The History of ACCSFF


Below is brief account of the history of the conference; follow the links to see programs and photos from the various conferences.

ACCSFF has no official institutional home.  We have endeavoured to make the conference as self-sufficient as possible, but over the years it has benefited from the financial and other assistance from the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy, York University, and the Friends of the Merril Collection, as well as funding and volunteer labour from individuals.

The conference series began as the somewhat awkwardly named Academic Conference on Canadian Content in the Speculative Arts and Literature, or ACCCSAL.  It was founded by Jim Botte and Síân Reid in Ottawa, and was part of a general celebration of Canadian SF highlighted by the opening the National Library of Canada's exhibit on Canadian fantastic literature and art, "Out of This World" (May-September 1995).  The organizers invited four scholars--Robert Runte, Síàn Reid, Allan Weiss, and Paula Johanson--to present papers during one session as part of the Ottawa science fiction convention, Can*Con.

The following year, Jim Botte asked Allan Weiss to act as Chair, and ACCCSAL ran one more year in Ottawa, in 1996.  It was held at the National Museum of Science and Technology and featured a full day's program of papers.  Jim and Allan agreed that it would be best to move the conference to Toronto, where it gained a new home and a new name.











Judith Merril

Unquestionably, one of the most successful conferences was the first Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, held at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy in 1997.  The conference featured a full day of papers, plus addresses by Judith Merril and Guy Gavriel Kay.  About 50 registrants altogether attended the events both the night before the conference and during the day.  The event also featured a tribute to Phyllis Gotlieb, considered the "mother" of Canadian SF.

Nancy Johnston became Chair in 1998.  ACCSFF remained at the Merril Collection in 1998, then moved to Ryerson in 1999.  In 2002, Nancy and Doug Ivison organized ACCSFF as part of the Learneds--the Congress of Learned Societies--at the University of Toronto, more precisely St. Michael's College.





Margaret Atwood In 2003, Allan Weiss returned as Chair and the conference returned to the Merril Collection.  The highlight was the keynote address by Margaret Atwood; she also sat on the Canadian SF Panel, sharing ideas about the fantastic in her work and Canadian literature in general.

Since then, the conference has been held consistently every two years, and has featured such speakers as Robert Charles Wilson, Peter Fitting, Elizabeth Miller, and Peter Watts.  Papers have covered topics ranging from the fiction of Watts and Atwood to media expressions and young adult literature.