grief has distracted her from reclaiming her position in the MMORPG Floraverse.
Her brother is lost to her forever, but Bugz can at least create a simulated Waawaate in the Floraverse. Not only is the software able to emulate Bug’s memories of her brother, it can learn from experience. How long will it take the AI to become an active menace to Bugz’s enemies and to Bugz herself? Not long at all!
Wab Kinew is the 25th premier of Manitoba. He is the only sitting provincial premier to have won an Aurora award. In fact, he appears to be the only premier, in office or out, living or dead, to have won the Aurora Award, period. I too wonder what the heck is wrong with all the other premiers. What are they spending their time doing?
To think of Canada is to be marvelously inspired. Thus, the above represent only a very small sample of the vast assortment of poutine-flavored, maple syrup-infused futures envisioned by SF authors. If you’ve favorites of your own (perhaps featuring telepathic war moose), feel free to name them in comments below.
In the words of fanfiction author Musty181, four-time Hugo finalist, prolific book reviewer, and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll “looks like a default mii with glasses.” His work has appeared in Interzone, Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis) and the 2021, 2022, and 2023 Aurora Award finalist Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by web person Adrienne L. Travis). His Patreon can be found here.