Conflux 2017…Grimm Tales (Canberra’s Annual Speculative Fiction Convention) Wrap Up [Part 1- Friday]

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My first Conflux is over, and I’m looking back at the weekend with a sense of pure post-con joy – what an amazing, talented, and downright awesome group of writers, editors and publishers I had the pleasure of meeting and seeing speak over the course of my three-day attendance!

The line-up of special guests was impressive – International Guest of Honour, Ellen Datlow; Australian Guest of Honour, Angela Slatter, Kaaron Warren as MC, and Meri Amber with her EP written especially for Grimm Tales as Music Guest.

I highly suggest you drop everything and go and buy some of their amazing works. Don’t worry – I’ll wait.

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So now you’re back with a few dozen extra books in your e-reader, right? So let’s get on with the convention itself:

FRIDAY

I departed Sydney at 6:30am Friday morning and arrived at Canberra at 9:30am with just enough time to kiss the kids goodbye (they spent the day at Questacon with Dad) drop my bags, pick up my lanyard and make it to one of the first sessions of the day – ‘Big Ideas In Compact Packages’: short stories. It was my first chance to see Ellen Datlow impart words of wisdom, and she was joined on the panel by Jason Nahrung, Imogen Cassidy, and Shauna O’Meara. Plenty of excellent advice and rumination was offered regarding the use of tropes in short fiction, the advantage of being able to write to a deadline, the importance of subtext, the meaning of ‘voice’, and the joy of finding a story that jumps out at you from the slush pile.

The second panel I attended was ‘Things that go bump…clank…mooooooaaan’: ghosts in folk tales, horror, and urban legend. Ellen was again present on this panel, along with Jennifer Breukelaar, Aaron Dries, and Kimberley Gaal. (Kimberley if you’re reading this – I can’t find your website – let me know where it is so I can update it!). I found this a fascinating panel, especially as I’m not a horror writer so hadn’t previously considered ghosts in all their nuances and the way they’re used as plot devices. The two main types of ghost stories were discussed: moving – not scary but tragic, with the ghost serving as a vehicle for emotion and offering the chance to ‘finish business’; and of course, creepy – an unnatural force that needs to be satisfied (or in some of the creepiest stories, cannot be satisfied and is just malevolent evil). There was talk of cultural appropriation of ghost stories and belief and whether this can be done sensitively. Why do children make good ghosts? Are ghosts merely manifestations of regret? Ellen also mentioned a few tropes she’s tired of – the ‘sexy beast’, the ‘hot’ aliens and the ‘bunch of teens’.

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I caught up with Jason Nahrung, Kirstyn McDermott, and Bren MacDibble for a cup of free coffee (with badly labeled milk), and talked gardening, permaculture, alpacas, grants, bees and watching grass grow.

2pm, and I made it to ‘Fairy Tales with Teeth and Claws’, once again featuring Ellen, the amazing Angela Slatter, Leife Shallcross, Kirstyn McDermott and Jason Nahrung. This was another great panel and the discussion centered around viewing Grimm fairytales through a feminist lens, particularly the problem of sexism in fairy tales. The voices of women are often removed from these stories until all that remains are the bad women and the bold boys. The bad women are punished, and the good girls are paraphrased.

My next panel was ‘Beastly Transformations’, with Angela Slatter, Cat Sheely, Leif Shallcross and Claire Fitzpatrick, a discussion of werewolves, selkies, sirens, swans, gender stereotypes, cultural norms and breaking free. Why we are enamored with the idea of animal transformation? Is it the idea of the freedom it allows, is it our terror of change, or our own pride that we don’t like to be considered ‘animals’ giving in to a baser instinct? Transformation can be used as a vehicle to explore freedom of choice, embracing the unknown, not being afraid of change, and what it means to be human.

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Afterwards all that panel goodness, I caught up at the bar with a drink with Louise Merrington and Madeline D’Este to discuss Steampunk, publishing (and self-publishing) and of course, writing!

That was as much as I could take in on Friday…phew! I headed off early for some dinner with the kids and hubby (who enjoyed Questacon) and had an early night! Tomorrow, I’ve got more panels and two amazing workshops.

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I’ll fill you in on those in PART 2… (coming soon!)

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