Off the Page appears regularly on the Magazine Awards blog. Today we catch up with writer J.B. MacKinnon, winner of 11 National Magazine Awards and author of The Once and Future World (Random House Canada).
NMAF: In an essay titled “A 10 Percent World” (The Walrus, September 2010), you argued that humanity’s vision of an idyllic past is myopic; that in seeking to temper the impact that we have on our environment, our purpose “is not to demand some return to a pre-human Eden, but rather to expand our options”; that “our sense of what is possible sets limits on our dreams.” What did you mean by expanding our options beyond the limits?
J.B.: “A 10 Percent World” looks at the natural world of the historical past—a much richer and more abundant state of nature than we know today. We’ve largely forgotten this more plentiful world, and that limits our sense of the possible.
Yes, it’s depressing to find out that grizzly bears used to live on the Canadian Prairies and they don’t any more, or that Vancouver waters were home to a year-round population of humpback whales that were all slaughtered by 1908. But if we aren’t aware of these facts, then the absence of the bears and the whales seems normal. When we do become aware of them, we’re able to set a higher bar for our vision of what nature can be. Continue reading “Off the Page, with J.B. MacKinnon”→
They publish much of Canada’s best poetry and prose. The writers whose creative work appears in their pages range from established icons of Canadian literary arts–such as Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Lynn Coady, to name just a few–to new writers published for the first time.
They are Canada’s literary magazines, and they are not only a source of reading pleasure, but also a critical part of our country’s culture and a forum for literary artists across the land.
The following list, an A-to-Z guide to Canadian literary periodicals and their submissions guidelines, compiled by the National Media Awards Foundation, focuses on those magazines that currently publish short fiction, poetry and/or creative (aka literary) non-fiction. Many also accept submissions for essays, literary criticism, reviews, interviews, graphic narratives and visual art. And many have won National Magazine Awards. If we missed any, tell us via Twitter @MagAwards or contact us by email.
NōD Published In: Alberta (U. of Calgary) Founded: 2014 Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-fiction, Reviews, Visual Arts Issues per Year: 2 National Magazine Awards: None Submission Guidelines
Northern Appeal, The Published In: Ontario (Simcoe County and Muskoka) Founded: 2016 Genres: Poetry, Short Stories, Photography, and Visual Art Issues per Year: 2 National Magazine Awards: None Submission Guidelines
Pulp Literature Published in: British Columbia Founded: 2014 Genres: Short Stories, Novellas, Novel Excerpts and Graphic Novel Shorts Issues per Year: 4 National Magazine Award Nominations: None Submissions Guidelines
Read all about this year’s National Magazine Award winners, which included medals by literary magazines Arc Poetry Magazine, Event, Hazlitt, Little Brother, Prairie Fire, PRISM International, sub-Terrain, The Feathertale Review, The New Quarterly, Vallum and Maisonneuve, which won Magazine of the Year.
The 2012 installment of The Best Canadian Essays has been released from Tightrope Books, edited by Ray Robertson and Christopher Doda.
Like previous editions of the book, The Best Canadian Essays 2012 features a number of National Magazine Award-winning stories by some remarkable authors celebrated at the 35th NMA gala earlier this year, and from previous years:
Alexandra Molotkow, whose article “My Cybersexual Education” (Toronto Life) was part of a series that won Gold in Editorial Package for 2011;
Paul Wilson, whose article “Adrift on the Nile” (The Walrus) about the Arab Spring won Gold in One-of-a-Kind;
“The question distinguishes the essay from the less adventurous forms of expository prose—the dissertation, the polemic, the article, the campaign speech, the tract, the op-ed, the arrest warrant, the hotel bill. Writers… begin the first paragraph knowing how, when, where, and why they intend to claim the privilege of the last word. Not so the essayist, even if what he or she is writing purports to be a history or a field report. Like Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, the essayist lights out for the territories, never sure of the next sentence until the words show up on the page.”*
Our summer reading series continues this week with a selection of award-winning essays, all (and more) available at the National Magazine Awards archive (magazine-awards.com/archive).
1. “The Ultraviolet Catastrophe” by Alice Major, The New Quarterly (2011 Gold winner in Essays) Are the limits of our world finite, or can there be something beyond its edges? Is death a tragedy, or is it merely catastrophic, like the draining of waves of light into a black hole. Alice Major explores what the science of quantum physics can teach her about catharsis following the death of her father, in this essay that preceded her recent book, Intersecting Sets: A Poet Looks at Science (University of Alberta Press).
“How can a body be capable of so little and yet a mind be capable of so much? Humans are fascinated by such extremes. This is the material for our stories, the stuff of our legends. We don’t really find the ordinary terribly exciting. We seem to find that such singularities illuminate the human condition.” [Read more]
2. “A 10 Percent World” by J.B. MacKinnon, The Walrus (2010 Gold winner in Essays) “I speculated in passing that, when seen through the lens of deep time, ours is a 10 Percent World–a blue-green globe that reflects just one-tenth the natural variety and abundance it once did.”
11-time National Magazine Award winner J.B. MacKinnon attempts to untangle prevailing notions of normality in humankind’s understanding of its own impact on the Earth. We tend to err not in our assumption that, previous to the age in which we live, the natural world was comparatively more vibrant and less degraded (though that is not uncommonly a disputed premise); rather, it is the scope of our vision of the past that is limited, perhaps so severely that it begs a completely new set of eyes.
“The purpose of all of this,” writes MacKinnon, “… is not to demand some romantic return to a pre-human Eden, but rather to expand our options. Our sense of what is possible sets limits on our dreams.” [Read more]
3. “The Big Decision” by Chris Turner, AlbertaViews (2008 Gold winner in Essays) One of Canada’s foremost science journalists, Chris Turner lays bare the case for nuclear power in Alberta–yes, home of the oilsands–severing myth from fact while ruminating on both. Perhaps at its heart, it’s an argument for a badly needed argument, yet without vacillation:
“The most egregious myth, however–the one that could damn Alberta to a nuclear future as the 21st-century economy races greenly past–is the one that says it’s our only choice. Allow me to be exceedingly blunt: that’s just bullshit.” [Read more]
Previous editions of our Summer Reading Series: Travel
* From Lewis Lapham, “Figures of Speech” (Harper’s, November 2010, p.7) Huckleberry Finn illustration from the wonderful 1885 edition of the novel, published by Charles L. Webster & Co, whose illustrations were commissioned of New York artist Edward W. Kemple.