Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Panel Notes

I should know better than to even pretend to be ambitious about getting work done on the Monday after a convention. I spent most of the afternoon trying to stay awake while brainstorming a sequence I needed to write -- with the conclusion of the brainstorming being that I didn't need that sequence at all. I suppose it's better to spend time thinking about something than to spend time writing something you don't need. I guess realizing I didn't need to write it means I'm less behind than I thought I was, so I came out ahead on the day's "work." But that was all the work I got done yesterday. Today I need to do some writing, and I absolutely must deal with some real-world things, including my ongoing battle with AT&T, which somehow seems to have forgotten that I cancelled my long-distance "plan" with them because they're still billing me for it. There are times when having a killer robot sidekick (a la Cameron on The Sarah Connor Chronicles) would come in handy. I just imagined her on the phone with the AT&T Customer Disservice Department and went to my happy place.

Random notes of things that came up in FenCon panels (I didn't take notes, so we're going by my fuzzy memory):

We really need an Internet-generation Emily Post to write a definitive etiquette guide for spoilers, including how long the "safe" period with books and movies should be. Not everyone sees movies or reads books at the same time, but how long must people avoid talking about things that interest them in order to avoid spilling spoilers? Twenty years is probably too long. Opening weekend is way too soon.

In the Whedonverse panel, we were asked who our favorite character out of all the series was, and I was surprised that someone else had mine and for the same reasons, because I've often felt alone about that. Both Rachel Caine and I love Wesley for the way they managed to grow the character from buffoon to badass and make it totally believable. I also came to the conclusion that I will have to give Dollhouse a shot, even though the concept doesn't really enthrall me, since I realized that I haven't really been enthralled about any of his concepts, but ended up loving the shows. I wasn't planning to watch Buffy because I don't care about vampires and wasn't into the idea of teen angst shows, but I didn't change the channel fast enough when the pilot came on and got hooked. I didn't think I'd like Angel, since it was a spinoff involving a character I had found boring and, again, vampires. But the pilot came on when I was in a hotel on a business trip, so I watched and I ended up liking that series better than Buffy. I wasn't turned off by the concept of Firefly, just more in a big "huh?" because I hadn't heard much about it, but watched out of a sense of duty and loved it best of all. So now my big "really?" reaction to the concept of Dollhouse probably means I'll fall in mad, passionate love with it.

On the House panel, I was the real oddball for picking "The Mistake" as my favorite episode. I thought it was an excellent example of the fact that House can show his human side while still being very much House and without going off the deep end into pointless meanness or woobification (I kind of liked the House who was a jerk just because that was his personality, so I'm a little bugged by the trend toward showing him as some kind of tortured soul who might be a jerk because of his painful childhood and because his mean old friends don't cater to his every whim). And it showed that a character can be mysterious by, you know, just not telling stuff instead of wafting around being "mysterious."

But there was something said with Doris Egan during the opening ceremonies (and that also came up on the panel) that brought up an interesting dilemma. Vagueing it up to avoid spoilers because I don't know where other countries are in getting the series, but it referred to the death of a character who'd become popular. Someone asked Doris why they had to kill that character (and why not kill the boring one instead), and she said they killed that character because people loved her. I get that a character death has no impact if people don't care about that character, and that killing an unpopular character or a character people don't care about means the death is meaningless (it sort of ruins the tragic moment if the audience is dancing for joy). But then that means if you kill off the character people care about the most, you run the risk of being left with the characters people don't care about. I guess the ideal is to have all your characters be cared about, but when you've got a supporting/recurring character who's really catching on with the audience and one the audience generally finds utterly boring, I'm not sure that killing the popular one and leaving the boring one is such a wise move. Yeah, the immediate death has a real impact, but it makes the series from that point on somewhat less entertaining.

But then no one's paying me to write for TV, so what do I know?

On the character creation panel, other panelists were talking about the challenges of making dark or despicable characters sympathetic. I said I had the opposite problem, making nice characters interesting. And I think that's actually more difficult, especially these days when there seems to be a common belief that dark automatically=good. I didn't have an answer at the time for how to make nice characters interesting, but I think a lot if it has to do with the fact that "nice" doesn't have to mean "perfect." Even nice, good, people who are not morally ambiguous can make mistakes, have bad days and struggle. Nice people can panic, lose their temper or snap at people. They can even make bad decisions. And all without dipping their toes into real darkness.

I don't really have anything from the CS Lewis panel other than that I reread The Silver Chair over the weekend, for the first time in ages, and I was reminded of the many reasons that's my favorite of the series, plus I think I really got the spiritual message of it for the first time, and now I like it even more.

Now time for lunch, the post office, then girding my loins and finding my inner Terminator to deal with AT&T.

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