Tag Archives: Serenity

A geek girl’s recap of NYCC ’10

I spent this past weekend in New York for New York Comic Con. For those of you who read my blog who aren’t big old nerds, NYCC is the East Coast nerd and geek mecca, held once a year, combining comics, video games, science fiction, pop culture, and pretty much any other possible nerdy pursuit you can imagine. By now (one day after the last day of the con), a zillion people have already rehashed what got talked about on the panels, who was there, who’s releasing what when, the big news, the tiny little details, and pretty much anything else. The best I can do is walk you through my experience, as the random fan on the show floor, geeking out over everything, but with no special access or insight. (Although my con badge would lead you to believe otherwise, considering it said “Special Access” in big letters. All that meant, though was that I could skip the huge entrance line and there was a neat little lounge to escape the crowds and charge my phone and drink free water, which in itself was worth the extra cost.)

Friday: We arrived into NYC at around 11 and dropped our luggage off at the hotel. We then headed down to the Javits Center, which was about a 10 minute walk away. As we got closer, I noticed people in costumes more and more often, which, if nothing else, told me we were headed in the right direction. We entered the convention center and found the VIP line pretty quickly. There was about an hour before the doors opened, so we lined up and waited. More and more people in costume filtered by us, some in very elaborate superhero costumes, some in half-assed components of easily recognizable movie, comic, or TV characters, and some very specific and well-executed anime characters. (NYCC and the New York Anime Festival are rolled in together, which is maybe not the best idea, but I’ll touch on that later.)

They let us into the show, and we headed up the escalator to the show floor. My husband and friend made a bee-line to get tickets to signings with Todd McFarlane and Robert Kirkman, and I sort of wandered a bit. An incredibly impressive group of Predators walked by us, and one leered at me (and you know it’s obvious if I can tell you’re leering in a full giant body costume and full face mask). As much as we like to think we’ve progressed in geek culture, being accepting and respectful of women in a setting like this is still not as universal as it should be.

After wandering the show floor, talking to booth employees, taking some pictures, playing some games, and accumulating some of the massive quantities of free stuff available, we made a plan to meet at the IGN theater to camp out through the DC comics panel so we could have seats for the two Adult Swim panels: Robot Chicken and The Venture Brothers. And that was where my aggravation with the con “organization” began. I couldn’t enter the IGN theater through the main entrance without a different special pass. However, the employees (primarily volunteers) manning the doors couldn’t tell me where I could enter. So I wandered. I wandered a lot. I asked more people in official T-shirts. I didn’t get the same answer twice. Finally, a fellow con-goer discovered the door to the giant holding pen for the theater and called out to everyone in the hallway where it was. Thank you, random guy in a Green Lantern T-shirt!

The DC panel was good, with footage from “Superman/Shazam!” and “All Star Superman.” I’ll come right out with it that I’m more of a pop culture/sci-fi geek than a comics geek, but I still enjoyed the comic stuff I saw. The Robot Chicken panel is almost certainly up on YouTube already, but they had some great footage from both the upcoming season and their next Star Wars special. Macauley Culkin was on the panel for some reason (he’s done some voice work with them), along with RC co-creator Matthew Senreich and Clare Grant (Seth Green’s wife and a member of Team Unicorn),  but Seth Green was obviously the “voice” of the panel, and he was funny and really engaging, and interacted well with the audience. I was beyond excited for the Venture Brothers panel, and Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick (later joined by Michael Sinterniklaas, who does a great deal of the voice work on the show) were funny, self-deprecating, and totally awesome to watch. You’ll have to track down the details of the panel elsewhere, because I was just transfixed, glassy-eyed and grinning the whole time like the kids who got to meet their favorite comic superheroes.

We capped off Friday with the Geek Girls Network Tweet-Up, where we had some drinks, listened to some music, and I was totally socially awkward as I always am in that kind of situation. It was a great time, though, and special thanks to Kristin from GGN for putting it all together.

Saturday: I started my day on Saturday by waiting on a really really long line for a Venture Brothers signing with Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick. I got asked approximately 7 zillion times what we were standing in line for. I guess I have a friendly face? (I don’t, but I was the person who consistently got asked.) Here continued my aggravation with offical con organization. The line got pretty long and unwieldy, and a few volunteers came by and started freaking out and yelling at people to get against the wall to clear up space. Like, they were already in full panic without stopping at “calm assertiveness” first. This was sharply contrasted by the Adult Swim employee who walked calmly down the line, handing out tickets for the signing, answering questions and joking around with people, keeping order and being authoritative without being a dick.

The signing was probably the highest point of my weekend. Through a series of planning mishaps and my desire not to be an asshole and cut the line, my husband ended up about 30 people ahead of me. He apparently told Doc and Jackson this, and told them to mess with me, and they did. As soon as I got in that room (about 45 minutes later), they started joking around with me, making small talk, being generally awesome and gracious, and we had a nice chat about Dr. Girlfriend, making sacrifices for your spouse, and they were kind enough to take a picture with me. Celebrities who treat their fans well always warm my heart and make me appreciate their work that much more.

The rest of Saturday was pretty much walking around the show floor, popping into the IGN theater for a panel or two, and just being generally overwhelmed. We sat in on panels for The Thing and Hannah, both of which look like good movies. There was an excellent “Women of Battlestar Galactica” panel, featuring Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff, Nicki Clyne, and Michelle Forbes. I was anticipating an uncomfortable level of audience creepiness, but with a few exceptions, people had good, non-creepy questions, and there were some excellent questions about feminism, sci-fi, and the role of women in BSG. All the panel participants were friendly and engaging, and Michelle Forbes fielded most of the heavier questions about feminism and gender roles. (As a side note, everyone knows that Tricia Helfer is beautiful, but in person, she’s intimidatingly good-looking. Definitely not a “looks better on film” actor. And she and Katee Sackhoff were laughing and goofing around the whole time, which was fun to watch.)

Saturday was sold out, and being at capacity just meant that there were way too many people crammed into a small space, and it got to be very not fun for me. No one knew where to go, booth employees were starting to get snippy with con-goers, and people were just generally pushy. My annoyance with the official con staff was capped off when we stood in line for 45 minutes for a Comedy Central panel, and an NYCC staffer pulled us out of our place in line to straighten out and manage the queue, and managed to lose us our place in line, at which point, I fully admit that I stormed off swearing rather than argue the point and get our place back.

We wandered into the Minori Chihara concert, which proved more than ever that I’m old and out of touch and really do not get modern anime and J-pop. In general, the consensus, from both sides, seemed to be that fans would be better served if Comic Con and the Anime Festival were split up. There was a fair amount of tension between the “comic nerds” and the “anime kids,” and the crowding issues really didn’t help anything.

Sunday: Sunday was “Kids Day,” which, for anyone who knows me, just sounds like a recipe for disaster. Oddly enough, though, it was the most laid-back day, and since the kids were all pretty well corralled into the “safe” areas, it was way less congested than I expected. The only thing on my agenda for Sunday was the Walking Dead panel. The three of us staked out seats in the IGN very early (and sat through a surprisingly not-awful M. Night Shaymalan panel), and it’s a good thing we did, because there was a near-riot for people waiting to get in right before the panel. The panel was awesome, and the show looks amazing. (It premieres on Halloween on AMC- watch it!) The panel consisted of comic creator Robert Kirkman, director Frank Darabont, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, and six of the main cast members. They showed six minutes of exclusive footage, and teased up a lot of what’s to come on the series. Great panel, and it did its job, which was get me even more pumped up to watch the show.

After the Walking Dead panel, we wandered back upstairs to cram one last hour of show floor time in before closing. I finally caught up with Kristin of Geek Girls Network, and was reminded how much I love meeting people who I’m already friends with through various Internet outlets. At 5:00 sharp, Comic Con employees and volunteers and Javits Center employees began, shall we say, emphatically telling people to, essentially, GTFO. We lingered an extra minute to grab a few last-minute pictures, and were rewarded by the cast of The Walking Dead strolling right past us. At which point, I looked up, saw Norman Reedus, who I’ve loved since Boondock Saints, squealed something unintelligible, and thankfully, my husband had the presence of mind to chase him down and ask if he’d take a picture with me, which he did quite graciously even though I turned into a stammering, giggling fangirl. And then we left and had a delicious Thai dinner, where we ended up chatting about con stuff with the table of people across from us.

To recap: Really great and gracious guests and celebrities; way too crowded at times; very poor communication between staff, volunteers, and attendees; could probably stand to split up NYCC and NYAF; some really good but mostly “meh” cosplay; and my feet and legs are KILLING me. I need to physically prepare better next time, and con organizers need to iron out the fairly obvious and substantial kinks in their system.


No more Ensign Sexypants: female sci-fi characters who don’t suck

Being a female character in sci-fi can be a tough gig. You’re either one-dimensional eye candy whose only defining features are contained in your spandex uniform top, or you’re the most ridiculous Mary Sue in existence; the badass who’s good at everything, beautiful, smart, tough, and sassy. If you need a flaw, hmm, unlucky in love, maybe? Finding a well-written, well-acted, fully developed (in the character creation sense, you pervs) female sci-fi character is harder than you think. Sci-fi has always been progressive: in the storylines, in the creation of technology, with world-building and species invention; but sci-fi writers, with a few exceptions, have often failed their female characters, and, by extension, their female audiences. Here are some characters who defy the trend:

-Laura Roslin (BSG): I have rarely had love for a TV character as much as I have for Roslin. She’s simultaneously kind and cunning, manipulative and generous, vulnerable and strong, and she loves to airlock people and/or Cylons. She’s led astray from time to time, she plays the game, she makes mistakes, sometimes huge ones, but still remains solidly Roslin. Her relationship with Adama Sr. is one of the most realistic, most touching, and most heart wrenching partnerships I can think of. Her ruthlessness in dealing with her various nemeses and annoyances, most notably Baltar and Zarek, is inspiring and a little scary all at once. Not to mention, in a cast of young, unreasonably attractive women, Mary McDonnell not only holds her own, but elevates the standard for beautiful and captivating, while being a few years past the Hollywood ideal of a leading lady.

-Samantha Carter (Stargate SG-1): Carter got off to a bad start; I’ll admit that. Her first few episodes made me cringe. Her dialogue was forced and awful, and she was really pretty annoying. She got better, though. Much, much better, as far as I’m concerned. She was a little too awesome at times: she solved all of the problems, she was the rational one, the smart one, the one to fix everything just in the nick of time. Carter still managed to avoid being one-dimensional. She had love interests, friendships, hobbies, and dorky pursuits. She carried traits of her entire team: the military/warrior mindset of O’Neill and Teal’c, the humanity and love of science and knowledge of Daniel Jackson, the diplomacy and leadership of General Hammond, and the heart of Dr. Fraiser. She was completely unapologetic about being a geek, and while she was often a bit of a know-it-all, no one was ever surprised that the pretty blonde woman was the one with the answers.

-Zoe Washburne (Firefly): My love for Zoe is pretty much boundless. Sure, she’s got a lot of that tomboy badassery going on, she’s a crack shot, she makes even Jayne look like a sissy, but Joss Whedon (who has a pretty good track record with female characters, for the most part) actually made her a person on top of all that. She’s got a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. Her marriage is realistic, with give and take and sweet little moments of humor and affection. Her instincts are military, but she has an inclination toward the nurturing that she doesn’t try to hide. She worries about the crew. She focuses on the people as well as the details. I love that she’s not the usual “under the tough-as-nails exterior lies a soft, squishy, heart of gold.” She manages to mix the heart in with the toughness, the humor in with the strategy, and she doesn’t put on a front. She’s all of who she is, all of the time.

-Aeryn Sun (Farscape): Aeryn, while being in possession of the aforementioned “tough-as-nails exterior,” still has one of the most compelling redemption and development arcs in modern sci-fi. Over the course of the series, she is forced to question everything she had believed to be true for her entire life. She is thrown into a complex group situation, where she has to interact with people (and, you know, not-people) in a non-military context for the first time pretty much ever. She never loses her general badassness, but, over time, her fragility and uncertainties surface, and she has to figure out how to reconcile the person she is becoming with the person she’s always been. Plus, she can pilot a Prowler like no one else.

-Donna Noble (Doctor Who): Donna, of all of the recent companions, partially owes her place on this list to being the only female companion who is both older than 25 and not in love with the Doctor. Companion as potential love interest can only go so far before I’m just rolling my eyes in annoyance. More than that, though, Donna is AWESOME. I know that’s not a universally held opinion, but as far as I’m concerned, she’s such a good character. She’s the Doctor’s equal in many ways. She’s his friend, his companion in the truest sense of the word. She’s resourceful, and brave, but she’s far from perfect. Occasionally overconfident and judgmental, often shrill, and intermittently completely exasperating, Donna still manages to be a real person, even while she’s saving the day/world/universe/all of time and space. She’s a temp! And she’s a really good one! She calls people out on their bullshit, whether it’s her boss and coworkers, her mother, the Doctor, or a bunch of Daleks. Plus, anyone who loves her grampa that much has a special place in my heart. (Side note: Were I to ever make a list of the best sci-fi grandfathers, it would pretty much begin and end with Wilf.)

As a point of interest, after I finished writing this, I did a quick Google search for “Sci-fi women characters,” with several variations, mostly because I like to see how my ideas line up with other people examining the same topic, and also to make sure I’m not ganking someone else’s ideas (even unintentionally). Want to know what I found? “Hottest sci-fi women.” “Sexy sci-fi woman characters.” “Hottest sci-fi girls.” “Sci-fi fantasy woman costumes.” Oh, boy. We still have so far to go.

Nerd girl essentials: sci-fi TV and movie division

I’m a nerd. It’s not a secret. I’m also a geek, and often a bit of a dork, but I’m not ashamed of any of that. I was even a nerd before all the cool kids were doing it. I’m nerdy, old-school. And one of the main reasons I am the way I am today is because I’ve watched a lot of science fiction. I’ve also read a ton of science fiction, but that’s a whole separate and unbelievably extensive list. I’ve compiled my top ten sci-fi movies and TV shows. In some cases, it’s not necessarily the quality of the show or movie, but how much it influenced how I think about things and look at the world. In other cases, things made this list becasue they are just ridiculously fucking good. Some of these are probably best considered fantasy rather than sci-fi, but it’s my blog, and I’ll genre mix if I want to. Zombie movies, while among my favorite forms of entertainment ever, are also a totally separate list. Watch these things:

  1. Firefly/Serenity: This TV series was part of the original Joss Whedon trifecta: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. (Dollhouse came much later.) I watched, and loved, Buffy and Angel, but Firefly has my heart. It’s most often described as a “space western,” but that does it such a disservice. Amazing cast, amazing writing, a good balance of humor and drama, and some pretty in-depth and well-planned world building. Unfortunately, Firefly was totally fucked over by Fox (almost a decade later, and fans will never ever stop making mention of that fact), and only fourteen episodes were made, only eleven of which aired. The final three episodes were released, along with a feature film (Serenity), and it will probably never be replaced as my favorite TV show ever.
  2. Doctor Who: Don’t let the fact that there have been about four zillion seasons of this show and that eleven people have played the (same) main character scare you: this show is completely fucking awesome. The series was “rebooted” in 2005, with Christopher Eccleston taking on the role of the Doctor (the main character is called just “the Doctor.” although when referring to the various incarnations, it’s usually easier to call them by their numbers: Eccleston is Nine, David Tennant is Ten, and Matt Smith is the current Doctor, Eleven). It’s funny, it’s campy, the dialogue is hilarious, and it’s made me cry more than once. Per season.
  3. The Empire Strikes Back: By far, the best out of the Star Wars movies. Good sci-fi is one thing, but it takes really great sci-fi to be considered a “great” movie, regardless of genre. I choose to pretend that the “prequels” were just mediocre fanfiction that somehow got produced. Empire is where it’s at.
  4. Dune: Yes, the book was ten thousand times better. Yes, the movie was pretty terrible. I DON’T CARE AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME. Patrick Stewart! Kyle MacLachlan! Sting! The film was visually appealing, and the very first time I saw it, I didn’t know enough about movies to know it sucked; I just knew that one of my favorite books was a movie and I loved it. I still do.
  5. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Rewatching it twenty years later, yes, it’s dated and more than a little cheesy. But it’s soooo good. It was then; it still is. And you may be starting to notice that having Patrick Stewart in your cast is a good way to make it onto this list. Out of all the Star Trek series and movies, this is easily my #1. It’s more entertaining and less heavy than some of the later series, and I never could get into the original series. TNG is king of the Treks, as far as I’m concerned.
  6. Farscape: Here’s how good this series is: I’m almost positive I haven’t seen all of the episodes, and it still makes the list. A kick-ass female main character who isn’t a caricature, a male lead who is not always the hero, secondary and tertiary characters that are fully realized and incredibly well-written, and complex and intricately planned world building. Even though this series still has a loyal, one might say rabid, following, it never really got the recognition I think it deserved.
  7. Battlestar Galactica: The new one. Although it did, admittedly, fall to shit at the end, this series was all of the things good sci-fi should be: gritty, smart, depressing, a little spiritual, and a really harsh study of human nature. BSG was a good enough show that the fact that its cast was 95% unrealistically good-looking (sorry, Edward James Olmos, but you’re still a fucking incredible actor) didn’t detract from the writing. I wasn’t crazy about how it wrapped up, but getting there was really, really good.
  8. Stargate SG-1: Predictable story lines? Absolutely. Really cheesy special effects? Always. Still one of the most enjoyable sci-fi series to date? In my book, yes. I prefer the original team (Jack O’Neill, Samantha Carter, Daniel Jackson, and Teal’c, with General Hammond and Dr. Fraiser), but I liked the show enough that later-season cast substitutions never really bothered me. SG-1’s first spinoff Stargate:Atlantis was also a lot of fun. And neither series ever really pretended to be anything it wasn’t.
  9. Futurama: Being a cartoon isn’t a disqualifier here. It’s hilarious. It fucks with most sci-fi tropes without really insulting the source material. And I invent reasons to say “Who smells like freaking porpoise hork?” on a regular basis. Special category for the episode “Jurassic Bark,” which has the dubious distinction of having one of the only scenes in the history of TV that makes me cry every damn time I see it.
  10. Eureka: One word? Underrated. There’s a big focus on the “science” part of science fiction in this show, but the acting is good, the story lines are engaging, if a little predictable, the cast is diverse in a ton of ways, and it’s really just consistently good and almost always guaranteed to be entertaining. I particularly like to recommend this to people who have a hard time with sci-fi, because it’s very relatable, and there are a lot of good stand-alone episodes that don’t require any investment in the seasonal story arcs.

(Also, no Nerd Girl post could be complete without MC Chris:)