From Coast-to-Coast in the Blink of a Red-Eye.

Batgroup Ben, Alex, Q, Josh and Vivian at SDCC.

Batgroup Ben, Alex, Q, Josh and Vivian at SDCC.

By James Bacon: It was a warm sunny Sunday in Burlington, Massachusetts, and people were relaxed, sitting and chatting outside the Marriott Hotel where Readercon was being held. I walked into the relative calmness of Readercon, a quietness that belies the intensity of some conversations and earnestness with which people were going about the convention. It was a very different energy, yet not at all dissimilar from San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) in southern California, where I had attended the day before.

Of course, it was the last day of Readercon, and I had red-eyed to Boston from San Diego, the comparison of experience was inevitable, yet it was the commonalities between the two conventions that made me smile. I soon found a free book room and was pleased to pick up some ‘zines from the Richard III Society, dating back to the 1980s. I also picked up a New Worlds from the 1950s and a couple of other pulp digest mags based on promises of excitement on the covers. One of my fellow free book browsers found one a couple of Galaxy Magazines self identifying as “pertinent science fiction” and there was much laughter. The Readercon freebie room was so much calmer than the free table in the Marvel booth, which can only be likened to a Rugby match, or the huge queues for free items at SDCC.

Readercon Pertinant SF 90In the Dealers Room at Readercon, Michael Walsh and Bill Campbell proved as eloquent in greeting and conversation as they were as book sellers, and I was pleased to hear that Bill’s press had their new Samuel R. Delany inspired anthology Stories for Chip for sale and it was selling well.

Beer and a book on the bar at Readercon.

Beer and a book on the bar at Readercon.

Just like San Diego, I found any intention of getting into programme soon waylaid and was side tracked into lively chats with Liza Trombi and then Erin Underwood in the bar, which was nice. Chat seemed to be continuous as I wandered around the Dealers Room and common areas in the Marriott, which were spacious and easy to get around.

I got engaged in a conversation with a fan about current affairs in the SF community. This fan had lost family during the Second World War, in Europe, and as the conversation roamed, opinions and thoughts were exchanged. This was a fabulous conversation, not because there was a meeting of minds, but rather that there was disagreement. However, that disagreement was so polite, and also so recognisably not by many degrees, that we respected one another’s opinion. This is important since there is an adage that those who are of a similar but slightly differing opinions will argue the most, but today I think it is important to recognise allies for decency, rather than wining my exact viewpoint to the point.

I was pleased to see Dave Kyle at Readercon, one of those ever rarer members of First Fandom, and was glad to find him in good spirits. We have met now many times, and I enjoy chatting with him and relished the opportunity to introduce him to Bill as a member of the first Worldcon in 1939. His daughter, Kerry Kyle talked about how there was a schism even then, and it made me smile. Ah, fans! Dave heads off on his moby, skilfully negotiating his way around the Dealers Room at a decent speed.

At San Diego Comic-Con, I saw a lot of people in Moby’s, and the area for disabled people and short separate queues seemed like it was all very positive despite reading that it was not perfect. That indeed would be true, no convention is perfect, but while I can pause and wander around a group of people, I can imagine the choke points in SDCC were both frustrating and upsetting for the less mobile. In contrast, here at Readercon, I see there is a lot of care and attention for anyone who is disabled as I feel is only correct.

There is no doubt the Worldcon bid for 2017 has created interest. At Readercon, I saw Crystal Huff who seemed pleased with Helsinki’s work, and indeed there were no shortage of Helsinki T-shirts to be seen. Ben Yallow was chatting enthusiastically with Bill Campbell, who lives in Washington, about the DC bid. It is all go this year, and even in San Diego there were quite a few people interested for various reasons in the race between Montreal, Japan, DC and Helsinki. In San Diego, I had met Mike Wilmoth, a senior programme ops manager for SDCC, who also happens to be a deputy chair for Sasquan. He had been at Westercon the weekend before where there had been a fannish inquisition. Mike was not the only deputy chair I met in San Diego as Laura Domitz was helping in the art show. I was amazed at how many people from the Worldcon side of fandom were present at SDCC, as I kept bumping into fans as well as volunteers.

A question that came up at Westercon, which I had heard about before SDCC was along the lines of “what is one going to do to increase diversity at conventions?” and for some reason this question entered my consciousness as one to consider hard, especially given my coast-to-coast convention experiences over the weekend. Asking those who I want to welcome was an initial thought and I was conscious to consider this question broadly, mindful that thoughts must be turned into successful actions.

I can only tell you what I observe, I cannot and do not have facts or figures, or even evidence of an empirical nature, just what I saw as I wandered about both conventions. Yet it is interesting that San Diego Comic-Con felt very diverse. Of course, Readercon works hard, I feel, to be welcoming in their own way, which is borne out in their programme participant statement: “Readercon is committed to diversity in its program; we believe a wide range of voices makes for better conversation. We strongly encourage members of minority and underprivileged groups to apply.” This is very good, and I feel that leadership can be shown by conventions in working at having diverse panels and programme, which in turn attracts diverse members.

I noted after the con, that Readercon had great levels of diversity on panels, which compared to SDCC was a trump.

During a trip to Baltimore Comic Con a couple of years ago, I felt that convention was more diverse in attendance than any other con I have attended. By observation it was incredible, and I pondered that now, and wondered if it was about the cost, location, or programme participants in Baltimore.

If cost and affordability had an impact, was this why San Diego Comic-Con had a lot of diversity? A day ticket for SDCC was $50 for an adult and children 12 or under get in free with a paying adult. That is if you were lucky enough to get a ticket, of course.  There is also a Junior price of $25 for 13 to 17-year-olds.  Baltimore Comic Con is $30 for a Saturday, and kids under ten go in free with an adult while a day ticket on Saturday for Readercon was $55 and indeed cheaper than both on Sunday at only $25 and children under 15 attend free with an adult too.

I do not know if that is often talked about in the States, but at most of the UK and Irish conventions I have worked on, there have also been discounted rates for those who are on employment benefit, Job Seekers Allowance, or on the dole. Terms change but basically out of work admission has ranged from 25-50% off the ticket price. Students likewise have gotten discounts, or sometimes it is young people up to 26 years of age and so on.  It may be just another difference that in the States student and child prices are lower (or free) while discounts for unemployed fans are just not contemplated as being enabling, but I always approve of them. Indeed, I have had no issue about the disparity in what I pay if it enables someone in an unfortunate situation to come along.

So, I wondered about that. I noted that Readercon had signed up for Con or Bust, so there were three free memberships available to those in need, but I was not sure what SDCC or Baltimore had done in this regard. So, in many ways, that was even more progressive than my leftist European ways of discounts. Although many cons now on both sides of the Atlantic are also singing up, which is fabulous.

I also wondered if location may have been a factor. SDCC is down town in the Gas Lamp District with trolley access. Likewise, the convention is down-town for Baltimore Comic Con, and although Readercon was in Burlington, which is about 35 minutes by Bus (352) from Downtown Boston, a 14 mile drive, and there is also a route using the ‘T’ redline and 350 bus. So, despite not being downtown, it is accessible by decent public transport, which I think is pretty good going. I would be curious about the turnout at other Boston area cons that take place in the downtown area.

On a related note, my trip was not without non-con excitement and I was stopped by a police officer. Getting into the States is not something that is a given for me. Indeed, I have to apply for a visa and then I can get refused at entry and getting arrested would be detrimental for any future travel. The officer was polite. He came to my window, and spoke clearly and explained why I had been stopped. He wanted my licence, and I asked if I could get out to retrieve it from my wallet in the back of the car. He was unsure with this question I thought, so when I repeated it, he seemed surprised that his permission was being sought. He did step back to allow me out, and so we conversed at the rear of the car, and I was warned and sent on my way. Indeed, the manners, courtesy, and also professionalism was incredible. It was like how the US used to be portrayed in that old TV show CHiPs; was this guy Ponch or John?

The British left national press has been consistently reporting negative incidents in the States, so there was some caution and trepidation in my interaction. Articles here seem very in depth and there are no shortage of them, this one “By the numbers: US police kill more in days than other countries do in years; The Guardian has built the most comprehensive database of US police killing ever published” is another example. My police experience was totally at odds with this perception, although I do wonder if Americans realise how other countries look in and see their country and I wondered if that effected tourism or travellers from outside and within.

The world loves America, it really does. From comic heroes to Coke, burgers, Elvis, and Hollywood, everyone loves something about America, and so many people want to make a future there, be they Irish, Eritrean, Iranian or Indonesian. I was pleased that the negative PR I have heard was not my destiny on that day but wondered if that has an impact on what it is to be welcoming.

I felt very welcomed by this cop. Of course, maybe there was a more obvious and distasteful reason for the ease of my interaction. I am aware of that, but would not want to castigate another person or assume that they would by course, treat me different in ways that I think we all hate. We all hate racism, bigotry and discrimination, don’t we? I wondered, is it easy to say I hate racism and then well, get on with my nice life as I drove away, too easy.

In all, I enjoyed myself immensely meeting up with old friends, picking up great books, and pondering some of the bigger convention questions from San Diego to Boston, Baltimore, and beyond. At both SDCC and Readercon, I had a really nice time, and in fairness I came into physical contact by accident with an infinitely larger number of people in San Diego, but manners and niceness were the norm at both conventions. I had great chats and conversations from coast-to-coast that were engaging, and it was good fun… and as an American asked me with a twinkle in their eye and a hint of smile at the edge of their mouth, ‘was it good craic’.. yeah, yeah, it was indeed.

Free books at Readercon.

Free books at Readercon.

Pixel Scroll 7/17

Praise, complaints and tales of derring-didn’t fill the Scroll today.

(1) George Barr, Fan Guest of Honor at MidAmeriCon, the 1976 Worldcon, unexpectedly popped up in a soft-sell blog entry for PR firm Signal Hill, “Science Fiction Illustrator Finds Home”

Barr’s art, often marked by a distinctive watercolor-over-ballpoint pen technique, illustrated science fiction magazines for decades, including the covers of “Amazing Stories,” “Fantastic Stories” and “If.” Barr also brought books to life through his work with publishers like DAW Books and Ace Books.

Prior to compiling this impressive resume, Barr did a great deal of free work for “fanzines,” non-professional publications popular in the science fiction world. Not only did it help build his portfolio, but it was a way to get his illustrations out, he says. The work even earned him a Hugo Award for best fan artist at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1968.

Barr earned these achievements with only one formal art course under his belt. Though he says he learned a lot about color, harmony and composition, the emphasis on commercial art did not play toward his interests. The freedom of the fantasy genre spoke to him most, he says.

“There was absolutely nothing you could imagine that could not occur,” says Barr of the genre. “You can conceivably be drawing anything that ever existed or might.”

Barr is 78 and has good things to say about the retirement community where he lives.

(2) Was the late Christopher Lee’s illustrious war record a complete fabrication? The Daily Mail writer who penned Lee’s obituary is now deconstructing his claims.

Until the end of the war, the man who would be Dracula served with the air force as an intelligence officer, briefing and debriefing pilots, and liaising with other units.

It was during this time that he claimed to have served in some way with the Long Range Desert Group and the SAS.

As Gavin Mortimer has shown, there is simply no evidence to support this. Lee may have worked alongside these units in some way, but he was emphatically not a part of them.

‘Lee didn’t exactly lie,’ says Mortimer. ‘But he did lead us on, encouraging us to believe [his job] had involved more derring-do than it actually did.’

In an interview he gave to Belgian television to promote Lord Of The Rings, Lee claimed also to have served with a small special forces organisation called No 1 Demolition Squadron, better known as Popski’s Private Army (PPA) after its charismatic leader Major Vladimir Peniakoff.

Like the Long Range Desert Group and the SAS, the PPA was a raiding and reconnaissance unit, and its exploits are venerated by many.

Again, there is no hard evidence to support Lee’s claim that he worked with the PPA.

(3) It’s not so much the complaints about Comic-Con that drew me to Heidi MacDonald’s roundup of what the convention’s critics had to say, but what she revealed in passing about the support other cons give to fans with disabilities, which far exceeds anything I see at the cons I attend:

There were many complaints about Hall H this year as always. Was it different? Not sure. I do know at least one person told me he got in and found many empty seats inside while a huge line was still waiting to get in, but that could be due to safety measures for crowd control. I would like to draw your attention to this post by Nick Eskey on the Talk Back panel and the subsequent comment threads as it deals with disabled attendees and the line wait. While to some hearing a fellow complain about not having a place to plug in his CPAP machine while waiting for Hall H may seem the height of folly, but you know, physically challenged fans have the same right to experience whatever it is they want out of Hall H as anyone else.

This is that guy that only slept 16 hours and needed his CPAP machine. You apparently only caught part of what I was saying, which is, that if they had not removed the outlets I could have used my CPAP machine and slept outside just fine. Besides that, however, you missed the point completely which is not everyone with disabilities can sleep outside. Because of that they should be given special consideration for their placement in line. What other convention gives ADA this sort of consideration? Try Emerald City Comic Con and PAX Prime, both in Seattle and both allow ADA to ALWAYS be first in line. Try DragonCon in Atlanta, where ADA have volunteers that will guide them through the convention, hold their spot in line and generally assist them in whatever way needed. I was on the BoD for OkCon and we bent over backwards to assist our ADA. Maybe because we had people on the board with disabilities.

And there’s even more in the Nick Eskey post she links to.

(4) On the other hand, fans are responding skeptically to a blogger’s complaint to SDCC management that the nine-year-old Who fan in his party was traumatized by the horror-oriented displays near the items they went to see. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the complaint myself. As the parent of a 13-year-old, I have discovered my former ideas of what’s okay for kids were pretty out-of-touch.

I attended SDCC this year as part of a larger group. One of our party, a nine-year-old, is a HUGE Whovian (we are a large Whovian family), so the first day at the convention we immediately made our way to the BBC America booth for Doctor Who merchandise, photo ops, and chatting with the BBC America representatives onsite about Doctor Who and upcoming events. We found that the booth was sandwiched between a booth for AMC’s The Walking Dead and Starz’s upcoming series Ash vs Evil Dead. Though problematic on its own, we were extra upset to find that both horror booths had their walls covered in TVs playing, on loop, terrifying clips of zombie horror (The Walking Dead) and absurdly gory violence (Ash vs Evil Dead), of which the latter’s level of violence I, even as a 24 year old man, actively avoid because it’s an anxiety trigger to me.

That night our 9 year-old woke up screaming with nightmares about zombies attacking her, and the next day she burst into tears when we tried to enter the con floor (despite the fact that we were far from the horror booths). For the rest of the con, while we were able to get her onto the con floor without a meltdown, we had to make a wide berth around the BBC America booth because of its proximity to the Walking Dead and Ash vs Evil Dead booths, which was secondarily upsetting for her because she was previously extremely excited to be near the Doctor Who things (especially the TARDIS set up at the Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum booth, also placed next to the Ash vs Evil Dead booth – she wanted to take her photo with the TARDIS so badly).

…Thank you so much for all that you do to organize and present this convention every year. Beyond this, we had very little issues with the rest of the con and overall had a great time. It’s simply unfortunate that the experience was marred by the emotional trauma inadvertently caused to our child stemming from the placement of BBC America’s booth between two of the biggest horror booths at the convention.

(5) John King Tarpinian says Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale is getting a lot of people wanting to buy reading copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, which led to a surprising discovery. “They are running out of paperback reading copies. A good customer says she wants a copy, the bookshop has one paperback left but Malcolm remembers that Christine paid $2 for a 40th anniversary hardback the other day and figures he’d be nice by offering it to the customer for $5 when she comes in. Malcolm, as is his habit, opens the book to discover it is SIGNED by Harper Lee. This is how a $2 book becomes a $1000 book.”

 

(6) While analyzing how the Hugos fit into contemporary fandom, Karl-Johan Norén points out that everyone thinks he/she is at the center of fandom.

(Ur-)Fandom came to Sweden in the 1950s. In the early 70s Tolkien societies evolved here from it, in many ways similar to SCA in the United States. The ties between the Tolkien societies and fandom in Sweden are still strong, and we can mingle relatively easily. However, media fandom, cosplay, LARP, and lots of other stuff were direct imports from the United States. Here the cultural differences are much larger and more profound. Partly this is because of the direct import, partly this is because Swedish fandom after the disastrous feuds of the 80s closed in on itself and very much focused on the core of discussing science fiction as books.

Put another way, the splinter lines within all the various off-shoots, special fandoms, and so are much easier to see here in Sweden. But the same tendencies are very much present in the United States, I imagine.

Another thing which has happened, from the 90s forward, is that the Internet has made it much easier to set up special interest groups that can gain critical size and connectivity. Baen’s Bar is one early such example, but there are many more nowadays.

So which of these disparate groups do the label “fandom” belong to nowadays? All of them. However, there is a tendency to use the word “fandom” as a shorthand for “the specific fannish group that I happen to be a member of”. I believe this is especially true within “core” fandom, the one that evolved around the pulp magazines in the 20s and 30s, with a primary interest in written science fiction. Historically, I think that movement can claim having first dibs on the label, but it helps to remember that fandom nowadays is much bigger and diverse than “core” fandom is.

(7) And as a kind of postscript, here are John Scalzi’s, Cheryl Morgan’s and Fred Kiesche’s tweets inspired by the report Michael Z. Williamson is voting No Award in every Hugo category.

Pixel Scroll 7/14

Today’s Scroll is seven stories tall.

(1) In 2015 the Science-Fiction Club Berlin will mark its 59th and the Andymon club (which started life as the Youth Astronomy Club) will celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Sonja Fritzsche, Professor of German and Eastern European Studies at Illinois Wesleyan University, traces the fascinating history of Berlin fandom before and after the Wall in a “Science-Fiction Fandom in United Berlin” at World Literature Today:

On November 9, 1989, the night the wall fell, several Andymon members crossed over the border into West Berlin to celebrate. Lost on a side of Berlin they had never seen, they decided to contact one of the West Berlin fans from their earlier visit. Luckily, they found her, and this second meeting, now on the other side of the border, helped to cement a future collaboration between both Berlin fan clubs. The first collaborative effort came as early as 1990 with the short-lived fanzine Mauersegler, the title of which refers to a variety of bird (common swift) and also means “one who sails over the wall.” Andymon members also helped organize and present at the Bärcon in West Berlin in September 1990. (According to Hardy Kettlitz, six Andymon club members also traveled to the FreuCon in Freudenstadt in the Black Forest in 1990.) Famous science-fiction collector Forry Ackermann visited the clubs in both East and West in September 1990. Both of the clubs still exist today, although Andymon has become dominant in recent years. It is fair to say that without these club members, many of whom are not only active fans but also translators, bibliographers, editors, and authors in their own right, German science fiction would be less rich and vibrant.

(2) Business Insider has an unlimited buffet of great photos of cosplayers wowing the crowds at San Diego Comic-Con 2015.

(3) The First Fandom Award winners will once more be announced at the start of the Hugo Awards ceremony this year in Spokane reports John L. Coker III.

Coker writes in the latest issue of First Fandom’s news publication Scientifiction: “Due to the efforts of several First Fandom members (including Steve Francis), our annual awards have returned to their traditional home: the Worldcon.”

(3) The Hollywood Reporter evaluates the productions and celebrities who were on stage at Comic-Con and names five winners and three losers.

(4) Former Nightline journalist Jeff Greenfield boldly starts his Politico essay “Primary Amnesia: What the press forgets every election” with a long science fiction reference.

In his classic 1941 short story “Nightfall,” Isaac Asimov imagines a planet (Lagash) with six suns. Only once every 2,049 years does total darkness fall—and with nightfall comes the appearance of the stars. When that happens, the citizens of Lagash go mad; they burn everything in a desperate attempt to banish the darkness. The total collapse of civilization means there is no record of what has happened; no collective memory to ward off the next collapse when darkness descends again in another 2,049 years.

This fictional story unfortunately is an illuminating (no pun intended) guide to how we cover—or miscover—the presidential primary process. Even though there’s a gap of only four years between elections, as opposed to two millennia and change, it’s as though our collective memory gets wiped clean sometime around the inauguration, and we approach the next cycle with no guide to what has happened in elections past.

The key lesson we forget every four years is that the nominating process stands in sharp contrast to the general election, where “fundamentals” often hold sway.

(5) Cracked.com offered a prize for the best reader mashup of Godzilla with another famous movie. The results are posted in “40 Great Movies Made Better By Adding Godzilla”.

Despite the vast amount of crappy movies he’s been in, Godzilla is still pretty awesome. He’s radioactive dinosaur that breathes fire — what more could a child want?

With that in mind, we asked readers to show us some movies that could benefit greatly from that awesomeness, and gave $100 to the winner …

Gravity with Godzilla

If this faux poster of Gravity ranked 40th (which it did), there must be some astonishing entries. And there are — other films improved with Godzilla included Paris Hilton’s sex tape, Electric Boogaloo Breakin’ 2 and Hitchcock’s North By Northwest.

(6) Another part of the ongoing Godzilla lovefest is that the famous kaiju has been officially made a resident of Japan and tourism ambassador. The ceremonial plaque gives this explanation of the honor.

Reason for special residency: Promoting the entertainment of and watching over the Kabuki-cho neighborhood and drawing visitors from around the globe in the form of the Godzilla head built atop the Shinjuku TOHO Building.

 

Ambassador Godzilla

Ambassador Godzilla

(7) Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesterpup as the Aggregated Dan Goodman offers this “helpful” suggestion:

There are people who believe conservative science fiction and fantasy have been unfairly slighted in the World Science Fiction Society awards (aka the Hugos.)  As some of you know, this year two groups have tried to remedy the problem they see.

Perhaps there should be a list of older sf which Sad Puppies, Mad Puppies, and those inclined to agree with them might find objectionable.

Here is a start:

Robert A. Heinlein, Revolt in 2100.  A strongly Christian US government is overthrown, with the author’s obvious approval.

Robert A. Heinlein, The Puppet Masters.  The future setting has term marriages.

Robert A. Heinlein, “Delilah and the Space Rigger.”  Blatant feminism.

H.G. Wells, The Time Machine.  In the far future, descendants of the upper classes are exploited by the dictatorship of the proletariat.  (Marxists might also find this novel objectionable.)

Harry Turtledove, Guns of the South.  A victorious Confederate government deprives many citizens of their property.

What warning labels would you add?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian and Rogers Cadenheaed for the links they provided.)

San Diego Comic-Con 2015 Trailers

Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford at SDCC 2015.

Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford at SDCC 2015.

 

Star Wars trailer shown at Comic-Con

 

 

Princess Leia from Star Wars reel shown at SDCC 2015.

Princess Leia from Star Wars reel shown at SDCC 2015.

Archer Comic-Con message

 

 

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer for Comic-Con

 

 

Vikings Season 4 Official #SDCC Trailer

 

 

Once Upon a Time “Dark Swan” promo

 

 

What TOR Boycott?

Tor Books queue at SDCC Thursday. Photo by James Bacon.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Thursday. Photo by James Bacon.

By James Bacon: I went to Comic Con for a couple of days and had a fabulous time. The volunteers and staff run a great con, there were 120,000 people there and it surely felt busy, and I really enjoyed it.

Books are very well represented here, to my surprise, Hachette, Penguin and Macmillan amongst other publishers are all present in strength, as are dealers selling prose fiction.

TOR books have a really smart stand in a great location, and both times I managed to go by, they had long queues of people, eager, keen and EXCITED!!! Here anyhow, no one has a notion about the boycott at all.

Many people who I spoke to, have heard about the Hugo situation and have distilled it neatly into succinct and straightforward understandings of what has happened. People I spoke to, couldn’t even name those specifically involved, or mention the Puppies at all. There are colourful variations as to what people perceive, but generally the sentiment amongst those who did know, was that a negative act has occurred this year. The Hugos themselves are held in high regard, they have permeated the memories of many, probably from book covers, and indeed, I met a previous graphic story nominee who was very proud to have been one.

I returned to File 770 to see what I had missed, and laughed at the earnestness with which the TOR boycott is spoken of, because I had come from a place where to the hundreds and thousands of science fiction fans who pick up promotional material or queue at the TOR stand, the boycott is not only irrelevant but it is unnoticed and unknown.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Friday. Photo by James Bacon.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Friday. Photo by James Bacon.

All Roads Lead To San Diego This Week

Comic-Con International begins in San Diego, stirring a tornado of publicity.

(1) But we interrupt that tornado for a nostalgic look back at the first convention in the series, published in the LA Times, with an inspirational quote from Ray Bradbury’s speech:

The year was 1970, at the San Diego Golden State Comics Convention — the gathering that would become Comic-Con International — when science fiction author Ray Bradbury took the stage at the U.S. Grant Hotel. He had a message for the fewer than 300 attendees: Do not let others label your passion for comics or science fiction as mere escapism.

“[All] these things that are looked on as escapes, it’s not so,” Bradbury said. “Don’t let anyone hand you that nonsense. That’s one of those trick words that we’ve had applied to various fields like science fiction, detective writing and comic strips. It’s simply not true. It’s a way of dreaming yourself to a reality later in your life.”

Forty-five years later, as Comic-Con prepares to welcome more than 130,000 to the San Diego Convention Center starting with Wednesday’s preview night and ending Sunday, it’s hard to imagine the pop-culture gathering taking root anyplace else.

47579i_lg COMP

(2) While a lot about Comic-Con has changed over the years, one of the important changes is very recent.

Michael Cavna, the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs columnist, says this will be the first time as many women will be attending Comic-Con as men.  Cavna interviews Scott McCloud, who says that women are becoming more interested in comics and in particular are more interested in superheroes than they used to be.

The most recent research landed just days ago as released by the online ticketing platform Eventbrite, after more than 2,100 respondents in 48 U.S. states and territories were surveyed. Rob Salkowitz, who worked with Eventbrite to develop and analyze the data, says that fans have driven the push for geek-culture parity.

“Last year, the numbers showed we were trending in that direction. This year, it’s clear that we are there,” says Salkowitz, citing his Eventbrite data and social-media surveys by Brett Schenker of Graphics Policy, among other sources and events. “As a result, we’ve seen more sincere efforts from publishers to broaden the audience, and much stronger responses to concerns raised by fans over inclusiveness.”

(3) Nowadays Comic-Con is a vast marketing machine. One attempt to tap into the event’s commercial potential left the writer of the San Diego Comic-Con Blog undecided if it is the greatest or the worst Comic-Con marketing ever.

When we mentioned yesterday that Turner Broadcasting and KFC were bringing attendees wifi enabled Colonel Sanders statues to downtown San Diego this week, we didn’t realize just how genius this was. Or insane. Or both.

But oh, do we realize now.

See, these statues feature the good Colonel in several different cosplay outfits for Comic-Con. He’s all ready to wow attendees with his costume abilities as he dresses up as a vampire, a unicorn, a Martian, a werewolf, an anime character, and a furry.

Here’s a look at the different Cosplaying Colonels:

KFC Cosplaying Colonels

 

Once you spot one of the Colonels and connect to the wifi, you’ll be directed to a co-branded KFC and Robot Chicken digital hub at www.adultswim.com/KFC to check out KFC and Robot Chicken custom content. If you take a photo with the statue(s) and send it out onto social media withh the hashtag #colonelsanders, you could win a free Robot Chicken t-shirt.

(4) The Los Angeles and Anaheim convention centers and surrounding hotels would love to hijack the Comic-Con, however, The Hollywood Reporter says the con is staying put through 2018:

Comic-Con will officially be sticking around in San Diego — for the next three years, at least. Confirming longstanding rumors, San Diego officials announced a two-year extension to the existing deal between the city and Comic-Con International, ensuring that the annual pop culture show will remain in the city through 2018.

Of course this is a big deal – the Mayor of San Diego himself doled out the story to reporters at a press conference shortly before this year’s Comic-Con began. Deadline covered the press event:

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer this morning is making official what had been expected for some time — that his city is keeping the annual Comic-Con convention through 2018 in a new deal just finalized. The previous contract with Comic-Con International was due to expire after this current year’s confab, which kicks off next week.

The two-year extention, being unveiled now at a press conference, comes after months of negotiations to keep the lucrative and ever-expanding fanboy confab at the San Diego Convention Center, and even more months of not-so-behind-the-scenes lobbying by Los Angeles and Anaheim to move the convention up north. The event already has grown well beyond the confines of the convention center, which has been offering CCI a flat discounted rate to keep it around. Planned expansion of the facility has faced several delays.

Faulconer said in his giddy announcement surrounded by Comic-Con and convention center brass that the confab brings in $135 million-plus annually to the city. “If you still don’t understand how much Comic-Con means to San Diego,” he said, “more Superman means more super-streets, more light sabers means more library hours, and more Comic-Con means more neighborhood services for San Diegans.”

(5) And the d6mafia.com Guide to San Diego Comic-Con helps stay-at-homes visualize what they’re missing.

 

[Thanks for these stories goes out to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster and John King Tarpinian.]

Comic-Con: No Room at the Inn?

Javascript, not Java, is being blamed for the blowup this time.

Javascript, not Java, is being blamed for the blowup this time.

If inviting tens of thousands of people who need hotel rooms at San Diego Comic-Con International to simultaneously click a link at 9 a.m. on a given morning is the best solution for everyone involved you couldn’t tell it by yesterday’s results.

Kerry Dixon describes the scene in “Hotelpocalypse 2015: A Tale of Two Forms” at the San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog.

At 9AM PT, the link provided by Travel Planners and Comic-Con International was to open to to the General Hotel form, where attendees could rank their top six hotel choices in preference, and fill in all of their required information (like name, e-mail, arrival and departure date, how many people would be staying in the room, etc.) Things got off to a very bad start from the second the form opened, when most users, including us, reported the form taking longer than normal to load. How long it took varied person to person, with some reporting 20-30 seconds, and some reporting minutes. This obviously slowed down everyone’s time in being able to submit the form at all.

But that was only the beginning. It took a few minutes for news to filter down that users actually saw two different forms when they submitted – either the “good” form, with a drop down menu of all the hotel choices….

Or the “bad” form, which didn’t include a drop down menu, but rather a scrollable text box. You could select one, or all six hotels if you held Ctrl down on your keyboard, but there was no way to rank them.

An indigestible bit of Javascript may be to blame –

Read Dixon’s post to see screenshots of both forms, plus analysis of other problems reported by users.

As she observes, trying to get a room for the con is even more stressful than trying to get a badge during Open Registration (where she estimates fans using the system have only a 6% chance of success!)

Cosplayer’s Injuries Were From Fall

A hospitalized cosplayer sustained her injuries in a fall rather than from an attack say San Diego Harbor Police. However, the case of a 29-year-old man they arrested on unrelated charges of having sexual contact with a minor and providing her with alcohol will still be referred to the district attorney’s office.

Their findings are based on a review of surveillance camera recordings and physical evidence at the scene. The press release issued by police reports:

BACKGROUND: Shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, July 27, 2014, a juvenile female was found with significant injuries in the pool area of a hotel at 333 West Harbor Drive in San Diego. The juvenile female had attended Comic Con earlier in the day and still had her costume on. She was transported to a hospital for evaluation and treatment.

In connection with the case, Harbor Police arrested a 29-year-old man early Sunday morning, July 27 at the hotel. He was booked into San Diego County Jail at 11:20 a.m. on charges of sexual contact with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The Harbor Police Investigations Unit has been investigating the incident, including the cause of the injuries to the victim.

INVESTIGATION RESULTS: After the incident, Police began a thorough investigation of the facts, including a review of footage from multiple surveillance cameras, as well as the assistance of community members and Comic Con attendees who provided extensive information and sent photographs for review. The investigation concluded with a finding that the juvenile female’s injuries were not the result of a criminal assault, and were likely the result of a fall. Her injuries, and physical evidence at the scene, were consistent with a fall from the distance of approximately six feet.

This finding does not affect the charges against the 29-year-old male, which will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. Because this case involves a minor, no further information will be released about this incident.

According to the NBC report:

Police said the girl was climbing a gate at the Marriott Hotel after an altercation with an older man.

Police were initially hampered in their investigation by the girl’s inability to remember what happened.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins for the story.]

Cosplayer Assault Update

Police are continuing to investigate the July 28 attack that left a teen cosplayer unconscious by the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina pool on Harbor Drive. The San Diego Union-Tribune’s story names the person arrested but says police are still trying to determine who inflicted her injuries.

Police determined she had been with a man she knew most of the day, and was with him until about 11 p.m. when a party they went to in one of the hotel’s rooms was broken up after a noise complaint, Rakos said. That man, identified as Justin Kalior, was later arrested at the hotel.

He was booked into jail on suspicion of sexual contact with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was not arrested on assault charges.

“We really want to determine who is responsible for her injuries and we are still investigating,” Rakos said.

The San Diego NBC affiliate also has a video report with quotes from the cosplayer’s mother, here.