Artist Q & A: Candas Jane Dorsey

Get to know this award-winning author best known for her science fiction writing.

September 1, 2018

Candas Jane Dorsey is an award-winning author in Edmonton’s writing community who has spent 35 years mentoring and inspiring others in the field. She is best known for her science fiction writing including the novels Black Wine and A Paradigm of Earth, and has also published poetry and short stories, including her well-known short-story collection Machine Sex: And Other Stories.

Q: What is your favourite genre to write in?

A: It really depends. I have a different favourite on particular days of the week. I just had an interesting event with a group of people who feel they’ve been influenced by me and put together a tribute anthology called Prairie Starport: Stories in Celebration of Candas Jane Dorsey. Some of it is talking about me and some is just writing that they did in my classes. It reminds me of how I’ve written quite a lot of stuff that I’ve almost forgotten about.

Q: How do you see the relationship between science fiction and reality?

A: Not that different really. There’s a question of real versus truth that fiction writers are always dealing with no matter what kind of fiction they write. Because none of it has actually happened in the form that it’s on the page, even for people who write realistic fiction. As soon as it becomes fiction it becomes speculative and it becomes a kind of fantasy. So it may not be real, but it is very often true and I think that that’s one of the things that make people choose speculative fiction: The ability to be able to tell larger truths.

Q: What drew you to science fiction writing?

A: Oh, science fiction is really sneaky. You can get under people’s radar with the things that they think aren’t about the real world but really they are. Plus, you know, as a kid, my father was a big science fiction reader and I read it too. So when I started writing I just included science fiction and fantasy elements in my work and I didn’t really think of it being one thing or another. But I’ve come to respect the variety of the genre and some of the things people have done with it. It’s a very flexible genre and it can include all sorts of things that are pretty close to realism. In his book, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, Samuel Delany said something along the lines of, ‘Anything that can happen in a science fiction story can happen in a mainstream story, but not the other way around, so you tell me which is the subset of which.’

Q: What was it like to win the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Golden Pen Award for lifetime achievement?

A: It was wonderful. I’ve been working in the literary community for almost 50 years long time and it was nice to know that I was doing something that was noticed and valued and people appreciated it. Also, I actually invented the Golden Pen Award when I was President of the Writers’ Guild and I gave the first one to W.O. Mitchell, who was my first writing mentor in adulthood. So it was a real honour to, many years later, receive the same award and feel that things had come full circle.

 This article appears in the September 2018 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.


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