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5 Canadian Authors Who are Breaking the Boundaries of Genre Fiction

If some readers see a clear distinction between different genres of fiction, these Canadian writers are opening the door to something new. Whether they’re blending horror and satire, incorporating folklore into dystopic narratives, or using genre fiction to shine a light on mental health and LGBTQ2+ issues, here are five Canadian writers you should check out:

1. Amber Dawn 

Think paranormal thriller with a twist: Amber Dawn’s Sodom Road Exit (Arsenal Pulp Press) gives a ghost town a whole new meaning. Taut with queer desire, humour, and flawed characters, Amber Dawn blends literary fiction, horror, and magic realism. If you haven’t read Amber Dawn, you should get to it. 

More books by Amber Dawn: Sub Rosa, How Poetry Saved My Life, and Where the Words End and My Body Begins. She is also the editor of two anthologies: Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Worker’s Poetry and Fist of the Spider Woman.

Key themes: Horror, magic realism, LGBTQ2+, sex work, trauma, poverty

2. Suzette Mayr

If you love a book that is both horrifying and hilarious, look no further than Suzette Mayr’s Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall (Coach House Books). A gothic satire that delves into the unsettling aspects of academia, this novel will ensure you’ll never look at a university campus the same again. Mayr’s writing is engaging and dynamic – it’s almost impossible to put her books down.

More books by Suzette Mayr: Monoceros, Venous Hum, The Widows, and Moon Honey.

Key themes: Horror, satire, mental health, LGBTQ2+, BIPOC issues, academia

3. Larissa Lai

If you enjoy world building, strong female characters, and the threat of extinction, grab a copy of Larissa Lai’s Tiger Flu (Arsenal Pulp Press). Weaving Chinese folklore with dystopic tropes of cloning and the abuse of technology, Larissa Lai’s writing is both timely and thought provoking. 

More books by Larissa Lai: Salt Fish Girl, Automaton Biographies, When Fox is a Thousand, and Sybil Unrest (co-authored with Rita Wong).

Key Themes: Dystopic, Sci-Fi, cyberpunk, Chinese folklore, magic realism, LGBTQ2+, Chinese Canadian issues

4. Nalo Hopkinson 

Although Nalo Hopkinson is well known to many Science Fiction readers after publishing six novels and two short story collections, my favourite will always be her first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring (Warner Aspect). Set in Toronto in a dystopic future, Hopkinson blends Caribbean folklore and cyberpunk elements to show the strength of three generations of women. For those new to genre fiction, Nalo Hopkinson’s novels are a great place to start.

More books by Nalo Hopkinson: Midnight Robber, Skin Folk, The Salt Roads, The New Moon’s Arms, The Chaos, Report from Planet Midnight, Sister Mine, and Falling in Love with Hominids.

Key Themes: Sci-fi, dystopic, Caribbean folklore, sexuality, racial issues in Canada, trauma, poverty, YA fiction

5. Kai Cheng Thom

Not only is she challenging the limitations of genre fiction, Kai Cheng Thom blurs the boundaries between fiction and memoir. In Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir (Metonymy Press), Thom creates a world alive with magic and horror for a young Asian trans girl (who happens to be both a kung-fu expert and a pathological liar). If that isn’t intriguing enough, you should check out Thom’s short story in the new anthology Maiden Mother and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes (edited by Gwen Benaway). Three words: futuristic tentacle porn.

Other books by Kai Cheng Thom: I Hope We Choose Love, A Place Called No Homeland, and From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea. 

Key themes: Horror, Sci-Fi, magic realism, fantasy, creative nonfiction, LGBTQ, BIPOC, trans issues, humour writing, trauma

Feature image by Alexandra Cutler

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