Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The West Coast Issue

The Fiddlehead's
West Coast Issue
It is about one thousand miles from Ireland to Slovenia. It is a little less than three thousand from Fredericton to Victoria. I know a number of people in Atlantic Canada who have never been to British Columbia. If you have not been, the mountains and narrow valleys of BC are as strange and fantastical as the Slovenian Alps. From the perspective of Atlantic Canada, BC is unimaginably vast and variable. Atlantic Canada is surprisingly bigger than it seems when looking at its small cluster of provinces on a map, and the difference between the four provinces is remarkable. Beyond tourism photos how do we explain ourselves to each other?

Well, to some extent, we don’t, but there are many ways we can. We have the marvelous Canada Council for the Arts that maintains a mandate to get artists and writers back and forth across the country, and in 2010-11 we were lucky to have John Barton in Fredericton as writer-in-residence. One night over beer at The Lunar Rogue we realized that The Fiddlehead still tends to get submissions from the Atlantic region and The Malahat from British Columbia. We started to concoct a scheme we knew we’d forget in the morning for some kind of cumbersome joint issue crossing work from our two regions.

The Lunar Rogue pub in downtown Fredericton
The problem niggled at us, though. John was discovering writers out here he hadn’t read or even heard of, and I became increasingly aware of how little I knew of the far west. The collaborative Fiddlehead/Malahat issues became a firm commitment. Of course, it isn’t obvious what makes a writer an east coast or west coast writer, or even if we should care. One thing that became evident, however, is that many writers care. Whether “born and raised” or “transplanted,” writers in Canada think deeply about how we imagine home, environment, place, and space. They are not afraid to be identified with a region, or a city, a town, an island, a rural habitat, or a “middle of nowhere.”

Our west coast issue is, of course, an idiosyncratic assemblage. The writers included are a small and in some ways quirky sample of the extensive array of BC writers, and we didn’t spend much time worrying if the works we selected reflected some aspect of BC landscape or culture, though most do. As editors we understood that British Columbia is an “imagined community,” held together as a political construct. There is, however, some unidentifiable evanescent thread that runs through this our west coast issue, and, after reading it, you will know so much more about BC than you did before.

Ross Leckie

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