It was an honour, being asked to be one of the guest writers at the very first Speculate Festival, held on Saturday 28 April 2018, and such was the wave of enthusiasm at the end of that inspirational, exhilarating day that I thought I’d record a few impressions of from a guest’s point of view.
Speculate was what I’d call a boutique festival. A couple of hundred attendees, eighteen speakers, a band and a bookshop. The day had a single program stream, but so thoughtful were the organisers that the subject of each session was entertaining and enlightening for everyone.
Speculate positioned itself as a festival ‘writers of speculative fiction from any and all backgrounds’ and that carefully considered raison d’être neatly set it apart from other festivals. Yes, it happily accommodated spec fic readers, but the shout out to those who want to write in this supremely rewarding area was welcome.
And what a roll call of guests! Alison Arnold, Trudi Canavan, Michael Earp, Elizabeth Flux, Alison Goodman, Laura E Goodin, Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Earl Livings, Andrew McDonald, Ben McKenzie, Sean McMullen, Rose Michael, Brooke Maggs, Mark Smith, Dirk Strasser and Maize Wallin.
And me. I was there too.
This line-up enabled the organisers to schedule thought-provoking and engrossing sessions about language, location, the history and state of play in speculative fiction and even a hugely entertaining and highly musical spontaneous role playing game.
I’d like to commend the organisers and the volunteers on the way the day ran. I’ve been to many, many festivals and conferences, and Speculate was a model of seamless, smooth running. I’m sure there were hiccups behind the scenes, but all the guests and the audience were oblivious to that. Our experience was first class.
While flinging out the kudos, I need to say that the way we were handled, as guests, was outstanding. In the run up to the festival, we were kept in the loop and up to speed at all times, and left in no doubt as to our role and our responsibilities as presenters. The green room facilities were top flight – those cupcakes! – and the lunch was both timely and delicious. I’d hold up the arrangements here as a model for other festivals to follow.
What else? The social media coverage was excellent, allowing people who weren’t there to share some of the flavour of the day. The venue worked exceedingly well – compact enough to encourage mingling, but spread out enough to allow those looking for a nook with a little privacy to discuss the wonders they’d just seen.
I could start naming names to thank those responsible for the experience, but the trouble is that I’d miss someone out and you’re ALL deserving of praise. I must, however, give virtual bouquets to Joel Martin, Ian Laking, Alex Fairhill, Luke Manly, Rachelle Dekker, Ophelia, Isabella, Zoe, Melissa, Edna, Ed, Simone, David, Brett and Shanei plus anyone else I’ve shamefully neglected to mention.
Speculate Festival was a splendid day, magnificently organised and implemented. Long may it continue.