I have just wrapped up my first ever Continuum weekend.
I had a great time, caught up with some people I knew and got to know them better, met some new and interesting people, and sat in or on some fascinating panels about Speculative Fiction which catered to both craft and to fandom.
The con started with a real commitment to making itself a welcoming place to all comers. There were colour-coded pegs available so people could indicate whether they were actively seeking to meet new people, or if they preferred to avoid new social contact. The membership name-tags had a space to indicate your preferred pronouns and the toilets on one level were gender neutral. The con organisers made the code of conduct explicit and clear and gave people a variety of ways to report when con-goers might have violated that code. They had also deliberately tried to minimise waste, using digital rather than print wherever possible and ensuring that the name-tags were recyclable. I thought each of these little efforts went a long way to establishing the tone of the con.
Probably best that I leave it to others to judge the success of the panels I sat on, but for my part I really enjoyed The Good Place panel on Friday night, and filled the role of Chidi as best I could. On Saturday the Speculative Ethics panel which I had proposed ran to a packed room and the immediate feedback from those in the audience who sought me out afterwards was very positive. Sunday’s time-travel panel was great fun and I learnt a lot about different kinds of time-travel stories which I’m adding to an ever-expanding reading list. On Monday I moderated the panel on Speculative Detectives, and got yet more reading recommendations and enjoyed the discussion about why detectives are so enduring in genre fiction.
My top-3 highlights as a guest:
I enjoyed the Zombie Politics panel discussion. Pete Aldin and Rjurik Davidson had some interesting perspectives on why audiences are so attracted to zombie fiction, and how the symbolism of zombies has changed over time. Julia (I’m sorry but I didn’t catch her surname) made a great point about the origins of zombies, their links to slavery, and what these stories have to say about our fear of losing agency of our own bodies. I was particularly interested in exploring how these undead figures might represent our political fears, and that’s probably something I will explore in more detail to come.
The panel on mental health in Spec Fic also had a lot of interesting things to say about how mental health conditions are represented in fiction, and the difference between good rep and damaging rep. As recent events continue to show us, mental health is a huge issue facing (in particular) the western world and I think it’s great to see efforts to remove some of the historical stigma and have a meaningful conversation about these conditions.
The Sunday night panel on Secondary Worlds Sans Magic was relevant to my own writing, and it was great to see other authors and readers exploring the concept of Fantasy stories which don’t have wizards and sorcerers and spells. The debate really centred around whether magic was essential to the Fantasy genre, or whether these magic-less world s were a different genre entirely. Mostly the panel agreed that non-magic worlds could still be Fantasy, but I was particularly interested how ‘magic’ could be defined. I wondered if N.K. Jemisin’s ‘Orogeny’ was magic, or China Mieville’s ‘thaumaturgy’. It is a well-known quote that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’, but I wondered if perhaps the reverse was true: is any sufficiently well-studied magic indistinguishable from technology?
So overall, an excellent weekend and plenty within it to have fueled my creative fires. I added about 1,000 words to the WiP over the course of the weekend and I’m about to go back to it this evening and have another crack at it in earnest. I think it’s not too far away from beta-reader stage and I’m sure it will be better for incorporating some of the ideas and inspirations I’ve gotten out of the weekend.
Thanks to all the organisers, panelists and guests for making it such a great con.