30 Before 30: Pure Speculation

One thing nobody tells you about National Novel Writing Month is how time-consuming it can be (actually, I think everybody tells you that. Literally everybody.) In between writing 2,000 words a day, my yoga challenge, work, and down-time, I haven’t had a chance to do much of anything outside those things, let alone blog. 

But I did take a break from writing to attend Pure Speculation in Edmonton this past weekend, and now I’m taking another break to blog about it.

Pure Spec was what I had in mind when I added “go to a completely geeky event” to my 30 Before 30 list, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve been wanting to go to the festival for all things speculative since I learned about it through Twitter two years ago, but my typically crazy busy work schedule in November didn’t leave room for much else. Now that I’ve found a better work-life balance, I decided this was the year to take in Pure Spec.

For those of you who don’t know, Pure Spec is a festival dedicated to all things geeky. It derives its name from speculative fiction, which includes things like science fiction, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, horror – basically anything fantastical. So, naturally, I knew it would be right up my alley.

We braved an impending blizzard and drove up to Edmonton Friday night, where we kicked of our geeky weekend with a trip to the comic book store down the block from my sister’s condo where we were staying. Saturday, we woke up to a veritable tonne of snow and made our way to the Ramada just in time for the first set of panels.

At that point, Ryan and I went our own separate ways. I took in a Seven Point Plotting panel led by two local fantasy writers (who have been published and everything). Given that I’m in the mushy middle of my own fantasy book, that panel was easily my favorite of the day. Ryan attended a crowdfunding panel, where a videogame developer and a writer talked about funding their projects through Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Next up for me was a panel about the appeal of young adult fiction – another interesting session, though I don’t aspire to write YA. Ryan’s choice for that timeblock was a panel about steampunk, which wasn’t exactly what he expected (he’s not into building costumes, and they focused quite heavily on that.)

After that, I dragged him to a panel about making a small fortune in publishing (something I hope to do someday) and got some useful information about the ins and outs of working with a publisher. I didn’t realize how much self-promotion comes with being a published writer, and I must admit I’m grateful that my work experience has included plenty of marketing.

We took a break from panels at that point to visit the market. As soon as I walked in, I knew I needed to put myself on a budget, or I’d buy literally everything. They had some great booths for publishers like Tyche Books, Five Rivers Publishing, and Edge Publishing, and it was at Edge where I spent my money. The lady manning the booth was one of the women who had put on the Seven Point Plotting panel, and when I told her what I liked to read, she directed me to a series of historical fantasy fiction books.

I didn’t realize immediately she was the author of said series, but I picked all three of them up anyway, and she very graciously signed them for me when I realized she had written them. In hindsight, I’m glad I picked up all three – I haven’t been able to put the first book in the series down since I started it Sunday.

At that point, I tweeted a friend I’ve chatted with on Twitter for the past couple of years but never met to see if he was at the festival somewhere. We met up with him in the lounge and had a nice chat. (I’m only now learning that he, in fact, founded the festival. Cool guy.)

Our next panel was one Ryan insisted on, and I’m glad he did. It was put on by a researcher at the U of A, and its topic was atoms and nanotechnology. Now, I don’t have a science brain – I lean strictly toward subjects like English – but even so, I love science and learning about research, so that panel was hands-down the most interesting one we attended.

After that, we went to a session about videogame audio, which was just a fantastic learning experience. Ever since I went to Universal Studios as a kid, I’ve been really into how they make sound effects, and the gent putting on the panel didn’t disappoint. We had a chance to ask a lot of questions and learn about what separates good videogame audio from bad.

I think that was my favorite thing about Pure Spec (aside from the cool topics and great speakers). I’m not a fan of cons where I’m elbow to elbow with people, and at Pure Spec, the groups were small enough that you could ask questions of the panel without feeling out of place. It was nice to be in a small group of like-minded people and to chat with others who share my passion for the geekier side of life.

We didn’t make it to Pure Spec the following day. We thought we might try to make it home, and by the time we realized we wouldn’t be able to leave until Monday, it was too late for the sessions we wanted to attend. But even with one day of festivities, I saw enough to know I’ll be back again next year.


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