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Margaret Atwood with SF in my Life and Art

SF in my Life and Art

In a journey through pictures, Margaret Atwood traces her relationship with SF in all its dimensions, from her childhood superheroes — 2 flying rabbits on a distant planet — to the present day. Both as reader and as writer, she’s had a strange romance.

Pyper def au photo_SMALL_credit Heidi Pyper

Andrew Pyper with What’s in the Trunk?

How To See the Characters We Write – And Ourselves – By Way of Secrets

A strange anecdote shared during the Q&A following a reading in the dead of winter has ended up changing the way Andrew Pyper understands characterization in his writing. It all comes down to secrets. The ones we hide from others, the ones we hide from ourselves. But if we keep our secrets for too long, too well, the masks we wear run the risk of permanently becoming the “real” faces we present to the world. Secrets define us. But if they go unrecognized, like a hungry parasite, they can devour their hosts completely.

Photo Credit to Minna Jerrman

Peter Watts with ScArt


Science and art have gone their separate ways ever since the Renaissance, and most scientists are just fine with that. The two pursuits seem fundamentally antithetical: Art is messy and gut-level and creative; science is rigorous and systematic and replicable.  Nobody uses watercolors to invent quantum computers or parse the spectrum of a distant star— although scientists have used “World of Warcraft” as a tool for epidemiological research, and sought assistance from sculptors when they needed new tech to explore the deep sea. The works of certain painters contain consistent fractal signatures, describing natural landscapes using a common set of equations— pretty much the kind of thing that science is supposed to do, albeit without the need to fellate NSERC for research grants every few years.  Neurologically, science and art may even run the same  wetware; in a very real way, appearances notwithstanding, they may be the same thing.

It was great when those artsy types used the latest science to inform their art; it was fine when scientists exploited art to do science. Today, though, people have started doing science not just to cure cancer or build better gaming interfaces, but solely to further the creation of art. Science— historically the dom— is discovering its inner sub.

As a former scientist myself, I’m not sure how I feel about that.


Michael Rowe with 21st Century Ghosts: On Suspension of Disbelief in Supernatural Fiction in the Age of Cell Phones, Facebook and Twitter

21st Century Ghosts: On Suspension of Disbelief in Supernatural Fiction in the Age of Cell Phones, Facebook and Twitter
In the 21st century, help is often a cell phone call away. Fingers scratching on the window at night? Ghostly apparitions? Furniture moving around by itself? A werewolf battering down the door? Google it.  Send out a Twitter call to arms. Post it on Facebook. Help will be immediately forthcoming. In an age of social media, how does a writer of supernatural fiction address the lack physical isolation and terror that writers, from M.R. James, to Algernon Blackwood, to Shirley Jackson, to Peter Straub, to Stephen King were able to take for granted? Let’s explore the challenges of writing 21st century ghost stories in an age of technology, and how to find the darkness in an age of perpetual light.

Peter Chiykowski with How to punch like a three-armed mutant: a specfic writer’s guide to fighting dirty in comics, comedy and storytelling

How to punch like a three-armed mutant: a specfic writer’s guide to fighting dirty in comics, comedy and storytelling

Most writers tell jokes like boxers in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. They wind up with one arm to keep their reader’s eye on the familiar set up of the joke, while the other arm delivers a powerful and unexpected punchline. It’s a good formula! But here’s the thing: specfic writers aren’t like most writers, and the anatomy of a speculative storyteller is a weird and mutable thing. Specfic writers are able to tell jokes and stories like mutant boxers, where speculation provides a versatile third arm that can set up punchlines, cross-cuts and exaggerations that shouldn’t be possible. Let’s talk about how to fight dirty and use speculative limbs to subvert expectations in comics, comedy and storytelling.

alyx portrait 2014

A.M. Dellamonica with How we became LV426

How we became LV426

One of our most urgent global conversations in 2016 is about climate change, and long-term consequences of human impacts on Earth’s biosphere. That we have changed the world irrevocably is something that most of us acknowledge… but what some may not know is that random acts of human terraforming have brought us to the brink of disaster before this. In “How We Became LV-426,” A.M. Dellamonica will discuss how we made a huge swath of our own world unfit for human habitation. We’ll talk about what it took to reclaim it, and how those lessons might be applied in the future.

Tony Burgess

Praise for the Colloquium

“What a terrific event for both the connoisseur of specfic and those seeking initiation. …The Toronto Specfic Colloquium is the arrival party for genre fiction in a country with a deep talent pool.”

-Tony Burgess, author of Pontypool Changes Everything

Next Previous

Michael Rowe


Margaret Atwood


Andrew Pyper

Pyper def au photo_SMALL_credit Heidi Pyper

Peter Watts

Photo Credit to Minna Jerrman

Peter Chiykowski


A.M. Dellamonica

alyx portrait 2014

Our Mandate 

The Toronto SpecFic Colloquium is hosted by the Chiaroscuro Reading Series and sponsored by Toronto-based press, ChiZine Publications.

Emerging from early magic realism, mythology and fable, from the work of science fiction authors who cut their teeth during the 1950’s golden age of pulp science fiction, and from the disturbing literary forays of horror writers inspired by Shelley, Poe, and Stoker, Canadian speculative fiction has begun to move in strange and provocative new directions, becoming something altogether different from its American counterpart and wholly itself.

We believe that Canadian authors may well prove to be the kind of rejuvenating force necessary to revitalize the “pulp” genres of fantasy, science fiction and horror writing.  As Canadian publications including Neo-OpsisOnSpecIdeomancerChallenging Destiny, the long-running Tesseracts collections, and our own ChiZine Publications become increasingly prominent markets for speculative fiction, we want to establish a dialogue between senior and junior authors, between authors and editors, and between authors and readers in order to encourage the growth of this important literary domain.