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San Diego Comicon 2013 Report

As everyone probably already knows, Comicon landed on the city of San Diego like the usual ton of bricks. All traffic slowed to a crawl in the vicinity of the convention halls, it took over the large ballrooms of nearly every hotel in a block radius, nearly every single hotel room in the county was booked and a vast migration across the spectrum of nerdiness descended over the city like fallen tower of comics, books, and DVDs.

Phoenix Wright CosplayIt is impossible to talk about Comicon without mentioning the lines that can stretch for a mile or more. No, I am not exaggerating. I stood in one for badge pick up. Fortunately, someone made the brilliant decision to get some of those exceedingly long lines moving well before the posted time for things like badge pickup and some of the autograph ticket drawings. I think they got started as soon as they had the staff in place to distribute things and I’m glad they did. Even if a line is super long, it becomes less obnoxious if it is moving at a brisk pace.

The same could not be said of the lines for the big money panels and talks located in the notorious Ballroom 20 and Hall H. Soon after the first Twilight panel debuted (where diehard fans of that series camped in line for days), I made the resolution to avoid Hall H and everything in it. Call me “not fan enough” or whatever, but there’s too much other stuff I could go see instead.

Cowboy Bebop CosplayEven without those two rooms, there’s the gamesmanship of figuring if you can get into certain panels if there’s something that will be immensely popular later in the day in that room. The rooms are not cleared between panels (thus avoiding the logistical nightmare and mobs that would result) and bathroom passes for room reentry exist, so there isn’t anything to prevent someone from staying in one room all day. So even if you aren’t going to the big rooms, you still have to consider things if the panel you want is the one right before Mythbusters.

It is still possible to get in if you get there early enough (my friend got into Hall H for the Hannibal panel) but you will be waiting a fairly long time (said friend was waiting there most of the day). In such situations it’s best to try to make friends with the people who are around you so the wait is more pleasant for everyone, particularly when the line has stretched to the mile mark before midnight for a panel the next day (as was the case for the Doctor Who anniversary talk).

Moving from lines to the exhibitors’ hall, as usual the place is full of lots of interesting things to see and crushingly close crowds moving like cold molasses in some places with all of it punctuated by the dull roar of people talking echoing off the walls and ceiling. The video game makers were moved so that it actually wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but the area around the BBC America, AMC and Lionsgate booths was a perpetual clog. The areas I prefer (the small press, the independent press, artists’ alley and the book publisher sections) were about the normal level of crowded and a lot of the people manning those booths were very nice, helpful and willing to talk. I am not the best of conversationalists due to a chronic case of awkward speaking, but I appreciate people being enthusiastic about their craft.

Things I wish I saw at Comicon

The Legend of Korra panel. I want this to become an hour long show, because there’s too much going on for a half hour.

The Doctor Who 50th anniversary panel. I have been watching the show since I was 5, but I am not doing an overnight sleepover where one can get hit with sprinklers in the wee hours of the morning when I have a nice warm comfy bed available. I’ll just knit another sweater of Rassilon this winter.

The big Marvel movie panel. Tom Hiddleston apparently showed up in full Loki costume and everyone’s undergarments fell off. At least it seems that way considering how the con hashtag exploded. Again, a Hall H thing. Related note: I wished I had seen the Agents of SHIELD presentation because it sounds pretty cool.

The Epic Fantasy panel. I was not able to get in because I had agreed to volunteer a few days of con and needed to get my assignment which involved being in a line at that time. One of my con buddies was able to get in though. She enjoyed it and said much of it had to do with world building. I went and got lunch when it became obvious I wasn’t getting in that room.

Far too much other stuff to mention here.

Things that I saw at Comicon and wish I hadn’t

I saw five in the morning pretty often.

Panels consisting entirely of white men. I’m not going to make any inferences as to their preferred romantic partner of choice as it never came up in the panels, but we all know what the statistics skew for. There are women and people of color in nearly every single subgenre you can think of. FIND THEM.

So many zombies. The only one of note was extremely well made up and was dragging a puff of fake fur, red stains and plastic intestines on a leash.

Loud person dissing someone else’s enjoyment of cute moogles because of their uselessness in Final Fantasy‘s game mechanics. They are cute. Get over it.

Star of India - Assassin's CreedLife stories given when the panel opens up questions from the audience. “I just want to say how much I love your work,” is best saved for the signings and gushing emails (exceptions made for spotlight panels).

The Star of India (one of the oldest working tall ships on the American West Coast) all decked out as a pirate ship for an Assassin’s Creed thing. There are two mitigating factors: the Maritime Museum hopefully got some fat wads of cash for the loan and the irony that the Star is usually berthed right by the Californian, an old Coast Guard cutter (IE a pirate hunting ship). There was also the dubious taste of firing a blank from one of the cannons. One expects that during the Festival of Sail, but not so much at Comicon.

The Primeval booth’s “velociraptor.” I know enough to know that their representation isn’t current scientific thinking at all and the wrists were not articulated properly.

Things I am glad I saw at Comicon

Introducing two dinosaur nerds I know together and showing them a picture of the Primeval booth’s “velociraptor.” One of the people involved is Aaron Diaz, the artist/creator of the brilliant webcomic Dresden Codak, who was stuck at a booth all weekend (he didn’t know about the dinosaur mock up) and the other person does not go online very often. They discussed feathered theropods for about half an hour.

My friend’s Hannibal cosplay was pretty awesome.

Hannibal Cosplay

So was the Sharknado.

Sharknado Cosplay

And the best Captain America cosplay was this guy.

Captain America Cosplay

Django Wexler, the only other person from Fantasy-Faction that was there as far as I know.

Django Wexler

Mixed panels make me feel better even if I don’t agree with some of what they say.

Science Fiction and the Future and the Science of Science Fiction panels. Setting aside how one completely ignored biology and the social sciences (grumble) I liked that they both addressed the current propensity to go for dystopias rather than showing how one might go about making things better than it was before. I don’t think that the addition of a romance in a predominately dystopian story qualifies as “a ray of hope” because far too many uses of it lead to the removal of women from the story. It’s better to focus on actively fixing problems. It’s also difficult to entertain hope for the future if the story doesn’t seem to encompass a wide variety of peoples.

The Delphic Oracle panel was hilarious.

The list of new reading suggestions I got from the Science Fiction that will Change your Life panel including: Odds against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich; Best of all Possible Worlds by Karen Lord; Tenth of December by George Saunders; Europa Report (film); Orphan Black (TV); Citadel (film); Unbinding by Walter Kirn; Robot and Frank (film); Hydrogen Sonata by Ian M. Banks, The Battery (film); Scatter, Adapt, Remember by Annalee Newitz (non-fiction); Night Vale (podcast). I’ve probably missed a few because people kept talking too quickly and I was getting tired at that point in the day.

Steampunk Cosplay

The Fiction that Thrills panel. Something is going well when you mentioned that kids love gross things in their fiction and that parents are the ones who need to watch how their children are absorbing culture. Something’s also going right when repercussions must occur for things that are not all rosy.

The Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey panel. Setting aside that I would listen to Neil DeGrasse Tyson read grocery lists, this looked awesome. Much time was spent fielding questions from the audience with the best question being about how does one explain science (particularly climate science) to the layman. Answer: Scientists cannot lecture the people who don’t believe them, they have to understand how those people came to that erroneous conclusion and the many reasons why they adhere to it. Also when someone during the Q&A mentioned “the great men of science” the shout of “And the women!” could clearly be heard from an audience member. Instant correction and apology followed. Bill Nye was there too.

The Witches, Fey Monsters and Mortals Panel. I might have loathed all of Seanan McGuire’s characters with the heat of a thousand suns, but she is funny human being. There was also talk about how very difficult it is to develop a monster outside of anything in current or past cultures.

Steampunk Bane and Batman Cosplay

The Steampunk Generations panel. One of the panelists was a young lady who was there to represent the teen end of the spectrum and the mod made sure to ask questions to her regarding her starting a high school steampunk club and no one ever interrupted her. There was a great deal of discussion about how steampunk is about making things better and more interesting. There was also mention about how there’s a sense of anything goes if you can come up with a reasonable explanation for it and how parts of the aesthetic can be found everywhere. When someone came up to the Q&A mic with a tale of how her first look at steampunk was through a terrible TV representation one panelist told her that all she needed was a hat and some googles and that was enough for them. Then the mod took off his bowler and googles and gave them to her. That is what fandom should be for everyone because we all have terrible experiences with parts of it from time to time, but there should always be someone else there to say, “I’m sorry that happened. Can I help fix it?”

– – –

I really like Comicon in spite of it being exhausting, crowded beyond belief and sometimes obnoxious. I like the panels (even though sometimes I really want to get beyond 101 level talks) and I had fun even though nothing particularly interesting happened to me at all. If possible I’ll go again next year. If not, well Wondercon is run by the same people, less crowded and not that far away for me. Even in the event I can’t go next year, I’ll still wander over to watch people in costume go by.

Title image by Phil Plait.

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