Loading the Canon


Have you ever wondered what works of science fiction and fantasy you should be familiar with? What about the works that have influenced past writers in the genre? Or perhaps you have read a lot of the newer stuff and find yourself eager to look in a new direction? You are always welcome to ask other readers for their opinions, but sometimes that doesn’t provide enough variety. This is where a canon of literature comes in handy.

Is there even a canon for science fiction and fantasy? That question comes with a tricky answer: yes . . . and no. To discuss the idea of a canon, you have to consider existing canons. For example, the canon of English literature is not housed in any one book, but encompasses the whole of the literature taught in academia by English professors. Sure, many different anthologies exist to provide a sampling of works by various authors, but those cannot be considered the whole of the canon. Many universities provide lists of books that should be read for honors programs and the like, but they too are not comprehensive. Therefore, the concept of a canon is quite fluid. For the science fiction and fantasy genres, some anthologies exist. There is even a smattering of professors out there who specialize in these genres. Yet, in spite of the popularity of science fiction and fantasy, academia largely ignores them. Because of that, a canon (in the traditional sense) has yet to be developed.

With that in mind, Leading Edge Magazine would like to do something to address this issue. In the past we have featured submissions in the forms of fiction, graphic novels, art, and poetry. Occasionally, we have received the random nonfiction submission, but we didn’t really have a place for it. We are now calling for submissions in the nonfiction category. But not just any nonfiction piece will do. We are looking to build a canon for the science fiction and fantasy genres. Therefore, the ideal nonfiction submission will be an academic-type essay that proposes why one or two works belongs in the canon. What did the work bring to the reader? What influence did it have? Who else did it influence? We are looking for more than just emphatic postulations about your favorite work. We want well-considered thoughts about each work and why it deserves its place in the canon.

For example, I believe that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein belongs in the science fiction canon. If I wanted to submit my recommendation that Frankenstein be added, then I would write an essay explaining how Frankenstein was one of the first work to combine science and fiction. (I would have to research to confirm if it was the first.) I would explain how it sparked the imagination of the people who first read it and how it has become a part of contemporary pop culture.

Here at Leading Edge Magazine we considered creating the canon on our own and just building a list. But after considering the scope of the undertaking, we have realized that it is beyond our capabilities. So, dig through your books and find the one that you think everyone needs to know about. Then write your best defense and send it our way. We are planning on building a list, so even if your paper is not published in the magazine, we may contact you and obtain permission to post it to our website.

We look forward to your submissions and hope that all of you find it as interesting as we do. We want to thank you in advance for your work and submissions. As always, it is you that keeps us around.