Monday, 14 October 2013

WRI: CanCon 2013, Day 2

CanCon is the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature. For more information, see my Day 1 posting.


Panels started up at 10am, but I was barely awake at that point; to see an account of Saturday morning and beyond, I recommend this Review at The Chaos Beast.

I returned for 5pm, to see "Multiculturalism in Science Fiction". On the panel were Matthew Johnson, Yves Menard, Alice Black, David Hartweel and Jean-Louis Trudel. The first question addressed: Why pay attention to Multiculturalism? Answers included: India is the most populous country these days. Also, while the 19th and 20th centuries featured attempts to impose a single culture, the world is now "rebalancing itself". Plus not all cultures map to an ethnicity!

Here's the thing. To do it right, you need to translate books from other languages. This costs money. While there are some grants, generally literary fiction is translated, while genre fiction isn't. There isn't enough call for it. In the 19th century, "Jules Verne" didn't have his novels translated in their entirety. One panelist had some data to indicate that France and Germany were much better at translating works into their languages than we are at translating to English.

How do you even do it? World reduction. You cannot include every case of diversity, in every story. You sample and/or create a construct that can still map onto our world. Some question of whether "inventing a similar culture" is the coward's way out (it's not REALLY Greenland), and how we don't WANT to compare science fiction to our reality (it's the future, how can you say it's wrong). Noted the context of the story is what's important. Also you have to risk making mistakes, or you marginalize.

Being in a position of influence, it seems to be up to Western writers to draw attention to cultures, using respect and care. This sort of thing may already be happening in theatre. As to appropriation? It's an insoluble problem. The average reader (even editor) can't tell if it's happening. Notably, science fiction readers will point out how technical details are wrong ALL THE TIME, we need to listen to cultural details too.

"Researching Fantasy Stories" was at 6pm, with Matthew Johnson and Mike Rimar. Matthew himself does a lot more "front loading" (research first, sometimes drawing inspiration from it). Sometimes the book you need will be to the left or right of the book you're actually searching for. Natural question, if it's "Fantasy", are there really "rules" for making alien worlds?

The idea is to have frames of reference. Don't copy our world closely, but don't be incompatible. The "parking space problem" was mentioned... in the movies, people never have trouble finding a spot. A parody can use this - once. After that, it's not funny any more. If your setting has no cars, don't treat horses like cars! A horse can only go full out maybe 10-15 minutes, then they're done for the day. And what are you feeding your horse? Is that necessary information? Give enough so that things are believable, leave the rest to the reader. Letting them fill in gaps is important too.

No, no, I did the research! Really!
I raised a question - how do you know what sources to trust? If one place cites another which cites back in a circle (like with some quotations on the web), is that reliable at all? Response: Probably need a couple corroborating sources, likely one or two books (not web pages). Wikipedia is also a nice place to find OTHER sources. Another audience member remarked that you can find things that SEEM contradictory to general knowledge - for instance, simple eyeglasses were in use as far back as the 12th century. Historians will also disagree with each other.

Mostly, weave things into your story. If you'll have female archers, show them practicing early on. If a blue ringed octopus (!!) exists in your world, reference it before it's needed. It's okay to use coincidence to get heroes IN trouble, you can't use it to get them OUT of trouble. In passing, there was talk of 'Historical Fantasy' vs 'Secondary World Fantasy' vs 'Urban Fantasy' (which likely needs research on geography). Short stories will also have a higher research to word count ratio, as they likely need just as much research. Also, a small bibliography or 'thank you' may be in order.

7pm: I went by the Dealers Room, but they were just closing up. So I went to dinner with my wife. (There was a NaNoWriMo panel; I started this very blog by talking about how that event doesn't fit my style.) Returned at 8pm for the Aurora Nominees Concert. Incidentally, my wife went to the "Paper airplane trauma" event, but after twenty minutes of people singing in order to get paper, she still had no idea what the event was, so came to the concert too - does anyone out there know what the airplane thing was about??


The Aurora Nominees for Fan Filk were Peggi Warner-Lalonde, Kari Maaren, Morva Bowman and Alan Pollard, Debs & Errol, and Brooke Lunderville - which I listed in that order because they performed in that order, excepting Brooke who is in BC and could not attend. There were maybe two dozen people in the audience, by the way.

Peggi invites others for a "group filk" song

Peggi's music had more of an actual folk music feel, and she had a number of the others come up on stage at one point to perform together - something they had just tried out earlier that day! Kari was next, she also had Debs up at one point, and she concluded her set with "Everybody Hates Elves" which got stuck in my head periodically the rest of the week. (That link has the chords.) Morva and Alan had great chemistry, and I liked the remark at one point that a good parody could be connected to the fewer of the words you have to change. They performed a sendup of John Denver's "Follow Me" regarding social media. Debs and Errol wrapped it up, which was part of their comic here. They also brought everyone on stage to do "Narwhal Pet".

Everyone needs a Narwhal Song

At 9:30 there was a break before the Brendan Myers Concert, and I figured after the previous night I needed to get some sleeps. Before I left though, I bought one of Kari's CDs (to go with my D&E one) and dropped by the Kymeras Storytelling Show down the hall. I'd heard at the "First Con" panel on Day 1 that it had something to do with time travel.

That turned out to be incredibly interesting. I'd missed the first half, but there were four people dressed in period costume, reading a story. I learned this is basically a "Performance Piece", not an actual short that had been written, but rather something prepared (over about 5 weeks) expressly for the purpose of the reading.

The parts were separate; they did not interact directly

One particular part of the story I liked was when the time traveler figures he failed, because he isn't there at 8am to see himself, as would be his plan later that day. But rather than do something different, he continues his efforts, figuring "even a failure provides DATA". I like that. Never be afraid of failure. Of course, in this case, it actually works, he travels back to 8am to meet a younger him who is now more confident, while he is less so, having discovered an unexpected aspect of time travel.

I headed out after 10pm, in part because I wanted to be sure I was back for 10am, when there would be a "Creativity in Fandom" panel.

To be concluded!


  1. Thanks for the shout out! :D

    I regret not getting to the filking. I was about done by the end of the day and was expecting a larger crowd. Go fig.

    Can't wait to see your day 3. :)

    1. No problem! Thanks for the writeup of the morning, etc! :)

      It's tough to make it to everything, and you were there bright and early. It's interesting how the whole setting is still relatively small after three years.