About MaxFunCon East, but not about MaxFunCon.

So, listen. I want to write something about MaxFunCon East, which was my first of these events, with a community I’m quite new to and where I really don’t (didn’t) know anyone at all. Even though it only just ended earlier today and normally I’d wait longer to process it, I just want to jump straight in. I’m not going to talk about the experience per se, but rather what I thought was the most important thing I got out of it (beyond the precious commodity that is just being able to have fun with interesting, kind people).

On the surface, it was a very impulsive decision. In reality, I’d had back catalog podcasts quietly whispering to me late at night for quite a while, via ads, that it was a Very Good Idea. This, of course, is the job of an ad. But they were so in earnest about it being special, being inspiring, being a profound creative experience. The dream that we all have about what a “convention” means, which is simply that it does mean something.

I haven’t really talked about being in creative crisis, because that’s Unprofessional and probably bad for Business. Doubt doesn’t sell; even though I’m sure a little is a prerequisite of the creative lifestyle. But you also have to recognize when it’s not doubting what you CAN do, but what you ARE doing. That’s an especially private and challenging kind of grief because it looks too similar to something else. It’s not just the tide of doubt that ebbs, it’s a rip current. It felt like someone throwing me a rope when I was desperate for one.

So I bought a ticket to MaxFunCon, and packed myself off alone to the Poconos and into the unknown, because I believe if you’re not afraid you’re not doing anything worthwhile. Continue reading

The Adventure Zone: a hymn to the power of story

Note: this essay does not contain explicit spoilers of any kind for the first campaign arc of The Adventure Zone podcast, even if you have never listened. However, it does contain “conceptual spoilers”, which may or may not be a thing, including for the *finale* of the Balance arc; therefore, proceed at your own discretion. There is also a reference to a not-that-cool musical act. You have been warned. 

Full disclosure: I can say with absolute certainty that The Adventure Zone has brought me to tears more than the sum of its closest fictional competitors. And I mean really cry, honestly and unexpectedly in the way that you can only do when you genuinely connect to a character’s heart, beyond a phantom of your own. Sad is easy; it’s much rarer for fiction to manage to roll a crit on your full range of emotions and draw out reactions you didn’t know were there. And it’s certainly the last thing I expected when I followed up on a lot of word of mouth about a podcast of some dudes playing Dungeons & Dragons.

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VanCon 2015 and carrying your words like a torch

At one of my colleges (long story), a professor told me that I didn’t say much but that when I did speak, people listened. I once forgot to do the reading and faked my way through a roundtable discussion on medieval Japanese court poetry, so I hope he was talking about another time. But I’ve always hoped he was right, in spite of assuming 99% of what I say is nonsense and no one is paying attention.

Most people already know that aside from having a fabulous VanCon, I went Supernatural set stalking on Monday. Because apparently we couldn’t think of anything better to do in the pouring rain than take a taxi to the far suburbs and walk for half an hour on residential roads with no clue where we were going. To our credit, we laughed the entire way. We stayed for several hours after everyone else left and there was little to see – but just before wrap, Jared waved us across the street onto the set and showed us around the Impala. He had us sit in the actual Impala. And Jensen heard him rev the engine and came out to check on his “Baby”, and I briefly thought Dean Winchester had manifested into reality to kick my ass. Look, I left “speechless” weeks ago. You all know, details or not, that we were incredibly fortunate and fans could not dare to dream of anything better. Last VanCon was my first Supernatural convention; I knew no one. To have come to that place in a year was, and continues to be, simply staggering.

But I’m not sure that was the most unbelievable thing that happened while I was in Vancouver.

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The Snail and the Well (or: the Good, the Bad, and the Journey)

I had an odd birthday this year. I have not had a birthday worth reporting on in a long time; one of the side effects of the internet is forming relationships with people who are far away. So I was okay with not doing anything “special”. I even wrapped my head around spending the day doing unpleasant prep for a test that was the polar opposite of “fun”, without sleep or food. But toward the end of the day, the cognitive dissonance of getting a stream of birthday wishes from friends while sitting in a clinic discussing whether I wanted to “preserve fertility options” was more than I could really process. (I have to say, because everyone always goes there – I am dying, but not any sooner than previously scheduled when I was born. It’s only the circumstances of the parts in between that change.)
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GISHWHES on Team Shatner.

item692014 was my third year in GISHWHES (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen), the madcap international scavenger hunt devised by actor Misha Collins of the CW show Supernatural. I will leave you to look at the site and then Google in mix of confusion, horror and glee if none of these words make sense to you. In 2011 I watched from the sidelines, wondering what the heck this thing was on Tumblr. In 2012 I was ready to join alone, but a dedicated friend joined with me and then recruited 13 more in a jiffy. in 2013 those people couldn’t join again, and I made good friends from total strangers via Twitter. In 2014, I kept talking to William Shatner and for some reason he kept talking back. On a long road, that led to me being on Team Shatner for GISHWHES 2014.

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“May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

It’s very difficult to describe to those who have never been in a fandom why under its lens enthusiasm becomes passion, and acquaintances can become family. “It’s just a TV show!” they’ll exclaim. Precisely why media fandom is a more popular target for this criticism than, for example, sports fans, is a question unto itself. The fact remains that for people who have never been – even casually – participants in a fandom for a TV show, film, book, a blog, have great difficulty grasping how it’s possible that it could become the tentpole of a relatively sane individual’s life.

I’ve thought a lot about how to explain the kind of deep emotional ties that we can create with fiction (and often, creators of said fiction), and I think I’ve finally got it.

Imagine a lighthouse. Continue reading

The LEGO Movie, creativity, and the building blocks of art

A confession. You probably heard a lot of people tell you “OMG that movie was amazing” before you went. You probably doubted it, because you’ve been burned before. A LOT. Maybe you even felt tempted to find something to dislike just so you didn’t feel like a sheep. Well, go on and whistle for the border collie, because my confession is…a movie about LEGOs made me cry.

There’s a lot to love straight off the bat. It’s immediately fun. The animation is super nifty, detailed and technically astounding*; it really looks like it was done with stop-motion and it gives it a charming, handmade feel. It’s very much a kids’ movie, not because of the subject, but in that it has the qualities of a child’s brain. Its landscape is visually riotous, jokes fire off at lightning speed in a slightly non-sequitur pastiche, and its logic doesn’t require the approval of outside observers. It’s funny, fast, and smart; the writing is really strong and on-target. It’s got a great celebrity cast who bring fantastic voice acting skills to the table. This is important, because it’s a different skill set, and many animated films have suffered from poor casting. But most importantly, this film has a message that speaks to nearly everyone about the nature of creativity; and I think that’s why it’s really been a blockbuster.


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