Attending the convention energized me. And I think it was in a way that TMC couldn’t have. Here’s why: Because teaching is my profession. When I’m around other educators, I feel like I have to be as good as them, or I’m not doing my job properly. So it’s inspiring, but at the same time humbling. However, my writing and webcomics is freelance. When I’m around the fandom, I feel like if I’m as good as them, it’s a bonus - and if I’m not as good, well, it’s not like it’s my profession. This frees me, and makes me think I can do things like start running a math webcomic. (I'm now publishing on Mondays.)
|I can also get commissions of my math characters.|
Here's the new Para, as drawn by Tabitha Yi
Is that a writing cop out? An unjust educator comparison? A spurious correlation, with me as denominator? Don’t know. But then, you likely came here for a recap of “all things geek”, not introspection, so let’s get to that.
FRIDAY & WEBCOMICS
Since I’m not teaching, I could actually drive down Friday morning, and be there for Friday events, a shocking difference from “Anime North”. The keynote for the Opening Ceremonies was given by Nash Bozard. Last month, he celebrated 15 YEARS of hosting “Radio Dead Air”, once per week. The guy is my age. (I suppose that fifteen years ago, I was writing my web serial...)
Nash spoke about how “we’ve become the mainstream”, whereas 20 years ago, someone would have been teased for reading comic books in high school. And YET, now that we’re here, instead of welcoming others, we’re pushing them away - because of gender, or race, or sexuality. We’re emulating the behaviours of those who tormented us in high school. That’s messed up. We have a chance “to make a legacy. Make it one your heroes would be proud of.” You can see watch his keynote at this YouTube link, I recommend it.
|Speaking of webcomics... my new Lyn,|
as drawn by Meg Simmons.
It is hard to balance the time, and sometimes when the creativity clicks, you have to use it (staying up until 3am). I asked about buffers, and none of the panelists had one (unless they knew they’d be away), their reasoning ranging from from second guessing stuff in the buffer, to being unable to do it since the writer gave stuff late to the artist, to it not eliminating the worry anyway. But, you know, good idea, buffers. Also, be aware of “real time”; if your Christmas storyline is stretching into June for readers, that’s a problem.
If you’re talking to an artist, it helps to give the personality, more than the picture. (“They’re soldiers"... from where? strict regimen?) When drawing, put the words in FIRST, as part of the design process, don’t lose any artwork to a word bubble. Don’t try to over-detail backgrounds. Watch SCOPE, having a dragon and a dwarf visible in the same panel is problematic. Art skill is transferable, as it also teaches maintaining composure. Sometimes you “have to kill your babies” - if a joke doesn’t work, cut your losses and keep creating. (Sometimes, it’s the throwaway comic that becomes the most popular.)
From there, I went to catch the end of “Farewell FamiKamen Rider!”, a movie tribute to the late JewWario’s character. (It even got Marzgurl out of the US!) Despite knowing more about him than his creation, I cried a bit. Apparently it was close to 100% guerrilla filming, given the budget restrictions. There was also a bit with a bike that was brilliant, with an interesting backstory, that you have to see to appreciate.
At this point it was 8:45pm, and I thought dinner might be a good plan. I came back afterwards to see a bit of the 404s (improv comedy), poked my head in to look at the Pub Quiz (Nash was helping to host), then went back to my hotel.
SATURDAY & REVIEWERS
Started the day at 9:30am with “Review! All the Things! Round 1”, a panel/Q&A with lots of internet reviewers, including Linkara (Lewis), Nash, Marzgurl (Kaylyn), Obscurus Lupa (Alison) and more. Including the baby of Paw Dugan and Elisa Hansen. I didn’t take many notes here, but did ask a question myself.
|Any familiar faces here?|
I asked them what they felt they’d improved the most at doing, in all their years of reviews. Nash said “Audio” without hesitation. Linkara decided it was his editing speed (he could maybe pull together an episode in 24 hours). Marzgurl said it was scripting, in realizing she didn’t have to all be jokes, she could be factual. And Alison said it was her camera presence.
The conversation shifted a bit within that, as many seemed to agree that the writing is what got more DIFFICULT. In part because you start to wonder “what’s left to say?” so that you’re not always repeating yourself. In part because your standards go up, and you always want to do better. Lewis commented that “none of us like looking at our earlier stuff” because they see all their technical flaws.
I also remember someone asking about what’s the biggest “rabbit hole” they fell into, in terms of biting off more than they could handle. Kaylyn said it was her “Don Bluth” stuff, because people kept wanting her to look at extended series’ that Bluth hadn’t been part of (like the endless “Land Before Time” animated movies). For Lewis it was “Southland Tales”, for Alison “Charmed”, and for Paw “Cats”.
When things wrapped there, I peeked into “Parents in Anime”. Discussion was mostly about how parents are never around (sometimes DYING to start the show), but also how they don’t necessarily respect the choices of their kids. They can also give their kids problematic names, like “Knives”. I left early to get to “Ask a Scientist”.
ASK A SCIENTIST was a 1.5 hour long panel about science in writing. It gets it’s own post. (Reasons to stay tuned to this blog!)
After that, and a pop into the Marketplace again (commissions, etc), I went to the Reviewer Autographs. The line was nowhere near the size it was for 2012, which made me a bit sad, but chatting with others in line, they were all very keen. Also, I forgot to actually bring anything for the reviewers to sign - so I gave them each a blank sheet and said they could put what they wanted onto it, from a signature to more.
|Another look at NewPara,|
drawn by Oceantann
This was also the day I bought "Snowbound", a publishing effort by Drew Byrne. He had buttons too.
It being around 1:30pm, I went to lunch. I came back in time to see the end of the panel on “Marvel Cinematic Universe Revisited”. It was pointed out how DC does have television locked down (even with Marvel trying it’s “Agents of SHIELD”), and that if “Green Lantern” had gotten big, it might have spawned a similar cinematic universe. The thing with DC is how it always takes itself so seriously - yet “Dude’s running around in a costume dressed as a bat. It’s a little silly.”
Then I went to “Make Some Noise: Creating Your Own Music”, and THAT I’ve put in a separate post (combo with Crowdfunding”, below). Then I went to “Leatherworking 101”, ALSO it’s own post (in tandem with “Photography”, later). Stay tuned to this blog!
EVENING & WRITING
I lined up for the “Atop the 4th Wall Movie Panel” before 7pm, even though it was for 7:30pm, (correctly) anticipating a line. Inside, I ended up sitting right in front of Diamanda Hagan (another reviewer) so mind a little blown. (I know, I know, they’re regular people like us.) After showing us the clip, Linkara took questions.
He’d had a new set built for his ship, rather than use green screen backgrounds. Apparently “depth of field” static images put focus in the front, with a blur if it’s not the central item. Which is problematic for his hallway shots, the person may not be able to stand at the focus. He also cannot legally use the ‘Microsoft Sound Voice’ for Pollo, meaning a new voice, which will factor into his reviews later this year.
On the writing side, his first draft script was apparently too much “Too Boldly Flee Lite” (a prior ‘Channel Awesome’ anniversary video) in that it didn’t have little subplots for all characters. He noted how Nash was great at the “wide-eyed doe” (everyman) character, swept up in events. Lewis also had backup ideas for characters, in case the planned reviewers still didn’t like his final version (such as reworking Alison’s part for someone else).
I asked about the difficulty of Lewis playing 3 different characters (Linkara, Harvey and 90s kid), in terms of shooting. He did do them in chunks (rather than shooting in sequence), and added that the decision to include the other reviewers was in part because he didn’t think he/his multiple characters could carry a movie themselves. Plus it’s neat to see the interaction between his characters and the reviewers, not something we’ve been witness to before.
|Roll with it|
They took a break close to 10:30pm, which was good because I’d wanted to go to “Best and Worst of Teen Fiction”. It was run by the two hosts of “Death of the Author Reviews”, Chelsey Payette and Alexandra Hunter. The usual problems were brought up: Informed Attributes (show, don’t tell), Strong Female Characters who aren’t (if you can replace a female character with a sexy lamp that is inscribed with useful info, not good), and Love Triangles (they rarely happen in real life).
In particular, if you remove a romance angle, and the story falls apart, that’s bad. It shouldn’t be driving the plot. Plus, if everything could be solved by having a conversation about the “misunderstanding”, it’s annoying! More, everyone cannot be/have a “Chosen One” - there’s even starting to be pushback/reversal on this. The focus becoming on a NORMAL person in a world of “Chosen Ones”. All that said, tropes can work in your favour if done right, because people like the familiarity. “Descent Into Hell” was offered as one such type.
There’s also different flavours of fantasy people enjoy, from “High Fantasy” (D&D) to “Urban Fantasy” (Harry Potter) to “Portal Fantasy” (Narnia, basically there’s a portal between the other two types). Of note, most teen fiction seems to like “ageing up kids” due to circumstance, not unlike “Lord of the Flies”.
The latter part of the panel was the dozen or so people in the room trying to come up with a crazy story. We had Jim, who faced with unrequited love of Ember, turned the priestess into a sword. (He had a brother, Tim, who disliked him.) Then the sword goes missing, and there’s twin old sages who end up using it as a butter knife. Tentative title: “Dude, Where’s My Sword?” This would be a trilogy, where later parts reveal that Ember was the “Chosen One” but wouldn’t choose THEM, so evil Jim had actually saved everyone. Huzzah.
I went back to D20 after, to discover that Lewis (Linkara) had taken over the NPC from the DM, and there was still mention of “Space Jam”. It got a little crazy, and came down to a “roll off”. Things ended about midnight, I wandered by the Dance to have a look, then went to bed.
SUNDAY & ONLINE MEDIA
|Pictured: How to knock out a Bond villain.|
At 11:30am was the “Crowdfunding and Online Patronage” panel. It is in this later post with yesterday’s “Music” tips. Then at 1pm (after running into Sha!) I went to “Post Production and Advanced Photography”, so look for that in this post that also includes Leatherworking. (Again, stay tuned!)
At 2:30pm I went to “So You Wanna Make It Online?” ... that’s going to need a separate post as well. I write too many notes, and this post is getting too long. When it ended at 3:30pm I went to “Review! All the Things - Round 2” which was a different set of reviewers from Saturday - and due to staggered starts, had begun a half hour earlier. (It included Diamanda Hagan, Derek “the Bard”, Erika Szabo and more.)
I walked in on a discussion about how online reviewers are shaking up the status quo. It’s no longer only print reviews, with maybe some Siskel & Ebert video. Anyone can do this - which is not what “they” (company execs) were taught in school. “We don’t have press passes, we’re not in unions, there’s no contracts they can play upon” - thus they end up coming down on individuals. For better or worse.
Make sure to read any contracts closely. If something is bad, one should retain the ability to say so. Massive brand deals can damage channels, and if there’s a sudden change in output (bigger set, early game review) you may need to wonder about the creator’s content. Then things took a lighter turn as the panelists reviewed random things, from an unboxing to taro balls, to snoring. The last question was what they thought of ConBravo.
|By the way... personified math webcomic. Art: me.|
Thanks for reading this way long post, and stay tuned for subsequent mini-panel posts over the next couple weeks. You can also read my 2015 Anime North Review, or How I Draw for all my web content.