Seven Science Fiction and Supernatural Books by Early Ontario Writers (Free Downloads)
One of the Digital Archive's best-kept secrets is its growing collection of digitized books. These are full-length, hard-to-find books available for instant access as PDFs — no library card required!
Below is a list of science fiction and supernatural ebooks either by authors from Ontario (at least, what is now known as Ontario) or by authors who spent a significant part of their lives there. The original books are held in the library's Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy.
1. Kalee's Shrine, by Grant Allen (1897)
Born in India, main character Olga Trevelyan is imparted with a destructive spirit from a Hindu goddess. Living in England as a young woman, Olga's secret past threatens to emerge in dangerous ways (The Academy of Literature, page 179). An example of the imperial gothic genre, this story was conceived by Mary Cotes, whose name appears in the edition by publisher Bristol: Arrowsmith.
Grant Allen (1848-1899) was born in Kingston, Ontario. He spent much of his adult years in Europe, authoring more than 30 novels. His best-known work is The Woman Who Did.
2. Looking Forward: The Strange Experience of the Rev. Fergus McCheyne, by Hugh Pedley (1913)
The protagonist in this piece of speculative fiction falls asleep for decades after he tests a new drug. Upon awaking, he discovers that he is living in a utopian Canada brought about by the United Church of Canada (A Historical Survey of Canadian Science Fiction, page 89).
Hugh Pedley (1852-1923) was an English-born Unitarian Minister. Pedley's Ontario connection is that he spent ten years in the Congregational pulpit of Cobourg, Ontario and was later made chair of the Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec (Canadian Society of Church History, pages 82-83).
3. The Iron Man and the Tin Woman, with Other Such Futurities, by Stephen Leacock (1929)*
Set in the near future, this collection of satirical stories parodies the science fiction genre (A Historical Survey of Canadian Science Fiction, page 89). One story, "When Social Regulation is Complete", opens with a couple walking the streets in fear of Preventive Officers Against Premature Courtship (and an Inspector of Shoes!).
Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) was born in England but his family settled near Lake Simcoe, Ontario when he was a child. Still a well-known figure in Canadian Literature, Leacock was the "English-speaking world's best known humorist between 1915-1925" (The Canadian Encyclopedia). His most well-known work is the humorous Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.
*this cover is different than the cover in the Digital Archive.
4. The Woman Who Couldn't Die, by Arthur Stringer (1929)
In this lost world story with romantic elements, a Viking named Thera dies in what is now the Northwest Territories, Canada. She is frozen in ice and worshiped by the indigenous inhabitants only to be brought back to life 900 years later (Science Fiction: The Early Years, page 715).
Arthur Stringer (1874-1950) was born in Chatham, Ontario. Stringer moved to the United States in 1898. He wrote books in many different genres, as well as poetry (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction).
5. The Copper Disc, by Robert J.C. Stead (1931)
Very little has been written about this novel. Here is the only summary I could find: "a thriller about a diabolical professor out to control the world" (Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, page 19).
Robert J.C. Stead (1880-1959) was born in Lanark County, Ontario. As a child, Stead moved to Manitoba, which became the inspiration for the settings of much of his writing (University of Ottawa Press).
6. Afternoon in Utopia: Tales of the New Time, by Stephen Leacock (1932)
This collection of stories pokes fun at utopian books like another entry on this list, Hugh Pedley's Looking Forward. The dust jacket flap advertises the stories as "laughable to the verge of tears, but at the same time philosophical to the verge of perplexity." The flap highlights stories that criticize communism, examine medical progress and describe a "fascinating but quite harmless war in Utopia."
7. Consider Her Ways, by Frederick Philip Grove (1947)
Published in Toronto, this novel was written over the span of ten years. Its plot involves a scientist who gains insights about human society after developing the ability to telepathically communicate with three ants (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction).
Frederick Philip Grove (1879-1948) immigrated to Canada from Germany as an adult. He lived the last part of his life in Simcoe, Ontario (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction).
Add any of your favourite Ontario authors — of any genre — in the comments below!