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Planned panels for Ad Astra 2016


Creating Art on Commission

So someone has asked you to create a piece of art for them. and they’ve even said they’ll pay. How much do you charge them? How do you sell yourself as a commission artist, and what are the pros and cons of offering to create work on commission?

Diversity in Comics

This year, it seemed that the major comics publishers all moved to be more inclusive and diverse in the series and characters that they offered their readers. Marvel transitioned to an All-New All-Different Avengers with an emphasis on the different, while DC tried to promote DC You, an initiative to promote the wide range of characters in their stories. Why is it important for comics to embrace new readers and different perspectives? What do you think of their efforts so far?

Expressing Your Geekiness in Song

Fandom love can be expressed in a lot of ways, including art and writing. But creating geeky music comes with its own sets of challenges and joys. This panel is a place to celebrate geeky music and musicians and talk about the best ways to translate the passion you have for the things you love into song.

Getting Started in Webcomics

This is an opportunity to hear a variety of webcomic artists share how they got started, and to inspire you to think about what it takes to jump into the world of webcomics as a creator. What are the important things to consider? How do you set your website up, market yourself and find an audience?

Selling Your Art at Conventions and Festivals

So you’ve finally finished a beautiful set of paintings. Or maybe you’ve been selling your fan art on commission and want to think bigger with prints. Maybe you want to do commissions for money, or you fancraft and have an Etsy store and want to sell in person. You’ve got wares, and you’re ready to sell them and think that a convention or festival is your best bet. How do you do this? What’s the etiquette? How do you market yourself? Should you participate in an art show or just book a table? And is what you’re selling even allowed? In this panel, learn the dos and don’ts of being an artist on the convention or festival circuit.

Thinking Outside the Superhero Box

As a medium, comics have long been associated with capes and cowls. But why? In their early days, there were many great horror, romance and mystery comics available. And today, a wide variety of comics publishers offer fantastic science fiction and fantasy comics that tell an enormous range of stories, some of which (like Saga, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, or The Walking Dead) have been hugely successful. The form has also been used to tell dramatic, difficult stories in the case of comics like Maus or Persepolis. So why do superheroes still dominate the medium and represent comics in the public consciousness? This is a panel to discuss the history of comics and share recommendations to those who are looking for non-superhero comics and who are interested in the medium as a whole.

Visual Worldbuilding and Narrative

The world of webcomics and graphic novels have very different requirements related to how you build your world and construct your narrative. So, how do you create narrative and build a world without text? Hear artists share their knowledge and tips.

Webcomics You’ll Love

Do you love webcomics? This panel is a place for you to recommend the webcomics you love, and hear great recommendations for webcomics you might love from others!

Alternate Universes in Fanfiction

One of the most fun tropes in fanfiction is the Alternate Universe – the place where the rules and universe of the main canon can get broken down, transformed, bent out of shape and put back together again in new configurations. What are your favourite AUs? In this panel, we’ll discuss the most common AUs in fanfiction, from A/B/O to coffee shop – how to write them, why to write them and when they go very wrong or very right.

Crowdfunding Strategies

So you want to fund your film, book, game or invention? Come to this panel and hear the tricks, tips, downfalls and reality of making your next level maneuver in crowdfunding. Learn about the different platforms, styles and methods to help you gain maximum success.

Fanfiction as a Unique Culture

If you’re not a fanfiction writer, then you may find jumping into the fanfiction community daunting. What is an OTP? What are the different alternate universe tropes and types, and what are their rules? What is the etiquette of a kink meme? There are so many aspects of fanfiction culture that are insular and well-known to those who are a part of it but that outsiders just won’t get. Stop feeling like a noob and learn what you need to know at this panel.

Mental Health in Fandom

Fandom and mental health problems can in some cases be connected – the thing that draws a person into the world of fantasy and science fiction can be feelings of alienation, depression or disconnection. And sometimes, fans just also happen to suffer difficulties that make participating in fandom and pursuing their creative passions a struggle. This panel is for fans to share their own stories of mental health and to discuss ways to cope, ways to be compassionate, and the struggles we all share.

Online Social Networks and Communities Explained

New to social media? Familiar with Twitter, but have no clue about Facebook? Curious about why all the kids these days have fled to Snapchat or Tumblr? How do you navigate 4chan and what’s a reddit subthread? And what the heck is a Vine? This panel is a place to learn about the wide variety of popular social networking sites and online communities that exist and discuss their impact on how we communicate, their purpose and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Podcasting Your Passion

It’s a new medium that’s only just now beginning to really attract mainstream attention and sponsorship opportunities. But how exactly do you start a podcast? Hear from the hosts of Droids Canada, The Faculty of Horror, The OTPodcast and more as they share their stories of turning their geeky passions into podcasts.

Star Trek: The First Fandom

These days it’s easy to forget that there’s one science fiction and fantasy property that you can trace the entirety of fandom – convention culture, fanfiction, message boards and online discussion, and celebrity worship, among other things – back to. It’s Star Trek, which is this year celebrating it’s 50th anniversary. What was it about Star Trek that drew fans into it’s orbit in a way that no other science fiction or fantasy universe had before? Why has Star Trek seemed to have lost it’s centrality to fan communities even as fandom itself has begun to dominate mainstream media and lifestyles? Let’s talk about and celebrate Star Trek and it’s place in fandom history.

The Best Fic You Ever Read

Fandom tends to celebrate and glorify the worst of the worst in the world of fanfiction, but what about those fics that blow your mind because they’re so well written, so deep, so intense? This is a panel to share your fic recs with others and talk about the fics that kept you up all night glued to your screen, or that destroyed you emotionally, or that made you realize what fanfiction could be. Bring your favourites to share and hear from others.

The Influence of Fanfiction Tropes and Practices on Mainstream Fiction

Fifty Shades of Gray began its life as fanfiction. The hugely popular book series After originated in One Direction fandom. Wattpad now helps fanfiction authors to prepare work to be published, and more and more publishers appear to be mining the world of fanfiction for the next big author. But what does this mean for mainstream fiction? Which tropes of fanfiction have burst into the public consciousness, and does the influence go both ways? This is a panel to discuss the impact of fanfiction in recent years on the mainstream and the ways in which mainstream recognition and acknowledgement is changing the dynamics of the fanfiction community.

The Rise of Kink in Fanfiction and Fandom

The success and popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey illustrated something that fanfiction writers and readers and many in fandom knew for a long time – Kink is in. In the last several decades, there has been a steady rise in how sex positive, kinky and explicit certain areas of fandom have become. Why is this? Is it a good or bad thing? What will happen now that this emphasis on sexual exploration and adventurousness is beginning to find its way into the mainstream?

The Value of Fanfiction

While some authors detest fanfiction and many on the outside of it seem intent of focusing on it’s stranger elements, those who love fanfiction know that it’s much more than just a place for crossovers, erotica and amateur writing. From alternative universe fiction built on careful and thoughtful worldbuilding, to imaginative sex-positive and female-centric erotica, to re-imaginings of popular stories featuring gender and race-swapped characters whose experiences took a different path, fanfiction can be a place for transformative works that transcend their original source material. This is a panel to celebrate fanfiction at its best and most wonderful.

YouTube and Viral Video Creation and Culture

This year YouTube announced that it was moving towards the model of being a paid service. As a community and culture, YouTube stars have become celebrities in their own right, and new YouTube channels pop up daily. But how do you harness the power of YouTube and make it work for you? Are there other video services that have different advantages or disadvantages to consider, and exactly how do you get heard in the din of so many other content creators? Learn more in this panel!

Are Intelligent Machines an Existential threat to Humanity?

Elon Musk thinks so, as do Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking. Still, the tech seems to be a long way away. In this panel, we’ll look at the technical issues that may mean that the threat of a robopocalypse is really empty.

Bio-Technology and Transhumanism

Vernor Vinge wrote about the technological singularity: “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.” The Transhuman debate is alive and well with lively discussion on techno-utopia, life-extension, super-intelligence, immortality, and virtual bodies. Recent films such as Lucy, Transcendence, Elysium, Ex Machina and others touch on the debate. Ray Kurzweil extols a Transhumanist future of immortals free of disease—perhaps even of biology. And what about those who may be left behind? Join the debate. Will you be a MOSH?

Libraries in the 21st Century

Libraries are more than just books these days. Sure you may know about thinks like ebooks but what about emagazines and streaming video? Find out how libraries are changing and their role in the new century and what they may have to offer you.

Mars: Why Do We Want to Go There?

Mars has been an inspiration for popular culture for a long time. But why? What is it about the Red Planet that has captured our imagination for so long? This is a panel to talk about upcoming Mars-related news, what we’ve been able to learn so far, and to compare the most popular imaginings of Mars with the realities we may face as we continue to explore the idea of a Mars expedition.

The Impact of Social Networks and Online Communities on Human Experience

Between the Arab Spring, the “year of outrage,” and the heating up of the culture wars politically and within fandom, the last few years have been a tumultuous time. At the heart of this conflict has been the ubiquity of social networks and media, and the ease with which we can communicate publicly what would have previously been very intimate opinions. For some, the online world represents a utopian globalization in which everyone has access to a wealth of opinions, ideas and information. For others, the online world has only divided, creating separate bubbles of opinion and thought that have led to the growth of hate organizations, public shaming and anger, doxxing and the proliferation of junk science and faulty arguments. How have social networks and online communities impacted human experience? Have they made us, effectively, telepathic? And what might the impact of this be on humanity going forward?

This Ain’t Utopia Planitia: Believable Starship Designs

Media properties like Star Trek or Star Wars tell us that space travel is easy, and that starships act like boats or planes. This is a terrible, terrible lie. There’s a lot more to spaceflight than common media depictions show, and there’s a lot of mileage you can get by knowing some of the principles behind realistic spacecraft design.

What Can Your DNA Tell You?

So companies like 23andMe now offer average Canadians the ability to better understand their own genetic information, to learn something about themselves from their DNA. But how is this useful? Healthcare professionals have expressed concerns about decisions people could make based on risks of diseases or illnesses that lie in their genetic information. Others are fascinated by what it can tell us about family lineages and history. This panel is a place to discuss the implications of what our DNA can teach us and the value in knowing, and the things that this technology might offer us in the future.

When Technobabble Goes Wrong

So you’re watching a perfectly good TV show or reading a great book, when suddenly you encounter something that jolts you out of the story: terrible technobabble. Maybe it’s just nonsensical or maybe it’s junk science in an otherwise brilliant work. But it stops you cold. In this panel, hear our panellists favourite examples of the ridiculous, terrible and ludicrous from throughout pop culture, and share your own.

Book Signings, Conventions and Festivals: Navigating Opportunity as a Self-Published Author

Looking for new opportunities to promote yourself as a self-published author? This panel is all about the opportunities available to new authors at book signings, conventions and festivals. How do you reach out to organizers and make opportunities happen for yourself? And what do you do with that opportunity once you have it? This panel is a place for you to get advice, tips and tricks from those who have done it to navigate interacting with potential readers at in-person events and best promote yourself and build your reputation the right way.

E-Books or Traditional Printing: Evaluating Your Self-Publishing Options

This panel is an opportunity to hear self-published authors provide advice and discuss the differences between self-publishing an e-book vs. a traditional printed book. What are the costs involved? What are the advantages and disadvantages to each method? This panel is a must for anyone considering self-publishing.

Exploring Hybrid Publishing

This panel would help define what ‘hybrid’ publishing means/entails and then delve into how any author can benefit from participating in it. It would look at examples of who and what has been done successfully both on a large and smaller scale so that authors have something tangible to walk away with as well as goals to reach for.

Judging a Self-Published Book By Its Cover

One of the most important considerations for any self-published author is who to engage as a cover artist and the look of the book cover. This panel is all about what to consider when engaging a cover artist and how to ensure that your book cover is appealing to readers and best represents your writing.

Marketing and Promoting Your Self-Published Novel

Whether it’s in person or online, one of the biggest challenges for a self-published author is learning to market and promote yourself in a way that best represents both you and your writing. In this panel, a variety of self-published authors will share their success stories and provide you with the tools and advice you need to avoid common missteps and put your best foot forward.

Networking and Social Media for the Self-Published Author

If you choose to self-publish, it’s up to you to find ways to connect to your readers and promote yourself. Networking using social media is one of the best ways to do that, but it can be difficult to know where to start. Who is your target audience, and where do you find them online? What is the difference between Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook vs. communities specifically for authors such as Goodreads. In this panel, learn from those who have done it which social networking sites to focus on, how to best utilize them and how to successfully network using social media.

Self-Publishing Mistakes Made So You Don’t Have To Make Them

In this panel, authors who have self-published will share their stories of their biggest mistakes, regrets or struggles so that others don’t have to make them. Because those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The Chuck Tingle Effect: Earning Respect as a Self-Published Author

While there are a wide variety of authors who self-publish along a spectrum from the terrible and niche to the wonderful and mass appeal, as a self-published author it can be hard to earn the same respect as your published peers. Authors like Chuck Tingle (purveyor of dinosaur erotica and the novel Pounded in the Butt By My Own Butt) certainly don’t do anything to change this view in the public’s eyes. So as a self-published author, how do you dispel the notion that self-publishing isn’t something to be taken seriously? And how do you help illustrate the value of self-publishing as a pursuit to people who make assumptions about it? This panel seeks to dispel common assumptions or ideas about self-publishing and give authors and panellists a place to share how they deal with issues raised by the way they choose to distribute their work.

The Decision to Self-Publish

It’s a basic question that all authors are faced with: do you seek out traditional publishing opportunities or do you dive into the world of self-publishing with the hopes of greater ownership and control over your own name and work. In this panel, hear several authors talk about their decision to self-publish or not and the things that they considered prior to making that decision.

The Relationship Between a Self-Publisher and Their Editor

If you’re considering self-publishing, it’s important to know how to find a good editor and how to build the right relationship with them to ensure that the work you publish is your best work. In this panel, real editors will share tips for seeking an editor, discuss what you can expect related to pricing, and will talk about the importance and value of a good editor the final product.

The Trials and Tribulations of Writing About Time Travel

It’s a great big ball of wibbly wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff. How do you keep your beginning, middle, and end of your book straight when your characters don’t! In this panel, our authors will discuss and provide tips on keeping the timelines straight!

Appreciating Great Russian Science Fiction and Fantasy

From Gogol to Bulgakov to Strugatsky to Oldi to new names, Russian language science fiction, fantasy and weird fiction is gaining recognition in the Western fandom. In this panel, we’ll talk about works that are relatively well-known and still unrevealed and untranslated; issues in translation and marketing; recent translations; different treatment of common themes in Western and Russian language works; and we’ll share recommended reading.

Approaches to Building a Believable World

Do you like to create? Creating fictional properties can seem like an overwhelming task. Do you being from the small village or city and work your way out, or do you think of the grand schemes of the universe that govern your world and work your way all the way down to the very house your characters will start in? Learn a few tips on making your worlds make sense.

Cinematic Universes, Serialized Television and The Disappearance of the Beginning, Middle and End

Whether it’s novels that are conceived of from before the first page is written as the first in a series, cinematic universes with many moving parts, or television series designed to be binge-watched over days, it seems like we are in a new era where a story with a clear beginning, middle and end seems quaint or simplistic. Why have audiences embraced franchises, worldbuilding and more complex narratives? What does this mean for the mediums of film, television and novels? Why has this shift occurred? This panel explores audience expectations and desires related to the scope of the stories we tell and what this means for the future.

Crafting a Believable Alternate History

Some authors borrow from history, others outright reimagine it, rewriting historical figures and scenarios in unexpected ways. Are there certain considerations to take when reimagining recent history over ancient history? What are some of the challenges of working with historical events with which the reader may (or may not) be familiar?

Cropsey, Slender Man, and the Angels of Mons: the Roots of Religion and Folklore

Fantasy and even SF have been influenced by folklore and legend, and the processes that generate monsters and heroes have not stopped. From Cargo Cults to wartime angels, from Urban Legends manifesting as reality to Internet creations inspiring killers, we look at the ongoing processes of mythmaking and how they might inspire and influence contemporary writers.

Crossing the Gender Divide

Are there certain types of stories that appeal to men only? Or that appeal to women only? Why is this, and should it be the case? This panel is about how to tell stories that transcend socialized gender appeal and the importance of creating “guy” stories that women can find role models in inspiration in, but also “girl” stories that men can similarly embrace. It’s also an opportunity to explore why those concepts exist to begin with and the ways in which we encourage them or discourage them through storytelling and media.

Diverse SFF, Islamophobia, and the ‘War of [the] Worlds’

World governments are lining up to intervene in Syria; the refugee crisis in the Middle East and North Africa has provoked a surge in Islamophobia in the West; and veterans and victims of the ‘war on terror’ are contending with life-changing injuries. This panel discusses the role SFF can play in disrupting the media myth of a ‘clash of civilizations’. Can SFF help challenge the way race and religion are used to demonize others and perpetuate geopolitical conflicts? When human rights concerns over disability, gender and sexual orientation are marshaled as arguments to go to war, can – or should – SFF reflect and re-frame these debates?

Do You Binge-Read?

Although the idea of “binging” on a story or TV show isn’t new, the age of Netflix has made watching multiple episodes of the same show at once really easy. How similar are our habits as readers instead of viewers?

Are you the kind of person who can read an entire series in one gulp, or do you prefer not to read too much of the same author at one time? How do different readers handle catching up with large series like “Game of Thrones” – do you anticipate reading large installments, or feel overwhelmed about trying to catch up? How do people’s different reading habits play out?

Food, Drink, and Cuisine in Speculative Fiction

One of speculative fiction’s most notable characteristics is its focus on worldbuilding. And an underappreciated, but important, aspect of worldbuilding is the food that characters eat and drink.

Have you ever read of a fictional meal and thought “Wow, I really want to try that”? What can food, drink, and cooking tell us about a character, or about the society that character lives in? How do issues like food security and food scarcity play into dystopian fiction? This panel will look at this topic and how it affects other aspects of speculative fiction worldbuilding, like trade, war, relationships, and more.

Give Them A Laugh

Popular fiction didn’t become popular by being depressing. That’s why humour is such an important element to a narrative, and why authors want readers laughing in the right places. In this panel, we will discuss not only the different types of humour that work well in a story, but also the most effective ways to incorporate humour on the written page.

Handicapping the Hugos

The Hugo nominations are out so what nominees have you read and which ones would you recommend? What items of fiction were overlooked?

How to Creatively Collaborate

Sometimes as a writer or artist, the best thing you can do is find the perfect collaborators. This could mean finding the right artist to create your book cover or illustrate your novel, it could mean finding a supportive web designer to help you with your online presence, or it could even mean working with musicians, animators or filmmakers to create works that transition between mediums. What is the difference between creating independently and true collaboration? How do you work with others to communicate a singular vision?

How To Go Beyond Getting Started and Get Something Finished

Are you the kind of person who has a million ideas, but no motivation to see any of them through to completion? What does it take to see a creative project all the way through? In this panel, authors and artists share their stories of being demotivated and distracted and talk about how they made it to the light at the end of the tunnel.

How to Outline and Plan Your Story

Anyone who writes science fiction or fantasy can tell you that it involves a lot of worldbuilding, and often tricky plotting (think time travel stories or alternate histories!). So what is the best approach to outlining? Is outlining even necessary, and why? Hear from authors about the tools and guidelines they use when outlining a story and how important it is to their process.

How to Terrify People

While a lot of attention gets paid to how to tell a story that moves people emotionally or makes them laugh, knowing how to scare the living daylights out of your audience is just as tricky a skill. In this panel, we break down the stories that have terrified people the most and think about why and how that effect was achieved.

Loving the Villain

So many stories feature great heroes, but there’s something really compelling about a story with a great villain. But what makes a great villain? And what happens when the story you’re enjoying has a villain so maniacally fun that you find yourself loving them more than the protagonist. Why are some characters so easy to love to hate? In this panel, the panellists break down some of the great villains of their favourite stories and talk about why that villain drew them in, how their battle against the hero informs the story itself and makes it better, and turn that discussion into real tips for how writers can create better villains.

Loving What Happens vs. Loving Who It Happens To

In the world of science fiction and fantasy, as with all fictional worlds, there are some stories that are about things happening to people, and other stories that are about people happening to things. Which do you prefer? How do you create a world and characters who are compelling and interesting, but also balance that against a complex plot with momentum and action? This is a panel about figuring out what the balance should be and how to achieve it.

Modern Anxieties and Post-Apocalyptic Landscapes

Zombies. Outbreaks. Warfare. Environmental cataclysm. Sometimes all of the above. In recent years, post-apocalypses have become all the rage. But why? Why are we so interested as a culture in exploring the end of Western civilization in the 21st century? How do the post-apocalypses we create reflect real fears and anxieties in our own time? In this panel, we’ll explore the link between post-apocalyptic fiction and worlds and modern events.

NaNoWriMo 101

Are you interested in participating in the challenge of National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo? In this panel, learn from people who have done it and build your self-confidence to finally dive in, and get tips on then taking your finished project to the next level.

Police Procedure: Busting the Myths & Misconceptions

Ever wondered how much of what you see of police procedure in the movies and on television is accurate? Plausible? Or even possible? How long does it really take to run a murder investigation? Or to get results back on fingerprints or DNA? What are the rules and restrictions regarding high-speed car chases? If you’re writing police procedure of any kind into your stories—or if you’re just curious—answers to these questions and more can be yours in this panel featuring RCMP Sgt. Pat Poitevin.

Recommended Non-Fiction for the Science Fiction or Fantasy Writer

Even the best fictional story needs to have some fundamental truths at its core. And sometimes truth is even stranger than fiction, and it can provide a fiction writer with ideas. So this panel is a place to hear recommendations for amazing and foundational works of non-fiction that have formed the basis of the works, research or thought processes of fiction writers.

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Erotica

If you read erotica, you know that there is a very fine line between something that is incredibly sexy and incredibly disgusting or painful to read. Erotica done well can be a joy, but poorly written erotica can be so bad it’s celebrated for its terribleness. So what are the secrets to great erotica writing? What are the common errors to avoid, and which stylistic choices can tip erotica from being simply bad to being a joke?

The Influence of Shakespeare on SF/F

In our modern era or reboots and reimaginings, it’s hard to remember that one author was really the patriarch of that idea – William Shakespeare. This panel examines his influence on science fiction and fantasy and his continued influence on the stories we tell in our modern culture.

The Medium is the Message: Plays, Screenplays, Novels and Other Media

As a writer, you may have considered writing that novel. But what about that screenplay? That play? That board game? That web series? How can you make a living as a writer or create that great work of art while thinking outside the box of simply words on a page? This panel is about transitioning between various mediums to create the universe that lives in your mind, some of which you maybe never even considered, and how to approach each one differently.

The Rise of Environmental Fiction

The rise of environmental fiction, both in literature and film, has spawned several sub-genres such as climate fiction, eco-thrillers, eco-mystery, eco-punk, and eco-romance. Is eco-fiction part of science fiction? In Barbara Kingsolver’s 2012 novel Flight Behavior, climate change plays a major role in a story about people’s beliefs and actions. Environmental catastrophe plays a major role in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam and Ian McEwan’s Solar. Is eco-fiction simply a new fad or does it reflect a cultural awakening to current environmental issues? What role does eco-fiction play in storytelling and defining ourselves. Who are its readers and why? Should eco-fiction educate? How can an eco-fiction writer prevent it from becoming polemic?

The Stars Not My Destination?

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora ranks most prominently among recent SF works suggesting we may never leave our solar system or, at least, if we do, we may find no place suited for human habitation. Is this trend pessimistic or just realistic? Does it mark the end of starfaring SF, or the dawn of a new direction?

The Year in SF/F Literature

This panel is a place for you to share the best speculative novels you read in 2015 and learn what others were reading.

Northern Frights!

This panel is a celebration of the groundbreaking Canadian horror anthology edited by Don Hutchison.

Appreciating Weird Fiction

From its roots via writers like Ambrose Bierce and Robert W. Chambers through the works of HP Lovecraft and into today, this panel is an opportunity to define and understand the genre of “weird” fiction. What is it? How has it been influential, and what is its value?

May Contain Graphic Violence

It’s a common warning seen by television or movie viewers, and the message there is clear. But when reading the written word, what exactly is graphic violence? Is it an explicit description of blood and gore? Can violence be disturbing or graphic even when not explicit? As a reader, what makes violence impactful or encourages it to linger in your mind well after the book is closed? In this panel, hear a variety of authors discuss how they communicate violence to their readers and their thoughts on its impact.

True Crime, Fictional Story

Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction, and many incredible fictional stories have benefited from a basis in strange yet tragic facts. True Crime is itself a popular genre of writing, but fictional stories based on true crime have long been a staple on bookshelves, television screens and in movie theatres. This panel is an opportunity to hear authors and storytellers discuss their fascination with true crime and the ways in which it has impacted their work, and share details of how to walk the fine line between respectful and distasteful when using real crimes as inspiration.

The People of Camelot

Retellings of the legends of Arthur have been and are a staple of fantasy writing. What are some of the best reworkings of the Matter of Britain? Who writes a medieval setting, and who goes back to Celtic Britain? Which characters are most loved?

Welcome to Hellmaw

Hellmaw is the exciting universe created by Ed Greenwood about a race of daemons who live among us. In this panel, you’ll have the opportunity to hear Hellmaw creator Ed Greenwood, as well as Hellmaw authors Marie Bilodeau, Erica Mallat and Suzanne Church, and artist Kristie Courtnell, talk about the unique challenge of building that world and participating in such a collaborative adventure.

1966: The Year of Science Fiction on TV

Fifty years ago there were only three TV networks in the USA and two more in Canada. Yet, in addition to Star Trek an overwhelming amount of television back then was science fiction or closely related. Why was this? What were some of the outstanding shows? Which good ones have been forgotten?

2015 in Spies, Secret Services and British Intelligence

This year saw the release of Skyfall, but it also saw a renewed interest in classic old-school stories about spies with the release of The Man From UNCLE and Kingsman: Secret Service. They seem to be having a moment. Let’s discuss all three of them together – which one was your favourite and why? What do they say about our current cultural love of the spy as a hero or villain, and what’s next for the franchises?

Comic Book Cinemaverses: DC vs Marvel

DC and Marvel are both building Movie and TV ‘verses, and their approaches recall the earlier days of each company. Marvel emphasizes continuity and, as much as possible, keeping everything in one universe. They even appear to be undercutting some characters not under the Disney umbrella. DC creates various universes that do not all cross over, which typifies the approach their comics took prior to the mid-1960s, when many of their characters only sporadically crossed over (some not at all) and events in one comic had no impact on events in the other. What drives the differing approaches? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Deadpool: A New Kind of Hero

After years of waiting, fans of Marvel’s Merc with a Mouth finally got their long-awaited movie with Ryan Reynolds, and it even got to be R-Rated. What did you think of Deadpool? Why is he so popular, and what do you want to see next for him onscreen.

Does Diversity Sell?

This year, some of the biggest success stories in film and television disproved the notion that audiences cannot relate to a non-white, non-male protagonist or set of characters. Fast and Furious, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the new Avengers movie all gave us strong female protagonists and a more diverse cast of characters and succeeded enormously. On the flip side, many movies criticized for whitewashing or homogenizing roles that should have gone to minorities, such as Exodus, Stonewall and Peter Pan, flopped. With an all-female Ghostbusters coming in 2016 and more diverse movies and television shows on the way, is diversity a selling point? Are there financial incentives to telling more diverse stories from a variety of perspectives, and is it then right to specifically avoid casting white male actors in roles that previously would have favoured them?

Ex Machina: The Greatest Scientific Event in the History of Man

Ex Machina brought intelligence back to big-screen SF, and the firestorm of debate has yet to settle. Far more has been generated about the questions the film raises about gender (and even race) than those it raises about AI, with the film called both “a feminist parable” with an “advanced” take on gender, and movie made “by men, for men” with a “serious fembot problem” and “flawed gender depictions.”

Game of Thrones: TV vs. Books

The latest season of the Game of Thrones television series is upon full of spoilers of the upcoming books. How do fans of the books feel now that the spoiler shoe is on the other foot? What are people most looking forward to in the new season and/or the next book?

Gateways to Science Fiction and Fantasy

What draws writers, and readers, to science fiction and fantasy in the first place? For some it’s their childhood reading tastes; for others, it might be RPGs, a movie, a tv show, or a specific book or author encountered as a teen or adult. Does how you came to the genre affect what you expect of it?

Joss Whedon: Feminist?

Following the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon took quite a beating on Twitter and in the press for missing the mark with his characterization of Black Widow. But did he miss the mark? He claims that he has been held to a higher standard than others because of his stated feminism, but is that true? This panel is a chance to talk about the Black Widow controversy, but also the feminist aspects of Whedon’s other works and his personal beliefs. Why have we held Joss Whedon up as a standard of feminism in Hollywood and SF/F? Is this problematic? Why or why not?

Princess Leia: Slave, Princess, Action Hero or All of the Above?

With the return of Leia in The Force Awakens, conversation surrounding her role in the Star Wars franchise intensified. Is the concept of slave leia in Return of the Jedi empowering because she overcomes her captor? Or does the fact that she was put on display for the male gaze undermine that idea? Was Leia an assertive, strong female character, or simply a damsel in distress? Does it matter that she was the only female character in the original trilogy, and what is her place now that other female characters surround her as a contrast? This is a chance to discuss both the good and bad aspects of Leia as an important female character in SF/F, who she was in the original trilogy and who she is now in the new films.

Sherlock Goes Victorian

In December, we finally got a new episode of Sherlock, and it took us all the way back to the Victoria era! What did you think of it, and what do you hope to see from Sherlock going forward? A panel to discuss and speculate.

Star Trek’s Return to the Television

CBS has announced a new series for 2017. We will speculate on what we’d like to see in a new series. Should it be the Worf series that has long been rumoured? Should it incorporate the new timelines of the JJ Abrams movies, or should it disregard them? How would you like to see Star Trek return to television?

Star Wars: The Fandom Awakens

We can’t not talk about it. It’s been an overwhelmingly dominant force in pop culture for nearly 40 years, and in 2015 was bigger than ever. What did you think of The Force Awakens? And where will the Star Wars franchise go from here?

The Legacy of Steven Moffatt’s Doctor Who

It was announced this year that Steven Moffat will be leaving Doctor Who by 2018, and that Chris Chibnall will be taking over. So let’s look back on the legacy of the sometimes controversial creator who gave us the adventure of the 11th and 12th Doctor.

The Magicians: From Page to TV Screens

Already renewed for a second season, the SyFy series based on Lev Grossman’s The Magicians arrived this year and delighted fans of the books. Our panellists talk about the transition from page to screen and share their thoughts on the series.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe on the Small Screen

Daredevil, and Jessica Jones have joined the pantheon of Marvel television shows. We discuss Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, and all the Netflix series.

The Place of Nostalgia in the Stories We Tell

Our culture currently seems fixated on reboots and remakes, and nostalgia for older stories. Is this a good or bad thing? Does it matter that the new Star Wars movie in many ways retold A New Hope, or is it acceptable to take the older story and put a new spin on it, update it for the 21st century and make it more progressive? Is a new Ghostbusters or Batman movie necessary or should we be making room for original stories? And is the culture of nostalgia and recycling actually not a new trend, but instead simply the way we have always told stories?

The Politics of The Hunger Games

Now that the Hunger Games movies have all been released, it’s an excellent time to look back on the impact of the book trilogy and movies on popular culture, specifically the ways in which their politics and philosophy have resonated with fans. How much do we in the Western World resemble The Capitol? Did the Hunger Games-mania sometimes cause cognitive dissonance in it’s advertising vs. it’s political message? Why was the casting of Rue so shocking to some, and how does it relate to contemporary civil rights movements? Let’s delve into some of the more interesting questions that the series and the response to it posed.

The Return of Outlander

This Spring saw the return of Outlander! What did you think of the new season of the show?

We Destroy the Things You Love II

Last year we learned how the Browncoats were bad guys, and how the Empire got a bad rep. We explored the Federation as a military authoritarian state and demolished your favourite comic heroes. What will we destroy this year? That’s up to you.

We Want to Believe: The Return of the X-Files

Mulder and Scully are back? But why are they back? What have they been up to in the last 20 years, and how do fans feel about it? Some might argue that the return of the show is an example of nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, while others herald its return as necessary in our current paranoid post-9/11 world. Our panellists will share their thoughts on the show’s return.

Will We Reach a Superhero Tipping Point?

Steven Spielberg was quoted this year as believing that the Superhero genre will eventually go the way of the Western and fade from public consciousness. Others raced to ring the death knell for the genre, even as the number of superheroes in the pages of comics and on TV and movie screens only seemed to explode. So is there a tipping point for public love of superhero stories? How can superhero fatigue be avoided, and what will it mean for the MCU and DCU? Or do superhero stories have staying power?

The Labyrinth of Guillermo Del Toro

Guillermo Del Toro’s career is a love letter to all elements of dark fantasy. As a director, author, producer, and creator he is always exploring the nature of monsters and heroes,fairy tales, the nature of immortality, and other elements of the supernatural. Come explore the many twists and turns of his fantasy worlds with us.


This panel is a guide for all those who are considering submitting their short stories to magazines, anthologies or online publications. Which ones are out there? How do you find them, and once you do what is the submission process going to be like? What should you expect, and what will potential publishers expect from you? This is your opportunity to find out.

Common Writing Mistakes from an Editor’s Perspective

Whether it’s easy to correct grammatical errors or awkward sentence structure, or more complex issues related to characterization, plot or research, in this panel you’ll hear real editors share the most common mistakes that they see new or inexperienced writers make and tips on how to avoid them. They’ll tell you the things they encounter that have a simple fix, but also the things they encounter that are warning signs of larger problems.

Do Used Books Help or Hurt Authors and Publishers?

It’s an argument that’s crucial in our digital age – we all know why piracy hurts authors, but what’s the impact of used book sales? Used books can be more affordable for consumers, and as the big box bookstores close down in competition with Amazon and online retailers, used bookstores seem like they may be the last physical bookstores standing. But some readers may be hesitant to pick up a copy of their favourite book in a used book store if they don’t understand its impact or feel like that dollar isn’t finding its way to an author. In this panel, authors discuss the value of used books in the marketplace and the impact that they have on their own success.

Finding a Literary Agent

So you’ve got a manuscript that you love, have built a reputation within the writing community and are ready to put yourself out there. How do you get the attention of a literary agent? What are the dos and don’ts or getting their attention, and once you do, what can you expect from them?

Getting Your Novel Into Libraries and Bookstores

Every author enjoys that moment when they can see their own work on the library or bookstore shelf. But how do you get there? If you’re self-published or with an indie publisher, what’s the best path to getting bookstores to stock your books or libraries to shelve them? And from the perspective of a reader, how exactly do libraries and bookstores make those decisions?

How To Put Together an Anthology

So you’ve got a short story, and you know others with short stories, and you’ve decided you’d all like to contribute to an anthology. What next? What are your best options and resources? What is the value of an anthology vs. other formats? In this panel, hear from authors who have put together or been part of anthologies and learn what’s involved.

Reviews: How to Write Them and How to Read Them

There were over 3 million books published in North America in 2010 – how do you decide which ones to read? Once you’ve read all of the available books by your favourite authors, we mean. And all of the books recommended by your friends. RIGHT! REVIEWS! On this panel, we’ll discuss elements that make for a good review, from the prospective of readers and writers.

Setting Up Shop as an Indie Publisher

So you want to be an indie publisher. How do you bring other authors on board? How do you build your reputation within the literary community? In this panel, learn from those who have done it how to be a publishing entrepreneur, and get tips on start-up costs, marketing, and what it takes to get started.

Surviving as an Artist

So you want to make a living as an artist of some kind. That science degree isn’t doing it for you. Maybe everyone is telling you that you’re going to starve! Come to this panel and hear how some of the artists in literature, music and art have found a way to “make it” and find out what making a living as an artist or writer actually means to you.

When to Listen to Your Editor and When Not To

While editors can be an enormous help to an author, they’re also fallible and sometimes bring their own biases or perspectives to the relationship. So when is it appropriate to say “Thanks, but no thanks” to an editor? In this panel, editors share stories of things they were wrong about, and of what can happen when someone accepts all of their feedback without question, or none of it. What should the balance be, and how influential should they be in your creative process?

Work-Life Balance as an Artist

Is it possible to continue writing after children enter your life? This panel discusses work-life balance ideas and the differences between men and women in their pursuit of writing careers.

Writing from the Boondocks

Writing is a solitary art, and yet it has also become one where contacts and word of mouth matter far more than they used to. When you live far from a major centre and from other writers in your genre, how to do you make connections and form those vital networks that both help you advance and keep you sane? How do you keep up on what’s going on, both good and bad, in the business as well as the artistic side of the genre? Is the internet enough?

Understanding the Young Millennial Reader

News headlines seem confused about the habits of the millennial reader – generally agreed to be anyone from young teenagers to those in their early 30’s. Are they abandoning the printed word in droves, distracted by 140 character Tweets, image-based memes and endless hyperlinks to click on? Or are they reading more than ever, empowered by the easy accessibility and affordability of ebooks, audiobooks, fanfiction and longform online journalism? And, most importantly for a writer, how do you capture their attention? This panel seeks to explore the minds, attitudes and reading habits of millennials and help writers better understand exactly how to reach them.

Dungeons and Dragons 5e

Fifth Edition has been out for a year now, we look in on how 5e is faring. Discuss the SRD and what it means for third party publishing.

Tabletop Games You May Never Have Heard Of

Are you bored of playing Monopoly and Risk over and over? A fan of RPGs but unsure what the best party games are? Curious about which games are best for specific numbers or types of people? This panel is a great opportunity to learn about and share recommendations for tabletop games from those in the know!

Boob Windows, Non-Costumes and The Influence of the Male Gaze in SF/F Costuming

As a woman, many cosplayers are faced with a challenging decision: Do you embrace the hypersexualized or scantily clad costumes so common in science fiction and fantasy for women and wear them proudly, or do you seek out other alternatives such as gender crossplay and adapted costumes that don’t leave you feeling exposed? Why are so many costumes in SF/F such a challenge for women to begin with, how is this standard being challenged currently, and how do you navigate the male gaze in SF/F cosplay?

Cosplay 101

Just getting started as a cosplayer? This is a place to learn the basics.

Cosplay as a Business

So you’re sunk a lot of money into your cosplay hobby, but now you’re wondering if there’s a way that it could make money for you? Cosplay is increasingly being seen as a profession and there are an increasing number of opportunities to turn it into your living. So how do you do it? How do you turn your hobby into your day job? Find out in this panel.

Cosplay on a Budget

As anyone who has ever built a Stormtrooper armor or an elaborate Disney Princess cosplay can tell you, cosplaying can quickly get very expensive. So how do you manage the costs? Hear from cosplayers who have done it and get tips and tricks on making sure that your cosplay doesn’t break your bank account.

Cosplaying For Groups

There’s nothing more fun at a convention or costume party than seeing an enormous group of people who have all come together in themed costumes. But what are the challenges involved in cosplaying in a large group? What are the most common group costumes, and which ones are overdone or never done and should be? This panel is all about the joys and stresses of cosplaying with others.

Creating Costume Armor with Foam

If you’ve cosplayed with fabric or in marathon thrift store shopping sessions, you may be curious or have questions about how some cosplayers make beautiful, wearable armor. In this panel, you’ll hear how it’s done from those who have done it.

Diversity and Equality in Cosplaying

What are some important considerations to take into account when cosplaying to recognize diversity and equality? In recent years, cross-race or gender costuming has become more common, but it can have many pitfalls. Learn how to avoid the most common mistakes that lead to problematic cosplaying and be respectful, but also how to think outside the box in ways that challenge notions of traditional cosplay.