A Report Back on FanX

I got a bit quiet on the blog last week, since I was off gallivanting around Salt Lake at FanX. It’s been so long since I was at a con, I forgot a lot of what I needed to do. For example, I showed up without any copies of my books or any business cards or promos. The lack of book copies was the really egregious error, since I had no copies to put out in front of me when I spoke on my panels, and I had two people come by looking to buy older things. Thankfully, my cousin had bought a copy of my book and lent it to me for the weekend, so it wasn’t too bad. But next time, I have to remember to bring all that stuff. Gotta shake off the rust.

The con itself was much better attended than I anticipated. I thought a lot of people might hang back due to COVID hesitancy. Instead, it seemed like a lot of fans turned up because of COVID exhaustion. They haven’t announced official numbers yet, and I might have just felt like there were a ton of people because it’s been so long since I’ve been around that many people, but I’d guess attendance at least at 80,000, probably more. At one point there was a two hour line just to get in. In the past, the event has drawn over 120,000 people, and the show runners said they expected it to be about the same this year, so I’m likely being overly cautious in my estimate.

Masks were required at the convention, and most people had them on, though a ton had them under their nose or on their chin, making them largely worthless. There was no vaccination requirement. I kept my mask on the whole time, and I didn’t really feel unsafe at any point. I’m vaccinated and have no issues that would put me at greater risk, and I’m not really around anyone who would be at risk. But if I weren’t vaccinated? There’s no way I would have gone.

Other than COVID-related issues and me spacing it about things I was supposed to bring with me, the trip out to Utah couldn’t have gone any better. Highlights included:

  • I was on 5 panels over the course of the three days, and I had 2 signings as well. Overall, I’d guess I presented to 600 people or more. That’s pretty great for exposure, and most of the panels went very well, and none of them were train wrecks. A definite win.
  • I had a chance to catch up with many old friends, both writerly and non-writerly. It turns out publicly posting that you’re going to be at a well-attended event ends up having people who are at said event seek you out. Yay for that.
  • While I was attending the live recording of the podcast Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells run, I was invited up for a cameo appearance, which was fun to do.
  • I got to eat at multiple restaurants that just don’t exist out where I am. Siegfried’s (for delicious German food), Ruby River (a steak house), Costa Vida (TexMex), and a local bakery.
  • I had the chance to watch a movie on an incredible home theater set up. We’re talking a place that’s better equipped than any other real theater I’ve been to (other than the screen not being as huge, since it’s proportional to the size of the theater). I knew several days in advance that I’d be able to watch something there, and I had to somehow decide which movie I wanted to go with. How do you pick just one? I wanted something I never had a chance to see and appreciate on the big screen, but also something that’s been remastered for 4k and Dolby Atmos sound, since I wanted to see what the theater could really do. In the end I went with Back to the Future, and I’m so happy I did. The movie was incredible. The sound, the picture, the experience. It was perfect.
  • I went to a BYU game for the first time in about fifteen years. It was an awesome game to attend: the crowd played a big influence in the outcome, and BYU managed to pull in the win. It was thrilling.
  • For some reason, renting a minivan was about half as expensive as renting a compact. I don’t understand how that works out, but there it was. So when I’m driving around Maine with my family of five, I’m in a Prius, but when I went out to Utah and drove around alone. I was in a car that seats seven with tons of room to spare. (Also, I’m very used to have a gas pedal that has to go down pretty far to get your car to giddy-up. I peeled out in that minivan multiple times over the four days. Maybe I have a future in minivan drag racing.
  • On the way home, I actually made it to Bangor early. Maybe all my sacrificed emoji goats are finally having an effect.

In any case, it was a lot of fun to be back in the swing of things, and I hope to be able to do some more events in the future. Thanks to all of you who came by to say hello. It was great to catch up!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Where to Find Me at FanX

I’m in Utah! (Despite the best efforts of the Salt Lake airport to make me give up and just go home. Seriously. We landed around 10:15 last night. By the time I waited for the bus to take me to the main terminal, then walked the huuuge ramp they dropped us off at to get to the main terminal, then walked through all of terminal B, through the big tunnel, through all of Terminal A, and then out to the rental car place, it was around 11pm. And I was walking fast. Sheesh.)

Anyway. That means I’m going to be scarce online, but if you’d like to find me in real life, here’s what I’ve got going on this weekend. I hope to see some of you there!

Thursday September 16, 2021 

3:00 pm-4:00 pm How to Write a Great Character Arc 255 BC

7:00 pm8:00 pm Defining Your Writer’s Block — and Then Conquering It! 355 B 

Friday September 17, 2021 

12:00 pm-1:00 pm You Don’t Understand Officer, I’m an Author: Questionable Writer Research. 150 G 

1:30 pm-2:30 pm Bryce Moore Signing The Printed Garden – Booth 129 

6:00 pm-7:00 pm The Truth About Publishing 151 A

Saturday September 18, 2021 

10:00 am-11:00 am Writing for YA Today 251 D 

2:00 pm-3:00 pm Bryce Moore Signing The Printed Garden – Booth 129

TV Series Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society

I read The Mysterious Benedict Society a while back. Just the first book (I believe it’s a series now?), but I enjoyed it, even if it quickly faded in my memory to “book about a secret school, with students who go there under cover to save the world.” It’s a cool premise, but I couldn’t remember much more than that. But when I saw Disney had done an adaptation of the first book on Disney+, I remembered enough about the book that I thought the TV version would be worth checking out.

And . . . it was! If you’ve seen the Netflix version of A Series of Unfortunate Events, then you should know about what to expect. (Minus the doom and gloom.) It’s well produced, with a cool design that consistently pops. It stars Tony Hale (Buster from Arrested Development) and four child actors who do a decent job. I watched it with the whole family, and everyone enjoyed the whole season. (Anytime a show can pull that off, entertaining the ages of 8, 13, 17, and 40+, that’s noteworthy right there.)

I especially liked the humor of the show, which took me a bit to figure out. It’s pretty dry, but once I got it what the show was going for, it worked really well.

The general premise is as I remembered it: a group of four students are recruited to go undercover at a school for the gifted that seems to be the front for a sinister operation. They need to find out what’s going on and how to stop it, and they need to do it largely on their own. Adventure ensues.

Is it going to change my life? No, but it consistently delivered a good time. Tony Hale turns in a solid performance, and even when the show’s pace ebbed now and then, it was still fun to just watch the screen and appreciate the design work.

If you’re looking for a show to watch with the whole family, and you have Disney+, then check this one out. Not too scary, but not too simple either. 7.5/10, but not many kids shows can score that highly for me.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Why Aren’t We More Unified?

For the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, I’ve seen a lot of posts out there bemoaning the fact that our country came together to support each other 20 years ago, but we’re unable to do that today with the pandemic. The tacit assumption for all of that is that we’ve changed as a society, and that who we are now is fundamentally different than who we were then.

I’m not so sure that’s the case.

From what I’ve seen, people generally stay the same. They’re motivated by the same basic needs and fears. They’re looking for acceptance or validation or wealth or prestige. They want to provide for themselves or their family. They want to be safe and free. None of that has changed. On a local level, I still see people being people. Some of them are nicer than others. Some of them are meaner. But it’s not like that’s anything new.

And it’s important to remember a couple of things. First, when 9/11 happened, there was a very real, very tangible threat. Americans were unequivocally attacked, and so it was easy to band together against a common enemy. With the pandemic, that immediate threat didn’t really appear. The science behind what was going on was unclear at first which left things open for people to debate just how much of a threat really existed.

Anytime you’ve got room for debate, that debate will happen, if you involve enough people and give it enough time. And we’ve got plenty of people, and we’ve had plenty of time.

Second, the technology has changed drastically in the intervening 20 years. In 2001, there was no huge public forum for people to discuss issues and share ideas. As a reminder, here’s what CNN looked like that day. Here’s Fox News. See anything missing? Comments sections. Facebook was three years away. YouTube wouldn’t come until 2005. Even MySpace wasn’t around yet. There just wasn’t a place for people to argue.

That also means there was no way for news to spread quickly. There was also no platform for disinformation to run rampant. You had talk radio, and you had opinionated news sources, but if someone wanted to make up a news story, there was no way for them to do that and put it out in a way that the masses could be fooled into thinking it was real. Today, a lot of the really breaking news often appears on Twitter before it appears anywhere else. And making stuff up on Twitter takes pretty much no expertise at all.

It’s also important to remember that “unified” didn’t really count for everyone. There was mass discrimination against people from the Middle East (or people who looked like they were.) So sure, it might have felt great for many Americans, but it certainly didn’t feel great for many minorities. But again, that’s not the sort of thing that would easily appear on anyone’s radar. Not unless the news was actively reporting it.

And the unity wasn’t something that lasted incredibly long, either. Sure, President Bush’s popularity had a massive spike after the attacks, but within a year and a half, it was back down to about where it had been, and it only got worse from there.

Unified? Less than a year before 9/11, you had the contentious election of 2000, filled with debate over hanging chads and recounts. Opinions were very strong on both sides of that. It would have been much, much more heated if Gore had continued to press the issue and not conceded.

I think the biggest difference between then and now is that it’s easier to find out not everyone agrees with you. There are more platforms for people to speak up, many of them anonymously. And the challenge we’re facing is fundamentally different than the one we faced back in 2001. (And even back then, once we got past the attacks themselves, there came the big debate about who was responsible for it.

This might all seem discouraging, but I choose to look at it differently. I really believe the majority of Americans want the same basic things. The possibility of unity is still there, but in many ways we’re at the whims of our leaders. As long as our leaders refuse to compromise and lead by example, there will be no real chance of unity. Then again, we’re also in a unique situation where the people who believe the pandemic is a real threat also believe masking and vaccination are the way to defeat that threat. And the people who don’t want to mask or vaccinate generally don’t believe the pandemic is a real threat.

(Though again, I’d say a big part of that falls at the feet of key leaders and news organizations, willing to put their political and financial futures ahead of the health and safety of our country. At this point, the majority of people who are getting sick and dying of COVID are the unvaccinated. And the majority of those are Republican, according to polls. I really wonder if one side effect of this pandemic will be an even faster swing away from conservatism, for the simple reason that more conservatives end up dying than liberals. (Though, of course, there are also anti-vaxxers among liberals. They just don’t make up as big a slice of the pie.))

How often has perceived unity really just been a selective portrayal of what’s happening at any one moment? History often portrays complex issues as having had a consensus around their solution, but history typically favors the victor anyway . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Revisiting The Matrix

The trailer for the fourth Matrix movie dropped yesterday, and it’s pretty impressive. (Love the use of White Rabbit, even though it’s the most obvious soundtrack choice for a Matrix movie ever.) Coincidentally, I just rewatched the original for the first time in well over a decade. There was much of it I still loved: the science fiction what-if elements, the twists and turns of the plot, and the climax where Neo faces Agent Smith is still incredible.

One of the most famous parts of the movie, however, now goes over like a brick with me.

When I first watched the movie, the lobby scene seemed fantastic. Excellent fight choreography, great special effects, and cool ninja moves? What wasn’t to like? In so many ways, that scene moved action scenes forward, influencing how we see fights ever since. However, in the 22 years since the movie came out, mass shootings have gotten more and more common place, and if there’s one thing that lobby scene does very very poorly, it’s establishing why all that violence was necessary in the first place.

Neo and Trinity need to break Morpheus free from the clutches of the Agents, and it’s true that in the Matrix, the Agents can take control of literally anyone. However, when the duo show up in the building lobby, they’re greeted not by agents, but by regular rent-a-cops. People who really aren’t that intimidating at all, despite the security measures in the lobby. And Neo and Trinity both just open up fire on all of them, killing them in cold blood.

Those cops are then supported by what seems to be an elite level of security. Tons of guns and body armor for Neo to fight against. But in the confines of the movie, we know these are just regular people who are convinced they’re doing the right thing by Agents. They aren’t villains. Those deaths all feel much more disturbing to me now than they did before.

Some of that is no doubt because I’ve changed. But some of it is also likely because when the movie came out in 1999 (months before Columbine), random shootings just didn’t seem like that big of a concern. That lobby scene was designed to be cool, not realistic. But when mass shootings are a regular occurrence, it’s impossible for any informed audience not to see similarities in the real.

Yes, we’ve had plenty of other violent movies. The John Wick series (another Keanu Reeves vehicle) is an obvious comparison. But I can’t think of any that don’t at least try to establish why the “bad guys” deserve what’s coming to them. And if there are innocents who are affected, then they’re side casualties. In the lobby scene, the heroes show up to shoot the bystanders, and there isn’t even a hint of concern of what they’re doing to those people.

It’ll be interesting to see how the fourth movie handles it. I’ve seen the second and third movies just once each, and I’ll probably watch them again, even though I remember not particularly loving them. I still like the original movie a lot. It’s influential both in action and science fiction genres, and I love the attention to detail that was given to each individual scene. The special effects have also stood up remarkably well. Crazy to think that a movie that’s still fairly recent (in my head), turns out to be more than twenty years old.

But even movies that are products of their time can’t help but be evaluated from a modern point of view, and that once scene is far less appealing now than it once was.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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