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.

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