Posts Tagged 'ottawa'

Documentary: The City that Fun Forgot (?)

I came across this documentary and had to share.

I live in Ottawa, which is Canada’s national capital. Thought a city of almost 1 million people, it lacks a vibrancy or energy that a city this size should have.

This documentary examines how external perceptions (i.e., the residents carrying the blame for actions of government) and governmental culture have shaped Ottawa’s self-identity as well as how others are seeking to change it, even if it means more underground means.


Writing workshop: “Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats” at CAN-CON on Oct. 30 in Ottawa

I will be teaching a 2-hour writing workshop on how to keep readers on the edges of their seats before the official start of CAN-CON, Ottawa’s SF/F/H convention coming up October 30 – November 1, 2015.

This workshop is one of four workshops being run before the convention officially starts, so you won’t miss any programming by attending. Even if mine doesn’t sound interesting, check out the others.

If you’re interested, here’s the short version:

  • WHEN: Friday, October 30, 2015
    2:30 – 4:30
  • WHERE: Sheraton Ottawa Hotel (Room TBD)
    150 Albert Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
  • HOW: Register online
    Space is limited
    You do not need to register with the con to attend
    No same-day registration
  • COST: $10 plus $1.25 service fee

Why should I take this workshop?

This workshop is for writers of all genres who want their stories to be page-turners that readers can’t put down. If you have been getting rejections or feedback like “Started too slow” or “Just didn’t grab me”, this workshop is for you.

There’s more to maintaining tension than just writing short, clipped sentences, the “ticking clock” or cutting between scenes. Stories, and the scenes within them, have a structure. (And do not confuse structure, which is descriptive, with formula, which is prescriptive.) That is, we are introduced to a scene, something changes for our characters, and they move on to the next scene. This can involve saving the universe or looking for their car keys. To create tension, you need to understand how the pieces of this structure work—plot, pacing, characters, conflict, etc.

We’ll look at things like:

  • How to end a scene in a way that makes the reader want to keep reading, but by giving a pay-off and not “cheating”?
  • What kind of threats and challenges can you throw at the main character that aren’t tired, clichéd or too easy?
  • Who or what is working against your main character?
  • What is on the line if your main character fails?

There is limited space and you have to register in advance online. You won’t be able to register at the convention.

I hope to see you there!

The Ottawa shootings and changing the world

I live in Ottawa, Ontario, and as you’ve no doubt heard we had a shooting here on Wednesday where a soldier was killed. As the dusting is settling, it is apparent what we first thought was a coordinated attack by multiple gunmen was the act of a single man with the element of surprise, surprising speed and a gun. Less than ten minutes (based accounts) after killing Corporal Cirillo, the gunman was shot dead inside the Parliament Building.

Yet for hours this city was gripped in fear as armed soldiers and police moved throughout downtown, warning bystanders and journalists to run or take cover. We now know there was no threat, but at the time we had no idea how many gunmen were out there and, after shootings at the Cenotaph and Parliament Buildings, we did not know when or where someone else might strike.

Now that reflection has begun, my thoughts turn to how one man could have had such an effect on this city. Debate has already started over whether the reaction was prudent or paranoia, justified or an overreaction. I will let others who know more about these things slug that out. But what I keep coming back to is the effect one person had on a community, a city, a nation and the world simply through sheer will. His motivations will be speculated on for some time, but it is clear he meant to kill and injure.

Malala Yousafzai, who will not be silenced.

But what if this same kind of determination was used toward a positive goal? It’s no small irony that Malala Yousafzai—a young woman who refused to be silenced—was to receive honourary Canadian citizenship that same day.

My friend and fellow Ottawa writer Hayden Trenholm said “When you experience something like this, the human urge is to turn it into a story about yourself.” This is a natural, human reaction in order to internalize and process trauma, and I recommend you read Hayden’s account of witnessing the murder of Corporal Cirillo. But he also realizes these events are not about us, but we must still react to them.

So the question I pose to myself and to all of you is: How will you change the world? What do you believe in, what skills do you possess, and will you draw on your own force of will to make it happen? Even changing one person—including yourself—for the better changes the world.

Unfortunately it is easier to create fear than hope, to destroy than to build, to discourage than inspire. But we must persevere, work together, and agree that we can make a difference not because we hope or want to, but because we will.

There is plenty you can do: give blood, donate to a charity, volunteer.

For me, I will continue to do what I do best: write, organize (i.e., the Ottawa Chiaroscuro Reading Series), promote and network. While not in the league of curing diseases, helping bring the Ottawa specific community together has helped a lot of fans know they are not as isolated as they may have thought. That is where my skills lie, and I will continue to press forward.

What are you going to do?

CAN-CON 2014: Your guide for getting coffee, food, booze, etc.

The CAN-CON Logo

If you’re coming into downtown Ottawa for CAN-CON, our local convention on speculative fiction, in early October, navigating downtown Ottawa can be a challenge. Even for its residents, what’s a bustling central core during on weekdays becomes abandoned and closed over the weekend. Here’s an attempt to let you know where you can find services in downtown Ottawa.

If you’re not sure about CAN-CON, they’ve posted their schedule on their site. You can register for CAN-CON here.

If I’ve missed anything or you have something to recommend, please let me know in the comments!

Understanding downtown Ottawa

  • The streets are laid out in a grid, but in reality they run northeast-southwest and northwest-southeast. But if someone gives you “Go north” directions, remember that Parliament Hill is considered north.
  • The downtown core is built around public servants, so some places might not be open on the weekends.
  • Like everyplace else, we are undergoing construction—closed lanes, blocked sidewalks, etc.
  • Like most downtowns, there are one-way streets, no turns at certain intersections, and other traffic rules that make no sense.

The hotel

The Sheraton is right downtown at the corner of Albert and O’Connor. (On Google Maps.) It looks like there are always taxis out front. When I went by their was a sign for valet parking only in the hotel’s underground garage.

Across Albert Street is the World Exchange Plaza, which takes up an entire city block. There is a food court inside, but I do not know if it will be open over the weekend. But there is a Shopper’s Drug Mart right across the street for your con-crud needs. (Friday until 9PM, Saturday 9AM-6PM, closed Sunday).

If you are driving in for the day, parking at the World Exchange Plaza is free on the weekends. Get off the Queensway (Highway 417) at the Metcalfe exit and go north toward downtown. You will want to get into the left-hand lane as you approch downtown. Go straight across Albert and down the ramp into the underground parking garage. There is also an entrance off Queen Street between Metcalfe and O’Connor. (Hat tip to Natasha E Bertrand!)

You are also only three blocks south of Parliament Hill. We take it for granted in Ottawa, but if you’ve never seen it it’s worth the walk.

Restaurants & bars

There’s a bar and restaurant right in the lobby with seemingly sane hours. Hopefully we won’t need to go to far afield for a drink.

If you feel like going out, there are usually food trucks and stands all over downtown. But, on a weekend and with fall coming on I don’t know how many you’ll find.

Two blocks north is Sparks Street, a pedestrian mall that has number of shops and restaurants. There are too many to list here, so check out the Sparks Street website to get an idea.

If you are meeting a prospective agent, see if they will take you to Hy’s Steakhouse, one of the swankiest joints in the city. It’s on Queen between Bank and O’Connor (one block north, half a block west).

At Sparks and Bank (two blocks north, one block west) you’ll find 3 Brewers, a huge place that brews its own beer. Not great, but very good.

There are also Subways, McDonalds, shwarma, sushi and other places to get a quick bite, but too many to list here (though I can’t promise what will be open).

LCBO and Beer Store

There is an LCBO across Albert Street and at the east end of the block.

  • Friday: Open until 8PM
  • Saturday: 10AM6PM
  • Sunday: 12PM4PM

Unfortunately, there is not a Beer Store in the downtown core and you’ll need to cab it or drive to The Beer Store at Rideau and Waller.


There is no shortage of coffee places. Just pick a direction!

Metcalfe and Slater (one block east, one block south)

  • Tim Hortons (6AM-7PM daily)
  • Starbucks (Friday until 8PM, Saturday 6:30AM-7PM, Sunday 7AM-7PM)
  • Second Cup (Friday until 9PM, Saturday and Sunday 7AM-7PM)

Bank and Albert (one block west)

  • Bridgehead (Friday until 9PM, Saturday and Sunday 8AM-8PM)

Bank and Slater (one block south, one block west)

  • Starbucks (Friday until 8:30, Saturday 7:30AM-8PM, Sunday 7:30AM-8PM)
  • Second Cup (Friday until 7PM, Saturday 8AM-5PM, closed Sunday)

O’Connor and Laurier  (two blocks south)

  • Starbucks (Friday until 7PM, Saturday and Sunday 7:30AM-6PM)


Most major banks have locations within a block or two, so if you don’t mind a quick walk you can save a buck or two at the ATM.


The hotel offers an exercise room, but there is also a GoodLife Fitness at Queen and Bank (one block north, one block west) that is open until 10PM on Friday, and 7AM-7PM Saturday and Sunday.

Like I said above, if I missed something feel free to let me know if in the comments! See you all in a few weeks.

Viewing Fandom as an Underground Economy of Ideas

The Ottawa Comiccon is coming up next weekend. In all likelihood, I will be attending and helping  out at the ChiZine Publications table (#2418 – come by and say!). With it, I have been thinking about fandom.

A few months back,  I was contacted by a student writing a paper on fandom who had seen my #SixSeaonsAndAMovie post. She asked if she could ask me some questions and when I said “yes”, she replied:

The particular report I’m writing is in response to the Henry Jenkins definition of “fan culture”:

‘[A] culture that is produced by fans and other amateurs for circulation through an underground economy and that draws much of its content from the commercial culture’.

My initial response is that this definition seems to neglect underlying social and political issues between the producer and fans of any given text, so I’m looking for fans who wouldn’t mind sharing their own thoughts on how class and social experiences may influence one’s viewing or appropriation of the text. What I really appreciate about your blog is that you discuss feelings towards the show and yourself almost as (so to speak) an ‘underground economy’ – as though the only thing a fan of Community should be concerned with is recognising and sharing a sense of self-reflection.

Really I think what I’m trying to ask is – as a fan of Community, and on that particular blog post, do you exchange knowledge about the text almost as an ‘underground economy’ or ‘commercial culture’, or do you share your personal appropriation of the text. If you do indeed share rather than exchange, could you explain some of the possible social, political or personal reasons as to why you enjoy sharing your fandom?

This gave me quite a bit to think about. I did some quick research on Dr. Jenkins, found there was too much for me to do a quick search, and so turned to the question at hand. My reply is below:

I’ll start with the statement about “fan culture” being “‘[A] culture that is produced by fans and other amateurs for circulation through an underground economy and that draws much of its content from the commercial culture’.” I think a lot of this is right, but will zero on on ” underground economy”. The term “economy” can be defined narrowly or broadly, but in general it is a system of exchange relying on limited resources and exchanges that hopefully benefit both parties, where the items of exchange can be further exchanged.

One can certainly see this economy at work at just about any fan convention. Vendors will be selling T-shirts, artwork, blankets or any number of items that use unlicensed likeness of others’ creative work. (Right now, I am drinking a cocktail from a tumbler with the Decepticon logo etched into it. I doubt it is licensed by Hasbro.)

But as you say, I think this narrow definition excludes a significant part of what I would consider “fan culture”. Cosplay, fanfic, animated GIFs, fan films—there are a number of expressions of fandom that do not expect or work on monetary reward. Rather, a fan has such appreciation of a franchise that the only way they know how to deal with it is to immerse themselves in it. There is no exchange or profit here other than in meeting others with the same enjoyment and passion as you.

There is also, as you have pointed out, the interaction between creator and fan that the Internet has made much more intimate and immediate. Kevin Smith stands as one example of a creator who understands and interacts with his fans, both in person and online. It’s a great way to recognize that without fans, there is no celebrity/culture creator. One might say there is an economic interest in connecting with fans, but I doubt the most plugged-in creators do it to increase their profit. Rather, they enjoy that others enjoy their work.

Dan Harmon's call to action to fans to tweet #sixseasonsandamovie

The closing show of the season three finale of Community. For me, it was a call to action that I and many others took, resulting in #sixseasonsandamovie trending worldwide.

Which leads to my post, which was simply an expression of my feelings at the time. The decision to put #sixseasonsandamovie as the closing shot of what could have been the last episode resonated with me. I interpreted it to be a call to action by Dan Harmon to the show’s fans to tweet the hashtag as a show of, well, community. It inspired me to share my feelings on the subject for two reasons. First, when I am uncertain about something, I write. Most of my blog posts are methods for me to figure out my opinion on a subject or express something that I feel implicitly. Second, I’d hoped that my expression of how I felt might resonate with someone else, helping them sort out their feelings, just as others’ posts have helped me.

I wrote the post with no expectation of return, profit or any other economic aspect. It was purely to share. And I am thrilled that it has had such a positive impact on so many people. If there is exchange, it is indeed for mutual benefit in that I may bring about an appreciation another may not have had while she helps me realize an element I had not before considered. Yet I would not classify that as economic since the resource being exchanged is not limited nor can it be exchanged for something else—enthusiasm.

Which leads me to the social, political and personal reasons why I share. To borrow a phrase: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I find in fandom there is a considerable amount of discussion, dissection and examination to a level never considered by the creator. Could a Klingon and human produce viable offspring? How could something as small as an X-Wing fighter have an FTL drive? Does the Doctor have to always be male? I think these intellectual exercises truly defines fandom more than T-shirt with a character’s face on them for sale at a local comic book convention, and certainly more than “celebrity worship” where the focus is on the creator and not the creation.

So why share? So I can learn more from someone else, and learn more by explaining my premise in greater detail. In other words, make me think. And if my efforts can provoke thought and/or entertain someone else, that is a wonderful accomplishment.

It is also an acknowledgement of the larger (ahem) community out there. For generations, religion played a role in establishing communities. In the 20th century, groups like the Lions Club, Knights of Columbus or even bowling leagues filled this role. In the 21st century, we are seeing communities based on interests, able to connect through the Internet. Like many communities, there will also be more people who take than give, but the ease of the Web allows one to give—an image, a movie, a blog post—in the hopes that others will find it and appreciate it.

So for me, the post was to express my feelings, my sadness, my appreciation and my encouragement for other fans to be heard.

I hope this answers your question.

With Comiccon next weekend, I look forward to immersing myself in this great, deep and enthusiastic fandom culture.

Places to Eat, Drink or Get a Coffee at Can-Con

A challenge I find at conventions is finding where to grab a coffee, get a bite to eat or grab a drink. So since I work downtown near the con hotel, I did some recon to try to point you in the right direction before you arrive.

The first thing to understand is downtown Ottawa tends to shut down outside of working hours and on the weekend, so even if you find something on Google Maps it might not be open. And while I’ve added store hours when I could find them, not everyplace posts its hours.

The hotel itself

The hotel is part of a buidling structure that takes up an entire city block bounded by Lyon (where the entrance to the hotel is), Slater, Kent and Laurier. The hotel’s restuarant is Prime 360, which serves good food, but can be pricey. Also, it is a popular place so might be full of a non-convention crowd.

There is a food court right off the hotel in the centre of the building complex. However, I don’t know if it will be open during the weekend.

Places to get breakfast / coffee

The hotel website says Prime 360 has a breakfast buffet, but I don’t know its cost.

There’s a Starbucks one block north on Kent and a Tim Horton’s on Slater between Kent and Bank.

Places for dinner

About a block south on Lyon is Tapas. I’ve never been there, but heard it’s good. It will be open until 10 on Friday, but only from 5-10 on Saturday.

A few blocks north and east on Albert between Kent and Bank is India Palace. It is open from 5-10 Friday and Saturday. I’ve been there and can highly recommend it.

Just around the corner on Albert is Baton Rouge. Very good food, but pricey. Maybe for a special night out.

Places for a beer

On the other side of the building complex is The Royal Oak, which is a part of a chain of bars in Ottawa. (So, if you enter “royal oak ottawa” into Google Maps you’ll get a lot of hits.) The food is reasonable in price and quality  and  you don’t have to walk too far! I’m thinking this should be the main bar for the convention.

A few blocks north and west, on Bay between Albert and Queen, is the Bay Street Bistro and the Black Bear. The Bistro is open for lunch and dinner from 11:30AM-10:00PM. The Black Bear is open from 11:00AM-2:00AM. I’ve been to both places a few years back and remember them as having decent food and prices.

What have I missed?

If you live downtown, leave a comment to let me know what places you recommend around the convention hotel (Lyon between Albert and Laurier).

Help Some Good Causes This Holiday Season

I know times are tough and writer-types are not rolling in dough, but I hope someone out there can help out three worthy causes.

Ottawa bookseller Collected Works looking for a buyer

Collected Works is a bookstore in Ottawa just west of the downtown core. It has been very good to Ottawa’s specfic community. But recently, owners Christopher and Craig posted to Facebook they are looking for a buyer. The price is only $1.00, but the new owner would need to take on liabilities. If they don’t have a buyer by December 24, they will be closing the store.

Times are tough and I hope a buyer can come through. I know it’s doubtful a buyer will see this post, but I’m asking if you’d please spread the word.

Help turn Michael Kelly’s Apparitions 2 from dream to reality

Michael Kelly, who has edited the Chilling Tales anthologies (Edge) and the dark fiction journal Shadows & Tall Trees (Undertow) is turning to Indiegogo to fund a second volume of Apparitions. The first volume was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award.

Michael has already lined up stories from Glen Hirshberg, Kathe Koja, John Langan, Sarah Langan, Mark Morris, Reggie Oliver, M. Rickert and Simon Strantzas. If funds can be raised, there will also be an open reading period from Feb. 1–28, 2013. But Michael needs to hit his $5,000 goal by January 15, 2013.

Michael is an amazing editor and put together some great works. He’s also a great dude in his own right. Help him out?

fearfulEllen Datlow and ChiZine Publications team-up for a Kickstarter-funded anthology

Editor extraordinaire Ellen Datlow has turned to Kickstarter to fund a new horror anthology Fearful Symmetries. Set for publication in 2014, Ellen has tapped ChiZine Publications to produce the book.

“This project is close to my heart,” says Datlow, “which is why I’ve decided to appeal to the public through Kickstarter. And while I have a stable of writers whose work I love, I want to give a chance to new talent that I may not be aware of. I want them to write the stories they’ve always wanted to and perhaps couldn’t because there was no venue for them.”

This campaign has to raise $25,000 by January 10 for it to happen. I know that’s a lot, but it goes to editing, layout, design and production costs. And they’re offering some great pledge options. They’ve already raised about $5K as I write this, so they’re on their way but need your help.

Okay, I’ve asked for enough of your money. Even if you can’t spare anything this close to Christmas, please spread the word.

My Sneak-Peak at Can-Con Programming

UPDATE: You can now view the proposed programming on Can-Con’s Facebook group. Keep in mind that it is a draft, so be nice with any comments you might have. We’re only human and trying to be fair to everyone.

I had the chance to see a draft of the programming schedule for Can-Con, Ottawa’s SF/F/H convention taking place September 21-23.

First, I will say this schedule is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, but I want to single out my friend Derek Künsken, head of programming. I’ve known Derek for 5 years now and together we founded The East Block Irregulars writing group. I’ve always been impressed by his determination and organization, and those qualities have really paid off here.

 What can you expect at Can-Con?

The schedule is still in draft form, but what I saw that jumped out at me:

  • Panels on the specifics of writing science fiction (how to get the science right), horror (what’s scary and what’s a cliché) and fantasy (world-building, languages and maps)
  • Presentations by scientists and academics
  • Writers helping other writers when it comes to the business side of things
  • Fans of genre fiction discussing what they love and would recommend to others
  • Editors and publishers talking about what they do
  • Kaffeeklatsches with guests of honor Hayden Trenholm, Alan Neal and Tom Fowler
  • Readings by authors both local (like me) and from across Canada
  • Three launch parties (and maybe more!)
  • A burlesque organized by the Ottawa Browncoats

Who is coming to Can-Con?

Guest of Honour:

  • Hayden Trenholm
  • Neal Adams
  • Tom Folwer

Special Guests:

  • Marie Bilodeau
  • Leah Bobbet
  • Eric Choi
  • Sandra Kasturi
  • Brett Savory

I’m very excited by this convention and hope anyone who is reading this in Toronto, Kingston, Montreal or upstate New York will consider making the journey to Ottawa for a weekend of geeky goodness. Cost for the weekend is $50 and registration is open now, including group rates.

Two Events this Weekend

Nothing like short notice, right? If you’re in Ottawa and are a fan of sci-fi/horror/fantasy or just great stories, I have two events for you. Hope to see you there!

Postscripts to Darkness 2 Launch

Sean Moreland and Aalya Ahmad, two Ottawa professors studying horror literature who will be attending Can-Con this year, are launching their latest horror anthology Postscripts to Darkness 2.

When & Where:
Imperial Pub
329 Bank Street
Saturday, August 11 @ 7PM

More details on Facebook

Can-Con Reading Club: Online ‘Zines

As part of the warm-up for Can-Con, the organizers are hosting reading series to cover various topics. This Sunday afternoon we will be covering 4 stories in the online ‘zines AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review and Ideomancer. One of the stories to be discussed is my story “Ascension“. The others are:

I should point out AE editor Duff McCourt and Ideomancer editor Leah Bobbet will be attending Can-Con in September.

When & Where:
Bridgehead Coffeehouse
Bank & Albert
Sunday, August 12 @ 2PM

More details on Facebook

New Podcast and Good News for Undead Tales 2

Dark Fiction Magazine, a UK podcast, has posted my story “The Machinery of Government as part of Issue 11. The podcast is about 30 minutes long and has a great reading by Danny Davies who brings real sense of terror to the piece. Set in Ottawa, it’s about a newly-minted cabinet minister who must choose between his duty and his wife when Ottawa comes under attack. Thematically, it’s about the dehumanizing aspects of technology.

“The Machinery of Government” first appeared in Tesseracts Fourteen (EDGE Publishing) edited by John Robert Colombo and Brett Alexander Savory.

In other good news, I just received the proofs for Undead Tales 2. In it, I found my zombie story “But It’s Not The End” is the last story in the anthology, which is unknown as the “anchor” story since it’s the last thing the reader will read, anchoring the anthology in the reader’s mind by that story. Undead Tales 2 is edited by Armand Rosamilia and will be published by Rymfire Books.

Upcoming Appearances

Limestone Genre Expo – Guest
May 26 – 27, 2017
Holiday Inn Waterfront
Kingston, ON
Can*Con 2018 – Special Guest
Oct. 12 – 14, 2017
Sheraton Ottawa Hotel
Ottawa, ON

Where Else to Find Me

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