Friday, October 31, 2008

Blog Like It's The War Of The Worlds Officially Over

Midnight has passed and we're now into October 31st. Blog Like It's The War Of The Worlds is now over.

It was my first time trying something like this, and I was fortunate enough to have a great partner in crime, harrysaxon, over at our shared site Not A Planet Anymore. What made it even better was the fact that others came to participate in our little online adventure. You can see their contributions on the posts over there, and we'll be publishing highlights later today, and a full account of the 2008 Martian invasion sometime in the next couple of days. Thank-you to everyone who came here to bloginhood to read about my misadventures, and to all of you who slipped over to Not A Planet Anymore to get a bigger picture.

Our plan at this point, after we get some sleep, go for a celebratory beer and spend some time with our wives, is to evaluate how things went. That being said, harrysaxon and I are both pleased with how BLITWOTW played out, and I have a feeling this will become an annual event. I hope all of you will be able to join us for it next year.

In the meantime, I'll be returning to your regularly-scheduled (if not always regularly posted) bloginhood ramblings from the SF soapbox.

Good night all. And Happy Hallowe'en.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

BLITWOTW - I think this is it

Not a lot of time - one of them's just outside - I mean justoutfuckingsideofmywindow!!!

The raft grab was a failure. Couldn't get down to the store very fast cause of all the crap on the roads and lawns and I really need to lose about 30 goddamn pounds. Some tripods were still lurching around and I had to stop and hide. Got down to Steveston Highway and was heading to the store - saw 5 of the fuckers in a field at the corner of #4 Road - no way to get past them. Got cut off - another was coming in from behind me, back Steveston way. Had to ditch the bike and crawl back through a ditch - managed to wait till the Martian passed, then crawled a little farther before getting up and across the road and deking up through the burbs back home.

Heard from my wife on Not A Planet Anymore when I got back - looks like she's been posting her situation - conveniently when I'm not in front of the computer! She seems to be fine for now. Now it's just me and the cat.

Goddamn tripod came stumbling - yes! stumbling! down my street about 10 minutes ago. Funny thing - for a giant milking stool they always had a weird kind of grace. Not now. Thing looks drunk. Staggered into my cul-de-sac and is standing right in the middle of the driveway.

I should grab the cat and the emergency pack and book it out the back door, but the thing's got a clear view/clear shot right through the window here. My fingers may be hammering this keyboard, but the rest of my body hasn't moved a centimetre for 10 minutes now. Hardly breathing. Don't want to get shot. Have to admit, part of me wants to stay and watch - it's wobbling and I want to see if it falls over. No apparent damage on it, it's just swaying. I saw a couple in the distance, in the centre of town, against the glare of some of the fires doing the same thing. Coming home I saw one about 5 blocks away that was actually DOWN! They came all this way just to kick our asses and crash inside of a day? Did they break into a grow-op and start rocking the ganja or something? Did our government somehow manage to slip them something toxic? Did they eat something that ain't sitting well?

The swaying's getting more erratic now. I'm gonna switch over to Not A Planet Anymore. The folks over there have gotta see this. This could be the end - maybe for me if toasted Mr Martian here falls into my house.

Good luck, everyone!

BLITWOTW - a little good news for once

Seems like the Martians don't have it as easy as they'd like... Lugosi's advised us over at Not A Planet Anymore that some of the tripods are down in the eastern US and the aliens aren't looking so hot.

Wish we had it that good here - still a lot of searchlights and the sound of heat rays in the distance.

I'm still making a run for that raft. Wish me luck!

BLITWOTW - have boat will travel - need a boat though

I don't know how much longer I can afford to wait around the house here. Sooner or later the Martians will probably start going through the neighbourhoods looking for snacks or something, and when they find me, they'll probably be thinking the same way I would with a nice, fat pig and a barbeque. Going to bike down to the Canadian Tire store (the roads are clogged with cars wrecked in accidents - and from the looks of it, some that have been tossed around by the tripods) to see if I can't scrounge an inflatable raft and some other supplies. I'll lay low tomorrow and then on Hallowe'en night, the trick's on the Martians - if my wife isn't back, I'll take the cat, hit the waves and get as far up the coast as I can. Maybe they'll ignore Bella Bella for a while. I just know that staying around here is just asking for trouble. Wish me luck.

BLITWOTW - cut off and ready for slaughter

It's been one hell of an afternoon. Part of me is honestly surprised I'm still alive at this point. Part of me doesn't care 'cause I still haven't been able to get in touch with my wife.

After my last post I got the earthquake emergency packs out of the closet, added every can of nuclear-yellow Campbell's chicken soup I could grab outta the cupboard and anything else that wasn't perishable, cranked the radio to one of the local news stations (the joint I used to work at, as a matter of fact - not surprisingly, all of the useless assholes in middle management have ditched and ran, leaving a handful of too-stupid-to-be-scared rookies and a couple of dedicated veterans to keep 'er on air. Good on ya, Tom!) and hunkered down in front of the net to try to find out what the hell is going on.

You all know it's pretty fuckin' bad out there.

Pitched battles all over the world by this afternoon - and in many cases, not battles so much as butchery. Seems these Martians - yes, I know they're probably not from Mars, but we've gotta call these interstellar assholes something, and Martians have traditionally been the shit-disturbers of SF, so I'm calling them Martians! - aren't invulnerable; the armour on their tripods is very tough stuff, but a couple of well-placed shots of high ordinance seems to be able to penetrate it. Problem is, most armies have only been able to get off a couple of shots from their tanks or artillery before the Martians barbeque them. The heat rays or whatever seem to be able to do a pretty effective job of cutting through armor and blowing crap up in a very short period of time, allowing them to take out multiple targets very quickly. Working in teams of 3 or 4, they're pretty much unstoppable. Missiles, planes and choppers get shot out of the air at great distances too. Some success with high-level carpet bombing, but then the Martians get wise and just blow the bombs out of the sky before they can get close enough. Ambush and quick withdrawal has had some success too. Word has it a couple of nukes were brought into play somewhere in Asia, and while they took out a couple of tripods, the smart bastards outside the initial drop zones that had time to see the missiles incoming just dug themselves in so they wouldn't sustain blast damage - their armour seems to have kept out the radiation (makes sense, seeing as how they have to have something to keep the heavy stuff out when they're crossing space).

But the Martians have got another trick up their sleeves: some kind of black, poison gas. Reports from the front lines have it that this stuff makes mustard gas look like a sunday school picnic. Oddly enough, the radio just now was saying water seems to render the gas harmless. It's raining here today. Must be some advantage to calling this place the Wet Coast after all.

All in all, the military's putting up one hell of a determined fight, but from the numbers coming in from the embedded guys (glad I never followed that career path when I was a reporter) that have actually made it out alive indicate we're losing. Like the man said, this is "the route of humanity."

Locally it's all going to hell too. Big explosions this afternoon nearby. I got antsy after a while and had some notion to try to go looking for my wife. Jumped on my bike and started heading north on the Shell Road Trail - good cover there - it's under a tunnel of trees. Like an idiot, I figured the Martian might have moved off from the field near Garden City so I deliberately went in that direction to try to avoid him. He hadn't. Lucky me, I got there just in time to see his three-legged ass get taken down. A bunch of reservists and vets had snuck into the armory and set up an old artillery piece (didn't know they kept anything in there except old supply trucks). Nailed him from behind and knocked him down. Problem was, he must've got out an SOS before they finally blew him up, 'cause another Martian came skipping over from the direction of Steveston and blew the whole place to hell. Pumped some of that black gas in there too - I was riding as hard as I could back towards home, but when I saw the initial cloud I thought that was it. But the rain had started by then and the gas just fell right down to the ground as black slush. I still got my tubby butt home as quick as I could though.

More time in front of the computer and the radio. The TV guys aren't filing much anymore. Must be in the wrong places at the wrong times. Radio's chance to shine again (like the guys from Queen sang in Radio Gaga - it had yet to have its finest hour - now's that hour).

Reports from around the Lower Mainland are strange - some civilian centres have taken heavy damage, but the Martians don't seem to be spending much time trying to destroy buildings or other local-level infrastructure. That would explain why we've still got power, phones and other utilities. But why? You'd think they'd want to shut it all down to keep us from talking to each other. Unless this is part of the plan - unless they're counting on us to do shit like what I'm doing now and stir up the panic factor so we're more able to manipulate somehow through our fear - like a herd of bison being steered towards a cliff or something.

Instead they've been taking out big transportation infrastructure... a group of 4 Martians spent the afternoon laying waste to the harbour in Vancouver and sinking ships. When they were done, one of them moved off north (to get the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal maybe? Or the Sea-to-Sky to cut off escape to Whistler?), one headed east and the other two started carving up the bridges. The Lions Gate Bridge is gone, as is the Cambie and the Granville. There's a report of another battle in the area: one of the Martians had set his sights on the old Burrard St Bridge and was taking his sweet time about it, leisurely blasting cars off the bridge deck. Another group of reservists and vets raided the old armoury in Kitsilano - same game played out as here in Richmond. They managed to take the sucker by surprise and blew him up. Unfortunately, they took the bridge out too. Anyone trapped Downtown is going to have along walk through the Downtown Eastside to get out and I don't know if that's better than facing the Martians. But the other tripod showed up and took out the armory gang - and the armory, and the Molson Brewery next door. I know I should be grieving the loss of heroes right about now, but for some reason I'm fixated on trying to figure out what we're going to do for beer! I am an awful, awful little man.

Word has it the mountains on the North Shore are filled with people fleeing into the wilderness to get away. On a cold, wet night like this, most of 'em will probably be very uncomfortable, or catch a bug, or suffer some degree of hypothermia. I'm not safe where I am, but you could get me to go there. I'm no outdoorsman, but I'm smart enough to know that it's too early in the season for the wildlife to be hibernating yet - the black bears will all be hunting for anything remotely edible they can get their paws on (especially with this year's poor berry crop) and I think swanky West Van residents will probably find themselves on the menu.

Martians have been spotted eastward, up the valley, blocking the TransCanada through the passes. Others have been destroying the major roads along the border into the US. And there's a pair of them that have been moving methodically down the coast here destroying any boats they see. Vancouver International Airport was wrecked about half an hour ago - I can see the sky glowing from here. When they went after the Massey Tunnel they just fired their heat rays into the tunnel mouths - all the cars and trucks went up at the same time. If the tunnel itself hasn't collapsed, it's full of wreckage and will be hot as an oven for days. They turned their attention to the ferry repair yard nearby at Deas Island and sank everything. That settles the Fast Cat Ferry fiasco once and for all.

You have to wonder why they're taking out the major transportation infrastructure but not anything else. Maybe it's to isolate us. But why? They obviously don't consider us to be that much of a threat, or they would have laid waste to every building in their path. Maybe the bison thing was right... maybe we're being herded. Oh shit.

BLITWOTW - they're shooting at us!

They've started shooting! I just saw a whole crowd get wiped out.

I've been home for about half an hour now and this is the first I've left the living room couch. I've gotta say I'm having real trouble sitting here upstairs by the window in our computer room. Tough to type this when I'm twitching to look out the window every five seconds.

I was driving home, just coming down Garden City with the big DND field up ahead. Looked like there'd been a grass fire or something. Lots of dirt and turf heaped up near the road where the crater must be. Lots of cars crowded around and the Mounties had that side of the road blocked off. People everywhere trying to get closer. Traffic on my side of the road was getting slow. I was thinking about just putting on the blinkers and getting out and walking over but then the shooting or whatever started. Started so quick I don't think I realized what was going on for a minute or so.

Suddenly there was this kind of buzzing, a flash of light and where a big chunk of the crowd had been up ahead there was just falling ash. Then I realize there's screaming - some of it's me and some of it's the crowd 'cause the ones near the bodies/victims/ash heaps or whatever were on fire - maybe they were too close or something. I don't know. The buzzing kicks in again and more people around the crater are gone and the rest start to stampede.

Then this big thing/machine/mech/tank/I dunno/whatever starts to unfold or stand up in the pit and there's another flash of light from what I'm guessing is some kind of cannon hanging off of an arm or something, and more of the crowd dies and a bunch of cars blow up. That causes shrapnel to start pinging into the cars even as far away as I was like a bunch of ninja throwing stars. One piece punched into one of my side mirrors. That's when I came to my senses, thought "That's enough of this shit!" and deked out of the line and onto the sidewalk (nice to drive a Japanese sub-compact sometimes) and down Alderbridge towards the centre of town. More flashes and explosions in the background.

Now I'm home and I've gotta get a hold of my wife and change my pants and feed the cat so he'll stop bugging me and sit here and think a bit and check the local media and

sorry about that. It's tough.

That goddamn thing must've been 20-30 meters high by the time it stood up - fuckin' big at any rate. Looked like an odd-shaped dome or teacup or something mounted on top of a three-legged milking stool (how can you tell I spent part of my childhood in dairy farming country?) with a bunch of ropes or, god, tentacles or something hanging down and twitching around, and, of course, that fucking laser gun or maser or particle beam cannon or over-charged proctological flashlight or whatever the hell it was. Then there was this weird wire-egg-basket looking thing mounted behind the dome. And it hooted. Don't ask me why. Maybe some kind of rebel yell or something as it was putting the smackdown on Little China. I dunno.

I've gotta get the radio on or something to find out what's happening.

Anyone else know what the hell is going on? Are these damn things coming out of every crater? Who'd we piss off?

BLITWOTW - they're artificial

This is getting weird now. Local media are starting to report that whatever came down last night and made all those craters are artificial. The shots they're posting to their sites are a bit clearer than earlier today - you can make out straight lines and edges and smooth rounded surfaces - not hunks of rock anyway. Still wondering if these are some kind of demi-satellites or something from a ballsy corporate PR stunt. But then again, my Spider Sense is tingling, as it were (yes, I know you can get a cream to alleviate that) and I'm starting to wonder, if these things aren't natural, and no-one has owned up to them yet...

Anyhow, one of the craters is in the big greenspace near the old Department of National Defense lands just off Garden City road, so I'm going to call it an early day and head home - see what I can see as I pass by. The boss should give the okay - not much to do today except edit articles for one of our organization's publications, which I can do from home.

Has anyone else had a chance to get close to one of these things yet?

I know E Dragon and crotchetyoldfan were mentioning over on Not A Planet Anymore that they'd seen lights in the sky last night too - up on the North Coast and back east in New Hampshire. For his part, harrysaxon's admitting to seeing a couple of flashes just south of where I live, but I think he's hedging because he probably thinks they're just afterimages from too much gaming last night.

Anyhow, I'll let ya know what I see, if it's possible to get close enough to see anything.

BLITWOTW - Craters?

Are you guys seeing any of this coverage on TV about craters? Thousands of them around the world - mostly in or near cities/towns/villages/population centres, but some out in the wilderness too.
Police seem to be keeping the media back in most cases - hard to find any clear shots on the local TV channels of what's actually in the craters - not helping either that they're treating this as a curiousity story - not the lead yet.
Not much word from politicians, police officials or military out this way either. Media haven't been quick to wake up any scientists yet but one of the radio stations had a guy from UBC talking about meteorites and previously uncatalogued comets and stuff. Didn't really have an answer when the reporter asked why so many came down at once and why so many actually made it to Earth. Certainly no-one's using the A-word yet! LOL!

Funny thing though - Is it just me, or looking at the aerial footage, do all of these craters look to be about the same size? Gonna do a quick 'net search before heading off to work to see if anyone's posted any amateur footage with more detail.

BLITWOTW - Anyone know what's with the lights?

Okay, I'm up waaaaaay too late wandering around the 'net and baking cookies for Friday's office Hallowe'en party, but I had to post this note to anyone who may be watching:

What the hell's with all the lights in the sky?

I mean, in the first place, it's cloudy around these parts - your typical Lower Mainland autumn night - hanging on the verge of rain. I shouldn't be seeing anything up there! I know we've got the international airport here in Richmond and occasionally they divert traffic over the neighbourhood, but not like this... they're all coming down, and not in the direction of the airport either! The lights are the wrong colours too.

Anyone know if we're due for a meteor shower this time of year? But if it's rocks, how come they're moving so slow?

Are there supposed to be old satellites scheduled to come down or something? Wouldn't they be brought down over the sea?

I think I'll stay up for a bit longer. The boss is gonna kill me if I come in like a zombie from lack of sleep tomorrow, but what the hell, you don't see a show like this often in a lifetime, do ya?

If anyone else out there knows what's going on, leave a note with the details. Thanks.

Join in the Fun: Blog Like It's The War Of The Worlds

October 30th - the 70th anniversary of Orson Welles infamous "War of the Worlds" broadcast.

To honour this special day, I and my faithful sidekick harrysaxon over at Not A Planet Anymore are challenging everyone on the 'net to join us for Blog Like It's The War Of The Worlds.

All day today we're going to be blogging as though the Martians really are invading. And we're inviting you to be a part of the fun. If you've got a blog, let us know where to find it and join in - tell us what's happening in your neck of the woods as the Martians start their interplanetary scuffle. We'll set up a link to your blog so others can read it too. If you don't have a blog, that's fine too - just leave your updates in our Comments section - tell us how you're coping with the alien invasion.

Once it's all over (in a manner of speaking) on October 31st we'll post highlights from all the participants.

And now, let Blog Like It's The War Of The Worlds begin!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The 10th Doctor is No More!

Word on Sci fi Wire today that David Tennant is calling it quits as Doctor Who. While he will be doing a Christmas episode and four other specials, but won't be returning when the series resumes in 2010.


While I've watched The Doctor on and off (while it was on here in Canada, anyway) since I was a kid, I can't say I'm a superfan like my buddy harrysaxon is, but I do enjoy the show and I've loved the new series' with Christopher Eccleston as the 9th Doctor and Tennant as the 10th. As far as Tennant goes, I'd say he was probably the best Doctor, replacing Tom Baker and his scarf as my favourite. The way Tennant bounced around the universe in the Tardis gave the character a real sense of fun and mischief, but he also had the ability to turn the Doctor on a dime and give the audience a glimpse of just how deep and dark a Time Lord can be.

Now, the big question: who will be 11?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New Villain Robert Forster Can't Save "Heroes"

With the way things have been going this season, and after the stunning lameness of last season, it had to happen. I didn’t want it to. I really tried to hold on. But I’ve failed. Sigh. I’ve finally given up on “Heroes”.

I was hoping that the addition of Robert Forster as the seemingly-back-from-the-dead Mr. Petrelli might add enough to the show to make it worth staying on. I’m a fan of Forster’s work from back in the days of “The Black Hole” (I’ll openly admit to the guilty pleasure of owning the 25th Anniversary of that flick and to watching it once a year or so). Here’s an actor who knows how to project a solid, believable presence to whatever character he’s playing in whatever situation. Sadly, even Forster’s capable addition to the cast wasn’t enough.

I’ve been losing interest in the show for a while, but the soap-opera quality of season 3 has just been too much – it’s dragged me down past the event horizon of watchability into a place where I just can’t convince myself to watch anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater. I’m just really disappointed because “Heroes” showed a lot of potential in its first season, but fell in season two and just hasn’t been able to pick itself up. Sure, there are still entertaining moments with Hiro and Ando, and Parkman’s a likeable character who you want to succeed, but Suresh pulling a Cronenberg Fly, many of the characters getting progressively stupider, most of them forgetting about aspects of their powers or failing to develop or take advantage of their powers, Ali Larter’s unending series of super-powered siblings keeping her on the show (as much as she’s easy on the eyes), and the afore-mentioned soap-opera illogical plot twists are just too much.

Ladies and gentlemen, cue the Tina Turner music: “We don’t need another Heroes!”

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Review: "Futurama - The Beast with a Billion Backs"

The second of the made for DVD/TV Futurama movies hit the air tonight. I’d been waiting for it (not on the edge of my seat, mind you, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it on tonight’s listings), but having seen it now, I figure I could have waited a while longer if they could have spent more time making it better. The biggest problem, without spoiling the movie, was that “The Beast with a Billion Backs” had about 999,999,999 plots too many. It wasn’t a terrible flick, but as Futurama episodes go, this one was pretty middle of the road.

What was good though, without giving too much away, was Bender’s pirate ship. Certainly it was an obvious allusion to the second “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, but given that it was in space there was, I think, certainly a tip of the tricorn cap to Captain Harlock and Queen Emeraldas. And seeing Bender there on deck with his hat and sword, I was suddenly hit by a flashback of Enzo’s buccaneer buddies from the later episodes of “Reboot” years ago.

I don’t think I’d buy “The Beast with a Billion Backs” like I did “Bender’s Big Score”, but if it was on TV again and there wasn’t anything else on, I’d probably watch it. Even though the franchise’s movies are now 1-for-2, I’m still eager to see the newest installment, “Bender’s Game” when it gets released next month. I may have to go out and get myself a copy of Card’s “Ender’s Game” just to see if the Futurama flick bears any further resemblance, aside from the title.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blog Like It's The War Of The Worlds is Just Around the Corner - 7 Days until the Martians Invade

I’m getting pretty stoked for our first ever online challenge over at Not A Planet Anymore – the Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds challenge! And it’s only one week away!

On October 30th, we’re commemorating Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” broadcast by indulging in some internet silliness. 70 years ago, Welles scared the pants off of late-tuning-in-listeners with his radio play adaptation of the HG Wells novel of the same name, breaking into “regular programming” with “news flashes” about Martian tripods running amok in New Jersey.

Our plan for October 30th this year is to post to our blogs as though the Martians were really invading. Here on bloginhood I’ll fill you in on how the Martian war machines are laying waste to BC’s Lower Mainland and how I’m getting through it all. We’ll also have postings on Not A Planet Anymore as I try to keep in touch with my faithful sidekick harrysaxon throughout the chaos. And we’re encouraging other bloggers around the world to take part too! Join us by leaving a comment ahead of time telling us you’re in and leaving your blog address. We’ll add it to the list of participants so other people can click on it and see what you’re up to. Don’t have a blog of your own? That’s okay. Just leave notes in the comments section and we’ll highlight those too. Let us know what’s happening with the Martian invasion in your part of the world.

Then, on October 31st, when the invasion’s over, we’ll post highlights from all the participating blogs and comments on Not A Planet Anymore. A Hallowe’en treat, if you will.

So join us for Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds!

Unca Bloginhood - Again? And, Learning to Say "Martian"

Good news from the extended family today – my brother and his wife just had a baby girl last night. I was over at the hospital earlier this evening to meet little Monica for the first time. It’ll be interesting to see if she grows up to be an SF fan. Certainly she’s got good influences in that regard: the SF force runs strong in my family. I’m a fanboy (obviously), my brother’s a fan, and my 2-and-a-half-year-old nephew (Monica’s big brother Fin) is already well on his way to appreciating the genre. Already he’ll sit down and happily sing the “Star Wars” theme music. And just last night I was helping to take care of him while his parents were at the hospital, and I gave him a book: “Goodnight Goon” by Michael Rex – not only did he love all of the monsters in it, but there was an illustration of “Martians taking over the Moon” (appropriate since Uncle Bloginhood is staging the Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds online challenge next week over on Not A Planet Anymore), and while I was reading it to him, I got him to say “Martian” for the very first time. I tell ya, there are few prouder moments in a geeky uncle’s life than when he teaches his nephew to say “Martian”.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Waiting for the "intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic" - 14 Days until the Martians Invade

Yesterday it was all about “Big Trouble in Little China” here on the old SF soapbox; today, it’s even worse – the whole planet’s on the line as we get ready for “The War of the Worlds” – or more precisely, as we look ahead to my Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds online challenge over at Not A Planet Anymore.

In two weeks, to commemorate the anniversary of Orson Welles’ earth-shattering 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast (inspired by the story of the same name by a man of a similar but not quite the same name – H.G. Wells), we’re encouraging every SF enthusiast to post to their own blogs like the Martians are actually invading.

Go to Not A Planet Anymore and leave a comment on the Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds comments section telling us you’re in and letting us know what your blog is called. We’ll put your blog on the roster of participants so everyone can read your account of the Martian invasion. Then, on October 30th, the Martians attack: tell us on your blog what it’s like in your community, how you’re avoiding the tripods and their heat rays. When it’s all over, we’ll collect highlights from all of the participating blogs and post them on Not A Planet Anymore.

The more people take part, the more fun it will be, so tell your fellow bloggers to join in and Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds.

A Perfect Site for Fans of The Old Porkchop Express

As many of you know, John Carpenter’s “Big Trouble in Little China” is one of my all time favourite films. Today, quite by accident, I stumbled upon the perfect site for fans of The Old Porkchop Express: The Wing Kong Exchange. This site’s got the usual pix, sound clips, factoids and gossip, but I was practically falling out of my seat laughing at a set of fan films that had “Southpark” –style animation running over clips from the film. There’s also a lot of cool merchandise like “Egg Foo Yong Tours” T-shirts and Porkchop Express trucker hats. For my part, I’m lookin’ very closely at a “Dragon of the Black Pool” jacket and thinking Christmas isn’t too far around the corner.

Not a Big Trouble fan? Well then, let’s just say, in the words of Lo Pan: You were not put on this Earth to “get it”, Mr. Burton.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Giving Some Thought to a Headcase - "My Own Worst Enemy"

I’ve just finished a lazy Thanksgiving evening of TV watching with the premier of Christian Slater’s new sci-fi rooted spy series “My Own Worst Enemy” and I’m trying to figure out if that’s actually the case for Slater as far as this show goes.

The premise is very Philip K. Dick, with a few ounces of Robert Louis Stevenson, poured into an Ian Flemming glass – what does it mean for your existence if one day you find out you’re not who you think you are? How will mild-mannered Airmiles-racking corporate exec Henry (not so subtle reference to Dr. Jekyll) cope when he discovers that periodically he goes to “sleep” and dangerous international spy and assassin Edward (Mr. Hyde on a top secret agency’s – presumably the government’s - leash) wakes up and goes about his grim business? What happens when the control settings allowing the switch from one personality to the other break down and Henry wakes up in the middle of Edward’s perilous world, or when Edward comes home to pleasure Henry’s wife? What happens if Edward’s business comes to Henry’s home?

The show’s got plenty of slick spy action, which would be pretty entertaining to watch if the plot wasn’t so predictable. The real weak spot of the show though, is Slater himself. He does a great job of portraying the cold, calculating Edward, but is totally unconvincing as Henry. Maybe it’s Slater’s baggage from the roles he’s played previously in his career, maybe it’s that devilish glint in his eye, but you can’t look at him onscreen playing a businessman and a family man and find him believable – he always looks like he’s either up to no good or scheming to be up to no good at a later moment of his choosing. I suppose it’s possible that one could argue this was done deliberately in terms of casting and in terms of how Slater’s playing the character(s) – to give us the impression that Edward’s always looking out through Henry’s eyes – watching, waiting for his chance to strike. I don’t think so. I think it’s the case that Slater cannot believably play an innocent. No more so than Schwarzenegger could in his similar role in “Total Recall”. You couldn’t believe for a minute that Arnold was just some regular guy going to work with a jackhammer on a construction site and eating his lunch out of a box and thermos. Neither actor has the capacity to pull it off. Now, if the producers had really wanted to cast someone with a real talent for making you believe in his characters – someone with the gift of creating multiple personalities (and ones that are completely distinct from one another) within the same story – they would have hired Edward Norton. As it stands, Slater’s only real value is in his Edward persona, where, because it’s Slater, you’re always wondering how far he’s going to go.

Overall, I give “My Own Worst Enemy” a resounding “meh”. The jury’s still out, so I’ll probably watch another episode or two before deciding whether to add it permanently to the Monday night roster or whether to ignore it, thereby leaving me with more time to inflict my opinions on the blogosphere (I can just here it now, cries around the internet of “Watch the show! Please, just watch the show! We don’t want to hear any more out of you than we already do! It’s already too much! Watch the show!!!”)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Confessions of a Late Adopter

I have to admit, I’m one of the few people who hasn’t been following last year’s TV hit “Chuck”. That changed tonight.

Quite by accident, we were flipping through the channels and came across it on Space (Canada’s SF network), stuck around for a few minutes, decided we liked it and then stayed for the rest of the show.

I’d missed the premier when it originally debuted, along with the first couple of shows, and because I had other things on my plate I decided to give it a pass. No comment on the quality at all, just a time management thing. That being said, now that Space is airing it and it’s conveniently on at 7, I’ll probably start following it.

As far as tales of big-box retailer flunkies embroiled in adventures above their heads go, I think overall “Reaper” is more entertaining that “Chuck”, but “Chuck” is certainly worth making time for.

The Martians are coming! The Martians are coming!

Only 21 days left until Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds gets under way over at Not A Planet Anymore!

My faithful sidekick, harrysaxon, and I invite you to be part of this online challenge on October 30th. Just leave your blog address in the comments box and tell us you’re in. We’ll add your name to the roster of participants on the Not A Planet Anymore homepage so visitors to the site can link to your blog. Then, on October 30th, all of the participants will blog like the Martians from H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” are invading.

Here on bloginhood, I’ll be giving updates throughout the day on how the Wet Coast is going up in smoke (and it’ll probably be the first time a Lower Mainlander isn’t referring to the April 20th 4:20pm haze in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery) as the Martian war machines lope through, blasting away with their heat rays, venting gas and snatching passers-by off the street for a snack.

Then, when it’s done, over at Not A Planet Anymore, we’ll go through the blogs of all the participants and harvest the highlights, posting them to our site so you can get a sampler of how things went down around the world.

Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds is our way of commemorating Orson Welles’ famous October 30, 1938 radio play that had thousands of late-arriving listeners believing the aliens had finally come and had brought a high-tech stick to give mankind a whuppin’.

We’ve take our inspiration for this blogging challenge from the success of the annual zombie apocalypse organized by My Elves Are Different.

But to make it cool, we need as many people as possible to join in the fun. Enlist your blog, let us know you’re in, and on October 30th tell us how the Martians are wreaking havoc in your area. Join us at Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds!

A Weakly List If Ever There Was One

Over at Not A Planet Anymore, we’ve started a new weekly list feature (What, geeks who feel the need to quantify something? Unheard of!). And to start off, we’ve scrapped the bottom of the barrel: The Top 5 SF Books We Never Want to Read Again.

Jump in to the discussion and let us know what books you’re going to avoid rereading at all costs.

While you’re there, remember to sign up to take part in our Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds online challenge, commemorating Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30th. The more blogoids out there taking part, the more fun it will be!

Monday, October 06, 2008

VCon 33, Day 3 - The End

Today was really a tale of two cons. I ended up missing most of the day’s sessions at VCon because I had to go to a fitness conference (yes, go ahead and laugh. I assure you, you’re not laughing harder than me) my employer was hosting in Burnaby. As the resident communications guy, I had to be on-site to escort a TV crew and help them line-up interviews and find good locations. In short, I had to play the con pimp. That was about four hours of my day. Luckily, when it was over, I was able to leave fairly quickly, get a quick bite and hit VCon by 3 for the last couple of hours. I had missed-out on a couple of sessions earlier in the day that looked interesting: “Great First Lines”, “Books We Read As Kids That Influenced Where And Who We Are Now”, Robert J. Sawyer’s reading, the discussion on artificial intelligence, and “Beginnings, Middles and Ends: The Challenges of Longer Forms”. That being said, there were still enough good ones left in the day that it was worth coming.

I started with the “Canadian SF: What distinguishes it?” session. I had toyed with the notion of attending the panel on “Magical Crime Scene Investigation”, but I’m a sucker for a well-organized discussion about the state of Canadian SF. Sure, I attend this session every year, but as someone who reads a lot of SF (Canadian, American, British and international), I see it as my duty (as well as great pleasure) to not only read the home-grown stuff, but to, in some way, be part of discussions about it. MCSI might be a fun topic, but it just doesn’t carry the same importance ultimately as an analysis of our country’s SF output. And it was a good choice. In many respects, the discussion covered some of the same issues as it has in previous years – national identity, what separates our culture from those of our founders and neighbour, the national humility taken to the extent of underestimating our own worth, the hallmarks and flavours of our SF, etc. – but what made it worthwhile was that different points were raised. Certainly we’ve all heard before how much Canadians value consensus. Panelist Mary Choo made the seemingly oxymoronic, yet none-the-less true comment that “Canadians will go to the mat for compromise” to explain just how much value we place on talking things out. If anything, I don’t think the discussion went quite far enough in examining just how much that defines who we are as a people and explains our behaviour and our literature. Fact is, I’ve always believed that at the heart of our cultural identity, regardless of ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation or religion, we are a nation of debators. At every moment in our history, great and small, you can bet that two or more Canucks were arguing, negotiating, complaining and hashing out some mutually-acceptable if somewhat distasteful compromise at every step of the way. And that’s certainly reflected in our SF literature. In fact, if I tried to catalogue all the examples, we’d be here all week, but look at Rob Sawyer and his love of courtroom drama in his novels. Here’s someone who enjoys seeing varying philosophies collide and mix and having characters (and readers) be required to examine them from many points of view and not necessarily resulting in clear-cut resolutions. I’d say the first half of this session was great, but then it took a turn somewhere along the way and became an exchange on the state of publishing which was a bit too far off topic. Not a bad discussion, just not along the lines of the session theme.

After that, it was a choice of entertainment over intellect – or rather intellect-destroying entertainment over intellectual stimulation: I attended the grand VCon cultural tradition of the Turkey Readings, rather than choosing the tempting sessions on “Bringing Order to Chaos” or “Using Myths and Fairy-Tales in Writing”. Before you jump to conclusions, no, the Turkey Readings do not involve arcane rights where the internal organs of some poor fowl are probed for secrets of the future. That’s not the case. The Turkey Readings, in fact, are high comedy manufactured from low writing. Panelists are each given three or four books (usually published in the 70’s for some reason) that are profoundly poorly written. I mean, we’re talking the literary equivalent of “Plan Nine From Outer Space” here. Stuff that’s truly painful to read. And, after finding especially stinky passages, that’s exactly what they do. As a panelist reads his/her selection, members of the audience are chosen to come up to the front to pantomime the action. The catch is that the only way to stop a reading/performance is to pay – someone in the audience puts in a bid (usually 50 cents to a couple of bucks) to put an end to it. Problem is, someone else might pay more money to keep it going. And so on and so on. The money collected goes to the Canadian Unity Fan Fund, designed to help pay to bring fans from one part of the country to cons in another region. As awful as the text is, the exaggerated reads and over-the-top acting are generally pretty funny. Some bits even had us in tears. Bringing con-goers closer together by laughing at the worst the genre has produced is a great way to end the event.

And that brings us to the end. The closing ceremony speeches were mercifully short and for the most part a lot of fun. They were capped by a speech by author Patrick Rothfuss who quoted Charles Dickens and Einstein on the benefits, and, in fact, the necessity of fostering the imagination, most especially in times like these. From there it was on to the annual Elron Awards. The Elrons (which the VCon organizers strenuously stress have nothing to do with a certain science fiction author who founded a, er, religion that’s armed with plenty of money and lawyers) are a VCon tradition where awards are given for disservice to SF. Among this year’s winners (there were 9 or 10, I think): MGM for cancelling “Stargate Atlantis”, anyone who bought-into the Georgia Bigfoot hoax, and, of course, as is tradition, John Norman for writing the “Gor” books.

And that’s it for VCon 33.

Even though it’s only been a couple of hours, I’m now looking ahead to the con scene next year. While I’m not looking forward to another VCon in Surrey, I’ll probably end up going anyway for the content and the people. That being said, the con I’m really looking forward to next year is Anticipation – the 67th WorldCon, set to be hosted by Montreal. I missed out on the Toronto WorldCon a few years ago, so I’m determined to make it to Montreal (armed with my broken highschool French) for this one. More updates as they unfold.

Remember to go to Not A Planet Anymore and sign on for our commemorative online challenge Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds, which is set to take place October 30th!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

VCon 33, Day 2: Good Beginning, Weak Ending

Another day, another drive out to Newton. Sigh. I’m saddened to note that the back of the VCon 33 program indicates that next year’s event will be held at the same hotel in north Surrey. Almost enough to keep me from attending. Almost.

Anyway, on to the con…

I started the day up in the tower at the “Where is Everybody? SETI Conundrum” session. The panelists included authors Spider Robinson and Robert J. Sawyer, NeoOpsis editor Karl Johanson, UBC astronomer/Science Guest of Honour Dr. Jaymie Matthews, and local fan and Mr. Science columnist Alan R. Betz. A very interesting discussion. Generally it focused on a lot of the usual hard science reasons why we haven’t heard from anyone yet: our signals haven’t been out there long enough to reach anyone yet, their signals have to travel far to get to us, civilizations might be spread too far, there may not be many –if any- other civilizations coexisting with ours in the galaxy at this time (including the speculation that ours might be the first – that we could be a billion years too early to expect much in the way of interstellar company), whether civilizations could survive dangerous technological and social infancy, other cultures might be using more sophisticated means of communication than radio (some of which we’re only beginning to look into), etc. One interesting possibility that Matthews mentioned is that we might not be hearing anything because a civilization even slightly more advanced than ours could, for technical reasons, have simply stopped using communications technology based on broadcast. Matthews noted that within our lifetimes we’ll likely see the end of broadcast radio and TV, with the old antennas abandoned for the other, more efficient technologies – in effect, after a little over 100 years of inadvertently sending signals out to the cosmos, we’ll have rendered ourselves radio silent through the simple act of upgrading. They also touched on social possibilities for the silence, with Robinson (in one of his few comments of the session) put forward the notion that unlike ours, other civilizations might be smart enough to keep quiet, rather than stick their heads out of the figurative hole and advertise their presence to all the hungry predators in the area. Sawyer suggested that any other civilization that could communicate with us is most likely older than us and so probably doesn’t want to start a dialogue and give away any info that could endanger our species in one way or another, or take away from the necessary struggle to learn those answers for ourselves. For his part, Johanson pointed out that given the limited amount of time the people of the Earth have been making noise in the universe, other civilizations may just be receiving the Beach Boys, and thus from their perspective, we have nothing worth talking about. And speaking of nothing worth talking about, one fan in the audience sidetracked things towards the end of the session by asking the panelists to weigh-in on UFO’s and possible alien cover-ups. Naturally, being reasonable and intelligent people, the panelists trounced on the notion that governments that couldn’t cover up Watergate could hide that kind of going on, or that military that wipe out entire villages would hesitate to execute civilian workers or witnesses leaking secrets, or that hicks in trailer parks would be visited in secret rather than scientists and artists and governments being contacted in the open. It was interesting seeing the panel get fired up by the task of putting this fantasy down, but I would have rather the last 5-10 minutes of the session been spent talking about something of more value.

From there it was down to the pub to hear Spider Robinson give a reading (in that not-quite so low and not nearly so husky as, but still vaguely reminiscent of George Burns voice of his) of his book “Very Hard Choices”. Robinson chose to read a passage where one of his characters, a telepath, reminisces about the shocking and frightening death of someone close to him. It was one of the most emotionally painful bits from a novel I’ve heard in a long time. While it was difficult, it speaks to the quality and depth of Spider’s writing. I haven’t got this one on my shelf yet. Yet. I hope to remedy that soon with a trip to the bookstore. He then took questions from the audience and told a few tales, including getting freaked-out one day when he heard the voice of Heinlein talking to him in his study. Afterwards, several of us stuck around to have books signed and it was great just to chit-chat with Spider for a bit. He was nice enough to autograph my copy of “The Callahan Chronicles”, as well as the first page of his short story “User Friendly” in my copy of the Canadian SF anthology “Northern Stars”. He seemed to get a kick out of it when I mentioned that the emotionally-wrenching “User Friendly”, with its pervading dwelling on feelings of powerlessness, was my “gateway” story for his work (rather than, say, one of the light and fluffy Callahan tales, which is the case for many). Jeanne Robinson, an author in her own right and choreographer, was also on-hand and chatted with a number of the fans. It was funny to see her come in every now and again to manage the autograph line, clucking away with “Come on now, kids, if you let him keep talking and don’t put your books down for him to sign then he won’t stop!” Nice folks. It would have been a treat to talk with them some more.

After that I had a little time on my hands, so I wandered around for a bit. One or two more dealers had arrived today, and Saturday always sees a larger number of people at the con, so the dealers’ room was crammed tight when I ventured back down to the basement. No sign of Walter from White Dwarf Books though – he was in last night for the so-called book launch, but a con without a White Dwarf table in the dealers’ room for the weekend just isn’t VCon. That being said, I did get my book fix, stopping at the Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing table and picking up David Nickle and Karl Schroeder’s “The Claus Effect” (I’ve been eyeing that one for a few years now, but had never bothered to actually buy it until now) and “Gaslight Grimoire”, edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec. GG is a collection of fantasy short stories revolving around Sherlock Holmes. Should be worth reading. It’s brand new too – the publisher just got them in the morning they were leaving for the con - it hasn’t hit the stores yet. I only hope they managed to sneak a steampunk tale or two into this fantasy collection. Too bad Edge didn’t have any copies of “Tesseracts 12” (this is another one that won’t hit the stores for a couple of weeks) – they were supposed to have a bunch on-hand, but the Edge staffer was complaining they’d been lost somewhere in shipping. Whenever it comes in, I hope it’s better than the last installment.

Next it was over to the art room (which shared the same “ballroom” as one of the session areas, the two divided by a row of display easels). It had the usual collection of cute sculptures, weird and kinda disturbing sculptures, somewhat talented but unremarkable sketches, and the rare collection of exceptionally talented stuff. In this case, the true talent was in a small group of paintings by Stephanie Ann Johanson (I think – I’m pretty sure it was one of the Johansons associated with Neo-Opsis). My favourites were a painting of an astronaut looking out over a huge Martian canyon rendered in awe-inspiring detail, and one of a waterfall in a cave with a subtle but sad and vaguely menacing surprise at the bottom.

Another show for the eyes when you’re wandering around at any con is the variety of people in costume. Saturdays at VCon are always a big day for costuming because the masquerade and dance take place in the evening. This time there were the usual assortment of ladies in corsets and renaissance/medieval-inspired gowns, and guys dressed up like Jedis. The ones that really stuck out in my mind were the members of a local Star Wars fan group - the 501st Legion (“Vader’s Fist”, or so their display claimed) Excellent detail on the costumes from this group. They included a couple of Imperial officers, a stormtrooper, Boba Fett, and a woman who appeared to be dressed as Vader, minus the iconic helmet. There was even a guy dressed as a Rebel ship crewman (good on him for representing the good guys amidst all that Imperial action). I think what impressed me the most was the recruitment poster on their display which said something to the effect of “Do you value duty? Are you loyal? Are you expendable?” Across the hall (and it literally was just about two steps over against the other wall of the corridor) was the Trekie contingent. While the Star Wars fanboys have been pretty diligent in keeping their display table manned this weekend, this was the first appearance by the Trekies that I’d seen this year. In any case, rather than, say, a Vulcan or Klingon, the local Trek fan club was represented by a big, good-natured fellow in Starfleet Marine formal black trying to recruit people into joining – specifically into joining the Federation’s Marines! Funny thing was, he looked and sounded a heck of a lot like some of the RCMP/municipal police/military recruitment officers I’ve met over the years. And there was a dude who was trying to fly his Doctor Who colours – kind of. Buddy was sporting something that looked like it was trying (and failing) to be a Tom Baker scarf. The colours looked approximately correct, problem was that the Fourth Doctor’s scarf was, what, about 900 million metres long (okay, maybe not that long, but it was a long, long scarf, especially since it looked long on a tall guy like Baker) and this guy’s muffler was maybe two-and-a-half feet long. It kinda hung around his neck like a short, skinny towel. Go back to Gallifrey, wannabe, and don’t come back until you’ve regenerated into someone who’s mom can knit a real Fourth Doctor scarf of appropriate length (like the one made by my buddy harrysaxon’s mom)! But the one that took the cake for double-take “what the…?” factor was some dude wearing puffy boots like the ones teenage girls wear these days, a kilt, a home-made red shirt made up to resemble an RCMP red serge formal/traditional jacket, and something trying to be a Mountie’s Stetson. Huh? Is he supposed to look like a member of Her Majesty’s British North American Horseback Constabulary from some weird and cheaply-made alternate universe or something? One of the best costumes of the day though was a guy dressed as The Joker – a take that was sort of between Nicholson and the comic, with Ledgeresque makeup around the mouth.

But back to the programming…

At this point it was on to the “Believable Evil” session, which would have been a lot better if it hadn’t been held in the room sharing space with the art exhibit, and hence been victim to the panelists’ voices being drowned-out by loud groups (and I’m not faulting these groups for being loud) going through the gallery area, and also picking up a fair amount of noise from passers-by out in the hall through the big open doors at the back which presumably couldn’t be closed. Wasn’t made any easier by the fact that some of the panelists had softer voices. The first part of the discussion got bogged-down in the question of what is evil. Eventually it moved on though. Some worth-while points were raised, but ultimately I didn’t think this was one of the stronger sessions.

From there it was time for “Killing Off Characters”. This is one of the sessions I attended last year, and I’m pretty sure at least one of the panelists was a holdover from last year too. I came to this one hoping that while the subject matter was the same, there’d be a new panel with new insights. Sadly, this session was not significantly different at all from last year, and was made worse by the fact that it was held in the pub, which hoovers acoustics, and didn’t have the microphones turned on. At one point someone in the audience asked for the two panelists to speak up. That lasted for about a minute and a half. Then those of us at the back were straining to hear the quiet muttering again. I shoulda bailed on this one.

After that I descended into the basement again to take in the “Physics of Superheroes” session, but it was held in the room sharing space with the art exhibit (doors still open) and two of the panelists were really, really quiet. In fact, one of the audience members near the back asked them to speak up and one of the panelists promptly mumbled something about how if the people at the back stopped talking to each other it would be easier to hear. Someone else in the audience then jumped in and pointed out that the noise was actually coming from the art area and from the hall, and the panelist then retreated to a statement about how she wasn’t a loud speaker and we’d just have to try to hear her. Yup. Way to interact with your audience who might potentially buy your books – well, not anymore anyway, because not being able to hear what you’re saying, we have no idea if you have anything to say that’s worth listening to and thus won’t bother buying and reading your books. In addition, what little I could hear from the one panelist who spoke at any volume was pretty much the same discussion of the realities of physics and how superheroes don’t seem to adhere to them that I’ve heard and read in about a dozen other interviews. No point in sticking around, so I left.

I poked my head into the filk session going on up in the pub, but, despite the impressive vocal talent of the performer, after about a minute I remembered why I don’t like filk: regardless of the singer’s ability, I just don’t give a shit about songs about goblins under your bed or your vampire lover or something. I’m not deriding it as a form of entertainment, especially at a con, it’s just not my bag. I went up to the hospitality suite briefly, but it was pretty full, so I decided to call it a night. I was tempted to stick around for the parties (a group from Seattle was hosting a get-together to garner support for their 2011 Worldcon bid, as was a rival faction representing Reno), but they didn’t get rolling until mid-evening and at that point I was thinking about getting some chow and heading home (I’ve got to get up early tomorrow to wrangle media at the fitness conference hosted by the agency I work for).

Not a bad day at the con, but I wish the late afternoon sessions would have been stronger. Oh well.

Stay tuned for more updates tomorrow.

Have you registered to take part in the Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds commemorative online challenge yet? Better get your blog listed on the roster so we can see what goes down with the Martian invasion in your community on October 30th!

Friday, October 03, 2008

VCon 33, Day 1: Back to the Basement - Literally!

It was a surreal first day at VCon this year, and I don’t mean in a “what the hell is he dressed up as?” or “why doesn’t she cover that up?” kinda way either. No. This was all about the venue. When I arrived at the Compass Point Inn in north Surrey (the armpit of the Lower Mainland), I had to laugh, but at the same time I thought tears might have been just as appropriate: the geeks have been put back in the basement.

The hotel apparently has some history for the con. At some point in the past it was a host venue. Why the con organizers have gone back to the place is something I’m not certain of, but I suspect it’s because they got it cheap. Putting aside the obligatory anti-Surrey snobbishness that pretty much every Lower Mainlander (okay, every British Columbian) has as a result of birthright or rapid acquisition, it would be hard to argue that the joint’s in a pleasant part of town: the nearby skytrain station is like a war zone and those that spill out of it across the hotel’s parking lot on the way to the adjacent beer and wine store would, shall we say, make the patrons of the Star Wars bar look like high-brow dinner company. Taking out one’s wallet to buy a parking pass (even though the machine is mounted on the side of the building – because it was moved out of the lot proper, perhaps for some reason related to all the car theft warning signs around the place) is an exercise in caution to say the least.

Then there’s the hotel itself. I wouldn’t call it a dive. That wouldn’t be fair because the staff appear to keep the inside reasonably clean. That being said, the old girl’s certainly seen better days. Those better days, judging from the interior architecture, d├ęcor and equipment, were probably back in 1968.

I came in the front door and looked around for some kind of signage pointing to whatever convention/ball/board rooms would be housing the con. Didn’t have much room to look around in though, as the lobby was small enough to cross in about five steps. Sure enough, there were signs (sitting on the floor leaning against the wall – I guess easels and tripods and the like weren’t invented yet when the hotel was built and supplied) pointing downstairs. Yes, downstairs. The bulk of this con is in the fucking basement. Sure, we’ve got the hotel’s dark, remodeled in mid-70’s wood paneling restaurant /pub on the main floor for the odd event, and the hospitality suite and one of the alleged board rooms (about the size of a small hotel room) allocated to hold the odd session are both up in the tower, but the alleged ballrooms are all crammed downstairs. So down I went. Into what is literally a basement area that someone probably refurbished a few decades ago as an afterthought. The ceilings are low and the corridors are narrow (it’s damn near impossible to actually pass someone in the hall – which is conducive to encouraging conversations with fellow con-goers, but not the best when two of them are already talking and you’re just trying to squeeze past). The supposed ballrooms themselves are pretty small. Claustrophobic. Very. And I’m not one who usually feels claustrophobic in any building, but here, it felt like the ceilings were pressing down and the walls were crushing in. The dealers’ room felt especially crowded simply because of its lack of size. I also pitied the two con volunteers at the registration desk, stuffed underneath the staircase with barely any room to move. Then there are the elevators, which are also small (they’re only supposed to carry 5 people at a time) and are maddeningly slow – especially if you’re in the basement trying to get them to come down. It’s almost like the elevators are conspiring to keep us down there.

And this is precisely the crux of my bitterness. The stereotypical image of SF fans is of coke-bottle-lensed nerds huddling in their parents’ basements afraid to come up and out and interact with the world, taking cold comfort from the flickering blue light of Trek reruns on 20-year-old barely functional wood consol TV’s while thumbing through moldering old copies of ‘zines from the 50’s with sporting covers with bug-eyed monsters (presumably the basement-dwellers’ non-terrestrial brothers-in-spirit). Sure, we, as geeks even joke about that ourselves. I mean, hey, those basements are mighty handy for extra bookshelves to hold your ever-expanding collection of new and old SF books, or comics, or collectables, or old video game consols or whatever. But it’s one thing to joke around about a stereotype, and quite another to have it foisted on you. Because the fact of the matter is that we, as adults, even geeks, have left the basement behind long ago. Most of us have jobs, many have relationships and families, as well as houses or condos or apartments or fishing shacks or whatever of our own. Despite our reading or tv/movie-watching preferences, we do not actually live the stereotype at all. Many of us have attended other conventions, whether they concern SF or other entertainment, or business-oriented. In all the many kinds of conventions/forums/what-have-you that I’ve attended in all kinds of facilities, the convention rooms, at least the primary ones, have all been above-ground in rooms deliberately designed for gatherings at the time of the building’s construction (no matter how old the building). This is part of the process of a convention and a host facility treating its delegates like adults. Choosing a sagging old hotel that stuffs its geek conventioneers in an antiquated renovated basement is a joke that is only funny for about 5 seconds. Putting us back in the basement devalues us – metaphorically reduces us to 14-year-old status again. I mean, hell’s bells, crammed down in that basement this evening, I could almost hear my mother upstairs making applesauce porkchops for supper – except no-one called us up for supper or brought anything down! (mind you, I never really liked applesauce porkchops anyway) Maybe the hotel has some nostalgia value to older delegates who remember when the con was held there years ago, but personally I think we deserve better. I think we deserve a facility in a better neighbourhood, one that’s been kept up better/looks nicer, and one that can actually accommodate the con’s (and its delegates’) needs. Most of all, I think we deserve a facility that doesn’t reinforce stereotypes.

But it wasn’t all symbolic shock on arrival. Coming into the con was, in fact, very pleasant from a social perspective. Within minutes I was chit-chatting and laughing with other people in the registration line and waiting at the elevators. It’s like I said in a recent post, geeks, by and large, are caring, fun individuals and it’s great to hang-out with brothers and sisters in the SF community.

Now on to the con’s content. Because I was at work all day (some of the day being devoted to helping coworkers set up a completely different kind of con – a conference for fitness professionals from across the province), I missed most of the afternoon’s programming.

I was able to make the “How Stories End” session. Overall the panel was intelligent, interesting and entertaining. Author and panel moderator Patrick Rothfuss was a real hoot, at one point making the observation (while trying to set ground rules for his fellow panelists as to whether they could give away the endings to specific books when they were giving examples) that the divide between people who can’t tolerate spoilers and those who don’t mind them is religious in its degree of separation and fervor, with the two camps being eternally locked in opposing viewpoints and unable to bridge the philosophical chasm between them.

From there it was on to the Opening Ceremonies. The usual predominance of dry humour, but some of the Guests of Honour got some big laughs when introduced. I think the best was Science Guest of Honour Dr. Jaymie Matthews, an astronomer from UBC/self-described astro-paparazzo, Officer of the Order of Canada, and one of the inventors of the tiny MOST space telescope (jokingly referred to as the Humble telescope – which has outperformed the famous, and bulky Hubble). Matthews was asked to speculate on whether the current Canadian federal election campaign was dark fantasy or science fiction. The answer: a little of both. I won’t bother trying to recap his reasoning, though he did refer to the Harper government’s lack of interest in funding the arts and sciences, and got quite a chuckle from the audience.

Afterward I headed up to the pub where a book launch party was being held. I think something like 25 authors were there to promote their recently/newly/soon-to-be released books. It was good to see Walter from White Dwarf Books there with a table (I hadn’t spotted him down in the dealers’ dungeon earlier).

I didn’t hang around too long though – not much available in the way of food or drink and by that time it was after 8, I hadn’t had supper yet and I was pretty hungry. I had been tempted to stay around and maybe check out one or two of the room parties later on (there was a BSG party in one room, and a bring-a-bottle-of-Scotch-to-share-for-admission party that looked quite interesting), but the need for food and being tired and approaching cranky (did my opening rant give that away?) after a long day of work made me think it was time to call it a day.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update.

On a completely different note… Remember to visit Not A Planet Anymore to sign up for our Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds commemorative online challenge!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Gettin' Conned Again - VCon 33

It’s time for VCon 33 – the Vancouver Science Fiction, Fantasy and Gaming Convention. I’ll be heading over to Surrey every day this weekend (No, I will not be making any Surrey jokes. I may complain about the commute, but I will not sink to the level of taking potshots at the good people of Surrey. No need to follow in everyone else’s footsteps.) to take part in the event and will be posting a summary of the day’s silliness right here every evening. VCon’s always enjoyable because of the significant literary thrust of the programming. Certainly there are discussions about science and gaming and there are Whedonite sing-alongs and there are medieval swordplay demonstrations, but most of the sessions revolve around examinations of what makes a good story. Since good storytelling is what’s at the core of SF, that’s fine by me.

Stay tuned for more updates.

And while you’re waiting…

Be sure to go to my other blog, Not A Planet Anymore, to take part in our online challenge:
Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds

Just fill in your blog’s address in the Comments section of that posting and we’ll add you to the roster of bloggers around the world who will be facing the Martian invasion on October 30th – the 70th anniversary of Orson Welles’ grand pre-Hallowe’en prank and tribute to H.G. Wells, the famous “War of the Worlds” broadcast.

Register now and Blog Like It’s The War Of The Worlds!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Online challenge: Blog Like It's The War Of The Worlds!

To celebrate the launch of our new SF blog, Not A Planet Anymore, my faithful sidekick harrysaxon and I are issuing a special challenge to all of you out there in the blogosphere:Blog Like It's The War Of The Worlds!
The blogging challenge takes place on October 30th – the 70th anniversary of Orson Welles' famous War of the Worlds radio play - a production that had thousands of late-arriving listeners believing the Martians were invading.

If you have a blog, on October 30th we want you to blog like the Martians (the kind that Welles borrowed from H.G. Wells) are actually invading. Tell us what things are like in your town (whether you’re in Woking, Grover’s Mill, Edmonton, Courtenay, Etobicoke, Houston, Berlin, Adelaide, Beijing or anywhere else) as the Martian tripod war machines march through with their heat rays and poison gas, snatching human snacks off the streets and leaving a wake of destruction and red weeds. Be sure to pass the word along to all of your blogging friends so we can make this War of the Worlds truly world-wide!

Register beforehand with us at Not A Planet Anymore and we'll add your blog to a list of sites reporting the Martian invasion, so other people can read of your exploits. After it's all over, as a Hallowe'en treat, we'll post some of the highlights from the different blogs on our site.

The inspiration for this online adventure came from the site My Elves Are Different, which has been hosting an annual zombie apocalypse-themed challenge called “Blog Like It’s The End Of The World”. We thought it was such a great idea that it ought to be adapted for an alien invasion – and with the anniversary of Welles’ little pre-Hallowe’en show on the horizon, we just couldn’t resist.

To get all of you in the mood for this challenge, here’s a link to Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast on Youtube (broken into convenient segments that allow for bathroom breaks).

Join the fun at Not A Planet Anymore - take part in "Blog Like It's The War Of The Worlds" on October 30th!

Launching a New Blog: Not A Planet Anymore

As if this old soapbox of SF ranting wasn’t already enough, I’m launching another science fiction and fantasy blog: Not A Planet Anymore.

Not A Planet Anymore is a collaboration between me and my old friend harrysaxon, host of Rassilon’s Arcade. It’s a forum to discuss speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, yadda yadda yadda) in literature, television, movies and other media, and to yak about video games and geek culture in general. Harrysaxon brings a wealth of videogaming experience to the table, while I’ve got the grounding in SF literature.

While Not A Planet Anymore will have reviews, same as here on bloginhood, there will be a number of other features (the addition of video game reviews, first and foremost) that will make the site different enough to be worth checking out. The fact that it’s a team effort means it’ll be a good forum for debate that will hopefully be informative and entertaining.

Admittedly, at this point, Not A Planet Anymore is still a work in progress. Both harrysaxon and I are finding time here and there to cobble it together as we juggle the other aspects of our lives: jobs (because you can’t run a blog if you don’t satisfy that strange addiction to food and shelter), our wives (our wives wholeheartedly approved of the launch of the new site, thinking that if we took our SF debates online we would probably forgo them when we got together for dinner – oh how they were wrong!), and, of course, our own existing blogs (like this one). In some ways, launching this site before all of the bells and whistles are in place makes me feel like Scotty trying to get the Enterprise spaceworthy enough to leave spacedock way before it was scheduled to in “Star Trek I – The Motion Picture”. Then again, that may be giving our little geek arena too much credit – despite having a gimpy warp drive, Enterprise still looked pretty good. No, our site’s probably more like the Thunder Road in “Explorers” – patched together from this and that and rickety as all hell, but it’ll fly (we hope). What’s important is that right from the get-go, we’re posting content we hope you’ll enjoy.

Join us at Not A Planet Anymore.

I’d just like to reiterate though, that bloginhood will continue to be active. I’ll still be grumbling away here on a regular basis (or, as regular as I ever have been, at any rate) and I’m grateful if you choose to hang around here too.