Heroes & Villains Fanfest: Confessions of a Con Geek


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I attended my first convention when I was 15 years old (I won’t tell you how long ago that was). It was a sci-fi convention in New York City – guests included cast members from classic Star Trek, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, authors like Isaac Asimov, and more. I’ve attended quite a few since then – Creation Cons, I-Cons, you name it. I admit, many things have changed over the years, but some things remain the same.

A sense of joy, enthusiasm, community, and creativity pervades these events like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Luckily, this remains the same. For shy, quiet nerds like myself, there’s a sense of belonging – an opportunity to express yourself (costumes are optional, but a marvel to behold – sadly, I don’t have that level of creativity or dedication). It becomes a party with strangers you feel you already know – a celebration of fandom – weird and wonderful. One where you are welcomed with open arms.

At many conventions, fans have an opportunity to meet and mingle with the stars of their favorite films and TV shows. I remember meeting George Takei (Sulu – Star Trek) as a teen, hearing his booming laugh from across the room, and the late James Doohan (Scotty – Star Trek), whose smile lit up the auditorium as he regaled us with Star Trek stories, sporting various accents (which he learned by ear). I met Jimmy Doohan several times. He is sorely missed. These memories still make me smile.

There are some changes – the crowds are a good deal more diverse and more women and families attend these events now. It wasn’t cool when I was growing up to let my geek flag fly, especially being a girl, and a Latina. Now it’s downright chic to be geek. I admit it, I wear it like a badge. I’ve been out of the “Geek Closet” for a long time and proud of it.

Attending as media, I feel an obligation to be a bit more restrained and behave (not that I aim to misbehave – wink to Firefly fans) and not geek out. I feel the need to step back into observation mode but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still get a bit star struck after all these years  – I’ll always be a fan first.

After a 6 month wait – thanks to Snowpocalypse January  2016 – I finally got a  glimpse of the irrepressible John Barrowman (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Arrow), the fun-loving Stephen Amell (Arrow, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows), the adorable David Mazouz (Gotham, The Darkness), and others from the DC Comics TV EU. It was certainly a treat.

With thousands in attendance (over the course of the weekend, or so I’d heard), the main floor was buzzing with activity – vendors tables, cosplayers, and actors running between panels and autograph tables, kindly greeting fans with smiles. I can only imagine how exhausted they were. There was so much to see and so many people to squeeze through, I was exhausted just being there, but I enjoyed myself and met some great folks.

I had a quick, but lovely chat with Sean Pertwee (Alfred on Gotham – IMHO the best and most badass Alfred to date). He recalled his experiences with conventions growing up, attending with his father, the late Jon Pertwee (Doctor Who/The 3rd Doctor). I met Jon at a con a few years before his death and he was larger than life. Sean saw fandom full throttle then and he’s a part of it now. Sean is incredibly gracious and kind to fans, as evidenced by his struggle to speak with a hoarse voice (his signature raspy voice even raspier), he kept going, signing autographs, taking pictures and attending panels with co-stars. Like his father before him, Sean Pertwee is beloved by fans and quite the mensch.

I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with actor Maximiliano Hernandez (The Last Ship, Hand of God, Winter Soldier, Sicario). I caught up with with the busy film and television actor at HVFF and we chatted about his career and becoming part of the Marvel EU. I hope to have that interview up soon.

I also met some fellow writers and musicians, and remembered why I started this journey in the first place. 15-year-old me would be proud.

If my muse cooperates, I hope to have more for you in the coming weeks. Until we virtually meet again…

SylverWhisper

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Attention Female Sci-Fi Writers: Doctor Who Needs YOU!

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Sandman and Doctor Who writer Neil Gaiman

Recently, Sandman and Neverwhere author Neil Gaiman, commented on the lack of female writers in Doctor Who.  He would know, having penned two stories himself (The Doctor’s Wife, Nightmare in Silver) for the current series.

But that can’t be right, can it? I thought long and hard to myself, and truthfully, while I can recall female directors and producers (after all, the series was birthed by the late Verity Lambert and producer Julie Gardner was instrumental in helping Russell T. Davies bring back Doctor Who in 2005), I can’t – off the top of my head – recall female writers for the series. This really gnawed at me.

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Verity Lambert and Russell T. Davies

FROM FANDOM TO CALLING THE SHOTS

Often, I cite Paul Cornell as one of my top writers for the current series. Paul writes compelling science fiction and drama, as evidenced in The 10th Doctor story (originally written for 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoyHuman Nature and Father’s Day (for 9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston). Even upon repeated watchings, I am always moved to tears by these episodes.

Back in the day, it was Robert Holmes who wrote some of the best stories for the classic era, including The Deadly Assassin and Talons of Weng-Chiang (for 4th Doctor Tom Baker) and Caves of Androzani (for 5th Doctor Peter Davison). Surely, my favorite sci-fi show of all time had just as many female writers, right? Right? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I owe Doctor Who for inspiring my love of science fiction and desire for self-expression. I was one of those fanfic and fanzine writers who felt compelled to expand on The Doctor’s universe. Yep, I was one of the ones people snickered at. We found refuge at conventions and dared not share our creations with the uninitiated. They wouldn’t understand… They just wouldn’t get it. 

Times have changed, and some of those same con-geeks and nerds are among some of the most successful writers and producers in film and television today. Fanboys Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings), Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Queer as Folk), Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who, Sherlock) and of course, Steven Moffat (Coupling, Doctor Who, Sherlock), all started as fellow nerds and Whovians. But that’s a rather testosteroneladen list.

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Buffy, BSG and Torchwood writer Jane Espenson

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

What about the rest of us? Geek girls, fangirls, nerd girls – whatever label you choose. We’re out here, ready to produce the next Doctor Who, Star Trek or Star Wars, given the opportunity. And yet, my short list is, well, rather… short. This shouldn’t be so hard…

Maybe Buffy and Battlestar Galactica alum Jane Espenson (she also wrote for the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood starring Arrow’s John Barrowman) should have a go as head writer/show runner for Doctor Who? She’s written for just about every sci-fi/fantasy series in recent history (the ones I care about anyway), including Game of Thrones and Firefly.

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“Outlander” author Diana Gabaldon with her two Jamies

Perhaps Outlander author, Diana Gabaldon, should try her hand at writing for our favorite Time Lord? Considering Outlander’s connection to Doctor Who it wouldn’t be a stretch. I wouldn’t mind a return to purely historical Doctor Who stories like The Aztecs, The Crusades and Marco Polo (from the William Hartnell/First Doctor era).

Fellow Whovians, which female writers would you like to see pen a Doctor Who script?

NEXT UP

Series 8 continues… Stay tuned for tonight’s episode of Doctor WhoFlatline.

Airing Saturday, October 18th at 9pm on BBC America.