Done and Done!

The Goblin King (Peter Daly) serenades the crowd on our open mic. Photo courtesy of Ron Sannachan.

Pure Speculation Festival 2017 is in the can for another year, and myself and the other organizers are taking a well deserved rest. But don’t worry, we’ll be back at it soon enough with the first of our smaller events coming at the end of September.

Thank-yous are in order, many, many thank-yous. This festival could not happen without the involvement of many people, so I want to take a moment to thank:

  • The vendors and artists who filled our main hall, and took a chance that our little festival would be a worthwhile venture for them. Several of you have told me that the weekend was successful for you, which is gratifying. More so, a few of you have already asked for tables next year, so thank-you for that;
  • (L to R) Ann Marston, Vanessa Cardui, and Barb Galler-Smith wrap up a day of panels with the GoH Megapanel. Photo courtesy of Ron Sannachan.

    Our Guests of Honour: Ann Marston, Barb Galler-Smith, and Vanessa Cardui. The three of them were the jewels in a somewhat rough hewn crown, and I’m so pleased that we were able to feature them this year;

  • Our panelists, who took the time to fill our empty rooms with shared nerdery;
  • Our good friends of the Festival, On Spec Magazine and Edmonton Nerd List, for being so active and vocal in your support of our event. It means the world that On Spec is still with us, and that Nerd List whole-heartedly embraced us;
  • The volunteers who helped the festival run smoothly. We hope the muffins and the fun made it worth while, and I owe you all a volunteer thank-you party (details coming soon);
  • Let the duels commence! Parasol dueling at Pure Spec. Photo courtesy of Ron Sannachan.

    To the Alberta Avenue Community League for hosting us amidst their renovations. We were very happy in our new home, and I look forward to next year with anticipation;

  • To my fellow organizers. Thank-you for the hard work, especially once we arrived at the venue. You should all be proud of this thing we built together;
  • And finally, a huge thank-you to everyone who came out to enjoy the festival, took in some panels, bought something in the dealer hall, maybe picked up a membership. This festival is all for you, and I cannot tell you how gratifying it is that so many of you came out and enjoyed the event. I hope we continue to give you a festival you can enjoy for many years to come.

Stay tuned, Spectacles! We have plenty more nerdery to share with you through the year.

The Final Countdown

The Festival Chair in more care-free days…

Three days! Three short days… Whoo, is the room spinning for anyone else?

Seriously, we’re looking forward to the festival and we’re excited to run it for the first time during the summer. Not having to factor snow-fall into our planning has made a big difference (though it’s the prairies, so who knows). The weather this weekend is looking good, and even if the projected showers happen, it will still be a mostly sunny day that is not, and I cannot stress this enough, below zero.

We’ve updated the schedule and the website, and have been diligently working behind the scenes putting everything in place for this weekend. If you haven’t checked things out in a while, I recommend taking another look so you don’t accidentally miss anything.

In the first of many thank-yous, I want to say thank-you to our organizers and volunteers. Without the involvement of our volunteers in both the planning and execution of the festival, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We’re still looking for a few more volunteers just to round out the schedule for this year, so if you’re interested in helping out and getting in on the Muffins for Minions(TM) program, please fill out our Volunteer form. We’ll put you to work!

Thank-you to our Guests of Honour: Ann Marston, Barb Galler-Smith and Vanessa Cardui. We’re truly happy to have you join our us and let yourself be the focal point of the celebration. Thank-you to all the panelists and community groups which are joining us to show-off their knowledge and skills, the festival wouldn’t be very festive without you. Thank-you to our artists and merchants for bringing their work to the festival, and taking a chance on a small fan-run event (we are working toward being a larger fan-run event, so we hope you’ll stick with us).

And thank-you to all of you, who are planning to come out and enjoy the fun! I’m excited to meet all of you; I’ll be the big, blonde guy who constantly looks concerned about something. Also I have a badge with my name, so there’s that. And while you are welcome to bring any issues you have the the Registration table, you can also track me down if you want to talk. I’ll give you as much time as I can, and if I’m in the middle of something else, I’ll at least set some time to talk with you later.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Otherwise I’ll see you at the Festival!

Pure Spec on Northern Nerd!

If you missed us live last night, I sat down with the gang from Northern Nerd to talk about SDCC movie trailers, and everything Pure Speculation. It’s always a good time when I get to talk with them, and you should definitely show them some subscription love if you want to stay on top of nerdiness around Edmonton.

You’ll likely see them roaming around the festival filming this and that. Make sure to say hello!

Miscellaneous Goings On

We’ve talked about the big things happening at Pure Spec: the panels, the demos, artists and vendors, and the oh-so-important parties! And you might think that would be it, we couldn’t possibly fit more in one-and-a half days of festival. Lucky for us all, you would be wrong. So here are few more things to look out for at Pure Spec this year, when you have time between panels.

Open Gaming Tables

While tabletop gaming isn’t one of our focuses any longer, it’s still an important part of nerd culture. Plus tabletop gaming gives you something to do when you need a break from the panels, or even instead of panels. Elements Games Collectibles & Apparel has graciously agreed to look after our open gaming area, and they’ll have a library of games for you try out with your friends (and possibly purchase afterward, if you like it).

As well, we’re lucky enough to have a demos for a brand new RPG by an Edmonton creator. On Saturday Adam Tuttle will be set-up in the gaming area to demo sessions of his new game Race of Man RPG. You can sit in on the Noon or 3pm session, enjoy a new game, and give Adam your feedback.

Silent Auction

Our silent auction table will be set-up in the main hall, with proceeds going to support the Pure Speculation Festival Society. We’ve assembled an impressive collection of items for you to bid on, ranging from bundles of goodies from On Spec Magazine to Star Wars and Star Trek collectibles. There’s a little something for everyone, and the silent auction is a great way to get something cool and nerdy, and support the festival at the same time. Bidding will start on Friday and cut-off at 5pm Saturday, when the winning bids will be announced.

Open Mic

We’ll have a microphone set-up in the main hall. If you are so inclined, please use it to talk nerdy to us: read a passage from your favourite sci-fi or fantasy work, read us something you’ve been working on, sing us a song, whatever you’d like to share. When deciding what to share, please do keep in mind there may very well be children present; maybe keep the f-bombs in the f-firecracker range. To show you how it’s done and as an extension of one of our panels, there will be hourly readings from the work of Zenna Henderson (if these readings pique your interest, check out the panel at 4pm on Saturday).


The venue has a beautiful kitchen available, and while we won’t be doing much in the way of cooking this year, we will have a concession running all weekend long. Besides the usual assortment of soda, chips, and candy, we’ll also have coffee, tea, some cold treats to beat the (hopefully) warm weather. And while the cereal is mostly for the Saturday Morning Cartoons, if we have any left I’m certain we could scare you up a bowl later on. Speaking of cartoons…

Saturday Morning Cartoons

This is definitely for the nerds who want to get an early start on the Festival. Join us at 8am Saturday morning in the Lounge for all-you-can eat cereal and cartoon watching. We took a poll over at the Pure Spec group on Facebook, and it looks like we’ll be watching some Gargoyles, Looney Tunes, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, and Clone High. Yes, some of those are not technically Saturday morning cartoons, but hey, why be picky? Time permitting, we may sneak in a surprise cartoon show or two as well. All-you-can eat cereal is $4, and includes coffee or tea. And because I know someone will ask: the cereal ends when the cartoons do (believe me, I’m sad about that, too).


So that’s a few of the things we have going on at the Festival, that don’t involve panels. It’s all part of the free admission to the Festival, so we hope you’ll come down for an hour or all day, and bask in the warm glow of Edmonton nerdery!

Party Like It’s…Well, 2017!

If Pure Spec is nothing else, it’s a celebration of Edmonton’s nerdery. And what would a celebration be without a party? Would it be more awesome with two parties? Good, because we happen to have two parties.

Friday night, the Opening Night Party starts at 8pm in the main hall. This party features the geeky belly dance creations of Eclipse Fusion, keynote addresses from our Guests of Honour, and a high-energy lightsabre forms performance from Echo Base Temple. I’ll also yak for a bit about the festival, but hey, you can always get up and hit the cash bar around then. We’ll have some hors d’oeuvres available, and the concession will also stay open in case you get the munchies later on. This is also the perfect time to peruse the Silent Auction table and sneak in some bids.

Photo by Bastard Photography

Saturday night, the Concert Party also starts at 8pm, also in the main hall. The evening will feature a concert by Guest of Honour Vanessa Cardui, as well as a Trivia Contest with cash and other prizes. Again, there will be some closing remarks from me; see earlier note about hitting the cash bar. We’ll have more hors d’oeuvres and the concession will also be available.

We are trying something new at this year’s Pure Spec parties, and I hope it becomes an annual tradition. Conceived of by local nerd and friend of the festival Devin Bruce, Pure Spec’s very own cocktail, The Grand Nagus, will debut at out parties this year. We’ll serve both an alcohol and non- version so nobody has to miss out on the fun.  You’ll have to come to the parties to find out what’s in it (you know how the Ferengi guard their trade secrets) but we promise* either version will be a delicious summer treat.

Due to the cash bar, both parties are strictly 18+ only. We’re working on making them all-ages next year, but for this year, no minors.

Short and sweet this time. So short and so sweet, I’ll be back with another post tomorrow. Talk to you then, Spectacles!

*From the Ferengi: The word “promise” is not used in any legally binding matter. Price of the drink is non-refundable.

Calling All Volunteers!

Volunteers are the life-blood of community conventions and festivals. Look around at any of the nerd-related cons in Edmonton, whether it’s GOBfest, Animethon, KefCon, IntrigueCon or others. If you took away the volunteers, none of those events could function. The cost of having to hire employees to fill volunteer roles would make these types of events impossible for any not-for-profit group. And Pure Spec is no different.

Granted, at the smaller end of Edmonton’s nerd events we don’t have a huge volunteer footprint. But we still need them, and we still love them. Let’s face it, anyone crazy enough to come help me put on a day-and-a-half long festival of geekdom is aces in my books!

Of course it’s easy to say we love our volunteers. But we can’t just talk about it, we have to show it. So our volunteers get a chance to win some extra special swag, as well as a few items given to all the volunteers. Our volunteers also benefit from our festival-long Muffins for Minions™ program, which ensures no volunteer is without a muffin if they want one (we wouldn’t force muffins on our volunteers, that would be cruel). And throughout the rest of the year we plan to hold one or two volunteer-only events, to say thank-you and to get to know our volunteers a bit better.

So if swag, muffins, and our undying love which will outlast the sun all sound cool, you might be wondering how you can get on-board. Conveniently we have created an online form that allows you to tell us a bit about yourself, as well as when and how you’d like volunteer. We need volunteers to help out at Registration, work the concession (no cooking required), monitor panel rooms, and help out with any odd jobs that come up. Shifts are broken up into 2-hour blocks, which allows a lot of flexibility.

And if you’ve ever thought about wanting to help us out organizing events throughout the year, or even helping to organize the festival, volunteering with us is a great way to start. If I’m looking for folks to help out, I tend to start with the people who have already stepped up for us; at least then I know you’ve got some enthusiasm for what we’re doing.

If none of this has scared you away, and you’d like to help us throw a great nerdy celebration in a few weeks, please fill out the on-line form. And if you have any questions about volunteering, or anything else about the festival, drop me a line at

Your muffin is waiting.

Crafty Folk, Merchants, and Nerds

The Festival draws nigh and we have stepped up a gear in our preparations. Right now I’m spending my time nailing down all the little details so everyone knows where they need to be and when, so you can all have a great time when Pure Spec rolls around.

One of the areas I’m always excited about is our Artist & Vendor area. With the festival focusing more on SF literature, I know a few folks were worried we’d have nothing but book sellers as far as the eye could see. While I might consider that a feature, not a bug, it was never my intention to turn our vendor area into one huge book sale (we may run a book sale of some sort later in the year or early next, but that’ll be its own thing).

For one thing, we still want (say it with me) the community to be involved in our vendor area, as much as any other part of the festival. And while there a few of you with your bookish wares, it’s maybe not enough to fill out the entire vendor hall. For another, we never want to exclude local artists and crafts-folk from taking part. Not only do you crafty types make some truly interesting and awesome stuff, but we want to provide another avenue to get your creations in front of your fellow nerds.

And so you will see a great mix of new and returning vendors and artists this year. Local crafty people like Apple Pi Designs, bokchoi, and Bohemian Apothecary are joining us for the first time, along with artists Chris Moet and Angela Dawntreader. CC’s Fun Fashion is joining us with pop culture inspired fashion and accessories, and Elements Games, Collectibles, and Apparel is bringing the gaming goodness along with some more pop culture wares. We’re excited to have local writer’s group Cult of Pain coming out to show off their members’ publications, and equally excited to have USS Bonaventure returning to represent the Star Trek and sci-fi nerdery. If you’re bringing your kids, you’ll want to stop by Dragon Paw Lady Face Painting; even if you are attending kid-less, stop by and grab a sparkly tattoo!

And yes, okay, we’ll have plenty for the booklovers as well. EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing and Tyche Books are both returning this year. They’ve been big supporters of the festival for many years, and we love to see them come back. But we’re also joined by Burning Water Magazine (Edit: Burning Water is not able to join us this year), coming out to their first Pure Spec, as well as Shae’s Books, with a selection of artwork, second-hand SF books, and collector comics. Variant Edition Comics will also join us again this year as a double threat; you’ll find them in the vending hall and also hosting a few of our panels.

Back to the beginning; On Spec at Pure Speculation 2005

Last but certainly not least, On Spec Magazine will join us again this year. On Spec Magazine has, for weal or woe, been with the festival since our first one back in 2005. That should have scared them away (it almost did me), but they not only persisted in supporting us, but their Editor-in-Chief Diane Walton came on board to help us organize. If you enjoy any of our panels this weekend, there’s a good chance it was her idea!

We’re excited and a little humbled that the festival has the support of these fantastic merchants, pop culture groups, and artists. I hope you’ll spend some time during the festival browsing through our vendor room, and maybe snagging something that catches your eye. Just don’t buy that book I want, okay?

* * *

EDIT: Since posting this, Metro Cinema has come on board as a vendor and will be at the festival to hand out their programs and talk about their upcoming season. As well, welcome local artisans Random Array with their wonderful Harry Potter and pop culture jewelry and oddities.

Tomorrow, Friday, July 7 at midnight is our deadline for both panel submissions and vendor applications, so if you’ve been holding out to the last minute, your moment has come! I’d love to see a few more of each sneak in under the wire, so don’t be shy.

We are still taking volunteers, however. If you’d like to volunteer a few hours on either Friday or Saturday (or both), please fill out our volunteer form and we’ll put you to work. You’ll be in line for some great volunteer swag, and entitled to all the benefits of our Muffins for Minions program.

Membership and Its Privileges

When we announced that the Pure Speculation Festival was free admission this year (and many years to come, we hope) we received an overwhelmingly positive reaction. Makes sense, who wouldn’t love finding out they were getting something awesome for free? We’re just as excited as you about not charging admission, because it means removing one of the barriers (and often the biggest one) to coming out and celebrating your nerdy passions with fellow nerds.

Scattered amongst the resounding “Huzzahs!” were some questions, which we also expected. “How could we afford to do this?” was the most asked, and that’s reasonable. I’m not going to dig in to the nitty-gritty of our finances, but suffice to say we’ve made some budgeting changes and are being very careful about sticking to that. A very close second to the question of ‘how?’ was, “I’d be willing to pay some sort of membership fee if it helped.” Okay, not a question, but it made me happy for a few reasons.

One, it shows me how amazing the nerd community in Edmonton is. Even as we’re prepared to give it away for free, you step up and offer to pay anyway because you want to help. And two, we had settled on a membership of some kind as the best way of letting the community help us grow, so it meant we are on the right track. As I’ve said many times, this is a festival by nerds, for nerds, and we want you to feel a part of Pure Spec. Not just during the festival, either. We have plans to run events year-round, and we hope you’ll stay with us for that.

So what does a Pure Speculation Society Membership give you? While we’ll tweak things as required, right now your membership fee gets you the following:

  • Half-price admission to any Pure Spec run event throughout the year (we’re planning to run 4-5, not including the Festival which is free);
  • A shiny membership card with your name and renewal date on it;
  • A monthly newsletter, emailed to your inbox, with all the Pure Spec goings on;
  • Voting privileges at our Annual General Meeting (usually held in November each year), allowing you to have a voice in the direction the festival takes;
  • Early access to submit your ideas for festival programming and to book space in the Artist and Vendor hall;
  • A special Pure Spec promotional item (or items), unique to members and distributed at the AGM (if you have to miss the AGM, we’ll still get it to you, don’t worry)
  • Other cool things we come up with or get access to (Sometimes we’re offered free tickets to events, for instance, which we’d share with members first. Or we will have special Member discounts throughout the year).

The current price of a Pure Speculation Society Membership is $20, good for one year from date of purchase. We’ll have them for sale at the festival, so hopefully for most of you that will mean you just renew them at Pure Spec every year. Clever, non? We have a Membership page on the site where you can purchase them as well, and we’ll make sure to give you a heads up when your membership is about to expire. We are also working on ideas around what a Lifetime Membership would look like, and what a fair price for that would be.

If you have any questions about the memberships or want to suggest a Lifetime Membership price, please fire me an email at, or drop a comment below.

We’re excited to roll these out and we hope you’ll want to get involved!

The Goings On

I’ve talked about the festival in general terms over the last few weeks. It was all important stuff and we’ll certainly get back to it. Time to get specific, though. We’ll talk about the panels in a future post, but today I want to take a little virtual walk-around of the festival space and look at some key features and special events.

In my previous post I talked about involving the nerd community in the celebration, and our demonstrations line-up so far is an excellent showcase for what I meant. The ladies of  Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Dueling League will be on hand to not only demonstrate parasol dueling, but also deliver hands-on instruction in the genteel art for which Queen Victoria herself was a patron (as well as being a bad-ass practitioner). Joining us for their second year is the Kita Kaze Budo Association, with their exciting demonstrations of the arts of kendo, naginata, and iaido; these were a huge hit at the last festival and we’re excited to have them back again. And if you’re interested in an (arguably) less combative event, why not let the Edmonton Aurors Quidditch Club show you the ins and outs of quidditch? I mean, who better to learn from than the national champions, right?

But the special events don’t stop there. We have live audience recordings for both the Four Color Book Club and Write Reads podcasts. For fans of Charles Stross (and that really should be all of you) we have a rare performance of Overtime the Musical, based on his novella of the same name and performed with kind permission from the author. “Residual Human Resources” sung by a chorus of zombies to the tune of “Silent Night”? No one in their right mind would miss that (I acknowledge our definitions of ‘right mind’ may differ slightly).

Hmm, what else? Do you like Saturday Morning Cartoons? Be a keener and join us early Saturday morning for cartoons and all-you-can eat cereal (and coffee, so much the coffee). I’m not promising blanket forts, but they certainly aren’t off the table either.

I’ll post details over the weekend, but both Friday and Saturday evenings we’re throwing parties, with an assortment of entertainments including the dancers of Eclipse Fusion and a concert by our Guest of Honour Vanessa Cardui. These events will get started at 8pm each evening, and because of the cash bar yes, they are 18+ events (sorry, minors, but we’re figuring out a way to allow you in for next year).

There’s more! There is an open gaming area with a library of board games for you to play, so if you need to just sit and relax for a bit you can give those a try. For the first time ever there will be a Festival Open Mic, where you (yes you!) can come up and read for up to five minutes about any nerdy thing your heart desires. Could be something you wrote, could be something you read and want to share (but please credit your source), could be a song you wrote or are covering. Anything nerdy is fair game, and we’ll be “priming the pump” as it were with our own hourly readings from the works of Zenna Henderson.

Silent Auction! Always popular, we’re doing that again, and again I’ll be posting auction lots over the weekend so you can spot where you want to start your bidding war.

And this isn’t even everything! Because we haven’t finalized some things, so I can’t talk about them yet, and because I haven’t talked about panels and I haven’t showcased all the artists, vendors, and local nerd groups coming to show their wares. Stay tuned for those things next week, as well as updates when confirmations come through.

And the best part is, there is still time and room for you to get involved! If you have a nerdy panel or demo you want to run, hit us up. If you want to be part of the artist and vendor space, we still have a bit of room there. And if you just want to take it all in while helping us out a bit, there is still time to volunteer.

Or you could just attend. Which I hope you do, and I’ll see you there. Spoiler: I’ll be the exhausted guy running on a combination of stubbornness, nerdery, and coffee.