Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | November 22, 2011

PhilCon 2011 (part 1 of 2)

This past weekend featured the annual convention known as PhilCon. The world’s first and longest-running conference on science fiction, fantasy, and horror celebrated its 75th anniversary this year.  I’ve been going for about ten years now, even before I got into writing.  What it does for my muse knows no end, and to say that it’s my favorite event of the year would be an understatement.

The PhilCon program has a full agenda of panels on the interesting subjects involving sci-fi, fantasy, horror, gaming, costumes, music, socializing, and anything else that any of us fans might be inclined to participate in.  There’s a large dealers room that is stocked with book sellers, costumes (steampunk-ware, corsets, Victorian garb, anything you might find at your local Renaissance Faire, etc.), jewelry, knives and battle axes for those that collect.  I personally budget my annual book buying spree for the Sunday of every PhilCon.  The gentleman in front of me in line was stocking a suitcase of his purchases, which were over $650.

Every year I go I feel like I’m coming home.

The panels are on a particular topic of interest, and set up so the panelists (usually three to five panelists) discuss the topic and do a Q & A afterwards with the fans.  I’m going to give a brief summary of the panels I went to.

1. Panel: “What is allowed in YA fiction that wasn’t allowed in the past. What elements have remained the same?”

Panelists: Annette Curtis Klause (moderator), Christine Norris, Cory Doctorow, Jonathan Maberry

Regretfully, Jonathan Maberry was sick this weekend and couldn’t make the PhilCon.  I’ve been in a writing workshop with Jonathan for years now and I always enjoy what he has to say on this panel’s topic.

Some points that were brought up in this panel:

– Marketing wants everybody to buy their book regardless of age appropriateness, and this can negatively affect YA.  Twilight is wonderful but there is an age requirement for many parents.  As such, YA allows more adult-like attributes than in the past.

– Everybody rips YA for being too adult-like or too dark, but it’s a cyclical thing that’s been going on for a long time, similar to parents forgetting what they did as teens and telling their teenaged kids what not to do, etc.  The world is more adult-like and darker nowadays, and YA just reflects it.

– More people read YA, not just young adults.

– What’s important is what comes out of YA.  You can have something dark, but make sure you end with hope.  The reader has to be left with that.

2.  Panel: “Comic to Film: How to do it right”

Panelists: Peter Prellwitz (moderator), Orenthal Hawkins, Robert Kauffmann, Andrew C. Murphy

This panel looked at what goes into adapting a comic into a movie or television series, and what can go right or wrong in doing so.  They also discussed examples of the best and worst adaptations.

– It’s a different day and age. Comics were one thing back in the day, and some movies came from that (Batman, Spiderman, etc.)

– Kids aren’t reading comics like they used to.  Now, comics are more read by adults who read them way back when.  When movies are made, the audience has to include kids, so the audience changes, and therefore so does the adaptation.

– Too many comics-to-film franchises are in forever reboot mode.  How many times do we need to see Superman, Spiderman, and Batman start over again?  Some of this is because of rights management.  The movie making companies want to keep the rights to the films as long as they can, and apparently those rights will be returned to the owners of the comic franchise.  Some great examples that haven’t rebooted are Sin City, 300, Watchmen, V for Vendetta.

– When are we going to see a heroine comic-to-movie?  Where’s Wonder Woman?  Female protagonists rock the book world but are completely missing in the comic-to-movie world.

3. Panel: “Edition Wars: Comparing the versions of D&D”  Panelists: Neal Levin (moderator), Michael Gans, Brian-Thomas McKittrick, Chris Pisano, Tim Souder.

Since this particular panel doesn’t really offer anything for writing, I’m not going to go into this one. I’m mentioning it merely to point out the fun and enthusiasm a lot of fans of the various genres have for gaming.  The panel was a laugh a minute as everybody wanted to get their two cents in.

4. Panel: “From the Psychic Detective to the Paranormal Investigator”

Panelists: Ray Ridenour (moderator), Walter F. Cuirle, Mary Spila

Panel: From Psychic detective to Paranormal Investigator with Walter F. Cuirle, Mary Spila and Ray Ridenour

Modern detectives like Harry Dresden have a long history going back to Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing and Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence.  What makes this archetype still endure?  The character has evolved from the Sherlock Holmes model (a gentleman amateur who knows everything about the supernatural) to a trench-coated adventurer who slugs it out with a werewolf in a dark alley.  Where do we see this developing?  Some points below:

– The genre constantly recycles, like any other.  The word Paranormal started in one place, and kept going until every genre has a paranormal shelf.  Some examples are romance, private eye, sci-fi, urban fantasy, even horror which wasn’t always about the paranormal but what was suspected of being paranormal and really wasn’t at the end.

– The detective is the character who goes after what goes bump in the night.

– The abilities and characteristics found in the books are only going to continue to grow.  What used to be just ghosts and vampires now has the wide and varied skills of witchcraft and magic, and skills like telepathy and lie-detecting might not be far off.  I replied to one gentleman who asked about this that one of my favorite authors, Brian Lumley, has been doing this for years.

Part Two coming tomorrow!

Panel: The evolution of Young Adult Fiction with Christine Norris, Cory Doctorow and Annette Curtis Klause

Panel: Alien Life in the Solar System with Lawrence Kramer, Alexis Gilliland, John Ashmead and John Monahan

Panel: Does Military Science Fiction Glorify War? with Stephanie Burke, Ellen Asher, Mike McPhail and Myke Cole

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