SDCC 2019!

Every year I intend to tweet more from San Diego Comic-Con and every year I just get absorbed in what I’m doing and forget about it. So here is my annual round-up!

This year my husband and I nabbed Thursday/Friday/Saturday badges. I did not have the energy I usually do. My feet hurt! My back hurt! I kept getting air conditioning headaches from the weird hotel room lighting! Is this my mid-30s acting up??

On Thursday I hit a fun Tor authors panel with my sisters, then met my husband downstairs and poked around the exhibit floor a bit. There are always excellent photo opportunities, of course, and this year I saw a marked uptick of videos/gifs and motion posters as well!

gif of sam riding a mariokart car

ITSA ME BITCH

Here I am very determined to seek justice after my friend, the Pink Ranger, was beheaded:

sam's head on power ranger cardboard cutout

Alas, poor Kimberly, I knew you well

I spent the rest of the afternoon in panels. I was DETERMINED to make it into the Farscape 20th Anniversary panel at 3pm, so naturally I insisted we get in line at noon. BECAUSE THIS IS SDCC BABY! Over the next half hour, the line ballooned behind us and extended outside the building, so I think I made the right choice.

Hubby and I got into the room at 1pm, and sat through two panels before mine. First, a Stargate: Atlantis 15th Anniversary panel (fun! I haven’t watched that one, but hubby is a major SG-1 fan, and the panelists were entertaining). Then a panel on the crowd-funded movie studio Legion M, which was… fine. I’m looking forward to a new documentary on Alien coming out later this year.

And then! Finally! Farscape!!! Claudia Black had to drop out, which was very disappointing (oh no, my faaaaave), but Ben Browder and Gigi Edgley were there, as well as Brian Henson and Rockne S. O’Bannon. There were a lot of fun set anecdotes, a great sizzle reel, and hints that the show might be coming back to life!

actors ben browder and gigi edgley in front of audience

AYYIIIIIII!

On Friday we tackled some of the outdoor entertainment. This year’s FX lawn was pretty great. We got there first thing in the morning and got immediate time slots for both activations we wanted to try: the What We Do in the Shadows vampire house, and an American Horror Story haunted cabin.

sam posed in front of painted vampire bat wings

BAT FIGHT

panorama of interior of vampire house

There were several vampires present but they do not show on camera

gif of sam transforming into a vampire

LEAVE ME TO DO MY DARK BIDDING ON THE INTERNET

American Horror Story didn’t let us take any photos inside the haunted house (naturally) but did make us acknowledge an intense waiver forgiving them for quite a list of potential threats:

list of warnings including being struck, wet, attacked by other attendees

Am I about to be punched in the face?

We then made further rounds on the exhibit floor and I bought some exclusive pins I’d had my eye on. We even found a secret mezzanine level that I’d somehow never been to over the last seven years. It had a nice view out over the floor!

overhead view of exhibit floor packed with people and booths

And that’s only one little slice of it, eek!

On Saturday we had one main goal: get into the final panel for The Good Place. It was our favorite panel last year, and we wanted to see everyone one last time before the show ends. ;_; It was hilarious as usual, with many tearjerker moments. I dressed up as Good Janet and my husband dressed up as Shawn, and there were SO MANY EXCELLENT COSPLAYERS. We did some group photos in the aisle. Um, Good/Bad Janet combo?! TINY BABY MICHAEL??

large group photo of attendees dressed as Good Place characters

Photo by @leleana on Twitter! (shared with permission)

Ahhhh, good times.

All in all, it was a mellow year. Fun, but nothing outrageous. A low-stress SDCC? I’ll take it!

SDCC 2018!!

Yes, it did take me a week-and-a-half to recover from San Diego Comic-Con this year, why do you ask?? I’m only packing and deep-cleaning my house and taking care of two kids under three and I never go out anymore, much less three days in a row ahahaha anyway.

This was the best SDCC I’ve had in years. It was so low-key and relaxed. I only endured one long line (for The Good Place panel on Saturday, which was amaazeballs) and otherwise only committed to panels I could stroll up to half an hour beforehand. There were more authors this year, so I got a good dose of book content and signings, and my husband peeled off for his usual comics.

There was, of course, fab cosplay all around.

Frankly, the departure of major Disney properties (*sigh* goodbye Marvel and Star Wars) is kind of good for the SDCC vibe. There was no Hall H mania this year. I felt no desire to camp out, and I was shocked to discover on Saturday morning that there were still wristbands left for the big room. You’re telling me…nobody needed to camp?? I mean, they did, because you kind of do it for the perverse badge of honor and also to scramble for front-third seats. But you didn’t have to?? How the mighty Hall H has fallen.

Even though the major panel rooms weren’t soaking up thousands of extra bodies in line, the Exhibit Hall was not outrageously overcrowded as a result! (Another problem in previous years.) The external programming has expanded considerably, drawing bodies outside of the convention center. And, perhaps even more importantly… SDCC finally instituted an online raffle system for folks to win shopping time slots at the major toy booths!

This sounds convoluted but oh my goodness what a relief. The entire middle of the hall was usually impossible to squeeze through due to layer after layer of lines circling Funko, Hasbro, and UCC, and this eliminated them. It was always a gamble whether you managed to walk by at the exact moment they opened the line for a new chunk of bodies, so the element of chance was already there. The raffle just decided the chance in advance.

So! My accomplishments! I scored a signed arc of Robert Jackson Bennett’s new book, Foundryside, which I’ve been coveting for months. I bought Spinning Silver, the new Naomi Novik book, and also got it signed.

I went to some really fun book panels, including one on apocalyptic fiction with Emily Suvada, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Hand, and Scott Westerfeld, which was surprisingly funny and gave me a lot of food for thought. I also went to a fantasy panel just to see Nalo Hopkinson and was not disappointed. 😀 😀

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Then Saturday was TV day, with the hilarious aforementioned The Good Place panel, and later Cosmos, which was also hilarious and thought-provoking and very, very tactful when discussing science in politics.

Outside the convention center we found a Good Place activation with flying shrimp carousel; a Shark Week shark; a Hulk hug photo op; and the original Ecto 1 ghostbusting car with grody jumpsuits to put on!

hulk hug

Oh, and of course: ALLLLLL THE BUTTON AND PIN SWAG!!! Including this sweet Out of Print library card pouch to keep my buttons safe while shopping. XD By the way, I waited half an hour in line for that San Diego exclusive Golden Girls pin, ahaha oh San Diego Comic-Con, you do drive us to do ridiculous things.

sdcc 2018 swag

sooo i’m also a sucker for cats and Star Trek and therefore Star Trek cats

Til next year!

convention center

pre-SDCC 2018!

It’s here, it’s here, San Diego Comic-Con is here!

July is second Christmas for San Diego, because July means all of downtown and a perplexing amount of not-downtown transforms into a pop culture wonderland for an all-too-brief and all-too-traffic-congested period of time.

SDCC programming alone overflows the convention center, the baseball stadium, multiple hotels, the public library, and a theatre. All of the nearby bars, restaurants, art galleries, and other businesses at least decorate for the occasion, if not put up displays and tie-in specials. The tallest buildings get covered in enormous advertisements for new shows. The buses and trolleys put on skins, plus SDCC runs an elaborate shuttle system all weekend to transport folks to Hotel Circle out in the valley. It’s…gloriously excessive.

The convention’s official attendance maxes out at about 130,000 due to fire code, but huge numbers of non-attendees also flock downtown, to people-watch, to sight-see, and to engage in the growing number of off-site attractions that are open to the public. Bye-bye parking lots, hello additional sitcom activation sites.

One year I was trying to sleep in an overnight line along the waterfront, and some girls laughed at us as they drunkenly departed a Youtube yacht party. Excuse me, there would not have been a yacht party if not for us doofuses sleeping on the concrete, thank you!

What I’m saying is, Comic-Con has something for everyone. Sometimes you end up sleeping against the wall of a park bathroom or in front of a haunted maze to see it, that’s all.

This year I’ve got some book panels on my itinerary, plus a couple of signings, off-site events, and my usual merchandising scavenger hunt. My button bag will soon be groaning with the weight of additional enamel pins.

Most of my panels should be fairly easy to get into (most of the impossible crush is reserved for movies and TV; books, comics, and the educational bits are more accessible). The only one we’re going to spend hours in line for this year is The Good Place on Saturday. I know the Indigo Ballroom well, and I believe our crack-of-dawn plan is sound. Wish us luck!! We also pre-registered for The Good Place off-site activity, which HAS BEEN SPOTTED IN THE WILD:

good place

GET ME SOME OF THAT YOGURT

I’ve got my badges. I’ve got my parking pass. I’ve got my button bag. I’ve got lunch supplies, a water bottle, suntan lotion, and reading material.

The only thing I don’t have is… ANYTHING GOOD TO WEAR!! X( I’m still shedding baby weight, so none of my costumes fit. I’ve got comfy shoes that don’t go with my clothes, or comfy clothes that don’t go with my shoes.

So I suppose I better run out to the store for better shoes! And my costumes shall wait at home, pining sadly for 2019.

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Next time, dear friends, next time

mother’s day hall of moms

It’s Mother’s Day and also my wedding anniversary, so naturally I’m sitting in a coffee shop enjoying my 4-5 hour weekly writing retreat! (My kids are too little to recognize/care what day it is, I visited my mom earlier in the week, and I’m taking the hubs on a date tomorrow because Mondays are easier, SO I GET TO HAVE THIS OKAY).

I’m extremely lucky in this regard: I adore my mom and consider her a role model and friend. I’m also aware that this holiday is fraught for a lot of people because they have more negative or complicated family relationships. And while I’m devoted to my blood family I’m also a huge believer in found family and mothering anyone who needs mothering, family tree be damned.

I have a large extended family in which the girls vastly outnumber the boys (if you leave out spouses, the current three generations total fourteen to four) so I naturally gravitate toward stories that feature mothers, sisters, and female friendships. THERE ARE NEVER ENOUGH.

Whatever your relationship to mothers and Mother’s Day, I hereby present some of my favorite fictional moms. Not very surprisingly, they’ve all been featured on my blog before!

From the original squad goals:

Ellen_Ripley_badassEllen Ripley! Supreme leader, love of my life, mother to a daughter she never made it home to, adoptive mother to a daughter she rescued, AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER, DO NOT SPEAK TO ME ABOUT SEQUELS.

I would also like to give the Xenomorph Queen a shout-out in this category. She is a ruthless monster doing anything she can to protect her babies, and I respect that. The climactic mom-versus-mom battle at the end of Aliens is the best piece of cinema ever created and you will never change my mind on this.

xena-warrior-princess-003Xena had a son and hid him away for his own protection AND THEN LOST HIM, she had a daughter and then basically destroyed the entire Greek pantheon to protect her, and then GOT FROZEN IN ICE AND MISSED HER CHILDHOOD. Xena is peak warrior mom and I will never forgive the showrunners for hurting her this way. The other fabulous thing about Xena is that her own mom is still around, and in the early seasons of the show she periodically goes home to visit her, because she’s peak warrior daughter, too.

From additional squad goals:

sarah_connor_linda_hamiltonSarah Connor isn’t always the most nurturing mother, but that’s because she has seen the future and it is FLESH-MELTINGLY GRIM. She is a ruthless badass single mom who is just trying to prepare her son to lead the resistance against the coming robo-pocalypse, and sometimes that means stressing resilience and weapons skills and self-preservation over sentimentality and reckless attempts to rescue your own mother from a mental institution. Her imperfections only make me love her more.

westworldMaeve is a more recent addition to my mom squad, and the folks making Westworld better not screw around here because their storytelling is increasingly erratic and Maeve is the best thing they’ve got going on. I don’t care that she’s a robot and her kid is another robot and their relationship is implanted backstory, MOMS ARE MOMS and if Maeve does not rescue her daughter and escape to the real world I shall riot.

cerseiThat’s right, Cersei Lannister, another flawed mother but also another mother who will ruthlessly do anything for the sake and legacy of her own children. I’ve only watched the first four-and-a-half seasons of the show and read none of the books, BUT that isn’t enough to stop me including her here. You a bad bitch, Cersei, but much like the Xenomorph Queen your dedication and motherly instincts earns my respect.

clonesI should add to this graphic because Orphan Black deals with motherhood in so many different ways. Sarah is the total fuckup trying to become a better person for her daughter Kira (and realistically stumbling and backsliding along the way); she has a fraught relationship with her foster mother Siobhan and OMG WHY didn’t I include Siobhan in my squad before because she will also shank anyone who threatens her kids; Alison, another flawed mother with adopted children who has to work through her own crap and a bad relationship with her mother; and the unlikeliest murderous reformed mom of them all, Helena and her beautiful bebes.

From the hall of good relationships:

hal and loisAs far as Malcolm in the Middle goes, Lois and Hal always stole the show for me. Lois does her best to keep four horrible boys on lock, even though they rarely appreciate it, and forms a united front with her husband, whom she loves dearly. She works her ass off to keep that chaotic household running, including working a crummy shift work job, because when you’ve got kids to feed and bills to pay you do whatever you have to do.

crocodile sandbankAmelia Peabody of the Amelia Peabody series is my favorite eminently practical heroine and mother to my favorite fictional child, Ramses, and if you threaten a hair on that kid’s head she will go berserk and beat you down with her equally practical and well-reinforced parasol. I’ve got a whole other post about her adventures right here. She’s the first and best of this character type, though there are others that I love. The best second-up has to be Alexia Tarabotti of the Parasol Protectorate series, though she somehow manages to be even more practical and less nurturing than Amelia is, and that’s saying something.

gomez and morticiaFinally, Morticia Addams is SUCH A GOOD MOM. The Addamses are kooky and morbid and deliciously goth, but they aren’t mean. They adore one another. They take care of one another. Morticia loves her children and indulges all of their interests, even when they don’t match her own. We see this in the second movie most of all. When she thinks Wednesday and Pugsley want to go to summer camp she lets them go, even though she and Gomez obviously find the place repulsive. When Pubert gets ill and turns into a rosie-cheeked baby with golden curls and angelic giggles, does she try to force him back to normal? NO. She sits in that boring white rocking chair and reads him Dr. Seuss like he wants. Because that’s what you do. Most of my favorite moms are ass-kicking action moms, but at the end of the day, Morticia Addams is the one to aspire to in everyday life.

morticia

A+ mom, Morticia for life

sympathetic villains: fair!?

Alternate, listicle-style title:

Three Times A Villain Lectured the Hero About How Their Optimism Was Solely a Result of Their Privileged Upbringing, and We Kind of Saw Their Point

1. Magneto versus Professor X

X-Men-Professor-X-and-Magneto-Play-Chess

Let’s go over this again.

This is basically their WHOLE BEEF, so I can hardly pick a single monologue. The conflict between Xavier and Magneto resonated so much in the original movies that the reboots then hammered on it ALL OVER AGAIN instead of drawing on the many, many other diverse characters and viewpoints the comics are known for. But I digress.

Charles Xavier was born into wealth! His mutation is invisible! He grew up knowing good people and little-to-no oppression, and as a result believes whole-heartedly in peaceful co-existence with non-mutant humans.

Erik Lensherr lost his family in the friggin Holocaust! His mutation is also invisible, but his message is very attractive to all of the mutants who can’t hide what they were, because they’ve all seen the worst of humanity and understand that humans inevitably lash out at anyone perceived as Other.

And I mean… Magneto ain’t wrong. The best part about this hero/villain dynamic is that you can see exactly what led the villain down their current path, and can sympathize with their motivations. What they choose to do about it is still wrong, and that’s their core tragedy.

2. Killmonger versus Black Panther

killmonger black panther

You’re not… wrong…

Better writers than I have broken down the thematic/historical underpinnings of Killmonger, so I’ll summarize in my usual haphazard, exclamation-point-heavy style.

T’Challa was born into royalty! In a super advanced secret civilization utopia that deliberately ignored shit going down in the rest of the world! Of course he’s hesitant to disrupt the policy of isolationism that gives his people this cushion of safety.

Erik Killmonger was abandoned in poverty, and his father murdered, due to that very same policy! He grew up under systemic racism, bitterly aware of the legacy of colonialism on the African continent despite the existence of a secret utopia that could have saved them! Of course he’s right to want their liberation, and to want Wakanda to step in and help.

But the dude goes too far down that path and becomes exactly like the people he hates. He straight shoots his girlfriend! He wants to turn Wakanda into an empire and dominate the world! The way he’s going about it is wrong, but…what he wants is entirely understandable, isn’t it? Magneto never budges Charles, but in this case Killmonger does nudge T’Challa to a more responsible middle road. His monologuing is top notch.

3. Stinky Pete versus Woody

stinky pete woody

FAIR?! I’ll tell you what’s not fair!

Hear me out, it’s the same thing!

Woody gets some shade in the first movie for always being so confident about his place (he’s been Andy’s favorite toy since kindergarten!) but the Prospector lays it out even more explicitly in the sequel.

Toys like Woody are beloved by their children! They get all the play time they want! They’re passed down as family heirlooms, loved all over again! Of course he sees the best in the situation, and believes a toy’s sole purpose in life is to make a child happy.

Toys like Stinky Pete either get bought and neglected, or never bought at all! They aren’t cool, they aren’t likable, they certainly aren’t lovingly preserved over generations! Of course he’s bitter about this (let’s face it) nightmarish world in which toys are sentient and immortal but doomed to an eternity in a landfill one day if they aren’t broken to pieces first.

Does that give Stinky Pete license to kidnap Woody and force him to live out his days in a museum? Of course not. But is he right to be bitter? Well yeah. Did I mention this world is a horrorshow? The older I get the more these movies make me recoil in grief. I love ’em, but. Damn.

In conclusion

This is one of my favorite hero/villain dynamics. I’m an absolute sucker for the sorta-justified-but-took-it-too-far villain every time. I’m equally a sucker for bringing the hero down a peg when they’ve had things too easy.

What I like even better is to have the hero also come from difficult circumstances, because then you get a stronger contrast between their character arcs. Heroes and villains can both spring from the same origin. A hero overcomes their flaw/tragic backstory. A villain doesn’t. They lean into their flaws, they give in to their bitterness, they use their tragic backstory as an excuse to turn around and inflict pain on others in service to their own ambitions. A villain is the abusive parent who declares, “I’m like this because I had a terrible childhood!!” Sure. But you’re still being a shit. The best kind of hero is the one who also had a terrible childhood, consciously decided they don’t want to raise their kid the same way, and doesn’t.

In the above examples, the villains are absolutely right to call out the heroes for the easiness of their good guy roles. They’re good because nothing ever happened to tempt them to be bad. Give me sympathetic villains, hell yeah. But I also like to see them pitted against less likely heroes.

(P.S. And if you really want my money, make more of them ladies!)

2017 christmas card

Previous cards:
2012-2013
2014
2015-2016

Every year I make 40 Christmas cards (~35 to send out, 1 to keep for myself, and a couple extra just in case I forget somebody or accidentally destroy some in the production process).

And every year I remember, too late, that every step the card requires must be completed 40 times. This year I remembered this pesky fact after I decided to put a cutout on the front in addition to pasting my usual Photoshop masterpiece inside. Cut out 40 cutouts, paste on 40 cutouts, paste in 40 inserts, sign 40 times, stuff 40 envelopes. ONE DAY I’LL LEARN MY LESSON.

But it was worth it. Because this year, LONG OVERDUE, I heralded the arrival of our (presumably) final family member with [drumroll pleaaaaase]… a Star Trek theme!

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why did I do this to myself

Hurk! I cut out 40 communicators for you people.

The finished product speaks for itself.

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And here is the insert, in all its glory:

card insert

Yes that is Mr. and Mrs. Claws, thank you

I’m well aware that I used a TOS communicator on the outside and Wrath of Khan uniforms on the inside, but I just can’t resist those maroons. Also, it would have made more sense to have Kirk’s chair on the front since he’s dictating the captain’s log, BUT I couldn’t find a good image of the Wrath of Khan era chair, and the TOS chair looked too bulky, so since I was mismatching my eras ANYWAY I went with something easier to cut out, i.e., a communicator.

Anyway anyway anyway.

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM OUR SNAPE TREE TO YOURS!

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[*cough* that’s 15 family members worth of presents btw…the pile for my own kids won’t be coming close]

the adventures of young ham solo

I’ve explained the increasingly grand tradition of Sibling Thanksgiving before. In 2015 we leveled up our theme game with THANKVENGERS: The Winter Solstice, and in 2016 we went all in on Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks.

For 2017 it was time to head for the stars. Without further ado, I present The Adventures of Young Ham Solo: A Star Wars Story!

Only approved guests could get past the door guards.

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Nothing to see here, move along

Once admitted, you were free to help yourself to a drink at the Dagobar.

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There is no try. There is only drink or drink not.

Dinner was served beneath the shadow of the Empire, but never fear, a squadron of X-wing fighters were en route to do battle overhead.

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Let’s blow this thing and get dinner!

And for those inclined to join the Rebellion, there was an optional Jedi training piñata for just that purpose.

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Use the force, Luke!

There weren’t any themed dishes this year, although there WAS a round of blue milkshakes for the kids and blue milk (rumchata) for the adults afterward. We had our usual unnecessary flood of side dishes instead: cornbread, rice ball casserole, lumpia, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, obligatory turkey breast, stuffed jalepeños, stuffed mushrooms, stuffing, and French bread! *gasps for breath*

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Why do we do this?!

There were five kids toddling-and-up, but between the piñata candy, soda, dinner, and dessert, they vibrated so hard they achieved singularity and melted into the infrastructure of the house, only visible in blurs out of the corner of your eye.

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The rare candy-ghost caught on film.

Dinner, of course, was followed by kicking all the children from the room and playing a disgusting and curse-filled round of Loaded Questions.

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Almost anything can be answered “your mother’s vagina”

All in all, A ROLICKING SUCCESS!

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NEXT UP: CHRISTMAAAASS

And on a final note: it sure is nice to have professional help to clean up after a big party. Thanks, guys!