Monday, September 20, 2010


These are notes compiled from my time at DragonCon, 2009, in Atlanta, GA.  Please forgive me if some of these are incomplete.

Day 1, Thursday, September 3rd

Arriving the day before the Convention started, we went to pick up the tickets we had purchased months ago. The line for pre-registration was …. first we went to one hotel, did a U-turn to get onto one line, which u-turned onto yet another line, and that was the line to get INTO the hotel, onto the line for the pre-registration room, where we got onto that line....

Yes, we went from a line, to get onto a line, to get onto a line, to get onto a line.

The preregistration line was was a serpentine deal across a ballroom about 30 yards long, roped off and packed. Organizers kept calling out names, because there was one person to deal with people in select alphabetical segments (Adams-Alabaster, Annoying-Bradbury, etc). It took two hours to get to the front of the line, where they had broken the line up into the segments per group—and we noticed they took 5-10 minutes per member. Later, they had tried to close the pre-registration line at 9 PM, with the room still full. The registrants refused to leave, and they didn’t close until 10:30 PM.

Day 2-- and now the Convention Starts.

10 AM: For the appearance of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (together for possibly the first time in years), the line into the Hyatt hotel wrapped AROUND the hotel. We asked, discovered that Nimoy-Shatner had been moved to the Marriott Marquis—the line we saw was for watching the reunion on remote large-screen TVs. It was originally placed opposite a Babylon 5 panel, but that panel had been moved to 4PM. Our last option was a panel called “Celluloid Heroes”

“Celluloid Heroes,” with Mike Mignola (Creator of Hellboy), Helen Slater (the original movie Supergirl ), Doug Jones (“Abe Sapien,” and Silver Surfer in the films), and Bruce Davison (Senator Kelly from the first two “X-Men” films).

Items of interest:

Mignola talked about how he wasn’t called to consult for the second Hellboy movie, which gave the director Guillermo Del Toro free reign, which is probably why it was so terrible. However, when Mignola looked at the finished product of Hellboy, he decided that those characters were more Del Toro's than his own. Also, the two of them had tried for eight hours to adapt a plot from the original Hellboy comic for the second film, and failed. Also noted was that Del Toro has a great way for getting around studio “suits”—film in Eastern Europe (aka the back end of Hell), where they would not go.

Apparently, Mignola was brought into Disney to do extra concept art for a movie that would become “Journey to Atlantis”. The artists at Disney are very cliquish, looking at Mignola like “what is HE doing here?” Apparently, the artists never talk to the screenwriters at idea meetings. Mignola, on the other hand, hadn't been informed about that policy, and when he went out to lunch with the writers and talked with them, they came back and they had a different film. He doesn’t know not to speak up. Also, when he first arrived, he had a thought of “Why is there a large poster of Hellboy on the wall?” After hearing about how the Disney artists admired his technique about different things, his first thought about one of the “techniques” was “I did it that way because I can't draw feet.”

Slater attended the High School for the Performing Arts (the “Fame” school), and auditioned for and won the role of Supergirl immediately after graduating. While on set, she performed a Shakespeare sonnet for Peter O’Toole, who was her co-star on the film. Being from New York, she talked with her hands gesturing. O’Toole asked her to hold two dandelions between her thumbs and forefingers and do it again. She learned how to put the poetry over the performance, or, as she put it, “getting the blonde out of her speech”. She would more recently play Clark’s Kryptonian mother on “Smallville.”

Now, originally, the primary villain from John Woo's Mission Impossible II was slated to be Wolverine in the X-Men films, but Woo kept him so long, Singer and company decided to go with an Aussie actor who was playing Curly in “Oklahoma” for the London stage, some guy named Hugh Jackman. They decided “hey we gotta keep an eye on him, he’s gonna go far.” Oh yes, and after shooting, the cast would apparently head to the bar, where Patrick Stewart taught everyone “photon torpedo” acting, moving as if hit, while the camera moved. “Position #7 [Pull to the right.]”

Jones, who also played the Silver Surfer in the second Fantastic 4 movie, is signed on to a Surfer 3-picture deal. The second movie has been written by J. Michael Straczynski.

Panel 2: The Star Trek authors cavalcade: with Peter David, Alan Dean Foster, Keith DeCandido.

When the panel started, there was a brief introduction of everyone except Peter David. He simplified it by asking “Is there anyone here who DOESN’T know who I am?” Answer: no.

Simon and Schuster: the people who bring you the Trek novels have been through a massive let-go of ST editors; they've cut two in the last year. In addition, the authors were told “no more multi-book story arcs”...and there are some who are thinking that this is the end of the Trek book franchise, since the contract is expiring soon.

Editors and Paramount have a great deal of power over the plots. One idiot named Richard Arnold once told Peter David that “there are no female Borg; we haven't seen them on the show, so they don't exist” (This was before the Borg Queen and Seven of Nine). As a result, Peter David's novel “Vendetta” originally came with a disclaimer that it was “not series cannon”. David's reply “So they assimilate everyone but the women? What are they, Hasidic Jews?”

An example of Editorial Power is the Death of Kathryn Janeway—yes, Voyager fans, she'd dead, get over it. It was an idea that was given to Peter David for the book “Before Dishonor.” It was not his idea, don't yell at him for it.

DeCandido had problems writing for Will Riker; According to Peter David, Jonathan Frakes told him that he played Riker as John Wayne. David then went on to discuss how he pictured his creation of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun as Mel Gibson as Braveheart ("I was a teenage warlord"), only without the death and dismemberment.

Alan Dean Foster talked about other projects like the novelization of the first Alien movie, where he could explain things that didn't make sense in the film. Peter David asked “Why did the escape pod only hold four people? Was this ship created by the people who built the Titanic?”

David continued with, “And another thing, I'm still waiting for someone to explain gravity on most of these ships. The only time I've ever seen it done was on Babylon 5, and they even made it a plot point in one story.”

Panel 3: Angel/Buffy guest stars: Kristy Swanson (KS, the original Buffy), Charisma Carpenter (CC), Julie Benz (JB), Felicia Day (FD. Creator of The Guild ).

Miscellaneous facts here and there: Tv sets have doctors to deal with pimples.

According to KS, the original Buffy movie was a Luke Perry vehicle. The soul patch in the move was a fake, and Swanson's cat one day licked it off and ate it.

Felicia Day reads romance novels,on kindle, just because the covers are embarrassing. Also reads JD Robb, which are mystery romances.

After a large round of applause upon her arrival, CC: “I come here for the ego boost.”

Q: “Ms. Carpenter, do you read the comics?”
A: “Well, I’m at DCon, so, yes, of course I do.”

Question on favorite character development:
A, Julie Benz: I was originally supposed to be vamp girl #1.... I got a name and a story arc, so, yay!
A, Charisma Carpenter: It was a little odd giving birth to a 6’2” African-American woman (Gina Torres).
FD: “Your vagina much be huge... on the show! On the show I mean!”
Charisma Carpenter laughs: “Yeah, Franken-pussy.”

Charisma Carpenter was recently filmed for Legend of the Seeker: The lead, Craig Horner, is a Buffy fan and geeked out on her.

Q: Charisma, did you like Buffy or Angel more...?
Charisma Carpenter: “Angel, of course, it had more of me!” [Done for the laugh, I think] “Buffy was fun though.”

Q: “So, Charisma, what did you think of the five seasons of Angel?”
A: “Well, first of all, I wasn’t in the last season; I was cut in season four... then the series got canceled... MUWHAHAHA. No, with the fourth season, it was really tough. I got pregnant, and things became strained with Joss (Whedon), and it reached a breaking point when I found out I would be fired FROM A REPORTER who called to ask about it. When I was approached about doing my cameo in Season 5, I told them, 'Don't kill me. I don't want to do this if you're just going to kill me... don't kill me...' and then I heard the plot of the episode and Damnit, they killed me. When I heard how I was going to buy it, I thought, 'Wow, that’s GOOD! Joss is still the master.' So, we're good now.”

Julie Benz will be in a new movie, a sequel to “Reservoir Dogs”, where her character wears 6-inch Louis Vuitton heels to crime scenes (Charisma Carpenter hugs her and says “I love you!”).

Q: What badass do you want to play next?
Charisma Carpenter: “I wanna play Julie! Or any Quentin Tarantino Heroine.” (Kill Bill’s Bride)
Q: No, I mean a real person.
Charisma Carpenter: “Julie is a real person!”
Julie Benz: No I’m not.
Charisma Carpenter: --Or I'd play Wonder Woman, but Joss isn’t involved with that anymore, so never mind.
Julie Benz: Well, as far as real people go, I was once mistaken for Kristy Swanson.
Kristy Swanson: You don’t look like me.

And, finally, one last exchange.

Charisma Carpenter: Julie bit me once.
Julie Benz: I liked it.
Charisma Carpenter: And then I hit you, and I liked it!

Panel 4: Apocalypse Rising Track,:the writers panel, starring John Ringo, SM Stirling, and Michael Z. Williamson.

When John Ringo's on a panel, by the way, expect to hear very little from anyone else. He doesn't seem to like the sound of his own voice, and though he came into the panel after driving 6 hours in 18, he still takes over

John Ringo: “I find it funny that this is a panel of disasters and someone just handed me a novelization of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen....

“Now, with Post Apocalyptic fiction, it's a way for a writer to make the world over in his own image, using the most unlikely hero—usually a version of themselves. In fact, the Western tradition has been scarred by it, with the Plague, which killed a third of Europe.

“Oh, and by the way, did anyone here see Cloverfield? I just wanted them all to die! Does anyone here known anyone as stupid as those people?

“One of the various problems with our modern world is that the Sun occasionally burbs. And that's fine if you're an ancient Roman, not so good for us. Right now, if we lost modern technology, it would be worse and more devastating than a nuclear war; with technology, we can support a planet of six billion people. If we lose modern technology, the planet has has a max capacity to support only 450-500 million people. Please realize that the “normal” world is not America, it's Darfur and Saudia Arabia.

“In 1869, there was the Carrington event, a solar storm that lasted for hours, hit the entire planet with a barrage of electromagnetic pulse. Now, it doesn't effect telegraphs. Us, not so lucky. Then again, in Tennesee, we can live off of squirrels--75 squirrels per person. And I live in Chattanooga, with the Tennessee Valley Authority. They'd have the power back up in two months.”

Miscellanous someone [most likely Stirling] “As for what's left afterwards... for example, archaeologists found a 3800-year-old clay tablet from town destroyed by Hammurabi. It had a stone letter in it. They were all excited and such, the first such letter they found of this kind.... what was on it? 'This is the third letter I have written regarding the silver you owe me…' The second one was 'You have not written me in the three years since your marriage…'

“And speaking of modern technology, Los Angeles.... You put a city in the desert? Really?”

Ringo: No I didn’t.

MZ Williamson [I think]: “As for after the fall, and what would be left, in my book, I had them retell Star Wars as their myth, only with the siege tower of doom instead of the Death Star, and they found a Star Trek Technical manual and decided to put it together themselves...after all, it had been done before.”

Stirling [I also think]: “James Clavell, the English author, was a POW in a Japanese camp in WW2, which he turned into his novel King Rat. After the war, he walked around the streets of London with two tins of sardines in his pockets because he had learned that he could survive on two tins and a pound of rice should everything fall apart.”

Ringo: by the way, for the record, the average lifespan of a lone wolf is about six months. Humans are also pack animals. Should the crap hit the fan, you can have all the food in the world, but that won't help if there are thirty people surrounding your house. Get friends.

Panel 5, 4PM. John Ringo reading

“Has anyone read Princess of Wands?” EVERY HAND shot up. “OK, then.” Working on the sequel for 18 months. Problems: Should he do it as one novel? Vignettes? What order should the vignettes be? And how do you top the last book?

Eventually, the reading was “Live Free or Die” (“no relation to the Bruce Willis movie”).
Premise of this book: a Libertarian with a napoleon complex becomes richest and most powerful man on Earth.
It starts with a statement of the real Scientific principle “Hm, that’s odd.”

And it leads into SkyWatch: watching the skies and the stars for things that can crash into the Earth and kill us. The joke is those that who can’t teach, go to SkyWatch.

And then they find a 10.4 KM concentric circle in space.

“Is this a joke?”
“It's from the Germans, they don’t have a sense of humor.”
“You do know what shape that's in, right?”
"Yeah, it’s a halo; maybe it’s Covenant. At the speed and angle, it won't hit us, but keep an eye on it, when it hits something, the explosion will be REALLY COOL."

Several weeks later: “Um, it's stopped.” Oh crap.

Cut to the White House Switchboard.

Operator: “White House Switchboard.”
Operator: “A prank call will only be wasting my time.”


Now, to the hero—Vernon Taylor, or Taylor Vernon, no one can recall, not even Ringo. This Libertarian webcomic artist ran a SF site, which died after science fiction was superceded by events. One day, he discovered that the Gleen is addicted to maple syrup; he grabs a big rig full of 50 gallon drums of syrup, becomes their supplier, and is rich overnight.

The first story: “The Maple Syrup War”: Earth is too backwater for the Gleen to interfere, they don't have a world government body, no real political organization that the Gleen find acceptable, and that includes the UN. Every few years, the Rastor come, blow up Singapore and two other cities (because they were the brightest lit), and have tribute.

And then they take Hostages for maple syrup. Vernon sets up a transmission from his moon colony, relays it thru several satellites and Fox News. Green screen is set up behind him to add to the image of him being at home. “It may seem to you that we who collect the syrup are the servants of the people in the cities. To your collective mindset, you don't know this concept of freedom. Of individuality. Of liberty. The people in the cities... THEY ARE OUR ENEMIES. We WANT you to kill them. BLOW UP BOSTON. DESTROY NEW YORK. And please, PLEASE, NUKE DC! This is America. A place of FREEDOM. LIVE FREE OR—”
“We lost the first relay, swtiching to second.”
Picture behind him reverts to Mount Rushmore. “AND WE HAVE CGI AND GREEN SCREEN YOU ALIEN BASTARDS.”
“Lost the second one.”
Afterwards, a CNN reporter says “We were hurt by what you said. You didn't mean the cities are you enemies.”
“Of course I did. They are. They're against everything we stand for. But I didn't want anyone to die.”
“Then why did you say that?”
“To quote the smartest rabbit I know, 'Please don’t throw me into that briar patch.'”

By the second vignette, Vernon has created a warship out of a 10km wide nickel asteroid, 9 trillion tons, armed with Archimedes mirrors; described as “insufficiently ambitious.”
An audience member hummed the Imperial Waltz, Ringo said “Exactly. In this, everyone's trying NOT to do the death star.”
And this armed asteroid is called Troy.

Panel 5: 
The league of redheaded stepchildren: Media tie-in authors Peter David, Timothy Zahn, Robert Greenberger, Catherine Asaro.

Most often line that they hear: “When are you going to write a REAL book? Not some Star Wars novel.” Tie-ins are a rung below SF/Fantasy.

When asked what projects he's turned down, Timothy Zahn turned down B5 —
PD: Don't worry, I did it.
TZ: Then I turned down a Halo novel.
PD: Don't worry, I did it.
TZ: I have objections to writing “Other people’s stories.”
PD: “Would you object to $100K for a screenplay?”
TZ: “Maybe, but that's weeks, a novel takes months.”
PD: “Not the way I write. I burn out keyboards. ”
TZ: My other problem with the Halo novel was that they wouldn't let me see their bible for the mythology.
PD: I didn't have a that problem. The Microsoft people were very supportive. When I was approached, I say “Yes, I love Halo,” and spend days doing research playing the game or reading strategy guides. When I handed in my outline, they said “Oh, you can't do that with this weapon, but you can with this, which is one that we haven't released yet.” But yeah, they were very supportive with me.
TZ. “Mom always liked you best.”
PD: “And is it any wonder? As for what I've turned down, I turned down writing the first Voyager novel; the show bible said Janeway was supposed to hold the ship together with willpower, spit and baling wire, between the Marquis and the starfleet crew members, the show ironed out all those rough edges.. And I turned down the novelization for Iron Man 2; Marvel was so paranoid, they insisted the writer do this with pen and paper. Then again, my theory is that if anyone asks if you can do something, then say yes! Then learn how.

Max Allan Collins wrote Road to Perdition, the novelization of movie based on his comic book. He put in background and stories that he couldn’t fit into comic. Publisher said take it out because “it wasn't in the movie.” The novelization ended up as 40k words. His revenge: he put the material into sequel.

On the Return of Swamp Thing: PD took old Alan Moore comics and rewrote the movie. Greenberger, working for DC at the time, said forget the movie, read the book.

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