Can-Con, Ottawa’s original science fiction convention, has come and gone for another year. And so here is the obligatory post-convention write-up.

Who to thank

First, a huge thanks to my friend and fellow East Block Irregular Derek Kunsken who organized the programming. Hat tip as well to ConComm members—Farrell McGovern, Caycee Price, and Elizabeth Buchan-Kimmerly. (Apologies if I missed someone.)
Thanks also to another EBI member Hayden Trenholm, who was the Author Guest of Honour.

So what happened?

Friday, I didn’t make it to as many panels as I wanted. By the time I got home from work and over to the con (I live in Ottawa), it was getting on 6:30. Then trying to grab a bite to eat at the hotel’s restaurant… well… my apologies to my friends whose panels I wanted to see.
But, I did make it to Hayden’s room party to celebrate the launch of his anthology BLOOD & WATER (Bundoran Press).
Saturday started a bit rough. After a late night and fighting a cold, I missed my 10 o’clock panel on writing groups, but had a great time moderating “Horror Reading: What works of horror are scaring the @&%# out of you?” with Ottawa professors Aalya Ahmad and Sean Moreland plus my friends and ChiZine Publications co-publishers Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi. It was a fabulous talk on both books that are disturbing plus why they work as horror.
Take aways from this panel:

  • There is a division between fans and academia; there is also a division between hard-core fans—who are jaded and seen it all before—and what most publishers serve up, which is the same old thing. This is because there are always new fans coming to the genre who haven’t see it before.
  • Meanwhile, hard core fans have to search harder and harder for something new, meaning the niche for “cutting edge” gets more and more narrow.
  • Horror is an emotion, not a genre. It can be set in the future, the old west, the banality of the everyday. But it must seek to evoke an emotion.
  • Horror runs a gamut from terror to being grossed out. (Hat tip to Stephen King in Danse Macabre.) Terror is the hardest to evoke, gross-out the easiest.
  • True horror is the unsettling realization that something is just plain wrong and you can’t figure out why it’s wrong.
  • Horror is domestic, but not in the sense of it being in the home. Rather, horror must be close. Something horrible happening to a stranger or far away is not as horrible as something happening right in your intimate life.
  • Horror is about isolation. Virtually every horror story has some element of physical, emotional or personal isolation.

At 3, I read my 2013 Aurora Award-eligible short story “Delta Pi” from TORN REALITIES and then “Touch the Sky, They Say” (AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review) to fill out my half hour. Ottawa author and friend Matthew Johnson read “Irregular Verbs”, the title story for his upcoming collection from ChiZine Publications (due early 2014).
Then at 4 came the panel “What should writers aim to get from marketing?” featured Leah Bobet, Marie Bilodeau and Allan Isfan with me as moderator. A great discussion that ranged over a number of topics, some take aways were:

  • Don’t be a jerk. Seriously, don’t be an asshole.
  • Be part of a community. But a community is not 20 people standing in a circle yelling at each other.
  • Network, but don’t sell. Be yourself. Don’t pitch your work. Get to know people and make friends.
  • Never be dismissive of someone because you think they can’t help you with your career.
  • Create a personna. You don’t have to share everything, and probably shouldn’t, but be honest in what you are sharing
  • Your story is a piece of art. Your book is a product to be sold. Understand the difference between artist and professional.

I spent a good deal of the day at the ChiZine Publications dealers room table talking to people about great books. Then off to do shopping for the CZP party, setting up the room and a quick supper.
Then the party started and it was awesome. Ottawa’s John Park read from his new novel JANUS and Derek Kunsken read a little of his story “To Live and Die in Gibbentow” from IMAGINARIUM 2012.
On Sunday, I moderated a panel on writing Flash Fiction with Marie Bilodeau and Jennifer Michaud. I’d ask Marie and Jennifer to bring pieces of flash fiction to read and Marie surprised me by reading my story “Touch the Sky, They Say.”
And then it was over.


Since re-launching in 2010, Can*Con has come a long way. The energy and excitement in the air was great. So many first-time attendees promised to be back. With the Can*Con hosting the Aurora Awards and Canvention next year, it is sure to be even bigger.
So come to Can*Con 2013.

What’s Next

In November, I will be at the World Fantasy Convention and SFContario3, both in Toronto, the first and second weekend of November.