June 5-6, 2015
|Once again, ACCSFF was
held over two days, permitting a single track so that no one had to miss
any of the papers. The variety of the papers presented was outstanding,
with a truly diverse range of topics from horror to religious themes in
ACCSFF '15 was graced with the presence of two West Coast keynote address speakers, both of whom enriched the conference with superb talks. The conference began with a memorable talk by Author Keynote Address speaker Hiromi Goto; she talked about the relationship between reality and fiction, and the role of story in both our lives and our reading. It was one of the best presentations the conference has ever hosted. The talk was followed by a session on Postcolonialism in Canadian SF, with papers by Derek Newman-Stille on Goto's work and Clare Wall on Larissa Lai's.
On Saturday morning, Sherryl Vint, now at the University of California at Riverside, spoke on recent scholarship in the field and her own special interests. The first session that day was on the graphic novel, illustrating nicely the growing role that graphic forms have played in recent Canadian SF (and beyond). Dominick Grace, one of our regular presenters, spoke on Chester Brown's Ed the Happy Clown, reading it as an "anti-quest," while Judith Leggatt introduced us to Nowadays by Kurt Martell and Christopher Merkley, a zombie apocalypse text set in northwestern Ontario.
The second session on Saturday was devoted to science fiction, and featured a return visit by Michael Kaler, who explored further the religious elements in Robert Charles Wilson's fiction. Amy J. Ransom offered a survey of the work of Jean-Louis Trudel, a remarkably prolific Franco-Ontarian author (now living in Quebec City). Rounding out the session was Max Dickeson's discussion of postcolonial and indigenous themes in Nalo Hopkinson's Midnight Robber. The papers showed clearly how many different voices now populate the field.
After lunch, we had a session on Canadian fantasy. Guy Gavriel Kay has received strangely little critical attention, but Adam Guzkowski once again endeavoured to correct that neglect with a paper on the theme of free will and fate in The Fionavar Tapestry. Lisa Macklem discussed the figure of the female werewolf in the television programs Bitten and Supernatural, showing how they represent an unconventional power dynamic in horror. Speaking of neglected authors and texts, Cat Ashton examined the meaning of evil in Pauline Gedge's Stargate and Sean Stewart's Passion Play, showing that for both authors a world without evil is impossible.
The final session dealt with the problem of nationalism, national identity, and the Native fact in Canada's culture. Michael Matheson discussed the history of Canadian SF magazines and their policies regarding the nationality of their authors. David Cheater then presented a paper on Native playwright Drew Hayden Taylor's Toronto at Dreamer's Rock, showing how it violates Western dramatic norms. Unfortunately, Adam Durrant was unable to attend and give his paper on the computer game Homeworld; his talk would have further enriched the conference's scope, as it would have brought in still another medium of fantastic expression in Canada.
We were able to hold the conference thanks, once more, to the staff of the Merril Collection and Toronto Public Library; special gratitude goes to Collection Head Lorna Toolis and librarian Annette Mocek. David Cheater not only presented a paper but was once again a member of the refreshments committee. Other volunteers included Barbara Kwasniewski, David Milman, and Clare Wall (another presenter/helper), and official photographer Barbara Weiss and unofficial photographer Do-Ming Lum. Financial assistance was again provided by the English Department of York University and the Friends of the Merril Collection. A huge thank you to all!