2017 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium (and a Book Giveaway!)

In a single day, I laughed hard and thought harder. Attending my first Toronto SpecFic Colloquium hosted by ChiZine Publications was everything I expected it to be and more. And I came home with more books for my TBR pile, one of which I’m putting in a Book Giveaway!

SciFi Fantasy author Canadian SpecFic endings

The day began with The End. Literally. Julie Czerneda stood at the microphone and held up a piece of paper with THE END written on it. After we recovered from our laughter, she walked us through “It’s a Wrap Folks” with an insightful discussion into problematic endings. Referencing both her own work and that of others, Julie entertained us right up until, you guessed it, the end of her speech.

By the way, sorry about the quality of the photo. I was using my phone in a dim room without a flash. Not a great set-up, I know.

One of the key takeaways I had from Czerneda’s message was this: knowing your ending and writing that ending are not the same thing, nor are they mutually exclusive. If you know the end of your story, but don’t want to write it, record the details that captivated you and the tone that wraps up the story for readers.

How do you know you’ve reached the end of your WIP? Sometimes, practicalities dictate. If you can’t deliver by your deadline, you won’t get paid. Is there enough convergence for an ending? If not, maybe you wrote two books and didn’t even realize it.

Most importantly celebrate when you read the end of your book’s manuscript. I loved this piece of advice. “Not many people get there,” she said.

And remember… “A desk job begs for a sequel.”

Self-proclaimed workshopaholic Robert “Bob” Boyczuk shared his definitive views about “Why you (Still) Can’t Teach (Creative) Writing (Maybe)” in a “don’t BS me kid” kind of way. I loved it his tongue in cheek attitude, especially when he opened the floor to questions and some of the audience disagreed with him. He, and others, raise an interesting point: you can teach the grammatical foundations of the language and mechanics of the craft, but can talent be taught or not?

I picture Bob leaning into the microphone now: “You can’t.”

What he agreed is, among other things, attending workshops provides structure for new creative writers. Workshops make one better able to critique writing as attendees learn more about how to write. Participants find their Tribe and gain access to new mentors. Sometimes, writers need the productivity deadlines of workshops to finally complete a project or two.

Would Bob discourage people from going to a workshop? Not necessarily. But, he did present a his Workshopaholic 12 Steps Program for those people who can’t seem to get out of them. ChiZine books for Robert Boyczuk.

Jason Taniguchi, traumatized by his son’s rejection of his first exposure to Star Wars, summarized his ten reasons of why we love fictional worlds in his presentation, “Long Ago and Far, Far Away: Falling Hard for Fictional Worlds.” Both dramatic and flavourful, he pointed out that our shared beloved worlds bring us into their fold and give us the tools to keep us there. New worlds gain the fastest and most fervent affection. However, Taniguchi cautioned, “New is in the eye of the beholder.”

From wish fulfillment to deeply embedded sense of time, Taniguchi said worlds that have unfailing internal consistency garnish the strongest followers, and the harshest critics. This is why he, like many of us, don’t think that inter-dimensional beings belong in any Indiana Jones story, and midichlorians can’t be measured.

Sadly, author Madeline Ashby, whose book Company Town is in the 2017 Canada Reads competition, couldn’t make the event as laryngitis claimed her throat. Sandra Katsuri read Ashby’s speech “Abandon All Hope, Eh?: Lessons Learned form the Company Town Tour.”

Ashby is no less astute via a second party reading of her work. During her book tour, people asked her several questions, of which the sum themes were: What is happening? What is going to happen? What are we going to do?

The answers, it seems, revolves around being aware, of human rights, of natural resources, of the divisiveness of politics, and of how easy it is to throw it all away. She reminds us that, “Your utopia is someone else’s dystopia.”

Good luck, Madeline with the March 27th CBC Canada Reads competition!

I’m not a visual artist by any means. I’m a good crafter. However, I appreciate the people who have that talent. Art curator Vicki Clough said the key components of narrative fiction in art are a hero, transformation, an empathetic response to the narrative, and myth.

In “Alternate Realities in Art,” Clough presented the fascinating work of Kent Monkman and his warrior avatar Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, and Saya Woolfalk‘s female plant-human hybrids, the Empathics.

The day ended with the though-provoking technology activist, author, blogger, and editor, Cory Doctorow. His keynote address, “I Can’t Let You Do That Dave: How the worst internet law ever is turning science fiction’s least-plausible dystopias into imminent reality” made my brain hurt.

He argued that laws like Canada’s 2011 Bill C-11 and the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act, namely section 12.0.1, not only allow companies to dictate how you use the technology you purchase and bring into your home, they also give felons access to your civil rights with unprecedented access.

“We are being Huxleyed into the Full Orwell.”

Digital Rights Management, or DRM, on the surface seems harmless and many of us have a naiive view of it. Is this not to protect companies from having their intellectual property stolen? There’s more to it than that.

We must, Doctorow advocates, kill the DRM around the world in a decade if we wish to keep an abundance of our technologically related civil liberties in the future. He cited the manipulation of DRM laws in the sabotage of off-label printer ink by HP last year, and the sextortion of Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf when Jared James Abrahams, 20 years old, watched her unknowingly through her computer for a year then blackmailed her with nude photos from that computer camera (Abrahams did the same to 150 different victims). Even the most fundamental of occupations, farming, faces commercial exploitation by companies like John Deere using proprietary DRM. Why should it be illegal for a farmer to fix their own tractor?

Now that two of my three Bell Fibe PVR receivers has failed, within two days of each other and a year past the warranty, I have to wonder if DRM code is “making” them fail so I have to pay for Bell to replace or repair the devices.

As Doctorow said, DRM code is in so much of our technology and most of us are blind to its existence. Incorporated isn’t a fictional show of the future – it factually here and now.

On that dark note, I’ll get lighter, or darker, depending on your perspective.

Thank you ChiZine Publications for these great reads!

ChiZine graciously gave away several books to each of the attendees of the SpecFic Colloquium. My TBR list is already huge, plus one of those books is a duplicate on my bookshelf.

I’m giving away a paperback copy of Point Hollow by Rio Yousers using entries via Rafflecopter. In the comments below, tell me why you like reading speculative fiction (also called genre fiction – fantasy, horror, SciFi, and weird fiction). Full disclosure: SpecFic Colloquium. I haven’t read the book yet, although it’s been recommended to me by people whose opinion I trust.

Writer Lesley Donaldson Real Women Drive Stick Giveaway Book Novel Reading Horror Speculative Fiction

“Point Hollow” by Rio Youers, ChiZine Publications.


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