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CanCon SF convention logo

My Schedule for Can-Con 2017

CanCon SF convention logoCan-Con 2017 is happening from October 13-15 this year — less than two weeks away! I first attended in 2015, and since I missed the convention last year, I’m super excited to be back as a panelist this year. Here’s a quick look at what panels I’ll be taking part in.

Friday, October 13th

Short on Wacky Ideas? Peanut Butter and Chocolate: SF/F Mashups We Wish Existed
You got your Greek mythology in my space opera! No, *you* got *your* space opera in my Greek mythology! Mashups are like mixing peanut butter and chocolate together and realizing they’re awesome. Here’s the panel where we discuss the nerdy peanut butter cups of our dreams. All ideas generated in this room are free for anyone to use, just in time for NaNo!

When: 9-9:50 PM
Where: Salon C
Participants: Cathy Hird, Angela S. Stone, Christina Vasilevski, Sylvain Neuvel, Kaitlin Caul (moderator)

Sunday, October 15th

Wands Up! The Power of SFF Fandom and Activism
From Nerdfighters to Dumbledore’s Army, science fiction and fantasy fans have been channeling their love for the genre into real life social change. This panel will explore how SFF literature enables readers to see themselves as heroines and heroes in their own narratives, and the role that authors play in crafting these stories.

When: 2-2:50 PM
Where: Salon E
Participants: Rebecca Diem, Su J. Sokol, Christina Vasilevski, Violette Malan (moderator)

Note: The times and dates listed above are based on the draft schedule and may change before the convention starts. Go to the convention’s panel page to see the full list of panels and the most up-to-date schedule.

The offerings at Can-Con 2017 look great, and the chance to try out the RPG system for attendees is particularly exciting. The RPG aspect was introduced last year, but it’s new to me.

I can’t wait to attend and see both friends and new faces. I may even be bringing along some tea samples for some lucky guests. If you’re coming, let me know, and if you want me to bring you some tea, definitely let me know so I can pack some samples for you.

Bonus news for authors and other industry professionals

In 2018, I want to focus more on interviewing authors and others involved in the Canadian SF scene and sharing those interviews on Books & Tea. That means that if you’re a Canadian author, publisher, bookseller, editor, or agent, I want to hear from you.

If you’re going to Can-Con 2017, I’m interested in talking to you about scheduling an interview and any launches or publications you may have coming up that I can help promote. Just look for me at the con, or send me a message now so we can connect later on.

The back of the white canvas bag shows a fully-grown cat embroidered with gold, orange, and red thread. The cat's eyes are embroidered in green thread.

Ad Astra 2017 Roundup

Well, it’s Monday, which means Ad Astra 2017 has come and gone. Here’s a brief summary of how I fared this past weekend.

Friday May 5

I got to the con later than I expected because transferring to York Regional Transit at Finch Station was much more difficult than I anticipated. Lack of signage, unclear instructions on how to pay for fares, not enough information about which buses dock at which platforms – just in general, Finch Station is a clusterfuck to navigate, I mean what even.

However, I did still have time to eat and get my registration package before my very first panel, the one on gender terminology in fantasy and science fiction.

This panel was a frustrating one in retrospect, because, frankly, one of the panelists was disturbingly conservative in her approach to gender. She didn’t see the point of using the singular “they”, didn’t respect the existence of non-binary pronouns, and promoted the worst forms of gender essentialism. (“Gender is related to procreation!” “In my book, I made my male and female characters completely different species, and decided to mix things up by using the pronoun ‘he’ for all characters, even the female ones!” “If you use ‘they’ to refer to an individual, then what are you going to do when there are multiple people, huh?”)


I tried to shut these lines of discussion down when I could, but they really made me angry. I found out after the fact that I was not the only one who felt this way, and that several members of the audience (which was standing room only!) appreciated my attempts to call this BS out for being reductive and erasing.

(Also, as a note to the Con Committee, in case any of you read this post: if you’re making a panel about gender terminology in SF/F, it’s not a good idea to have it populated only with white cis women. Ad Astra has a noticeable diversity problem, and in future instances I recommend that the con make an effort to ensure that future panels on similar topics have queer/non-binary representation.)


After that panel was over, Mr. Books&Tea and I wandered around the hotel, checking out various rooms and running into other people. At one point, it felt like every single person I ran into was a friend of mine, and as more people gathered around me, it felt like I was a gravitational mass pulling other awesome people into its orbit. I felt like I was at the centre of a great big lump of friendships and happiness. 😀

Saturday May 6

Saturday was awesome. I took part in two panels. The first, moderated by Adam Shaftoe-Durrant, was about whether or not the western genre is still relevant today, while the second, moderated by Derek Künsken, was about the current state of space opera.

I actually had enough to say on both panels without running out of ideas, which is a miracle. Both Adam and Derek were great moderators, as they came prepared with a list of questions and made sure to cycle back and forth among the various panelists.

Every so often, it strikes me as incredibly weird that there are people out there in the spec-fic community who care about what I have to say. Books & Tea is a super tiny blog, and Twitter is my main avenue of promotion. While I do have some sort of legitimacy in the community because I slush-read for Lightspeed, I still feel like an impostor. I don’t write short fiction; I stopped doing that a few years ago. I don’t have any story sales to my credit, and almost all of the writing I’ve done about science fiction and fantasy has been on a hobby/volunteer basis. So hearing people like Derek say that they want me on their panels, that I fulfill an important role by being a reviewer, is really validating.

(Plus, Jon Oliver, one of the editors for Solaris, flew out to attend Ad Astra all the way from the UK. He sat beside me on a panel! The fact that I sat beside him, an Honest-To-Goodness Real Live Science Fiction Editor, is just another whole new level of weirdness. What the hell am I doing to deserve this awesomeness?!)

Other than those panels, I attended one on citizen science, which was fascinating. Glenn Norman and S.M. Sterling are both engaging speakers with lots of incredible life experiences. I also took part in some Artemis Bridge Simulator games, which are like being in a real-life episode of Star Trek.

I also got to hang out and chew some fat with awesome people like Beverly Bambury, Charlotte Ashley, Vanessa Ricci-Thode, Julia E. Muldoon, Sylvie Lafontaine, and more. It was a pretty awesome day, and I topped it all off by getting Indian food with the folks I play a Star Wars RPG with. It was a day filled top to bottom with nerdery.

Sunday May 7

I attended two panels on Sunday: one on crowdfunding and one on contemporary works that successfully disrupt spec-fic tropes. Both panels, featuring the likes of Charlotte Ashley, Vanessa Ricci-Thode, Carolyn Charron, and Beverly Bambury, were awesome.

Unfortunately, about halfway through the second panel, my body decided it had had enough. I woke up with a headache and my attempts to quell it with breakfast and Advil were unsuccessful; at around 11:30, I suddenly felt awful, my headache spiked in intensity, and I felt nauseous, like I was going to vomit.

Once the second panel was over at noon, I found Mr. Books&Tea, told him I was feeling unwell, and found a couch to crash on in the hotel. Said couch was immediately outside of the Artemis simulator room, where several people noticed I was feeling unwell, checked in on me, contacted the ConCom, and dispatched a medic to assess me. (The feeling of concern on my behalf was both gratifying and somewhat overwhelming. These were complete strangers! But they all expressed concern over my welfare. Really lovely in retrospect.)

I felt tired, headache-y, sick, and cold. One person said it sounded like I was having a migraine. Another said it could be shock. Others said it was con crud or even an instance of hypoglycemia. Even now, a day later, I’m not entirely sure what caused it, but whatever it was, I just felt not good.

Mr. Books&Tea got me a fruit smoothie to bring my sugars up, and once I drank some and felt good enough to stand up, we left the hotel and took a cab home. I really wish I could have stayed another hour or two, but I just wasn’t physically up for it. Not the best end I had imagined for this year’s con. :/

Random Coolness Y’all Should Know About

Nerdy Shenanigans

Apparently, on Saturday night, Adam Shaftoe-Durrant invited a whole bunch of con-goers to his hotel room and filmed an impromptu re-enactment of Spock’s death scene from The Wrath of Khan in his shower. Noted luminaries in attendance included Charlotte Ashley, Beverly Bambury, Andrew Barton, and Todd Gorski-Parker. Apparently, Adam’s working on editing the footage into something presentable. HURRY UP, ADAM. I WANT TO WITNESS THIS LEGENDARY PERFORMANCE.

Science and Activism

One of the panelists on Saturday’s panel on citizen science and crowdsourcing mentioned that is a great crowdsourcing repository. Check it out! Take part in improving scientific information sets from the comfort of your own home – it’s surprisingly fun!

Awesome Art

Most SF/F cons have rooms where you can buy pieces from art from other con attendees. This time, I discovered the beautiful machine embroidery work of Elizabeth Cano. She’s working on a PhD in engineering, and uses a machine to embroider extremely colourful, complex patterns on handmade bags and other pieces of fabric. I bought a bag from her with cats embroidered on it! Check out her Etsy store to see some more beautiful patterns, or see some examples in the gallery below:

I’ll Be at Ad Astra 2017 This Coming Weekend

Ad Astra is a major science fiction and fantasy convention in the GTA, and it’s coming up this weekend, May 5th-7th. I missed it last year, but this year I’ll be there, and – for the first time ever – I’ll be a panelist, too.

Here are the panels I’ll be participating in.

Friday May 5

Exploring gender terminology in fantasy and science fiction:  We as humans use terms like man, woman, girl and boy when referring to others in writing. At what point however when applying these labels to science fiction or fantasy creatures do they become non-applicable? Is there a defined line where these terms can no longer be used? Does it have to do with how uncanny the species is to us?

Participants: A.A. Jankiewicz, Jane Ann McLachlan, Suzanne Church, Cathy Hird (and me)
When and where: 8:00 PM – Oakridges room

Saturday May 6

The Western: Why is it still a thing?  The American “frontier” has long since been closed. The myths of the West have long since been busted. Yet if the successes of Westworld, Logan, and the Magnificent Seven remake are any indication, there is still an appetite in the English-speaking world for the themes and motifs of the Western. This panel will explore why adaptations and homages to the Western continue to resonate in a post-colonial world.

Participants: Adam Shaftoe-Durrant, Anne Bishop, David Clink, Matt Moore (and me)
When and where: 11:00 AM – Richmond B room

Space Opera and New Directions:  The meaning of Space Opera has gone through many changes through the decades, and some would argue that Space Opera is the epic form of science fiction. New authors such as Ann Lackie, Aliette de Bodard and Yoon Ha Lee as infusing Space Opera with new voices. What new directions can we read in the tea leaves?

Participants: Derek Künsken, Jon Oliver (Note: although I’m not listed in the program schedule, I’ve been invited to take part by Derek Künsken, who is a lovely, bang-up person)
When and where: 1:00 PM – Richmond B room

There will be plenty of other panels there to check out, plus author readings, parties, and even the Tesla Tea Room. If you’ll be there later on this week, let me know. I’m sure we can find awesome stuff to chat about.

CanCon SF convention logo

Special Announcement: I’ll be at CanCon 2015 in Ottawa, Oct 30–Nov 1

CanCon SF convention logoHey there!

I’m going to be a panelist at this year’s CanCon, a convention on Canadian content in speculative fiction. It’s in Ottawa, and it’s going to be happening from October 30th to November 1st.

(Halloween at an SF/F convention? This is going to be so awesome! There’s even going to be a Halloween party with ChiZine Publications, which I’m sure will be epic.)

If you’re in the Ottawa area and want to discuss books, tea, and everything in between with me, hop on over to the Ottawa Sheraton hotel. I’ll be taking part in the following panels:

Friday, October 30th

Why Do We Love Time Travel Stories? Time travel stories are a staple in science fiction and fantasy (and even some romance). Why do we love them and which ones are your favourites? Su Sokol, Cenk Gokce, Agnes Cadieux, Matthew Johnson, Christina Vasilevski (moderator) (8-9 PM)

Here’s a confession: this is the first time I’ll have ever been a panelist at any convention. And I’m moderating! Come on down if you want to talk about time travel paradoxes and (possibly) see me make a damned fool of myself. (I’m only kinda joking, there.)

Saturday, October 31st

The Role of Editorial Voice in Acquiring Stories, with editorial staff from Analog, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lightspeed, Apex/Dragon Moon Press, Bundoran Press: The assembled editorial staff are pursuing very different stories for their magazines and anthologies. They discuss the alchemy of looking for stories to match their editorial voices. Participants: Trevor Quachri, Nicole Lavigne, Christina Vasilevski, Hayden Trenholm, Gabrielle Harbowy, Derek Künsken (moderator). (1-2 PM)

If you want to learn more about how Lightspeed does its thing, this is the place to be! I’ve been reading slush for them since January 2014. There are some biiig heavy hitters in this panel. Eep!

Naming Exoworlds: Why call a planet “Fomalhaut b” when you could name it “Leisurely Fish” instead? Authors have been naming their planets for decades, but now the IAU is taking online votes to rename some exoplanets. Is this a good way to get people more interested in astronomy, or is it just a sideline? Do you have any ideas for names that should have been considered, but weren’t? Should we really take the chance of naming a pulsar “Rock’n’Roll Star?” What is the best way to name a planet, anyway? Participants: S.M. Carrière, Christina Vasilevski, Andrew Barton (moderator) (5-6 PM)

Andrew Barton is a good friend of mine, so it’s exciting to be able to sit on a panel that he’s moderating. Come! We’ll talk about comics and SF and funny planet names!

Sunday, November 1st

Science Fiction Novels: A Readers’ Panel: Our panelists discuss what works of science fiction they’ve enjoyed and you ought to be reading. Participants: Scott Delahunt, Christina Vasilevski, Ira Nayman (moderator), Evan May, Peter Halasz. (10-11 AM)

I’ve been reading up on a lot of recent science fiction in preparation for this panel. Reviews of the books I’ve been reading to prepare for the panel will be up in the next few weeks.

Reviewers and Reviewing: How much do they shape the dialogue, direct readers to works, and implant positive or negative first impressions? Participants: Jonathan Crowe, Christina Vasilevski, Amal El-Mohtar (moderator), David Hartwell, Amy Sisson. (1-2 PM)

Holy crap, you guys, this is the CanCon panel I’m most excited about. I’ve got this rinky-dink little blog with a tiny readership on a small corner of the internet, and yet they’re letting me sit with Amal El-Mohtar, who reviews books for freaking NPR??! No way. No. Fucking. Way. **glee**

Check out the full schedule and panel right here. I can’t wait to attend, and if any of you readers will be at CanCon too, let me know in the comments!

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