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The Coast's Fall Preview 2013: Events, literary & comedy

BookCamp Halifax, comedy for days, Dan Savage and more

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Hal-Con 2013

November 8-10
World Trade & Convention Centre, 1800 Argyle Street
day pass $30, weekend pass $70
hal-con.com

Did you know that in early drafts of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Lando Calrissian dies in an exploding Millennium Falcon, taken out by the destruction of the second Death Star? If you already knew that, then you're probably the kind of person that'll be pretty psyched by the list of guests expected at this year's Hal-Con. Lando will be here, as his earthbound alter-ego, the super-cool Billy Dee Williams. If your sci-fi interest goes beyond a galaxy far, far away, Hal-Con will also feature actors who were in Star Trek (Garrett Wang), Firefly (Jewel Staite), Angel and Agents of SHIELD (J. August Richards), Battlestar Galactica (Richard Hatch---maybe Fat Apollo can meet original Apollo!) and even a Doctor Who (Peter Davison, #5). And that's on top of a host of authors, comic book creators and cosplayers.

It's all getting to be kind of a big deal, with Hal-Con having tripled in size since its first edition four years ago. More than 10,000 attendees are expected for the three days this November. There'll be gaming tournaments, the Stargazer Soiree, and, of course, the Costume Contest.

The biggest change for 2013 is admission for the first floor, the vendors' section, will be free.

"It'll allow people to take a look around and do some shopping, if they want to," says Joni Crocker, Hal-Con's director of communications. "We thought it was kind of a good way to get the general public interested."

It's hard to believe the general public isn't interested by now. Fantasy nerds are everywhere. Isn't The Big Bang Theory the most popular show on TV? Crocker concurs.

"If I have to explain the convention to, like, my Mom, I say, you know in Big Bang Theory, when they go to Comicon? It's just like that." --Carsten Knox


Do I amuse you?

"I just want to be funny," comic Jim Gaffigan once said.

That's the point, right? Be funny. Luckily, Halifax has a wealth of comics who do their best to make you laugh. From sketch to stand-up, you'll be snorting out milk in no time.

The Khyber Sketch Comedy Series doles out quirky jams on the monthly. Corey Mombourquette in a dress? Yes. Mark Little as a dragon slayer? Don't ask me again. Only five bones for funny bones.

Speaking of bones, Cheryl Hann and Everardo Ramirez host Ghost with a Boner, a multimedia sketch comedy series with local comedic pals that could be the tightest ship to set sail this year. "I'll think of something funny to say, I just need to wake up first," says Ramirez. The Boners present a Halloween special (wear a costume) at The Bus Stop Theatre on October 17.

Into improv? Brian MacQuarrie's Make 'Em Ups shows and classes invite everyone to try it out.

"Improv is growing as an art form again," says MacQuarrie. Always wanted to act out a unicorn eating a turkey sandwich? Check out the Make 'Em Ups online schedule.

Megacomedy Mondays (hosted by Megan MacKay) combines burgers with boogers every week at Gus' Pub, as does Laughter Burner at Bearly's (hosted by Bill Wood) on Wednesdays. The Fox Den at Menz Bar on Sundays (hosted by Megan MacDowell) has a new theme every show (they are "vaguely monthly"). And the out-of-towners at Yuk Yuk's are always good for a treat. No shortage of LOLs here. --Adria Young


Outlier Film Festival

November 21-24, locations TBA
outlierfilmfestival.com

Maybe it's something in the water, but Halifax film and television talent doesn't shy away from the creepy, the dark and the murky. The Outlier Film Festival will harness the power of a million damp basements with their inaugural showcase of "Horror Pop, Grey Magic, Psycho-Spiritual, Doom Fantasy, Genre and Other Films Outside of the Bubble."

"Halifax is gaining a reputation for producing against the grain film and television. Inspired by the likes of Hobo With A Shotgun, Picnicface, The Corridor, Thrillema, Trailer Park Boys and other local trailblazers, The Outlier Film Festival aims to celebrate our fringe film culture by presenting a program that will further inspire artistic deviance in our community,' says Seth Smith, director of Lowlife, the creepiest ode to drugs, nightmarish fantasy and rural Nova Scotia in existence. Smith, along with Matt Charlton, Sandi Rankaduwa, Darcy Spidle and Nancy Urich, pooled their love of film and festivals---they have combined experience with Halifax Pop Explosion, OBEY and Sappyfest---to create this November's lineup.

Dive into the weird with The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and produced by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris profiles the Indonesian gangsters responsible for the 1965-1966 death squads and Consuming Spirits, a film 15 years in the making depicting an ominous universe.

"Most major cities have genre type festivals and there seemed to be a lot of local interest," says Smith. "It's not easy to fund or make these films not to mention find an audience and have them seen. From working on other festivals and indie films we can really sense the importance and reward of showcasing underground, non-mainstream culture here on the east coast."

--Stephanie Johns


[PHASE] Emerging Designer Showcase

World Trade and Convention Centre, 6pm, with show at 7pm. $18/$20 429-1847. This year's [PHASE], in association with Adsum House, will be accepting donation items in the form of new socks, personal care items, towels, face cloths or new underwear at the door to receive tickets at the advanced sale price of $18.

Kicking off Atlantic Fashion Week, [PHASE] is the second annual showcase of the graduate students of The Fashion Design and Merchandising Program at The Centre for Arts and Technology. The theme is Journeys and Transitions, but the 13 aspiring designers hope that their fashion careers don't take them too far from home. "Nova Scotia is home for many of us, our family is here; our roots are here. Unfortunately the fashion industry is so small here in Halifax that we are losing a lot of our talent to places like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver," says Kayla Biron, one of the showcasing students. "The talent is here but it just seems to go untapped. We want to change this. At any chance we get, we are constantly promoting ourselves and getting involved in the industry locally in any way we can." The graduating class has produced street wear and evening wear, even steampunk-inspired fashion. They promise diversity and a strong showing of local fashion design talent. --Stephanie Johns


Book it

The leaves are falling like overripe pages in a favourite book, filling the sidewalk with crunchy earth tones. What better time to discuss the city's literary offerings than these months, heralded for literacy, learning, and escaping inside.

Fall is literary awards season, and what better way to work toward that shortlist than to sharpen those pencils---and skills---at a workshop. October 17, from 7-9:30pm, bestselling Newfoundland author Donna Morrissey conducts a one-night short story writers' workshop at the Lutheran Church at 2096 Windsor Street. Cost is $165.

A few weeks later, head to the Tatamagouche Centre for the brand-new 30 Days to a Novel workshop with award-winning author and CBC-famous Stephanie Domet (Homing, Fallsy Downsies). This two-day workshop (November 1-3) will help you start National Novel Writing Month on the write track. Based on Domet's NaNoWriMo experience writing her award-winning novel Homing, she'll show you how to whip your idea into shape (preferably one that resembles a book), whether you're starting from scratch or finally wrangling that dingy, tattered old manuscript. Cost is $395, and includes room, board and meals. To register, visit tatacentre.ca.

A sure sign of fall is Gaspereau Press's annual Wayzgoose. This Saturday, October 26, carpool to Kentville for a day of printers' geekery of the finest quality. Writers Sue Goyette and Dana Mills will read, and guest printers from Greenboathouse Press in BC, Biting Dog Press in Toronto, and Alabama's Kennedy Prints will be doing demonstrations and spilling the proverbial ink with interested attendees. For a chance to learn about how books are made at one of the finest small publishers in the country, don't miss this annual event!

And that's just the tip of the pen, keep your eye glued to The Coast for fabulous fall literary happenings. --Whitney Moran


Fright night

Are you afraid of the dark? How about zombies, ghosts or chainsaw-wielding murderers chasing you through poorly lit farmlands? It's time to bask in getting the bejesus freaked out of you because there are adrenaline rushes aplenty to be had this fall. Better start biting those nails now.

Haunted corn maze season kicks off this weekend! Between the pitch black country roads and the build up of waiting in line, you're heart is guaranteed to pound out of your chest as you anxiously venture through the harvest. Nights of Gore, the closest maze to Halifax, begins this Friday, September 27 (with farmer/Big Brother Canada celeb Emmett Blois and his former roomies Andrew and BBCan winner Jillian barbecuing from 7 to 8pm), and runs Friday through Sunday until October 27. I screamed myself voiceless in Gore last year and this year there's a haunted house too, so I expect peed pants. There's also the terrifying River Breeze Fear Farm, a slightly longer drive to Tatamagouche/Onslow which attracts theme-park-sized lines to its four-part maze, mortuary, farmhouse and Phobia Barn combo. This living nightmare takes place Fridays and Saturdays in October 7:30pm until the last ticket holder gets spooked.

Run for your frigging life at the Zombie Trail Run this Saturday, September 28 at 11am. Waverley's McDonald Sports Park hosts the five kilometre bolt where your athleticism is inspired by the need to outrun demons that'll be trying to "kill" you by stealing your health flags, of which you only get three.

Then the annual Bluenose Ghosts Festival (Alderney Landing, 2 Ochterloney Street) starts haunting on October 4. This month of storytelling, cemetery tours and the spine-tingling, friend-clinging Fear the Darkness Haunted House celebrates Dr. Helen Creighton and downtown Dartmouth by scaring you shitless.

And from October 19 until November 4, Shakespeare by the Sea presents its adaptation of the ultimate good versus evil story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (Park Place Theatre, 5480 Point Pleasant Drive). This production---starring Rhys Bevan-John, Bill Wood and Mary Fay Coady---will no doubt ooze as much dark humour and wickedness as it does talent. --Allison Saunders


Savage Love Live!

Spatz Theatre, 1855 Trollope Street
Thursday, October 3, 6:30pm, $34.50
etixnow.com/events/dan-savage-oct-3

Dan Savage, your favourite sex advice columnist, has always been close. He's just a few pages away (or clicks away, depending on where you're reading this), even now. Doling out liberal amounts of lube and an accepting mind for all your sexual foibles and preferences. It's just that on Thursday, October 3, he'll be a little bit closer. Nerd out with your homemade DTMFA t-shirt and get up close and personal with the man who has helped redefine sex-positivity and introduce those fun new words into the sexual lexicon. Where would you be without santorum (the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex)? GGG (good, giving and game)? Pegging (the sex act in which a woman uses a strap-on dildo to perform anal sex on her male partner)? Appearing at the Spatz Theatre and promoting his newest book American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love and Politics, Dan will be answering your questions, as he always does, about the ins and outs of in and out (or around, or on, or beside). Savage's column has appeared in the pages of the Coast since 1996, the first newspaper in Canada to carry the column. Now Savage Love is syndicated all over the world. More than just advising on your penchant for placing pubic hair on public toilets (spoiler alert: don't do that) Dan Savage and husband Terry Miller created the It Gets Better Project, a worldwide movement that began with a single YouTube video inspiring LGBT youth who have experienced or are experiencing bullying. The project aims to prevent teen suicides caused by bullying by providing hope and support. The project is a success with videos being viewed over 50 million times. This event is part of the Coast's 20th anniversary celebrations. --SJ


Bookcamp

The funny thing about books is, whether you're writing, reading or editing them you're usually doing it alone. But they're also a prime conversation starter, something you want to dissect and talk about *with* people. Well BookCamp's all about the talking. Following the unconference model---where discussions are facilitated but audience driven---BookCamp Halifax will bring together industry professionals, avid readers and all the bookworms in between to share opinions and ideas. And get this, its free.

"The books and publishing industries are changing rapidly and this is an opportunity for both insiders and the general public to come together to talk about what we want to see in the future," says Fierce Ink Press' Kimberly Walsh who, after being inspired by a camp in Toronto, helped organize Halifax's first one in 2010. After a year off, she and a small team of fellow book lovers are bringing BookCamp back to take over the Khyber on November 9 with 20 one-hour sessions covering topics like self-publishing, how to submit work to a traditional publisher and young adult authors and social media, all under the umbrella theme of Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

"It came out of seeing so much negativity online pitting traditional versus independent publishers, print versus digital," says Walsh. "The event organizers firmly believe there's plenty of room in the sandbox for everyone to play. We just want to produce or read good quality books." --Allison Saunders


Sow to Sew conference

Fri Sep 27, $40 (includes lunch), 494-8185 sowtosew.com, elliotjanemussett@gmail.com

Sustainable fashion and the real price of cheap clothes have been on most Canadian minds lately, after the Joe Fresh factory collapse in Bangladesh. But, for Haligonians like NSCAD textiles professor Robin Muller, it's been more than a passing news story, it's been years of passion that's resulted in NSCAD's Sow to Sew conference which sees a room fill with like minds that a decade ago might seem possible. "Competition used to be the key to all these industries," says Muller, "but with going off-shore, one PR thing ruining your business, it's about cooperating more---[that] makes everyone successful in the market place now which wasn't the case 10 to 15 years ago." After overwhelming enthusiasm from possible speakers, Muller has organized a regular dream team of industry folk---from locals like Patricia Bishop of Taproot Farms, to those as far afield as Sibylle Klose of Pforzheim University's School of Design in Germany and designers, farmers and authors from all over North America---the aim will be to brainstorm how a high level of collaboration can work in terms of sustainability, growing and using natural dyes, manufacturing fabric and clothing production. But, above all, Muller is just looking forward to hashing out ideas with a group of inspiring people that taught her to think differently. "They changed my life," she says. --Lindsay Raining Bird


Sex & Violence

Director Thom Fitzgerald's new miniseries *Sex & Violence*, airing on OUTtv in November, was originally rejected by larger networks for being too dark. "What they meant was on most shows, victims are dead before the opening theme plays and the justice system works flawlessly by the end credits," Fitzgerald says. 

Things aren't quite as clear-cut in *Sex & Violence*, which offers endings both happy and sad. 

"We have a character who gets acid thrown in her face, and she'll always bear those scars," Fitzgerald says. Networks balked at the idea of women "surviving and clawing their way back," fearing it'd be too hard for viewers to take. 

Inspired by star Olympia Dukakis's passion for women's advocacy, the show is structured "like a criss-crossing web," examining how the personal lives "and particularly the sex lives" of a large ensemble---cops, social workers, therapists, foster parents and more---are affected by acts of violence.

"This isn't the usual mainstream sex-as-titillation," Fitzgerald says. "Though there is plenty of good sex." 

And plenty of focus on people in the business of helping victims, rather than the victims themselves. "I'm pretty sure it's the first show about sexy social workers," Fitzgerald says, clearly not a Tyne Daly fan. --Kevin Hartford


More Please!

Wet your plants at Shiso Shop's plant exchange, the closing event to the PLANTLIFE exhibit and sale at One Block Barbershop. You're considering shutting your windows anyway, so bring a little green in there before you do (September 29, 2-4pm, 2010 Gottingen Street). Speaking of green, your favourite green grassy expanse is celebrating 250 years in the business of existing, and it's doing so with a bang. From October 3 to 6, Friends of Halifax Common (FHC) will Celebrate the Common 250. Plans include a series of public walks and talks; theatre, circus and dance performances; exhibitions, sculptures and installations by artists; food, music and fun. Gaspereau Press and FHC will launch a special 250th anniversary anthology of original poems inspired by the Common. On Thursday, October 10 at Pier 21, you can have all the fun of auctions, all the fun of that warm and fuzzy feeling you get from volunteering and all the fun of adding to your art collection with the annual Halifax Timeraiser. —SJ

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