A week ago, I was settling into my seats for the final panels of San Diego Comic Con 2016. It was bittersweet.
This year though, there was one difference in my approach for the big con. I decided to avoid Hall H and Ballroom 20. Yep, you read that right. In fact, I decided to make the minority of the panels that I usually attended, the majority of the panels that I attend. I decided to go not for celebrity coverage but as a professional writer. Because, it’s great to see celebrities. It’s great to see writers, directors, and producers talk about their work. But there comes a point when year after year, you get tired of seeing these people who have succeeded talk about their upcoming projects when you know you need to continuously level up so that you can one day be your own success at the con. This year, I went for the more level headed panels which I very much needed, to refill the creative well, so to speak.
So, if you’re looking for celebrity coverage from me, it’s not here this year. I figure, there will be enough of that when I move back to LA in about a year. I did see Danielle Panabaker (The Flash) and Austin Butler (Switched at Birth) walking through a hotel (separately on separate nights) with flocks of adorable fangirls on their trails and I did stumble into a panel with the one and only Mae Whitman (Parenthood), as well as attend one TV taping (more on that below), but that’s all of the SDCC 2016 celebrity sightings for me.
So what did I do?
I arrived Wednesday morning and didn’t have any plans until preview night. But then I found out about the Stark Trek Beyond premiere event that fans would have the chance to attend. So I got in line for the lottery for this and ended up not getting a ticket to the event but instead getting sunburn and free ice cream. So. The con started off as a major fail for me but things picked up during preview night as I walked up and down the aisles of the exhibit hall and was surrounded by so much greatness. Also, sorry in advance, all of these photos were taken on my phone.
On Thursday, I heard from the legendary Nickelodeon creators; Craig Bartlett (Hey Arnold), Jhonen Vasquez (Invader Zim), Butch Hartman (Fairly OddParents, Danny Phanton) and Arlene Klasky (Rugrats, Wild Thornberrys, Rocket Power) at the “Happy Happy Joy Joy” panel. That was a blast hearing from the creators of not only the shows that I watched as a kid but some of the most iconic animated shows ever.
Next up, was the panel, “Moana: Art of Story” where the legendary directors, Ron Clements and John Musker (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Princess and the Frog) led a panel of artists as they gave us a behind the scenes look at the making of Moana which releases in theaters November 23, 2016! I am so excited to see this movie, I have a feeling it’s going to be one of my favorites. The voice of Moana, Auli’i Cravalho made a surprise appearance towards the end of the panel though the convention staff were essentially forbidding the audience from taking photos at this time which was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen at San Diego Comic Con. Anyway, it was great to hear the crew talk about all of the research that they did across islands and hear Auli’i talk about how she relates to the character and hopes others relate to the character and the story. Any Disney fan would have absolutely loved this panel.
After these panels, I walked the exhibit floor which is something in previous years I only really did on preview night. This, for me, was acceptable in the beginning since the exhibit floor was initially only open to exhibitors and professionals and I had time to see everything and everyone that I wanted. Then over the years, the floor opened up to all attendees on preview night and it just got way too crowded and not fun anymore, so I started skipping preview night in favor of preview screenings or getting in line for Hall H. Needless to say, it was very refreshing getting to see the floor this year during the actual con, at a time when it wasn’t preview night or I wasn’t rushing to a signing on the exhibit floor. I just simply walked the floor.
There were panels that I would have liked to have gone to, but it was important to walk the floor during the con and feel the energy outside of the panel rooms which I had long missed out on. While the floor was crowded, it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it usually is…due to the convention cracking down on counterfeit SDCC badges. I like the RFID badge approach for SDCC, it really eliminated a lot of the crowd. I was used to this approach since NYCC used it last year and it went smoothly. It did go much more smoothly there than it did at SDCC but still, SDCC should keep it up and work out the kinks because it truly has way more pros than cons.
After walking the floor for a bit, I was in fact going to resume attending a few panels. But then I got a text from a new SDCC friend, Erin about more tickets being made available for the Syfy Presents Live from Comic Con taping later that day and I decided to go to that instead. Looking back, I should have skipped this. But. You live and learn.
The taping was hosted by Will Arnett (Arrested Development) and the special guests for this day’s taping were Tony Hale (Arrested Development), Zachary Levi (Chuck), Rose McIver (iZombie), Alan Tudyk (Con Man), and Wilmer Valderrama (That ’70s Show). I’d already met Zachary before and while I’m a fan of all of the others, that still really left Rose to be the only one I was genuinely excited to see. So devoting almost four hours (the majority of this time was simply waiting – which is totally fine, that’s how tapings work, I’ve been to enough of these to know and be on board with it) to this taping with these celebrities in particular (I didn’t know beforehand who was scheduled to appear) seemed a waste for me. Especially since it was on the rooftop of the Marriott Marquis where the sun was beaming down on us and I had already acquired sunburn the day before. And and and the ticket to the taping specifically said no big bags and purses would be allowed, so I went to the convention coat check and spent the $3 to put my stuff away and come to the taping empty handed, only to get to the taping and see that the other audience attendees had all of their things with them and were allowed in after a brief search. -_- I’m used to super strict tapings in LA so this boggled my mind more than it frustrated me but it was annoying. And to top it off, I watched the show back when I got home and couldn’t spot me in a single frame haha. So, my attempt to be spontaneous backfired here in just about every way but not all TV tapings are equal and that’s just the roll of the dice you have to be willing to make when you just jump into the game. The next day’s taping had Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead. I know for sure that if I had attended that day, I would have been on cloud nine. Ah well.
After the taping, I went to author Marissa Meyer‘s signing in the Sails Pavilion to get a book that I brought from home, Fairest signed. If you like fairytale retellings or aren’t sure if you do, read The Lunar Chronicles. You will fall for this series so hard. It is so, so good!
Then I promptly headed to the “Hollyweird Science: Science Fiction as Inspiration” panel which I was on board to attend before I found out that writer, Amy Berg (Counterpart, Eureka) was going to be a panelist on but knew that I had to attend once I did find out. I am a huge fan of Eureka and Amy’s work in general and this panel did not disappoint. It was great to hear all of the panelists talk about merging science with fiction, respecting the accuracy of science in storytelling, and making creative choices for story that defy science and embrace the imagination. This panel was so inspiring and just the panel that I needed to attend to brighten the flame within me. This was the panel from day one that made me so grateful that I decided to avoid the fanfare as much as I could and go for the creative panels. I’m not sure if this is an annual rotating panel but I will be looking out for this panel in future years.
I started my day with the “Intro to TV Writing” panel which included Terry Matalas (12 Monkeys) and Jose Molina (Agent Carter) among other panelists. This was a solid panel though I must say, as far as TV Writing goes, the Children of Tendu panel that I attended on Saturday was much more memorable than this one. After this panel, I made my way to the exhibit floor to get my copy of Passenger signed by author, Alexandra Bracken.
Then, I went to the Spotlight on Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind) panel in which nerd fighter, Hank Green (Vlogbrothers) interviewed Patrick. I’ve yet to read Patrick’s work but I know of his work (and the level of which his work is regarded, think George R.R. Martin) and I do follow Hank so it was great to see Hank and exciting to get to know an author whose work I’ve been meaning to read – and now am making a point to read ASAP. Patrick read us his picture book which is definitely not your average kids picture book, The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed. Oh my goodness. You know when you know you’ll like an author’s work but seeing them in person just makes you love that author even more? Yeah. That’s definitely what happened here. This guy is truly one of the smartest, most down to earth and entertaining people out there. I can’t wait to read his work and I’m sorry that I’m only just now making it a point to get to it.
Next, I walked the floor a bit and met up with internet friend and YA author, Stephanie Diaz (Extraction). It was such a pleasure to meet her after all of these years corresponding online! Speaking of online, a fellow TV blogger and book nerd put Seanan McGuire on my radar before she was the Seanan McGuire that everyone knows and loves now so it was great to be able to attend the “Spotlight on Seanan McGuire” panel just a handful of years later.
Then, I went to the “Ask an Agent” panel which featured literary agent, Holly Root (Waxman Leavell Literary Agency) among other panelists. The panel was great though the Q&A towards the end didn’t offer much for me as most of the questions asked were from really green writers, so the answers were responses I already knew. But it doesn’t hurt to hear these things again and thankfully the Q&A portion of panels is only 10-15 minutes long so if anything, this was more of a brief recap or confirmation of the research that I did in the beginning and is just reaffirming to writers continuing down the path to publication.
Next, I went down to get my Face Off fix and see Neville Page (Avatar, Star Trek films) and Glenn Hetrick (Hunger Games films, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) head up the “Creating Creatures” panel as they discussed their approach to creating monsters. Let’s just say that Neville Page is a boring teacher but the information he holds is gold. There were also some Face Off contestants milling about the con with the Cinema Makeup School including Ben from Season 9.
Then I made my way to “The Writer’s Journey: Maximizing Your Exposure in the Marketplace” panel with writers, Brandon Easton (Marvel’s Agent Carter, IDW’s M.A.S.K.), Geoffrey Thorne (Leverage, The Librarians), and Brandon Thomas (Skybound’s Horizon, Miranda Mercury). There was an addition to this panel and her name escapes me so if anyone attended this panel and knows, please let me know! It was great to attend a panel that happened to be an all black panel and the emphasis not be being black in the industry. So, that was refreshing.
Rounding out the night were the “What’s Up With Penguin” panel which was pretty dull compared to previous years, “Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum” panel which gave us a behind the scenes look at the creation of this museum – I am highly anticipating this museum and I had no idea they were also making a Hollywood Horror Museum (!!!), and finally, the “Screen Junkies: Honest Trailers and Movie Fights Live” panel which was hands down the most fun panel that I attended this year. I thought I knew all that Screen Junkies was but oh my goodness, I did not know. These movie fights are life. These are my people. I’m totally getting Screen Junkies Plus soon. Also, screenwriter, Max Landis (Chronicle) knows how to throw down in a movie fight!
I started Saturday off walking the floor before getting in line for an ARC of Tahereh Mafi‘s middle grade title, Furthermore. Then it was time for another panel with Hank Green and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese), “Reading Without Walls” which was so great. If you ever have the opportunity to see Gene Luen Yang on a panel, do it. Next came a book signing in which I got some books signed by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows), Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes), and Kiersten White (And I Darken). Side note, I’m currently listening to the audiobook for And I Darken and it is amazing!
Next up was the “Children of Tendu Podcast” panel and the “Lost With Jay & Jack” panel (the latter joined by the amazing Jo from Cancer Gets Lost) both at the San Diego County Library before running into Christy, one of my former co-hosts of the Gleek Squad Podcast which was dedicated towards the show Glee. Then, I grabbed a delicious cheeseburger from Tin Fish which, as per usual was taken over marketing wise by NBC. Love it.
Rounding out the night were the panels, “Worldbuilding and Storytelling,” “What’s New From Del Rey Books” – I didn’t realize author, Pierce Brown (Red Rising) was such a fox, and “Stories of Imagination: Harper Voyager and Epic Reads.”
Sunday morning was all about the YA authors that I adore. I went to a signing to get books signed by Lauren Oliver (Replica), Victoria Schwab (This Savage Song), Michelle Hodkin (The Mara Dyer Trilogy), and author, Victoria Aveyard (Cruel Crown) whose work I have but have not yet read. Shout out to the rest of the authors at this signing, Adam Silvera, whose work I’ve read and already have signed, Brendan Reichs, Renee Ahdieh, and Laini Taylor, all authors who have work I have yet to read but am excited to get to, and Nathan Bransford whose work I have read but online or in ebook fashion.
Next up, was the “Creating Diverse Worlds and Cultures” panel with Stacey Lee (Outrun the Moon), Indra Das (The Devourers), Damian Duffy and John Jennings (Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation), Elizabeth Briggs (Future Shock), and Ru Xu (NewsPrints) followed by the “Leigh Bardugo and Gene Luen Yang in Conversation” panel which was SO much fun. Can these two have their own panel every year? So fun.
Then came the “KidLit Literary Agents” panel with literary agents, Kelly Sonnack (Andrea Brown Literary), Taylor Martindale Kean (Full Circle Literary), Jill Corcoran (Jill Corcoran Literary), and Jennifer Azantian (Jennifer Azantian Literary) which was even better than the first agent panel that I went to earlier in the con, since it was specifically geared to KidLit authors.
I ended my SDCC on quite the high with the “What’s Hot in YA” panel in which Lauren Oliver, Victoria Schwab, and all of the authors I mentioned earlier at the Sunday morning YA signing killed it! So much fun! What a perfect way to end the con!
There’s no way to attend everything you want at the con and while the last time I went to SDCC, I was slowly embracing that fact more than ever, this year…this year was such a weight off my shoulders. I just went with the flow and enjoyed what I was able to see and it was fantastic. I was entertained and inspired and it was everything I needed in this moment. Aside from the fact that I got sick halfway into the con, the con itself was wonderful and as per usual, I can’t wait to go again!
New To Me Creators/Books To Check Out:
Writer, Brandon Thomas (Miranda Mercury)
Author, Rachel A. Marks (Darkness Brutal)
Artist, Nicole Goux (F*ck Off Squad)
Artist, Dustin Nguyen (What Is It)
Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs (Add it to Goodreads)
The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst (Add it to Goodreads)
The Peripheral by William Gibson (Add it to Goodreads)
Tom Clancy’s The Division: New York Collapse by Alex Irvine (Add it to Goodreads)
Seven Eves by Neal Stephenson (Add it to Goodreads)
Note: All Books Were Signed Unless Where Noted
And I Darken by Kiersten White
Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard
Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi (ARC, Releases August 30, 2016)
Goldenhand by Garth Nix (ARC, Releases October 4, 2016)
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black (Unsigned ARC, Releases September 6, 2016)
Replica by Lauren Oliver (ARC, Releases October 4, 2016)
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
The Action Bible by Doug Mauss & Sergio Cariello