In an interview with Geoff Hancock in 1981, John Metcalf stated:
We now have sophisticated writers who make considerable demands on readers.
Compare this with what we had before. When I arrived in Canada in 1962, the Canadian story was more tale or yarn. … Heavy on plot and light on brains, style, and elegance. … Callaghan may have known Hemingway but I can't see any evidence that he learned from him. It was Hugh Hood with Flying a Red Kite who signalled that we were joining the rest of the 20th century. (Metcalf 1982a, 13)
Asked by Hancock whether anything had changed concerning the short story in Canada in the previous decade, Metcalf replied: “It's changed out of recognition” (Metcalf 1982a, 12).
This brief extract from an interview may serve to indicate, if indirectly, that John Metcalf has been the most important supporter and mentor of short fiction in Canada (even surpassing Robert Weaver from CBC Radio in this respect). For almost five decades now Metcalf has worked devotedly to this purpose, in several ways and with unflinching determination: as a cultural critic, literary critic, anthologizer, editor of short fiction, and also as a short-fiction writer himself.
As suggested in the quotation above, Metcalf started out as an immigrant to Canada in 1962. He was born in Carlisle, England, in 1938 to a schoolteacher and a Methodist minister (for biographical information see Rollins 1985). Metcalf was a voracious reader at school and university, which he completed with a B.A. in 1960 and a Certificate in Education in 1961 (Rollins, 155). After several teaching jobs in England, he went to Canada to teach English and Canadian history at a high school in Montreal. He soon became aware of the relative dearth of Canadian literature and Canadian literary studies at the time and, after settling in Canada in 1966 for good (and becoming a Canadian citizen in 1970), he developed into one of the most outspoken and severe critics of Canadian culture, cultural policy, and of Canadian literature, with a special dedication to Canadian short fiction (see Nischik 1987).
Metcalf's main goal at the time was to make Canadians conscious of and interested in their own literature, that is, to make Canadians read Canadian literature (he claimed in 1986 that “one out of every five Canadians is functionally illiterate,” see Metcalf 1986b, 4).