Can-Con 2018! Day 2!

And now my summary of Saturday at Can-Con. I’m going to do the same thing I did with day one and just list a few important points from each panel or presentation. Again, this is just a list of things I went to!

Against my personal Saturday morning preference, I was out of the house just past 9:30 for a 10am presentation on Changing Climate: What You Might Not Know by Mark Robinson (of the television series Storm Hunters). I shouldn’t have felt bad, though, because Mark had just spent most of the week in Florida covering Hurricane Michael. Mark is so interesting and has such amazing experiences and insights to share. So here are a few:

  • it is too late to stop climate change, we need to focus on adaptation
  • focusing on single events or small changes as examples of climate change is a terrible idea, because they can’t be necessarily directly attributed to it (exacerbated, etc but not directly caused by)
  • social, political, and other similar impacts of climate change can drive political unrest, migration, and so on (this is the ‘unsexy’ side of climate change, as opposed to the record hurricanes and similar)

After that, I went to “This is What Really Happens in a Fight” with Erik Buchanan, S.M. Carriere, Pat Poitevin, K.W. Ramsey, and Linda Poitevin (Moderator). This was a very interesting discussion on how fictional fights (mostly on screen) differ from actual fighting. My takeaways:

  • generally, people are out after one good hit (hockey fights go on so long because it is hard to get power behind your punches while on skates)
  • if your opponent has a weapon and you don’t (especially a knife), RUN
  • in books, don’t go into extreme detail, short punchy (ha ha) sentences convey the right sort of thing

Then it was “AI and Language Preservation” (Leah Bobet, Jason Harley, Jay Odjick, Tamara Vardomskaya, Derek Künsken (Moderator)): I was really looking forward to this one. It is such an interesting, broad, and emerging topic, the panel was only able to touch on some of the issues and I was left with more questions and ideas than I had at the beginning (which is a good thing!).  Key ideas I was left pondering:

  • the way words and phrases can be so culturally bound that it is difficult to explain to non-speakers, let alone incorporate into an AI conversational partner or other application; and further to this, does the relationship to language change if we learn if from an AI/machine?
  • the question of whose version of a language is ‘preserved’ (a word which connotes a static, dead thing rather than a living, changeable, variable language); we don’t speak in language, we speak in dialect, idiom, friend groups, inside-speak with partner, etc
  • the idea of artificial emotional intelligence, which would transform and systematize empathy

That was heavy, so I followed it up by going to “20 Ethical Questions from Star Trek” (Lynne Sargent, Robert J. Sawyer, Madona Skaff, Adam Shaftoe-Durrant, Eric Choi (Moderator)). This was a good mix of Star Trek fans with an ethicist (Lynne) with only a slight exposure to it. I especially enjoyed my day job coming into it with mentions of the Geneva Conventions and the International Criminal Court. Most of the discussion moved amongst specific examples from the various series that I’m not going to summarize at length, but particularly interesting points were made around the relationship between Starfleet and the Federation and the issues surrounding humans reproducing with other species (seemingly without a lot of initial thought as to the possible consequences for the mother and/or child).

I ended the day by going to two worldbuilding panels The first was on Human Economies, with Madeline Ashby, Geoff Hart, and Hayden Trenholm (Moderator). Some of the ideas raised were:

  • what would a fully developed post-capitalist (post-scarcity) society look like (no, there was no final agreement on this)
  • the cultural shift from a traditional/scarcity model to a post-scarcity world (which is essentially what we are living in now, the issues with scarcity that remain are primarily related to distribution)
  • the roles of war and inequality

And then the next panel (and last one for me for the day) was on Cities (Phoebe Barton, Katrina Guy, Jean-Louis Trudel, Ed Willett, and Jerome Stueart (Moderator)).  This was a wide-ranging discussion, touching on the elements that comprise a city, as well as more philosophic talk. The main points for me were:

  • how cities on Earth have generally tended to not  be built from scratch, but rather they grow and change over time and can be in the same place that previous cities were
  • those cities that have built/planned from scratch, individually (ie Brasilia) or mass produced (such as has happened in China)
  • in some areas and societies, cities were moved as needed (whether after months or years or whatever)
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Can-Con 2018! Day 1!

It’s the best time of the year (or pretty close to it). Can-Con is the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature held in Ottawa each year and it was this past weekend. And, as usual, it was so good.

A couple of years ago, I managed to write posts on each day of the con, although I think it took me two or three months to post them. Last year, I only managed to talk about the first day and even that, very belatedly. I’m trying to be better this year.

This is only going to touch on things I did (there was a lot more going on).

On Friday, there were two workshop sessions (2 hour workshops, costing $20 each, before the schedule began). I’ve done workshops at previous Can-Con’s and I always enjoy them. This year’s were particularly useful.

The first one I went to was The Nuts and Bolts of Writing Fantasy with Julie Czerneda. I took a workshop with Julie a couple of years ago and it was very good, so I was looking forward to this one. I confess I don’t write much in the way of fantasy, but the description looked interesting and I do have a few languishing first drafts and ideas that are more fantasy than not.

Julie makes you work and in groups at that. The discussion centered primarily on objects and how we describe them and consider them as elements of story. It was a really interesting perspective that I do not consider often enough.

And then I went to KT Bryski’s A Sound Idea – Fiction Writing for Podcasts. KT started with a bit of the history of podcasting and different types of fictional podcasts before discussing different elements of writing fiction for them.

I love podcasts, so I was predisposed to enjoy this, but it was really well done and the many examples were great. I tend to listen to more audio dramas than narratives and it really made me think about the differences and the potential story ideas that would work with one or the other. Overall, I left feeling really encouraged/excited about the possibilities.

Then the main schedule started! (Yay!)

Rather than describing each panel in detail, I’ll mention my key takeaways.

Star Wars, Heroism and Society (Eric Desmarais, A.A. Jankiewicz, Sylvain Neuvel, Evan May (Moderator)): Good discussions around cool Darth Vader versus whiny Kylo Ren and saving the people around you versus saving the world. It was heartening to be part of a non-contentious Star Wars discussion!

Space: The Economic Frontier (Chandra Clarke, Eva-Jane Lark, Andrej Litvinjenko, Claudiu Murgan, Lynne Sargent (Moderator)): This panel was amazing, with really knowledgeable people on it. It’s hard to pick out just a few points but:

  • who owns what in space? While countries/corporations can’t own an entire moon/planet/asteroid, can/should they own what they take from it?
  • moving heavy manufacturing (as well as perhaps mining) off Earth and the environmental, social, etc benefits that could result
  • what does a benign capitalism in space look like, one with externalities priced in?

Queering the Future: How Do We Write a Queer Futurism? (Phoebe Barton, Stephen Graham King, Jerome Stueart, Kerrie Seljak-Byrne, Leah Bobet (Moderator)): Another panel that had lots to say. Highlights included:

  • imagine a world where sex doesn’t sell (Phoebe)
  • building a better, non-normative system, not just ‘new people on top’
  • worlds where drama doesn’t derive from the mere fact of queerness
  • wanting happy stories (of a happier future) while also acknowledging the anger of today that some writers want to be able to express/vent (Kerrie)

Coming soon…

My story Leaving will be in Bikes Not Rockets: Intersectional Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories this December. You can pre-order at the link! (The books ordered through the Kickstarter are being shipped now.)

And you can read some things I had to say about my story here.

Also, if you are in Portland, Oregon (or will be in November), there will be readings from the book (and others)  on November 6th at the Multnomah County Library (Central Branch). I wish I could be there for it.