Tag Archives: cons

Anglicon 2017 “Should the Doctor Be a Woman”? Panel

This panel on the past and future of female Doctors may have been poorly named, considering that Jodie Whittaker has already been cast as the Thirteenth Doctor, but the conversations were great. Raven Oak moderated, and the panel consisted of Eric Gjovaag, Mark Dando, and Denise Nilsson.

Eric Gjovaag got the conversation off to a productive start with a brief video showing fan appearances of female Doctors, starting with a clip featuring Barbara Benedetti. (More info on these films is available on director Ryan K. Johnson’s website.) That way, the panel and audience started out with a lot to chew on. The video also had a moment from The Curse of Fatal Death and some other works I can’t recall off the top of my head.

The audience conversation was lively, energetic, and thoughtful. A sampling of some of the questions and comments:

  • There’s a generation gap in fan reaction. People who grew up with Classic Who may find this quite a departure. On the other hand, the younger generation seems ready.
  • Some of these videos continually referenced the fact that the Doctor was a woman. If the new show does that, it won’t turn out well.
  • Some of this came up when Missy appeared as the latest incarnation of the Master. While it’s true that the Master has always been a complete ham, there was some discomfort about having her gender and sexuality continually referenced.
  • Someone popped his head in and got the audience roaring with laughter by asking: “Will she get equal compensation?” GOOD QUESTION.
  • Someone proposed Idris Elba as the fourteenth Doctor. I agree.

We finished up with a look at the publicity photo of Jodie Whittaker’s costume (below), described on a UK news site as “navy culottes with yellow braces.” Apparently that’s in fashion in Europe. Folks spent some time speculating on whether the rainbow ribbon on her shirt might have come from an earlier Doctor or companion, like Dodo (who was filmed during the black and white era). Panelist Mark Dando expressed dismay at the photo: “But what have they done to the police box?” (It’s darker blue and one panel looks black.)

Denise Nilsson finished out the session by expressing optimism for the series, saying, “It’s still the TARDIS, still the Doctor.”

doctor-who-costume-reveal-jodie-whittaker

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Anglicon 2017 Recap

I went to Anglicon this year, along with my son, to revel in Classic Doctor Who fandom. Much fun! It’s nice to meet people who liked Doctor Who before it was trendy. Highlights:

I lived the Classic Who tropes (not always on purpose):

  1. Losing track of companions: This began the moment I left home. I hopped in the car to pick up my spouse from the bus stop, but due to bad directions, I drove around aimlessly only to find he’d walked all the way home. It was a good omen.
  2. Wandering through corridors: The hotel room was a half mile from the convention area, along a twisty route. This would have been true to the show, except the walls didn’t wobble.
  3. Tea: I enjoyed a proper black tea in the Hospitality Suite.
  4. An unattended TARDIS: And as usual, someone had left the door open, and someone else had wandered in. (They fixed this by Saturday, though.)
  5. Losing track of companions (again): In the end, exhausted beyond belief, I kept trying to gather family members, and they kept wandering off.

Fanstruck by Sylvester McCoy:

I lined up early for a photo op with Sylvester McCoy so that I wouldn’t spend the entire con worrying about getting one. I needn’t have worried, since there was plenty of time for photo ops, but it was a delight to see him show up and perform crowd control.  Later, during his Q & A, he put on another stellar performance, getting down into the audience to answer questions with a quick wit and well-timed comedy. And finally, I hung out in the general vicinity as he wandered through the art show with his “handler,” admiring the art.

And Peter Davison:

He had so many stories to tell about his acting career. The audience questioned him about everything from his first time acting to his upcoming works. My second favorite: his account of directing The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, including the moment when all the actors were in their spots, the cameras adjusted, the lights on, and he was waiting around to hear people shout “Action!” only to realize that was his job.  And my favorite: his account of filming All Creatures Great and Small, with . . . actual animals about to give birth.

The game room:

I got a chance to play my first Doctor Who role-playing game, run by a game master who kindly took into account my inexperience (and that of my son as well). Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

The panel “Should the Doctor Be a Woman”?

Poorly named (because the next Doctor is a woman) but great in-depth conversations about the past and future of a female Doctor. I’d like to spend an entire post on that, so I’ll skip it here.

The film festival:

I only had the chance to see two short films but liked them both. The first was a sci/fi zombie crossover, “Father’s Day”, that was at the same time gross and heartbreaking. The other film, “Renegades,” by Grant Pierce Liester, was riveting, with small moments gorgeously done.

All the costumes:

So many people put so much detail and care into dressing up. It’s a delight to watch.

The Corgi parade:

One of the guests of honor is a Corgi who starred in Dirk Gently, along with his sister. I missed most of the Corgi antics. But on Sunday as I walked down the hallway, I found everyone lined up for something, and it turned out to be a parade of dogs (many in costume), led by a Dalek. Boy, were those dogs pleased with the attention!

And the conversations:

I mostly kept to myself (introvert!) but the conversations I did have were fun.

All in all:

I don’t attend many cons, finding them exhausting, but this one was worth it. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to put it on.

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Nancy Pearl, Guest of Honor at Foolscap 2013

Okay, everybody know what a con is? Short for convention, but a fun one, and often related to science fiction and fantasy. There’s a ComicCon (features comics), a NorwesCon (takes place in the Northwest), WisCon (feminist SF/F, takes place in Wisconsin), and so on.

In February, I went to a con called Potlatch / Foolscap. What was that? Imagine a weekend-long speculative fiction book group with conversation, food, and chocolate. Much fun was had. My biggest disappointment was when I tried to eat a chocolate-covered strawberry but my injured jaw couldn’t open wide enough to get it in one bite.

The Guest of Honor for the Foolscap portion of the con was Nancy Pearl, celebrity librarian. She used to be the city librarian for Seattle and is the author of Book Lust, a guide to good books.

Now, the tradition with some cons is that the Guest of Honor is the Big Important Person who stands up front and lectures. That’s not what happens in Potlatch and Foolscap. It’s all about conversation, and all about people who have a shared interest in books getting together and enjoying themselves. Nancy Pearl fit right in. She was more interested in asking questions than answering them, and the panels ended up to be very thought-provoking. Here are a couple of highlights of what was said, both by her and by others.

The Future of Libraries

Will libraries always have a physical presence? Do they need one? Will paper books always be an essential component of libraries? What is the function of a library? Is it only about information, or is it about something else? And a more concrete question faced by librarians today: How can they justify spending large amounts of money buying and storing large quantities of books, when digital books are readily available?

We had a bit of a debate on this. Get a lot of SF geeks in a room, and invariably you will find somebody who thinks the Internet can do everything books can do, and better. But many of us disagreed. Together, we listed rather an enormous number of things a library is and does:

  • Community meeting space
  • Location for flyers and tax information
  • A home for a librarian
  • Home for books
  • Haven for a child
  • Place to get information
  • A “people’s university”
  • A place to learn English
  • And lots of other things

What Is The Role of a Library?

While we were debating the role of the library, people started talking about missions for different library systems. Nancy Pearl stepped in and gave an example that she liked and that puts reading at the center of the library:

“Cuyahoga County Public Library will be at the center of community life by providing an environment where reading, lifelong learning and civic engagement thrive.”

I like that definition too. It is much more articulate than the “libraries are for books!” protest I used to make when my young children wanted to log on to the library computers and play video games.

What is the Role of a Librarian?

Nancy Pearl also talked about the role of the librarian. Someone said she made recommendations, and she said, no, she makes suggestions. When someone comes to her asking for a suggestions, she asks the person what a book was that they liked and why they liked it. She asked about dimensions such as subject, plot, character, and language. And then she listened. The way they talked about the book they liked gave her a lot of clues about what else they might like to read.

Outside of the panel, I got into a conversation with someone whose wife had been a librarian at a library I had patronized at the age of twelve. He asked me if I had perhaps known her, and I said, “Definitely not.” To me at the age of twelve, librarians were always “the people who check out your books” and it really would never have occurred to me at the age of twelve to talk to one of them. I still don’t go up to librarians and say, “Well, I’m looking for something to read . . . ” But I seek out librarians for suggestions in another way, by looking at the “staff picks.” I love staff picks. Thank you, librarians.

Can We Defend Reading for Pleasure?

Someone pointed out that library systems are having a hard time defending the need for libraries in the digital age. A lot of people said, “But we need libraries so we can read for pleasure!” The trouble, though, is that so few people read for pleasure, it’s hard to justify that as socially useful.

My contribution to this was, “But what about kids?”

Someone allowed that this was a good exception.

But then I thought about it a minute longer. If children didn’t read for pleasure, why on earth would they ever go to the trouble to read at all? And if parents didn’t read for pleasure, then how would their children learn to?

I am thinking that if nobody read for pleasure, civilization would collapse.

Boys as Readers

The audience, including librarians and teachers and parents, made some observations about boys as readers. It is a challenge to find books that boys like. They judge books by their covers and won’t read any book that looks like it’s for girls or has a girl on the cover. Somebody pointed out that on-demand printing can be of help here, because books can come out with different covers.

Someone said that there is now a trend of more girls graduating than boys.

A high school teacher said there was a need for middle-grade books that appeal to boys.

I brought up my concern about my third-grade boy only wanting Goosebumps, and somebody suggested Arthur Ransome as an author for boys his age. Thank you, whoever you were! He’s already moved on to a more varied reading diet, but our whole family enjoyed Ransome’s Pigeon Post as a book on CD.

Miscellaneous things somebody recommended

Here are some things people recommended and I wrote down. I forget why they recommended some of them them. Sorry, readers, but I’m adding this for my own convenience, so I can look back at it later. That is one of the greatest and best things about Potlatch panels: all the book recommendations that come up in conversation.

Booklamp.com – analyzes books, book genome projects

Slysoft – any DVD

And finally . . . when asked to recommend just one book in all the books coming up, Nancy Pearl gave the appropriate qualifiers but then mentioned Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi. She said the writing was stunning and reminded her of The God of Small Things.

Potlatch/Foolscap – the Book of Honor

Well, I introduced my weekend at Potlatch/Foolscap in yesterday’s post. Today I’ll say a little bit about the Potlatch Book of Honor. (Potlatch has a tradition of having a Book of Honor rather than a Guest of Honor. Everyone reads the same book and discusses it throughout the con.)

This year the Book of Honor was Among Others by Jo Walton. That deserves its own post, but in brief it is a coming-of-age story of a person with a disability who is also a fan of 1970s SF/F. Mori, the main character, is sent away to a boarding school and has to deal with otherness surrounding both her disability and her love of classic sci-fi. Along the way she encounters fairies that come straight out of . . . not The Lord of the Rings, but from the actual mythology that inspired Tolkien. The book is thought-provoking and heartwarming, won a Hugo award, and is well worth the read!

One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the concept of a “karass.” The term comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle, and it mean — very satirically — a “group of people who, often unknowingly, are working together to do God’s will.” It means something different in Among Others. There it means something like “a group of people who don’t fit in with regular people due to fannishness, and who might have the good fortune to find each other and, for the first time in their lives, fit in.” There’s a sense of community, and also a sense of having a similar world view because of having read the same books.

Potlatch is quite a bit like that. Many of the people who have kept it going all these years grew up on science fiction / fantasy from a similar era. For some, it’s the 1970s, and for some, it’s even earlier. There are people who got to know each other by passing around fanzines through the mail. (This was pre-Internet.) These are often thoughtful and beautifully done. There is a tradition of an active participation by fans in the writing of SF/F — readers would write into SF/F magazines asking for more stories from a particular author, or praise or criticize something an author had said or done, and there would end up being two-way communication. Somewhere along the way a local writer’s workshop developed, Clarion West, and many of the people involved with Potlatch are also involved with Clarion West. That means the local fans have built a community that supports the authors of tomorrow, which is awesome.

You can find out more about Walton and her book by reading this interview with Jo Walton.