Middles

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AKA DragonCon Blog, Part Two

My Packing List

Costumes:

Stargate SG-1 BDUs – check

Lwaxana Troi gown – check

Steampunk character outfit – almost check (must finish hat pieces!)

Shoes/boots – check

Faux weaponry  (ray gun, dagger, Berretta) – check

Hair supplies/jewelry – check

Glue gun, glue sticks, sewing kit, tape – check

 

Fan supplies:

Print-outs of receipts for photo ops/autographs- check

Hotel confirmation print-out – check

Book for JB’s autograph – check

Photo for GDL’s autograph – check

Extra permanent markers – check

“Know Ianto” t-shirt – almost check (iron on the pieces!)

Camera with extra battery and charger – check

 

Electronic supplies:

Laptop + cord – sorta using that right now

Phone + charger – ditto

Kindle + charger – again, ditto

USB for GPS – check

iPod + charger – check

PowerPoint for workshop – check

Jump drives (2) with extra copies of PowerPoint – check

Surge protector with extra outlets for hotel room full of other people with just as much electronic equipment – check

 

Food/Drink:

Caffeinated drinks for the road – check

High protein/fiber bars for all the times I’m too busy to eat – check

Bottles of water – check

 

Toiletries:

Too many to name, but especially deodorant – check

 

Regular clothes:

Huh?

 

Packing for DragonCon is not exactly like packing for your usual family vacation.  Sure, clean underwear is a must, but doing that last load of laundry is not at all as panic-stricken an activity as making sure all of your costumes fit and are included in your luggage! Don’t even ask me about the time my cosplaying friend forgot her P90 for the parade!!  Horrors!

But, no matter how organized I am, no matter how many lists I make or check-marks I happily strike at the end of the line, chances are I’m going to forget something.  It’s inevitable.  And there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And then I’ll do what any Sci-Fi nerd expert does – I’ll improvise!

Coincidentally, improvising – coming up with Plans B through F, figuring out stuff on the fly and running with it – that’s exactly what happens in the middle of most stories.

Middles are for the complications.  The unexpected twists and turns.  The sudden setbacks or failed assumptions.  The realization that things are much, much worse than you originally thought.  It’s when you meet the powerful aliens that are hiding behind the moon waiting to pounce.  It’s when your girlfriend turns out to be a Cylon.  It’s when that one little cute dinosaur calls his mommy.  It’s when the unbelievably technically advanced allies who want to give you everything you’ve ever wanted turn out to be Nazis.  (Pfft – Daniel knew it all along.)

Or, as the wise and powerful Rolling Stones taught us:  “… but if you try sometimes, you might find …”

Try and try and try again – that’s what happens in the middle.  Cue the Stargate SG-1 episode Window of Opportunity.  The one where Jack and Teal’c have to relive the same 10 hours over and over and over for months.  Imagine Daniel teaching them the Ancient form of Latin so they can get out of the time loop.  (Then imagine Jack hitting golf balls through the wormhole and learning how to throw pottery!)

After many trials and errors, Jack’s line says it all:  “ Well, General, you know what they say:  ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again.’” 

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

So, as much as I try to prepare ahead of time, I’m expecting some twists and turns.  I’ll try not to be too disappointed if my favorite stars have to cancel at the last minute.  (But there might be tantrums.)  I’ll work on saving my pennies so that I can afford the wonderful, amazing thing I find in the Dealers’ Room on Monday morning.  (Fat chance.  I’m hoping to have gas/toll money left by then.)  I’ll even forgive Jamie if I don’t win at Stargate Pub Trivia during the Party and Charity Event on Friday night.  (Eventually.)

Luckily, my circle of friends is just as brainy and insightful and quick-witted as Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson on their best day.  Let’s face it; none of us are going to get out of the middles of our particular stories without a kick-ass team to rely on.  SG-1 had Jack’s know-how, Teal’c’s muscle, Sam’s brain, Daniel’s wisdom, and Hammond’s solid support.  I’ve got Amy’s loving acceptance, Sallye’s solid loyalty, Carlyn’s smart insight, Jenn’s expert  experience, and Jamie’s good-humored hilariosity.  (And, from afar, Char’s love and positive energy!)

We may be stuck behind enemy lines, or out of touch with base, or lost in a nebula, or out of gas, or dealing with a wardrobe malfunction, but, if we try sometimes and rely on our team, we’ll make it to the end!

Next stop – DragonCon.  If you’re coming along, remember to try out our writing panel on Sunday at 10 AM at the Stargate Multiverse Track in the Westin Hotel.  I’ll be the one trying to get the PowerPoint to work.

Stay tuned – you wouldn’t want to miss out on the “Ends.”

http://sgmultiverse.dragoncon.org/

http://alternatehistory.dragoncon.org/

 

Beginnings

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AKA DragonCon Blog, Part One

It’s late summer in Atlanta, Georgia.  Pre-season football has the Falcons’ fans dusting off the black and red.  The Braves are in the run for the pennant, as usual.  The Atlanta Motor Speedway smells of smoking tires, hot asphalt, and spilled fuel.  But Atlanta is gearing up for an invasion of enthusiasm of a different kind.  Not the famous ‘third kind.’  No, no actual aliens will be arriving birthing mashed potato urges in huge ships that play music.

This invasion is completely human and completely wonderful.

It’s DragonCon.

The Ultimate Sci-Fi and Fantasy Nerdgasm might be a better title, but that won’t fit into a search engine quite so easily.

Hundreds of celebrities will be there.  Authors.  Graphic Artists.  Actors.  Gamers.  Mixed-Media Artists.  Vidders.  Vendors.  Musicians.  Enthusiasts for costuming, LARPing, fan fiction, science, robots, classic horror, prop making, comics, and anime.  From Steampunk to Puppets, from Supernatural to Stargate, from Batman to Hellboy, from The Six Million Dollar Man to Iron Man – “something for everyone, it’s DragonCon – tonight!”

For me, card-carrying Nerd (yes, my business card actually says ‘nerd’ in case you’re keeping score) and Sci-Fi Geek from much farther back than I’d care to admit, there’s no place like upside-down V with a little circle over it. (Cue inside Stargate Multi-Verse Track joke here.)

http://www.dragoncon.org/

50,000+ of my people were in attendance last year for the Con’s 25th anniversary.  I think I rode in the Hilton elevator with most of them sometime during the weekend.  And nearly all of them needed a shower.

At the beginning of my DragonCon adventures, during my first year at this blissful homage to anyone and anything involved in Sci-Fi, I was led around by a group of lovely women who didn’t allow me to get lost in the habitrails, or distracted by bright shiny armor, or caught up in too many games of Assassin.  They steered me away from the dazed-looking, pale-faced gamers making a beeline for the restroom after 18 straight hours of D&D.  They helped me find edible food.  They sat with me in ridiculously long lines (and were pretty happy to find out later that I was the original Type A among a convention of Type Bs and could find the front of a line PDQ) and introduced me to sweet young girls with pink hair.

They helped me get over my incessant stammering in the (beautiful) face of celebrities like (sexy) Michael Shanks and (handsome) Gareth David Lloyd and (charming) Rene Auberjonois.

What does this have to do with fan fic writing, you say?  Well, for the past three years my partner in crime and I have been presenting Workshops on Fan Fiction Writing.  (Yes, I am using caps for that, thank you for noticing.)  We’ve been reaching out to fan fiction readers and writers, hoping to inspire writers to give us more stories about these wonderful characters that we’ve fallen in love with.  We’ve loved meeting other fan fic writers, putting faces to screen names that have been in our favorite authors list on FanFiction.net for years.  We’ve had a great time reading and talking about each other’s stories.  We’ve shared some tips and tricks, some things we’ve learned as veteran writers, as marketing professionals, and as literature and writing teachers.  And, most of all, we’ve shared our love of good Sci-Fi writing, good characterization, acting, and plotting. 

It has been a fantastic experience.

Our beginning year was a little rocky – we planned and worked, printed brochures and bookmarks to hand out, made a huge PowerPoint with fantastic graphics – we over-spent, over-packed, over-researched, over-estimated our time – over-everything!  But, that’s what beginnings are for – identifying the problem.  Taking in the risk, measuring the trickiness of your foes, and recognizing the challenges posed to you.  There we were, our plucky team plunked down in the midst of thousands of costumed fans, with a computer/video interface that didn’t work, too much material, and too little time …

*Cue intro and credits*

“What a beginning!” says Myron around a mouthful of caramel popcorn.  “I can’t wait to see what happens next!”

This year our workshop takes its name from a Rolling Stones’ song, and its general idea from a brilliant lady named Tristane Rainer in a workshop she presented on writing one’s own life story.

It’s called:  “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and uses the Stones’ song as an easy way to conceptualize the differences between a story’s beginning, middle, and end.

Something happens at the beginning of all good stories.  Something that piques your interest.  Our intrepid band of Stargate heroes almost always started their television episodes right in the middle of some ongoing storyline – ‘in media res’ is the fancy term for it, basically meaning ‘in the middle of things.’  In the beginnings of stories, the hero finds that everything isn’t peachy, that something has gone horribly wrong, that people are in need of saving, or that the world is about to blow up (cue flashing countdown timer!).  In other words, you can’t always get what you want.

So, between my photo op with Teryl, my stint in the autograph line with Gareth, marching in the parade as an SG team member, hanging out with the Steampunk track, and generally flirting with everyone while dressed like Lwaxana Troi, I’ll be sitting down with other fan fic writers to discuss story building – beginning, oddly enough, with Beginnings.

Feel free to join us.  Sunday morning, September 1st, 10 AM, in the SGMT Track Room at the Westin.

For more on the Stones, on story writing, on Middles and Ends, on DragonCon in general, stay tuned for the next two blogs.  And for pictures and stories from the Con itself, check in with me over Labor Day weekend.

It’s going to be magical!