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11 June 2011 @ 11:17 pm
Big Finish Day Con Report  
DID YOU WANT A LONG RAMBLE ABOUT THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF CONS AND HOW I LIKE MUSTACHES?

...WELL.

Notes:

- Nadja, lovely girlfriend Katy and I went, and I felt slightly uncomfy--I started counting the people filing into the Podcast Recording, and stopped at 29. Of those, 5 were women (including us and one panelist's girlfriend). More people filed in at the back as the Podcast went on--all dudes. This was actually a far better ratio than the con at large. The Maybe 70 attendees included no more than like, ten ladies. And the Big Finish People were, save about three classic!actresses and All Purpose Lisa Bowerman, dudes dudes dudes. Also, Oh the Greying of Sci Fi Fandom--we were easily among of the youngest people there, barring a very few children who appeared to have come avec parents.

- Held in some random school gym. Cute school, but pretty inherently funny to be in a school gym with all these people.

- Katy had me believing there would be NO PANELS, NONE AT ALL, which is the only reason I was willing to arrive late. And late we were--halfway through the Benny panel (ONE OF MANY, KATY), which contained the EXCITING NEWS that Brax would be rejoining Benny/that she wasn't stuck in a Divergent Universe forever. Hasn't Eight shown us Divergent Universes are a bit naff? Something about the lack of regular characters/lasting and concrete consequences in what we think of as Our Universe (or at least the one in which we are invested as listeners). :/ But anyway. Lisa Bowerman looked a little tired today. I would not have thought her at all under the weather had I not seen her at Scifi London, looking very fresh and bright even though she was reading eviscerating genocide fiction. She's so clever and engaging, and made a very good point about keeping Brax as a through line for Benny. Miles Richardson made one as well, about the huge cast of the collection seeming to typecast characters--today Bev will rip someone off and Adrian will have a fight!!--just in order to make the writing flow around such a group. Gary Russell and Scott Handcock brought up the necessity of making sure Benny herself was the focus of the story.

I respect these points, and agree with them, but they don't seem to me to justify a reboot without the Collection cast. As Bowerman pointed out, the ensemble's popularity is significant. And what exactly is gained by dropping them? A less 'soapy' show, as I believe Handcock put it? Perhaps, but ensembles like Star Trek: Next Generation and Deep Space Nine managed fine with large casts, at points brilliantly. The word 'soapy' has a somewhat uncomfortable pejorative connotation here that seems to imply that the perceived femininity of such character and relationship-based storytelling is not only not desired here, but is not generally desirable. Over dinner at Leon afterwards (the Bankside? not amazing, Katy appreciated the architecture's loveless marriage to the decor but little), we talked about whether we sloughed characters in Benny to gratify a writerly urge to make Benny a traditional, male adventure hero, with little in the way of solid family relationships and friendships, freeing her up to travel and form fluid, temporary bonds in the service of a variety of stories. Nadja said something I've heard before, which remains very true, about Dead Parents Syndrome--the family killed off to kick-start the quest narrative, but also, without the text acknowledging it, to free the hero from such impediments.

I've always liked Benny a lot for the ways in which, like a well-written Doctor, she's a non-traditional hero. While the Doctor performs a subversion of traditional modes of heroism via his relationship to power, knowledge and violence, Benny's subversion, which is sometimes also about her relationship to knowledge and her career as a practicing academic, often hinges on her gender and her negotiation thereof. It's not that I love the time's Benny's whinging about getting back to Peter as though he's all that validates her existence--but I love that Benny /has/ a son, /has/ a maybe-husband with whom her relationship is still dynamic, has friends and professional commitments and political entanglements which are important to her and remain so. It's relatively rare to have a character so contextualized while Questing Around (rather than, at best, having a semi-mythologized home to return to at the end of things), and rarer still to have that character be a woman. In an effort to make the series 'more focused around Benny', the writers seem to me to be undercutting some of the key things which define her as a character and a hero.

Though how the HELL did Brax get where she is? Did he follow her? Like a big stalker? Whatever, I ship it.

Also, please see Katy's Blog for a depiction of the GLORIOUS mustachio he is sporting (http://aralias.livejournal.com/595368.html#cutid1). I tell you, it is truly a thing to see.

-- We all got to mock the Benny theme 'Adventure is my Name.' AS I HAVE ALWAYS YEARNED TO DO.

- Maybe, though, I am NOT a good judge of the direction Big Finish should pursue because I am not at all representative of this fanbase, judging by this con--older dudes, to a (inevitably) man. Very Outpost Gallifrey/More "To the Death", please.

- The Pod Cast with Nick Briggs, Paul Spragg, Jamie Robertson, David Richardson and Robert Shearman was interesting, and about when I discovered I ABSOLUTELY cannot speak to people. I've always hated MEETING actors, who I in theory don't care about because wanting to talk to them represents a strange conflation of them and their characters (I want, for example, to hang out with Six, not necessarily to speak to Colin Baker, nice though he may be, but who I do not know from Adam, really, and I certainly don't need anyone to write their name down for me), but turns out writers are almost as bad. Because despite telling myself that they're not the character and I don't care, I find I /cannot look Miles Richardson full in the face/, even if he's wearing a suit jacket and a handkerchief with white polka dots and the best mustache ever and I generally want to hug him.

It's the not knowing what to do. If they were mean, I could be dismissive of them, and that would feel all right, because I would not respect or care about the opinion of mean people. And it's wanting people to think well of you that makes them thinking well of you nearly impossible, because you're silent and half hiding behind your girlfriend and grinning strangely like you've the brain-worms. IRONIC, as Alannis Morissette would say. But everyone was nice to a fault! If I had a purpose there, like I was working with them in some capacity, that would be fine, because I'd have some legitimate excuse for being there in their presence. And what do you do, have a little talk with the writers, ask them an intelligent question? It seems not quite the right format because someone's queueing behind you with an accordion file of pre-removed CD covers for signing looking increasingly annoyed at the woeful incompletion of his collection with every passing moment, and while the writers are nice people it's not a very conversational set up, you won't be able to discuss something in depth or become friends? And did you cringe at 'become friends', because I did a little at the twee preciosity. And yet IRL proper or on the internet, based on such strong shared interests, that's pretty much what one does? But they can't be EVERYONE'S friends, they've lives and friends of their own, and so there's this awkward inherent falsity to this interaction that I feel could only be solved by someone handing me a pot of coffee and asking me to go 'round and check up on the shiny people's cups and/or working for Big Finish as an intern/writer/coffee-lady.

Is this the dilemma of the writer!con/con generally, or is it just me and my special brand of mad?

- Katy did VERY well in the Pod Cast, asking a question in a clear, articulate manner! Meanwhile I am mortally afraid of the teddy bear that is Rob Shearman. Siiigh.

- TRAGICALLY Katy got asked BY NEV FOUNTAIN if she liked Peri and the Piscine Paradox (comedic mispronunciation courtesy of next-seat!Shearman). You know, the one she hated, the ONLY one of his she hated, which the rest of the internet loves beyond anything. Poor Katy. She did buy his book though, which she'd wanted. I... bought nothing, because I am le po. Oh, grad school.

- Colin Baker seemed rather deflated today, which is striking because he can seem very bombastic and enthused and lovely in things like Podcasts. Another weird thing about cons: the expectation of performing your personality, of MORE than civility, of effusive (potentially false) friendliness. I mean I suppose many customer service professions want this, but here it seems so much more personal. Perhaps the man just has off days. Again, the perils of wanting to meet Six rather than some niceish man.

- Nick Briggs is a lovely man, so much so that I forgive him some naff writing. WHAT a Tom Baker impersonation. Satsumas, love it.

- Jason Hay Gellery is very nice, but quite ENTHUSED about you buying his CDs. Went strange and coy in his presence, felt awkward when he approached Nadja and I b/c felt quite singled out as one of the few chicks about? Not in a sexist way, just--we were hard to miss, there were about 3 of us, and he was SO ENTHUSED. Could have had a proper chat, but let Nadja fob him off on her love of Pertwee era. God why was I so rubbish today?

- Katy just now from the couch: "THERE ARE SO MANY WORDS IN THIS BOOK!!" re: The Inside Story. aha. It seems a v. nice book. She bought it today.

- What a GREAT little cafeteria, though it was called a 'tuck shop', and I had to have that term explained to me at embarrassing length. So cheap! So convenient! So perfectly-okay-tasting! Goodness that was nice and thoughtful of them to provide! A visually impaired guy was having a conversation with some people in there, and I was a bit surprised that the appeal of radio plays to the blind hadn't previously occurred to me.

- Shearman's so down on his own work, it's surprising. Apparently people think that Holy Terror and Chimes of Midnight are very similar stories, and so Shearman thinks he has like, one or two Who!ideas in him? Which I completely wouldn't say. I mean look at Jubilee, and its inherently different themes from those of Scherzo (a vastly under-rated classic, terrifying and brilliant) or the aforementioned Chimes. I could write whole essays on his Who work, and hell, maybe I will, so that Outpost Gallifrey doesn't stand as the popular consensus on this work. It just /sucks/ that these do not get accolades as lit, when they have with such amazing writing.

- He also said Frobisher didn't sell! Can you believe that?! I don't know. There are two major reasons I think that might not stand in the way of using Frobisher now:

a) I think that may have been long enough /ago/ that sales figures were just /generally/ lower for all of Big Finish compared to more recent offerings, after they'd built their fanbase, and also,

b) Big Finish and the audience relationship to it both have matured and grown more sophisticated since then. People are perhaps more willing, now, to accept Big Finish /created/ companions, let alone favorites lifted from the comics. Big Finish has established a relationship of trust with the audience, and on the strength of that capital they can do more, and venture further from a fixed basis in the show.

WE SHOULD START A 'BRING BACK FROBISHER' PETITION AND SEND IT TO BRIGGS. ALSO A 'PLEASE HAVE SHEARMAN WRITE IT' ADDENDUM.

- Sarah Sutton talk was interesting from a production standpoint, and somewhat interesting from an 'oh hello, Nyssa' standpoint, but the Big Finish Con seems to straddle an awkward divide between sci fi con 'BEHOLD: ACTORS!!' panels and a more academic conference model. I could have gone for more of the latter, I love a good talk and it produces the sort of unique content that justifies my presence there and purchase of a ticket, and the comfortable and dialogic format emboldens me to participate/feel involved/think/ask questions. We could, for example, have had a very good Gallifrey!panel with the writers in attendance and perhaps Richardson. There's a LOT to talk about there. Maybe a chair with some thought-through questions to prompt discussion?

- My GOD Miles Richardson is nice. Again, *uncomfortably* nice. SO NICE!! Watching the Benny Animation at the moment--his voice just came in and I nearly died of embarrassment. It was his first con apparently. He and Lisa Bowerman has a little bicker about who could sign Katy's CD most extravagantly, and competing over it. Their BFFship charms me entirely. Also he hates facial hair and only grows it for parts. SO WRONG.

-- Sophie Aldred has made an unwise hair decision, and a very wise 'sitting next to someone with much worse hair so I look comparatively fine' decision.

--Why was this in /Barking/? Just cheaper? Middle of nowhere, transport was relatively expensive and a bit annoying.

-- Had two questions I REALLY wanted to ask the Podcast people, but did not, because too cowardly.

* If it's not TOO technical, what's the BBC rights sittuation? Why, for example, can you have the Master or the Rani /sometimes/ but not all the time?

* Davies wrote India Fischer once and said that without Charley there could have been no Rose. Big Finish, by shepherding Who through a part of the Wilderness years and putting a lot of effort into its development, clearly made a huge impact on New Who. Similarly to Charley and Rose, there could never have been a River without there having been a Benny. How do you feel about this backwards borrowing of ideas, which presumably is not compensated, while you have to pay BBC licensing fees? Is this appropriative, flattering, some mix of both?--probably not a pleasant question to ask in that it might be awkward, given that they /know/ Moffat as a person and such.

--Big Finish is working on an animated!Reign of Terror! How cool is that!

--Robert Hardy apparently did a bit of some show some time ago in which he was essentially the Doctor without a TARDIS. Katy and I have always thought that would be casting made in heaven.

--very nice line from someone about how Who was here forever now, so we could be a bit relaxed about the seemingly vexing things because it's not THAT big of a deal--little can destroy Who

--3 stories organizing conceit quite interesting

--Jason Hay Gellery noted that Americans have sort of an intrinsic bias against audio, lacking the context of the radio play with which to understand it

--Apparently Moffat's putting the Daleks in mothballs for a bit because he doesn't much care for them. Ho hum.

--A pity Alan Barnes and Katy Manning could not make it, as they are great.

--We are watching Princess Bride atm. It is a thing of such gentle, warm joy. So well made, intelligent, charming and dear.
 
 
aralias: brax is made of winaralias on June 12th, 2011 02:35 pm (UTC)
i read this, and i'm glad to have such a thorough and well-documented version of this event <3

brax's moustache is canon, yo.
x_losficx_losfic on June 16th, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
Hah. Whatever, bb. :p