Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical
hermionesviolin

WriterCon 2006: my Really Long Writeup

Thursday

I arrived at Logan no problem (took me all of a half an hour to get from the entrance to the gate) and when I got to the gate I saw ponders_life -- recognized her 'cause she was wearing a button with her LJ default icon image and PL.  She was with dragonydreams and liz_marcs and soon wesleysgirl showed up.  liz_marcs was actually on my flight, so we navigated the MARTA together (though we were too wrapped up in chatting for me to time the trip, so I guesstimated for return trip planning).  nikitangel (Rebecca) found us when we got off the MARTA, so we took the hotel shuttle with her group.  Those of you playing the home game may recall that I was not in fact staying at the Con hotel (the perils of deciding late in the game to go).  I figured it would be easier to just go to the Con hotel first and go to my hotel from there.  (We passed it on the way, so I knew it was very close.)  I had forgotten that Con registration didn't start until 5pm while hotel check-in is 3pm, so I went to the front desk to ask for a shuttle to my hotel.  "Hi, I'm a guest of a function at this hotel but am staying at a different hotel.  Could I get a shuttle to my hotel?"  The answer: no, it's a liability issue....  I actually validate that, and the lady puts me through to the shuttle service at the hotel I am staying it.  That shuttle driver literally laughs at me, says he's never heard that before, that they shuttle people back and forth all the time who aren't staying at their hotel and that while he would have understood if she had said all their shuttles were busy and could I call my hotel she lied to me and he was going to call her manager.  He also gave me the direct number to the phone in his van, saying he'd be happy to take me anywhere I needed to go.  (Which sounds dirty in print but really wasn't.)

Oh, amusing anecdote: When we were getting out of the shuttle to enter the hotel for the first time, a woman sitting on a bench in front of the hotel asked me if I'd gone to Emma Willard.  At first I didn't even realize she was talking to me, and then it still took me a second to realize it was because of the initials on my backpack.  Turns out EWS is in Troy, NY, where my brother goes to school, which felt very small-world-y being as we were in Atlanta, GA.

So I checked into my posh hotel (There were fountains and caged birds in the lobby, and in-room amenities included oatmeal soap.) and returned.  Within five minutes of my return I got invited up ;)  That joke courtesy of Lorraine (lunabee34) whom I had met along with Michaela (trekgirl55) shortly before heading to my hotel.  Lorraine had to go do something else for about an hour so I hung out in their room with Michaela and we talked DS9 etc.  When Lorraine came back we went to have dinner in the hotel -- joined by nikitangel for part of the time -- which was an experience not to be repeated.  The prices aren't exorbitant and the food isn't bad, but the service was incredibly slow, and the waitstaff seemed rather spacey.

Lorraine mentioned International Blog Against Racism Week and how we hadn't seen any people of color at the Con.  I did see some people of African descent (and there were some people not from North America/England for whatever that's worth) but it really was a whole lot of white women.  Which I really don't have anything smart to say about.

There was mingling at the hotel bar/lobby throughout the evening.  I met soundingsea and fractal_bat -- among others, I'm sure.

Around 7:30 we went up to the Con Suite for a bit of the filk session.  We also browsed the fic library a little (oh the illustrations in the pulse of the machine).

OMWF was gonna be shown up in the Con suite at 10, but I was tired so I suspected I might not be into it (though I, she who rarely rewatches/rereads any stories, watched OMWF like six times within a v. short period of time after it first aired) plus I was concerned about getting back to my hotel (I didn't know how late the shuttles ran) so I headed outside to call my shuttle.  Now, one of the big themes of the Con was people outside smoking.  (There was a smokers' room attached to the Con Suite, but that was up on the fifth floor, so mostly people went outside the front of the hotel.)  I got to talking with people (including liz_marcs, whom I hadn't seen since we arrived at the hotel) and mosca totally chatted me up, which I had not expected at all but was not unhappy about at all.  We talked about the pressure to have your life plan all figured out, and she said that you can teach at community college with just a masters, which was a total revelation to me.  My idea of community college has always been largely of unintelligent, unmotivated students, but she pointed out that you get a lot of adult students and stuff.

Eventually people decided to head back inside and lwbush (Laurie) was gonna go drive home (she's local) and I asked her to drive me to my hotel and she graciously obliged.  So that was lovely.

Friday 10:15-11:30am
[myth] A Demon-Hunting, Helpless-Helping, Dysfunctional Family: Natural and Chosen Families
What makes a family? Who's in (as kin), who's out, and how can you tell? Is it always about blood? How do the shows portray different kinds of families and family relationships? From kinship to fellowship, let's talk about families.
I would say this was absolutely one of the best panels of the whole weekend.  The conversation(s) could have gone on for hours.

Rhonda Wilcox did her dissertation on Free Will and Determinism in Dickens and talked about Joss and Dickens.

One really interesting idea that was discussed -- I forget who brought it up -- was that you have to find yourself as an individual in order to really be a part of the family.

missmurchison said that Blood Relations focuses on chosen families rather than birth families.  She said that she learned from her sociologist husband the term "moving equilibrium" -- renegotiating....
She talked about the divorce being not so much Joyce/Hank but within Buffy's own self -- Slayer/normal girl, symbolized by Giles and Joyce, her two "parents."  She talked about how Buffy tries to keep those two worlds/people separate and how it only really breaks down in "Band Candy" when they abdicate their parental responsibilities.
She also talked out Spike (hot cocoa with little marshmallows...), pointing out that Buffy will share Joyce with her human friends but not with the demon world.
And then of course Dawn is of both worlds and lo, that is when everything breaks down.

An audience member asked about determinism in relation to being Chosen (in contrast to how we'd been talking about chosen family).
Rhonda pointed to that scene at the end of S1 when Buffy tears off her cross necklace (which looking it up now I was indeed correct that that's when Buffy says, "Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't wanna die.") and says that Buffy chooses it [being a Slayer] over and over -- which is an idea I've seen elsewhere and which feels true.

An audience member asked about the end of the series when they essentially make a larger family.
Rhonda said that Whedon made an attempt to show that they did choose.  [I assume she meant the "are you ready to be strong" question, which I got mostly from having read this fic.  That certainly makes the idea of Buffy forcing this power/destiny on others after she so resisted having it forced on her much more palatable; and Rhonda implied that there was more of this in the episode originally but it had to be cut for time constraints, so I'd be very interested to hear Joss talk about how he had imagined that ending.]  Also: Buffy says to Jonathan in "Superstar" that you can't solve problems with big gestures.  (exact: "Jonathan, you can't keep trying to make everything work out with some big gesture all at once. Things are complicated. They take time and work.")  This of course is interesting in the context of NFA.

crevette described biological family as: get together every three months and stare daggers at each other over the carcass of a dead animal.

revdorothyl did a Buffyverse Dialogue Database search for "family" and found that in BtVS it's usually used as a bludgeon (the Master, Forrest) whereas in Angel it's more people talking about working to make family work.
She also talked about vampire families as being resistant to change -- in a way which felt excessive to me given what we see of vampires on the show.
She also mentioned Edward Farley's Divine Empathy -- the more people care the more they can hurt you.

I don't remember the context, but crevette had this great story of her kid finding her and her husband's handcuffs.  "... We're practicing escape tricks."  "Cool, can I see?"  " ... No, we're not good at them yet."

An audience member suggested that her good relationship with Joyce taught Buffy how to form a family.  The idea of Buffy as creating this functional family came up a lot, and isn't something I had ever thought about before.

An audience member asked about vampire families, and missmurchison pointed to Spike and talked a lot about his desire for family.  When he first encounters her he comments that she is "A Slayer with family and friends."  He intrudes into Buffy's family.  She also mentioned sisabet's Caravan vid.
She also said that at Slayage con someone commented that they knew Illyria belonged when Spike gave her a nickname.

revdorothyl: "Vampire families are very traditional -- very dysfunctional."
Rhonda: "Which proves (shows?) they're traditional."

Someone talked about how after Buffy dies in "The Gift" they [the Scooby Gang] revert, stagnate.

An audience member talked about about how on Angel, it seems more like family choose him (these people certainly would not be on Angel's list if someone asked him to create a family).  revdorothyl talked about Farscape, and crevette quipped "family of last choice."  Rhonda said that people choose to make it work.  nwhepcat pointed out that conflict doesn't end just because people grow to get along.

An audience member mentioned the "People change" / "Not us!  Not demons!" exchanged between Spike and Angel (It's actually "Things change." /detail-oriented) which is of course ironic given how much Spike changes.  Rhonda mentioned a Slayage essay which posits that what makes us human is our ability to change.

missmurchison at one point complained about the shift between Simon+River being considered part of the family in the series and in the movie and I immediately thought of the fanwank musesfool mentioned, but I didn't have a chance to mention it.  I'll have to e-mail her.

Friday 11:30am-1:00pm
[myth] A World Without Shrimp: The Importance of Place
How much do setting and place affect the rest of the story? Does it make a difference whether you're in Sunnydale or Neptune or big-city LA? At an evil law firm or in a spaceship? A high school or a magic shop, a hotel or a rented storefront office? And what happens when the usual suspects end up in unusual places? Talk about setting, the extra character.
This panel had lots of interesting ideas but didn't seem as good as the chosen families one I'd been to immediately prior.  Though I might have felt distanced in part because there was a lot of talk about VMars which I know nothing about.

avrelia said that as BtVS went on, the town grew (went from having one Starbucks to having lots of churches) and the in S6 it began to shrink in on itself; in S7 the world comes into Buffy's home quite literally with all the Potentials.
nwhepcat else followed up with the point that literally at the end it's sucked into a crater.

mosca talked about Angel and L.A. being quintessential and how it's a bigger space and therefore can't have Buffy's easy divisions of good and evil.  She also mentioned the sweeping cinematography at the beginning of the show with the Wolfram&Hart office at the end.

autobadgirl talked about noir and setting as a character and Wolfram&Hart.

mosca mentioned the constant destruction of offices/edifices/homespaces.

ascian3 talked about when you have a static home story ("static" modifying "home"... in contrast to a "moving home" story like a spaceship story) the characters are trying to come to terms with flawed homes and maybe one way of solving that is by blowing things up -- with the alternative being tearing down the characters.

An audience member talked about VMars and the power structure in that world and said: "that's what they have instead of explosions: elections."

autobadgirl talked about the end of S2 Veronica trying to leave town and not being able to.  (In writing this up now I'm reminded of Spike in early S5 Angel being bound by the amulet.)

An audience member pointed out that there are monetary constraints, physical sets, etc.
mosca responded by saying that we can look at how that (production costs, etc.) play out narratively.

ascian3 mentioned that as the seasons progress in BtVS we see that the people of Sunnydale really do know what's going on, that that static [can't read my writing for this word] can't be maintained, and that Joss likes change, likes to change the world.

mosca pointed out that all the regular characters in Angel (i.e. all who are in the credits) except Gunn are outsiders and are changed by L.A.

nwhepcat and ascian3 talked about Farscape as an exception to the "people change places not vice versa" theme of space shows.
mosca countered with Firefly.

autobadgirl talked about how in BSG they were evicted from their homeworld, and it was made uninhabitable (that second part made me think of Mal and Shadow, of course).  She said that someone had said the show was the writers' meditation on 9/11 and in that case, who are the terrorists? the Cylons or Galactica?
ascian3 said that they wanted a different world so they blew them up.
autobadgirl talked about blowing it up, clean slate vs. learning to live with the alien (ascian's phrasing)
autobadgirl said that she's a teacher and that looking at the end of S3 for example, yes everyone had advance warning and could get out in advance but now all these janitors, teachers, etc. are out of a job -- "You saved your world by destroying mine."

Talking about what kinds of stories get told about various cities, one audience member said: "Baltimore stores are about crack."
ascian3 talked about how the myths of cities change, that Bullet and Vertigo used to be San Francisco stories, but now San Francisco stories are alternative lifestyle stories, identity stories.  She also mentioned that Lost Boys was filmed in Santa Cruz and that that has very literally changed the way the city sees itself.

Friday: Firefly Unzipped
During the lunch block we watched the fan movie (with action figures!) that Lorraine and friends had made.  Well, we spent an hour while they worked on getting the projector etc. set up and working, but there was still time enough to watch the whole film, which was good.
While we waited I rubbed Michaela's shoulders -- in part for something to do and in part because she was cold (Trinity 1 was definitely over-air-conditioned).  She talked about wanting to hibernate; I totally would have cuddled with her under the table :)
I went basically because Lorraine is my friend, but I actually enjoyed the movie a lot.

I think we skipped the 3:00 panel block to have lunch.

Friday 4:30-6pm
[myth] Haven't I Seen you Somewhere Before? Character Archetypes
We see them, over and over. Variations on a theme, or classics with a new twist. Who are they, what do they do, and what do they mean? Compare, contrast, and discuss the archetypical characters found in any or all of the shows under consideration, and variations on the archetypical themes.
ascian3 had a great list of hero types:
  • Superman - His power comes from an external source and his struggle is about "How do I do this right?"
  • Batman - He is self-made, brooding, has a dark past, identity issues (Who am I?)
  • Man With No Name - The examples of this were from Westerns, but the Doctor from Dr. Who and Mal were also suggested.  A man who goes from town to town and has encounters that threaten his detachment.
  • Everyman - The example given here was John Crichton from Farscape, with the theme being naivete and conflict -- changing values in the face of encounters.
Susan Sizemore suggested Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead as a female Everyman.

thedeadlyhook suggested the unexpected heroine as a new character archetype (beginning with Buffy).  denny_dc pointed out Ripley in Alien and an audience member brought up Kitty Pryde.

TDH suggested three kinds of hero types: redemptive, ordained from on high, self-made
I think she was the one who talked about how in the early comics Batman was a hard-bitten detective, the only sane person in Gotham, that he dressed up in costume to scare the superstitious criminals, that the trauma is a later addition.

Denny likened Wesley to Mal, and an audience member mentioned disillusionment.  TDH posited Wes as Respectable Man Fell.  An audience member likened Angel to Mal.  I'm not sure if it was that person or another audience member who said: How do you become the guy who doesn't care?  You care about a lot and the world keeps kicking you in the teeth.
TDH said it can be useful for fanfic to think about what a character's story is really about (in contrast to what it appears to be about on the surface).
An audience member pointed out that every society he's in, Wesley tries to be a respectable member of that.
Someone else pointed out that Mal wants to think of himself as a criminal but isn't.
Someone else said that Fred didn't see how violent Wes could be but saw how violent Gunn could be.  It sounded like the person was saying this as an explanation for why Fred got together with Wes at the end, and this pissed me off because in "Supersymmetry" Fred leaves Gunn not because he kills someone but because he takes away that agency from her, insists on trying to keep her "innocent."  (I totally wanted her to get together with Wes then and be morally grey together.)  Writing this up now, it occurs to me that that makes the Wes/Fred of the end even weirder because he totally has this idealized vision of her (which squicks me and feels out-of-character and I think I saw a decent fanwank about it somewhere but I don't remember).

Susan Sizemore said that you shouldn't set out with archetypes in mind, that you should think about people, plot, etc.  This annoyed me because I think it's totally valid to have an idea involving playing with archetypes and build from there.  And she said as much later in the panel.

TDH: "So I'm curious, this story you're thinking of, is it a tragedy?"
audience member, without missing a beat: "Of course."
I forget the context for this, but it amused me.

avrelia likened Buffy to Artemis (huntress -- though of course my reaction was "Well, the virgin part doesn't quite work").  Someone else then suggested Artemis as the original Slayer, to which TDH said: "Someone needs to write that fanfic."

Someone talked about Night Watch [including the scene where the boy is watching "Buffy vs. Dracula" when Buffy says "Get out!"], and ascian said: "I like this idea of protecting the forces of darkness from the forces of light."

Someone asked about anti-heroes, and TDH explained how they're not the same as villains and how they're used to critique society (e.g., Scarface, Taxi Driver).

Denny talked about Spike and Dru as the first villain couple except for Bonnie and Clyde and said that Whedon didn't expect it but then repeated it in his shows.  TDH pointed out Boris and Natasha.

An audience member said something about Wesley's relationship with Faith and then with Lilah.

TDH and others talked about how because we have so little source text for Firefly we have little more than archetypes, that you start with archetypes and then build up.

In answer to a question about how to not just tell the same existing stories, TDH suggested changing the environment, or have an other point to make.

ascian I think likened Cordelia on Angel to Xander -- a social figure, has no superpowers but cares a lot.
An audience member mentioned how Angel needed Cordelia, and someone else commented that laconic heroes often have talkative companions.
There's also the idea of the truthteller and of someone who asks the questions that the audience is asking.
There was discussion of Xander as a truthteller, and ascian commented that if you read Xander as always being a truthteller then the writers are on crack sometimes, like when he tells Buffy to go seize Riley.  That example annoyed me because while I don't see Riley as a lifepartner for Buffy, I wouldn't have minded seeing her catch him in "Into the Woods" and actually work at their relationship for a while.

TheDeadlyHook, one of the panelists, had interesting thoughts that I don't think we got to in the session here.

Friday 8-11pm
Erotica


We had a general panel for an hour, then breakout sessions.

fer1213 read from, I think Outbursts!: A Gay and Lesbian Erotic Thesaurus

audience member: "If you say 'flower' I'll hurt you."
Fer: [reads]
audience member (I think the same one): "Flower doesn't seem so bad now."
There were groans at "honeypot," so I was glad someone mentioned Go Fish.
"bearded leisure center" I think was the best.

Fer also read the male ones, by request.  I was laughing too hard to take notes on that one, but there were a couple priceless ones.  One was "dribbling" something or other (I think it ended with "of love") which is just... how unsexy can you get?

An audience member recommended The Big Book of Filth, mentioning that it has old terms as well, making it useful for writing porn not set in modern days.

audience member: "as a reader, I feel like I've done it all."
other audience member: "slut!"
There were a lot of really great responses to that dilemma of trying to write
EntreNous talked about writing sensual without explicit sex
suggestions from various audience members:
+ why are the characters having sex?
+ switch the aggressor/initiator
+ switch the POV (top/bottom)

in a discussion about unrealistic sex in fic:
mosca: "I would just like to say that maybe even a male vampire can't come 27 times in a row, but I know many women who can."
audience member: "Can we have a demonstration of that?  I'm in [room number] by the way."

There was the requisite discussion of safe sex in fanfic.
One person said that she doesn't think writers have the responsibility to do anything except make themselves happy, but that we have the opportunity to make safe sex sexy.
Someone mentioned the Queer as Folk pilot where the virgin character says that they had lectures about safe sex in high school, and the experienced partner says "And now you're going to have a demonstration."
Someone advised not making a big deal out of it (give it like one sentence in the fic -- "and then he put the condom on" or whatever) and various people talked about ways to imply it in fic (this also came up in reference to pre-negotiation for kink stuff).  I'm personally uncomfortable with having it implied (at least in terms of safer sex) but I didn't feel the need to jump into the discussion.
dragonydreams I think it was said "Going outside, you slip on a pair of flip-flops; going into someone else...."

luvsphoenix said "People write what they know, what they think they know, what they wish they knew."

Discussing people leaving TMI-ish feedback, someone mentioned the feedback that says "I needed to find my boyfriend/girlfriend/vibrator" to which a panelist quipped in response: "At the same time?"

luvsphoenix posited Angelus as the Uber Top ("You better enjoy it 'cause you're only getting one shot -- he's gonna kill you at the end.") but Giles as the perfect top.

nikitangel (who's a grad student in fan studies at Madison) mentioned how so much of fandom is "a lot of straight women getting each other off" and how interesting that is.  I've certainly heard that idea before, but I loved that particular way of phrasing it.

luvsphoenix told the story of a couple single guys talking to some WriterCon folks last time and having their "What do you write?" question answered by thirteen women going "Porn!"  "We write porn that you can't do."

I stayed for the kink panel with luvsphoenix, in part because I'm a lazy bitch who didn't want to actually have to do any writing [notice how all the panels I went to were Myth Track, no Craft or Style].  Among other things, I learned that Sal has a great rack -- and a nice ass, too :)  Fabulous session.

Friday: blue drinks and dancing girls

Tania (itsabigrock) wanted "blue drinks and dancing girls," and Booker [our shuttle driver] had two recommendations -- a strip club a few minutes away which was open until 3, and another place where we could actually dance but which was only open until 1.  A lot of people wanted to dance, but since we didn't end up leaving until something like midnight and the dance club was a twenty minute drive away, we voted for strip club.

Attendees besides myself and Tania: Dani (geeky_dani/astarte99), Trixx (synful_trixxie), elucidate_this, nikitangel, and Green (xanphibian).  Green and I totally fangirled each other for a moment; it was pretty cute.

As soon as we walked in, one of the male patrons offered to pay Trixx for a lap dance.

Contextless nudity is unerotic.  Playboy has taught me this, but I was reminded.  I was also completely unfazed by all the nudity, which I found somewhat amusing.  All the dancers had small breasts, which I always find it strange given the culture's fetish for large breasts.  The dancing also just wasn't very good.  There was one woman, though, who did the upside down on the pole thing and whom we watched give two lap dances to guys sitting in front of us (the guys could touch the dancers! we all came from different parts of the country and were all fairly certain that was so not allowed where we were from) and who then gave one to Dani.  That was pretty awesome.

The cover was $10 and the drinks were $7 (at least my Long Island Iced Tea was) so that was fairly reasonable.  I was reminded that I tend to drink whatever's in front of me as if it's water or something, so high alcohol content drinks are not a good idea for me.  I had an amaretto sour (yummy, thanks Michaela) and two LIITs in probably the first hour and a half I was there.  elucidate_this theorized that the drinks were watered down, though.  At the cocktail the next night she said she didn't think I was as drunk at the strip club as Green and Rebecca were.  This made me happy, because I felt like I was acting drunk (because I tend to act like the people around me; hi I'm such a follower) even though I wasn't sure how drunk I actually was.  One of the reasons I don't drink much is that it just makes me quiet and tired, so I was really surprised that I didn't act that way that night.  I suspect it largely has to do with the fact that usually I'm drinking with friends in fairly quiet settings, so it's easy for my inner-directed nature to get exacerbated rather than pushing my outgoingness.  At some point a whole bunch of us made out with each other, which was fun and which I totally would have done sober.

"Woman power" -quote from one of the strippers in conversation with us early in the night

The club clearly does not expect very many female patrons as the women's bathroom was where all the strippers cleaned up.  They didn't make us feel awkward when we were in there, though, which was good.

The club finally shut down a little before 4.  Tania insisted that I room with Green rather than going back to my hotel.  When we got to bed, Green actually told me to "stop being so hot" so she could sleep.  She was drunk, but I was still flattered.

Saturday

Green was modding the collaborative writing panel at 10am and the previous night I had told her I would go, but I was hungover [was until about 6pm] and don't have any interest in collaborative writing so I hung out in the Con Suite nibbling on food.

In anticipation of the night's cocktail party, Tania said I should cancel my room and stay with Green, which I did.  Next year I am definitely registering early and getting a room in the hotel for the whole time (and staying through Monday).  If I had known how easy it would be to room with people you had never met (even in the LJ sense) before I might well have just gotten a room at the Con hotel for Thursday and not bothered getting a room at all for the rest of the weekend.

Before lunch, I was outside with Lorraine, Michaela, and other people including  suki_blue.  Conversation included those little details in American/British stories that throw you if you're from the other culture.  I hate being inaccurate so when she mentioned pie and chips -- chips, a meat pie, and mushy peas -- I seriously considered rewriting that bit of the fic.  Must mention that to Emma (as the story is her baby).

Lorraine and Michaela and I went to lunch at Lucky China: Chinese Cuisine and Sushi Bar.  (The one plaza that was walkable to -- only had to cross a minor highway; I don't much care where the next Con is so long as it's somewhere you can walk to lots of restaurants.)  I ordered cucumber and avocado roll.  Our sushi rolls all arrived on these lovely trays with a think of dry ice making big curls of smoke.  So pretty.  I totally took photos.  Michaela got Boston Roll (salmon and avocado).  I ordered the banana spring roll dessert.  The banana spring roll part wasn't that great, but it also came with green tea ice cream with butterscotch sauce and cherries on the corners, which was yummy and lovely.

Saturday 3-4:30pm
[myth] Gateway for Lost Souls: The Ins and Outs of Fandom
Who are we, and what do we do that makes us "fans"? What differentiates a "real" fan from a non-fan? What are the different types of fans, and what do they do? After the curtain closes on a kiss, a smile, a rainy alleyway battle, where do all the fandoms go? What happens to fannish practices once there's no new canon material to work with? What attracts you to a new fandom? In other words, what are y'all up to these days? This session is an invitation to engage in some unabashed navel-gazing, and have fun thinking and talking about various aspects of fan culture.
Rebecca said that Kelly Kahl -- alum of her department and VP of CBS -- often comes back to Madison to give talks and that one time he talked about the three levels of viewer and how they define a "loyal" watcher as someone who watches the show two times a month and how she just boggled at that.

Responding to a panelist talking about fan community, Rhonda said it sounded like a Biblical definition of church -- "where two or three are gathered in my name...."

Rhonda mentioned that when scholars write papers about fannish stuff they are using their real names and endangering themselves professionally.  I understand that she wanted the general fannish community to understand that academics are taking real risks when they step up and write papers on fan stuff, but I wanted to point out that with fanfic there's a very real legal danger (copyright infringement claims, etc.), which influences our hesitancy to use our real names.  But I'm probably just overreacting.

Rebecca mentioned the contrast between all this community and the stereotype among "civilians" about fans -- that of the loner.

Rebecca talked about how Internet changed fandom, how cons used to be where you met people and now they're largely meeting people you already know.

Responding to a panelist, Rhonda said that community reaches a certain size and divisions will happen.  revdorothyl nodded, and of course the church comparison was made.

A panelist mentioned a Rescue Me incident in which one of the show creators entered a TWOP thread and was shocked that people didn't respond with "thanks for explaining."
Rhonda named reader-response criticism.
Fer mentioned writing to Arthur Miller about Bif's name in Death of a Salesman -- was it because "Bif" spelled backwards is "fib" or were they reading something into the text that wasn't really there.  He wrote back: "Yes."

Rhonda talked about Dickens fandom -- he wrote in installments, went and gave readings, sometimes changed a story based on reader reaction.

missmurchison commented that except for House, the fandoms that people have latched onto post-Joss all seem to have strong story arcs.
An audience member mentioned complexity and depth of writing.
Rhonda talked about texts that allow/encourage us to participate.

In response to an audience question, one of the panelists said that tv is still the red-headed stepchild....  People talked about how music groupies and sports fanatics are par for the course, but obsess about a tv show and you are crazy.  An audience member mentioned fantasy football.  Too true.  I mean, how is that less freaksome than us?

Rebecca cited Kelly Kahl again on how they'll do focus groups on potential storylines and pick the least popular one.  And of course someone mentioned Joss' problematic "I give the audience what they need, not what they want" statement.  (At least I think that came up here.)

Hepcat suggested that instead of saying we write fanfic, we say "I'm an expert in viral marketing."  I was reminded of karabair's "non-camera character development work" (except I couldn't remember the phrase, so I didn't say anything).

Rhonda mentioned Shakespeare academia and mentioned Rosalind/Olivia which made me happy :)

revdorothyl talked about once living in a town that had two bars and twenty churches -- the churches kept schisming, but the same people would all still get together at the same two bars.

Saturday 4:30-6pm
[myth] Cold Dead What? A Lecture on Vampire Physiology
It's tough to be a vampire: foreheads that can go all bumpy at the most inopportune moments, expensive dental bills, a complete inability to get a decent tan and an all-liquid diet. With all the different myths out there, it's hard to separate the truth about vampires from the rumors we pick up on the streets. Well, now you don't have to be embarrassed to ask. We've got the straight scoop on what goes on in a vampire's body. We'll let you know what canon says about it and what experts have to say on the matter. Don't believe the rumors. Come get the facts!
irfikos had a great Giles-ian (think "Hush") slideshow plus handout (both of which will be up on the web at some point). Edit: handout is up; slideshow forthcoming. /edit

I loved that she opened with "canon is fundamental" followed by "when it comes to canon, trust no one" (books, Watchers, vampires themselves).  With all sorts of unreliable narrators (so to speak) you can only really trust what you actually see, and even that there's room for interpretation of how/why what you're seeing works.

Lots of great little details on the slides, like "Note: becoming a vampire is not a recommended form of birth control" on the slides about vampiric reproductive systems.

Here's something I bet most of us hadn't thought of before: vampires probably dehydrate quickly if they come repeatedly.

The mod talked about the vomeronasal organ (or Jacobson's organ) which cats and snakes have and which humans used to have.  Apparently a dog can smell one drop of blood in five quarts of water.  Sounds pretty good for a vampire.

We had a discussion about why wood/crosses defeat vampires.
Someone mentioned wood as a life force (which reminded me of the myth about vampires not being able to cross running water, which I think I came across in The Silver Kiss).
One audience member said the cross evolved as a sun symbol, which makes no sense to me but I wasn't gonna get us on a tangent about that.

We all know that Jossverse vampires turn to dust for plotline ease, but people have actually come up with real theories for why this might be working with the internal logic of the story.  Heart.
1. When the human body dies, the demon tries to escape or retreat (a la the Master -- retreating deep into the bones) and the force of this destroys the body.
2. When a catastrophic event occurs, the demon cells break down and attack the human cells.

An audience member asked about how to make vamps human, other than Mora blood (or Shanshu).
The mod said that in Near Dark they siphon the blood -- replacing the evil demon blood with human blood.

An audience member asked about the sire/childe psychic connection (i.e., is it fanon or canon).  It screams fanon to me, but someone mentioned Darla sensing Angel (there was also mention of Dru -- who's psychic -- and Penn).

An audience member asked: could Rogue have sex with a vampire, and does a soul make a difference?
The mod used AC/DC analogy.
Someone whose name escapes me (ricktboy?) said that they had had it explained to them that Rogue's power latches on to DNA to build up her own self by doing so.

Audience member: "So the Slayer's friends and family aren't in the brochure?"  (ref. the "School Hard" line from the family panel)

Saturday: tarot

The Vampire Physiology panel let out early, which would have been great for getting dinner but I had a tarot reading with carmen_sandiego at 6pm (I had actually asked for Friday but wrote it on Saturday in my schedule.  She graciously squeezed me in anyhow.)

Not gonna lie, I did it primarily because I couldn't pass up Buffy tarot deck.

She did a 6-Card Celtic Cross spread.

She asked me to think about a character I identify with (with Buffy herself not being an option) and of course I picked Tara.  She asked me a little bit about why and then took out the Queen of Cups for the "Significator (a card you identify with)."

"1. What covers you (current situation)"
The Magician, reversed
She talked about being unsure of your skills/abilities and suchlike which made me think of the "What do I want to do with my life?" I had chatted with mosca about.  And extra-fun connection to conversation with mosca: the card is Jenny (i.e., a teacher).
This also ended up being the only Major Arcana card in the whole spread.

2. What crosses you (current obstacles)
8 of Cups
This is vision quest ("Intervention") Buffy.  Yes, this very much makes sense.

3. What is beneath you (yours to work with)
Queen of Pentacles
This card is Joyce, whom I initially mistook for Buffy.  Can be either a person or an aspect of yourself.  Belief in yourself, support, etc.

4. What is above you (yours to work towards)
9 of Cups
Spike and Buffy under the carpet ("Dead Things")  The reading had thus far seemed to be about career type stuff even though the question I originally had in mind was about romantic relationships (yes, I am twelve; I was so glad carmen_sandiego didn't ask me to state a question 'cause I would have felt super-lame) so of course I loved that this came up, especially in this context.  Plus I love that 'ship.
She talked about wants vs. needs -- this relationship really wasn't what was best for them at the time, which I do agree with -- which yes, is important to think about both in career and relationship.

5. What is behind you (fading influences)
10 of Swords
Anya with fallen Giles in the destroyed Magic Box in "Grave"
I really don't have any "rock bottom" in my past, but carmen_sandiego said it can refer to something less intense, and certainly there are struggles I am glad are behind me (job hunting, apartment hunting).

6. What is before you (influences coming in)
7 of Wands
Spike on the subway
Confidence that you can succeed.

I was partially trying to memorize the spread visually so I could later pull up the specific cards on her website because I didn't wanna be tacky and take notes.  She actually has little booklets where she takes notes for you and then gives them to you, which made me happy.

I think tarot is like astrology in that you can always make it apply to you, but carmen_sandiego does really good readings, and certainly some of it was useful (like being reminded to think about wants vs. needs).

I really like her "A Tarot Reading Is (Not)" page.
A Tarot Reading Is:
*A conversation
*An interpretation of a selection of images from a set of 78 cards, relative to the experiences in your own life.
*An opportunity for self-reflection.
*An invitation to think about your current path.
*A fun way to consider changes in your life.

Saturday 8-11pm
Cocktail Party


We (Lorraine, Michaela, and I) got there ~8:15.  We mingled a bit and I helped myself to some of the free buffet (tampanade, spring rolls, v. good cantaloupe, etc.).  I would guess we started dancing no later than 9pm.  I finally took my boots* off around 12:15 (I kept thinking "Oh it's almost over; I'll just leave them on") and we finally stopped dancing around 1am.  I didn't dance anywhere near as hard as Lorraine, for example, did but I was still pleasantly surprised at how much my feet didn't hurt the next day.
*three-inch heels, Lorraine made me wear them, and I got at least one compliment on them

SunnyD_lite was fabulous in her Mardi Gras get-up.  I didn't think to take pictures but hope someone did.

Rebecca told me: "I know we haven't known each other very long, but I did make out with you last night, and that dress does great things for your rack."
elfgirl (I think) told me I had the best dress at the entire party.

Songs played included: Love Shack, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, the Milkshake song, Rock the Casbah, I Love Rock and Roll, Friday I'm in Love, Jungle Boogie, I Touch Myself (I heart Idea 3 here).
The "monster in my pants" song, though?  I couldn't bring myself to look at any of the guys on the dance floor while that song was playing.  I don't think I could have borne _being_ a guy on the dance floor while that song was playing.  [In case you need the lyrics, I Googled.  Results included a movie -- I had foolishly not included "lyrics" in my keywords -- and a top five list.]
They played the BtVS theme around 11:15, and I thought that was the end, but they kept playing music until we were done (which was about 1am).

There were a few times I ended up just kinda standing talking to people -- elucidate_this and I discussed the lesbianness of our undergrad institutions, and fractal_bat and I talked about which characters we identify with.

kurukami and I think brandil were practically having sex on the dance floor for the longest time.  I felt very very gay 'cause I didn't even wanna look whereas if it were two women I might well have been titillated.

The face off between CJ and Joe (CJ the gay man in a dress, and Joe the black man in a leather kilt type thing -- who apparently was known from Dragoncon) was so hot I wish there were photos though I don't think anyone took any.

After we finally stopped dancing I went to Tania's room because Lorraine and Michaela had disappeared.  I wasn't tired, which was bizarre.  Adrenaline I suppose.  We finally went to bed around 3am.  Yay for having someone to cuddle with.

Sunday 10-11:30am
[myth] First Church of Joss: Representations of Religion
Lots of religions and belief systems are shown, or at least alluded to, on our favorite shows. Christianity, Judaism, Wicca, Atheism-just to name a few. Come talk about the metaphysical and the divine, and how they are portrayed. How important are they to the overall themes of the shows, and how big a deal is accuracy?
Panelists included parish priest dancetomato who said her congregation knew she was going to a convention for amateur writers, and professional writers.  "They don't know what we're doing between panels."

Kalima said she was a Jack WiccanAnd she Salieri has a Ph.D. in astrophysics; I thought of doyle_sb4.

HarmonyFB Spiralleds talked about how there are 3 major Judeo-Christian themes:
-need to go to temple to purify and atone
-liberation (Egypt)
-return to community (Babylon)

Harmony Spiralleds also said that the Shanshu is very Luther -- the idea that if one is good enough one can win, and then rejecting that structure.

dancetomato said that the Jossverse has a well thought-out metaphysics of evil, but good not so much
She said that Buffy's description of Heaven is one of the best she's seen, though.
("After Life": "Wherever I ... was ... I was happy. At peace. I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time ... didn't mean anything ... nothing had form ... but I was still me, you know? And I was warm ... and I was loved ... and I was finished. Complete. I don't understand about theology or dimensions, or ... any of it, really ... but I think I was in heaven.")
She said that S6 is the strongest season -- which I was pleasantly surprised to hear someone thinks -- because of its treatment of what happens to Buffy after she's torn out of there.

Rhonda talked about being a UU as "First Church of Joseph Campbell -- 'many faces of God' "

revdorothyl: "If Paul wrote 1 Timothy he was on drugs at the time."
Rhonda: "Lots of 'Christians' are actually Paulists."
I thought of sk8eeyore and laynamarya.

Rhonda posited that those who are Called as Slayers are those who are in touch with their darker side, able to use it.
I think this is overstating the case a bit.  It is an interesting idea to play with, though, especially in terms of using Slayerdom as a metaphor for stuff in our world.

Salieri complained that Jasmine and Caleb were such broad superficial metaphors.
revdorothyl: try to impose heaven on earth, end up inviting hell to dinner (i.e. Jasmine, Reavers)
revdorothyl (and? or? Salieri) talked about Angel as anti-God (sacrifice world to save son)
Ali  (sweet_ali) pointed out that this is also true of Buffy (end of S5)

Salieri [after some diss at Riley]: "Aww, love Riley."
Ali: "You can love Riley later."
S: [raises eyebrow]
audience member: "He's in church right now."

Harmony (responding to Ali): That's a very pagan idea -- that the gods' agenda is not necessarily ours.

Salieri: Angel gave up self too much (gave up purpose)

Harmony said that the only real witch we see in BtVS was Amy in S7
Someone posited Tara, and she said that Tara is a family-tradition witch.  (The discussion of how Willow is not Wiccan went on for too long I felt.  Eventually an audience member summed it up that Whedon uses and makes up as is useful to plot.)
revdorothyl: "any resemblance to any actual religion, living or dead...."
One audience member pointed out that Willow likes labels (the whole "gay now" thing) which made sense to me.

Someone else likened Holtz to Dante.

Spiralleds pointed out that evil tends to be very confident in what it's doing
She mentioned the end of "In the Dark" (1.03) when Angel talks about how there already are people doing the work during the day, that there need to be people doing that work at night, and the concern for people on the margins -- which is a very Judeo-Christian idea, of course.
revdorothyl mentioned the metaphor of trading your birthright for a mess of pottage.
Sharkie said that Angel keeps having to learn that lesson which is a  very Catholic thing.
dancetomato said that the  Buffyverse is very Jobian.
revdorothyl pointed out that monsters are very much a Job thing as well.
Spiralleds said something about a country western song. [Edit: She reminded me that "I was joking that Job is a country wester song - you lose your wife, your dog runs away, your truck dies, etc."]

There was discussion of the selfish vs. selfless nature of Angel's actions in changing the world to give his son a different life, and dancetomato said that Angel did it "so he can sleep -- at day"

fractal_bat talked about Angel S5 (disclaimering that the philosophy she's she's most familiar with is political philosophy) thesis + antithesis = synthesis, which becomes the new thesis.  She said that Angel has learned how not to be evil but still needed to learn how not to be good.

An audience member said that Joss is an ethicist rather than a moralist, giving as an example Faith's defense of killing a man in S3 (it's only one person, compared to the countless lives they've saved).  My immediate reaction was that Faith's logic is rejected by everyone in the show, and is meant to be rejected by the audience.  I'm personally sympathetic to greater good arguments, though there are a lot of other factors at work in that particular situation, but I'm honestly not sure what exactly Joss' stance on situational ethics is (esp. since almost everyone endorses situational ethics to some degree) which is one reason I didn't get into it there.

An audience member mentioned Holden in CWDP: "Does he [God] exist? Is there word on that, by the way?" / Buffy: "Nothing solid."
Soul as spleen?

revdorothyl (responding to an audience member): posited Spike as as UU ideal -- I forget why exactly -- and said that Calvin has a lot more grace than people think.
dancetomato (on the Spike/Angel soul/redemption issue) said that Spike is facing other direction and backing into it vs. Angel plodding toward it.
When Spike can't do violence to humans he has to (learn to) relate to them.
Rhonda defended late S5 Buffy, saying that she interprets Buffy as saying: I will not be part of an existence where I am required to sacrifice an innocent life.
I still don't quite read it that way, but it's a phrasing of it that I could more likely get behind (and would certainly validate) as a general life philosophy.
A panelist commented: The only life you can sacrifice is your own.
To which of course there was the "which she does" response.
Rhonda said that Jesus came to give us life more abundantly, that the emphasis on sacrifice is bullshit.
Audience member: "Not that you have feelings about that."

Salieri and revdorothyl talked about being sympathetic to the older son in the prodigal son story.  (I was reminded of the Mary/Martha story.)
[Reading Salieri's entry, I am reminded that this came up because of the Spike vs. Angel discussion, with her positing Angel as like unto to the older brother in the prodigal son story.]
Harmony said that in paganism if you're feeling ambivalent about whether you believe in the existence of the gods, you are to behave as though they exist.
revdorothyl likened this to behavioral... therapy? I think she said http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_therapy

An audience member talked about nature vs. nurture, about what we see of Spike as an early vampire, and about Angelus' influence on him.
The discussion about Spike got a bit tense, but Harmony called Spike the "best homicidal boyfriend ever" and we moved on.
Ali I think it was said there's all this focus on Angelus but really he's an exception.
One of the panelists pointed out that Angelus is heavily influenced by Darla, that
Harmony: Angel is Buddhist? (responding to an audience member statement about the middle/human path being best)
Spiralleds One of the panelists (dancetomato?) mentioned Xander in "The Zeppo" and his speech to Dawn in "Potential"
Spiralleds dancetomato mentioned a TNG ep (revdorothyl jumped in with: "Community not collectivity; we are not Borg" -- which was not actually the episode she was thinking of) in which a perfect world is saved by Geordi's VISOR.  Without any obstacles to overcome, there is no learning.  Life is not about not about the world being perfect but about world being perfected.

Harmony (responding to revdorothyl): Angel as bodhisattva? (won't take salvation? his signing away of the Shanshu)

[Sidenote: harmonyfb has started churchofjoss for further discussioning.]

Sunday: lunch

Lorraine, Michaela, and I were hungry and not deeply interested in the 11:30 set of panels, so we went to lunch at Lucky China again, this time with Fia.

I got almond tofu this time.  Yum.  And we all got plum wine, which was also yummy.

We snagged fortune cookies on the way out.  And added "in bed" to all of them -- which is as it should be.

Mine was "People appreciate your leadership qualities" (in bed!)

We went upstairs for a bit, and in the elevator crazydiamondsue talked about taking Lorraine and Brandi and breeding a race of "hot dancy women."

And when we were up in their room hanging out I got to cuddle with Lorraine and then with Michaela.  Yay cuddle.

Sunday 3-4:30pm
[myth] A Purely Scientific Spell: Magic, Science, and Technology
Does science have consequences? What's your favorite wiretapping software? And wow, what big fancy weapons you've got there! From cutting-edge high-tech to flaboten, all our shows make ample use of advanced means to their ends. How well do they use it, what does it mean, and what difference does it make (if any) which means they pick?
Colleen (redeem147 I think) gave examples of science in Buffyverse: Moloch ("I, Robot... You, Jane"), Ted, Warren's Bots.
Salieri talked about the Initiative (in contrast wither the magics used at the end -- "Primeval") and in Ange: Wolfram&Hart toys (in contrast to the DIY wrist stakes we began with)
Rhonda talked about patriarchy (W+H, Initiative) and one of the panelists (Salieri?) was all, "Feminist? Ha!" but Rhonda responded that technology was associated with badness in these contexts.

Rhonda mentioned Larry Summers' talk about women being naturally worse at science, which enraged me (but I kept quiet) because that's such an oversimplification/misrepresentation of what he said.

Kalima (talking about magic): Which herb is a metaphor for the desired outcome?

Salieri said that in looking for good technology on Buffy, possibly the only example is Spike's chip.  I thought of Jenny having Angel's re-ensouling spell on a computer disk, but I didn't mention it.

autobadgirl talked about the Riley and Adam scene in "Restless"
    Adam: This could be trouble.
    Riley: We better make a fort.
    Adam: I'll get some pillows.
How this seems so childish in contrast to Buffy, with her tribalistic, old, no language/names
Salieri talked about what happens to those with great knowledge/research... Giles, Wesley... how dark they get, with that greater knowledge about what they're up against.

Rhonda talked about the importance of consulting and discerning... socialization of girls vs. need to be right all the time/in charge

autobadgirl mentioned Asimov's line (I knew it wasn't him but couldn't remember who so I didn't correct her; it's Arthur C. Clarke) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
She also complained about shows like CSI -- how you can't run a PCR scan in one hour, for example.
Michaela said that some 'science' shows should be labeled science-fiction
ascian mentioned Alias and one of the panelists (Colleen?) talked about the history of the spy show genre
avrelia said hasn't yet figured out internal logic of Veronica Mars.  ascian said she never went to any high school, so those two aspects of Buffy are equally strange (foreign) to her.
Someone dubbed House a "medical science fantasy."

Salieri asked if Joss discourages scientific curiosity
TDH responded "Yes" without hesitating.
Salieri pointed out that Fred and Willow are both undone by magic.
She also talked about the Shadowmen ("Get It Done" 7.15) and how Buffy cuts them off, says she's gotten what she wants/needs from them.  I was glad that someone made the point I would have -- about how she's not so much rejecting knowledge as she is more of the demon essence.
TDH mentioned vampires -- "I can show you the world" (Darla, Angelus)
autobadgirl pointed out that Joss punishes ignorance, too (the Sunnydale townspeople)
Someone pointed out that you have to walk that very fine line.

ascian said that Finding Serenity has an essay on existentialist River.  I think I actually own that book, so I'll have to look for it.
autobadgirl said that River is very post-modern; not either/or but both at same time (I of course went to a a porny place)
Rhonda mentioned Ursula K. LeGuin's "She Unnames Them" (which made me think of A Wrinkle in Time but which apparently is quite different)
Salieri asked how we can have shared names for things if perception changes reality.  She acknowledged that in actual science this only applies at the microscopic level, but one of the panelists (TDH? Kalima?) said that a lot of that microscopic stuff affects the really big stuff (like gravity)

ascian mentioned how lots of computer stuff has sff names because of the geeks who built them (e.g. there are demons running on servers).
Colleen mentioned How William Shatner Changed the World
TDH talked about horror movies and how a lot of modern fears relate to technology.

Sunday: Travel

I actually got a shuttle shortly after 4:30, got a MARTA within a few minutes of arriving, and the MARTA trip only took about 35 minutes.  So I was lounging at my gate 45 minutes before takeoff.  (I called my dad to chat.)  That made me wish I had stayed a bit later to say goodbye to various people.  Ah, well.

My flight actually got in a bit early.  Was supposed to get in at 9:28 but I was outside the airport waiting for the Silver Line at 9:28.
Tags: strip clubs, tarot, writercon: 2006
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