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.

 

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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.

Dragon Con 2017

 

Dragon Con 2017
Atlanta, GA – September 1-4, 2017

 

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Dragon Con!

It’s an annual tradition for me, and this year will be my ninth time attending. This will also be my second year as an attending professional. If you plan to be there, these are the places where you will be able to find me over Labor Day weekend.

The convention app is now available in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. It’s also available online.

NOTE: All Dragon Con schedules are tentative until the convention ends on Monday. Even then, things are a bit suspect. As things change before the convention, I’ll update this post.

 

Wednesday (it’s the new Thursday)

I will be around starting Wednesday, pretty much wandering the hotels, picking up my Hard Rock Dragon Con gear, and catching up with some friends.

 

Thursday (it’s the new Friday)

2:30p-6:30p: Dragon Con Newbies Walking and Rolling Tours/Q&A
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
Want to know the best way to get from one con hotel to another? Need to learn where the food court is? If so, come on one of our walking tours and find out. Small group tours will be going out every 10-15 minutes.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

 

Friday

10:00a: Dragon Con Newbies Q&A
Main Programming
Location TBD
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share tips & tricks.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

1:00p: Marvel Cinematic Universe
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301-M303
We’ve seen some new heroes brought forward with Dr. Strange, and Spiderman coming back into the fold. Trailers for Black Panther and Thor have teased us with more. How do you think the MCU is holding up almost 10 years?
Panelists include: Page Branson, Kitty Chandler

2:30p: Wolverine on Film
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M302-M303
From second-choice casting to a role that has created an indelible mark on movie heroes. Hugh Jackman’s take on Wolverine has been an amazing run. We’ll look back at the whole run of 8 movies & cameos.
Panelists include: Will Nix, Jeff Burns, Bill McIntire

5:30p: Earth Station Who Presents 50 Years of the Cybermen!
BritTrack
Hilton Atlanta, Galleria 5
Our friends at Earth Station Who are back to discuss the return of the Cybermen, and half a century of their menacing adventures!
Panelists include: Michael Gordon, Mike Faber, Sue Kisenwether, Robert Lloyd

7:00p: The Good Place: The Current Hereafter
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301
The afterlife never looked like this before! Comedies are tough and comedies about life after death are even tougher! This one pulled some surprises with some excellent writing and performances.
Panelists include:  Ryan Guthrie, Gary Mitchel, Henry Hanks

(Note: I am listed in the app for “Classic Sci-Fi Legends: West, Landau, Paxton & More” at this same time. I’m in the market for a clone.)

11:30p: Star Wars Holiday Special: May the 4 Wookiees Be With You
American Science Fiction Classics/Star Wars
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We could not let the 40th anniversary of Star Wars pass & let our pals at Star Wars Track have all the fun. Check out the glorious madness of Chewie’s Wookiee family, Bea Arthur & Princess Leia singing, & Boba Fett’s debut!
(I’ll be in the audience for this one.)

 

Saturday

8:30a: Classic Sci-Fi Court: Defending Batman & Robin, Superman IV & More
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105

Bring your grievances before the Classic Sci-Fi Court, & we will defend movies or TV that unsavory elements have brought criticism upon. Batman & Robin…Superman 4…Highlander 2, perhaps?
Panelists include: Michael Bailey, Kevin Eldridge, Debbie Viguié, Geena Phillips
(I’m not on the panel for this one.)

10:00a: Roll-a-Panel: 1982 and 1992
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105

Dragon Con does not last a full year (yet), so Classic Track does not have time to tribute all the movies from the best year of movies ever. Roll-a-Panel is an audience-participation revolution in convention panel technology–20 panels in one hour!
Panelists include: Pretty much all of the American Science Fiction Classics Track regulars

4:00p: Remembering Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker
Star Wars Track
Hyatt, Centennial Ballroom I

Our world is dimmer now, but our icons left such a legacy for us. Join other fans as we remember our Princess & our favorite Droid and the impact they had on Star Wars & the world.
Panelists include: Bryan Young, Sarah Dempster, Sue Kisenwether, Christy Morris

8:30p: The Flash: Flashpoint and Godhood Conundrums
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301-M303
As Flash brings in one of the classic storylines from the comics, we see how the show handled it & how one more speedster reaches for godhood at the expense of Team Flash.
Panelists include: Jim Griffin, Beth Verant, Cammien Ray, Yvonne McDowell

11:59p: The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show
Main Programming
Hyatt Regency, International South
Miss Lady Flex, Phantom Troublemaker, Rad Ranger, and Popeye the Sailor Moon return to Dragon Con! Come and bear wetness to the love child of Wheel of Fortune, The Price is Right, Jeopardy, Pictionary, Match Game, Twenty Dollar Potato Spin, Anata No Zubon O Shutoku, and any and every game show you’ve ever heard of, but DIRTY. YOU are the contestants in the wildest, sexiest, nastiest game show around! Laugh, cry, be slightly uncomfortable in the presence of hundreds of strangers! Big prizes! Big fun! There’s nothing else like The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show!
18+ only – IDs will be checked at the door
Limited capacity, line forms one hour prior to showtime

Following DDCCGGSS: Saturday Night Classic Track Irregulars Party!
American Science Fiction Classics

 

Sunday

7:00p: DC Universe
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301-M303
Has the DC Cinematic Universe finally broken its curse? Many question the trend from Superman and BvS, but then we get Wonder Woman, and yet gloomy talk about Justice League. More hints are teased out and Joss Whedon gets his shot at this hero team.
Panelists include: Jeff Burns, Wayland Smith

11:30p: Spaceballs – Thirty Years of Combing the Desert
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Revel in the glorious silliness of 1987’s ludicrous-speed Sci-Fi sendup. We are not just doing this panel for the money.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, John Hudgens, Chace Ambrose, Elizabeth Jones, Tegan Hendrickson
(I’ll be in the audience for this one.)

 

Monday

10:00a: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20 Years of Saving the World (A Lot)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
From Welcome to the Hellmouth to Chosen, from Beer Bad to The Body, celebrate the classic show about the heroes that monsters have nightmares about.
Panelists include: Melinda Mock, Michael Williams, Sue Kisenwether, KC Ryan-Pierce, Wayne Hutchinson

11:30a: Wonder Woman: Life beyond Themiscyra
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301-M303
A look back at the film: what they took from the comic history & where they could go from here. A moment of silence might be offered for Steve Trevor’s sacrifice.
Panelists include: Will Nix, Yvonne McDowell, Beth Verant

(Note: I am listed in the app for “Classic Sci-Fi Roll-a-Panel: 1977 & 1997” at this same time. I’m still in the market for a clone.)

 

 

 

Star Wars, Celebrations, and Wristbands

Star Wars, Celebrations, and Wristbands

 

For fans, the Star Wars Celebration conventions have become a pilgrimage. Since 1999, the gatherings have been used to celebrate movie releases and anniversaries around the world, drawing approximately 30,000-40,000 fans per event.

This year, the eighth show in the United States (the twelfth overall) was held in Orlando, Florida over Easter weekend. The big-ticket panels were a celebration of A New Hope‘s fortieth anniversary and a sneak peek at the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but aside from the buzz and excitement flooding social media, there was also anger, frustration, and disappointment.

Why? Because the convention is stuck in the 20th century.

The 2017 convention hosted the headline events in three venues: The Galaxy Stage, the Celebration Stage, and the Behind-the-Scenes Stage. The events were held live in the Galaxy Stage, located in the Valencia Ballroom, and live-streamed to audiences in the Chapin Theater (Celebration Stage) and room W304 (Behind-the-Scenes Stage).

In order to get access to these events, attendees needed wristbands, which were only available by queuing the nights before and sleeping in the convention center. Star Wars fans love lines, and have since the first film premiered in 1977, but the frustrations and anger came in how the convention organizers handled the overnight waiting period. After starting their convention camping trip at 8pm, some fans were promised through a loudspeaker announcement at 1am that everyone in line was guaranteed seats in the Galaxy Theater for the 40th anniversary panel. When it came time for their wristbands, they got screwed by line jumpers.

Based on other accounts on Twitter and Facebook, this experience is far from isolated. Here’s the thing, though. In 2017, there is no need for it.

The wristbands were also used for the other panels on the Galaxy and Celebration Stages, and attendees were able to receive two wristbands per day by choosing their top two panels across both stages. Tickets went on sale on May 25, 2016, and pre-orders were handled through the Celebration website. ReedPOP, the convention organizer, had contact information for each purchase.

Upon purchase, ReedPOP could set up simple accounts for each ticketholder, and when the schedule is finalized, ReedPOP could require each ticket holder to log in and set their Galaxy/Celebration panel priorities. Wristbands could be issued by a lottery system, and could be picked up at registration with the event badges.

Seats could be assigned, or they could be given on a first-come-first-serve basis with a queue for each panel.

No overnight camping. No line-cutting. No frustration for attendees who are paying hard-earned money to have a good time.

 

Now, let’s take it a step further.

Star Wars fans are incredibly social. Let’s say that I want to see The Last Jedi panel with my friends from various podcasts or fan groups. ReedPOP could set up the ticketholder accounts to allow grouping, and those groups would be entered in the seat lottery as one entity. The groups could be limited to twenty seats to prevent an entire group from having an unfair advantage.

 

Now, let’s go one more step.

Not counting YouTube viewers, the big-ticket events were presented to 10,264 people, or about twenty-five percent of a 40,000-person assumed attendance. According to the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), the Valencia Ballroom can seat 6,000 people, the Chapin Theater can seat 2,643, and W304 can seat 1,621. It’s also a fair assumption that most (if not all) of the attendees want to see panels like the Star Wars 40th and The Last Jedi. So why not expand the seating and use the streaming capabilities to serve more fans?

Based on the stage schedules, ReedPOP had reserved eight additional rooms for scheduled events. Those rooms – W300, W303, W306A, W307, W308, W310, and W312 – house 2,600 extra seats. They could only be used for the headline panels because they’re slated for other purposes throughout the day such as podcasts, educational panels, and screenings, but for the headline panels that brings us to thirty-two percent, and virtually exhausts the West Concourse of the OCCC.

If ReedPOP could secure access to North and South Concourses, both of which are attached to the West Concourse by skybridges, they could easily open streaming access to every attendee, including ticketholders who purchase their badges at the show. The North and South Concourses can house 32,111 people each in theater mode, reaching 64,222 total.

The North and South Concourses may be a bit of a financial stretch for only two to three hours over two days, but there is another possibility in the connected hotels. Both the Rosen Centre and the Hyatt Regency Orlando are connected to the OCCC by skybridges, and both have substantial meeting capacity. Rosen has 4,000-seat capacity in their Grand Ballroom, 1,888-seat capacity in the Executive Ballroom, and 1,500-seat capacity in the Junior Ballroom, leading to a total of 7,388. The Regency has 3,120-seat capacity in their Plaza International Ballroom, 1,040-seat capacity in the Orlando Ballroom, and 832-seat capacity in the Florida Ballroom, leading to 4,992 seats total. Together, they reach 12,380.

Using the hotel ballrooms, the 10,264-seat base jumps to 22,644. If the extra West Concourse rooms are used, we come to 25,244. Between the two, around sixty percent of the audience could attend the headline panels.

 

Of course, at this point it’s time to answer the question: Why do I care?

I have wanted to travel to Celebration since they started in 1999, but I have never had the opportunity to do so. But, I’ve also been a bit spoiled by Dragon Con, a 70,000-90,000 attendee convention where lines are limited to one or two hours for big ticket panels. I’m not keen on waiting in lines for hours and hours to see a panel when there are no other options, especially when there is so much more to do at the convention. This whole logistical miscalculation has me reconsidering Celebration on the whole.

I’m also a Star Wars fan and convention attendee who has sleep apnea and uses a CPAP machine to sleep each night. That would prevent me from “camping out” on a concrete floor, and would also require me to be awake for 24-36 hours at a shot. While Celebration has a disability contingency that allows someone to pick up wristbands on my behalf, that’s not something I’m going to ask my wife to do for me.

Finally, that’s two nights of hotel room rental where I’m not actually using it. That’s a lot of money.

I don’t expect this blog post to be an end-all solution to Celebration 2017’s queuing woes, but it certainly shows that there is room for creative problem solving. A conflict obviously exists, and it’s evidently driving fans away. The question is what is more important to ReedPOP and Lucasfilm/Disney: Money or fans.

ReedPOP should seriously consider ditching the overnight queuing and remove a source of friction from the only official Star Wars convention that our fandom has. Celebration should live up to its name and celebrate what we love. Celebration shouldn’t include anger, frustration, and disappointment, and it certainly shouldn’t start off with it.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

She was the first to show me that a princess could save the day, both in fiction and reality.

She used her talents to entertain and educate, both on the screen and on the pages, and used her battles to show us all how to recognize and defeat our personal demons. She was sharp and acerbic, could disarm internet trolls in seconds, and proved that no matter the adversity, you can always make a comeback.

She will always be royalty to me.

 

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