Last year has passed and all of us are likely winding down. There was the post-Con high, the post-Con low, a few days of trying to figure out what kind of people we want to be (work in progress), and now we need to look ahead. To be honest, I have already had those discussions, small ones, with Nancy, the SF Track Manager, and my bosses in programming.
Next year is coming quick, and that means we have to digest what we learned this year and roll it forward into next year. One of the biggest lessons is that there is an interest in the psychology of SF and that is something we will continue to work with . There are tons of potential panels in that vein alone. I also think that, with a few exceptions, the zeitgeist of SF is more interesting to people than specific works. I want to honor this idea, but I also want to re-emphasize the literary nature of JordanCon and talk more about books. We have a few ideas along that line too. A comparison of religions in various works might be a good one.
And we may see the return of the Wheel of Time tie-in panel. It has been a few years since we did The Wheel of Space Time and talking about WoT as a space opera or potential space opera could be fun. Finally, I intend to get us out of our seats in out-of-traditional panels at least once. Of course we will always be accessible in our content, but having a more dynamic panel is an experiment I want to try.
But as always, I am open to your ideas. The inbox for firstname.lastname@example.org is always open.
Next week we will get back to books and talk about contemporary authors.
JordanCon’s SF track has been around for seven years now, though I have only been running it for six of those years. It has been an enormous pleasure and privilege to do so. I think I have mentioned this before, but my intention was to only run the track for three years. Three years would be a good run, yeah? Well they keep asking me back and I keep saying yes. I know quite a lot, but I am hardly what one might call an expert. I have not read or seen all the old classics or all of the new classics. Which brings me to the stars we had as panelists this year. I have a hard time picking just one, though the Cryptids panel and the Psychology of Fear panel were both very well attended. Standing room only in one case.
Also, thank you to the members of the Cult of Murder Lizard Spy Perplexed. You know who you are. #thecultgrows
However, there were times when I imagined the track as one of the eponymous cryptids that we talked about in our track. The growth of the track has been noticeable and our small group of SF track groupies has grown as well, but there is room for plenty more. I will talk about next year’s plans in the next blog. But I want to say that what works for the membership is not always what we offer. Some panels are hits and some are misses, and even when I or the crew are passionate about a particular subject, it may not be something you have interest in. And that is okay, because we are learning and experimenting and finding a good audience. Thank you for those who drop in and for those who have not yet, the door is always open. Except that one panel because we had room limits and it was full.
Part III will be about next year and Part IV will talk a little about why we SF.
My first Weirdsday blog after JordanCon 2021 was meant to be a return to the greatness that is the Weirdsday blog. It was meant to celebrate JCon 2021 and 2020, since we have been offline a bit for a while. For the Sci Fi track, 2021 was an unmitigated success and it was fantastic on a personal level. I have nothing but good things to say. Well… Almost nothing but good things. Because this is not THAT post (which is coming next week). No, this is a post on a topic that, frankly, I am getting frustrated to have to keep talking about.
A Short Conversation
In person and in posts I have been hearing that sense of dread. That fear that JordanCon’s innocence is about to be lost. Why? The show is coming, much like an unwelcome, overlong winter, at least according to some. People are afraid it won’t be any good, but an even greater fear is that the new show-fans will show up in droves and submerge the good feelings and vibes of our precious JordanCon beneath waves of disingenuous fandom. We will lose our ‘family’ vibes and values. Which is an odd way to think about it, considering how welcoming we are, or are supposed to be. George R.R. Martin could not have made a better metaphor for this, and the name he gives those ice zombies is Others.
Fear of the Other is the root of a ton of bad human behavior. Some of you are standing on the wall, dreading the moment the Others show up, and it has the potential to create chaos. But who are you standing watch against?
Looks like it is story time, though some of you know this story already. My secret not-shame is that I have not read the series. I managed, by about 1995, to read the first three. Sort of, kind of. I did manage to muddled through New Spring, which I really like in fact. When I came to work at JordanCon, people made me feel welcome. No one judged me for my lack of reading, and I made a particular effort to integrate the WoT into the SF Track. Successfully, I think.
My Ole Workhorse
But another series, it’s not just one book folks, that I do love is DUNE. Guess what? I came to DUNE through the David Lynch movie. That’s right; I saw the movie before I read the books. Does anyone question my DUNE fandom? Is it less pure because I saw Blue Velvet in Space, first? Of course not; people cannot get me to shut up about DUNE. Many of you have not read DUNE and will see the new movies and become fans. And I promise you not once will I make a passive aggressive comment about your fandom. We will have a DUNE movie panel next year and, yes, I expect you new fans to show up.
Our Words Can Be Welcoming or Weapons
What I am saying is, when you talk about fake fans or show fans, you are talking about me. Absolutely I am going to watch the show and hope that it is great. The show will be my primary means of interacting with the material of The Wheel of Time, along with another attempt at reading and connecting to the series. To be blunt, I am one of the Others, and when I see those comments, even though they are not directed at me, I do feel them. My feelings are not hurt, one must possess feelings for them to be hurt, but I am keenly aware of my Other status.
And if I sometimes feel like an Other, you can bet the new folks will too if they see those comments.
I know it’s not easy. But how JordanCon will be remembered going forward depends on those who have been here all along and those, like me, who joined along the way. The innocence may be gone, but the heart can remain, whether its 500 people or 2000 people. The heart can grow, but it cannot grow without empathy and a broadening of our vision.
Are you greedy for content from some of your favorite JordanCon track directors and guests?
Well then do we have the panel for you! From the good offices and fertile imagination of Tiff, the JordanCon fantasy track director, and John Hartness, the publisher at Falstaff Books, who joined me in a recorded discussion of Wandavision, which debuted earlier this year. Wandavision picks up the story of the MCU’s Wanda Maximoff as she tries to move on with her life in the wake of the events of Avenger’s: Endgame and the death of Vision, with whom she had a relationship.
The following is a tiny bit of spoiler:
Tiff, John, and myself discuss Wandavision, focusing on the aspects of grief, trauma, and how it affects those around you. We all share our thoughts on the series and the characters, discussing our impressions and the moments that spoke to us as individuals. It is not a spoiler to say we all enjoyed the series, and we hope that you will enjoy our discussion of it. The talk does touch on trauma and loss, so a heads up if you are dealing with similar issues in your personal life.
We hope you enjoy this taste of what is to come. See you in July!
Welcome back to the first Weirdsday blog for Jordancon 2020. It also happens to be the first week of October, which means SF HORROR tropes. One of these days we might have to do a panel specifically on SF & Horror. Today I want to talk about the machines that we fear, but first let’s talk about April of 2020.
One of the things we are going to strive for this upcoming year is a sense of asymmetry in our panels. While I do not have an exact plan and we are limited in what we can do (sorry, no VR panels yet) each year I want to make changes in our presentations to make the track unique. This year we are looking at more interactive panels, giving you more things to do and more ways to interact with the content. Don’t expect leaps and bounds, but keep an eye out for some differences. As always we love your feedback.
There will also be more science focused panels. And they will be fun! At least I think they will be. We have a great resource of science focused members and those who can converse in the language of technology, that we want to take greater advantage of that. Again if you have any ideas that are feasible, drop us a line at email@example.com.
The Deadly Machines
I thought we would kick off our SF Horror Month with a discussion of the machines that we love to fear. Science Fiction is full of machines that prey on people and in such antagonists we find much entertainment. Machines plague the human psyche in ways that are different than say, a face stealing alien. Robots and mechanization are something we deal with every day. These machines lesson our load but they also take away jobs and lack the human touch associated with good customer service. Now Alexa and her machine tribe can run our homes and order our groceries, giving a great deal of power to the machines and those who control them.
Who are these murder machines? Science Fiction is full of them. It could be argued that Frankenstein’s monster is a machine of sorts, but we won’t count Mary Shelley’s seminal masterpiece. Instead let’s concentrate on a few well known and not well known members of this particular club.
As I was thinking about this week’s blog, Ash from Alien is the first robot that came to mind. Ash is more android than robot with is human like appearance. This makes Ash very dangerous as he is able to hide his nature and the nature of his programming from the rest of the crew. We can give a shout out to Michael Fassbender’s David as well. Of course we cannot fail to mention the Terminator in all of its different guises. Although I think the original machine is the scariest, the others are remorseless in their own right.
My own favorite SF murder machine is Maximilian from Disney’s The Black Hole. Max is legitimately scary and one can imagine its creator making sure there is not an ounce of humanity in the machine, so that it can be the perfect foreman. That said, I think Maximilian is a great character in a movie that is widely underappreciated.
What are your favorite SF murder machines? Feel free to comment!
There are only three weeks and change to go now and of course the SciFi Track is prepping for the final few weeks. Time for some details on what we will be doing at JordanCon 2019! Plus, I want to talk about getting out of our comfort zones.
As always we have four panels on Friday and they set the tone for our weekend. I will give a brief overview of each one. Here is the link to the schedule as a whole.
What’s New In Science?
Every year we start off with this panel, a discussion of science and the discoveries that provide ideas for the fiction. Our panelists are knowledgeable in their fields as well as general science. If you have some expertise, please feel free to join in the discussion and offer up topics. As always, questions are welcome.
SF Feminist Literature
Women have been creating SF for as long as there has been SF. As we move into our modern era, ‘feminist’ is an ever-changing label and aims to be very inclusive. With that in mind, come discuss with our panelists some of your own feminist literature in SF and perhaps discover new ideas and authors to follow.
Flashback Friday: Farscape & Science Fiction Fantasy
Fridays are going to be for flashbacks from now on! This is a new concept that let’s us specifically tap into beloved old shows that shaped our love of SF. This year it is Farscape, a show much beloved by me and by others. Farscape broke some ground in its day and like other shows, died too young. Never seen Farscape? Well you are in for a treat then. Come on in and see what it was about.
Friday Fandom Smackdown
Are you ready for the Smackdown this year! Do you have your team ready and your spot chosen? We have six categories of fandom this year and space for six teams. Ribbons for everyone and Medals for the winners! Folks are welcome to come and cheer on the teams as well!
“…I’ve never been a racehorse…”
It may be no secret that Starship Troopers is one of my favorite books. Part of the reason for this is the through processes of the protagonist on the first page, where he describes the anxiety he feels even though he has been trained and conditioned to not feel fear. Jumping out of a space ship into combat I imagine would make one nervous, but most of us can understand how uncomfortable even familiar situations can be. Let alone something new and different.
Science Fiction can be new and different. The best works take us out of familiar places and ask us hard questions. It is not always comfortable and the line between hero and villain be thin. SF can questions our reality and our dearly held beliefs and this is not always a fun read or watch.
But there is joy to be discovered in SF. Yes it asks hard questions but it gives us permission to ask hard questions right back. Sometimes there is no answer, but often times there is an answer or the beginning of one. I promise you there is great joy in JordanCon’s SF Track; joy in the asking and in the answering with worlds to be discovered where more joy may be found. It won’t always be comfortable, but it will always be wonderful.