2015 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium, once again at Round,152A Augusta Avenue, brought a powerful set of presenters for an over-filled day of fantasy, scifi, horror and SpecFic panels.
After grabbing a great bagel and coffee from Nu Bagel on Augusta I was ready for the long climb up the stairs at Round (how do drunks manage these steep, unlit stairs?) where I was greeted by an impressive loot bag of ten books (mostly trade paper size) and a flurry of promo postcards. (books in the loot bag: Kevin J Anderson: Resurrection Inc.; Ellen Datlow ed: Fearful Symmetries; Field Research Org: Half-Cat; Kenneth Mark Hoover: Haxan; Laurence Klavan: The Family Unit; Amanda Leduc: The Miracle of Ordinary Men; Michelle Sagara: Silence Douglas Smith: Chimerascope; Right to Know: Edward Willett) Organizers also provided a huge urn of Tim Ho’s finest and a wide selection of donuts & muffins.
loot bag loot (note Rocksteady travel mug not part of the loot)
The wide selection of presenters was satisfying & probably better for me than the donuts. First up was Alex Leitch: Retrofuturism and Spectacular Collaboration: ‘dirt is more interesting than glass’ dirt makes the future world real. She suggested that going up an ‘alley’ in a story is more intriguing than walking along the main street. Being partial to taking pictures on laneways I had to agree. I also had to agree when she said we live in a culture where it is cheaper & easier to tear down & rebuild than it is to maintain.
She was followed by Derek Newman-Stille: Accessible Space: The Final Frontier? Disability in Speculative Genres: with a great presentation on disability – how easily we are deaf to using terms like ‘turned a blind eye.’ With examples from Star Trek to Dr Who he showed how disability is rarely allowed to be normal but was either noble or vengeful. I love his statement that ‘as a disabled person he doesn’t feel the need to be a para-Olympian just to prove he’s accepted himself.
wave of the present art at NuBagel
After a brief break Dave McIntosh: Quipucamayoc: Interactive Media Art Project in Cusco and Buenos Aires: a fascinating presentation on (amongst other things) quipu – a South America form of story telling with knotted strands – knots as a sort of binary code – an ebook that doesn’t need a battery. I wonder how many of us will try to use the fact that at one time the faces of heroes would be peeled off at death & taken out once a year to be shown & animated like a puppet. I found it ironic that he couldn’t access the files on the Interactive project.
The lunch break was welcome. I had the silver bass with white beans. I worked on the vampire unicorn porn part of a long short story I’m developing (more about that later in the week). After lunch keynote speaker Nnedi Okorafor gave an inspiring, perceptive talk about her history, race & her writing process. As a black woman she’s been asked why she doesn’t write about American racism – as if that is the only thing she can write about authentically – that she is wasting her talent writing SpecFic when she could write serious work. One of her editing tips is on the fourth edit to change the font of the entire manuscript. I could go on – maybe I’ll do another post just about this talk in a week or so.
loot close up
After another brief break Simon McNeil: From Guernica to Gamergate: The Inseparability of Art and Politics. Partially a look at the misuse of the label ‘censorship’ – i.e. how voicing a contrary opinion become an attempt to censor what you feel contrary to so you better keep your contrary opinion to yourself. One of the conclusions is that like beauty, political content is often in the eye of the reader not the creator. Another complex presentation that may result in my writing more about it & the notions of PC, freedom of speech & censorship.
The day wrapped with a fun, perceptive almost fanboy teen squee by David Nickle: Secret Agent, Secret Shame. A presentation on the embarrassing appeal of Ian Fleming’s James Bond. I’ve always enjoyed seeing literary history re-interpreted though the lens of present day theory – such feminists looking at misogyny in the works of Conan Doyle. Here Nickle reveals the racism, misogyny etc in Bond. But none of that keeps most men from wishing we had those gadgets, that attraction for the opposite sex & that sense of cool in the face of danger.
Angela Keeley did MC duties for the day & kept things running on time. Her enthusiasm for the genres was contagious – not that anyone would have wandered into the Colloquium without being infected already. All the presenters were more expansive than I can adequately explore here so forgive my rather narrow selectivity of their talks.
Here’s a bit of what I was writing when I wasn’t making notes or enjoying some of the male eye candy. The shorty story, untitled at this point, features three writers, writing in different horror genres reading from their work. One of them is launching the fifth volume in his series about vampire unicorns.
Red Horn could smell the woman. He stood still at the edge of the parking lot, the moon reflecting silver on the windscreens of the cars. Cars that were another of the ways humans had ruined the habitats of his race.
Humans, he snorted, as his front hooves scraped at the asphalt. He could feel the earth struggle to breathe beneath this hard crust.
He heard the woman gasp at the sound of his pawing. Her fear scent increased. The tip of his horn twinged briefly. It knew there would be blood soon. This was one way of righting the balance of nature.
Suddenly the woman stood. “Please don’t …” she begged.
Red Horn was pleased to see he ranked as she approached him.
“You started me,” she said brushing his mane with her hands. “I am the one who summoned you and yet when you appeared I was afraid.”
Her hands moved along his flanks, under his belly to dance briefly along his gentiles. “Most of all I was afraid of this.” she squeezed his testicles. “That it would be too large.”
The twinge moved down from the top of his horn. He knew she was ready. When the blood was willing it tasted better. He nuzzled her breasts and then let his lips open at her neck.
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