I mentioned in our launch post that we took the time during our year off to give a good think about what we wanted the Pure Spec Festival to be, moving forward. The environment for nerdy events has changed in Edmonton, certainly since we started back in 2005, but even the last few years have seen an explosion of large and small geeky events in our fair city. We started out filling a large gap in the nerdscape which frankly no longer exists. So what do we do now?
For us the answer was two-fold: get back to our community roots, and get focused. “That sounds super-cool, Brent, but what does that mean?” Well I’m sure glad you asked, imaginary person I created as a device to move this forward. Let’s look at the second part of that first.
When we started, Pure Spec tried to do all the things! After all, there wasn’t much else going on in Edmonton at the time, and we wanted to give as many of the local nerds a place to come out and celebrate as possible. That’s no longer the case. Events like the Edmonton Expo do a great job of bringing a breadth of geeky experiences, and there are now local cons aimed specifically at things like tabletop gaming (IntrigueCon, GOBFest, and KefCon) that can deliver that specific experience.
But there was nothing in Edmonton focused on science fiction and fantasy literature, and that’s where we decided to plant our flag. With the help of On Spec Magazine and the local community of authors, SF literature had always been a big part of the festival anyway. But now is our chance to dive deep, showing off and celebrating the Edmonton SF community.
Now before you fret, that doesn’t mean that the festival is now just a series of dry talks about high-minded literary concepts. Let’s take a look at the award categories for the Hugos, for instance. Yes, there are the categories for long and short SF fiction, and we’ll have panels talking about that. But they also have categories for writing in video games, movies, television shows, and tabletop games. They give out awards for fan-driven projects as well, which we’re a big fan of. We decided, as we talked it around, that our festival would involve anything that the Hugos (or the Nebulas, or the Auroras) gave an award for. So while our festival is now focused, we certainly aren’t limited. If you sat in on or took part in something you like in years past, it’s very likely you’ll be able to have a similar experience going forward.
Which brings us to the second point…
Pure Spec was started by me and a handful of nerds, for our fellow nerds. We wanted to create an event we would enjoy attending with the idea that if we loved it, you’d love it too. We always wanted the community involved, because we knew there were fan groups out there working in isolation. Pure Spec was conceived to bring those groups together, show them off to one another and to folks who might want to get involved, and maybe get some cross-pollination going on.
Here and now we’re pushing that even more. We’re still a group of nerds putting on a festival. And if you belong to or run a nerdy group, we want to see you at Pure Spec; come show us what your group does, maybe run a panel or demo and talk about what you love. Don’t belong to a group but still have something nerdy to say? Great, we still want you to run a panel or event. Don’t have anything to say but you want to help us nerd out for a weekend? Volunteer, and discover the joys of our Muffins for Minions program. Snag a table in the vendor area and sell your nerdy arts and crafts, or the geeky whatchacallit you think other folks might want. Or put on your favourite cosplay and come hang out. And if you have a way to get involved that isn’t covered here, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your idea. I think you’ll find there is very little that is off the table, if it’s nerdy!
While we’re showcasing the local SF scene, we also want to bring in the occasional out-of-town guests and talent. Because part of running an event like this is making sure you get some time with your favourites from the SF world, wherever that might be. That might mean bringing in guests in person, as well as bringing them to you virtually through the magic of the internet. Focused, not limited, remember? We want you to have a great experience, as well as be a part of that experience.
I’ve gone on long enough for now. I’ll have more to talk about later in the week. I urge you to check out the website for what we have confirmed for the festival this year, and keep checking back because we’ll be adding stuff almost constantly. But most of all, take a look and see how you want to get involved. This festival is for you, but it can also be by you, sharing what you love with your fellow geeks.
Either way I hope to see you at the celebration!
Brent Jans, Festival Chair