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Annual speculative fiction conference hits Ottawa for a big weekend

CAN-CON IS BACK! From Sept. 9–11, the Society for Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Fiction will be holding their annual science fiction and fantasy conference at the Travelodge Hotel Ottawa and Conference Centre. From comics to cosplay, fiction panels to folk singing, this year’s conference promises to run the gamut of speculative fiction topics—and all are invited to attend. But don’t make the mistake of confusing the Can-Con with one of the many comic conventions that infiltrate the pop-culture world.

“People think of ‘comicons’ [as] mostly dealer rooms and a little bit of panel in the periphery. We’re focused on panels. We’re focused on getting to meet the authors and the artists and the media,” said Shelley Rabinovitch, the conference’s media liason and classics and religious studies professor at the U of O.

Not only does Can-Con focus on providing content over selling products, but the content at the Can-Con isn’t relegated to science fiction and fantasy characters.

“It doesn’t have to be high-tech, and it doesn’t have to be green-skinned aliens out in space somewhere,” said Rabinovitch. “We’ve expanded beyond ray guns and Star Wars and what people classically think of when we talk about science fiction.”

The event has gone through many changes since its inception in 1991. Co-founders Jim Botte and Farrell McGovern have witnessed the conference’s birth, growth, hiatus, and re-establishment over the last 20 years, but the most notable change has been the gradual shift from a fan-based event to a broader, genre-busting conference such as the one that’s taking place this year.

“Can-Con classically was a reader fan convention, so it was focused on authors in its earliest years,” said Rabinovitch. This year, conference attendees will note the marked expansion in genres and topics covered, and will be treated to discussions and appearances by many of the biggest names in Canadian speculative fiction.

“Number one is our literary guest of honour, Julie Czerneda,” stated Rabinovitch. “She’s got over a dozen books out at this point; she’s also the editor of the Tesseracts series, and she’s a brilliant writer of speculative fiction.”

Conference-goers will also be able to see panels and a live podcast by Ed the Sock and Liana K. This entertainment duo is well known for hosting their talk show, Ed & Red’s Night Party, and for Ed’s popular appearances on MuchMusic television.

Never to be left out, art enthusiasts can get excited about the appearance of Leonard Kirk, the Marvel-signed artist who has worked on Star Trek, Batman, and Witchblade for the comic giant.

Not only is the guest list impressive, but with events such as chocolate tastings, pool parties, book launches, dances, Celtic concerts, costume contests, and more, attendees will be hard pressed not to enjoy themselves.

Registration for the conference begins on Friday at 5 p.m. and is open until the event’s ending ceremonies on Sunday. While students are welcome to come and buy a weekend or just a day pass, there are also opportunities to be actively involved in the event’s success as volunteers if students are looking for free entry.

“It will be open until 10 or 11 p.m. every night, as we have panels going until midnight,” said Rabinovitch. “Hopefully people will have a lot of fun.”

—Keeton Wilcock