Monday, June 20, 2016

Comicpalooza in the rearview mirror

So I rousted myself early Saturday morning to make the trek to Houston for Comicpalooza!--no small feat, since Saturday is normally the only day of the week I get to sleep in. The drive in on I-10 was uneventful and I arrived at 11 a.m. with plenty of time to wander around before my lone panel of the day. First up, I have to say these mega-sized pop culture conventions aren't my favorite, simply because they're so overwhelming. It's not terribly easy to run into people you know and the media celebrities dominate with their cattle-call autograph and photo lines. That said, it's the nature of the beast these days, and as far as spectacle went, there was more than enough to entertain in the dealers room alone.

Cosplayers were out in full force. There were more Whovians and the Scooby Gang, Adventure Timers and Power Puff Girls, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and more Star Wars Jedi, Stormtroopers and Mandalorians than I've ever seen. There was a lightsabre parade that probably totaled 300 folks once all was said and done. The fascinating thing was that there were as many, if not more, women cosplaying as men, and the age distribution was a good representation of the general population as well, with teens and 20-somethings outnumbering the greybeards by a wide margin. After seeing how anemic recent Worldcon costume contests have become in recent years, and the constant lament about the aging attendance of local genre cons, I have to wonder if they will ever start taking cues from the success of these events to boost their own appeal. Adding high-profile YA guests could be a good start, but we'll see. One thing that surprised me was the high number of Steven Universe cosplayers. Two of my favorites (below) were girls dressed up as characters from the baseball episode. That was just fun. I hadn't realized the popularity of that show, I suppose.

One of the highlights of the con for me was NASA's display, set up between the dealers area and Artists' Alley, adjacent to the massive Maker Space. A full-size mockup of the Orion spacecraft was on display. I'd known about this, since I saw news reports about it being trucked in to Houston for the event (closing down highways in the process). It's impressive in person, but I expected it to be larger. It's certainly larger than the Apollo command module, yeah, but not that much bigger. To carry a larger crew on the long-duration missions NASA is talking about--even if there are mission-specific habitation modules for the crew--one would think the primary craft would be larger. On the downside, NASA had a nice vendor section set up with shirts, hats, pins and other collectibles that I couldn't purchase, because their card reader went down. Ah well. In any event, I got some good photos of the Orion itself. I have to say I'm unreasonably pleased with the fact NASA chose to name it after my 10-year-old son.

My lone panel, "Workshop: Revising Your Drafts," went off about as well as could be expected. The literary track is something of an afterthought at Comicpalooza, from what I can tell, and despite good intentions some things were just off. My panel description said that we'd be distributing 1,000-word first draft pieces for groups to "revise." That really didn't make any sense, because there's no right or wrong way to do such a thing. And you can't really have a writers workshop without people bringing in their work to workshop, and there'd been no mechanism set up to allow such a thing. Plus, there were only two hours allocated. So instead we had a freewheeling two hour panel discussing various approaches to revisions, using critique groups and beta readers, that sort of thing. J. Cathleen Cheney, Katherine Catmull and Heather Poinsett Dunbar tolerated my antics, fortunately, and contributed insightful and witty commentary during the discussion. Without their input, it's have been a very poor panel. As it was, we filled the allotted time and could've continued quite a bit longer.

Another highlight was wandering through Artists Alley and stumbling upon unexpected folks, such as legendary comics author John Ostrander, below. Had I known he'd be at the con I'd have brought some of the many, many books of his I'd bought over the years. As I was, I stopped to tell him how much I enjoyed his run on Firestorm way back in the day, and expressed my desire to see a return of Shadowstorm. Ostrander said he thought DC had brought back Shadowstorm, before correcting himself that no, that was actually Earth-2's Deathstorm. I gave him a postcard for my new Chicken Ranch book, which prompted him to start talking about the Everleigh Club from his old Chicago stomping grounds, which in turn prompted us to share our mutual admiration for the works of Karen Abbott. Convention conversations are fun that way.

Elsewhere, I ran into old friend John Picacio (above) and saw, in passing, Arianne "Tex" Thompson, Martha Wells and Troyce Wilson, although things were rushed and we didn't have any meaningful conversation. I also ran into Alan Porter (below), who will be returning to Texas on a permanent basis next month. Coolness! Alan was kind enough to invite me to dinner after my panel, during which we shared our collective bafflement over how the recent James Bond movies have managed to totally go off the rails and utterly bungle the re-introduction of Blofeld and SPECTRE. I opined that the series should introduce Nena Blofeld (from John Gardner's Bond books) and Alan allowed the idea had merit, and I was delighted that he agreed with me that the Moonraker novel (which is pretty much as unlike the absurd movie of the same name as possible) could be updated and adapted to a smashing Bond film ("The last, great, unfilmed Bond novel" is how Alan put it). If publishers were smart, they'd give Alan a contract to write a few novels in the Bond series--after all, he's already written an exhaustive encyclopedia on the character, which should be published pretty soon now.

After dinner, I headed out the crowded Hilton doorway and just about trampled little Tara Reid. She was there as a celebrity star of Sharknado, which isn't as dubious a distinction as being an expert on the Chicken Ranch, but it's got to be pretty close. I've known she's not a large woman, but I'd never realized she was such a waif. She was so thin as to border on emaciated. I'm glad I didn't actually trample her, because I probably outweighed her by 200 pounds and could've done some lasting damage. My close brush with celebrity behind me, I braved the stormy weather out to the satellite parking lot to my car and had and uneventful drive home. The end.

Now Playing: Astrud Gilberto Astrud Gilberto's Finest Hour
Chicken Ranch Central

1 comment: