Category Archives: conventions
Last weekend, the final Stargate convention took place at its home at the Westin O’Hare in Chicago. It was a bittersweet occasion: we were all there to celebrate Stargate, and as usual, there was fun, friends, and memories, but this is also the last official Stargate convention for the foreseeable future. This is the last time, it seems, that we’ll have a chance to gather in Chicago to make memories. But memories we did make. Here are some highlights from the convention – some funny, some insightful, and some outright bizarre.
- Paul McGillion was going to be Scotty the Engineer
The 200th episode of SG-1 included a Star Trek sequence with an engineer who sounded a hell of a lot like Scotty. They were originally going to have Paul McGillion do it, saying something like similar to “I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!” During his panel, Paul auctioned off this version of the script, reading his lines allowed in a comic Scotty accent. I asked Paul to write the quote he read from the script when I was getting his autograph, but he couldn’t remember it, so he tried writing Scotty’s quote instead and got that wrong, so what I ended up with is the rather dirty “For Chrissakes, I’m giving her all I’ve got!”:
- Beckett, like Scotty, drinks Scotch
(despite the fact that it was invented by a little old lady in Leningrad). In fact, in a twist so ironic only reality could produce it, I was able to witness the Scottish Paul McGillion autograph my photo with a Scotty quote while drinking Scotch. (the Scotch may also have been responsible for him getting it wrong and turning it dirty)
- Someone tried to buy Joe Flanigan his favorite whiskey
During his panel, Joe mentioned that his favorite drink is Lagavulin Whiskey (but it has to
be sixteen years old!), going on to say that when he lived with Jason Momoa during the filming of Stargate, they went through bottles of it at the pace of frat boys and piled up the bottles against the wall as “decoration.” Consequently, as I was enjoying a “Kawoosh” at the hotel bar, a breathless fan ran up, asking if the bar had a bottle. I suggested she try the liquor store next door, which is the source of much of our felicity at Stargate cons, but they didn’t have it. The hotel bar did, but refused to sell her an entire bottle. I don’t know whether Joe did eventually get his whiskey, but I was touched (and entertained) by the gesture.
- The special drink menu
Speaking of alcohol….the Westin O’Hare, which is like a home away from home for me, put together a special drink menu for the convention. As overpriced as the drinks were, I must admit the “Kawoosh” was delicious, though the bright-green Teal’c’s Margarita did leave something to be desired.
- Chris Judge likes big boobs and he cannot lie
I’m not sure I know where to even begin explaining this one (or if, as an aspiring academic, I should be putting it on the internet) It all started when Chris Judge (whose biceps are, like Jason Momoa’s, the size of my face) was asked about his workout routine. He mentioned that he has to lose some weight for an upcoming role, in which he plays a trans superhero, and then segued into talking about his costume for the role. He’s had costume fittings, and was asked things like “what size boobs would you like?” As far as I recall, he jokingly said that he wants big boobs, and it all went from there. To compound this hilarity, there was a wedding at this Stargate con, with a bachelorette party the previous night, which of course meant that there were lots of NC-17 items floating around, like a headband with boobs on it, which Chris Judge was wearing while signing autographs (though with my lack of observation skills, I didn’t notice them during my autographs).
But that, my friends, is not the end of the story. After the hilarity of his panel, I asked Chris Judge to write something about boobs when I was getting his autograph. He looked at me and went, “you want me to sign your boobs?” and to this day, I don’t know whether he’s joking or not. I mentioned that while I’d be happy to allow him to, I don’t think Creation Entertainment would take a similar view, which is how I ended up with the following autographed photo (in which Teal’c enigmatic smile perfectly matches the words, methinks):
- He also likes ridiculously snazzy pants:
I just don’t have words. Only Chris Judge could pull off those pants and still be able to look slightly terrifying.
- I got my Atlantis control crystal signed
It forms a nice collection with the isolinear chip that LeVar Burton signed. Now I just need Colm Meaney to complete the collection…
- Someone “borrowed” my David Hewlett photo op idea from a couple years ago
A couple years ago, I did a photo op with David Hewlett in which I brought a lemon (which, when I was purchasing it at 7-11, is the reason I was recognized by a bunch of other Stargaters from the con) and had him react to it. A couple new friends did something similar this year, involving a lemon and an epi pen:
- Everybody crashed everyone’s panels
This is a pretty common occurrence at Stargate cons; the atmosphere is extremely laid back, and there’s always a lot of stars autographing in the vendors’ room, which is right next to the theatre. This means that, from time to time, one of them will come in to randomly join a panel that’s happening and then just not leave. In particular, David Nykl crashed David Hewlett’s panel, and we got some Rodney and Zelenka banter onstage and firsthand:
David DeLuise also crashed Chris Judge’s panel to admire his biceps:
- “Can You imagine Putin as a Klingon?”
A literal quote said by Joe Flanigan. The context was talking about villain characters that the heroes are forced to work with, like the Klingons, who were the Russians on Star Trek during the Cold War. Yes, Joe, I can indeed imagine Putin as a Klingon.
- A Stargate wedding!
Last year at the Stargate convention, Danni proposed to Bri; they’re both Stargate fans, and met at the Stargate con, so it seemed like the perfect place to propose. This year, they had their wedding at the con, complete in costumes and with a little bit of roleplay.
Daniel dressed as Daniel Jackson, while Brianne dressed as her fan-fiction character, Dr. Adrienne Rowan, and everyone else wore thematic outfits as well. The wedding was also a skit re-enacting those characters’ wedding in her stories, and made to look like a traditional Jaffa wedding. What made it even more realistic was Eric Avari (who played Sha’are’s father, Kasuf) giving an impromptu blessing in Egyptian that he had learned for the show. All in all, it was ridiculously beautiful – especially the vows. They also managed to mount a pretty life-sized Stargate on the stage, which formed an excellent backdrop for the rest of the convention, though I heard that lots of duct tape was involved in making it actually stand up. I suggested they ask David Hewlett for help, who reputedly is basically a geek of Rodney McKay proportions.
12. Michael Shanks can make about 20 bazillion facial expressions in one minute
I could upload them all to this blog, but then I’d crash WordPress. I have about 300 photos of Michael Shanks, and I swear, every single one of them has a different facial expression. I don’t know how he does it. Here’s a taste….
13. David Nykl and Joe Flanigan talked about the nature of television.
One of the great pleasures of conventions for me as an academic is when industry insiders talk about television, media, and fandom, because they always provide a unique insider’s perspective. This con did not disappoint in this department. David Nykl talked about how movies today are a dime a dozen, and usually full of explosions. Television, on the other hand, is special, he said: it has a fanbase, and is in people’s living rooms and kitchens every week, building rapport. In fact, today TV might even be better and more important than movies. Joe Flanigan pointed out that sci-fi has a loyal fanbase that not even regular popular shows have. It’s a fanbase that Hollywood is out of touch with: they produce lots of sci-fi, but don’t understand the fandom. This is something that’s impressed me at every Stargate con I’ve attended: the actors really seem to understand, appreciate, and approve of fandom and all its creativity (fan fiction included). They get fandom and sci-fi, and many of them (like David Hewlett) are also huge nerds.
This was the phrase with which David Hewlett began his panel and a running gag throughout it. He also mentioned that the hotel the con was in was hosting a leadership conference that he considered crashing just for the hell of it
- “What Would McKay Do?”
When asked what advice Rodney McKay would give if he ever did have a chance, David Hewlett thought about it for a while, then said, “whenever you find yourself at a juncture and don’t know what to do, ask yourself, What Would McKay Do?” Of course, he followed it up with “run away and hide, probably.”
- I gave Joe Flanigan a hard time about his character “Kirking around.”
Joe was asked about whether a Weir and Shepard romance was intended and whether there was any sexual tension there. After confirming that this was indeed the case, Joe complained that his character didn’t get nearly enough romance, and (unless I’m recalling this incorrectly) made mention of Captain Kirk’s romancing of the women of the galaxy. After which I pointed out to him when I was getting his autograph that Kirk didn’t actually Kirk around. Then again, Joe confessed that he never really got into or watched the original Star Trek, but it’s okay, I forgive him.
- David Hewlett and David Nykl discovered official, authorized Stargate fanfic
At one point during his panel, David Hewlett was asked what he thinks of fan fiction (which he approves of, by the way, but more on that later). He mentioned something about how Stargate should get some fans to write authorized fanfic, only to be told that, hey, it exists, and the authors who write it are just outside. One of them got to come up onstage, and David was presented with a set of Stargate books. Naturally, he and the other David opened them to look for their characters. Zelenka was easily found on the first page David Nykl flipped to, but poor David Hewlett couldn’t find any mentions of Rodney.
…And seventeen seems like a good number to end on, as that’s the number of seasons the Stargate franchise had. I’ll be writing a bit more about this convention (and in particular, on the actors’ thoughts on fan fiction), but for now, I just wanted to celebrate this last hurrah of Stargate in Chicago by preserving some of the best memories.
(All photos by me)
With the exact date of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary coming up shortly on September 8th, celebrations of what started as a strange little show with low ratings are in full swing. Star Trek: Mission New York promises to take over Labor Day weekend with a slew of panels, screenings, autographs, and other festivities, and this past weekend, Cherry Hill hosted a Star Trek 50 year mission tour convention.
Though much of the aforementioned convention was based around entertainment (with celebrity Q and A’s, a Rat Pack performance on Friday night, and karaoke), there was also intellectual stimulation to be had for the sci-fi nerd, including panels on Women in Star Trek, Star Trek and Shakespeare, and a discussion of the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. Two actor appearances – William Shatner and LeVar Burton – also stood out; both spoke passionately about science fiction and science, speaking of its potential and of its influence.
William Shatner began his panel by talking about what projects he’s been working on lately, but this quickly segued into a short talk about the nature of science itself. His most recent project – titled The Truth is in Our Stars, and slated for release in December – is a series of interviews with scientists influenced by Star Trek, including Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking (whom he interviewed just last week). Shatner spoke with great passion about the questions science asks – what are we all doing here? What are we? What the hell does it all mean? These are the same questions that mythology attempts to answer: why are we here? What is the meaning of life? And science fiction, as he has so often previously stated, is deeply mythological, in taking these metaphysical questions and giving them realistic answers. He made some short quips about the answers to all these questions – “we’re all vibrating!” he summarized, after snarkily suggesting that scientists talk for fifteen minutes but have no better answer to the above questions than anyone else.
But this snark was quickly replaced by deep seriousness. He looked almost enraptured as he spoke about his experience with Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku, telling the story of how, once, when he was speaking about the mathematical beauty of music with Michio, he asked him, “Kaku, what instrument do you play?” Michio pointed to his head, his brain – which, almost ecstatically, Shatner suggested was an instrument like any other, capable of touching the beauty of the universe in some way. He spoke also of Stephen Hawking, who lives in a body that doesn’t work – but his mind does. He had similarly asked Hawking once, “what instrument do you use?” to receive a similar answer – his mind.
Shatner also spoke about the very real impact of – and crosspollination between – Star Trek and real science, and, in particular, space exploration. He went back to the late 60s, when, he claimed, the achievements of the space program brought in ratings to Star Trek. These ratings, in turn, inspired scientists and the continuation of the space program. He even suggested (citing an unmentioned source) that it was the influence of Star Trek that caused Congress to vote for funding for the space program, calling Star Trek “instrumental” in getting money allocated for the space program. (as a side note, William Shatner is what one might consider a primary source on the topic, given that he was at the center of things during the Space Age of the 1960s; at the same time, I have no written sources at this time to back up his claims).
In short, my admiration of William Shatner (which was already great) has grown even more with this conversation. He seems to have a deep respect for both Star Trek (whose ideas and philosophy he said he admired, even producing a moral/political reading of Star Trek’s funniest episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles”) and science (whose potential he spoke about with visible admiration, ending his appearance with words of admiration for the brilliant young scientists currently working at NASA that he’s interviewing for his project).
In short, when he claimed “I’m Captain Kirk!” halfway through the panel, he wasn’t joking – he seems to have James T. Kirk’s openmindedness and sense of wonder about both the world around us and the fiction that describes it.
This influence, which Star Trek had on so many lives, also touched LeVar Burton, who played Geordi in Star Trek: The Next Generation. While Shatner had mentioned more abstractly the various influences Trek had had on scientists, inspiring them to pursue science, LeVar spoke of the way that the Original Series (of which he was a huge fan) showed him that he had opportunities as a young black kid- something he loved incarnating in Geordi, a character with a disability who is still able to pursue his passion.
He also wholeheartedly admitted that he’s a science fiction nerd, because science fiction invites us to contemplate “what if” – which, he said, are two of the most powerful words in language. He also called imagination a superpower- a thought process that essentially enables us to travel through time and space in a way that no other species can. And storytelling is what connects us to the imagination, that brings it to life. In short, though he didn’t say it in those words exactly, he spoke of science fiction as similarly mythological: just like Shatner suggested that sci-fi lets us answer the question of “what’s out there?”, LeVar suggested that it lets us ask “What if?” (LeVar also mentioned as I was getting his autograph, on the very same isolinear chip that he refused to fix for me, that his favorite science fiction author is Octavia Butler).
They both spoke about a topic that’s been of deep interest to me in my research: the relationship between storytelling and science, as well as the way that our penchant for narrative extends beyond the obvious – literature. Over the summer, I had the chance to read The Storytelling Animal, which suggests that storytelling – that is, the ability to ask “what if” and work out the consequences of potential scenarios – is not only programmed into our brains, it’s how we have survived as a species. That is, not only is the imagination a superpower, it is a fundamental survival skill of our species. And science fiction, in its incorporation of science, is particularly apt at working out those consequences and projecting hypothetical scenarios, giving it the power to answer not only “what if?” but also the more mythological question of “What for?”
In short, LeVar and Shatner both spoke with amazing understanding about a topic that I’ve been focusing on as an academic for some time now; at the same time, they gave these talks at a venue that more than proved them right: a 50th anniversary celebration of Star Trek. Star Trek really does showcase the mythological, magical power of storytelling in general and science fiction in particular.
It’s a little bizarre to return from a convention that’s less than 15 miles away from me and call it a trip, but that’s what it was- I chose to stay at the con hotel to spend as much time as I could and take in everything! As a preview of the con reports and write-ups to come, here are some highlights, funny moments, and interesting tidbits from the con.
Overheard at the convention: “my husband’s downstairs partying with the Klingons.”
I was told this by a fellow Trekkie who was taking an elevator up with me while enjoying a Stun Punch, one of the specialty cocktails the hotel created for the event. It’s a step below the Vulcan Death Grip in terms of knock-out power. Speaking of Klingons, I’m guessing these were the ones the aforementioned husband was partying with:
Fuzzy Tribbles invaded the convention
The Fuzzy Tribble (which is not alcoholic enough to make everything fuzzy unless you’ve had, well, as many of them as were on that space station) was another popular drink; yours truly consumed several in the company of William Shatner while preparing for my panel on the Impact of Star Trek at next week’s convention, Star Trek Mission NYC:
The Omnipotent, Omniscient Q Continuum Assures us there’s nothing to see in Hillary’s e-mails.
One of the first questions John deLancie was asked was whether, as Q, he would bring back all of Hillary Clinton’s deleted e-mails. Without a beat, he answered “I’ve read them all. There’s nothing there.” Speaking of politics, deLancie prefaced his panel by saying we’re welcome to ask him questions, but he is not constrained by truth. “I should run for high office,” he suggested.
The Song “Red Rain” was dedicated to all the redshirts
Every Creation Entertainment convention includes a karaoke party, and this con was no exception. Karaoke was hosted by Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating, who joined fans onstage to sing along. One fan dedicated the song “Red Rain” to all the redshirts in the audience.
If you can’t find the Garden of Eden outside Moscow, you should probably see an optometrist
This was possibly one of my favorite moments of the convention. One of my favorite lines in the original series is “The Garden of Eden was just outside of Moscow. It must have made Adam and Eve very sad to leave” (said in a thick Russian accent). Seeing that I was actually in Moscow this summer, I came up to the microphone during the Q and A to say “I have a bone to pick with you. I was in Moscow this summer, and I couldn’t find the Garden of Eden.” “Where did you look?” he asked me. “Everywhere,” I insisted. (I visited three Moscow airports this summer, which I think pretty much covers the entire periphery of Moscow). “Then I suggest you see an optometrist,” Mr. Koenig said flippantly.
Michael Dorn is most certainly not a merry man
He hated that line.
LeVar hated wearing Geordi’s visor but loved the line “COOLANT LEAK!”
That’s the line he wants to be remembered by. He also refused to fix my isolinear chips and asked for a hug instead:
At least he signed the isolinear chips, which should totally make them function better:
LeVar Burton is a huge sci-fi nerd
His favorite author is Octavia Butler, and he thinks imagination and storytelling is what sets us apart from all other beings.
Gates McFadden has done some naughty things with Brent Spiner
I have no idea what this was actually about. No context was given.
Chekov eventually found the nuclear wessels.
They’re in Alameda.
Sybok attacked Captain Kirk
But the ever-unflappable Starfleet Captain was more than ready to defend himself:
NOMAD invaded the convention, and needed to be out-logic-ed by yours truly:
Kira Nerys has the most feminist agency of all the Trek women.
The first day of the con included a wonderful panel on women in Trek by Amy Imhoff, Tanya Lemani, Nana Visitor, and Sue of Women at Warp. They discussed feminist issues in Star Trek, and as it turns out, Kira Nerys has even more feminist agency than Captain Janeway! You can read more about these thoughts at an interview Amy did with Nana at Star Trek: Las Vegas.
Rom knows how to rap
As evidenced here:
Captain Kirk is a Womanizer
Disclaimer: he really isn’t. I’ve literally written essays on this topic. But for whatever reason (probably having to do with the fact that the very handsome William Shatner was cast as Kirk in the role of a leading man, and was asked by other actors to teach them how to play the role of a leading man), it’s stuck. From the fans to the Rat Pack performance on Friday night, everyone kept complaining that Kirk took all the ladies.
Kirk and Spock are just friends
I collect sci-fi art, and acquired some beautiful pieces in the vendors’ room at this convention. One of them, available from Lightspeed Fine Art, is a gorgeous piece commemorating Kirk and Spock:
It’s entitled “Always Friends.” They seem to have omitted the “brother” and “lover” part. Personally, I would go for a title such as “Always T’hy’la” for a work in such beautiful tones of purple.
The astronauts at NASA once complained about the difficulty of putting together a spaceship model.
“It’s not rocket science!” William Shatner told them. They didn’t like that.
Geordi would prefer paper books rather than ebooks
LeVar insisted that Geordi’s visor would make him see through Kindles to the electronics inside. He and Kirk would agree on the value of paper books:
Bashir was the hottie of DS9
According to Max Grodenchik, they have Rom the storyline with Leeta because they wanted Bashir unattached, since him having a girlfriend made the female fans upset. I guess Dr. Bashir inherited the womanizing mantle from Captain Kirk….
Thanks to MAC Cosmetics, you, too, can now wear Spock’s eyeshadow!
Of course, there’s no guide for how to apply it, but at least now there’s a line of Star Trek products for the ladies and the Vulcans:
Gates McFadden wants you to vote
She wasn’t the only guest at the convention to provide political commentary (William Shatner even suggested a political reading of “Trouble with Tribbles,” and John deLancie made a Q-esque quip about current politics), and she also wasn’t the only one to provide a call to action. Gates told us that no matter what, we have to go out and vote this November, while John urged us to remember that Roddenberry’s future was one of tolerance and bright light – and urged us to embrace that and move forward with hope and expectation.
As has often been the case, it’s been a while since my most recent update. With the obvious apologies offered, I have a few blog-related announcements.
The first of these is that I’m slightly expanding the focus of this blog. You may have noticed the changed “mission statement” over on the right. While this blog has primarily focused on TV shows and the ideas behind them, I hope to expand it to explorations of science fiction and geekiness in every form. There will be more convention reports, write-ups of interesting panels with thoughts relating to sci-fi, science and technology, and geek culture, and posts about geeky travel. I’ll be focusing more on the way that media and sci-fi not only reflect our world, but predict and shape it. In short, I’ll be looking far beyond the TV screen. Science fiction, media, and fandom (or geekdom) – and their intersections, in all of their possible incarnations – will be the focus.
With that said, I have a few exciting announcements about some real-world projects I’ll be engaging in – and of course, reporting on here.
is that I’ll be a panelist at the upcoming Star Trek: Mission NYC Convention from September 2-4. I’ll be on two panels: Literature and Star Trek with the lovely Amy Imerhoff on Friday at 3pm, and a panel on the Impact of Star Trek on Sunday at 4pm with Devra Langsam and Stuart Hellinger (Organizers of the first-ever Star Trek convention), Keith R.A. DeCandido, and Robert Kaul. The convention is also packed with other panels, guest appearances, set replicas, and many other fun opportunities, so of course I’ll be writing a convention report (or several), touching in particular on the interesting and intellectually stimulating ideas I come in contact with.
And, since it’s Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, one convention is obviously not enough, so I’ll also be attending Creation Entertainment’s Star Trek convention in Cherry Hill this weekend. This one promises to be less “intellectual,” with fewer panels and more guest Q&A’s, but I still plan to faithfully report on the happenings.
And, of course, as always, there’s a number of other conventions and Sherlockian events on my plate – how could there not be?
I’ve also been given the amazing opportunity to be the head of Media Programming at Philcon – the Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference, at which I’ve been a panelist for the past two years. This is the oldest literary sci-fi conference in the U.S., and it’s an honor to be part of putting it together. I’ll be writing more in the coming months about the process of making a convention happens, as well as reporting on the panels post-conference.
In the meantime, I hope to keep updating with lots of convention reports, TV show commentary, geekdom issues, and thoughts on science fiction and science fact. Stay tuned!
(Part 1 of my BSI Weekend 2016 write-up)
Last week, I attended, for the third time, what as referred to as the “Baker Street Irregulars Weekend,” though it’s really more like a week, lasting from Wednesday to Sunday. I’ve been meaning to write a post about my experiences attending one of these for several years now, but I think this year is about the right time to do it: my first two years, I was by far too starry-eyed to say anything coherent.
The reason I was so starry-eyed is because the Baker Street Irregulars is the primary Sherlock Holmes society in the world, started in the 1930s by author and publisher Christopher Morley. It has a long and illustrious tradition, and has influenced very much of Sherlockiana and the perception of Sherlock Holmes today. I would use the word “fandom” but it goes beyond that: the Baker Street Irregulars are a way of life, and almost an ideology. As a society, they are dedicated to the study of the Sherlock Holmes stories, referred to as “the Canon,” and membership is by-invitation only. Every year, they hold a dinner (similarly by invitation only) in New York City on January 6th, Sherlock Holmes’ birthday (which is not actually in the stories; in fact, there is nothing in the stories to suggest that it’s on January 6th. The reason we celebrate it on January 6th is because in The Sign of Four, Holmes and Watson are hungover on January 7th). However, though the dinner requires an invite, the rest of the week(end) is a full schedule of events that anyone can attend, and Sherlockians the world over convene in New York to celebrate the great detective – whom we call The Master.
This year has been a landmark BSI year for me, as I was invited to the BSI dinner for the first time (I’m not yet a member of the society itself, but one can hope). In keeping with the tradition of the event, which is meant to be secretive, mysterious, and even esoteric – and cannot be audio or video-taped – I will honor the intentions behind this grand event and won’t dwell too much on describing its details.
I can, however, say that the best description I’ve been able to come up with for the Baker Street Irregulars dinner is that it’s the annual get-together of a by-invitation-only literary society dedicated to the study of a fictional character, whom we pretend is real, and whose life and career was described in a series of texts we refer to as the Sacred Writings. Members are “invested” into the society on a mysterious basis using “investitures” that are phrases from the Canon – essentially, code names.
And when I put it like that, we do sound a bit insane. Which is quite all right, really.
In fact, I want to use this post to reflect on the culture of Sherlockiana – its beauty, and yet its irony. I have written, time and again, about the way that Sherlock Holmes is ultimately a highly modern figure, using the latest forms of technology, and representing secularism, reason, urbanization, industrialization – all those nineteenth century transformations. And yet the popular perception of him is so often nostalgic and anachronistic, of a Victorian figure in a deerstalker, back when there was fog and gas lamps and fireplaces and tea time in good old England. It’s a myth, and a romantic one, however inaccurate it is. However, it is not just the popular imagination that likes to associate Holmes with good old England – it is also Sherlockian culture that does it, however anachronistic it may seem. In fact, I would hazard a guess that much of this myth was constructed and propagated by the Baker Street Irregulars, many of whom were highly influential writers, actors, executives, lawyers, and politicians, among others, and who helped spread this myth.
In the early days of the BSI, Edgar W. Smith, the founder of the Baker Street Journal, referred to Sherlock Holmes as a “Galahad” from a time of Arthurian mythology and, in the first issue of the Journal, celebrated that very fog and gas lamps. G.K. Chesterton spoke of the stories as fairly tales, and Vincent Starrett, a Chicago man of letters, wrote the poem 221B, which is the best, most beautiful, and most poignant rendition of the myth and magic of Sherlock Holmes I’ve read, and these hallowed words are repeated at the end of every Sherlockian society meeting, including the BSI dinner:
Here dwell together still two men of note
Who never lived and so can never die:
How very near they seem, yet how remote
That age before the world went all awry.
But still the game’s afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears—
Only those things the heart believes are true.
A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane
As night descends upon this fabled street:
A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,
The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.
It’s also, obviously, completely anachronistic- but, as the poem itself says, “only those things the heart believes are true. And there’s a reason that, despite the lack of these historical trappings in the Canon, this is what we cling to. As historian Michael Saler notes in the excellent book As IF, the BSI, as well as much of Sherockian scholarship, came into being around the time of the Great Depression and continued through into WWII and the Cold War. And in those trying times, Sherlock Holmes lived in a nostalgic and idealized version of 1895 to which these people could return.
And yet, though it’s the 21st century, that escapism is alive. The irony of this anachronistic “antiquarianism” had puzzled me for many years, as I was surprised that the careful scholars and devotees of the Canon, who knew how modern a figure Sherlock Holmes was, indulge in this nostalgically inaccurate romanticizing. But this year, attending the BSI dinner, and examining the practices of the BSI (many of which date back to the 1930s and really haven’t changed), I think I’ve come to understand why they have been preserved the way they have.
Every epoch has its escapism, of course – we have our own fair share of modern political events that we want to flee from into the comforting rooms of Baker Street. But I also think it has much to do not only with escapism, but with enchantment. As the aforementioned Michael Saler points out in his book, the late nineteenth century was perceived by many (including the sociologist Weber, who theorized it) to be a period of disenchantment due to the march of technology and progress. But Sherlock Holmes, as Saler points out, re-enchanted modernity, finding the romance in reason, the mystery in the quotidian, the magical in the commonplace. “There is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace,” he told Watson in A Case of Identity (this is, incidentally, probably the line upon which procedurals hinge, but that’s another topic for another day.
And that sense of (dis)enchantment is, I think, exactly what accounts for the practices of the BSI, which haven’t changed for the most part (which the exception of now allowing in women), and why I love them. I do, of course, rely on the conveniences of the twenty-first century, and wouldn’t ever wish to do without any of them – its transportation and communication technologies, its new forms of reference, and I similarly realize that there was nothing particularly magical or enchanting about the Middle Ages (the Plague and death in childbirth really don’t sound like fun). But there’s a certain joy in creating a magical, anachronistic version of a past reality. Just as readers did in the nineteenth century, we today want enchantment and magic in our convenient, technological, modern, positivistic lives. We want a sense of mystery and adventure, and yet reassurance, and the comforts of modernity. We as humans are picky, and difficult to please – for we want the conveniences of our cell phones, our trains and airplanes, or Wikipedia and Google, and yet while keeping these things, we want to preserve a sense of the magical and the mysterious in our modern world.
And that’s both influenced and kept alive the traditions of the BSI, I think. The Sherlock Holmes stories had mystery, intrigue, and enchantment in a modern world, and so does the BSI. A literary society with unwritten rules, with secretive meetings, with members given, essentially, code names (called “investitures,” they’re phrases taken out of the Canon), with a worldwide membership (but membership that must be earned, through a series of unnamed trials, which are not written down and never described) – well, that sounds like something out of a mystery novel. It’s like a combination of the eclectic membership of The Red-Headed League, the puzzles of The Dancing Men, the esoteric rituals of The Musgrave Ritual, the secret code of The Five Orange Pips, the ancient history of the Baskerville legend – all in one. We meet every year for the BSI dinner at the Yale Club, at which membership is exclusive, and you need an invitation to get in, and if you don’t think it looks like the Diogenes Club from the Canon, I don’t know what to tell you:
Its membership is limited to alums of Yale, and this system of university private clubs seems to have been inspired by British gentlemen’s clubs, of the kind to which Mycroft Holmes belonged. And, of course, Sherlock Holmes, being of respectable birth and having attended “college,” probably went to a respectable British university of exactly the kind that would have a club like this. Studying the Canon is called the Game, and it was inspired by Biblical scholarship at Oxford in 1911 – which gives it a long and illustrious history. At every dinner and gathering, poetic toasts are given to characters, places, and events from the Canon – yours truly has had the honor of giving one at a Sherlockian luncheon.
It’s a huge contrast to what one would call the “fandom” surrounding the newer adaptations like Sherlock and Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes –not because it’s somehow “less,” or less scholarly, or more frivolous, but because it’s based on an entirely different set of traditions. In the case of Sherlock, especially, the intriguing thing is that the show brings Sherlock Holmes back into modernity. It makes him, once again, a contemporary figure, as he would’ve been for his original readers, and not a historical one. I’ve always thought that Sherlock is actually the most accurate adaptation of Sherlock Holmes precisely because, instead of historicizing, it modernizes, which makes Sherlock fandom today rather analogous to Sherlock Holmes’ original readers. As Anne Jameson notes in an excellent book about fanfiction, Fic, fandom tends to be the first to pick up new forms of technology, because they are the ones striving to communicate with other fans and produce transformative work about the texts they like. This, of course, parallels the modernity of both Sherlock Holmes, who appeared in the most modern form of communication technology available to him (newspapers) as well as Sherlock fandom – which emulates his use of those contemporary forms of technology just like Victorian readers would have used the postal service (which had seven mail deliveries a day) to communicate with Doyle. In fact, there’s a lot of accuracy to both the modern technologies surrounding Sherlock and the fandom that uses them. At the same time, there’s a lot of history, and therefore cultural weight and significance around the BSI and their traditional way of studying and celebrating Sherlock Holmes.
Speaking to a friend of mine who regularly attends Sherlockian events, she told me that the BSI traditions are “preserved in amber” – left over from a previous time and preserved by devotees. By who knows how long those traditions will last? There’s been an influx of younger Sherlockians into the older traditions thanks to, ironically, the newer adaptations – and yet many of these younger Sherlockians are also part of Internet fandom. So as we get further into the new century, I wonder, will these traditions –which are almost a century old now – remain alive? Or will more modern forms of fandom replace these older traditions? Will they merge into some sort of weird Frankenstein-monster?
These are questions I’ve been left pondering. I have always been very pro-fandom, pro-Internet, pro-slash fiction, but at the same time, this weekend, and this dinner, has made me realize the value of keeping certain traditions alive, of preserving them, even in amber, even with their anachronism. That’s why I don’t mind how bizarre and, frankly, insane, we seem from the outside. There’s not only a method to the madness, there’s a meaning to the madness. As Vincent Starrett so eloquently said about Holmes and Watson, but which could very well be applied to Sherlockians:
“So they still live for all that love them well: in a romantic chamber of the heart: in a nostalgic country of the mind: where it is always 1895.”
A little belatedly (and by a little I mean a lot), here’s a write-up of the last day of the con (in two parts).
Sunday started off with a panel with Rachel Luttrell and Paul McGillion, which Rainbow Sun Francks promptly joined (and refused to leave, not that anyone minded). This is the first time I’ve seen Rachel at a Stargate con in four years of going – she’s always had other commitments; I must admit, on my first watchthrough, I wasn’t a big fan of Teyla, though that’s changing slightly as I rewatch Atlantis. Still, I feel that with Teyla, there was a gap between what the writers intended intended (a strong woman and leader) and what actually happened (a character who consistently made badly thought-out decisions without foresight because the writers didn’t know what to do with a strong woman….which is a problem they strangely didn’t have with Weir). Partly due to this motivation, I asked Rachel, Paul, and Rainbow whether there was anything they’d chance about how their character had been written (besides dying, I added jokingly, as that’s something that happened to Ford and Beckett). Rainbow nonetheless said dying, but Rachel gave a more interesting answer: she talked about how interesting it was that Teyla came from what seemed like a matriarchal society, in which she was unquestionably a leader, and that there was a lot to explore about that kind of society and her role into it that the writers didn’t delve into as much as they could’ve. It’s an answer I agreed with – I’d have liked to see more of Teyla’s society, and more of her being a competent leader. In addition to this interesting answer, Rachel also graced us with some of her beautiful singing:
After that, I devoted much of the day to getting autographs with various celebrities who were offering them (and pointedly avoiding the Stargate novels panel) – quite a number of the celebrity guests were offering their autographs directly, which meant that I got to chat with them quite a bit, and in fact, have some mini-sagas to tell via autographs.
The first autograph I got was from Andee Frizzell – the Wraith Queen. Andee had been hanging around the hotel the entire weekend, interacting with guests, and we shared a fun moment when I walked out of the elevator to discover her and a bunch of people pointing confusedly at a thong lying on the floor. It was just there – no explanation, but a leopard-printed thong. I quickly snapped a picture of Andee making the most hilarious confused face as she pointed at it, though it’s a photo Andee would rather I not share (she gave me a lengthy talk about enjoying the con “in the moment” rather than spending it all snapping photos. I might disagree, but it’s a picture of her, so I’ll respect her wishes in the matter). In any case, the “thong saga” continued as I asked Andee to autograph my Stargate: Atlantis DVD set, on which I’m collecting the entire cast’s autographs. She wrote me a little message:
Later, I went to get Rainbow Sun Francks’ autograph (which required standing in line behind a gentleman who had made the most amazing Stargate replica). I asked him to sign the same DVD set, since he’s an Atlantis cast member, and the only season DVD in that set that had Rainbow on it was the same one Andee had signed – conveniently. So, of course, I recounted the whole saga to Rainbow so that he would understand why Andee was asking about her undies. Rainbow, of course, was amused, and totally went with it, penning this as his autograph (fun fact: he has the most neat, careful handwriting I’ve ever seen, but which also takes forever to write because it’s so neat and careful, so I swear, I stood there for five minutes waiting to get that autograph!):
I later stopped by Andee’s table again to show her the results of what she’d started and Rainbow’s contribution, which she found utterly hilarious. And who knows? Perhaps next year they’ll have another Atlantis celebrity guest who will sign that same DVD and wonder what’s going on with those undies.
But for the moment….I guess the secret is out. I left my undies in Rainbow’s room. And a few other things, too….
I also stopped by to get autographs from Suanne Braun (as I mentioned in a previous post) and Peter Williams. The two of them were doing their own “impromptu” photo op – you and your Goul’d overlords, because Creation isn’t very good at thinking of clever photo op combos – and of course I jumped on the opportunity to take a photo with two stunning, sexy deities (even though I had made one of them kneel the day before). We snapped a few photos, though I unphotogenically turned out terrible in all of them (although Suanne and Peter were pretty picky about how they turned out, which is why we snapped three – until Suanne and Peter were satisfied with how they looked, them photogenic people. I let it go. Me looking good in a photo isn’t going to happen).
I also had time over the three days of the con to stop by the vendors’ room extensively, spending more money than I probably should’ve. In my defense, I bought certain items that were of academic interest to me, which I can therefore justify as ‘research materials’ (to myself, at least) – for example, I bought a lot of concept art for Atlantis, as I’m working on some research on cities and spaceships in science-fiction, and thus studying the thought process behind the creation of Atlantis could be a useful resource.
But I also bought some more fun things, like some science-fiction prints for my collection of sci-fi art (of which I try to buy a piece at every convention I attend):
I also snagged a couple control crystals that were used on the set of Stargate as props, purchased from Stitch’s Loft- the same awesome people who had uniform replicas and concept art. Unfortunately David Hewlett wasn’t at the convention to sign one of them for me, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll be at next year’s con so that Dr. Rodney McKay can sign one of my control crystals:
Then, it was time for the last couple panels of the day: Corin Nemec (with Cliff Simon, another con regular) and then Michael Shanks. I remember little from Corin’s panel, unfortunately, except that he was sweet and adorable. Michael’s panel was, of course, hilarious as always.
Michael Shanks is one of those actors that can evade questions like a politician while making you feel like he answered them, and simultaneously making everyone laugh so hard they’re crying (yes, it happened to me). Since Daniel Jackson is a really popular character who was around from the very beginning of SG-1, he’s obviously been doing cons and getting questions for a very long time – which means that he gets questions about miniscule details like “what was Daniel doing for the year he was ascended?” This led him to jokingly say “see, this is what happens when you have conventions for a show that’s been off the air for ten years!” Nonetheless, he answered the questions goodheartedly – even while fake-angrily asking “what am I, an expert on ascension?” when people wouldn’t stop asking him questions about ascension. And, of course, he used William Shatner’s trademark line of “you people need to get a life!” when it turned out that a good portion of the audience had seen Mega Snake, a TV movie that apparently was embarrassing enough that he doesn’t want to talk about it very much. (Of course, he meant it all goodheartedly, but his fake exasperation at some of the questions fans ask is just so much fun).
And that was the panels for the day! In my next, wrap-up, post I’ll talk about the photo ops I took that day, as well as some thoughts about actor-fan relationships in general.
Saturday got off to an earlier start than I usually prefer (which is about noon), but if it’s Stargate, it’s worth getting up at the ungodly, coffee-less hour of, like, 10am. Thus, my second day of the convention started off with two back-to-back panels by two wonderful ladies: Andee Frizzell and Suanne Braun, both of whom were part of the cabaret last night, but who also took to the stage this morning to regale us with fun tales.
Andee usually makes a tradition of having each person who comes up to ask her a question tell her a fun story about a convention experience before they ask the question (or just tell her a story about a con experience). Unfortunately, most of my con stories that are memorable enough to tell are not PG (it’s not my fault Jason Momoa got very drunk last year and did unmentionable things!) so instead I sat back and enjoyed listening to other people’s con stories. I don’t remember many of them now, though a few were quite hilarious; all I remember is the “tutu for charity” – a tutu that a couple of fans brought to cons and asked celebrities to don. For every celebrity that put it on, they donated money to charity, and, of course, Andee heartily agreed (there’s few things she won’t do while at a Stargate con). The next day, Peter (Apophis) heartily donned the same tutu at the same moment I was walking by with my camera actually charged and on, so I snapped this serendipitous photo:
Next, Suanne Braun utterly charmed as all once again. She regaled us, in particular, of a story about how she was mistaken for Gillian Anderson, of X-Files fame. To be fair, Gillian was a redhead at the time, and the X-Files was filming in the same hotel she was staying in….and to make matters worse, she’d just gotten back from filming the “bath scene” in the Hathor episode, in which all the little plastic snakes they put in the tub with her melted from the hot water, making her reek. Meaning that there’s now a couple of very avid X-Files fans who think that Gillian Anderson smells very, very bad.
That’s, unfortunately, all I remember from these two ladies’ panels, but afterwards came the photo ops, and I got one with both of them. Andee and I faced off as Wraith queens – a pose inspired by the last time Andee had attended this convention, when she’d autographed a photo for me. I had told her my name is Anastasia, and she immediately made the connection with the Russian princess/grand duchess, addressing the photo to “the little princess” and signing it as “your queen salutes you!” In keeping with this idea of Andee as wraith queen and me as a rival ruler, Andee and I did a stare-down (she was unsure of quite the pose I wanted at first, but quickly caught on, and the result turned out quite well):
The absolute best photo op, though, was the one I took with Suanne. I thought it was rather short-sighted that in the episode, Hathor only seduced men, so I asked her if she would do me the honor of seducing me. (Clearly, I have a thing for the sexy ladies of SG-1, because a couple of years ago I asked Amanda Tapping to seduce me and “make my boyfriend jealous.” You can see the spectacular result below.) The result turned out pretty fantastically, with me looking really happy to be seduced by a gorgeous woman. When I got an autograph from Suanne the next day, I showed her how the photo turned out and we fell into discussing the gender dynamics of the episode a bit; essentially, she agreed with me that the fact that Hathor seduced only men was shortsighted, but was an inescapable product of the fact that the episode was filmed in 1997. Maybe if the same episode were done today, things would be different (with the right showrunners and network, of course).
I also got another photo op with Peter Williams, because I couldn’t resist; he, and everyone else, kept making jokes about how he really is a god and how you should bow and kneel before him (my friend Allison mentioned in her write-up of the con that she’d totally be his consort), so naturally I went “hmmm, a guy who acts like he’s a deity. Why don’t I make him kneel?” Which is a)typical Ana b)exactly what I did. Granted, he didn’t quite kneel – his knees didn’t actually touch the floor (I can see all through your antics, Apophis!) but with the angle of the photo, you almost can’t tell. So, behold, Apophis kneeling before the true deity:
After a break, during which I ran back and forth between the vendors’ room, my room, and autograph tables, as well as hunting for cash (because some people, lovely actors that they are, still haven’t figured out that in the 21st century no one carries cash), came Rainbow Sun Francks’ panel. This is the first con I’ve been to that he’s been at, so I was really excited to see his panel. Plus, I’d seen Rainbow hanging around the hotel for the past couple of days, chatting with other con-goers; he seemed really friendly, open, and down-to-earth (fun fact: he asked me what was going on during the karaoke and I explained that it was the karaoke without recognizing him, because, yes, I have a terrible memory for faces and it’s actually really embarrassing. I’ve probably walked past dozens of famous people I didn’t recognize. Think of all the autographs I probably could’ve gotten!)
His panel didn’t disappoint either, although at this point, I don’t remember much about it except that it was both fun and funny. I can also add, however, that Rainbow crashed pretty much everybody else’s panel at the entire convention, which absolutely nobody minded, The one thing I do remember from his panel is that he showed us a lot of exclusive pictures: he’d gone through his hard drive a few days previous and found a lot of photos from the shooting of Atlantis that he’d never shared with anybody, so we got to be the exclusive audience. He asked us not to take pictures of the pictures, and I respected his wishes, so although some of the photos were outright hilarious (mostly of David Hewlett and Paul McGillion looking as unattractive as these two beautiful people could manage). I later joked at Paul’s autograph that Rainbow should’ve printed out his utterly unflattering photos of Paul for him to sign. Rainbow, who turned out to be right there, (which it took me a while to notice, because I’m oblivious), asked me when he could’ve possibly had time to go to Kinko’s. I kindly offered to go to Kinko’s for him (“if you’re so busy, I’ll do it!”), but to which he pointed out that although I’m a lovely person, he doesn’t know me and isn’t about to hand me his entire hard drive. I suppose he had a point, but damn him, I wanted to be trusted by a guy named Rainbow!
Right after Rainbow’s panel was that of David Blue. He plays the title character of Stargate: Universe, and at that point I’d seen exactly one episode of Stargate: Universe, but I decided to stay for the panel anyway, and I’m glad I did, because David also turned out to be really fun. It turns out that he’s a geek like us, and he talked happily about games and TV shows he liked and pretty much outright admitted that he’s a geek. He even brought up slash fiction (yes, he went there!). Rainbow, who was in the room at the time (crashing everyone’s panels, as always) had no idea what that meant…I think David declined to explain, but the ensuing situation was hilarious! David also said that he was told by one of the SGU producers exactly where season three would have gone…but refused to tell us the slightest detail about it, in case there was still that 1% chance that a third season would get made in some way, somehow, somewhere. Seduction didn’t work in coaxing this secret out of him, unfortunately, so I had to leave it be. Granted, I haven’t gotten to the season two cliffhanger yet, so he could’ve told me absolutely anything and I wouldn’t have been able to argue with him, but still….
Next came the highlight of Saturday: Joe Flanigan’s panel. Joe’s pretty much a staple at Stargate conventions – I have yet to attend one that he hasn’t been at, which also pretty much means that I’m rolling in Joe Flanigan autographs at this point (perhaps I’ll do a sweepstakes one of these days). Joe’s always a joy to have onstage, because he’s really well-spoken and educated and says really interesting things about television and the media. He’s also a bit shy (as far as I can tell), so this is the first time he’s actually done a solo panel. It didn’t disappoint: he said a lot of really interesting things, many of which I livetweeted so I wouldn’t forget. For me, the most intriguing tidbit he mentioned was about television today: he said that we’re in the “Golden Era” of television for viewers – something that David Hewlett and Torri Higginson also mentioned to me at their meet and greet a couple of years ago. It seems to be the consensus that when it comes to storytelling and quality, television is slowly replacing movies. Joe did add that that doesn’t mean it’s a golden era for actors – he mentioned in particular that there’s a huge disparity in how actors get paid, in that some make millions while others probably make what’s barely above a graduate student salary (for me, this was a really intriguing insight into how the media I consume is made). Which, I guess, puts us viewers on the glamorous side of the screen (for a change!) I mentioned to Joe at autographs that I thought what he said about TV today was really interesting; I only had a few seconds to say it, because as usual, autographs were very rushed, so he didn’t have much of a chance to respond – but I’m still glad I got to thank him for the wonderful insights that he, as usual, provided behind the scenes. Joe also talked about how TV characters have changed: traditionally, he said, TV show characters would be “people you’d want in your living room,” whatever that means, while these days that may not necessarily be the case. (As someone tweeted, I’ll take Joe in my living room any day).
Another interesting insight Joe gave is into his character. Someone asked him if he could change anything about the way Sheppard was written, and the only answer Joe came up with (as far as I recall, anyway), is that he didn’t like it that they wrote Sheppard to be a genius and a MENSA candidate – he didn’t think that was the right way for the character to go. I personally loved that Sheppard’s a genius who took a completely different life path from McKay (or, rather, I love it on most days), but I didn’t always. An ensuing question was why Sheppard refused to be in MENSA after he tested into it, and Joe suggested it’s because MENSA has too many rules, and Sheppard doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who likes rules. (No, really?)
Other than that, a large part of Joe’s panel entailed him waxing poetic about Iceland, where he recently vacationed (and tweeted about) and where he apparently ate whale…thus making eating whale a recurring joke throughout the panel. Not quite sure what’s so funny about that myself, but then again, I’m a Trekkie. Save the whales! And that, alas, is all I remember from Joe’s panel. Which is really just a clue that I should write up these con write-ups right after the con, and not two weeks afterwards (being a procrastinating perfectionist is the worst, and not just because of the tacky alliteration).
The evening ended with a couple of events: a costume competition, where there were some fantastic costumes on display, and autographs with Joe and Paul, and the gold dessert party – which wasn’t particularly exciting (it never is). I enjoyed walking around and taking photos of all the centerpieces, some of which were utterly gorgeous, and a couple of the celebrities (Andee and Suanne) did come by our table, but for the most part the celebrity presence was rather lacking at our table. We did have a lot of fun dancing to silly pop music with Andee and Sharon, however, so there’s that.
And after that, shenanigans probably ensued, but I, like a responsible adult who wanted to be awake for the next morning’s panels, actually headed up to bed at a reasonable time. Because I’m a killjoy like that.
A few days ago, I received some heartbreaking news:
All good things must come to an end unfortunately, so no more polls and such, this is the absolute last time we’re presenting The Official STARGATE SG-1/Atlantis/Universe Convention.
Okay, so no one died, there was no plane crash or nuclear disaster, but if you’re a Stargate fan, it’s pretty much the geek equivalent of such a disaster. Stargate is one of those shows that had a long and successful run (the entire franchise adds up to 17 seasons of content) before every single show in said franchise was unfortunately cancelled by SyFy – thus going the way of other landmark shows, like Star Trek, which were excellent but were axed by the network for a variety of financial reasons. Like Star Trek, Stargate was thought-provoking and funny, profound and lighthearted, entertaining and touching at the same time. It was the best of both worlds when it comes to sci-fi: it gave you hope and made you think. Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough for SyFy, and these days, there’s almost no new Stargate content out there. A few tie-in novels (which, as I hear, are terrible) and a game here or there is all that gets released. But for all intents and purposes, the franchise is more or less dead.
Except for when it’s not. It still remains alive in the hearts of its fans, who love it even years after cancellation and rewatch it, and it stays alive in new fans who discover the franchise every day. But most importantly, to me, it also stays alive at the Chicago Stargate convention – the only remaining convention dedicated to Stargate in the world. It is a convention I attend every year, and it is a truly magical experience each time. In the four years I’ve been going, this convention, and the people who attend it, have done some amazing things:
- forging friendships: I can’t count the number of amazing friends I’ve made from all over the world in years of going.
- creating life-long connections: it was at this convention that I befriended someone who is now one of my very close friends, James – at whose wedding I will be a bridesmaid next year!
- marriage: two people who met at this convention and started a relationship are now engaged to be married (at the convention itself) after a proposal that happened at the convention itself (I wrote about it in my last post).
- saving lives: once again, I can’t count the number of Stargate fans I’ve been who struggle with depression, anxiety, and all sorts of other mental issues, for whom this show and this convention has literally been a lifeline. The show and its characters keep them going, while the convention itself is the highlight of their year, a time they spend with friends and like-minded fans, celebrating the show they love. For many, it is this one weekend a year that keeps them going the other 51 weeks of the year.
- raising money for charity: every Thursday night, before the con, a wonderful fan named Kimberly organizes a charity auction. Everyone donates Stargate-y and geeky items that get bid on, and we always raise thousands of dollars for medical research.
- shenanigans: need I say more? Often, the celebrities at the convention join the fans to hang out, and lifelong memories are created. Ah, the stories I could tell!
And this is just a handful of things that this particular con accomplishes. I’ve been posting all about the convention this week, with more posts to come, and if you want a small glimpse into just how fun and amazing this convention is, give them a read! Stargate may have been off the air for years, but it continues to truly make an impact in people’s lives. I can’t overstate the significance of a show, and its convention, that literally saves lives and creates families. In addition, the Stargate fandom is one of the most welcoming and uplifting fandoms I’ve been in – just like the show itself. It’s difficult to find a group of fans that are that open and open-minded, no matter how far and wide you look, and we can’t let that die out.
And yet, Creation Entertainment insists that next year’s Stargate convention will be the last one. Despite all the life-changing things this convention is responsible for, Creation doesn’t want it to keep going. I’m not sure why – perhaps their profit margin isn’t high enough compared to something as lucrative as Supernatural. But Stargate is about more than just the money: it’s about meaningful relationships, life-long memories, and life-changing actions. This convention is one of the few remaining places where fans of this amazing show can come together, celebrate their show, and accomplish these wonderful things.
We can’t let that end. To that end, I’m beginning a campaign to beg Creation to continue these conventions. 2017 will be the 20th anniversary of the television franchise, and it would be a shame to pass up having a convention that year – or the years following. I know many are heartbroken that next year is the last. I know many fans who have been saving up to go to a con and would like to have more than a year to do so. I know fans who are saddened that they won’t have this touchstone in their lives anymore. So, please join me in keeping this convention going.
There’s several things you can do at the moment: LIKE the Facebook page, share it, invite your friends, and post your stories, memories, and photos on the page so that others can see how meaningful this con has been. Publicize this post and the Facebook page as much as you can. Tweet, instagram, and use whatever other social media platform you’re on. Once we get enough traction, and enough likes, we’ll start taking more actions, such as contacting Creation directly. But for now, the most significant thing you can do for this convention, and for the people who love it, is to spread the word.
This post is more lighthearted and less academic than my usual fare; rather than picking apart the workings of science fiction, I’ll instead be blogging about my fantastic time at the 2015 Stargate convention in Chicago – though, rest assured, there’ll be a few academic-y bits here and there as I talk about the significance of Stargate as a science fiction show.
This particular convention has been a tradition for me for years now: I attended my first one in 2012, back when I still lived in Chicago and a couple of months after I’d discovered Stargate (literally. I hadn’t even watched all of it). My fellow Gaters, however, took one look at my passion for Stargate: Atlantis (and Rodney McKay) and welcomed me with open arms, and my life hasn’t been the same since. In keeping with that tradition, I arrived in my beloved city of Chicago on Thursday, after spending my time on the train reading Felicia Day’s geeky new book (in case I needed to get into more of a geeky mindset for the con), to attend the annual pre-con party, organized by a number of fellow con-goers and Gater friends. The pre-party included food, hanging out, and a charity auction, where we raised more than $5000 for research on dysautonomia. It was a wonderful start to the con, showcasing the good-heartedness and generosity of this fandom and putting us all in a good mood for the con to come.
Everything really got started on Friday, though. I spent the morning enjoying my beloved city of Chicago, going down to my favorite neighborhood (Damen) to visit The Wormhole (the geeky café with a Delorean that is totally fitting for a Stargate convention weekend) and Myopic Books, where I bought a pile of sci-fi books. I took my favorite line of the Elevated Train, or El as the natives call it (The Blue Line, and yes, I have a favorite public transportation line) to get there and back; it’s the line I used to take to attend the convention back when I still lived in Chicago and lived on the South Side, so it’s full of memories. I got back to the con hotel just in time for the first panel of the day: Sharon Taylor.
Sharon had a number of minor roles in Stargate: Atlantis, and was also on Supernatural and Smallville, both shows I love, and she talked about her participation in all of these. On Supernatural, she had the good (bad?) fortune to not be pranked by Jared and Jensen, as she spent most of her time filming with Jim Beaver. She also talked at length about her black belt in karate, which she’s had a chance to use in her television career, where the creators took advantage of her skills and wrote them into the script. She even demonstrated some self-defense moves for us. Later, at autographs, I told her that at the next con she should totally lead a self-defense workshop – I’d sign up! She seemed pretty excited by the idea.
The next panel was that of Gary Jones, who is pretty much a Stargate con regular – this is the third time I’ve seen him, and he was, as always, entertaining. He likes to reminisce about Don S. Davis, a fantastic actor (and man) who played Hammond and passed too soon. A favorite thing of Gary’s to do is to make fun (in a friendly way) of Don’s Texas accent, which turns “Open the iris!” into “Open the arse!” and “Airman” into “Harruman” (which is how Jones’ character got his name). He joked about the one time he forgot to memorize an entire paragraph of lines, so he started just making up planet names (all of which run something along the lines of P3X-790 – lots of letters and numbers). At around the fifth take, the script supervisor noticed that he was making up these planet names and told him, angrily, “We go there! You can’t just make him up!” Because of course a paid actor can’t just show up and say “I forgot to learn my lines,” so clearly making them up is the best approach. Basically, as usual, Gary was a riot – there’s a reason he’s part of the cabaret show every Friday night!
The last panel of the day was Peter Williams, who plays Apophis. Apophis has never been one of my favorite characters (or villains) – he seemed pretty one dimensional to me – but as happens so often at these conventions, the actor won me over by being a thousand times more interesting than his character! Aside from being adorable, Peter has an incredibly sexy accent and a very fantastic Apophis persona – he’s very good at pretending to be a god, and during the panel that’s a riot! He made a joke that I don’t recall too well about how he rather enjoyed the human form that Apophis choice to take (it was basically an “I have a sexy body” joke), and talked a little bit about acting the role of the poor guy whose body Apophis had taken. This led to, in my photo op with Peter Williams, me asking whether we could do a pose in which I’m “admiring” the human form he took. Peter seemed a bit confused, but went with it, and put on an “I’m so awesome” face while I touched his pecs with a supremely satisfied look on my face. (They were nice pecs, but nothing like Jason Momoa’s, which I touched last year while my boyfriend looked on with sad puppy eyes).
Friday was also the day that the convention had a very important event: a proposal! A year ago, at this very same convention, two amazing fans, Danny and Brianne, met over a costuming question. They soon entered a relationship, and today, before all our eyes, at that very same convention, with the aid of Peter Williams and Gary Jones, the wonderful young man asked his girlfriend to the stage. He told all of us the story of how they’d met at this very convention and been brought together by their love of Stargate – and then proposed! The answer, of course, was a resounding yes, and everyone snapped a ridiculous amount of photos as the two, wearing matching SG-1 jackets, held hands. It was a truly heartening event at a convention that already regularly brings tears to my eyes (even if some are of laughter): it’s a testament to the way that Stargate has been, and continues to be, so important in our lives.Even a decade after being off the air, it still brings people together, possibly for life. Forging relationships, friendships – and families. It’s something that I never want to lose (which is why I’m working a campaign to stop the 2016 convention from being the last one).
Following that touching event was the “Celebrity Cabaret,” which is a Friday-night tradition of this convention; each year, Creation gathers a number of the celebrity guests from the convention that weekend to perform for a cabaret in various ways: they sing, tell stories, jokes, and anecdotes, or perform in other ways. A few years ago, Robert Picardo sang some fantastic opera as the Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager, and Tony Amendola told some very not child-appropriate jokes and stories. This year, the cabaret performers included Gary Jones, Andee Frizzell, and Suanne Braun. I don’t recall much of Gary’s performance – though a few years ago he told a hilarious story about having a heart attack (yes, the story was funny; yes, it was about a heart attack). The general trend of this celebrity cabaret is that it’s at least PG-13 rated, and Andee Frizzell followed in that vein, telling a story about the time she asked her friend Steve to help her change the wiring in her house and attach a new lighting fixture. She gave him rubber footies, rubber gloves….and yet he still thought he was being electrocuted when his phone went off (on vibrate). “My dick’s being fried!!” he shouted, to which Andee cleverly responded – “I should’ve given him a condom!” (Get it? Get it? I thought it was hilarious). Last on stage was Suanne Braun, who played Hathor in the first season of SG-1. Now, while the first season of SG-1 isn’t particularly memorable (except for how cheesy it was), this is another of those cases where the star brings so many layers to the character (and is so fun) that it makes you love those cheesy episodes anyway.
Besides, when a beautiful woman who plays the goddess of sex and beauty gets up onstage, how do you not pay attention? And Suanne is indeed quite the goddess- she has this aura of femininity and power that really gets to you. At the cabaret, she told a fantastic story about her honeymoon to Egypt. She and her husband visited lots of ancient sites in which Hathor was depicted in various ways, and every time Suanne would point and tell her husband “look! It’s me!” When she had to explain this to the tour guide, however, the guide was unimpressed (she’d never heard of Stargate). When Suanne explained that she played Hathor, the tour guide went “in her human form or her goddess form?” Upon admitting that she plays Hathor in her human form, Suanne was informed that Hathor’s human form was….a cow. “You play a cow, yes?” That night, though, that particular episode of SG-1 was on TV, which changed things for the rest of the trip….
Of course, my summaries don’t do the cabaret justice; part of humor and anecdotes is the delivery, and these stars are actors –meaning they can do humor, voices, accents (oh, don’t get me started on Suanne’s accents! They are fantastic) – and they really bring to life these stories in a way that a blog post can’t. Nevertheless, I write them down for the fantastic memories they elicit.
Finally, the evening ended, as does every Friday evening at every Stargate convention, with karaoke. Suanne led into this by singing fantastic renditions of a couple of songs, including “Mamma Mia!” – to which yours truly unashamedly danced. (The videos of a couple of these are on my YouTube channel) Afterwards, it was the fans that started singing, which is the when the craziness started as I gathered with my fantastic group of friends for late night shenanigans. And I’m afraid that this is where the story must end with a …., because I really don’t remember much of the rest of that evening. 😉