Debrief: WHOlanta 2018

Debrief: WHOlanta 2018
Atlanta, GA – May 4-6, 2018

 

 

WHOlanta 2018 is in the books and it was a fun show. It provided a chance to catch up with some friends and family, and it also opened the door to some new connections and possibilities.

First, I’d like to thank Darin Bush for putting up with all of our antics this weekend.  I deeply appreciate the space in your OtherWorlds slice of the con, and after seeing your leadership in action, you’re on the list. No, not that one, but rather one of convention track directors that I would work for on a moment’s notice. Alongside Darin, I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Erin McGourn and Gary Mitchel for keeping the OtherWorlds engine humming its chaotic harmony.

The opening salvo was welcoming attendees with a sorting ceremony for various science fiction characters. This was a first for me, and Bethany Kesler was key in breaking some of the rust free on my Houses of Hogwarts knowledge, including sharing a beautifully crafted description of each house that goes well beyond the basic of bravery, loyalty, intelligence, and ambition.

(By the way, E.T. is a Slytherin. We proved it this weekend. Bethany and Erin also have very convincing arguments for sorting Leia Organa and Steve Rogers into Slytherin. Ask them some time.)

Bethany and I have been working together at Dragon Con for years, but we definitely learned so much more about each other in the Late Night Nerd Fight sparring match. The assembled panel of moderator Erin, Darin, Gary, Bethany, and Jennifer Hartshorn were able to break me in the battle between Star Wars Rebels and Dark Matter. It was a ton of fun.

I really enjoyed working with Jennifer face-to-face for the first time. We have been on a handful of podcasts together in the past, but there’s so much more to feeding off physical cues. Jennifer has some great insights into Marvel films, and she was awesome during the Infinity War and Black Panther discussions. Outside of formal panels, it’s really fun just to sit and chat with her after all was said and done for the day. I also appreciated her support and feedback from the audience during the Star Wars panels.

Speaking of Star Wars, I finally got a chance to participate in the larger discussions of mythology and story in the GFFA, as well as an inadvertent tangent into the state of fandom. On that journey, I got to meet Christine Evans and Adam Throne, both of whom are amazing people. I’m glad to have met them this weekend and hope to work with them again soon.

I also got to work with Michael French on a con panel for what we’re both calling the first time. Our real first panel together was a Batman anniversary celebration at Dragon Con some years ago, and we have also been on countless Roll-a-Panel events at Dragon Cons past, but this is the first time we have been on a discussion panel together since we started seriously collaborating in the creative space. Michael is a smart guy with views on pop culture that challenge us to think outside the proverbial box, and I admire his style both as a humorist and a conversation driver. I enjoyed his insights on our current 1980s nostalgia and appreciated his thoughtful questions during the podcasting panel. I’m really looking forward to what comes next.

On the podcasting front, I loved catching up with Mike Faber, his wife Judy, and Michael Gordon of the Earth Station One network. This family is among the most open and giving people I know, and seeing them always brings a smile to my face. Sitting with Mike, Michael, Gary, and Erin on a panel about podcasting was a blast, and it also gave me the opportunity to meet Kirby Bartlett-Sloan of the 20MB Doctor Who Podcast. I also got to meet with Joe and Toni of The Watch-A-Thon of Rassilon, JC and Rita De La Torre of Seekers of the Lost Worlds, and the incredible Mark Maddox.

One of the biggest highlights of the show was talking about the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with my con bosses Darin, Gary, and the WHOlanta convention chair R. Alan Siler. Alan and I had not collaborated before this convention and it was stunning to see just how in sync we were about DS9 and our admiration of the series.  Alan also debuted Children of Time: The Companions of Doctor Who at the convention, and I was sure to snag a copy. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Some of my other favorite conversations this weekend: The current state of digital media (with Darin, Erin, and Gary); Justice League (with Gary, Mike Faber, and Adam); Star Trek: Discovery (with Bethany and the ever insightful Robert Lloyd); the Black Panther panel (watching Jennifer, Erin, Jessa Phillips, and Kamassa Herrmann discuss this film was amazing); and Indiana Jones and Brushes with History (Darin, Erin, Bethany, and Michael French have good panel chemistry, and Michael was in his finest Indy garb for the occasion).

The weekend was only amplified by the attendees. I adore the civility of the panel audiences at WHOlanta. The discussions and debates focused on topics and ideas, not personal attacks or opinions presented as facts. It is clear that the Internet Fanboy Mentality did not attend this convention.

Last but not least, I want to thank the convention organizers and staff for welcoming my wife and me as new volunteers.

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WHOlanta 2018

WHOlanta 2018
Atlanta, GA – May 4-6, 2018

 

 

[Post updated on May 1st to reflect schedule and guest changes.]

WHOlanta is an annual convention celebrating Doctor Who, British media, and speculative fiction. It is a fan-run convention and has been around since 2005 as TimeGate. Past guests have included Katy Manning, Michelle Gomez, Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Sophie Aldred, Mary Tamm, Camille Coduri, John Levene, Colin Spaull and Caitlin Blackwood, script editors Terrance Dicks and Andrew Cartmel, composer Dominic Glynn, film editor Louis Robinson, writer Jamie Mathieson, and many more.

This year’s guests include Louise Jameson, Rachel Talalay, Richard Starkings, Kelly Yates, and PixelWho.

I will be volunteering mostly as a panelist for the OtherWorlds Track. The convention runs from May 4-6, and you can find more info at their official site.

(As always, the schedule is subject to change and isn’t completely official until the convention is over. Even then, it’s still a bit suspect.)

 

So where can you find me during the con?

 

Friday, May 4

6:00p – Opening Ceremony and WHOlanta 101
Main Programming
Grand Salon

7:00p – Sorting Hat: Welcome to OtherWorlds
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

It all started with, “Princess Leia is a Slytherin.” Meet the OtherWorlds team and help them sort characters from fandoms past & present into their Hogwarts house.

 

I’m not on any Friday panels yet, so I’ll be seeing the sights, picking up some pre-ordered swag, and generally wandering about.

 

Saturday, May 5

12:00p – Sorting the CW DC Heroes: Wearing Green Doesn’t Make Arrow a Slytherin!
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Jump in the Waverider, pull up your hood, and help us put the Sorting Hat on your favorite DC television heroes.

1:00p – The Last Jedi: What Did the Fans Want?
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Star Wars Episode 7 asked some questions. Episode 8 seems to have forgotten to answer some of them. The old characters got a lot of screen time, but was it too much? What were we expecting, and did we get any of it?

2:00p – I Want My MP3s: The Current State of Digital Media
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Net Neutrality falls. Star Trek is pay to watch. Netflix wins a Golden Globe. E-books in myriad formats & movies on your phone. How does a geek navigate these digital changes?

4:00p – The 80s Effect: Stranger Things & the New Nostalgia
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

In the 1980s, geek culture exploded like Harrison Ford’s bank account. The 80s are showcased in current media like Super 8, Stranger Things, and Ready Player One. Why is that decade cool again?

6:00p – Discovery: To Canon or Not to Canon?
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Star Trek is good about continuity, right? No? Maybe that’s not why we watch. Is Discovery good enough a show to forgive any continuity problems?

7:00p – JLA: Another Misstep or a Step in the Right Direction?
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Finally, a Super Friends movie! Was it worth the wait? Where does it fall on the DC movie spectrum? Did it make you demand Justice at Dawn, or did it fill you with Wonder?

8:00p – Marvel Infinity Wars Has Some Serious Stones
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Avengers. Spider-Man. Guardians. Wakanda. Thanos. Infinity Stones. <keyboard drop>

9:00p – Always Looking to the Horizon: New Generations in Star Wars
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

In Star Wars movies, young people sweep away the old, for good or ill, out of ambition or from the calling. From Padme & Anakin, through Luke & Leia, to Rey & Ben, the children shall lead them.

11:00p – Late Night Nerd Fight: Spaceship TV Shows
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Eight spaceship television shows go into the bracket, but only one survives. You get to help decide. We have no wormholes, but you might get trapped in a well, actually.

 

Sunday, May 6

1:00p – Podcasting: Something to Say
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Why do we podcast? What drives us to keep putting out episode after episode? How did we get started?

4:00p – Deep Space Nine: Boldly Orbiting Bajor for 25 Years
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Commander Sisko punched an omnipotent being in the face, setting the tone for the fourth Star Trek TV series with, “I’m not Picard.” Head to the Promenade, order a Raktajino, and celebrate this unique take on Trek with us!

5:00p – Sorting Hat: Wrapping up OtherWorlds
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

The show is almost over, but fandom is eternal. Close out the OtherWorlds track by bringing your favorite character from the weekend to be sorted into their Hogwarts house.

6:00p – Closing Ceremony
Main Programming
Grand Salon

 

 

Star Wars Experiences: #SWSExperience

Star Wars Experiences

 

 

On the January 31, 2018 edition of The Star Wars Show, hosts Andi Gutierrez and Anthony Carboni asked for fans to submit their favorite Star Wars experiences (#SWSExperience):

 

I took the opportunity to chime in with mine via Twitter.

 

It’s Not About…

It’s Not About…

 

 

It’s not about me.

Somewhere in the vicinity of twenty years ago, I watched the Star Wars prequels as they were released. To a fan who came up in the pan-and-scan VHS era of the original trilogy and experienced those films in theaters for the first time in 1997, the prequels were a big deal.

They were new official tales in the Star Wars mythos.

What started my journey of understanding my place in fandom was the backlash. Writers and filmmakers and storytellers and fans hated the prequels, and I didn’t understand why. At first, I stood sword and shield in hand, defending the franchise that I loved against the storm. After all, how dare anyone attack the best stories ever put on screen?

That defense was disingenuous. No work of art, regardless of value or price, is perfect, and to disregard the flaws because of love is intellectually dishonest. Even The Empire Strikes Back has flaws, and not recognizing that screams of blind faith.

Countless lives have been lost throughout history because of blind faith.

Later I reflected inward, inadvertently reaching toward the polar opposite. If these artists and fans whose opinions I valued so deeply could find so much fault in this franchise, why couldn’t I? How was it that I could enjoy these films when people I respected so obviously did not?

All I found down that path was self-doubt. I convinced myself that if I could not understand successful and intelligent artists and writers whom I respected and idolized, there was no way that I could ever be as good as them. My art and my writing had to be worthless.

To be completely honest, parts of that mindset still plague me to this day.

The greater lesson was that art is subjective. Even the greatest works of art are not universally loved because everyone sees them differently. That led to the more personal lesson: It’s not about me.

I can review a work and form an opinion (educated or otherwise) about it, but that doesn’t make my word the absolute truth. The same holds for you. Art alone cannot harm a person or infringe on rights: It requires a human hand to push into that territory – ask any mob who has burned books and censored artists to save their children from “the devil’s influence” – but regarding the art alone… all viewpoints are valid.

But I draw the line at attacking people for their opinions on art.

In order to form an opinion on the book, I read Twilight. I did not like it, but I’m glad that people who enjoy the work do so. Doctor Who fans call The Caves of Androzani the best serial in the entire history of the show, but I was unimpressed.

I didn’t have the best time at Batman v Superman, but the two young women sitting next to me were moved to tears by the end. They were invested. They are fans.

Even Manos: The Hands of Fate, a film that is more often than not called one of the worst in history, has a clear minority of up-votes on IMDb.

Being part of the majority who hate a film doesn’t make you right.

It’s clear that we have reached yet another inflection point in a major fandom.

I know Bond fans who despise everything after Connery’s time. You know what? That’s okay in my book as long as you also respect that some consider Brosnan as their gold standard. They’re Bond fans too.

I know Trek fans people who never got into The Next Generation because Kirk was the only captain for them. That’s okay, but the women who work in STEM fields now because Janeway provided them a beacon of hope as Trek fans too.

The Matrix has two live-action sequels. The Doctor has regenerated fourteen times. The Indiana Jones trilogy has a fourth film. Star Trek has seven series and thirteen films.

Star Wars is headed toward its tenth official live-action chapter. And it’s okay… You don’t have to like the films after 1983, but don’t let your dislike become a malignant tumor of hatred toward the people who find value in the art.

Sometimes the story moves to a place where you cannot follow. Sometimes the art evolves beyond your taste. It’s okay for people to enjoy things that you do not. It’s okay to let go.

Your heroes can die. Their legends remain.

It’s not about you.