Monday, September 26, 2011


As a veteran of Dragoncon, I have seen fans award their favorite actors and artists with all kinds of things. Though I might have still been reticent about handing out essays to busy people with busy careers, it just adds a little extra spark to my writing life to think Lucasfilm artists might be reading something of mine. I know the brilliant, multi-talented Matthew Wood appreciated my Deconstructing Vader  but, given our share philosophical interests, that was pretty much a given.

Yet as it turned out, there was even more activity on the literary front that weekend. A series of visits to the three central Dealer Rooms proved to be lucrative, though happily in unexpected, inexpensive ways.

I must admit I am a fool for Dealer Rooms, particularly ones as sublime as the Marriott Marquis offers. My first time, I had to stumble around in trembling geek ecstasy, with row after row, aisle after aisle, spilling with those superfluous yet wonderful items so dear to a fanboy heart. This time was no different.

Boxes of comics, lines of costumes, shelves bristling with toys, walls of posters, geeky t-shirts from floor to ceiling, expertly designed film memorablia, DVD cases of old TV favorites, the occasional glittering weapon or jewelry displays, piles of genre books and novels and, of course, more bootleg copies of the Holiday Special than one could shake a handful of Wookiee fur at were all there, waiting to be looted.

Just as well. As many have observed, whatever the problems Hasbro is having with distribution, they're enormous. It's a sad, familiar tale, but like every other fan, I know the bitter taste of disappointment when you walk down that toy aisle in Target or Walmart ... and the same four action figures that have been warming the pegs are still hanging there, mocking you.

My particular poison is Dengar, a Sandtrooper, a Clone Trooper, and that stupid yet ubiquitous Cloud City pilot. And that's just Vintage! Nevermind the new Ahsoka which was supposed to have been out months ago that I've never even seen in a store. And as for the Saga Legends, Fanboys icon Kyle Newman said it best - Saga Losers.

However, that formidable champion of the classic Vintage cardback would have been proud. I finally saw and touched a Vintage Jango Fett and Zam Wessell first hand. I still wish I'd had Morrison sign the Fett, but that ship had already blasted into hyperspace. I walked away from both of them in the end, and also from a ludicrously overpriced Savage Opress (which I happily scored at Toys R Us a week after for a decent price). Still, I could resist buying a Vintage Return of the Jedi Wicket for an incredible eight dollars.

Somewhere, Newman is smiling, and if Warwicke Davis ever manages to make it down South, he's so signing it.

My forays into the Dealer Rooms also presented another bright and shining opportunity. Wandering rather aimlessly, I nonetheless came across a generous display of finely crafted books, which is always a good thing. Better still, they all seemed to focus on genre fiction and scholarly interpretation. Not too surprisingly, they boasted a lot of Joss Whedon inspired material, but also offered a title or two on Star Wars. The handsome banner stretched across the vendor display simply read: McFarland.

Almost by accident, I struck up a conversation with the friendly gentleman selling all the material. As it turned out, the vendor had actually designed a lot of the covers. Stylish and classy, they'd already caught my eye. 

My writer brain picqued with interest, I discovered McFarland and Company had been around for some thirty years, and often specialized in areas where popular art and culture intersects with scholarship and philosophy, the inspired country I could easily immigrate to and live happily ever after in. The books were certainly produced at an exquisitely high quality, despite McFarland being a smaller, university-style press out of North Carolina.

After talking with the vendor about my own writing experience, he surprised me by asking, "Do you think you have a book in you?" 

I'd already told him about my queries for a fiction agent, but he was specifically talking about my Star Wars stuff. The rarest of things, McFarland was actually looking for authors. I replied in the affirmative, he took down my contact information, and presented me with a form for a book proposal.

To be honest, I simply have too much material for the internet. I've spent a year getting notes together, as well as outlining a book on the prequels. If circumstances permit, I would love to do a book on the prequel trilogy, followed by one on the originals, with perhaps a collection of essays or something on the Clone Wars for a finale. 

With the right contacts and recommendations, not to mention social media, they might even be reasonably successful. I'd pondered floating a proposal to Open Court or Pop Smart books, but McFarland is certainly an intriguing contender.

So after this interesting new development, I popped down to the official conference room for the Star Wars track. I had to smile the moment I walked in. 

With familiar posters and banners lining the walls, it was also really imaginatively designed. A small assortment of cracked rocks were designated the "shards of Alderaan;" various crudely-constructed artifacts were right out of the Ewok village on Endor; and a severed Wampa arm was on proud display on the far wall. Best of all, I finally got to see one of those inspired Tauntaun sleeping bags.

I eventually sat down to a live version of a Dragoncon Clone Wars Roundtable a row or two in front of a local friend from the Rebel Legion (Hello, Karen!). But that's the con for you. You and fifty thousand of your closest friends. I also had a good discussion with a guy named Gil sporting a fantastic Clone Wars Obi-Wan uniform. Not to mention a girl who wanted to write a thesis on Dragoncon and its sociological implications (what a read that would be).

As the panel discussion began, I was surprised to see Bryan Young there taking the lead. I had just begun following him on Big Shiny Robot and, after that panel, I've made a concerted effort to read more of his stuff. He was knowledgeable and passionate about the Wars, and certainly impressed me.

With a couple of exceptions, most notably an Indiana Jones panel that I was practically leading a few years back before it was over, I have trouble getting a word in edgewise during these group discussions. Usually I don't even try, content just to listen to the varying and hopefully enlightening opinions. That trend continued, only the one time I did win the floor, it was a topic that had already been discussed on the Forcecast's Clone Wars Roundtable. The issue was when the Clone Wars officially ended.

While still wanting to say something on subjects two topics ago, I did point out that on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, Anakin never actually deactivated the legions of battle droids roaming the galaxy as he was ordered to. The arrival of Padme's ship interrupted him. Everyone pretty much argued that there was a time lag between Padme landing and the order, even Young, and that he did finish his mission.

However, everyone was wrong. If you go and watch the scene, it's seamless, with no cuts whatsoever. Anakin's head literally turns from Palpatine's hologram to the beeping controls announcing Padme's ship, so we never actually saw the Clone Wars end on screen. 

A minor point, perhaps, but it's nice to have this blog to set the record straight.

"I wanted to kill that drooling bastard since the first moment I saw him."

Never one for reticence, Carrie Fisher was quick to establish her feelings toward Jabba the Hutt in the packed Atrium Ballroom in the Marriott when I saw her.

It was early in the morning, but Princess Leia was certainly in fine form. Her wit as sharp as a lightsaber, she was enjoying a cigarette in a long silver holder, which always adds a dash of class to nicotine consumption. It was another all-star Star Wars panel playing to an enthusiastic audience.

Peter Mayhew was in attendance again, eventually fielding questions about the Blu-Ray release. "George fixes things for the better ninety percent of the time," Peter remarked, admittedly followed by a derisive little snort from Fisher, which was actually pretty funny.

Still popular with adults and children alike, Ashley Eckstein was also there. I don't think anyone asked the "How will Ahsoka die?" question, but she did make clear how "directly involved" George Lucas is with the Clone Wars series. 

This is a point Dave Filoni likewise made during his last Star Wars Insider interview. So yeah, it's canon.

On a personal note, I would like to add that this means Even Piell did in fact die in the Citadel episodes. Period. The Character Encyclopedia will back me up here.

The swarthy Temuera Morrison also had a place at the table, offering some interesting tidbits here and there. As his charming New Zealand accent nicely filled the vast room, he felt that, "I owe my career to my voice." 

While no one can underestimate the talent of Dee Bradley Baker who manages to imbue each clone trooper with a distinct inflection every week, I was surprised to learn Morrison was eager for a phone call to ask him to lend his own voice to the Clone Wars series. That would have been really interesting.

In the end, though, it was Carrie Fisher who really stole the show. It was a pretty big deal for me. No matter how large the ballroom was, she was there and I was there, occupying the same space. I had never been so close to one of the Big Three from the original trilogy and, when you really start to think that she was there from the beginning, it's pretty amazing.

Of course, when I was four or five, I was completely convinced I was going to marry Princess Leia, but that's another story.

It was really nice to hear her relay experiences from the set of the "holy trilogy," as well as giving props to George Lucas. 

"He invented a whole universe," she admitted, writer to writer. "Hemmingway didn't do that." A very good point, and one that never gets brought up in the endless critiques of Lucas' writing.

That said, she is Carrie Fisher, and it seems to be a full time job. When talking about recording the holographic message to Ben Kenobi, she quipped about the insufferable dialogue in that scene being the reason why she'd had to have "electroshock treatment." 

Again, the juxtaposition between her and her fictional Alderaanian princess persona is always ripe for comedy, which she certainly wasn't shy about mining.

"He's in a f*ing plastic mask," she likewise noted, commenting on her frustrations everytime David Prowse would forget or mess up his dialogue and then ask for another take. It's just not the sort of language Leia would use. 

On a side note, I also like Fisher's analysis of reality television: "I spent years trying to escape reality. I don't want to watch it on TV."

Inevitable at a convention, an audience member memorably fired off a question about the infamous Holiday Special. Peter Mayhew shrugged it off as just a job, though he did reference the fact that his Wookiee family onscreen had a curious tendency to be acted by the wrong sex. 

As for Fisher, she just smiled into the microphone and joked, "They use that instead of waterboarding now, I hear."

Given the appreciative roar of laughter and applause from the audience, I think we can assume she was joking ... probably.

On our last night at Dragoncon, my significant other and I made our way past the Loft bar in the Marriott. Incidentally, probably the best place to people watch ever, not to mention you never know what stars are going to pop up there. With our friend Alex gone and her ARTC shows finished, Patti and I decided to check out one last panel.

I suggested the "Adult Themes in Star Wars" discussion, not really knowing just how, um, "adult" those themes were going to be. No refined philosophical or symbolism discussions here. Playing to a room stuffed with fans, the panel seemed uncommonly interested in who was really sleeping with who, the implications ranging across species as well as sides of the Force. 

It was mildly amusing for about five minutes, but by the time the conversation turned to Sith lightning as an aphrodisiac, it was pretty much time to bail.

At least we did run into another acquaintance of ours out on the floor (Hey, Louis), not to mention just lose ourselves one last time in all the sights and sounds the con had to offer. I would say smells too but that's a pretty dicey proposition on the last day of any con.

It was that bittersweet time when whatever is currently passing for reality was encroaching on the fun. And like deepsea divers coming up from the depths, one can't just re-enter said reality too quickly. There really does need to be some sort of decompression chamber for the transition back into mundane life, a life where one doesn't pass a stormtrooper or a Jedi every five minutes.

(And keep in mind all of this was just the Star Wars relevant half of the con!)

On the plus side, I did spot a familiar sight towering over the costumed throngs before we left. Familiar and furry. It was none other than a life-size Chewbacca, somehow navigating the busy, half-intoxicated crowds.

I'd seen the costume before, so I quickly slid over and asked for a picture. I doubt we could much be heard over the noise, but he did nod. 

I gently put an arm around his imposing form, but this Chewie was having none of it. He wrapped me in a furry headlock and pulled me close, as in character as a human playing a Wookiee could be. Patti took a great picture, and what better way to end a con?

Best. Hug. Ever.

P.S. Dragoncon TV is one of the greatest things about the con. Our mutual friend/acquaintance from the Atlanta Radio Theater Company plays the older Obi-Wan in this clip.

P.P.S. And if you need another great blog/site to Force-flood your fandom, check out Secrets of the Force!

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