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» Sunday, September 05, 2010Dragoncon, Day 3
Third verse, same as the first, except James picked up his breakfast at yet a third different place. I had the usual at home. Oh, it was blessedly cool this morning—58°F! Imagine that! We drove downtown with the windows open. (Don't be too quick to be happy for us: 90s again by Tuesday...bleah. Jen, bring warm weather clothes!)
We were both headed for the Hyatt today, so walked over the skybridge from the Courtland Street Garage to Peachtree Center, reflecting about how long it took the Food Court people to realize that by shutting up tight on Sunday, they were losing a lot of business. The place was pretty full for 9:30 on a Sunday morning, and everything was open except for Chik-Fil-A, which doesn't open on Sundays anywhere, and the noodles place.
Unfortunately the garage wised up, too, for the bad. We used to get weekday parking on Friday and Monday ($5) and $10 on the weekend days. Now they have "event" parking, $16.00 for the day. Of course when it was just DragonCon they didn't bother, but now they have a bunch of weirdoes downtown on Labor Day weekend, going to football games. In September! In 90 degree heat! Nuts, I tell you. Football's a fall sport.
Jim Butcher - - - >
So I wandered into my first panel, Jim Butcher of the Harry Dresden series fame. He's cut his long hair! Anyway, most of the conversation revolved around the future of the Dresden books, especially after the "bombshell" that was dropped at the end of the most recent novel. (Ouch! someone in the question line inadvertently revealed a spoiler point to the crowd, and was met with a groan.) Apparently he does plan to end the series at some point with a big trilogy. He also would like to write a straight SF book and also what he described as "an apocalyptic 'epic.'" This fall his short stories will be released in a book called Side Jobs.
Someone asked him how the character of Bob the Skull came about, and he said that after he did his first draft, he knew that Harry would have some type of companion with whom he could talk magic, to explain things to the reader. Well, he was told, just make sure the character is "not a talking head." ::sputter::guffaw::
Okay, I mentioned "the martial arts story" on Facebook. Here's the short version:
As a kid Jim was bullied in school. As he put it, he was not only a nerd, but he had a smart mouth. He wanted to take martial arts lessons, but his dad demurred until the day a classmate attacked him with a knife. So he learned martial arts from a Japanese man. When it came time for him to go to college, his Japanese instructor said to him in very precise tones, "When you go to college, you will meet others who also do karate. You have a good form, but no control. Do not fight with them." So he goes to college, and sure enough, when he's working out, he gets challenged. Finally he can't stand it anymore. He and a classmate spar, and he's trying to keep himself in control. Suddenly there's an opening. He does a quick jab forward with his fist just as his opponent is inhaling. Gets the guy so good that he throws up. He apologizes.
During Christmas vacation he goes home, goes to tell his instructor what happened. "You were right," he said. The instructor looks at him and says "You did incorrect move." He says "What?" The instructor scolds "The move was incorrect. If you had done it properly, you would have killed him." Pause. "Now change your clothing and I will show you how to do it correctly." ROFL!
I had an open hour, so decided to take a turn around the Exhibitors' Halls. Bingo! I got to the back wall of the smaller room and there in a small booth were the McFarland people! They haven't shown up for a couple of years and I've been crushed. McFarland is a small press that does a variety of books, from history commentaries to pop-culture overviews to literary criticism and analysis. Since they are small press the books are more expensive, but they always have given a discount at DragonCon.
Of course, they chose to bring mostly books that would appeal to the DragonCon crowd. Lots of zombie books. But they brought a smattering of other things, and I got a volume about dime novels written for children (with a chapter about the old series books), a book about modern SF "shades of grey" heroes, and a critical overview of the Hardy Boys books, back to the original series. I also was very interested in a book of themes in Muppet performances, and another about the influence of Coleridge and Spenser in the Chronicles of Narnia. (This is what I love about McFarland...I mean, imagine walking into an ordinary bookstore and finding stuff like that!!!)
I almost bought a book of steampunk stories at another stall, but didn't have cash. Hope there's one left tomorrow.
Alas, there was a big, long line for Marta Kristen and Mark Goddard in the gigantic Atrium Ballroom of the Marriott (this shows you how audiences change; we saw them both a couple of years ago and everyone fit perfectly in the tinier room they had downstairs in the Hyatt), so I trudged over to the Sheraton and went to the "Needcoffee.com v. Torchwood" panel instead. This was held in another cavernous ballroom, the one which we had registered in back on Thursday. Sure a lot less crowded, but still a good deal of attendance.
Of course there was much speculation about the new series, which is to be set half in Britain (it's a BBC rule) and half in Los Angeles (yawn). The show will actually be filmed in Vancouver, and to get the big tax break you get for filming in Canada, they figured the leads would probably be Canadian as well. Much annoyance about one of the "American" leads having to be a CIA agent. Overdone, overdone, overdone. There was also some critique of things they missed on doing in the last three series, like not exploring Ianto's past or what effect doing "cleanup" had on him, or not expanding further on Tosh's past, instead rather having her dwelling on a guy.
From there I went upstairs to "Seeing England on a Budget." James joined me there. Basically it was what it sounded like: tips from panelists who had been to Great Britain on keeping your costs down: something called "the London Pass," which got you in a bunch of cool things for free, staying at hostels, renting a cell phone, etc. Also, when to go (not summer) and places beyond the tourist traps to visit, like Dorset, the West country, the Lake District (I'd love to see Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm!), etc. James won a travel book by answering an airline question. That's my guy! :-)
Well, I tried. We hiked back to the Hyatt and James went off to his literary track panel, and I tried to get into the Futurama voice actors panel by the simple expedient of going into the room after the long, long, long line went by. It turned out I was in the Eureka room; the Futurama panel was already full even though they hadn't let the people in the room yet! So I surrendered and went to the Marriott for the young adult alternative history panel—much discussion about steampunk, of course: citing not only its nostalgic appeal, but the adventure, artistry of the moving parts, and its non-commercialization. Folks gave book recommendations. It was quiet pleasant.
Fraser Hines demonstrating delivering a calf on "Emmerdale Farm" - - - >
And then it was back to the Sheraton to see the Fraser Hines (Jamie McCrimmon from the Patrick Troughton years of Doctor Who) panel. This had been planned as a Kai Owen and Fraser Hines panel, so was scheduled for the big ballroom upstairs. The crowd for Hines alone was much smaller than the digs, but all who showed up were showed a good time: Fraser Hines is an entire vaudeville show all by himself. We were treated to bad puns, stories of Who pranks, and various funny tales, like how he was cast as a patient on an early BBC series, Emergency Ward, which was done live. While on the "operating table," he fell asleep, and was quite disoriented upon awakening, and was later told it was such a realistic performance! Another time, working on a play with Kate O'Mara, he came out before his cue and the other actors frantically fumbled to cover up the fact so the viewers wouldn't know.
He also seems to have met everyone: John Wayne (who told him the secret to being in a Western was "walk slow and talk low"), Dean Jagger, Dudley Moore, and even Richard Burton. He was asked his favorite role, and he said he loves doing the pantomime every year, and then regaled us with stories of interviewing little children onstage during the panto as "Buttons," a traditional character in the Cinderella story. One little girl told him she was there "with Mummy and Uncle George." "Oh? Who is Uncle George?" "He's the nice man that keeps Mummy company while Daddy's on the road in his lorry."
Jason Carter - - - >
I thought James would join me at the last panel, but he was at another panel in Fairlie downstairs. So I went on to an already nearly full International South to see the Babylon 5 panel with Claudia Christian and Jason Carter. Well, that was the original plan. Claudia came out first, bouncing as always, showed a film of Look, a series she did that seemed to be made to look like it was comprised of shots taken from security cameras, then Jason appeared. They were bantering for several minutes, with Jason being his usual motormouth (so unlike his Marcus character!), and then I didn't hear what he said, but she got into a snit and walked out!
A slightly bewildered-sounding Jason went on alone, chatting about Marcus being a virgin, talking about being in deep makeup on Angel (such complicated makeup that nobody he worked with that week recognized his real face!), revealed that the part he would most like to play is the Doctor, and even managed to rattle off some of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Modern Major General" as he did on B5, and some of his short offbeat poetry.
(Excuse the hideous Jason Carter photo. The lighting in the International ballrooms of the Hyatt is horrible and I was in the very last row.)
There was a Matt Smith season overview panel we could have gone to, but we were both tired, so we met up, entered Peachtree Center (where earlier I had seen "Captain Kirk" getting a shoeshine <g>), crossed the "Luke Skywalk" for the last time today, and drove home. It was cool out, the sun had just set, and a very brilliant star-like item was on our left (west) as we drove. I pulled out the Droid and got into Google Skymaps—it appeared to be Saturn!
Hey, check out the report WXIA did on DragonCon. This is actually a different video than they just showed on the news at 11 p.m., so they've done at least two of them. The news report we saw called the convention a definite economic advantage for Atlanta.