Salt Lake Comic Con Fan X 2017 was a lot of fun. Cool costumes, opportunities to meet celebrities, lots of geeky stuff to buy, game rooms, kids activities, and the list goes on. The panels for Weird Al Yankovic and Wallace Shawn were really good and James Roday and Dule Hill from Psych were still as funny as ever.
John Rhys-Davies got off to a rocky start, however. In response to a question about science, he rambled on for about twenty minutes about the declining population of Italy, how killing a lion is a rite of passage for some tribes in Africa, and how great it is Mormons have a rite of passage in the form of going on missions. He did eventually realize he was being long winded, apologized, and gave shorter, funnier answers to the next few questions. So I think he managed to turn it around.
I did manage to go to a couple writing panels while I was there as well.
Build a Story: Professional Storytellers Create from Scratch
On this panel, the writers came up with a story using suggestions from the audience and wound up with a musical about a movie reviewer trying to stop space zombies. It was pretty silly, although someone, I think Larry Correia, described a scene in which zombies could float up silently behind someone in zero gravity. Since there is no sound in space, you wouldn’t hear the zombies coming, which would certainly make for a frightening movie scene.
Jai Nitz, who was from out of town, said Salt Lake City was the cleanest city he’s ever seen. He said coming here was like suddenly being in a Sci Fi film. When Larry Correia introduced himself, he said his claim to fame was being the guy who taught Michaelbrent Collings how to shoot a gun.
Michaelbrent Collings mentioned something about Google’s predictive search algorithms having dreams when left to run by themselves. I may have got what he said wrong, so I looked it up afterwards and I think he was talking about Deep Dream, which sounds like it’s image recognition software run in reverse to come up with surreal images. Give it a picture of a cloud and it will send back a picture full of buildings and chimeras which is pretty cool.
Michaelbrent Collings also said pole vaulters aren’t good right away, they fail a million times before they manage to vault over the pole, so writers shouldn’t expect to be good immediately either. You need to get a lot of bad writing out of your system first before you can start to produce good writing. I’d say that’s certainly true from my own experience. He also joked that we’re writers because we have faces for keyboards.
Someone else said you can’t worry about other people having the same ideas as you. Other writers from similar backgrounds growing up in the same culture will get the same ideas you get, and many of them will be richer, better looking, and have better connections, so the only thing you can do to set yourself apart from the crowd is get your butt in the seat and your fingers on the keyboard. The one thing you can control is your output.
I Am Not a Serial Killer: A Journey from Page to Screen
Dan Wells talked about what it was like to see his book I Am Not a Serial Killer get turned into a movie. Even though there’s a monster killing people, he said it’s not really a horror movie because we sympathize with the monster. The way to humanize a monster is to give it a human weakness.
Novelists generally don’t get much input into movies, but he did get to spend some time on set. The movie was filmed in Minnesota and a storm happened to blow in at the same time he flew in, so they dropped everything they were doing to film the snow scenes. One scene was filmed at 30 degrees below zero, and Christopher Lloyd told Dan never to write a scene like that again. Dan was working on Book 5 at the time and decided to have it take place during the summer.
As a writer, he surprisingly had input into casting. He said it was weird for him to meet the actors because his job as a writer is to make the character’s lives miserable. He felt a little guilty about doing horrible things to them because they were such nice people.
He said the film originally had a voice over, but when they got rid of it, it improved the film. A reviewer for the film complained that the CG wasn’t that good, but they didn’t use CG in the movie. The monster was actually a puppet. The movie stayed true to the book for the most part, only making a few minor changes. There probably won’t be any more movies in the series because it was distributed through the Independent Film Channel and they usually don’t do sequels.
A Critical Reading of The VVitch: Exploring Feminist Themes
I haven’t seen The VVitch, but there was some lively discussion about its possible feminist themes. Did the main character throw off patriarchy in the form of her father only to embrace a different kind of patriarchy in the form of the devil? Someone said the characters who got killed were ultimately killed by their own weaknesses, then another panelist said what really killed them was their own hypocrisy. I liked what Courtney Alameda said at one point that movies about witches aren’t automatically feminist or anti-feminist because feminism is in the execution. There will certainly be a lot of things for me to look out for when I do get around to watching it.
The fact that one of the panelists was dressed as a shark was a source of much amusement. I laughed out loud the first time she gestured with her fins while talking about something. Towards the end, someone joked that it looked like the shark was eating the microphone. The shark then tried to simulate eating the microphone by bobbing her head up and down and it looked like she was… doing something else.