Monday, November 20, 2006

Canada, Eh?


Is Canada becoming sexy?
No less than three novels I flipped through on the weekend made mention of Canada.
How aboot that.
In The Next EX (Linda L. Richards - MIRA Books) the heroine Madeline Carter suggests she learned politeness from her ex-husband - who was a Canadian.
Susan Grant's The Scarlet Empress ( Dorchester) tacks on a reference to those nice neighbours to the north - as in RCMP - who were there at the border to help the revolution.
I appreciate that both mentions are casual, incidental and stereotypical.
But in the third novel, Elizabeth Bear's hard SF Worldwired (Bantam) the main heroine IS a Canadian...and a tough, hard-nosed, kick-ass Master Warrant Officer to boot.
In fact, parts of the novel is set in either the offices of the provisional capital in Vancouver ( Ottawa apparently uninhabitable because of an asteroid that totalled Toronto and environs) or aboard HMCS ships - like the Montreal or the Gordon Lightfoot in earth orbit.
Surfacing from the pleasure of wallowing in a character that thinks both in Canadian and military, I wondered how this got past the cultural boundaries and border guards.
Of course, certain details seem tailored to trigger comfortable recognition in the American public - the prime minister is from the West (oil, hockey) and Quebecois curses and characters occur.
And, of course, SF and Fantasy publishers have always been more open to outremer authors, characters and settings, so perhaps Bear is not really plowing new ground, if one remembers Sawyer, De Lint, Kay, etc.etc.
Still, I'm hopeful.
Also began wondering about the effect of national stereotypes and traditional settings on the sale of a novel.
Your thoughts?

36 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

I was born, and have lived my life so far, in the U.S. I am ever grateful. I love my country.

I have visited your country many times over the years, both for work and pleasure. I love Canada too. It would be the only alternative of choice for me.

kmfrontain said...

Canada, eh? It's good, eh?

Oh, damn. My Cape Breton years are showing. ;-)

Marie said...

I'd love to read novels set in Canada, a country I have always wanted to visit.

Bernita said...

I'm only wondering about moving your imagination, Erik.
Do some readers feel it is somehow un-patriotic to read books set in other countries?

Is it really that prevalent, Karen?
I suppose it fits with the stereotype of polite Canadians, a verbal invitation to agreement. Sort of a n'est ce pas?

Here's hoping you may, Marie.
~ makes another mark on the wall for reader interest~

Ric said...

Exotic? Unusual? Unique?
Place settings always intrigue. Can't imagine attempting to set a story someplace I've never been - it would worry me that I missed something important yet intangible.
Seems it is the novelist's fate to imbue the setting with those touches of familarity. The sun rises where on the horizon? The palm tree does not grow in Canada.

I, like Erik, have spent many wonderful hours in your marvelous country from Shakespeare at Strattford to Expo 67 in Montreal.

Bernita said...

Glad you enjoyed yourself.
Sometimes, I suppose, writers are too familiar with a setting and don't recognize what readers may consider "exotic."
Um...Ric...the palm tree does grow in Victoria, BC.

MissWrite said...

Of course Canada is SEXY. It's so freakin' cold up there what else ya gonna do to stay warm? LOL

Bernita said...

Just wondering if Canada and Canadians were coming in from the cold, Tami.
Of course the word "sexy" was for Ric's benefit...

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Since our countries are on the same continent, I've never thought of it as being "foriegn" My family used to always make trips across the border. I have friends that had a summer home up there until all the Homeland security stuff started.

The place never makes the book for me, it's always the story I dwell on.

Hey I just noticed Canada's new claim to fame in the news section.
Apparently the Canadian govt. is now going to allow Canadian college professors with certain afflictions to be able to smoke pot on campuses with specially ventilated rooms!

Bernita said...

Have the feeling it has been considered outside the pale as a novel setting, Bonnie.
Pfui. Woman can go naked to the waist here too, I believe.

anna said...

I think the setting is very important - at least to me it is.
I'm a big mysteries fan especially foreign ones. It's almost as good as visiting. Just finished a couple set in Iceland - eek!

Bernita said...

That's right, Anna.
Iceland is considered exotic. Canada is considered boring.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Sheesh, Bernita...don't be telling Ric about naked women! It will start him on the s*x thing...LOL!

Robyn said...

I personally can't get over that red uniform. There's a serious YUM factor there, girl. If there's a mountie who has to wear the dress uniform at least once in the book, I'm there!

Bernita said...

Imagine the conversation with the border guards, Bonnie!

"yum factor" - neat way to put it!
Robyn, while the story arc of that novel is a good one, the characters are cardboard and the writing stilted - imo. Also the RCMP type tacked in at the end almost like an alien is a woman.

Ric said...

You can never have too much red!
See what happens when I leave to get work done?
Bonnie gets talking about sex, Bernita draws word pictures of half dressed women, Tami gets going on how the half dress reacts with the cold....
Goodness!

S. W. Vaughn said...

I have no thoughts save one:

Go, Mounties! :-) I find the RCMP fascinating.

Bernita said...

We love to tease you, Ric.

Have know a few, Sonya. They are a breed apart - though sadly hampered by the inevitable bureaucracy these days.

kmfrontain said...

"Is it really that prevalent, Karen?"

Oh, yeah. It's prevalent. Cape Bretoners and many Nova Scotioners, and perhaps Newfoundlanders too, say "eh". It's not just from "This Hour has Twenty-two Minutes". They really do talk that way. ;-)

Dave said...

I'm not sure why anyone would be unpatriotic for reading a novel set in another country.

There's too many good Canadian hockey players (and owners) in Pittsburgh to do anything but like Canada.

Unless of course, we're watching South Park the cartoon ;)

Candice Gilmer said...

I considered, briefly, a novel idea that included a hero from Canada. I stress that it would have been a very brief idea, but I still couldn't write anything set in Canada, sicne I haven't been there, and like Ric said, having not been there, I might miss an important detail...

Which pretty much killed that story idea.

Shesawriter said...

Some of my best friends are Canadians......

:-)

Bernita said...

I have been too long away, Karen...

But do the gatekeepers perceive it as an interesting setting, Dave?
I don't think they did and I wonder if that has changed.

Always wonder about that, Candice. You haven't been in space either, have you?

You just could not resist, could you, Tanya!

Dave said...

gatekeepers...
Let me ramble just a little. A fast book to press was Woodward's third book on President Bush. Even then it took the better part of six months to get from galley edit or proof to the bookstore.
I keep hearing that magazines have short stories booked almost a year in advance. I hear that from the time an agent accepts a book till a publisher buys it might be a year.
And a year in review, negotiations by lawyers and that.
A year to write...

So when does a gatekeeper choose a book? At least a year or two in advance of the book's publication date. We're reading about decisions made in 2002, 2003, 2004 and trying to understand why those decisions were made.

Bernita said...

Yes, I realize we're observing effects, Dave, and it may be only a 3 on the Richter scale.

Candice Gilmer said...

Bernita -- No I haven't! You caught me.. :) lolol... And, I totally see your point. :) tee hee he...

spyscribbler said...

Oh man, I had a crush on a sexy Canadian once. Dug graves during the summers. Had a great accent.

Methinks Canada is more intriguing than she seems.

I love being swept into another world, when I read a novel. Canada? Sounds good to me! They have tons of great classical music up there, too.

Linda L. Richards said...

Thanks for mentioning The Next Ex Bernita. And while, as you pointed out, the protaganist's mention of learning to be polite from her Canadian ex-husband is certainly stereotypical, it's also an inside joke since I'm a Canadian writing in Canada. It was also me preparing the way for the third novel in the series, Calculated Loss, which is set almost entirely in Vancouver.

Bernita said...

It's a big country, My Spy...

" an inside joke..." I should have know - or suspected.
Oh, oh, this is delicious!
I planned to a do a review on "The Next Ex" sometime this week because (1) I was impressed with the novel and your style and (2) you accomplished with Madeline - though in a slightly less arcane fashion - what I am trying to do with my Damie.
"The Next Ex" is a gift to me both as a reader and as a writer. I plan some serious deconstruction.

Thank you very much for stopping by, Ms. Richards.

writtenwyrdd said...

Here's me being snarky. I apologize in advance for my rant.

HATE that term, 'border guard.' It's ridiculous, like calling the highway patrolman 'road guard'. The correct term is 'officer.' It used to be Immigration or Customs officer, but now it is Customs & Border Protection Officer. Canadian speak is Customs Officer as well. The Border Patrolmen are Border Patrol Officers, and they patrol the areas between the official ports of entry.

Clear as mud, no doubt. People will keep on saying 'border guards' because it's now in the public mind.

writtenwyrdd said...

PS, I live on the Canadian border and spend a lot of time there. The differences between our countries are subtle, but significant.

If you watched Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine, the part where he goes to Canada is pretty much my experience of Canadians.

Bernita said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernita said...

I beg your pardon for my flagitious lapse, Writtenwyrdd.
Usage does confound purists.

writtenwyrdd said...

Ah, shucks, Bernita, you don't need to apologize. I told you I was ranting. That phrase has just been bugging me since 9/11 when it was first trotted out by the news media.

I have to say, one reason I love your blog is because I have to look up words a lot...something that doesn't often happen to me. Flagitious is a new one...

Bernita said...

Thank you, Writtenwyrdd.
It's a new one for me too - I just found it last night in Frazer's Golden Bough.

I wasn't really apologizing. I think the term a perfectly acceptable collective for the various functions involved.

writtenwyrdd said...

The Mounties I know all tend to have a strange sense of humor and are exceptionally polite. I've only ever seen them in BDUs, though.