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THREE FOR THE FUTURE
Three Science Fiction Short Stories Set In Ontario
Selected by John Robert Colombo
The November 1982 edition of Leisure Ways, then the members'
magazine for the Ontario Motor League, and later the members' magazine
for the Canadian Automobile Association, contained three short-short
science fiction stories by Toronto authors
Terence M. Green,
Robert J. Sawyer, and
The stories were selected by
John Robert Colombo, and
the editor of Leisure Ways was Jerry Tutunjian.
Back in 1982, Leisure Ways had a circulation of
380,000 copies, and paid thirty-five cents a word for these stories; in
other words, a circulation four times greater than, and a pay rate six
times better than, the major science-fiction magazines of the day.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of this publication, Andrew, Rob,
Terry, and Jerry all gathered on Saturday evening, October 27, 2012,
at the home of John and Ruth Colombo for a wonderful party, complete
with each of us reading our stories out loud. Below, with the kind
permission of them all, are John's original introduction and the
L-R: Jerry Tutunjian, Andrew Weiner, Terence M. Green,
Robert J. Sawyer, and John Robert Colombo at the 2012 reunion.
Click photo for larger version.
Weiner story |
Sawyer story |
Green story |
I was having lunch with the editor of Leisure Ways. "Why
don't you publish some science fiction stories?" I asked.
"The magazine doesn't publish fiction," the editor answered.
"Our surveys show that our readers prefer non-fiction to fiction.
In fact, one of the most popular sections of the magazine are the
"But science fiction is concerned with travel travel into
"Our readers want short articles, not long stories."
"But there is a tradition within science fiction for the
short-short," I explained. "Stories of about 600 words."
"What I think you should do is commission, say, three local
writers to travel imaginatively into Ontario's future and to tell
us what they find there through the medium of fiction."
"Who are these writers?"
"I think you should approach Terence M. Green.
He's a high school teacher in Toronto whose stories have appeared in The
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Isaac Asimov's
SF Magazine. He could write knowledgeably about education in
the 21st century."
"There's Andrew Weiner. He's "
"Oh, we've published him in Leisure Ways. He's a fine
"Certainly he is, and he has a story in Harlan Ellison's
collection Again, Dangerous Visions. You might suggest he
consider the problem of housing and overcrowding in the future.
He has a nice light touch."
"Who's the third writer?"
"I'm quite impressed with Robert J. Sawyer,
a recent graduate in Radio and Television Arts from
Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
One of his short-shorts placed in a
Village Voice contest."
"What would Sawyer write about?"
"That's a problem. Give him some leeway ... I think he will come
up with something unusual."
"What makes you think our readers would enjoy reading stories set
in the future?"
"Everyone is curious about what lies ahead. Now, many of your
readers may be unfamiliar with science fiction, so to make it
less confusing for them, we might ask our three writers to set
their stories in Ontario, and we can request them to keep the
word-count down to 600 or 700 words. I think it's worth a
gamble. Why not risk it?"
"You're on!" said the editor of Leisure Ways.
And here they are. We hope you enjoy this futuristic foray into
Nationally known as the "Master Gatherer" for his collection
of Canadiana, John Robert Colombo's
best known books are Colombo's Canadian Quotations
and Colombo's Canadian Reference. His latest book,
Windigo, is an anthology on the Algonquin demon of the
THE HOUSING PROBLEM
by Andrew Weiner
Copyright © 1982 by Andrew Weiner
After signing a standard cohabitation contract, he for the second
time and she for the third, Melvin Quax and Myra Spelman
honeymooned on the Costa Antarctica, where for eight glorious
days they bathed in the solar warmth beamed down from UN Power
Returning to Toronto-Buffalo they continued their desperate
search for a place to live. Temporarily they were crammed into
Melvin's tiny studio apartment in the north end of town, just
inside the perimeter of the Godfrey Dome. They needed more
space, but space was impossible to find. The vacancy rate was a
slim 0.02 per cent that year, well below the 0.05 per cent
recommended by housing specialists. New building was at an
all-time low in this year of 2080, there being hardly anywhere
left to build.
After three months in Melvin's cramped little apartment, tempers
were beginning to fray. Melvin could hardly move without bumping
into Myra, and vice versa. Perhaps other people could have lived
more peaceably in such close contact. But Melvin, a tree surgeon
by profession, had grown accustomed to the vast open spaces of
the city's parks (some as large as a hundred metres square) while
Myra needed space for her hobby, which was weaving. Unable to
set up her loom and give vent to her creative energies, she found
herself picking on Melvin.
Then Melvin came across an enticing ad on the telidon:
DOUBLE OR TRIPLE YOUR LIVING SPACE
WITH KV SPACE EXTENDORS:
Changes a cubbyhole into a room fit for a king!
No structural alterations.
Just plug in and watch your home grow.
Works on revolutionary quantum mechanical principles.
The price was steep, but no steeper than the extra rent on a
larger apartment for just one year, if such could be found.
Melvin picked up the vidphone to call for a free, no-obligation
Myra had never seen such an enormous room. "But how does it
work?" she asked.
"Revolutionary quantum mechanical principles," Melvin told her.
"Expands interior spaces by a factor of 4.7."
He surveyed the room proudly.
"I thought we'd put your loom over there," he said, gesturing
into the distance. "And over here we can build a partition to
make a proper bedroom ..."
The next morning Melvin got out of bed and walked across his
greatly extended floor towards the bathroom and ... vanished.
Melted into thin air, which seemed briefly to shimmer around him.
"Dimension Warp," said the maintenance man from KV Space
Extendors, when he arrived in response to Myra's frantic call.
"We were afraid this would happen sooner or later. You see, the
extendor field exerts a lot of pressure on the fabric of space
and time. And in this case, it seems to have blown a hole
through to the other side. That's where your spousal equivalent
"But what's on the other side?"
"Good question," said the maintenance man. "Another dimension,
presumably. But I wouldn't worry about it. I'm sure he'll come
And that same night, a somewhat bewildered and harried looking Melvin
did come back, materializing in the very spot in which he
had vanished that morning. He was followed, promptly, by a
procession of little blue men, who spread themselves out across
the room, jabbering frantically to each other.
"Who are these people?" Myra asked.
"From the other side," Melvin said. He shuddered. "It was
awful, Myra. It's just full of them. We may think it's
crowded here ..."
"But what do they want?" Myra asked.
As if in answer, one of the little blue men turned to Myra and
said (telepathically, of course): "What an enormous room!"
OURS TO DISCOVER
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 1982 by Robert J. Sawyer
Old man Withers was crazy. Everybody said so, everybody but that
boy Eric. "Mr. Withers is an archeologist," Eric would say
whatever an archeologist might be. Remember that funny
blue-and-white sweater Withers found? He claimed he could look
at the markings on it and hear the words "Toronto Maple Leafs" in
his head. Toronto was the name of our steel-domed city, of
course, so I believed that much, but I'd never heard of a maple
leaf before. The same maple leaf symbol was in the centre of all
those old flags people kept finding in the ruins. Some thought a
maple leaf must have been a horrendous beast like a moose or a
beaver or a trudeau. Others thought it was a kind of crystal.
But crystals make people think of rocks and uranium and bombs
and, well, those are hardly topics for polite conversation.
Eric wanted to know for sure. He came around to the museum and
said, "Please, Mr. Curator, help me find out what a maple leaf
Truth to tell, I wasn't the real curator. I'd moved into the
museum, or rom (as some called it), because it was such a
nice building. No one ever used it, after all, and with so few
of us under the Dome you could live just about anywhere you
chose. Well, we looked, but Eric and I didn't have any luck
finding a real maple leaf among the few intact exhibits. "It
must have been something very special," Eric said. "It must have
meant something to our ancestors, back When Times Were Good." He
looked up at me with innocent eyes. "If we could find out what a
maple leaf was, maybe times would be good again."
Who was I to tell him he was dreaming? "You've looked everywhere
there is to look."
"We haven't looked outside of the Dome."
"Outside? There's nothing outside, lad."
"There has to be."
"Why?" I'd never heard such nonsense.
"There just has to be, that's all."
Well, you can't argue with that kind of logic. "Even if there
is," I said, "there's no way to go outside, so that's that."
"Yes there is," said Eric. "Mr. Withers found a door, way up in
North York. It's all rusted shut. If we took some of the tools
from here we might be able to open it."
Well, the boy insisted on going, and I couldn't let him hike all
that way alone, could I? We set out the next day. It'd been
years since I'd been to Dome's edge. They called it Steels
Avenue up there, which seemed an appropriate name for where the
iron Dome touched the ground. Sure enough, there was a door. I
felt sure somebody would have had the good sense to jam it
closed, so I didn't worry when I gave it a healthy pry with a
crowbar. Damned if the thing didn't pop right open. We stepped
There was magic out there. A huge ball of light hung up over our
heads. Tall and proud brown columns stretched as far as the eye
could see. On top they were like frozen fire: orange and red
and yellow. Little things were flying to and fro and they
were singing! Suddenly Eric fell to his knees. "Look,
Mr. Curator! Maple leafs!" There were millions of them,
covering the ground. More fluttered down from above, thin and
veined and beautiful. Eric looked up at me. "This must have
been what it was like When Times Were Good: people living
outside with the maple leafs. I think we should live out here,
Mr. Curator." I laughed and cried and hugged the boy. We turned
our backs on the dome and marched forward.
When it came time to fly a flag over our new town everyone agreed
it should be the maple leaf, forever.
by Terence M. Green
Copyright © 1982 by Terence M. Green
Peter Zendahl was excited. He had been Selected. God, it felt
good. It felt really good.
It had been 15 months since his last Selection. He could live
with that. Everybody else did. But, as everyone knew, one
needed these occasional rewards, these intermittent and
meaningful bouquets of recognition. Not token gestures. Real
gestures. Gestures with the guts left intact, with the challenge
It was the thing that he really liked about his teaching job
this chance to be Selected.
Every morning for four years, 300 days a year since buying
his condo in Pickering in 2052 he boarded the Transit, and
with appropriate via-transfers arrived at the William Davis Metro
Toronto Educational Centre. The hawk-like concrete structure
guarded the Toronto waterfront. Rising in the elevator to the
17th floor, he strode out into the Communications Division: row
upon row of metal desks, computer consoles, videotape facilities,
surrounded by studio rooms, vast tape-filled wall units,
illumined by soft recessed lighting which brightened the
industrial tan broadloom.
This was where he prepared his lessons, along with the other 150
Communications Educators hired by the Division. This was where
the tapes were conceived, written, produced, and annually
modified; they were broadcast to the Domestic Educational
Consoles in every home in Metro. On the 16th floor, below him,
the Pure Sciences Division was similarly engaged, and below them
Occupational Trades, Business Practices, then Social Sciences and
so on down to the Main Floor Pre-School Division.
Peter Zendahl had slipped neatly into the cogs.
In every North American city children gathered, 300 days a year,
in front of their DECs to view their lessons. The DECs in turn
processed responses through the Ed Centre's central Macrovac.
All grades and diplomas were computer stored for easy recall.
But today, instead of preparing his lessons as the other teachers
around him were doing, Peter Zendahl had been Selected. Today
The effectiveness-level of his last month's lessons had been in
the top 5 per cent. Peter would be rewarded. He would be
Language as a Function of Time. It was his script and
production of the lesson that had turned the trick. Students
quickly absorbed the initial concept and were able to complete
his Time-Space-Language coordinate charts in response. There had
been a 30 per cent request for more work in the area. Nothing
like this went unnoticed by the Macrovac.
Peter strode through the other teachers, heading to the far end
of the room, to Room 1786.
"Way to go, Peter."
"Lucky guy." His back was slapped.
He had been Selected.
He paused at the door to Room 1786, composed himself, breathed
deeply and turned the silently rolling handle. When he opened
it, 20 pairs of eyes turned and gazed at him with overt
He had been rewarded. He would be challenged.
Peter Zendahl had been selected to teach the Live Class this week
all week before returning to his videotapes,
computer consoles, studio rooms. There was only one such class
per floor, only 18 such classes in the whole city. Twenty real
live children as a class. This week they were his.
His chest filled with pride.
The children beamed.
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