Speculating Canada Writing Workshop: Creative Writing For Social Justice

Are you ready for another writing workshop? Are you interested in seeing how we can use our creative writing to make the world a bit better? Join us for another of Speculating Canada’s online writing workshops and come together as a community to write together.

The workshop is free!!

Date: Thursday July 2 at 7:00 PM

Location: Online on Zoom.

Our topic will be:

Creative Writing For Social Justice

Often creative writing is thought of as a fun escape rather than social justice work, but social justice can be achieved through art and art can be a means to provoke new and creative forms of thinking. This online, free workshop will give you a chance to access your creative side and explore possibilities for using creative writing to work toward transformation and change. We will explore ideas of social justice and participate in activities to engage your creativity.

This workshop will be provided by 8 time Prix Aurora Award winning writer, editor, activist, and author Derek Newman-Stille. Derek is a queer, nonbinary, disabled PhD student and instructor at Trent University. They teach various courses related to social justice for the departments of Women & Gender Studies, Canadian Studies, and English Literature and co-hosted by the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies.

There are limited spaces available, so sign up at

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/creative-writing-for-social-justice-workshop-tickets-111378712728https://www.eventbrite.com/e/creative-writing-for-social-justice-workshop-tickets-111378712728

On The MacGuffin and Exponential Growth Economies

By Derek Newman-Stille

For folks who are unfamiliar with the term, a “MacGuffin” is an object, a device, an event, or a character used in fiction as a plot device to advance the story that is unfolding. We see MacGuffins regularly in speculative fiction, whether it be the Infinity Gauntlet, the Death Star, the One Ring, or the Ark of the Covenant, and these objects serve to push the plot of the story.

However, there is a tendency, particularly in serialized stories, television shows, or movies toward a perceived need to create a bigger and bigger MacGuffin for each book/season/film. Jurassic World even self-consciously referenced this when characters commented on people needing a bigger and more advanced dinosaur to draw them to the park. The idea is that people want to see something bigger and better for the next instalment of their story. They expect characters to “level up” from one story to the next and perceive them as needing a bigger challenge.

I will use Buffy the Vampire Slayer as an example:

Season 1 “Big Bad”: A vampire

Season 2 “Big Bad”: A vampire Buffy loves

Season 3 “Big Bad”: A mayor who becomes a demon and a vampire slayer who has turned evil

Season 4 “Big Bad”: A demon/cyborg hybrid and a secret military organization

Season 5 “Big Bad”: A demon goddess

Season 6 “Big Bad”: A witch turned evil

Season 7 “Big Bad”: The First Evil

Each season requires something bigger to follow it in order to keep the audience’s attention.

This pattern isn’t coming from out of nowhere. It reflects a pattern in our society. Our economic system is one that requires constant growth. The perception is that every company needs to keep growing and expanding. Anything that maintains a pattern and doesn’t grow is perceived to be a failure. This pattern affects the way we view anything that doesn’t continue to grow and expand and we perceive anything that doesn’t expand as stagnant and failing. Even in our own lives, we are expected to constantly grow from our jobs and once we find one that doesn’t let us continue growing, we perceive it as stagnating us and we need to move to something else. This type of continual expansion isn’t feasible. Eventually we reach limits and pushing further can often cause collapse.

The problem with this bigger and bigger MacGuffin per season is that it tends to eventually end. Eventually, it is impossible to get bigger. Eventually the plot devices also become sillier and sillier and lose their impact. The weapon that can kill a person becomes the weapon that can destroy a city, becomes the weapon that can destroy a country, becomes the weapon that can destroy a planet, becomes the… you get the pattern. As the MacGuffins and the characters become more and more powerful, the story loses its human component. It becomes further separated from something the audience can identify with.

Exponential growth isn’t possible. Eventually everything starts to reach its boundaries and can’t grow further.

Is it possible for us to continue telling a story without requiring a bigger and bigger MacGuffin? Yes, but that pattern would need to be set early on and growth would have to be challenged in the series. Does the narrator need to keep becoming stronger? Or can they develop and change in different ways? Can they have life happen without getting “better”? Does the danger they face need to get stronger, or can it change? Can each threat bring out something new in the narrator?

I don’t think a bigger MacGuffin is always the way to keep a story going. It isn’t powerful writing to resort to only one aspect of the story changing. There are so many other parts of the story that can change without having one plot device grow exponentially.


Editorial by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD

Speculating Canada Online Writing Workshop: Speculative Futurisms

Sign up  for the first of Speculating Canada’s writing workshop series taught by Trent University instructor Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD. Our workshop series allows us connect and write together and maybe to collapse some of the social distance by coming together online as a community. 

This workshop is free. 

Date: Friday, May 8 at 2:00 PM EST

Location: Online on Zoom

Our first topic will be:

Speculative Futurisms

Workshop Participants will have a chance to look at a new technology that either has been developed or is being considered for development. We ponder how that technology may change humanity’s engagement with the world around them. We will have a chance to consider techniques for creating powerful speculative fiction, imagining different worlds and the social changes that come about through changes in technology.

Derek Newman-Stille (they/them) teaches multiple courses at Trent University including continuing education courses in creative writing. Derek’s background is in classics and archaeology, and they will draw on that knowledge when exploring the mythic with you. Derek traditionally teaches feminist disability studies. They are the 9 time Aurora Award winning creator of Speculating Canada www.speculatingcanada.ca and has edited the collections We Shall Be Monsters (Renaissance Press) and Over the Rainbow: Folk and Fairy Tales from the Margins (Exile).

There are limited spaces available, so sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/speculating-canada-writing-workshop-speculative-futurisms-tickets-104217711982

Remember, although this workshop is free, please don’t take a space if you are unable to attend since this will prevent others from accessing it.