Pure Spec

“I think it’s best described as a community-based science and fiction festival that brings together fans and the creators of the things we all love.”

Stanley Woo is talking about the Pure Speculation festival. Woo is the president of Pure Speculation, shepherding the festival into its ninth year here in Edmonton, and he’s been involved since day one.

“It was a friend of mine, Brent Jans, who founded the festival,” he recalls. “The festival was founded because he was a member of a bunch of different geek groups and he’s a gamer of many kinds and he was surprised that a lot of the different geek-oriented clubs and groups and meetups, they didn’t talk to each other. So Pure Speculation was founded as a festival for all of these different groups to come together and share in all of our nerdery and passions and hobbies.”

The festival has jumped around between venues over the years, but Woo says that it’s always had a core of loyal attendees who have kept its heart beating consistently. On the surface it might seem that Pure Speculation could be trampled under the feet of some of the larger conventions that dot the geek landscape, but Woo says that the festival has found its own niche.

“For one thing we are primarily literature based, as opposed to media and fandom and television and movie based,” he explains. “We are also a lot smaller, we are a lot more intimate, and that means you’re not struggling with lineups. You don’t have to line up for an hour just to see your favourite creator. You get a lot of face time with the creators that we bring in and it’s possible to sit down with an author or a media personality and just kind of shoot the crap with them. You can spend a lot of time with them and you’re not depriving tens of thousands of other people of their time with that guest.

While Woo says that the festival’s growth has seen something of a plateau—something they’ll be hoping to break through next year for their 10th anniversary—there has been an increase in vision in recent years as Woo and the other organizers have focused the festival under an overarching theme. For this year’s festival, the organizers decided to run with a steampunk, an idea that demonstrates the festival's devotion to the people who keep it alive year after year.

“We have a couple of really loyal speculators—that’s what we call them—a couple of attendees who are part of the official Edmonton Steampunk group and we were thinking we have a lot of interest from that sector, so why not cater to them with this year’s theme and get some of their assistance with coming up with panels and thinking of guests to bring in and we even have a couple of them organizing the Steampunk Ball on Saturday night.”

Woo is quick to point out, however, that the steampunk theme is just a guideline informing the esthetic of this year’s festival. He assures that there are plenty of reasons to attend, even if steampunk isn’t your thing.

“That’s one of the other things that Pure Spec has that other festivals might not have, is just the sheer breadth of subject matter that we have in our programming schedule,” he says. “We have a discussion of whether videogames are art, we have a gentleman who is going to be discussing an animated short film that he made and how he went through that process, we have readings from our guests, we have topics on women and gaming, fake geek girls, the lure of young adult fiction, and even a discussion on crowdfunding.”

Sat, Nov 16 – Sun, Nov 17
Pure Speculation Festival
Ramada Conference Centre, $50
Complete schedule at purespec.org

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