Wednesday, September 23, 2009

FenCon Recap

Now that I've had a chance to recover, I can do a rundown on the fun that was FenCon. All of this is more or less from memory, as I didn't try to take notes.

I had the somewhat intimidating experience of moderating a panel about a TV show with one of the people who writes for the show in the audience -- and with me probably being the least knowledgeable person on the panel. As I said on the panel, I was there mostly to play Oprah and keep the discussion going, and fortunately the show writer who was present is already a friend, so he wasn't quite as scary as someone else might have been. The panel was to discuss the upcoming regeneration of the Doctor on Doctor Who. That's one area where I almost wish I wasn't as plugged in as I am, because I can imagine that not knowing that it was coming would make the show more intense -- if you didn't know when it was coming, then every time the Doctor got into serious trouble, you might wonder if this would be the time that kills him. But we don't live in a world where that kind of secret can be kept, given that, as Paul Cornell reported, the announcement of the casting of the next Doctor got higher ratings than the fantasy TV series on another channel.

While many of us were kind of hoping for an older Doctor next time around, I had to say (and got some agreement on this) that the younger actor makes for a potentially interesting contrast -- this ancient being, who seems to have been really feeling his age lately, in a very young body. The concern some of us had is that with an equally young Companion, the situation is set up for yet another one of those unresolved sexual tension simmering romance things, and there I have a big yawn. I suppose we shall see next year what it will all be like.

Then we had a rather fun panel on Trek vs. Who. It was set up to be a big debate, but instead we kept finding parallels and similarities. Paul Cornell, naturally, came down firmly on the Who side, but the rest of us, as well as much of the audience, couldn't really choose. We decided that the Borg beat the Cybermen, but that the Daleks beat the Borg. Paul would love to see what would happen if the Doctor met Captain Kirk. I thought that the way the characterization has gone on most of the Trek series, they're essentially doing regeneration without admitting that they're the same characters in different bodies (though Keith R. DeCandido and I agreed that Deep Space Nine was mostly an exception). The Trill on Trek seem to owe a debt to the Doctor, with multiple lives of the same person in different bodies, but with memories carried over. In Trek, it's a huge deal when Earth comes under alien threat; on Who, it's just Saturday. Until I started thinking about this, I never would have considered that the two series were at all alike, but it was interesting how similar they really are.

The panel on Suburban Fantasy got kind of wacky, and I'm not sure we really got anywhere with it, but it was fun. One thought I had was that setting a fantasy story in a suburban environment might play up that sense of the Other. One big theme that comes up a lot in urban fantasy is that sense of being an outsider or the Other -- and yet in the city all the other outcasts tend to find each other, so you get a nice Other community. In the suburbs, the Other would be more isolated and would stand out more. And then we digressed seriously into discussions of a demon that can apparently be killed with cucumbers, which led into talk of using a Salad Shooter as a weapon or rushing to the Western Sizzler salad bar when being chased by said demon. And it went downhill from there.

We had a fun panel discussing the Sci Fi Channel (I refuse to acknowledge the name change because it's just silly), their name change and where their programming could be going. There's some fear that changing the name could be the first step toward moving away from actually being a science fiction channel, especially given some of the programming, like wrestling. I'm not in quite so alarmist a mood, given how successful Warehouse 13 has been (one week, it even beat the ratings for its competition on one of the major broadcast networks). I wouldn't mind seeing more shows with actual spaceships in them, but I'm not minding the current programming. And, darn it, Mansquito was a fun movie. Bad, but fun.

And now today, I plunge into really serious writing on the new project. I spent much of yesterday getting back into that mindset by making lots of lists of random things about the main characters.

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