Speculative evolution, aka speculative biology, is a fascinating field. I think it’s really neat because it involves integrating creativity and a solid scientific grounding. Apparently a lot of other people think so too, because it’s very popular among biology and paleontology enthusiasts on the internet. But there isn’t really a centralized spec evo community on the internet, outside of maybe the Speculative Evolution forums and Reddit. And there aren’t really any spec evo events.
As it turns out, the COVID-19 pandemic provided a great opportunity for this. As a result of the pandemic, in-person scientific conferences became potential superspreader events, so most conferences moved online. Some of them worked great, some transitioned mediocrely. By the beginning of 2021, online conferences had become the norm, it started to become clear what worked and what didn’t.
At one point, my friend Charlotte Bowman had a great idea. What if we could put together an online speculative evolution conference?
Enter the Specposium – an informal online conference for people to share their projects and talk speculative evolution. We opened up submissions for people to either submit their projects or submit presentations on subjects relevant to spec bio. I put together a website, and Charlotte did the graphic design and the spectacular logo featured above. We charged no registration fees
(although a donation to my Ko-fi would be greatly appreciated) and no academic experience was required to present. Although the initial plan was to present on Zoom, we ended up hosting on Discord; we figured that since we had already set up a server, it would be more convenient all around if it stayed on the same platform. Given the relatively short amount of time between going public and holding the event, we were surprised to see how many people shared the announcement around on Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit, and how many people ultimately ended up registering and presenting.
- Emil Krebs kicked off the event with his no-K/Pg short film Eggs
- JunHyeok Jang talked about Dougal Dixon’s classic The New Dinosaurs: predictions, phylogeny, and new editions
- Lucas Petrin trolled us with a presentation on trolls
- Charlotte told us all about dragon biology and evolution with her presentation on her project Dracones Mundi
- Schwefel Kamm introduced us to HEAE 58, an example of an evogame (a collaborative speculative evolution project in which individual species are gradually evolved)
- NeoBioHazardus went over the history of evogames and introduced us to another example, Janjira
- Joschua Knüppe gave an impromptu showcase on the wildlife of his project Silvanus
- Wetherilli, Raho, and MNMZ introduced us to the ACSC, a South Korean speculative evolution community
- I talked about the factors that cause ice ages to form, and how that could be useful for speculative evolution projects
- Ilari Pätilä discussed the influence of speculative zoology in popular culture
- Miguel Moreira shared the diversity of species that have evolved 30 million years in the future
- I went through the timeline of my future evolution project On Beyond Holocene
- Ilari Pätilä presented on the ecology of the Nordics (which by this time are an archipelago) 5,000 years in the future
- Tristan Landis welcomed us to his very in-depth worldbuilding project Lansdell Island
Overall, Specposium 2021 was a success! If you weren’t able to make it, we’ve uploaded the whole thing to YouTube so you can catch up. (I apologize for any fumblings in my presentations, I did not get much sleep beforehand) The Discord server will remain open to keep the community going. And we’re planning to have another in 2022!