While some of the authors I follow were in Atlanta for the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, I braved the 10 minute walk to the 2017 Spec Fic Colloquium.
Due to technical difficulties, the schedule was juggled around slightly. This is the first time I’ve been able to attend since 2012 due to family events outside the city. I volunteered for the 2011 event. It was also fun because my wife joined me for the afternoon, and she so rarely gets to come to these types of events with me.
Julie Czerneda went first and talked about endings. <laughter></laughter> It mostly seemed to be about her own taste in what factors into a quality ending and procedures in writing endings. Very useful in terms of understanding how she selects submissions for collections she edits, but as I’m not particularly familiar with her work, I didn’t get much of an idea of whether I would enjoy reading any of it. What really stuck with me was how she reads series. She talked about one author’s series (I forget who and what), and that each time a new book comes out, she rereads them ALL. There were 18 at the last count in the series she was referring to. Apparently the end of the last book effectively changed how a reader would interpret everything that had occurred before – which would absolutely piss me off, but she loved.
Robert Boychuck was a last-minute fill in for David Nickle. He went 2nd for technical difficulties – the space had an ancient projector and no spare dongles. This was a reprise of a presentation at the original colloquium (2010?) on whether there’s any use in taking creative writing workshops and classes. I’ve seen Boychuck around – we live in the same neighbourhood, though we’ve never spoken. I found it amusing that he used to teach creative writing. He’s also participated in a ridiculous number of paid workshops (I think he listed about 20?). While I won’t give everything away like Cory Doctorow did with an early question and/or comment, even though I’m not sure if this presentation will ever happen again, essentially the value in writing classes and workshops is outside of common expectations for them. He explained where he believes that value exists, as well as additions that could be made to add value (learn craft – e.g. grammar).
Jason Taniguchi is a really funny guy, and a staple of the Chi Series which the SFC is affiliated with. In his speech about successful world building in pop culture media, he provided 10 rules for success. I don’t remember many of those rules, but they made a ton of sense. I am in awe at the amount of references in his presentation. Interesting prediction – the Terminator reboot will fail because the world doesn’t meet any of the 10 factors for success in world building.
Madeleine Ashby was super sick and so ChiZine Publisher and Colloquium MC Sandra Kasturi read her speech. It tackled things she had learned from touring her most recent book Company Town, and various projects in her day job. It’s unfortunate that Ashby wasn’t around to answer questions – her and Doctorow are almost a dream pairing. I highly recommend browsing her site and reading about her day job – it’s fascinating.
Vicki Clough’s presentation stood out from the rest, because she talked about alternative realities in art. She seemed a bit nervous, and possibly lacked some of the literary vocabulary to really get her ideas across. That said, her choice in artists to talk about was excellent – Kent Monkman and Saya Woolfalk both provided interesting examples I have heard of Monkman, but haven’t seen any of his work. The presentation leaned heavily on the recent exhibit commenting on the 150th anniversary of Canada (here’s an interesting article about it). Woolfalk was new to me, and I found her Empathics work such a fascinating and in-depth world. I was reminded also of David Altmejd‘s older work related to myth and legend (I especially love his crystal werewolves, including the giant one at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa).
Cory Doctorow was the keynote speaker. He talked about DRM encryption and that invariably leads to consumer issues (though that tends to be a byproduct of open-source culture), which is interesting, because it adds one more commonality between us – we’ve both attended the same summer camp and high school – though not at the same time; he’s a bit older and massively more accomplished – and I have a lot of experience working in consumer issues. Here’s an OLD speech that deals with DRM, but it gives you some idea about what he was talking about. I’m a big fan of his – as an advocate (and educator) through his work with the EFF, and also as an author. I wish I could remember some of what came up in discussion after, but it was quite fascinating. He’s a very good speaker and knows how to get people to respond. I feel like what he did today was really break down the DRM issue and its impact overall in a way that’s easy for people who aren’t technically savvy to understand. Also, suggesting easy, concrete ways of taking action – because these issues always feel insurmountably large, and a lot of people give up because there doesn’t seem to be any progress. The analogy he used related to drowning and could be paraphrased as: “Treading water doesn’t necessarily save you from drowning, but everyone who’s been saved from drowning was treading water until rescue was possible.” Is it bleak that thinking about that has given me more hope than anything I’ve heard in a really long time? Really, this hour was enough for me to justify the ticket price.
Book bag swag – If you have any doubts about attending, you essentially get about 100$ worth of books and a free talk, coffee and snacks for the 40$ ticket price. What follows is the contents of 2 bags.
These will replace damaged copies that will become loaners
One becomes a gift
Here is the full list:
GMB Chombichuck – Infinitum/
Vincent Marcone – The Lady ParaNorma
Eds. Laird Barron & Michael Kelly – Years Best Weird Fiction vol 1. I believe this is out of print, so SCORE.
Rio Youers – Point Hollow
Mags Story – Dead Girls Don’t
Ed Hayden Trenholm – Blood & Water
Gail Prussky – Broken Balloons
Eds. Kelsi Morris & Kaitlin Tremblay – Those Who Make Us
Matt Cahill – The Society of Experience
Kenneth Mark Hoover – Quaternity
I also got former ChiZine publisher Brett Savory to sign my copy of his latest book, A Perfect Machine. Neither of us had been involved in a green ink signing before.
About the space – 918 Bathurst seems to be the new event venue in the area – it will also be host to Horrorrama. The location is great – a short walk from Bathurst subway station, with lots of food options nearby. It doesn’t appear to be the most accessible, despite being a former church with short sets of stairs. It may be that nobody needed a ramp and so all that equipment was stowed away. Bathrooms used for this event were downstairs and the men’s didn’t have much capacity (1 stall and a few urinals). I have no idea about the women’s or if there were other options upstairs. Also in the basement were some classrooms that might make interesting breakout rooms. Otherwise, the main room was great, if dark. That might have been an issue if there hadn’t been enough free coffee to keep me awake all night.