This past weekend, I had the opportunity to spend four days as a guest and panelist at Arisia, a well-known Boston-area independent sci fi/fantasy/gaming convention. A fine time was had, but more importantly it afforded me - a relative newcomer to "official" participation in such things - to give my loyal readers/viewers a (hopefully) entertaining peek into how your fan convention sausage gets made, day-by-day and panel-by-panel.

NOTE: I did not have the capability or permission to record all of the panels/events I took part in, so these will be general summaries as opposed to transcriptions.


My travelling companion and I arrived a few hours early (my first panel wasn't until 5:30pm) to check in and settle down in our suite. The convention is being held at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel - which, incidentally, is connected to the venue that houses PAX East. With the various panels and screenings being scattered across said hotel's myriad conference rooms, the hotel lobby has already been co-opted into an open-air staging ground for the cosplay crowd.

Every year, gamer culture's infiltration of the broader nerd culture gets more pronounced - the first thing I see is a four-foot tall Minecraft Creeper, mounted on an RC car chassis sitting ominously in the corner. I wonder what all this looks like to the "normal" tourists and businessmen who're staying there for more conventional reasons - "Yeah, Harry? I'll have those figures over in just a sec. Hey, while I've got you here, do you have any idea what a 'Dalek' is? Cause there's one here and I'm not sure how I should react to that."

First panel up for me was "E.T. at 30" (ye gods, don't I feel old), moderated by my friend and fellow film-critic Dan Kimmel. Dan's not a huge fan of either Spielberg or E.T., but I and the other panelists see it more favorably - as does a lot of the audience. This made for some lively discussion, quickly branching out from E.T. itself and into the broader questions of youth-oriented sci fi and Spielberg's broader oeuvre. This is also the first time I'll find some fans of my show(s) here and elsewhere in the audience - an always-pleasant experience that would repeat itself at almost every panel throughout the weekend. Dan Kimmel, incidentally, is the author of the very amusing and interesting book Jar-Jar Binks Must Die!, which movie fans would do well to take a look at.

No rest time for me today, as my next appearance directly follows this one: "The Future of Bioethics as Portrayed in Film." Heavy stuff, to be sure, though the fact that in this context it allows for free-flowing references to cloning jokes and references to everything from Blade Runner to Mimic keeps things light and fast-paced. Somehow, I manage to neglect getting in a plug for Splice, which I'll be kicking myself for over pizza later.

Fifteen minutes of free time - about seven of which are spent traversing the lobby, though admittedly a lot of that was pausing to gawk at a cosplayer pulling off an impressive Arkham-style Poison Ivy. Appropriate, since my destination was "Batman Through the Ages," an ever-popular convention mainstay that winds up being a lot of fun. Fellow panelist Dan Miller - IP lawyer and MAD Magazine megafan - impresses the crowd with a vintage Sergio Aragonnes Batman parody comic, while I take note of an interesting trend: The tide has seriously turned on Frank Miller in recent years. For a few decades, fandom has tended to treat "his" Batman as definitive, but the near-universal disdain for his "All-Star" book and large number of folks agreeing when a brave audience member calls Dark Knight Returns "overrated" surprises me. I wonder how much of this turnaround can be attributed to the rising generation of comic critics like Linkara.

And just like that, I realize it's nearly midnight and I've neglected to eat anything. A quick call to pizza delivery fixes that - after I'm done recovering from the shock of seeing Room Service prices for the first time in a few months - and then it's time for bed.

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