2013 Convention Schedule

First off, if you see this twice in your feeds, I’m sorry. Because it’s relevant in several places, I’m cross posting it to both my author blog and my personal one, but a day apart.

That said, to no one’s surprise, I’m raising a group of geek kids. My wife is the token non-geek, she thinks, but has either developed geeky attributes as she’s adapted to the rest of us, or she’s just letting her inner geek out to play a little more. Either way, we’re a geek family.

And we like cons. Each of us for different reasons, probably, but a lot of those cross over. Cons are fun.

I’ll be attending four conventions this year, with the possibility of yet to be scheduled day trips to a couple more depending on days off and budget at the time. This is on par with last year for me, but with some differences as one of those was World Fantasy which I went to on my own and two were day trips.

But for 2013, we’re looking at this as a minimum:

We (myself and my oldest daughter) will be at Ad Astra April 5-7. This is mostly a lit con with some other stuff thrown in. I’m looking forward to renewing a few real world friendships, conducting some interviews, going to some cool panels, and having a great time with my daughter. Tickets purchased months ago, hotel booked.

On May 24, by request as a birthday present, I’ll be taking the same daughter to Anime North. She’s in love with anime and cosplay and it seems like a natural fit. Again just the two of us. Further, I have agreed to cosplay for the event. We will both be attending as characters from Soul Eater. In her case, the heroine Maka, and in my case Professor Stein. Tickets purchased.

August 22-25, the annual family pilgrimage to the geek mecca known as FanExpo (also, I believe the third biggest con in the world after San Diego and New York comic cons). Four days of everything geek, and I do mean everything. Whatever it is, you can probably find it at FanExpo. Tickets not on sale yet, but vacation time booked.

Finally, there’s a small con starting just down the road from us, Quinte Mini Con in Belleville on November 9 & 10. Shortest drive to a con ever for us. Both daughters are in, son debating, wonderful wife to attend if she’s not working. Tickets not on sale yet, but they’re supposed to be, so probably any second, we hope.

It’s always the Year of the Geek, but it almost seems like 2013 is also the Year of the Con.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Be well, everyone.

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Chimps in Spaaaaaaace!

I officially declare today to be Chimps in Space Day.

On January 31st, 1961, NASA launched a Mercury-Redstone rocket to do a capabilities test on the Mercury capsule. A four year-old chimpanzee named Number 65 was on board to enjoy the sub-orbital flight, lasting about 16 ½ minutes with 7 minutes of weightlessness. On his successful return to Earth, Number 65 received the name Ham (For a Chimpanzee? Really?) and a long, relaxing retirement at the National Zoo in Washington and then the North Carolina Zoo. He was only 26 when he died (average for a chimp is around 40).

Ham went up to see if it was safe to send people. During the flight, he duplicated pre-programmed tasks and had some heavy duty (for 1961) medical monitoring to make sure he was operating within normal parameters. The NASA scientists must have decided he worked out okay since they sent Alan Shepard sub-orbital only three months later.

Not the first primate in space, but among the earliest to survive the trip (a number of launch and parachute failures claimed early simian astronauts), Ham should be considered a pioneer, and certainly a hero of the early space age. The title of this post notwithstanding, neither the training nor the trip were probably all that fun for him.

Be well, everyone, and take a look at the stars tonight.

A Long, Long Time Ago in a Year or Two

Since the Mousketeer takeover of a galaxy far, far away was announced, every now and then, I debate in my head how I feel about the production of a new Star Wars movie.

I grew up on the original trilogy almost as much as I grew up on Star Trek, at least in terms of toys, and I watched all three over and over again whenever the opportunity presented. Yes, Luke is pretty whiny in the first act of A New Hope; yes, there are some inconsistencies in writing; yes, I would have preferred Wookies rather than Ewoks in Jedi; and yes, it would have been nice not to have any retconning done in the 90s. But I love Star Wars, to the point where I read the first few dozen expanded universe novels (and some of them were great).

In the very late 1990s, when we started seeing news and then trailers for Phantom Menace, I got excited. We all did, I think, the entire geek world, going to the theatre of films we wouldn’t have bothered with if they hadn’t been playing the trailer for it. For many, it was the movie we’d waited most of our lives to see.

And it sucked. Really, really badly.

Attack of the Clones was prettier, but worse. Not only was the writing horrible, but the actors weren’t allowed to actually act, with the possible exception of Ewan MacGregor as Obi Wan.

Revenge of the Sith started out better, but I started losing interest less than half way through and it was a long downhill slide as every conceivable item that might have been considered loose end got tied up, and most of them didn’t need to be.

When I heard Disney had bought out Lucasfilm and immediately announced its intention to start producing a new Star Wars movie every couple of years, I was cautiously optimistic. My first thought was that Disney could hardly do worse on the next three than Lucas did on the last three. I got a little more positive from there because Disney has managed some great stuff in the last decade or so, and they’ve slowly been taking over a lot of proven, awesome properties: The Muppets, Pixar, Marvel, and now Star Wars all come to mind. It’s hard to dispute the awesome of 2011’s Muppets. Pixar is mostly back on the uphill climb disrupted by Cars (the upcoming Monsters Inc prequel saddens me, but Brave quite makes up for Cars 2, which I refuse to see). And everyone caught the whole Avengers thing, right? Their recent track record is pretty good.

The latest announcement, with J.J. Abrams taking over the director’s chair for the first movie, leaves me a little less sure, but I’m not sure that’s fair. It’s well known I’m not a Lost fan, and that the Star Trek reboot of 2009 irritated me in a lot of ways. But in both cases, it’s because of major problems with the writing.

Lost was just ridiculously fragmented and confusing. I didn’t stick with it long enough to figure things out. If you liked the method of storytelling, it was probably fine. I didn’t. ‘Nuff said.

The 2009 Star Trek had half a good script and half something thrown together in a single sleepless night without the benefit of enough caffeine. It was well cast, well acted, beautiful, sounded awesome, and the opening scene was worth the price of admission, but it fell completely off the rails forty-five minutes or so in and the story never really recovered. I had a lot of issues with it, but, if you subtract a few really bad scenes, I can still watch most of the movie.

But we were talking about Star Wars, so I’ll sum up what I currently think about the next movie, and I don’t promise it won’t change in the light of additional information: if Disney hires actual writers and gives them time to come to terms with a good story, it’s going to be awesome. If they don’t, it’s going to be mediocre at best. Disney’s got a decent track record with writing the last few years, so I have high hopes. And besides, the world can never have enough awesome.

Be well, everyone. May the force be with you, and especially with the script writers.

Montreal Comic Con

To recap, my son and I went to Comic Con Montreal in September. We hit some panels, crisscrossed the convention floor several times, saw William Shatner speak and at the end of the day went to the William Shatner/Patrick Stewart “Reunion of the Generations”. It was a great day, an awesome day, filled with Trekkie goodness. I added Wil Wheaton and Brent Spiner to my slowly growing autograph collection of (mostly Star Trek) Science Fiction cultural icons.

There was a lot of great cosplay going on and the population density was probably about as high as FanExpo, though it was around a third the size. Year over year growth was something like 50% for the con, though, which can at least partly be attributed to the gathering of Star Trek star power at the con. William Shatner and Patrick Stewart headlined, and made a rare appearance together on stage. But let’s not stop there. Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, John de Lancie, and let’s count Malcolm McDowell (who dropped by on stage with Shatner and Stewart) to round out the Star Trek gathering. Yes, there were other major personalities there, and not just in media, but it was a Trek focus for us, although I wish I had managed the Kevin Sorbo Q&A (Shatner ran long and who was going to tell him to stop if he wanted to keep talking?).

Related to the trip, but not the Con itself, there was food.

Dinner the night we arrived was at Comme par Hasard, an awesome little restaurant on the Longueuil side of the river (where our hotel, the Sandman, happened to be). There I had one of the greatest burgers of my adult life. I can’t think of why it’s never occurred to me to melt blue cheese on a burger before, but combined with the house blend mayonnaise (which I also don’t normally indulge in) made a stellar combination.

And it was a burger kind of trip, I guess, because at we had lunch at a not as small as it looks from the outside restaurant under the name of Montreal Brisket. At this great little place, you’ll find an incredible selection of meat. My son was able to continue on his mission to seek out and consume new animals, adding kangaroo to his list. Yes, a kangaroo burger. He expected it to be chewier, but was happy to have the experience. I went for the elk burger, myself, even though I found ostrich on the menu (which I like).

I left Montreal with some great audio, some great ideas, and some great memories. A few pretty good pictures, too, a selection of which I’ve popped into my flickr stream.

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Montreal Comic Con, a set on Flickr.

It was a long drive home, though.

Be well, everyone.

Geek Rock of the 80s, Part 4

This week’s selection is a bit eclectic. The unifying theme is image, sort of. Well, for different definitions of the word ‘image’.

“Heart and Soul” by T’Pau

On the surface of things, this is a love song. Well, more like an “I still love you but you don’t love me back anymore” song. Love and loss. Actually, if you listen to the song closely, that’s not just on the surface. There’s a depth of feeling and emotion in this song that forces you feel a bit of the loss.

But so what, you say. What makes it Geek Rock? Why the band’s name, of course. T’Pau, played by Celia Lovsky, as the Vulcan Matriarch who officiated both Spock’s almost-wedding and his almost fight to the death with Kirk, is a pretty important character in the Star Trek pantheon. “Amok Time” is probably one of the best known episodes, partly for the fight music and funky weapons, partly for the big opportunity for Spock to show some serious emotions, but mainly for the glimpse into Vulcan culture. When the band decided on the name, they became geeks if they weren’t already and the rest of us had a reason to rejoice. And maybe smile quietly to ourselves when we caught normal people singing along.

“Whip It” by Devo

I almost picked “Jocko Homo” (“Are We Not Men?”) to represent Devo, but I feel like the song is almost too cold and mechanized (which is the intended aesthetic) and the video is over the top even for 80s New Wave. Fun, but doesn’t really capture things. “Whip It”, on the other hand, still gets a little play today, depending on what type of mix your station is into.

What makes it Geek Rock? It’s representative of Devo’s style and image. Funky helmets aside, their music typically evokes the image of a cold, impersonal future, something that’s still sometimes a fear for people today. In the 80s, we were on the cusp of that future if we let the machine and electronic culture rule us. Fortunately, we didn’t. We embraced technology while bending it to our will. Granted, we can thank advertising for some of that since it did, in some fashion, pay for all of the cool entertainment we loved, but we can also thank the will of the geek. Just because something was dehumanizing, didn’t mean we couldn’t twist reality to make it cool.

“Boom Tschak” by Kraftwerk

I discovered Kraftwerk somewhere in the middle of Grade 10. Actually, it’s more accurate to say a friend of mine introduced me to Kraftwerk after a friend of his introduced him, probably after… you get the idea. In the 80s, cruising the internet looking for new music was called word of mouth. Other than the radio, which was only going to play what music companies had decided were going to be the hits, you discovered new sounds either by talking to your friends or maybe fishing through the discount rack in the back of the record store (found a few great bands that way).

What makes it Geek Rock? To my mind, Kraftwerk comes under the heading of “Pioneers of Electronic Music”. Electronic instruments only, supplemented with computer generated sound, vocoders, and simple computer speech software. Music by geeks, for geeks. A lot of their work still speaks to me on a very basic level.

Next week only, I’m going to focus on a single band. Some of you might be surprised at who it is. Some of you, knowing my musical influences, have been wondering when I’d get to them.

Geek Rock of the 80s, Part 3

A little later than I wanted to be on this post, but it’s Back To School season and that involves a lot of prep when you have three kids. The theme for this week is the Undead, so let’s dig in and fire up the DeLorean.

“Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol

Rocking out in a post apocalyptic world. A lot of very fashionable 80s zombies are looking for a little flesh to munch in this video and seem happy for a chance at Billy Idol who, with the aid of some strange electrical device, knocks them off his rooftop patio. When they come back, it’s time for a zombie dance party. Does it make sense? Not even remotely, but it’s fun and more entertaining than most of the zombie movies produced in the thirty years since.

I’ve read that the ultimate root of the song came from Billy watching Japanese night club patrons dancing by themselves in front of mirrors, taking themselves out of the crowd in the same room, which he found dehumanizing. I’ve also read other things with a much higher level of innuendo. Read into it what you like, but it’s still a great song.

What makes it Geek Rock? Aside from the zombies, to me, at its heart, it’s a song about not being noticed by the opposite sex, and learning to deal with it, something definitely familiar to the geeks of the 80s.

“Everlasting Love” by Howard Jones

Mummies on the streets of London? Well sure, why not. The video is a little surreal as no one except Howard notices the mummies walking the dog, taking a taxi to work, or having lunch in the window seat of a restaurant. They’re not scary, there’s no curse, and nothing bad is going to happen; just a couple of ancient Egyptians raised from the dead and trying living a normal life in the late 20th century.

What makes it Geek Rock? Looking for an enduring love in a world of casual and disposable relationships. You often hear about the 80s being the ‘me’ decade. Everything was all about status and attention. I don’t buy it, not that you have to take my word for things, but I was a teenager in the 80s so maybe my view is a bit coloured by youth, or maybe coloured by my early middle age in the early 21st. When I look around, this is a lot more of a ‘me’ decade than the 80s ever were.

The Cold War (about to end) notwithstanding, we felt like there was a pretty bright outlook for the future. A lot of things were on the way and you could almost taste them on the wind. We knew it. We were young and felt everything very intensely and relationships were hard. Which made it more important that they were real. Everlasting love may have been written for everyone, but we took it to heart. I know a surprising number of geeks in long term relationships. Married for 17 years and with that same amazing person for more than 20, I’m one of them.

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson

That’s the link to the super-extended, miniature movie video. Thirteen and three-quarters minutes of classic MJ wrapped in a faux horror movie. The zombie shuffle from which all other zombie shuffles were spawned and a little bit of narration from the man himself, Vincent Price.

What makes it Geek Rock? What doesn’t? Subject matter and visuals. Sure, Horror has always had a rep for being cooler than Science Fiction or Fantasy, but it’s all cut from the same cloth of dreams. And for the time period, MJ’s production crew went all out. This video is all kinds of awesome and has stood as a pop culture reference point for more than a generation now. I remember several truncated forms from video shows and Much Music (Canada’s version of MTV), but the full video didn’t get played very often so it’s a beautiful thing that you can have it on demand in the Internet Age. Michael Jackson may have been a strange one—I think that level of fame can really mess with your mind—but somewhere, someone on his team recognized early the vast, almost untapped geek market. And so, Thriller.

I think we’ll leave monsters behind with this post. Next week, it’s all about image.

The Future Prophecy

I met a lot of people at Fan Expo, most of them very briefly or just in passing. I also took a lot of photos of people doing the cosplay thing. Sometimes these two things matched up.

On Saturday, I met two young women (who happen to be sisters) dressed up as characters from the digital comic book “The Future Prophecy”, a project they’re trying to crowd fund on Indiegogo. The sample art they’ve posted on Facebook is pretty impressive and the concept is pretty cool. Snipped from their Indiegogo copy, “In a world full of ancient magic and dark technologies Sara’s mission is to unite the people of Toronto to save their city from the villains of Bogtown Records.” Yes, there’s a lot more to it than that, but have a look at their Facebook or campaign and you’ll see for yourself

So what the heck is crowd funding, anyway? A collective effort of individuals, usually using the internet, to support a project or effort initiated by someone else. At various contribution levels there are perks you to be claimed (a little bit like PBS or TVO, but usually more personalized and far more awesome). There are a lot of crowdfunding concepts out there and lots of websites to do them on. You may have heard of Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and Razr. By my limited experience, these are the big three. Sara and Melle are working through Indiegogo.

Why should you care about this project?

  1. You’d be helping out a pair of women working hard to produce something really cool.
  2. A few bucks gets you in on the ground floor of that really cool thing.
  3. For those of you living in Canada and looking for a bit of national pride in creative endeavors, Sara and Melle are Canadian, based in Toronto, and the story takes place in Toronto with all of the heroes and villains being based on actual Canadian musicians and DJs.
  4. They’ve got a long way to go to make their target and not a lot of time left in the campaign to do it in.

Seriously, they’ve set perks for as little as a $1 contribution and things get cooler from there. And yes, I may be broke (very broke) after Fan Expo, but my money is where my mouth is and I just kicked in a measly $25. It may not be much, but it’s $25 closer to what they need to do it right.

Check it out. If you like the project, press the button. If you know someone who would like it, pass the link on or get it for them as a gift.

Be well, everyone.