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Melbourne's inaugural Speculative Writers Festival

I recently spent the day at a Melbourne’s inaugural Speculative Fiction Literary Festival, called Speculate18. Held at Gasworks Art Park in South Melbourne, authors, writers and book lovers gathered to talk science fiction and fantasy, and all of the sub-genres in between.

It was a great day of mingling with the speculative fiction community as well as having the privilege to hear panels with some great authors on the specfic scene including Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman, Alison Goodman, Trudi Canavan, Michael Pryor, Dirk Strasser and more.

The panels included: The Once and Future Fantasy, The Language of Imagination, Science Fiction: The Past, The Present and What’s to Come, Dungeons and Development: Characters under Pressure (a live role-playing game, backed up by live music!), and Setting: Colouring the Pages. 

My highlights of the day included:

  • hearing the ‘origin stories’ of the authors present (instead of a bio) and in particular what author/ book/ movie/ experience influenced them to become a speculative fiction reader and writer. Tolkien may have been mentioned, but so was the Magic Faraway Tree, Narnia and Star Wars!
  • a discussion about how far the fantasy genre has expanded and while the more traditional epic fantasy is still being written, there are now so many new subgenres within fantasy, which is very exciting.
  • a reminder that strong female characters are now normal, a trope even, but this was not always the case and it’s great to see how far the genre has come.
  • words of wisdom from Michael Pryor including “Whatever you do, do it well” within the context of a discussion about description in relation to character. One of the many pieces of sage writing advice he gave out during panels.
  • a discussion which provided much food for though about how we diversify our characters from the ‘white standard’ without overdoing description, especially physical description.
  • a discussion on the importance of setting to locate a character in both time and place and culture, and how we best do this with just a few details
  • a reminder that readers are smart–speculative fiction readers are particularly smart–and because they are readers of fantasy and sci-fi, they are already prepared to go on a bit of a journey, so we don’t have to overdo it. Reading is a collaboration and everyone will imagine the detail uniquely, but that is alright.
  • some hilarious live role playing–what happens when a famous knight, a would-be bard, a tree and a white witch go on a journey to face a hungry dragon? –backed up by live music.

If you weren’t there but wish you were, check out their website so you make sure you’re there for next year.

I couldn’t help but head home with some book sway to be added to my ever-growing TBR pile!! 

Thanks to the organisers and volunteers for putting it on. It was a great day spent drinking coffee and talking speculative fiction–I’m looking forward to Speculate19!


*Photo by Weyne Yew from

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