Sunday, 13 October 2013

WRI: CanCon 2013, Day 1

CanCon is the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature. It ran from 1992 through 1997, returned briefly in 2001, and then relaunched in 2010. In Ottawa. It's been here three years, and I had no idea.

The Aurora Awards are the "people's choice" awards, given annually for the best Canadian science fiction and fantasy literary works, artworks, and fan activities. Awards have been given since 1980, first called the Prix "Aurora Awards" in 1990. This year, they were presented at CanCon.

Spot the Canadian

I went last weekend. The only reason I was inclined to was because I ended up at a filk panel at Anime North 2013, and started following Kari, Debs and Errol on Twitter. I got to see them again here (they even remembered me!), along with a lot more. Being under 40, it felt like I was one of the younger attendees, and indeed students get a reduced rate on admission.

If you're thinking of going next year, hopefully this set of posts will convince you one way or the other. Oh, and for the record, I'd say that at least half of the panelists were either teachers, or former teachers.


Got there just after it started at 7pm then lined up for passes. If you pre-registered you got a free book, but I hadn't been sure about going. Line was fast, wasn't even 7:30, decided to drop by the "This Is Your First Con" panel (my first CanCon at least). Discussion reassured me that it's okay if you haven't read or don't recognize some of the "greats". In retrospect, maybe should have gone to "Marketing 101" - not that this panel was bad but I need to be better at marketing.

"Song Writing 101" was at 8pm; I'd wanted to be there for this one, because Kari Maaren and Debs Linden. Also Sue Jeffers (of Stone Dragons - they started with a song) and Alan Pollard moderating. February Album Writing Month (FAWM) came up - write 14 songs in 28 days - as did "50/90" - write 50 songs between July 4th and October 1st.

There was mention of whether lyrics or music come first (varies), the use of rebuttal songs (or spinoffs), clay pots (more on that later) and werewolf puppies (don't ask). I scribbled down "Archetype Cafe", which I assume refers to what's at that link, and Donald Swann. No copious notes, mostly thrilled that Kari and Debs actually remembered me from Anime North. (Both Kari and I had marking with us too.) People there were also hoping I'd be back that evening for Open Mic Filk.

"Humour in Science Fiction" was at 9pm, featuring Ira Nayman, Matthew Johnson and Mike Rimar. Arcing theme was basically the problem of Douglas Adams - he's still the main guy (despite his death), so major publishers are not wanting to pursue anyone else in this genre. An argument made for Terry Prachett, but he leans more to fantasy, and even then, that's two people making up the lion's share. It was pointed out that Adams' "Dirk Gently" books are actually much better planned in terms of a novel, seeing as "Hitchhiker's Guide" was adapted from the radio plays that he made up as he went along. (Like a serial!)

Excuses, excuses...

Some reasons put forward for why this is a problematic genre: People want science fiction to be taken seriously, and humour is seen as frivolous. There's a fine line between humour and parody - the latter requires you to be somewhat familiar with the source material. Humour is more likely to be misinterpreted as offensive or controversial, so publishers don't want to take the risk. And finally, science fiction writers tend to be older - youth these days trend to fantasy - and older people tend to be more conservative.

That said, to do well in this genre, you should combine humour and science fiction equally. Is it still funny if you take out the jokes? (Don't keep hitting the same humour nerve.) A few titles tossed around were "I, Phone" (written from point of view of a phone), "The Ardley Effect", and the author Robert Asprin.


"I'm holding out for a zero,
so the graph can look right!"
At 10pm I decided to check out the ConSuite, which was up on the top floor. They had some cookies and chips out. Chatted briefly with a guy who'd driven to a con in Texas after emergency car service. Good view. Came back down to catch the end of the Stone Dragons concert, then a break when I did some marking, then there was the Open Mic Filk.

I started it off, thanks to Debs who cued up a karaoke version of "I Need a Hero", and I sang "I Need a Zero" by memory. Then there was a song related to online content, and a few others... then I went back up to do "The New Companion's Lament", which was probably a mistake, but after lots of a capella stuff, I felt like I should do one, and that it shouldn't be math. This is the first time I've ever performed that one, incidentally - and I needed my wife's iPhone for the lyrics. Kari and Debs ended up performing too:

Example of Filking

I left just after midnight... drove home... got to bed after 1am because I'd wanted to tweet out my "AMV Friday" too. I wouldn't return to CanCon until 5pm Saturday, because I needed to finish preparing my web serial publicity posts like this one. I might be spending too much time doing stuff online...

To be continued!

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