Robert Runté Recommends Playground of Lost Toys


Playground of Lost Toys
edited by Ursula Pflug and Colleen Anderson

Genre: Speculative Fiction

Quick description:
An anthology of 22 original short stories by a cross section of Canada’s top sf, fantasy and horror writers examines the role that that one special toy plays in our childhoods and/or the impact that has on our adult selves.

Ursula Pflug

Ursula Pflug

Why I recommend this book:
This wasn’t an anthology I thought I’d be interested in, but I really respect the editors, so I ultimately got involved. And then, at a prelaunch party I heard some of the writers read from the anthology and it blew me away! So not the sentimental stories about lost dolls I had half expected. Instead, an incredible array of powerful writing that ranged from funny to moving to chilling.

Colleen Anderson

Colleen Anderson

I may never get some of the imagery out of my head! When I finally got my copy I was struck by how the editors had been able to assemble an indispensable collection of some of the best writing this country has to offer. The thoughtful introductions by the editors, and the afterword by Derek Newman-Stiles, are themselves worth the price of admission. Table of contents is available at the website. Ursula Pflug has been previously featured on Reading Recommendations.

Links for people to buy the book:

runte2 Guest reviewer’s latest title or project:
My latest sale was the short story “The Age of Miracles” to the Strangers Among Us anthology, edited by Lucas Law and Susan Forest, due out in August 2016. The anthology is on the theme of, and a benefit for, mental health. (Robert Runté is a contributor to this anthology and has also been previously featured on Reading Recommendations.)

Robert Runté Recommends Dave Duncan

When Robert Runté suggested recommending Dave Duncan on this blog I jumped at the chance to feature an author whose work I’d known since I first began selling books in Calgary in 1978. The Guild Gallery did not stock many science fiction or fantasy books, but we did sell those written by local author, Dave Duncan! He was a best-selling author back then, and I was so pleased when Robert mentioned he was recommending Dave’s 50th book – and that Dave didn’t even begin writing until he was in his 50s. What an inspiration to every writer!

eye of strife

The Eye of Strife
by Dave Duncan
Fantasy (with equal parts mystery, political intrigue, swashbuckling adventure, and wry humour)

Quick description: The high priest has summoned an improbable group of witnesses/suspects to explain what they know of the Eye of Strife—a powerful religious relic. As each tells their overlapping tales of high adventure, the listeners have to work out who is lying and what really happened.

dave Why I recommend this book: Actually, I recommend all of Dave Duncan’s books (all of which are still in print and readily available) but what makes Eye of Strife particularly remarkable is that it’s his fiftieth published novel. And he started writing in his mid-50s after a long and successful career as a petroleum geologist.

Dave’s illustrious writing career always inspired me in my own writing—in contrast to the usual coverage of the latest wunderkind, which often seemed to imply that if one hadn’t hit it big by age 22, one never would. If Duncan can write fifty great books after age fifty, then maybe there is hope for the rest of us yet!

Duncan may have started late, but he came out of the gate with a bang (his early Reluctant Swordsman and Man of his Word series remain his most popular to this day) and has never faltered. Duncan has always been in the top three of my favourite authors, whether he was writing fantasy or science fiction; whether writing under his own name or one of his pseudonyms (adopted because he was always more prolific than any one publisher could handle); or whether writing a series or a standalone novel. There isn’t a single lemon in the bunch. On the contrary, Duncan is always pushing himself to try new things, to move forward, to renew himself in his writing. He is constantly surprising me, except in the consistently high quality of his story-telling and imagination.

The Eye of Strife is as good as anything that has gone before. An incredibly fun romp, it is a great place to dip one’s toe into the Duncan canon because it has all the Duncan trademarks: compelling and consistent world-building; action that arises logically out of the characters’ differing motivations; page-turning adventure; and an underlying current of wry humour. This is Duncan at his best, but in an easily accessible standalone novel—in contrast to, say, the much darker Chronicles of the King Blades series, or committing oneself to the seven sequel addiction that inevitably follows from reading The Magic Casement (my personal favourite.) An easy breezy summer read, I cannot recommend Eye of Strife too highly whether Duncan is new to you, or you have been a long-time fan.

Links for people to buy Dave’s book:

runte2 Robert Runté’s latest title or project: My own latest publication was ‘Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading” in Canadian Fantastic In Focus: New Perspectives. Allan Weiss, ed. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2014. [The original conference presentation of this paper won an Aurora Award, 2014] The article examines both the impact of the peer group on reading, and Canadian themes in Canadian SF.



Robert Runté was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in Oct. 2014.

Robert Runté – update on a new publication

Dr. Robert Runté was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in Oct. 2014, and was a contributor to another anthology also featured on Reading Recommendations in Oct.

978-0-7864-9592-4The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives
Allan Weiss, Editor
Literary Criticism: Canadian Speculative Fiction

Bringing together papers presented at the Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy from 2005 to 2013, this collection of essays includes Veronica Hollinger’s keynote address, “The Body on the Slab,” and Robert Runté’s Aurora Award-winning paper, “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading” along with 15 other contributions on science fiction and fantasy literature, television and music by Canadian creators.

Authors discussed include Charles de Lint, Nalo Hopkinson, Tanya Huff, Esther Rochon, Peter Watts and Robert Charles Wilson. Essays on the television show Supernatural and the Scott Pilgrim comics series are also included.


Dr. Robert Runté with the 2014 Prix Aurora Award he won for this essay in the category of Best Fan Related Work.

From Robert Runté:
I grew up in an age when speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, and so on) was still considered beneath the dignity of serious scholarly attention. Indeed, one of my early deans once told me that he considered “scifi” of lower literary value than Harlequin Romance (which to his mind was the worst comparison he could draw), and that he was more embarrassed by my interest in SF than if I had written porn. So I am pretty relieved to find that the new generation of scholars has dropped such pretensions and is eagerly and capably delving into Canadian science fiction and fantasy. Drawn from the most outstanding papers of the last seven years, this collection provides a representative cross-section of both this new generation of energetic, innovative and insightful Canadian academics, and of the brilliant Canadian authors they have chosen to review.

Allan Weiss’ introductory essay provides an excellent overview of the history of scholarship on the Canadian contribution to the genre, and I like to believe that my own essay provides an overview of the themes that have dominated Canadian speculative fiction and distinguish it from the American and British versions of the genre. I have also tried to explain the social dimension of reading: why we need to create spaces where our youth can explore what it means to be Canadian, to find their own voice by creating their own interpretations of popular tropes.

I confess to being particularly proud of my essay, not just because it represents a summation of everything I’ve been arguing for the past 35 years, but because the essay won a major award even while the book was still in press. My presentation at the 2013 Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy won a 2014
Aurora Award (Canada’s answer to the American Hugo Awards). Apparently, the suggestion that Canadian authors address themes that resonate particularly well with Canadian readers hit a responsive chord with the Award’s voters.

Links for people to buy it:
McFarland Publishing (publisher’s catalog)
Amazon – eBook and Paperback

Robert Runté is Senior Editor with Five Rivers Publishing, and a freelance development editor /writing coach at

Robert Runté

runte2Robert Runté, Ph.D.

What is your latest release and what genre is it? “Estate Planning for Authors” in Writing After Retirement: Tips by Successful Retired Writers, edited by Christine Redman-Waldeyer and Carole Smallwood. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press (Imprint of Rowman & Littlefield) – NonFiction: “How To”

Quick description: My article introduces the topic of estate planning as something writers should be thinking about, since handling one’s literary estate is very different than disposing of more mundane items like a house or car.

The other 26 chapters in the collection are filled with tips on how to write by successful authors from across a variety of genres and communities. Together, they provide a pretty realistic portrayal of the challenges / obstacles aspiring writers face. This collection is aimed at writers starting after retirement, but most of the advice would be applicable to everyone.


Robert also contributed to the anthology, They have to Take You In, already featured on Reading Recommendations.

Brief biography:
Associate professor at University of Lethbridge; Senior Editor Five Rivers Publishing; Freelance editor at Full bio can be found at here.

Links to buy Robert’s book:
Amazon – eBook, paperback, hardcover
Chapters/Indigo – hardcover

Robert’s promo links: provides developmental editing / writing coach site with some helpful articles for writers from an editor’s perspective
Editorial Blog
Five Rivers Publishing where Robert is Senior Editor

What are you working on now?
I’m finishing up some CanLit short stories…and starting on the revisions to my SF novel. As an editor, I know every manuscript has to be revised; as a writer, I don’t want to do it! Fortunately, found a compatible, high quality editor who is at least helping me focus the process in on ‘surgical strikes’ that should cut down somewhat on the collateral damage….

I’m also editing the second volume of John Poulsen’s Shakespeare for Reader’s Theatre, and the latest Dave Duncan novel.

Robert’s reading recommendation:
I would like to recommend Shakespeare for Slackers by Aaron Kite. So funny! I gave a copy to my daughter and her entire IB English class sat around the hallways reading out passages from the original Shakespeare play, and then Aaron’s modern “translation” of the same passages. Shakespeare meets punk rock…

And before I published his promotion, Robert received this wonderful news!

Surprised and delighted to have won an Aurora Award this year [for “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading”, Scholar Keynote Address at ACCSFF ’13, Toronto–published in Recent Perspectives on the Canadian Fantastic: Selected Papers from ACCSFF. Allan Weiss, ed. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2014. (in press)].

With me in the photo is legendary author William Gibson, who was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association Hall of Fame.


Congratulations, Robert!