SFWRITER.COM > Canadian SF > Aloud: Terence M. Green
Terence M. Green
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 1992 by Robert J.
All Rights Reserved.
Abstract: A 1,000-word profile of Canadian SF writer Terence M.
Green by Nebula-Award-winning SF writer Robert J. Sawyer.
Green is the author of the novels
Barking Dogs, Children of the Rainbow, Shadow of Ashland,
and Blue Limbo, and is a contributor to Asimov's,
F&SF, and the 1994 Tor anthology Northern Stars.
Interview conducted February 1992 at Green's home; first published in
Aloud, the newsletter of Toronto's Harbourfront
International Reading Series. Copyright 1992 by Robert J.
Sawyer. All rights reserved.
Terence M. Green is boldly going where no Canadian Science
Fiction Author has gone before. He's the first SF author in this
country to cross-over from having his books issued as genre SF in
the States to having a novel released as a mainstream work from a
major domestic publisher.
True, when Margaret Atwood and Hugh MacLennan wrote their SF
novels The Handmaid's Tale and Voices in Time, they
were released without the words "science fiction" on the spine.
But unlike them, Green comes squarely out of the genre tradition
of SF: he's best known for his brilliant short work in the
American digests Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Still,
McClelland & Stewart has just released Green's latest SF novel,
Children of the Rainbow, as a mainstream trade paperback.
"Publishing in the United States is broken into genres such as
science fiction and mystery," says Green, 45, a Toronto school
teacher. "I think that's unreasonable philosophically. It's a
marketing strategy that has nothing to do with reading or
writing. To have a genre called science fiction and to include
in it everything from Brack the Barbarian to Martin Amis's
Time's Arrow is to group the sublime and the ridiculous."
It's the quality of his work that propelled Green into the centre
of Canadian literature, of course. Few writers whether called
genre authors or mainstream have garnered the kind of reviews
Green has had. Inside the SF field, Green's short story
collection The Woman Who is the Midnight Wind
(Pottersfield, 1987) was hailed by Hugo-award-winning SF author
Orson Scott Card as "a milestone for all of us" and Locus: The
Newspaper of the SF Field said Green's first novel,
Barking Dogs (St. Martin's Press, 1988), was "not to be
But the general press was just as laudatory: Of Green's
collection, Canadian Materials said, "the writing is
captivating" with stories of "serious reflection, wry humour, and
devastating irony." And The Globe and Mail declared that
Barking Dogs would "keep the reader riveted to the last
And now, Children of the Rainbow, a time-travel novel.
"The story," says Green, "is about two people displaced in space
and time. You don't have to be a science fiction reader to
appreciate that. We're all displaced in one way or another. One
of my characters is displaced happily; the other, miserably. In
the novel, they're displaced through time by a nuclear blast.
Metaphorically, everyone at some point in their life encounters a
nuclear blast: the death of a loved one, the breakup of a
long-standing relationship, the loss of a job. You're displaced,
but you cope somehow. You go on. That's the psychological
realism of the book."
It's no surprise that in the acknowledgments for Children of
the Rainbow, Green credits "with real fondness" the apartment
on Heath Street East in Toronto where he put his own life back
together after one of his own personal nuclear blasts: the
break-up of his marriage. And his current writing project, an
expansion to novel length of his acclaimed short story
Ashland, Kentucky, likewise is a way of dealing with
another such blast: the death of his mother.
"It wasn't until I started dealing with these sorts of things
that my writing hit its power," says Green. "Up until then, I'd
been writing stuff. Now I incorporate painful life
experience. That turned out to be my voice the horrors of my
life. A writer has to deal with what's really important, with
what really moves you."
Perhaps the best assessment to date of Green's work comes from
Judith Merril, the principal North American
editor during SF's literary "New Wave" movement of the 1960s:
Terry Green wants to know what love is all about how it
happens, why it happens, what it does for/to people who love or
are loved. Using the uniquely flexible `special effects' of
science fantasy dislocations in space and time, alien
cultures, trick technology, outright magic he distances /
magnifies / highlights / contrasts the mechanisms and meanings of
these most familiar and least understood of all human
In a similar vein, M. T. Kelly, winner of the Governor General's
Award for fiction, says that Children of the Rainbow is
"written with passion and love. Its great humanity and religious
sense are as clear as the Pacific."
All the same, for one so fascinated by love, Green is often
characterized as being an angry writer. It's that anger that
drove his first novel, Barking Dogs, in which police
officer Mitch Helwig of Toronto's finest goes on a vigilante
spree, cleaning up the city's streets. He's armed with a hand
laser and the Barking Dog of the title, an infallible lie
detector that lets him play judge and jury to the scum making the
city Green grew up in unsafe. It's no mere coincidence that
Green dedicated Barking Dogs to his two sons, Conor and
Owen: his anger is that of a father enraged by what's happening
to the world his beloved children will grow up in.
Likewise, this passage from Children of the Rainbow is
quintessential Green. Here, Major Anderson, the commandant of
the Norfolk Island penal colony in 1835, faces a man from the
future who has taken the place of one of his prisoners:
Anderson studied the man. "I will tell you this: I am outraged
that you are somehow involved in something that has to do with my
family. May God help you if you step in where you have
absolutely no business. I will forget that I am a soldier, an
officer, and will let you know the full measure of my wrath as a
husband and father."
Green does write with anger, and with conviction, but it is all
driven by the love Judith Merril and M. T. Kelly cite. For
Terence M. Green, the limitless vistas of space and time are
simply metaphor. More than anything else, he's writing about
[1998 bionote] Robert J. Sawyer is the author of the
science-fiction novels Golden Fleece, Far-Seer,
Fossil Hunter, Foreigner, End of an Era,
The Terminal Experiment, Starplex,
Frameshift, Illegal Alien, and
Factoring Humanity. He won the
Nebula Award for Best Novel of the Year (for The Terminal
Experiment) and has been a finalist for the Hugo Award four times.
More Good Reading
More about Canadian SF
Encyclopedia Galactica entry on Terry Green
An older interview with Terry from Books in Canada
Rob's interview with Isaac Asimov
Rob's interview with Donald Kingsbury
Rob's tribute to Judith Merril
Rob's profile of Edo van Belkom