Friday, August 22, 2008

WorldCon: The Firefly Panel

I knew it was too good to last. Our false fall is over, and we're back to summer, though, mercifully, a "normal" summer and not the 100+ temperatures we had earlier. Meanwhile, taking a ballet class with a bad case of Book Brain is, well ... interesting. I'd get a random idea or thought and completely forget the entire combination I was supposed to be doing while I was busily writing in my head. Today, I think I'm going to disconnect from the Internet for the whole afternoon, without even taking e-mail breaks (since e-mail breaks tend to stretch out into other things) and really dig into the book. The publishing world shuts down on Friday afternoons in the summer, so I don't have to worry about any urgent notes from anyone.

I'm going to start doing some rundowns/summaries from WorldCon panels. I think I'll start with the ones I moderated, since I wasn't able to take notes and am therefore more likely to forget what was discussed (if I haven't entirely already). And since it's Friday and I don't want to think too hard, I'll talk about the Firefly panel. The official title was "Firefly: What Would the 2nd Season Have Been Like?" and the panelists were me, Dani Kollin and Rebecca Moesta. I was drafted at the last second to moderate, but as I've put just the teensiest bit of thought into the subject, that wasn't exactly a challenge for me. I think this panel may have been the most fun I had in the whole convention. It was a highly energized hour and fifteen minutes with the audience really into it, and I suspect we could have gone on for quite a bit longer.

These recollections are pretty stream-of-consciousness and may focus the most on what I said because that's what I remember. I did start off trying to get us talking about how we think the series might have continued if Fox hadn't cancelled it, and that transitioned into talking about what might happen if some miracle occurred and they decided to start another Firefly series picking up after the movie, and from there we talked about the rumored possibility that the movie was kind of what was originally planned to be the second season arc, just compressed into a movie. I'd thought about how that might have played out over time. My theory is that the Operative would have been introduced as the season one finale cliffhanger. The pattern on both Buffy and Angel with season-ending cliffhangers was never with the characters all in immediate jeopardy so that the next season picked up right away. The seasons tended to end with the characters defeating the Big Bad and feeling pretty good about things, and then at the very end we'd see something new pop up that the characters might not even be aware of (think Darla in a box). So I suspected that at the end of season one, Our Big Damn Heroes would have had some moment of triumph, and then the very last scene of the season would involve the Operative being introduced, so that we'd know they were going to be in huge trouble, and it would be midway through the next season before they became aware that he was chasing them. Apparently, there is a fan project that has written "scripts" for a season two that does break down the events in the movie into a season, so maybe I'll have to check that out.

Storylines people wanted to see picked up or dealt with included Book's past (Dani thought that seeing the Operative in the movie was seeing a mirror of Book's backstory), what decision Inara would make after the movie (stay or go back to the House), the crappy town where Wash is a hero, and what Jayne's mother would be like. Dani had a fun scenario worked out for that: Jayne would be frantically gathering all his weapons out of his quarters and then dump them on Simon in the infirmary, telling him that they were all his. Then this teeny, tiny woman would come on board and greet Jayne, and our big, tough guy would be utterly terrified of her. She'd notice the stockpile of weapons, Jayne would insist they were Simon's, and then she'd whisper to Jayne, "I don't want you associating with him." There was some discussion as to whether or not the tiny-but-tough mother was a cliche, and I pondered the idea of a more Jayne-sized woman, but I have to admit that this scenario is entertaining to ponder. I didn't seem to get a lot of support for my assertion that the "If I ever kill you, you'll be awake, armed and facing me" line in the pilot from Mal to Simon was foreshadowing. Not that I expected Mal to ever actually kill Simon, but I did imagine that at some point they were going to get into a showdown.

For more speculation, I brought up the fact that Joss's shows tend to have massive cast expansion as they progress, as they keep adding more and more characters. How would that have worked if Firefly had continued to five or more seasons? There's a finite amount of space on the ship, which limits the number of regular characters (unless they start setting up cots in the cargo bay), so perhaps we'd just have a larger cast of recurring characters they run into on a regular basis, with familiar faces at any places they visit regularly. Dani mentioned that the other pattern was turning a de-fanged (mostly) enemy into part of the gang, so one of the new people would probably be something like a vegetarian Reaver -- one who didn't fit in or was an outcast from his people. That sparked some brainstorming, so I suggested that Simon would come up with some kind of chemical or drug that would help the vegetarian Reaver stay somewhat sane (since the vegetarianism only rules out cannibalism) and safe to be around, and there would have to then be a situation where the Reaver crew member was cut off from being able to get his medicine, with time running out before he started going nuts again and became a threat.

We pondered whether there was room to do a musical episode. My suggestion was that it would take place in River's head (I guess this would have to have gone before the movie or disregarding the movie, since she seems to be more or less well now). We'd see the crew going about their business in a normal way, but then we'd see it from River's point of view, and she'd see it all as a big musical.

There was so much going on in that panel, with suggestions flying fast and furious from the audience and panelists, that I can't begin to capture it all. If you were there and want to chime in with something I missed, be my guest!

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