New York Comic Con has come and gone. With record crowds (and finally a real anti-harassment policy that appears to be working) this was the best NYCC yet, my third as a professional author. I have been a fan of this con since its inception, and to finally be attending as a professional is so affirming that it’s hard to put in words.
Every year, I have a ritual: in early September, I get the email from my publicist telling me what my NYCC itinerary is for the year. I don’t open it right away. I stare at the email in my inbox and imagine what awesomeness lies in store for me this year. Will I be sitting alongside one of my literary heroes like Jack Cambell, waxing eloquently on the finer points of military writing? Will I be on a geek trivia game show, laughing and rubbing elbows with the likes of John Scalzi or Pat Rothfuss? Will I be sharing the stage with my best friend and mentor Peter V. Brett? With these thoughts in mind, I finally clicked on the email, practically vibrating in excitement.
The upside: I was on an fantastic panel with amazing fellow Ace/Roc authors Alex Hughes, Anton Strout and Steve Bein.
The downside: it was about Dr. Who.
I yield to no man in my unapologetic fannishness. I have been a F/SF fan in my bones practically from birth. It is impossible to have more than a thirty second conversation with me without it veering into comic books, fantasy novels or gaming. But even fans have their limits, and the F/SF world is more diverse and wonderful than any one person can grasp.
Let me put this in terms everyone reading this blog will understand. Being a fan is like rolling up a character sheet for a role-playing game. You have limited proficiency slots you can specialize in. Take a look at this handy infographic:
The green dashed lines indicate those areas where I’ve chosen to specialize. The red dashed lines indicate future specializations at future levels. I’m a level 9 fan, and I’m really proud of all the XP I’ve been able to gather in such a short period of time. I think I’ve allocated those XP wisely, and created a well-balanced character that is prepared for most eventualities.
But I couldn’t do everything. A panel on Dr. Who is like being a Cleric separated from the party and suddenly finding yourself in a room full of goblins. You can’t heal your way out of it. You need a fighter.
I called my brother (a huge Dr. Who fan) in a panic. “Dude! I’m gonna get killed. What the heck do I do?”
He invited me up to his house, and we spent a few hours discussing the series. “Don’t worry,” he said. “The show’s only been running for over 30 years. You’ll be boned up on it in no time. Pop quiz, hotshot. What does TARDIS stand for?”
I left his house with a knot in my stomach and a hardcover copy of Whoology, which, if you’re looking for a crash course in Dr. Who trivia while simultaneously having a massive panic attack about going up in front of an audience of 500 rabid fans, is pretty damn well useless.
About an hour before the panel, my brother texted me – “R U Ready?” I replied “Call the police. I’m on the lower level of the Javitts Center.”
I had spent the last few weeks desperately trying to formulate a plan, to go up on stage and riff off the very few episodes I’d seen as a kid, caught at parties, or watched during my crash course with my brother.
I sat down at the panel with my heart in my throat, and I think Anton Strout’s panoramic shot of the room best summarizes both the crowd and my . . . er . . . concerns:
In the end, I took a deep breath, and told the truth. I KNOW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT DR. WHO. I closed my eyes, waiting for the crowd to storm the stage and rend me limb from limb.
When I opened them, they were laughing. This is the thing about fans, and one of the best things about the direction fandom is heading in. It’s big tent fandom these days. There’s room for everyone. It was a great panel, and it turned out that when I couldn’t fake it, a little honesty was all I needed. Say this about fandom, say they’ll catch you when you fall. And I should have known that. Because I know fans. Because I am one.
However, it did illustrate a hole in my character sheet, and so I cut a deal with the audience that if folks would take the time during my signing to suggest a good Dr. Who episode, I would watch it and file a report. I was overwhelmed with responses, and wanted to post a few of them here:
– Human Nature
– Family of Blood
– Deadly Assassin
– Invasion of Time
– The episode that aired on October 11th.
– Vincent and the Doctor
– The episode with Matt Smith as the Doctor and Pandora’s Box
– The episode with Dave Eccleston and the Empty Children (both parts)
Fandom cut me a break on that panel, and now I will do my part and watch those episodes. If anyone reading this has anymore suggestions they’d like to pass along, I’d be glad to add them to the stack. It’ll take me some time, but I look forward to adding a new fandom to my roster.