A Wish Come True.

As you may already know, when I found Babylon 5 I also found its creator J. Michael Straczynski.

I did get to meet him almost 10 years ago at Phoenix Comicon, at the 20th anniversary celebration for Babylon 5 (B5), where I attended the “Promise Panel”, where he told, for the first time in public, the background story of Michael O’Hare who played the lead, Commander Sinclair, in the first season, and his struggle with mental illness.

If you don’t know the story, and want to, just go on Youtube and search “straczynski promise panel”. Please be aware that this contains spoilers for the B5 series if you have not seen it.

Having followed him for quite a while, I know a bit about his writing career.

He has worked as a journalist, writing for much else:

  • animated TV, like The Real Ghostbusters long ago
  • Live TV, like Jeremiah and, of course his epic science fiction series Babylon 5. There is a new secret Babylon 5 related project, not known in which format, but it has been made and should  be presented at the San Diego Comicon next year. Then there is the possibility of a reboot series of Babylon 5, not a remake but a re-imagining. This could be very interesting if it is given the green light. Then there is the Neflix series Sense8 that he co-wrote with the Wachowskis
  • Comic books like Superman Earth One, Spiderman, and some originals of his own
  • Film, like the Clint Eastwood directed Changeling, a historical drama
  • Novels, both genre and more general
  • He also wrote an autobiography

I have had the wish to meet Straczynski in Europe after he was involved in Sense8, so I did not have to go to the US to do it.

I, and others, have suggested to invite him to Fedcon in Bonn, but for some reason unknown to me, it did not happen.

Today I saw an announcement from the Danish book fair (Bogforum) that they are going to have Straczynski as a guest at this year’s fair in Copenhagen in November this year. I also saw the announcement by Straczynski himself on his Twitter feed.

Now my wish comes true. Straczynski visiting, not just Europe, but within 20 minutes drive from my home.

I am excited.

Fedcon #30, June 2022.

I went to this year’s Fedcon. Starting with visiting a few friends in The Netherlands on the way, I arrived at the convention hotel on Thursday afternoon.

None of the group I know very well had arrived yet, so after checking in – this time it went smoothly – I took a bit of rest in the room.

Early evening Dutch friends Annette and Detlev had arrived, and during the evening a few more of the old friends arrived A newcomer to the group, Wolfgang, was also a pleasure to get to know. In a sense the convention had already started.

Friday the official part of the convention started, with panels, Q&As photo-ops and a lot of chats. My friend Melanie, known to me from two Worldcons, also arrived and we went to a few panels together, and were generally hanging out often.

Friday was good fun I had 3 nice encounters.
First of all I got a talk with a physicist who is also writing science fiction on the space travel subject, with the more plausible physics involved. Talked for about half an hour.
Then, at the opening ceremony the ESA people had a surprise for us: They told that a member of the team making presentations could not come due to travel difficulties. We received a video message with her excuse, and it was a good one: She was on the ISS – travel difficulties, indeed 😉
I can now rightfully claim to have received a message from space 😉

After the opening I walked a bit outside, and got to have a short (small talk) with one of the guest actors. A great time was had.
Also, I got to meet a younger fan coming from Florida, and working in Switzerland, dressed up as Spock. A well done costume.

Finally there was a musical show. FEDCON RATPACK, with Vaughn Armstrong, Casey Biggs, Max Grodenchik and Nana Visitor singing and playing nerdy songs played to older music. They really enjoyed doing this, and I enjoyed them quite a bit.

Saturday:
This was (of course) the busy day of the con.
Presentation on new tech visions at Star Trek.
Autograph session in the heat. Got my fav photo of Jonathan Frakes signed, and he seemed to like it.
Steve Dix (Englishman living in Germany): Nerd comedy show, quite amusing.
ESA (space agency): Ask the crew (for their different missions) yes, Q&A. They are very good and it looks like they enjoy coming to Fedcon. Also they had a stand where we could find some (free) stuff, posters, stickers, and a tote bag with pictures of a lot of their space crafts.
Q&A with the 9th Doctor, Christopher Eccleston was very good. Better than I had anticipated
ESA made presentation on the James Webb telescope. A fantastic new instrument that is now starting its work on really deep space imaging in the near infrared spectrum.
Meeting more fans, of course.
It comes through very clearly that the ESA people are as happy coming to the con as we are seeing them here year after year.

Sunday:
This was a more quiet day with some autographs, and a few panels.
The “breakfast panel” with Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes was real good fun.

Suddenly the Fedcon is over. Spent all of Sunday evening chatting with other fans.

Excellent convention …

Monday it was time to go home, and I managed to arrive at my house just before midnight.

 

Sense8Con3 in Paris, and a Visit.

In the past week end I went to the third Sense8Con in Paris.

The convention was, of course delayed 2 years due to the COVID-19 situation. While restrictions have largely been lifted, The convention did, however, require mask wearing at the convention activities, with the exception of photo ops.

Tis convention was much smaller than the previous one 3 years ago, as some people could not afford to go, and others had previous appointments at the convention days.

This made the convention even more close-knit than the others I have attended, and I got to meet some attendees from the previous one, and got to meet some new ones.

The (actor) guests this time were:

Tina Desai (once more) who played Kala in Mumbai.

Purab Kohli who played Rajan

Toby Onwumere who played Capheus in Nairobi, and

Paul Ogola who played Jela.

All of them were quite entertaining at the panels/Q&As, and responded to fan questions with very lively answers.

At the previous con I had asked about their relations to writers – evryone had been talking mostly about Lana Wachowski, so I put the focus on the co-creator J. Michael Straczynski (JMS).

All were appreciative of the writer’s, no surprise, because without a writer there will be no story. At the con 3 years ago Tina told how she tried to get JMS to open up to her, and how she was happy to break through, as they had much in common.

Tis time she told us how JMS would always be available to fill in back story for the characters, as he was the only one who had the time during the filming/production, as he was, of course, very involved in the creation of the characters and the story.

Paul Ogola had a special appreciation, as he has done some writing himself.

At the autograph sessions there was ample time for the guests to chat a bit with the fans, due to the small size of the convention.

I managed to make a few photos with the phone, and here is one. I may add more later. Tina Desai at the special panel:

After the convention I made a visit to one of the filming locations. In the series it is named The Lacuna, a place which is “in this world, but not of this world”. This is filmed at the ruins of an abandoned abbey in a village near the city of Brussels, the initial building of this started in the mid 12th century.

If one is interested in old architecture and ruins, this is definitely a site to visit, and for a fan of Sense8 it is well worth standing in The Lacuna, which is in the remains of the church of the abbey. Here is the one illustrating The Lacuna:

Both pictures in this post are right out of the camera (my phone), completely un-edited.

I may try to find time to look at, and edit a few more of the pictures from the convention, but this is all for now.

Activity October – December 2021.

For the first time since February 2020 it was possible to go to a convention. The Sense8Con3 is still awaiting information, but Fedcon went ahead in October 2021.

It was very good to meet old friends, even if some could be hard to recognize due to mask wearing when walking around. When sitting in a fixed place that was not mandated. The convention had what in Germany is called a 3G policy. You had to be either 1) vaccinated 2) tested negative or 3) documented recovery within the past 6 months.

This was, of course not ideal, but it beats having no convention at all.

– and now for some media stuff:

October:

I finished the Watchmen TV series (HBO) 7/10

November:

Film:

Dune (part 1) I like what they did, and I am looking forward to seeing part 2 in about two years – 8/10

TV:

Finished season 6 of Supergirl (HBO) 7/10

December:

Film:

Re-watch of the full and extended edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I love this 10/10

TV:

Finished Wheel of Time, season 1 (Amazon) I like it 7/10

Finished The Witcher (Netflix), season 2. I like it. 8/10

Still not too much, but other activities have taken precedence.

Sense8Con2, Part 3, Day 2, Sunday

First item of the day was a group photo with every guest from the show.

I came in early and had a more expensive ticket giving some preference in the access to the photos.

I brought a small gift, some Dutch “Stroopwafels” (syrup wafers), freshly made at my visit to the Netherlands on the way to Paris. Because they had filmed in The Netherlands I expected some of the cast to know those, and I was not disappointed. On the picture Erendira I. is holding the package in the hand. They were all great to meet close-up, and the picture is good, even if I always feel that I look a bit silly on pictures.

 

After this we had time until 1230, because there was a second autograph session, and most of us had done that already. Time to talk to and meet more fans – and have a bit to eat

At 1230 we had a panel with Tina D and Erendira I.

While Lana Wachowski deserves a lot of credit and love, because she was there at the filming all the time I felt that there had been no mention of the co-writer J. Michael Straczynski (JMS), so I went and asked them what kind of interaction they had with him during the creation of the show.

I was delighted by their answers. Especially, Tina told us that, in the beginning, JMS was a bit of a closed book, so, because she is very inquisitive, she tried to get to know the core of JMS, and when he opened up, she was delighted to find that they had  much more in common than she had thought – both with respect to the attitude to life in general, and on political issues.

(Having read Straczynski’s auto biography I think I understand a little better, his reservation to open up, at least at that time, but in the book he really did open up.)

Erendira, too, had a good experience interacting with JMS, and they are both very happy to get to know him.

When I returned to my seat, I found that quite a few of the fans were appreciative of my question and the answers we got.

When I asked Brian the same question, I realized that he had the (incorrect) impression that Straczynski was only involved in the writing of the first season, and that his reservations in opening up probably gave Brian the impression of less connectedness.

 

Another highlight was Michael Sommers performing some of his one-man show. He is so expressive (much like the Bug character) and leaves quite an impression with his performance.

 

Arriving near the end of the convention I finally realized that the Martin everyone was talking about, was none other than Martin Erhardt, who has made a good fan documentary video.

Before that we had the last gathering with all the fans and all the guests. The great finale had all the fans sing “What’s Up” for our guests, it was a great experience.

As always, the end of the convention generates sadness in most of us have. Many were in tears, and there was a lot of hugs given and received.

This was a very memorable convention, and I certainly intend to be there next year for Sense8Con3.

I will see if I can find some good pictures, and I will then share the best ones here, and possibly on my FB time line.

 

The Hugo Awards, Voting Has Started.

The voting for the Hugo awards (for those few who might not know: The annual fan award for the World Convention for Science Fiction) has started.
Also, I have a ton of Hugo Award material to go through before I can vote on – well – some of it. The Voter Package was made available today, and I downloaded it. Several GB, including graphic stories, images and podcasts. I am sure I cannot read/see all of it, but I will see/read some and vote accordingly.

SfifiCon, a One Day, Mainly Star Wars Con in Randers, Denmark.

Here is a report on a one-day con I attended in Denmark. I will resume my report on the Sense8Con 2 shortly.

On Saturday 13. April I went to a local con in the town of Randers.
The main theme of the con was Star Wars, but I did manage to find a few book related sellers. Nice to see that in an otherwise media related and merchandise related com.
I did meet a few old scifi friends and had nice chats wit them.
The highlight for me was a presentation by Nicholas Barbano and Mogens Høeghsberg on the development of the music of Star Wars which gave a bit of scifi film music history, and its changing style through the times, from a more classical music style at the early stage to a period with eerie electronic music, then partly thanks to John Williams, back to the symphonic/classical music style so well known from the music of Star Wars and much other science fiction films and TV.
The other part is, of course, meeting new nerdy friends and exchanging recommendations. I met quite a few people who had never heard of Sense8, so I gave them a briefing on what I think of it, so they could decide whether it is for them.

Near the end of the con I had a longer talk with Chris, who is sometimes stationed in remote places for weeks, and always brought material to watch, and he was running out of new (for him) stuff to watch. He was familiar with the first season of Babylon 5, and when I told him that it got better he decided that it was probably a good idea to add this to his watch list. Mentioning the creators of Sense8 and making a bit of a pitch for it, probably means that this goes on his watch list, too.
A very pleasant day.

Sense8Con 2 Part 2: Day one, Saturday

It started at breakfast. I was invited to a table with some fans, and there I met Birgit, the only other Danish Sense8 fan at the convention, at least as far as I know.
I am terrible with recalling names, so forgive me if I do not give all the correct names of many other people at the con.
First on the official program was the Welcoming Party which was essentially a welcoming panel. All guests were there, and gave a short introduction, plus we had some games of, e.g. guessing quotes.
Right behind me were two young women coming there from Dubai. I had a nice chat with them until the guests arrived.
All the guests looked very happy to be with the fans, and while some were much like their characters, others were completely different. Michael Sommers has much of the wonder and liveliness of Bug, while Sandra Fish is very different from the character of Janet. Tina Desai was more fun than I would have expected from seeing the character on screen.
After a short break we had the autograph session (actually two sessions). All of the guests took time to speak with every fan who wanted to. They looked like they were having a good time. My ticket included the 4 main guests, but I purchased one for the bonus guest, too. I am glad I added an autograph purchase for the bonus guest (Sandra), because the line she had was very short, sometimes non-existent.

In between the two autograph sessions we had a panel (Q&A) with Sandra Fish
She was very kind, very unlike the character she plays, but she loves playing “unpopular” characters, Nomi’s mother Janet. Someone who hates losing control over her life.
She was telling us that in order to create the character she felt the need to get to know and love the character, as I understand many actors do.
Sandra told us about her work with prisoners who would die imprisoned, and how the ones helped still continue the work with others in the same situation. Very touching.
During the second autograph section of the day it was time to meet more fans outside the panels.
I was introduced to several, but the trouble was recalling all the names. Here are a few:

German fan Ursula who was active in the campaign to revive Sense8 after the canceling of the show at the second season. She has also attended Fedcon in Germany, and I am sure that I have seen her asking questions at panels there, too.
Matteo from Italy, a very enthusiastic fan (well, I should say that anyone coming to a convention dedicated to one story should be).
Derek from Scotland who, at the first Sense8con earned the nickname The Old Man of Hoy, due to his Scottish accent.
Crystal from Colorado, USA.
Manu, a German teacher living in The Netherlands. She had actually taught German to a number of my colleagues I had when I worked there.

After the lunch break, more panels.
Brian J. Smith told us about him being the only member of his family in Texas who voted differently in the elections. He loves his family despite that difference.
He talked about how he does not like violence, and how he had to learn how to fight physically, OK, choreographed fights, but techniques to make it look more realistic.
How he went out with police to get a sense of how real police work is done, again in order to act in a more realistic way.
Seeing and listening to Erendira Ibarra really gave the impression of a lot of the actress being in the character.
She also talked about living in abuse, and how she initially thought that this was a Mexican cultural problem, but that the #metoo action recently taught her that it is a much more common problem for women all over the world.
Michael Sommers is a fun guy to see on stage on Saturday he did a flash preview of his one-man-show that he did recently. He was asked if he would do some more, and promised that he would on Sunday.

There is a lot of Michael in the character of Bug, especially his body language and his use of language.
Last panel of the day was with Tina Desai. Despite having a bit of trouble hearing everything she said in her very fast and somewhat accented speech, it was quite a pleasure to attend this panel.
When asked about Indian culture she immediately asked, from which of the many states in India. The country has a lot of cultural differences and dozens of languages spoken.
Tina is not quite the quiet type we see on screen as Kala. She is actually very lively and has a quick wit.

This was the end of the official part of the first day of Sense8Con2. A group of fans went out to get some dinner. The smaller group I went with ended up having pizza, and a longer talk with Ursula about Sense8 and a lot of other stuff.
An that is the end of a very pleasant and fun first day of Sense8Con 2.
Sunday will be described in a later post.

Going to Sense8Con 2, an Introduction.

In the week end 30/31 March I was attending Sense8Con 2 in Paris.
This was my first travel more than 100km from my home, since I was diagnosed with colon cancer in late 2017, and had subsequent chemo therapy and an operation. It is gone now, and I just have to go to control visits. They keep an eye (or a CT scan) on you for about 10 years to check if it is really gone.
As many of you can imagine I am very happy to live in a country with universal health care.
I did have a ticket to the previous (first) Sense8Con last year, but had to stay home for the treatment, so now I take my “revenge” this year, going to several conventions and other stuff abroad.
Back to the travels:
When going to a week end convention like this one I usually want to do more than driving 1300km back and forth, so I arranged to visit 3 friends on the travel, one scifi friend in The Netherlands, an old colleague, also in the Netherlands, and another scifi friend in Cologne, Germany.

I have been in Paris before, so a general sight seeing session is not very necessary, but I decided to have a single day to visit a few of the Sense8 filming sites in Paris. The most famous one is, of course, hard to miss: The Eiffel Tower which I went to at the end of the day. I walked several hours, just taking some general photos, but Also seeing, from the outside, the center for the Arab world, and the nearby bridge, where filming was done, too.
At a later stage I want to visit more of the Sense8 filming sites, especially in Europe. On the way to Paris I decided, for time restriction reasons, to bypass the site in Belgium where the filming of The Lacuna was done. I will take that one, and probably the Dutch filming sites later, as I have connections in The Netherlands.

All in all I was driving just under 3000km (2000 miles), but it was definitely worth it.

The show itself is created by the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) who co-wrote all episodes with the exception of the season 2 finale which, for now is the final episode.

While JMS was heavily involved in the scriptwriting he was not so heavily involved in the production as such. That task was mainly done by Lana Wachowski who did a stellar job in the filming of the show.

Now for the convention:
The guests for the convention were 2 sensates and 3 supporting characters:
Brian J. Smith (Will)
Tina Desai (Kala)
Erendira Ybarra (Daniela)
Michael Sommers (Bug)
Sandra Fish (Janet – Nomi’s mother)
Friday evening, after walking through the streets of Paris, I made the registration for the con, but did not meet too many fans yet.

There were panels (Q&A), autograph sessions, photo sessions and meet&greet sessions. I did not do meet&greet sessions this time, but I just might do that next year (to be decided).

  • and, of course 2-300 of the Sense8 fanmily (spelling intentional)

Next post is expected to cover day one (Saturday) of the conventions. Let us just say: Many meetings.

Con Report Fantasticon 2018 in Copenhagen

My Dutch friend Jarsto and I had decided to go to the Fantasticon, so we both had week end tickets, and went to register Friday evening.
The theme for this years Fantasticon was Steam Punk, and it was quite fun to see people dressing up.
It was good to meet many old scifi friends, and get to meet a few new ones.

Saturday :
I went to the con, arriving about 1230.
More chatting with other fans, and then attending two program points :
Author interview with Lavie Tidhar, who was quite interesting and amusing to listen to. I just might find some of his books to read.
The second was Edmund Schluessel who talked a bit about cosmology, and told the story of two Danish astronomers :
Tycho Brahe who made as accurate measurements of the stars and planet’s positions and movements as is possible without telescopes. Yes, he did that before the invention of telescopes. He provided a massive amont of data, but did not d9o too much with it, but Johannes Kepler could use the data to form his theory and formulas for the movements of tha planets.
Then the talk went into measring the speed of light. Old measurements made with distances on Earth yielded no measurable delay, and light speed was deemed to be infinite, or in any case, not measurable. That was about to change.
Ole RĂśmer who did use a telescope, among others to watch the moons of Jupiter. He noticed a discrepancy in the timing of eclipses of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, and by seeing the difference in timing when Jupiter was near conjunction with the sun, and in opposition to the sun, he measured the offset in timing and arrived at the conclusion that light does indeed have a finite speed. His result, made with the instrumentation and math of 1676.
He arrived at a speed of 200 000km/sec, which is excellent, considering the instuments used, and within a margin of about 30%.
I live a few km from the remains of RĂśmer’s old observatory, and the Kroppedal museum nearby with some of the instruments used in the observatory, and asked if he knew about it. He did not, and I offered to bring him there for a visit, if he should visit Denmark again. He liked the idea, so we exchanged contact information.
After the talk we had an interesting conversation about science fiction and science in general, so I had an excellent Saturday at the con.

Sunday :
I was arriving a bit earlier than on Saturday, and, as usual having some talks with other fans.
In the afternoon there was a recording of a podcast by two groups. The Danish “Hva’ Fan” podcast and the Swedish “Fandompodden” , making a single podcast, spoken mostly in English. I took some pictures of the recording session.
Finally there war an interview with and a reading by the Danish writer Marie Ladefoged.
I came home with 3 books from the convention, two by Marie Ladefoged (in Danish), and one by Justina Robson.
I had a fun time, and I am looking forward to going to more conventions next year.