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Opinion

The Fannish Life: My Holiday Newsletter

Ann Morris gives you her take on a much used, if not much loved, holiday tradition


Dear Readers,

I hope that 2013 has been geekishly good to you and yours as it has been to me and mine.

Time is marked, to some extent at least, by the conventions I attend during the year. You understand.

My convention year began with Swampcon. It’s not a very good name, but it’s a good convention. It’s run by students at the University of Florida and held at the student union. This past January, more than 3,000 were in attendance. I was on a couple of costuming panels but mostly I was just fanning it for the weekend. At the 2014 con, I’ll be on a costuming panel or two, but also on television show fan panels. I’m listed as a guest, but don’t think I’ll get a big head. If you suggest or are scheduled to be on panels that are approved, and you send your picture and bio to the panel coordinator, you can be a guest.

February saw me leaving on a jet plane for Los Angeles to attend Gallifrey One. The panels at “Gally” are quite good and they put the actor guests on lots of them. It’s an actor con in that there are actors there, but it’s not-for-profit and run by volunteers who know what fans want and give it to them. The actors are not just sitting in what my friends Vic and Amber have termed “The Petting Zoo,” signing autographs in an assembly line process. They hang out in the halls with the fans and you can chat them up and get a friend to take your picture with them. It’s lovely. Because I have a friend named John Chambrone, who gets into what he calls “stalkarazzi mode,” I have a lot of pictures of me with actors. I got a professional photo with Sylvester McCoy, but I also have a real life one that John took.

I don’t usually go for the professional pictures, but I wanted to be sure I did get a picture, as I had met Sylvester once before and had good memories of that. I thought it would be nice to have the not-candid photo.

Charlie Ross, who is a Scottish comedian and a good guy, hosted my favorite panel at “Gally.” It was about acting Shakespeare. British actors cut their teeth on the Bard’s works; so it was a great panel choice for the guests of “Gally.” While I am certainly no Shakespeare scholar, I’ve some acquaintance with his works and I enjoyed the panel tremendously.

March and April were non-convention months, but one does need a rest. You understand.

The end of May brought Oasis, which, being in Orlando, Fla., is just a hop, skip and a jump away from where I live in Plant City. I’ve been going to Oasis since it began 26 years ago. I’ve only missed one. I won’t be going in 2014 because they are not holding the con next year. They say they’ll be back, bigger, stronger and better in 2015. I hope that is truly how it goes.

This past May, I was a guest on costuming and fan panels, and I have to say that the television show panels were my favorites. If you let fans know they can talk about “Firefly,” “Star Trek” or “Doctor Who,” they will come in great numbers. The fan panels were all jammed full. We could easily have used a bigger room, but it was cozy.

June was another resting month.

July is always Southern Media Con (the convention formerly known as Vidcon), and it’s another one close to home. It was in St. Petersburg this past year, but will be moving to Lakeland, Fla., for the 2014 convention. This event started out being mostly for fan fiction writers, but it has morphed into a convention mostly focusing on the television shows and movies that inspire the fiction.

I especially enjoyed the Brit Track. Whenever I get to tell people about the strange and wonderful British stuff I watch on Netflix, I’m happy.

Gencon is an August convention and I’ve been to the past nine of them. They are always good, but this past year’s convention was one of the best. Sadly, I did not get to play in any LARPS, but I did get to play “Are You a Werewolf?” and found out just how fast two hours can go. I get why people stay up late into the night playing this game.

I won’t be making it to Gencon in 2014, but don’t feel bad for me. I’m breaking my streak to go to the World Science Fiction Convention in London. Loncon 3 is in a timey-wimey conflict with Gencon, and I unfortunately don’t have a TARDIS, not a working one anyway.

September is all about preparing for the convention on which I am staff. Necronomicon is held in October; so September is always a busy month. I finalized the program schedule for the convention and tied up all the loose ends concerning guests and panels. I had less mixing and moving panels to do than usual, and I’m not at all sure why but I was grateful for the lack of juggling needed.

Necronomicon was a great success. Our guest of honor, Christopher Paolini, was gracious and kind and hung out with the crowd throughout the convention. Though he has had a lot of success as a professional writer, he really is just a geek boy at heart.

We were happy to be back home in Tampa, Fla., instead of in our location of the preceding five or six years (I forget) in St. Petersburg. We started out in Tampa, and it seems that’s where most of our loyal crowd wants us to be. Our hotel was a little smaller than would have been best, but we made it work. It was an intimate fan experience.

Nov. 23 was the “Day of the Doctor” — literally. The 50th anniversary special was simulcast to something like 86 countries, which I thought was very cool. I was watching the show at the same time as my friends who live in England. I watched the show a second time that night when it was rebroadcast with commercials. I saw it a third time when someone else in my house was watching it on the DVR for a second time.

I saw a comment from Kevin Grazier on Facebook where he said that he could watch the last 10 minutes of the show a thousand times. I’m with him on that. The end of “The Day of the Doctor” was so satisfying. It was brilliant.

There were quite a few fan and professional videos that sort of circled “The Day of the Doctor,” and they were mostly quite good. My fave is “The Five-ish Doctors.”

Though my calendar contains no conventions in November or December, there is still geeky goodness to be had in the form of the winter movie blitz.

Although I did not see the Thor movie three times as my friends Vic and Amber did, I liked it a lot. I thought Natalie Portman was better in her part than in the first movie and I liked that they expanded Cat Dennings’s role. Love Dennings ’cause she’s Max on “Two Broke Girls.” (I know, I know, it’s not a nerd or geek show but, hey, we have to branch out sometimes.)

I liked the look of the Thor movie, but do wish we’d seen a little more of the villain played by Christopher Eccleston. He didn’t get much of a chance to show how villainously he can act.

Just this past weekend, I saw “Frozen” and the second Hobbit movie.

Everything is right about “Frozen.” It’s wonderful to look at. The voice actors were also the actors who sang the songs, and they were all very good at their work. The story makes sense and it moves right along. There is no down time. I wish I could think of more adjectives to describe this movie, but I guess I’ll just leave it at beautiful and awesome.

I won’t say I didn’t enjoy myself at “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” but it was too long. “The Hobbit” is not a long book and certainly could have been done well in just one long movie. But no, there is money to be made in keeping us on the hook, so they made three movies. Ya know, it shouldn’t take longer to see the movies than it did to read the book. I not saying I won’t be back to see the third installment. I will be. You understand.

If you simply want to spend some time in a fantasy land and get away from it all, “The Hobbit” will give you that. If you want a tight story with logic applied, you will not be granted your wish. The movie could easily have been 30 to 45 minutes shorter and been better. Too many of the characters just seem extraneous, and too many look like other characters. As always, the names were too much alike, but that is true to Tolkien. He really made the names too similar. Oh, and someone needed to tell the writers how fire and gold work.

If someone asked me which movie to see, “Frozen” or “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” I’d have to say “Frozen.” Yep, “Frozen” is the best.

Although the year is not quite over, I will not be sending my words to you again till it’s 2014; so I will take this opportunity to wish you health and happiness now and throughout the New Year.

Allon’sy!
Never give up. Never surrender.
Peace and long life.

— Ann

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