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.
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.
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?
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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.
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 email@example.com, or drop a comment below.
We’re excited to roll these out and we hope you’ll want to get involved!
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 Leaguewill be on hand to not only demonstrateparasol 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 Clubshow 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.
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.
And unlike the movie monster, unlikely to go on a rampage. We think.
Welcome to the Pure Spec 2017 website! Looking around you’ll notice that, while we’re still in the process of adding stuff for this year, there’s some good stuff already in place. More will come in the next few days; I had to make a decision between launching the site so you knew it was here, and continuing to add things, or delaying it until we had it all there. I think I made the right choice, and you’ll see new things popping up on the site almost constantly. If you want to stay on top of all those changes, hit the subscribe button in the side-bar and you’ll get updates on the regular.
But Where is the Registration Page?
The big question we’ve been getting, right after, “Brent, how DO you stay so handsome?”, is how much the registration will be for this year’s festival. Along with many changes to Pure Spec (which I’ll talk about in future posts) the one I’m most proud of this year is: admission to the festival is free. Let me say that again, because it makes me happy.
If you are attending the festival this year, admission is free.
One of the things we talked about during our year off, as we transitioned from a fall to summer festival, was accessibility. We wanted as much of the nerd community in Edmonton to be able to come out and enjoy what is for us, a community event. We recognized that the admission price was often a barrier to attending, and as we were making changes to the festival’s structure anyway, we examined whether it would be possible to reduce or even remove the price of admission. Spoiler alert, it was! We also think it’s sustainable, though that will depend on some factors which…well, you don’t need to worry about that right now. All you need to know is admission is free (it still sounds good, right?).
Our other big change for the festival involves you. As I said, we consider the Pure Spec Festival to be a community event. Which means we want the community to be involved. If you have something nerdy to talk about we want to hear from you. If you’re a geeky artist, crafter, or merchant, we want to put you in front of your fellow geeks. And if you want to get involved with Pure Spec and help us pull it all together, we are happy to have you. Follow the links and join the festivities!
That’s it for now. Expect regular posts as well as updates to the site. I know you’ll have questions, and you can message us on Facebook (and maybe Like the Page while you’re there) or shoot me an email at email@example.com. I’ll get you answers as soon as possible.