If you’ve been following my Twitter account lately, you’ll notice that I’ve been tweeting about attending the 2014 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium, an annual day-long series of talks from Canadian speculative fiction, hosted by the Chiaroscuro Reading Series and sponsored by ChiZine Publications. This was my first SFF-related event that I’ve attended, and I was looking forward to a great day and a fascinating series of talks. I wasn’t disappointed.
After an early start, I arrived in Toronto around 8:30 yesterday morning and by just after 9 arrived at the ROUND venue in Kensington Market. Despite the registration not officially starting until 9:30 and the first talk at 10, the room began filling up with people quickly. The event provided every attendee with complementary books from sponsors, and both ChiZine Publications and nearby Bakka-Phoenix Books had tables full of books written or edited by the day’s speakers.
With a theme of “Unnnatural Histories”, the Colloquium began at 10 with author Wendy Gay Pearson, who gave an interesting talk examining Toronto as reflected in the works of Nalo Hopkinson and touching on the sexual, racial, and colonial contexts and aspects of Hopkinson’s work set in Toronto. I’ve not yet read any of Hopkinson’s work, but Pearson’s discussion of Brown Girl in the Ring makes me interested in checking her work out.
Up next was speculative fiction author Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who spoke about the surprising similarities between the works of horror writers H.P. Lovecraft and V.C. Andrews. Despite writing in different time periods and covering very different subject matter, these two authors dealt with very similar themes: forbidden desires, the stain of the past on the deeds of the present, among others. I read Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu in preparation for this talk, and am very interested in continuing to read Lovecraft’s work.
There was a short break, during which everyone was able to move around, mingle and peruse the book tables. After the break was over, the talks resumed with the Guest of Honour, the New York Times-bestselling horror/fantasy author Christopher Golden, being interviewed by science fiction producer and writer Mark Askwith. Using his books Snowblind and Tell My Sorrows to the Stones as a base, Christopher Golden talked about the inspiration for specific stories, the unreal, constructed nature of history (and how what we believe to be history is actually part truth, part confabulation, and sometimes outright lies), and what scares him the most: when politicians realized that they no longer had to pretend to tell the truth.
After a lunch break, the Colloquium resumed with science fiction author Peter Watts giving a talk on “faith and the fitness landscape”. The talk covered his book Echopraxia, his attempts to write a true religious SF novel, the benefits of religious belief (or lack of thereof), and the limits of the scientific enterprise. It was a fascinating talk and I can’t wait to get started on reading his book Blindsight, which I purchased from the Bakka Phoenix table.
Next, Madeline Ashby (foresight consultant and author of vN and iD, whom I interviewed back in November) spoke about her experience writing popular fanfiction and how fanfiction both informed her writing and provides a community-driven model that represents the future of reading. As she has posted, there will be more to come on her blog about her talk.
After this, there was a break and I needed to head back home up north, so I unfortunately missed the last talk of the day where Liana Kerzner (Liana K) spoke about “Digital Romanticism: Speculative History as Modern Social Commentary in Video Games”.
Looking back, I quite enjoyed yesterday’s events. There is a real sense of community in the SFF crowd, which was evident in the hard work put into organizing the event and the enthusiasm of the attendees and speakers. I definitely felt welcome at this event, and it’s confirmed me in my desire to resume my science fiction writing and someday to contribute my creative work to this community.