Sunday, October 23, 2011

Toronto SpecFic Colloquium: Modern Mythologies

The Lobster and Canary hugely enjoyed participating in the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium on October 15th. Toronto has deep roots in speculative fiction and a robust specfic scene (it is no surprise that Toronto will host next year's World Fantasy Convention)--all of which were on display at the Colloquium.

Sandra Kasturi and Helen Marshall of Chizine Publications did a superb job organizing the event (full disclosure: CZP publishes my work, but truly I would say this even if I were published elsewhere). Other sponsors included Toronto's leading comix/ graphic novels store, The Beguiling, and Toronto's specialty science fiction/ fantasy/ horror bookstore Bakka Phoenix, plus the specfic magazine Ideomancer and poetry small press Kelp Queen.

For details, click here. A short summary:

Guest of honor Mike Carey -- author of the Felix Castor novels, of X-Men, Hellblazer, Lucifer, the graphic novelization of Gaiman's Neverwhere, and many other good thing--delivered an elegant, thought-provoking, very well received keynote address entitled " 'Speak of the Dazzling Wings': Myth, Language, and Modern Fantasy," on how metaphor works for and sometimes against intended meaning in fiction generally. I cannot do justice to the address here--I urge Mike to get it published, so that our wider community can read and comment. Delivered with humor and without presumption, Mike's lecture spanned evolutionary biology (touching on Brian Boyd's On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition & Fiction), T.S. Eliot, hard-boiled detective novels, comic books, Owen Barfield (perhaps the least-remembered Inkling, whose Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning from 1928 is steadily gaining more notice and adherents), and much, much more. Mike's central concepts derived from and played with the work of Wallace Stevens ("Speak of the Dazzling Wings" is the last line in the Stevens poem "Some Friends From Pascagoula").

Mike's performance was all the more impressive, since he must have been fairly massively jet-lagged: he and his wife Linda (who is herself an accomplished fantasy author, writing as A.J. Lake) had just stepped off the plane from London!

The Colloquium also featured (in no particular order): Hugo Award-winner Peter Watts demonstrating that none of us has free will and that there is no such thing as "reality" (one of those talks that reminds us of an intricate machine whose purpose is not fully understood, that may even be slightly sinister, yet lures us in for closer inspection-- against our will); Daniel Heath Justice providing an excellent overview of Native American specfic and scholarship on the same (I look forward to hearing more from and about Daniel, and likewise more about the many authors and scholars he summarized); a lively exchange on how writers use and re-use classical mythological themes, complete with readings from Shakespeare, Tennyson and Homer, between Lesley Livingston and Caitlin Sweet; a very interactive session on utopias and activism with Emily Pohl-Weary; and an insightful, spirited roundtable with booksellers and publishers on the state of the specfic field in commercial/market terms.

And, of course, the power of the gathering includes the many conversations struck up by and among participants. For instance, we were delighted to meet Diana Kolpak, whose just-released collaboration with photographer Kathleen Finlay, entitled Starfall, certainly intrigues.

The 2012 edition of the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium-- with World Fantasy Award winner Robert Shearman as GoH-- will be October 20th. Go get your tickets now.


K. L. Gore said...

Sounds intriguing! Thanks for sharing this.

Charity said...

Sounds wonderful! So glad it was a great event!