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SPFBO Finalist Panel

This year’s SFPBO finalists come together to discuss their books and what contests can (and can’t) do for your writing career.

Thursday, April 8, 2021, 4:00:00 p.m. UTC

Magical Systems

Should there be rules to magic? How do you go about defining the parameters of a supernatural regime? Join our panel as they discuss the ins and outs of structuring magical systems and how to convey them to readers.

Thursday, April 8, 2021, 6:00:00 p.m. UTC

Tropes: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Quests, chosen ones, and battles between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are foundational themes in SFF, but all too often a beloved trope can turn into a despised cliché. Join us as we talk about subverting and inverting the old into new stories that fit the world as it is today.

Thursday, April 8, 2021, 7:15:00 p.m. UTC

Writing Short Stories

A story is a journey; some are epics, told over years, while others may capture a single moment in time. What a writer conveys is more important than the word count, and a short story can be an intense experience, leaving you thinking for days. How does writing a short story differ from a novel?

Thursday, April 8, 2021, 8:30:00 p.m. UTC

Female Led Fantasy

Join our female-penned, female-led panel to discuss what women are looking for in fantasy these days and why readers are flocking to indies to get their fantasy fix. Focusing on the female gaze and the heroine’s journey, our panellists talk about the power of women.

Friday, April 9, 2021, 1:00:00 a.m. UTC


Everyone needs an editor, no matter if it’s your first book or your twentieth. Our panel discusses the differences between editing your own manuscript and working with a professional, as well as their perspective on how editing influences their own writing.

Friday, April 9, 2021, 3:30:00 p.m. UTC

Building a gripping narrative – characters, dialogue & pacing

A story’s plot is just the start. Believable, engaging dialogue from relatable characters and the right pace keep readers hooked and coming back for more. How is dialogue used to provide exposition, advance the plot, create mood and convey characterization? How do you build characters that connect and resonate with people? How do you pace your story to keep that narrative on point?

Friday, April 9, 2021, 5:00:00 p.m. UTC

Fantasy vs SF – subgenre definitions

Is it science fiction or is it fantasy? What falls under the speculative fiction umbrella? Everyone has an opinion and booksellers think they know how to categorize books, but are they right? Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Friday, April 9, 2021, 7:00:00 p.m. UTC

Mental Health in SFF

Writing can be a solitary slog at the best of times. For those with mental health concerns, it can seem impossible. Can stories and characters about mental illness help smooth the way? Are there enough books dealing with these issues? Our panel discusses stories tackling mental health and how the author’s state of mind influences their writing.

Friday, April 9, 2021, 10:00:00 p.m. UTC

Bloggers & Reviewers

Bloggers and reviewers are essential to both readers and writers. Our panellists discuss the blogging and reviewing life, how they got into it, the ups and downs, and their views on trends in the genre. They also ask if the idea of 'originality' is a vital metric of quality.

Saturday, April 10, 2021, 1:00:00 a.m. UTC

Writing & publishing in a pandemic

The pandemic changed everyone’s life, including writers and readers. After a year of isolation, how has COVID influenced SFF? What impact has home confinement had on the themes of the genre? Is there an increased market for low conflict SFF? Our panel discusses how the pandemic has altered mindsets and creative choices.

Saturday, April 10, 2021, 12:00:00 p.m. UTC

Indie Flavours – Find Your Publishing Path

How should one begin a writing career, and what are the different incarnations of indie publishing? From small presses to imprints to going solo, what are the options for authors who want something different from the Big 5?

Saturday, April 10, 2021, 4:00:00 p.m. UTC

Fantasy – Existing Mythologies

Folklore, history, and fantasy. Fantasy worlds are often based on existing mythologies and folklore has always existed alongside humanity, but it is best understood through stories and histories. This panel discusses where to delve deep into source material and where to diverge completely.

Saturday, April 10, 2021, 6:00:00 p.m. UTC

Writing Fight Scenes

Fight sequences make for exciting reading but writing realistic ones can be a tumultuous experience. Watch our panel for advice on crafting exhilarating fight scenes that are still rooted in realism. From sword and shield combat to vicious futuristic warfare, explore what makes a fight scene gripping, vivid and believable.

Saturday, April 10, 2021, 8:00:00 p.m. UTC

Creating Audiobooks

Our expert panelists discuss what it takes to be a narrator and what authors should know when embarking on the creation of an audiobook. If we’re lucky, we may even see a live narration.

Saturday, April 10, 2021, 9:30:00 p.m. UTC

Disability in SFF

If you’ve been looking for a practical guide to writing more representative SFF, look no further. From writing effective combat scenes with those less physically able to putting neurodiverse individuals into the starring role, our panel will discuss creating characters with diverse abilities. Join us for a talk on accessibility worldbuilding.

Sunday, April 11, 2021, 2:00:00 p.m. UTC


Is crowdfunding the future of indie and traditional publishing? Or already the present? A panel to discuss the process of crowdfunding, particularly Kickstarter, on a budget. Lessons learned, best practise, and fun stories.

Sunday, April 11, 2021, 3:30:00 p.m. UTC

Reaching Your Readers: An Inter-generational Approach

Reaching your target audience from Boomers to Gen-Z. What platforms to use? Mums on Facebook, teens TikTok, cousins on Twitter; join our panel to discuss marketing in the modern book industry.

Sunday, April 11, 2021, 5:00:00 p.m. UTC

Dark fantasy, horror & grimdark

Grimdark vs dark vs horror. This panel discusses the horror elements of grimdark and dark fantasy as well as the particulars of the subgenres within the subgenres.

Sunday, April 11, 2021, 6:00:00 p.m. UTC


How indie authors and new writers use the Twitch platform to write, build a community, and learn from each other.

Monday, April 12, 2021, 1:00:00 a.m. UTC

When series get epic

An epic discussion on how (and why) authors plan and write long series. Join our panelists as they debate the challenges and pleasures of writing in a single universe throughout multiple books. We fully expect a pantser vs plotter showdown.

Monday, April 12, 2021, 3:30:00 p.m. UTC

Worldbuilding in SFF

Great authors create vivid, animated settings for their stories, enticing readers into another world, and make them yearn for places they’ve never been. They make the incredible credible and highlight the greater possibilities of life. Our expert panel discuss their inspirations and methods for building out of this world worlds.

Monday, April 12, 2021, 5:00:00 p.m. UTC

Food in fantasy

A panel to whet your appetite and tickle your tastebuds. Going beyond bread and stew, a fascinating discussion how to use food as a worldbuilding tool and why food in a fantasy novel is not just meaningless detail.

Monday, April 12, 2021, 9:00:00 p.m. UTC

Asian Author Roundtable

Asia represents dozens of cultures, and there are a growing number of reading choices. Focusing on more than your standard fare of East Asian fantasy, join our panel for a discussion on emerging Asian fantasy and what goes into creating these settings. Oh, and get some amazing recommendations.

Monday, April 12, 2021, 10:00:00 p.m. UTC