CanCon and SaskExpo after-action reports

Just since the beginning of September I’ve been to two conventions, one in Ottawa and one in Saskatoon, and both very different.

The Ottawa convention was CanCon 2016, a.k.a. The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature. I was Guest of Honour last year (this year the Guest of Honour was Tanya Huff), and returned this year as a special guest. It was held at the Novotel downtown, and once again proved to be one of the best small conventions around, with great panelists and great panel topics.

CanCon has two tracks, a literature track and a science track. Here are the panels I was on, just to give you taste:

The First Great Terraforming Project: Alyx Delamonica, in her address at the Toronto Spec Fic Colloquium, argued that the first great terraforming project is making the Earth sustainably habitable for humans. Our panelists discuss what sustainably habitable looks like and then discuss 21st century tools to begin the process. Alyx Dellamonica, Dr. Alison Sinclair, Katrina Guy, Nina Munteanu, Ed Willett (m)

Why Doesn’t Epic Fantasy Get Any Respect? Or Does It?It’s been said that it isn’t often that epic fantasy is short listed for the major awards, or even receives critical recognition the same way other kinds of fantasy, science fiction and horror do? Is this true, and if so, why? Ranylt Richildis, S.M. Carriere, Peter Halasz, Evan May, Ed Willett (m)

Youth Gateways into Genre Fiction: Every author can probably, tell you when they first got interested in their chosen genre. Today, though, the way that younger readers are accessing speculative fiction is much different than it was even five years ago. How are new readers being hooked into sci-fi, fantasy or horror? Have there been changes for older readers, too, and has this changed the way we write or market our fiction? Authors of Young Adult fiction discuss. Ed Willett, Leah Bobet (m), Fanny Darling, Mark Shainblum.

9780993969607-front-cover-1-1-2In addition, I took part in the Blue Pencil sessions (reading a piece of writing someone brings to me and making suggestions for improvement), and took part in another launch event for  Strangers Among Us, the new anthology from Laksa Media that includes  my story “I Count the Lights.” This themed anthology approaches mental illness from a speculative fiction angle, and the publisher is making a donation to the Canadian Mental Health Association from the proceeds.

Just like the previous launch event I was at in Calgary, this one was emceed by my fellow DAW author Julie Czerneda, who also wrote the introduction. Once again she had each attending author talk a little about the inspiration for the stories.

There are many great writers and great stories in the anthology: check it out! Reviews have been very positive.

14258337_10153796023861720_2146789066879771385_oOne of the most fun sessions (although you wouldn’t know it from the photo at right (courtesy of Nathan Burgoine), where we’re all concentrating on other things before the panel starts) was a group reading by DAW authors (DAWthors, for short). All of us are edited by Sheila E. Gilbert (who won the Hugo Award this year for best professional editor, long-form, as I just MIGHT have mentioned earlier). We read in the same order as you see us in the photo, left to right: Violette Malan, me, Julie Czerneda, and then the Guest of Honour, Tanya Huff. We each contributed books to a raffle–I gave away a set of The Masks of Aygrma trilogy in paperback.

14292533_10153808250091720_8829945600646000416_nJust a week later (this past weekend, in other words) I was at SaskExpo. This is a growing comic-con style event that this year attracted more than 15,000 visitors. Big-name guests included Carrie Fisher, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies), James Marsters (Spike from the Buffyverse) and others. My daughter Alice came up with me and helped some at the table but also had a chance to take in all kinds of panels, get some photos, and get a couple of autographs. Mostly I stood at the table and sold books, and did pretty well, if not quite as well as last year (this year the con decided to put up full-length black drapes to set off the booths and I felt a bit trapped–no sight-lines to anywhere else in the convention, unlike last year.) Lots of new people signed up for this newsletter (hi there, new people!), and I introduced myself and my books to a lot of new readers, so I call that a win. I look forward to next year’s FanExpo in Regina and SaskExpo in Saskatoon, and I keep toying with the idea of maybe trying Calgary…

I did have to duck out of SaskExpo on Sunday afternoon to run downtown to be part of Word on the Street Saskatoon, the third year in a row they’ve had me on. I was on a half-hour two-person panel with Arthur Slade, talking about “prairie magic”–how we have both used and been inspired by the prairies in our fantastic fiction. We each read a short bit (he read the opening of his newest novel, Flickers, and I read from Door into Faerie) and then just kind of interviewed each other. It went very well, then I dashed back to SaskExpo for the final 45 minutes–and sold a few more books in that last stretch, so it was worth it.

No more conventions for a while now, after four in two months! Guess I’ll have to get back to that other thing I do…what do you call it?…oh, yeah. Writing. 🙂

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