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This afternoon, I dropped by the Toronto Reference Library to browse its shelves. As one would expect, Toronto's central library has a very large collection of materials in languages other than English, ready for lenders to pick up. Out of curiosity, I stopped by to see what the Scots Gaelic collection looked like.

The Scots Gaelic shelf at the Toronto Reference Library


There were two shelves of Frisian-language materials above the shelf of Gaelic books, and the Frisian shelves were packed.

This is a sort of afterthought to the death of Gaelic as a living language in Canada. I grew up in the Maritimes, in the province of Prince Edward Island. In that province, now overwhelmingly populated by speakers of English, Canadian Gaelic was once very widely spoken. It was even the main language of, among others, my maternal grandmother’s family. She did not speak the language, though, her parents choosing not to teach it to her. They said that they did not want their many children to learn their neighbourhood gossip.



(The Matheson family lived in the east of what this map calls Eilean Eòin.)

Canadian Gaelic did not persist, not even in the Atlantic Canadian territories where it had been most successfully transplanted, even though it was a (distant) third among European languages spoken in Canada. My feeling is that the speakers of the language did not value it. Part of this may have had to do with the very different statuses of the French and Gaelic languages internationally. French was a high-status language that was a prestigious and credible rival to English, while Gaelic was a much more obscure language looked down upon by almost everyone--including many speakers of Gaelic--with at most hundreds of thousands of speakers. Canada’s Francophone minorities did face oppression, but their language and their community’s existence was something their Anglophone neighbours could more easily accept as legitimate, and that Francophones themselves accepted as legitimate.

This leads to the tendency of speakers of Canadian Gaelic were not committed to the survival of their language. I mentioned above that my maternal grandmother’s parents decided not to transmit the language to their children. In this, occurring soon after the turn of the 20th century, they were far from alone. Speakers of Canadian Gaelic were generally quick to discard this language for an English that was seen as more useful. The survival of the language was not seen as especially important: For a Gaelic-speaking Protestant, for instance, the bond of Protestantism that united them with an Anglophone Protestant was more important than the bond of language that united them with a Gaelic-speaking Catholic. In Gaelic Canada, there was just nothing at all like the push for survivance across the spectrum in French Canada that helped Canadian Francophones survive in a wider country that was--at best--disinterested in the survival of its largest minority.

Fragmented, without any elite interested in preserving the language and its associated culture or a general population likely to support such an elite, the Canadian Gaelic community was bound to go under. And so, in the course of the 20th century, it did, the smaller and more isolated communities going before the larger ones. There are still, I am told, native speakers of Gaelic in Cape Breton, long the heartland of Gaelic Canada, and there is a substantial push to revive the language’s teaching and use in public life in Nova Scotia. I fear this is too little, too late. The time for that was a century ago, likely earlier. If that incentive to give Gaelic official status and a role in public life had been active in the mid-19th century, who knows what might have come of this?

(For further reading on the history of Gaelic in Prince Edward Island, I strongly recommend Dr. Michael Kennedy’s preface (PDF format) to John Shaw’s 1987 recordings of the last creators of Gaelic on Prince Edward Island.)

Was the death of Gaelic as a widely-spoken language in Canada inevitable? Or, was there any possibility of a revival movement, of a renewed valorization of Scots Gaelic? I have wondered in the past if having Cape Breton remain a province separate from Nova Scotia, thus creating a polity populated mainly by Gaelic speakers, might create some kind of incentive for Gaelic to be politically useful.

Thoughts?

(Crossposted to alternatehistory.com.)
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Detail, The Death of General Wolfe (1770)


Early in January, before my trip to Montréal, I went to the Royal Ontario Museum where I saw--among other things--the museum's copy of Benjamin Wolfe's painting The Death of General Wolfe. This famous tableau's depiction of the death of James Wolfe, the commander of the victorious British forces in 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham that saw the fall of French Canada and the end of New France but who barely lived to see the end of the battle himself, is literally iconic. This moment marks the end of one empire and the expansion of another.

Was the end of New France inevitable? Quite a few fans of alternate history suggest that it was. In perhaps the classic few, the value of France to colonize its North American territories nearly as thoroughly as England (and later the United Kingdom) did theirs ensured that, ultimately, New France would be overwhelmed by the colonists. Some even go so far as to argue that New France was a failing colony, that the failure to expand French colonization much beyond the Saint Lawrence valley demonstrates a fundamental lack of French interest. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was irrelevant.

I'm not sure that I buy this. Conceivably there could have been more French settlement in New France, perhaps with a bigger push under Louis XIV, but it isn't clear to me that France in America was a failure. New France's economy was built substantially on trade with indigenous peoples and not on (for instance) the plantation colony of many British colonies, making increased French settlement irrelevant at best and potentially harmful at worst. As it was, French Canada was actually a dynamic society, the St. Lawrence valley becoming home of a colonial offshoot of France with outposts stretching far west into the basin of the Great Lakes and, not incidentally, managing to hold off conquest by the British for nearly a century and a half. New France was not nearly as populous as the Thirteen Colonies, but that no more proves that New France was a failure than (say) the fact that Spain's Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata was less populous than Portuguese Brazil means that the Spanish colony was a failure. At most, there was underexploited potential. If French Canada has since largely contracted to the frontiers of modern Québec, it is because successive British administrations have taken care to hem it in.

Had the Battle of the Plains of Abraham gone even slightly differently, there could have been a French victory. The end of the Seven Years War could have seen the French flag continue to fly in Canada. Even if Canada had fallen, that it would be kept by Britain was by no means preordained: Had Britain preferred to keep the valuable French sugar island of Guadeloupe, or had the French government different priorities, Canada might have been restored to France in the peace.

What would this surviving French Canada have been like?

It's certainly possible that a continued French presence in Canada would have helped discourage the Thirteen Colonies from rebelling against the British Empire, especially if it was perceived as a threat. It's not clear to me that this would automatically be the case, especially if New France had been weakened in the conflict, demilitarized and/or territorially diminished. Perhaps, in this timeline, the Americans might revolt against Britain in anger that their interests were neglected in the settlement of the final peace. We might not see a conflict like the War of American Independence, but then again we might. If this war, or another great power Anglo-French war does come about, then France will face the same cascade of dysfunctional public financies than in our history triggered the revolution.

What will become of Canada in all this? I can imagine that it might, or might not, receive more attention from France. I suppose that, if history runs along the lines we are familiar with up to the French Revolution, Canada might be in an interesting position versus the metropole. (A French kingdom in exile?) It is imaginable that a populous French Canada might stay French, especially if the Americans are allies and Britain has interest elsewhere. The case can be made that French Canada could survive, within borders not wildly different from that of modern Canada, into the 19th century.

Here, I'm stymied. It is not easy to imagine the development of French Canada as a French territory for the simple reason that France had no colonies of settlement like (for instance) Britain had Canada. French Algeria eventually became a destination for European immigration, but most of these immigrants came from elsewhere in the western Mediterranean (Spain and Italy particularly) and they arrived in a territory that never stopped being overwhelmingly Arab-Berber and Muslim in nature. New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, also received substantial numbers of settlers relative to the native population, but the absolute numbers were low. There is no close parallel, not in the second French colonial empire, to a colony like Canada, a vast semi-continent with a substantial population mostly descended from French colonists.

I do think France could certainly colonize Canada as thoroughly as Britain later did, especially if France enjoys stability and peace. Franco-Canadian relations were broken by the Conquest and only began to pick up again a century later, as the French became dimly aware that the Canadiens survived. In a timeline where the relationship between France and Canada was never disrupted, Franco-Canadian relations would be far more intense. Trade and investment flows aside, we might see well see substantial amounts of French immigration to a prosperous Canada, and more immigrants coming from outside France, just as in the case of Algeria. The details depend critically on the borders of this Canada and its relationship to its neighbours, but I see no reason why French Canada could not be successful.

Even if--a big if--French history remains largely unchanged up to the mid-19th century, the existence of a large, populous, and growing French Canada will eventually change the French polity rapidly. How will the millions of Canadiens be represented in French political life? A populous American branch of the French empire will have very substantial consequences.

What do you think?
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My Feedly feed pointed me to a provoactive article by Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog written by one Matt Novak, "New Zealand Could Have Been Part of the United States". The title sounds sensationalistic, but Novak does make the good point that the young British colony of New Zealand in the mid-19th century did have very close ties with the United States.

New Zealand became a British colony in 1841, but white emigration to the island nation, which was inhabited by the native Maori people, didn’t really surge until gold was discovered in 1861. The gold rush saw New Zealand’s population explode in the 1860s from roughly 99,000 at the start of the decade to 256,000 by 1871. The gold rush brought plenty of Californians, and the colony became inundated with a relatively small but rowdy bunch of Americans who didn’t acknowledge any allegiance to the United Kingdom.

As historian Gerald Horne explains in the 2007 book The White Pacific, “When gold was discovered in Otago in 1861, it was the New Zealanders who attracted attention from California to the point where there was very temporary talk of New Zealand becoming a part of the United States. In both England and New Zealand it was widely believed that an independent New Zealand would gravitate toward the U.S. sphere.”

If the small colony of New Zealand had sought independence from Britain in the 1860s or 70s, Americans could well be calling it a territory, or even a state. After all, there were just 33 American states in 1860.

The New Zealand gold rush also happened to coincide with the beginning of the American Civil War. After the war, there was a Confederate diaspora to the South Pacific—former slave owners in the Southern United States who kept up the slave trade in places like Fiji and Australia. Former American Confederates fled to places like New Zealand, which itself had outlawed slavery, but was just a short hop away from where the trade of human beings was still tacitly accepted.

Anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000 slaves were brought to Australia to work in sugar and cotton fields there between the 1860s and 1900, despite the fact that the country officially forbade slavery. Trade skyrocketed between the United States and New Zealand in the second half of the 19th century as a result of this increased activity by Californians and Confederates in the South Pacific—traders trafficking in both the gold rush of human beings, driven by British and American demand for cheap cotton, and the literal gold rush.


These certainly were close links. For the United States to have been able to challenge British rule in New Zealand, however, would imply a United States with a much stronger navy relative to the British Empire than OTL. Too, there would be plenty of closer targets in the British Empire for the United States to aim for--Canada, to start, and the Caribbean if the United States had the appetite. Notwithstanding the significant American influence in Polynesia, a United States that was able to take over New Zealand would be a much bigger naval power than OTL.

Is there a scenario that could give us an American New Zealand? What would it involve? With minimal divergences, I could only imagine a United States that had waged a successful war against the British Empire in concert with other great powers. A Franco-American alliance, maybe? A peaceful handover is more difficult to imagine still, though perhaps if the United Kingdom thought it could not secure these islands passing it to an ally might be imaginable. Another possibility I can imagine would involve Americans actually preempting the British and the French in extending their sovereignty over the homeland of the Maori, something perhaps involving early whalers.

What would work? As importantly, what would an American New Zealand look like? I am afraid that, if the paradigm applied to the indigenous peoples of the American West was applied here, the Maori might encountered significantly worse outcomes than in our history.
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The other day, I came across an article by Samuel Osborne in the Independent, "CIA had secret plan to give Falkland Islands to Argentina and relocate islanders to Scotland." In it, Osborne describes American thinking on a settlement of the Falklands War assuming--as was entirely possible--an Argentine victory.

“For a period of three years the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands will be given a chance to consider whether they wish to remain on the Falkland Islands or whether they wish to relocate to an area of British jurisdiction, either in the UK or elsewhere under British sovereignty, with a relocation grant of $100,000 per person," Mr Rowen wrote.

“It is likely that many residents will find this sufficient inducement to relocate to some other area, perhaps in Scotland or elsewhere where conditions may be similar to the Falkland Islands.”

He adds: “Any residents who do not wish to relocate will be free to remain and become Argentinian citizens at the end of three years.

“The cost of the relocation grants to be paid to any residents of the Falkland Islands wishing to relocate elsewhere will be borne fifty/fifty by the Argentinian and British governments.”

The plans were addressed to Paul Wolfowitz, a Department of State advisor to President Ronald Reagan.

They also called for "some appropriate penalty upon the Argentinians for having used armed force to seek to settle an international dispute."


This sort of intermediate phase of British rule under Argentine sovereignty, followed by a complete reversion to Argentine sovereignty, seems like a plausible outcome assuming that the United Kingdom had decisively lost the contest to control the islands. Is it? What price would Argentina be forced to pay for its conquest of the Falklands? And how would this--the acquisition of the islands, also the cost of their acquisition imposed by the United States--complicate the democratic transition in Argentina of our timeline in the 1980s?
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In an article by CBC News' Sara Fraser looking at how Prince Edward Island has had its choice of Confederation-related anniversaries lately now that we're nearing the 150th--the Charlottetown Conference of 1864, the formation of Canada in 1867, the entry of Prince Edward Island into Confederation in 1873--local historian and folklorist David Weale raised the question of whether Confederation was necessary for the Island.

"The real problem on P.E.I. is that there is a really interesting story associated with Confederation and P.E.I. and we've turned it into a boring story," he said from his Charlottetown home.

In 1864, he points out, Islanders wanted nothing to do with Confederation — P.E.I. politicians didn't even really want to discuss Maritime union.

"Islanders had this feisty, independent spirit that they wanted to go on their own," Weale said. P.E.I. was prospering, its population was booming and Island politicians had even held independent talks with the U.S. on free trade.

"Islanders have probably never been united on any other issue as much as they were in their desire to be independent and to stay out of Confederation," Weale said. One Summerside newspaper, he said, was actively campaigning for P.E.I. to become a U.S. state.

"We'd been fighting against the British government control of us — now did we just want to turn it over to some people in Ontario? That was playing out in their minds," Weale said.

They were "heady times," he said, but whether P.E.I. would have been better off independent, he admits he doesn't know — but that's not exactly the point. It's the whitewashing, whether intentional or through ignorance, that bothers him more.


As a fan of alternate history, I would suggest that we can develop a reasonably good idea as to whether or not Prince Edward Island would have been better off independent. Francis Bulger's "Prince Edward Island and Confederation 1863-1873", published in 1961 in the Report of the Canadian Catholic Historical Association, observes that the entry of Prince Edward Island into Confederation was triggered by economic catastrophe, the costs of building the Prince Edward Island Railway forcing the Island to choose between Confederation and bankruptcy.

Since Prince Edward Island had rejected Confederation based upon the Quebec Resolutions because it considered such a scheme “would prove politically, commercially and financially disastrous to the rights and best interests of its people,” the Dominion realized that it would have to make a more generous settlement to offset these declared disadvantages if it were to succeed in inducing the Island to enter Confederation. Accordingly, the terms of Confederation offered to Prince Edward Island in 1869 were more generous than those provided by the Quebec Resolutions. The new provisions were “better” in that the Dominion government promised to establish efficient steam service and constant communication between the Island and the Mainland and to provide a loan of $800,000 to enable the Island to purchase the proprietary lands if this compensation could not be obtained from the Imperial government.

The attitude of Prince Edward Islanders to these proposals revealed that they were still so bent on maintaining their independence that as the Dominion offered more concessions they were prepared to demand additional ones. They refused to accept the new proposals. They maintained that the proposed terms did not include an adequate solution of the land question because the $800,000 compensation should come from the Imperial government accompanied by a guarantee that the proprietors would be compelled to sell their lands. They also asserted that the Dominion should build a railway on the Island. The reaction of Prince Edward Island to the “better terms” made it apparent that only the presence of some compelling crisis would ever induce it to enter into union with Canada.

In the year 1871 the Island government unwittingly took a step that was destined to provide the emergency which led to Confederation. In the session of the Legislature of that year a railway bill was passed which was decisive in making the Island a province of the Dominion. Two years later railway liabilities so imperilled the Island’s position in the money market and brought its economy so close to callapse that the Island government reluctantly admitted that Confederation was the only possible solution. Delegates from the Island entered into negotiations with the Dominion and submitted terms of Confederation to the electors. The people were informed that their independence could not be maintained any longer since the Island was encumbered with a debt entirely disproportionate to its resources. They were also advised that increased taxation, besides being unbearable, would only postpone the inevitable which in the end would have to be accepted. The people reluctantly yielded to these arguments.

The role played by Prince Edward Island in the final act of the Confederation drama was in perfect harmony with previous performances. Confederation was viewed primarily in terms of the financial settlement. The electors while voting in favour of the principle of Confederation gave the mandate to the party that promised to secure still better terms of admission. The new government entered into further negotiations with the Dominion and obtained a few additional concessions. In May, 1873, the new terms were carried almost unanimously by the Island Legislature. Local patriotism had finally been forced to yield to economic necessity and on July 1, 1873 Prince Edward Island became a province of the Dominion of Canada.


Note, too, that the other major provision of the Island's entry into Confederation was the buying out of absentee landlords, overseas proprietors who owned the land of the province.

Without the Island's entry into Confederation, what could have happened but catastrophe? The province was unable to finance its debts, and Confederation was the only bailout that the British Empire was willing to offer. Had the Island persisted in maintaining its independence in Canada, the only outcome imaginable would be that of a failed state. Long before then, I suspect that popular pressure for relief on any terms would have seen Prince Edward Island join its larger neighbour, the only difference being much avoidable suffering.

If the Island had not entered into the destructive plan to build a railroad--why not is beyond me, since a railroad seemed to be a popular and rational way to further the economic development of the province--could it have done better? Was there potential, as Weale suggests, that were left unfulfilled? For the Maritimes as a whole, perhaps: Nova Scotia was a province particularly well-positioned to experience a mercantile industrial revolution, but the whole of the Maritimes could conceivably have shared.

What of the Island specifically, almost wholly agricultural, without significant industrial resources, and--until Anne of Green Gables--without any other economic resources of note but its mobile workforce? Was there the potential for the Island specifically to develop somehow, to avoid being the agrarian source of labourers that it was almost to the end of the 20th century? I would argue that the necessary resources were not there, that the Island developed much as you would expect any peripheral agricultural region on the fringes of booming industrial areas to develop. The Island's pre-Confederation economic model, with the most promising proto-industrial sector being wooden shipbuilding, was failing by the 1860s. The scale of emigration had become so huge by the 1890s as to cause net population decline, but as Amanda Creamer noted emigration to New England had begun on a substantial scale as early as the 1850s in response to local problems.

Even in a best-case scenario, Prince Edward Island and its population would seem likely to lose out. Abandoning membership in a much larger and wealthier Canada would deprive the Island of resources that it simply lacked the wherewithal to acquire on its own, while independence would be unlikely to bring about a positive economic transformation. Particularly with absentee landlordism playing a role, the case could be made that Island agriculture would be worse off, and where agriculture went so would the entire Island. An independent Prince Edward Island might do better than Newfoundland, in that its agrarian economy would be more self-sustained, but not much better.
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When I visited the Microsoft Store in the Eaton Centre at the beginning of December, I was interested to see that among the covers for the Surface Pro 4 that this store carried were some carrying the logo of the AFL's Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo Bills for the Toronto market #toronto #eatoncentre #microsoftstore #surface #buffalobills


Clearly, this store's inventory came from someone who knew Toronto's history with this team.

The intermittent efforts of urbanists and regionalists to make Toronto part of a cross-border megalopolis, one stretching west along the shoreline of Lake Ontario from Toronto up the Niagara River to Buffalo, have really not worked out. There's not enough binding the Golden Horseshore together, never mind roping the American side of the Niagara River into a community divided by relatively impermeable borders. The only readily visible sign that such a community exists lies in the relative popularity of the Buffalo Bills in the Greater Toronto Area.

As early as 2007, there were seriously concerns that the Buffalo Bills might be moved to Toronto in its owners' search for a larger and richer market. For a few years, the Buffalo Bills even held home games in Toronto's Rogers Centre. In 2014, these came to an end, as the people concerned decided the games just were not worth it.

Even if the owners had wanted to move, Toronto, I think, would have been a difficult market. Mine is just not a good sports city from the perspective of high-performing teams or popular teams, whether you look at Toronto FC or the Argonauts or the Maple Leafs. Perhaps the Raptors might be an exception? There would have been controversy surrounding the move at the Buffalo end, as well as at the Canadian end--an AFL intrusion into Canadian football territory would have been controversial.

Could it have happened? What would it have taken for this to occur?
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I was startled to see the above image in my RSS feed, contained within Emily Landau's Toronto Life feature "This Toronto photographer reimagines the skyline as a post-apocalyptic dystopia". This image, and many others, is the product of Instagram user Justin Main, known as photified on that platform. His surreal alternate histories are amazing.

Over the past few years, the iconic Toronto skyline has become a creative blank slate for Toronto artists, who are taking familiar elements—the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, waterfront skyscrapers—and transforming them into fantastical cityscapes. One of the most inventive Instagrammers on the scene is Justin Main, a prolific photographer who goes by the handle @photified on Instagram. Main’s shots make the city seem like the world of a video game: he shows the skyline sprouting out of an iPhone screen, envisions giants stomping on the city and reimagines Toronto as a miniature city in a turtle tank. The photos are cheeky, striking and sometimes a bit scary.

The 30-year-old Main grew up in Barrie. When he was 14, he fell in love with Photoshop, spending all his spare time manipulating images. He studied photography at Georgian College, but after he graduated, he found himself weighed down by OSAP loans and decided to give up his photographic aspirations for something more stable. He got a gig at the Honda factory in Alliston, Ontario, and spent the next three years assembling car engines.

About five years ago, Main decided to quit his job, move to Toronto and pursue photography full time. “I was discouraged by most of my family and friends, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,” he says. For the first couple of years, he worked in the music industry, creating album covers for hip-hop mixtapes. His ultimate goal was to get into advertising, so in 2013 he embarked on a Project 365, which involves posting one image every day. He never missed a day—even during the 2013 ice storm, when he lost power and had to camp out in Tim Hortons to work on his laptop. Three years later, he’s amassed tens of thousands of Instagram followers, and when he’s not posting on Instagram, he’s creating images for brands like Google, Club Med, Crayola and Timberland.

Main’s shots are complex photo collages: he often spends up to 12 hours a day cropping, lighting and tinting on Photoshop, splicing together anywhere from two to 15 individual images. Many of his images are magical twists on classic Toronto sights, like the Island, the DVP and Brookfield Place.

[. . .]

This vaguely apocalyptic landscape combines the Toronto waterfront with a rocky cliffside, making the city resemble an isolated medieval fortress. “I dreamed this up after a discussion with a friend about lunar tides,” Main explains. “I wanted to exaggerate Toronto, so it kind of looked like the Bay of Fundy.”


I normally don't follow Instagram photo art accounts, but I followed this one. You may want to do the same.
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At Filipino news site Rappler, JC Punongbayan and Manuel Leonard Albis argue in their "Were it not for Marcos, Filipinos today would have been richer" that the Marcos regime had a lasting and very negative effect on the development of the Filipino economy.

Although imperfect, GDP per capita is widely recognized as a useful proxy for measuring people’s welfare: The larger people’s incomes are, the more goods and services they can purchase and the freer they are in making choices for their own lives.

It bears repeating that, based on this metric, the Philippines lost two decades of development after the debt crisis in the early 1980s. Figure 1 shows that the Marcosian debt crisis put the country on a lower income trajectory. As a result, it took more than two decades for the average Filipino’s income to recover its 1982 level.



Importantly, no such downturn was observed in our ASEAN neighbors. In fact, their incomes grew by 2 to 4 times during the time it took us to just recover. This suggests that the Philippines’ “lost decades of development” were not unavoidable and were borne directly by Marcos’ policies.


The consequences were severe. Had the Philippines not dropped behind its neighbours but instead kept its relative position, it might be the richest large country of Southeast Asia, on the verge of First World status even. Instead, the Filipino economy went into first a pronounced relative decline, then after the early 1980s a pronounced absolute decline that took more than two decades to recover from.

Was the Marcos regime or something like it inevitable, or was it something that could have been avoided? What could a rich Philippines look like?
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Journalist Kate Heartfield's essay for Article Magazine, "Decolonizing the future", provides an exciting take on how indigenous writers of science fiction are rewriting the genre, on imagining futures for their peoples and their cultures.

Wshe was in eighth grade, Darcie Little Badger read in a book at school that the Lipan Apache people — her own people — were “extinct.”

“Like dinosaurs!” she would joke on Twitter years later.

Now she’s an oceanographer who specializes in phytoplankton genetics and a writer of speculative fiction. In one of her recent short stories, “Né łe”, a Lipan Apache veterinarian travels to Mars.

“It really is for me all about the survival aspect,” she explains. “As I was growing up and reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy, I wasn’t really seeing Native characters. That made me wonder why not. Are they all gone, or are they forgotten? This hit me really hard because my tribe really struggled for a long time to survive and is really still struggling… That act of existing, in a science fiction story, in a futuristic setting, is a triumph of endurance to me and it does go against the narrative of colonialism that we really don’t exist.”

The concept of “the future” only exists in the present. It can be shaped by the same colonial structures and narratives that shape the North American present, or it can affirm Indigenous land and sovereignty.

This global, multidirectional work of decolonization has always been a part of the science fiction (SF) canon it critiques — Afrofuturism, for example, has a long literary tradition. It’s long been part of the work of First Nations, Métis and Inuit writers. But Daniel Heath Justice, a speculative fiction writer himself and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture, says the Indigenous science fiction of North America is now coming into a “golden age.”

“One of the battles that Indigenous writers had for a long time was to have their work seen as real literature and I don’t think we have that same struggle now in the same way. It’s ongoing but I don’t think it’s as acute as it was. So I think now a lot of writers may feel a little bit more comfort in going into genres that may or may not have been seen as having a lot of literary merit for a while.”
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  • At Apostrophen, 'Nathan Smith talks about how he made a tradition out of Christmas tree ornamentation over the past twenty years.

  • blogTO notes that Toronto's waterfront has major E Coli issues.

  • Crooked Timber notes the potential for the recent by-election in London, fought on Brexit and lost by the Tories, to mean something.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on a search for radio flares from brown dwarfs.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that China has been installing ecologies on its artificial South China Sea islands.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers what it means to be an ally.

  • The LRB Blog looks at the complex peace negotiations in Colombia.

  • The Map Room Blog shares a map of American infrastructure.

  • Marginal Revolution notes a one-terabyte drive passed from person to person that serves as a sort of Internet in Cuba.

  • Towleroad notes a film project by one Leo Herrera that aims to imagine what prominent AIDS victims would have done and been like had their not been killed by the epidemic.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the complexities surrounding Brexit.

  • Arnold Zwicky has had enough with linguistic prescriptivism.

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At the Alternate History forums, I ask the question of what Cuba would have become absent the Castro takeover. (Richer, but substantially more unstable and unequal, is my first suggestion.)
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Author Hayden Trenholm's proposed 49th Parallels anthology dealing with Canada-relevant alternate histories with points of divergence after 1867, sounds fascinating. Metro News's Haley Ritchie had an enlightening interview with Trenholm on the subject.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier said the 20th century would belong to Canada – to be fair, it didn’t quite turn out that way, but what if it had?

In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, Bundoran Press Publishing House is planning a science fiction anthology exploring alternative histories and futures – what would have happened if the country took a very different turn.

[. . .]

Trenholm’s anthology, titled 49th Parallels, will be filled with short stories by authors across Canada exploring unexpected twists in the country’s history and future.

Trenholm is crowdfunding on IndieGoGo to raise some extra money to better pay writers. So far he’s raised around $1200 for the project, which will be published in fall 2017.

The writers submitting to the anthology will have 150 years to choose from to warp history – including the invention of penicillin, the first radio transmission across the ocean or even confederation.

“The real purpose of doing that is of course to turn a mirror on the society we now have,” said Trenholm. “People tend to think that the way things are is the way things had to be – but of course that’s not true.”

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