Can*Con 2019: Part 3

As usual, this is taking me longer than intended!

So, now on to the content-related panels I went to.

On Friday morning, I went to the workshop “Medical Mistakes 101” with Melissa Yuan-Innes. I have been reading Melissa’s medical mysteries (the Hope Sze series, written as Melissa Yi) for a while and I really like them a lot. (I wrote about the first book in the series elsewhere on this site.)

Melissa had crowdsourced common errors and misrepresentations that other doctors notice in books and television. This proved to be a really useful approach and I appreciated breadth of detail, ranging from general problems to those specific to particular branches of medicine.

Most useful for my current work were her comments on CPR and resuscitation and current methods.

Geology of the Solar System, moderated by Dylan Blacquiere with Michael Reid and Shirley Meier

This was an interesting discussion not only about the geology of our (and potentially other) solar system, but more broadly about habitability, the problem of single ecosystem planets in fiction, and the importance of being internally consistent within your story.

As with all the best panels, this one gave me various story ideas.

Designing a Planet Live, also moderated by Dylan Blacquiere, this time with Serena Tristen, Geoffrey Hart, Mark Robinson, and Anatoly Belilovsky

This panel was a free for all in the best way. It fit in well with the Geology of the Solar System one, in so far as they both considered the livability boundaries and range of planetary possibilities.

However, in this panel, Dylan took the panelists through the steps of collaboratively designing a planet, starting with the geology and water cycle and how to make choices that would result in an interesting planet.

I particularly liked how well all the panelists considered the implications of the different choices at each step, for example about energy inputs and what kind of life might develop as the result of different options.

Is big data in an arms race? moderated by Kim-Mei Kirtland, with Jason M Harley, Ada Hoffmann, Sarah Parkinson, and NRM Roshak

This panel discussed a broad range of areas including what data is being collected and where does it come from, how are things measured (eg the assumptions about facial display of emotion), and privacy law and consent.

There was a really good bit about facial recognition and its constraints (racial and gender limitations, also health-related facial variations like paralysis) and problems with AI applications like predictive policing.

I went to two other panels, both part of the scientific literacy track, that covered similar issues, Data is the New Gold Rush and Technology-Driven Labor Market Disruption: The New Industrial Revolution. I’ll talk about them, and the other panels on that track I attended later (probably Friday).

See you then!

Can*Con 2019: Part 2

So, continuing with the writing -related panels I went to at Can*Con this year… (part 1 available here).


Who’s our hero anyway? moderated by K.V. Johansen with Éric Desmarais, Kevin Hearne, and Tanya Huff

This was a really interesting panel about having multiple point-of-view characters, particularly in the context of epic-type books/series. I went to this panel because I have an all-but-finished novel with this situation that I really struggled with (I wanted multiple points of view for various plot reasons, but felt it detracted from who I thought should be the main character).

Anyway, the panel raised some good points about how many is too many characters, how to manage them all, and what purpose in particular they serve (giving the reader different characters to identify with, scenes where the protagonist can’t be, including an antagonist perspective, etc).

Writing and resistance, moderated by Millie Ho with Charlie Jane Anders, Craig DiLouie, Kevin Hearne, and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

This panel discussed whether the participating writers explicitly included politics in their novels or whether the political arose more organically, along with a range of other related ideas (that different genres demonstrate political themes in different ways, the current political situation & the problems that arise with trying to write something dystopian).

Stealing from outside SFF, moderated by Ira Nayman with Marie Bilodeau, Leah Bobet, Lee Harris, Kevin Hearne, and Jay Odjick

This panel was definitely that most fun of any I attended (everyone on the panel was great, but special credit to Marie Bilodeau and Jay Odjick who are both just wonderful).

All of the panelists (and the moderator) gave really thoughtful reflections on their non-SFF influences, ranging from mysteries and thrillers to D&D to film and graphic novels to Masters of the Universe to pro wrestling! There was a strong encouragement to just write your own thing and not worry about boundaries.

Hierarchy and oppression in SFF, moderated by ‘Nathan Burgoine, with Charlie Jane Anders, Terese Mason Pierre, and Elliott Dunstan

This was actually the last panel I attend of the con and, despite it being the end of a busy three days, it was still really compelling and everyone was very into it.

Much of the discussion revolved around how themes of hierarchy and oppression don’t necessarily have to be bleak depending on the characters’ situation. You can have nice people in a horrible setting.

There was also a really good consideration of problematic allegories and how ‘the oppressed’ are represented, and own voices.


I noticed only in writing this up that 3 of these 4 panels had Kevin Hearne on them. It’s a good thing he’s a really interesting guy with good things to contribute!

I’ll write later about rest of the panels (and the other workshop) I attended.

Can*Con 2019: Part 1

It’s that time of year again — Can*Con, the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature here in Ottawa.

In the past, I’ve written up summaries on Can*Con on a day-by-day basis, but this year I’m going to group like things together instead. I’m only talking, of course, about the panels and workshops that I actually attended. Every year there are so many great things that I can’t get to and this year was no different. So, I made some hard decisions and these are the ones I picked.

I tend to take copious notes, but these are just brief descriptions with a key thing or two I learned or found particularly striking or useful. Of course, these are my thoughts and notes and should not be construed as other people’s ideas.

Today I thought I would talk about the “writing-related” panels (and workshop) that I went to.

Friday afternoon I went to workshop with Derek Newman-Stille called “Diving into fantasy locations.” As a group, we looked at a series of images of natural and human-constructed places that Derek had put together and we brainstormed ideas about the beings and situations that would live in and emanate from such places, thinking about how we’re influenced by geographic and climatic (and other) experiences.

This was such a useful reminder about focusing on place and setting and how setting should be an active part of the story, interacting and informing character and plot.

Now to some of the writing type panels.

“Traumas and Triggers: Navigating the Dark Stuff,” moderated by Adam Shaftoe with panelists E.C. Bell, Erin Rockfort, and Geneviève Hébert-Jodoin.

Clearly, I enjoy these sorts of panels, as I attend them year after year, but I do find they can often result in everyone just agreeing. However, this panel had some really interesting things to say about catharsis and validation, along with how it is not the large, obvious things that are necessarily traumatic, but the more specific, everyday things.

“Worldbuilding: Government and Politics,” moderated by Anatoly Belilovsky with Millie Ho, Stephen Graham King, Leo Valiquette, Nisa Malli, and Jonathan Crowe.

This panel resulted in a really interesting discussion that gave me a lot to think about with regards to my current work in progress (a novella about anarchism, labour exploitation, and the Moon). One of the things that really struck me was the comment that the more information you provide the reader, the more room you give them to develop doubt. I can get stuck in wanting to explain all. the. things. so I’m taking that to heart.

I’m also still thinking about the idea of humanizing conflict by putting a face on the bureaucracy (eg Umbrage in Harry Potter).


Okay, I’m going to stop here for now. Next I’ll write about the other writing-related panels I attended.