Panels & Demos

Panels and demos have always been the heart and soul of the Pure Spec Festival, and this year is no exception. Take a look at the Event Schedule, and scroll down this page for descriptions. If you’re a panelist and have a question about your panel, or if you submitted a panel and you don’t see it on the list, email us at and we’ll talk!

See something already on the list you’d like to talk about? Any panel title with an asterisk (*) is in search of additional panelists. Email us at and let us know what panel you’d like to sit in on. Don’t dawdle; we cap most of our panels at four panelists.

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Demonstrations (Scroll down for Panels)

Saber Guild – Echo Base presents Forms and Fighting (Saturday, 10:30-11:30am, Gymnasium)

Joining us at Pure Spec for another year, members of the Echo Base Temple will demonstrate the many different forms of lightsaber combat. The Saber Guild is a not-for-profit charity organization that does Star Wars costuming and choreographed lightsaber battles. Come learn the many ways to wield an elegant weapon for a more civilized age!

Parasol Dueling, A Genteel Demonstration (Saturday, Noon-1pm, Gymnasium)
Photo by Clare Gibson

Ladies and Gentlemen! Join the Ladies of Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Dueling League to learn about the history and rules of this ancient and honourable Lady’s sport. Come and see the sport of Queen Victoria’s Ladies in Waiting, a sport of which Her Majesty was both a patron and accomplished practitioner. Parasol Dueling is safe and no contact. Bring a parasol, or borrow one of ours, and join in the fun! An elegant sport from an elegant time!

Kendo Panel and Demonstration (Saturday, 1:30-3pm, Gymnasium)

The Kita Kaze Budo Association brings together the Japanese Martial arts of Kendo, Naginata and Iaido in the city of Edmonton. These arts have a strong influence on many popular culture staples, from anime and manga to popular science fiction movies. They promote serious study of the arts first and foremost, while still taking the time to have a whole lot of fun while doing it. The Association will run both a panel discussing the various aspects of kendo, followed by a demonstration of the techniques and skills.


Panels (Friday)

Fictional Witches and Feminism (Friday, 4:30-5:30pm, Lounge)

This panel takes a look at the portrayal of witch characters in popular media and examines these characters through a feminist lens. We will examine how witch characters in popular fiction have changed over the years and why, citing examples from television, movies, novels, animation, comics and video games. Panelists: Vanessa Kirby and Cat McDonald.

Star Wars – New Hope or New Nope? (Friday, 4:30-5:30pm, Multi-Purpose Room)*

For years, the Star Wars movie landscape was dryer than the high noons on Tatooine. Now we’ve had Episode VII, Rogue One, with Episode VIII and the stand-alone Han Solo movie on the horizon. Disney has all but promised a Star Wars movie every Christmas for the rest of time, so the future looks bright for Star Wars fans. But does getting all Star Wars, all the time mean we get the Star Wars we love? Or is it impossible to have too much of a good thing? Our panelists will discuss this very topic, and the audience will get their input as well. Panelist: Brent Jans

The Future of Comics Isn’t White Men (Friday, 5:30-6:30pm, Lounge)

The comic book industry is at a crossroads. With pop culture expanding its barriers to include more well rounded representation, comics are at a point where the road forward looks completely different from what came before. Many are looking at what’s to come with fear, and are trying to retreat – but that could very well doom the industry. So how do we go forward? Danica LeBlanc and Brandon Schatz take a look at what the comic book industry needs to survive in an age where simply telling white male power fantasies are not enough – where broad and varied points of representation are required, but few are ever offered. The future of the industry is coming – and it’s starting now.

Ann & Barb Talk Amongst Themselves (Friday, 5:30-6:30pm, Multi-Purpose Room)

Join Guests of Honour Ann Marston and Barb Galler-Smith for an in-depth and fascinating discussion about…themselves! These two ladies are such good friends, we couldn’t think of anyone better to interview them than each other. Who better to dig out those delightful embarrassing secrets than a friend, after all? Audience questions are welcome and encouraged.

Songwriting Hows and Wherefores (Friday, 6:30-7:30pm, Lounge)

Join our Guest of Honour Vanessa Cardui for an examination of songwriting methods, tips, and ideas that have served her well over five albums of work and many original compositions. Questions from the audience are encouraged, and collaboration is the name of the game! This panel is a safe space to share works in progress and discuss with fellow songwriters.

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! (Friday, 6:30-7:30pm, Multi-Purpose Room)*

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the Boy Who Lived! Starting with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, who could have predicted the impact these books would have? Join our panel of Harry Potter fandom community members as they discuss what Harry Potter has meant to them, as well as how the series affected the modern genre and young adult literary scenes. Panelists: Maria Jenkins

Panels (Saturday)

The Trolls Are Still Guarding the Bridge (Saturday, 10-11am, Lounge)

With the apparent “safety” of sitting behind a keyboard , some internet trolls try to “protect our genre” by intimidating those they perceive to be a threat. Our panelists discuss their personal experiences, and provide tips on how to handle the trolls. Hosted by Krista Ball.

Overtime the Musical (Saturday, 10-11am, Multi-Purpose Room)

A musical version of Charles Stross’ novella, Overtime, featuring favourite Christmas Carol Tunes. Written and directed by Jennifer Kennedy.

Pure Spec Idol! Slush Reading (Saturday, 11am-Noon, Lounge)

Back by popular demand! Our panel of writers and editors will read and evaluate your writing, live! Get instant, honest, and often entertaining feedback on your work. If you wish to have something evaluated, bring 1-2 pages of your work and submit it to the moderator at the beginning of the panel. All submissions are anonymous, so any personal identifiers will be removed from the submissions. Please submit copies only, as we don’t guarantee your submission will survive the experience. Panelists: Ann Marston, Barb Galler-Smith, and Diane Walton

Redcoats and Wrestling: The Art of Jeff Martin (Saturday, 11am-Noon, Multi-Purpose Room)

Join artist and writer Jeff Martin as we discuss his work on Redcoats-ishHEAT: The Space Age of Pro Wrestling, and Hockeypocalypse, among others. We’ll take your questions, and after Jeff will be available for signings at the Variant Edition table in the Vendor Area from Noon-4pm. Moderated by Brent Jans.

Author Reading: Changeling (Saturday, Noon-1pm, Lounge)

Kendra grew up thinking she was human. Who wouldn’t? But then something that definitely isn’t human kills her mother right in front of her, and she convinces the man who saved her to take her on as an apprentice Fairy killer. It’s a good life, until she finds out that she’s not a human, she’s a Fairy. And not just any fairy, but the King’s younger sister, and heir to the throne. That was complicated enough, but now, ten years later, her former mentor, a Duke, has come to her with a proposition… The novel is due to be published in 2017. Presented by the author, Heather vonStackelberg.

Four Color Book Club – Live Edition! (Saturday, Noon-1pm, Multi-Purpose Room)

Do you want to get into reading comic books but find the prospect of diving into decades’ worth of existing continuity a daunting one? Or are you a seasoned reader who wants to hear (hopefully) entertaining discussion on some of your favourite stories? Look no further than Four Color Book Club! Each episode your hosts, Jaden Hein and Clancy Morel, choose a story that functions as a good jumping-on point for the heroes of Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and beyond. We are happy to present, for the first time ever, a live episode of the show performed and recorded before the myriad crowds of Pure Speculation!

Edmonton Nerd List (Saturday, 1-2pm, Lounge)

Join Edmonton Nerd List creator Kelly Froese to discuss the genesis and rise of this amazing and oddly unique website. Find out what goes in to creating and maintaining a site that collects all of Edmonton’s nerdery in one place, and what the future holds for the site.

Geek, Author and Parent: a new definition of multi-tasking (Saturday, 1-2pm, Multi-Purpose Room)

We all know about working parents who juggle the needs of family along with their “mundane” day job. What about the parent who “just sits at a computer and writes all day”? What kinds of challenges are dealt with by the author who is raising a family? What challenges are faced by their partner in this journey? How do they have any kind of writing routine or a way to complete a project when there’s peanut butter sandwiches to be made or little Joyce to take to swim lessons? Panelists: SG Wong, Nicole Luiken

A Rose By Any Other Name (Saturday, 2-3pm, Lounge)

How do writers choose the perfect name for their characters in science fiction and fantasy? The panel will discuss famous names of characters in science fiction and fantasy. Why do some names work and others don’t? Presented by Constantine Kaoukakis.

Life Set in Music – Vanessa Cardui Q&A (Saturday, 2-3pm, Multi-Purpose Room)

Between a panoply of live performances and five albums of music, our Guest of Honour Vanessa Cardui has lived a life set in music. Come talk with her about her life as a musician, songwriter, and nerd. Audience questions are welcome and encouraged. Moderated by Brent Jans.


A Brief History of Sci-Fi Role-playing Games (Saturday, 3-4pm, Lounge)

Fantasy has ruled the tabletop RPG landscape from the beginning of the hobby. But science fiction RPGs have been there almost as long, even if they never attained the wide-spread popularity of games like D&D. With a new resurgence of SF role-playing, it’s worth taking a look at some of the games that got us here. Join Brent Jans (Renaissance Gamer) for a look back at SF role-playing games of the distant past, and the many ways SF found its way into fantasy role-playing as well.

Putting Emotion on the Page (Saturday, 3-4pm, Multi-Purpose Room)

Emotion gives characters ‘heart’. Emotion keeps your reader in the story. Without emotions your story is only about events. Find out how to weave emotional responses into your stories. Panelists: Billie Milholland, Eileen Bell, Nicole Luiken

Zenna Henderson for a New Generation (Saturday, 4-5pm, Lounge)

Join On Spec Magazine’s Diane Walton for an a look at the works of Hugo-nominated author Zenna Henderson. One of the few writers during the 1950s and 1960s writing science fiction from a female perspective, Henderson’s writing has had a huge impact on our modern SF landscape. The late Zenna Henderson (1917-1983) is known primarily for her series of short stories about “The People”. The People are a race of sensitive, human-looking aliens with psychic abilities who are separated after crash-landing on Earth but come to find each other over a period of many years. Her body of work is more complex than this, although these stories alone are enough to give her a place among the greats of SF&F. Panelists: Diane Walton, Ann Marston

The Joy of Geeky Collecting (Saturday, 4-5pm, Multi-Purpose Room)

Even if it’s not true, it certainly seems like all geeks collect something geeky. Some do it by accident, but for others collecting is part of the passion they bring to their hobby. Panelists will show off the nerdy things they love to collect, share collecting tips and tricks, and tell stories about the lengths they have gone to acquire their most coveted prizes. Panelists: Pauline French, Amanda Wells, Brent Jans

Aquatic World Building (Saturday, 5-6pm, Lounge)

In most science fiction or fantasy novels the characters walk or move about in a terrestrial environment. But what if they swim? Join T.K. Boomer and explore ideas for creating a very, very wet SF world.

Crossing the Lines in Genre Writing (Saturday, 5-6pm, Multi-Purpose Room)

It is getting more and more common for a writer to cross genres in their writing–sci-fi mystery; alternate historical fantasy; murder story set in the future, and so forth. Some publishers have a hard time marketing these works, and so authors are forced to find other avenues to get their stories read. Join our panelists as they discuss the challenges and rewards of crossing genres! Panelists: Krista Ball, Amanda Wells, Eileen Bell

Guest of Honour Megapanel! (Saturday, 6-7pm, Multi-Purpose Room)

This is the big one! We gather our Guests of Honour together in one place to answer all your nerdy questions! No question is off limits! Want to know how they feel about broccoli in science fiction? Weird, but ask! What do they know about Mesopotamian pottery and its effect on the fantasy genre? Who knows, but you can find out! Tangents are not only expected, but encouraged! Panelists: Ann Marston, Barb Galler-Smith, Vanessa Cardui.