Fernie, British Columbia-based Oolichan Books takes its name and logo from the small, oolichan fish that was once plentiful in West Coast waters. A staple in the diet of First Nations peoples of the area, the oolichan (also known as the candlefish) is believed to possess healing powers and guarantee longevity. A fitting name for a press that publishes books with serious heart, and has been doing so for over forty years!
Oolichan was founded in 1974 in Lantzville, on Vancouver Island, by writer Ron Smith. He’d been teaching at Malispina College in Nanaimo at that time, and started Oolichan to serve as a hub of the burgeoning literary community that was growing on that part of the island. All while serving as Oolichan’s publisher and editor, Smith also was fiction editor at Douglas & McIntyre from 1988-1991, and instrumental in helping establish Theytus Books, Canada’s first Indigenous press. While Smith hung up his publishers’ spurs in 2010 when the company transferred to Randal Macnair (and Oolichan’s new, Fernie home), he still serves as editor for the press.
Oolichan has published over 250 works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and children’s literature since its inception, from literary heavyweights like Daphne Marlatt, George Stanley, and Robert Kroetch, as well as newcomers handpicked by the staff’s keen eye. One such newcomer, Lynette Loeppky, was shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction this past summer, for her memoir Cease.
When Oolichan staff aren’t being kept busy with books, they’re enjoying the Rocky Mountains that ensconce Fernie, and the bustle of its resort-town atmosphere.