• Marie E. Wilson

Adventures at the Sci-Fi Fantasy Fest!

A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of participating on four panels at a local convention. Needless to say, I had a blast! The topics were broad and varied and I found my mind being stretched and my wits tested by fellow panelists and audience members alike. The four panels were: Star Wars-Everything, Canon Connections, Episode VIII, and Galaxy’s Edge. I’ll run down each panel individually below, allowing you to join me in a very interesting Star Wars conversation.

First up was Star Wars: Everything! Yes, everything...I had no idea what to expect going into this one but was ready for anything...or so I thought. The panel took place at 10pm and there were a surprising number of people in attendance. We had four panelists total (one of which abhors The Last Jedi and hasn’t really read any of the books or comics, two that like me partake in as much Star Wars literature as possible--see them pictured, and of course myself). Because the one panelist who hates The Last Jedi is also a very outspoken individual, he led by posing a question to the audience: How do y’all feel about the current state of Star Wars? Some people said they were upset, others said they were happy (and seemed to be visibly uncomfortable in stating this fact), others seemed to be unsure.

This panelist’s personal answer to the question was that he is disappointed by the direction it’s taking and he’s so frustrated by it because he loves the franchise so much...to which I rebutted, “So you’re saying that I don’t love Star Wars because...I love Star Wars?” I’m gonna give myself a pat on the back for that one as it received quite a few claps of acknowledgement from the audience. It was an interesting dynamic though for sure. I’ve managed to insulate myself in a prequel-loving, sequel-appreciating bubble on Twitter (for the most part) such that I hardly ever see the toxic side of fandom. It’s a pretty great bubble to be a part of if I do say so myself. So it was strange to hear toxicity from people in person. I couldn’t tell whether they actually hated The Last Jedi on their own or if they had been influenced by clickbait articles and videos. A couple people cited bizarre theories and “facts” that I knew were patently false. I tried to explain to people that not all sources are credible but it didn’t seem like they were open to hearing that reality.

The conversation then shifted to “Media Wars” and Warner Brothers vs. Disney--something I am completely unfamiliar with. I learned a lot from this discussion, especially in regards to monetization, toy sales, and why different news outlets present the same story from very different vantage points. As much more of an in-universe, canon junkie rather than a real-world, behind-the-scenes kind of person, I found myself at a bit of a loss to share in this particular conversation. But it was still fascinating nonetheless.

The discussion at some point veered to the idea that not everything you want to know can be found in the movies. Me and one of the other panelists kept saying, “Well, if you read this comic/book you would find…” And of course the majority of the response was that no fan should have to delve into the written word to find answers. But my argument is that that’s the fun part! Digging, making connections, knowing where to go to find out more about specific people or topics. Unfortunately there were a handful of people who just didn’t want to hear it. Regardless, I will always stand as an advocate for the Star Wars written word and literary canon. It’s just so good and definitely worth the time and effort to read!

The next panel took place at 11am the next day and was my Canon Connections panel. I’d written an extensive outline/roadmap in preparation for this panel nearly a year ago for a different con and so was ready as could be. The room was packed and I finally got the opportunity to cover the entire outline in a presentation style with my audience. Everyone appeared to be raptly attentive and many were excited to receive my business card at the end of the panel. So I can only hope that I was successful in spreading my joy of reading through the connectedness of Star Wars canon and discovering surprising tidbits that make being a completionist so very worth the time and effort. I basically addressed each movie and TV show and give or take three bits of literature that enrich and enliven what is seen on screen. Surprisingly enough, with 10 movies and 3 TV shows, I was actually able to get through all of it in the allotted time. But there was of course still so much I didn’t get to share. Luckily, I’ve curated a few lists already here on BeyondtheBlastDoors.com so that interested fans have a literary starting point.

Then it was an Episode VIII panel at 3pm. I’ve already discussed some of the feedback and misinformation I experienced in regards to this movie and all of that held true for this panel as well. But additionally, we discussed Luke’s behavior being not of character--in fact, his ultimate play of sacrifice and peaceful resolution was absolutely in character from what we saw in Return of the Jedi when he threw his lightsaber to the ground in his fight with Vader. I also gladly pointed out that there are plenty of people out there who love the movie and even see it as their favorite. It’s not in my top 5 but it might place at #6 for me. I expressed how my first reaction after walking out of the theater was a general, “Huh…” and a couple of people in turn expressed that their immediate reaction was love for the film. I hope that I helped in some small part with my explaining my Happy Star Wars Twitter Bubble with their confusion and alienation over liking The Last Jedi. Honestly, I ached for these people who felt so ostracized and misunderstood. Questioning whether or not it’s okay to enjoy something when it is in fact perfectly acceptable to enjoy that thing is never fun. I should know since I'm in love with the prequels.

And lastly, I spoke on a Galaxy’s Edge panel at 6 p.m. For this one I mostly just extolled the awesomeness of the Galaxy’s Edge comic series and let me say right here that that series is beyond amazing! I mentioned how the various shops, Oga’s Cantina, the streets, and available foods are all on display...which is great for those of us not fortunate enough to be able to make it out to the park itself any time soon. The other panelist who is a frequent Disney World goer was able to provide all sorts of insight into the wristbands that not only track your movements, but also allow you a quick way to pay for items, as well as the overall vision for the park. He sighted WestWorld as a dystopian comparison to what Disney hopes to pull off. It all sounds super futuristic and very sci-fi to me and I am all in for it. I cannot wait to get a chance to experience Star Wars in real life.

So there you have it. Four very diverse panels covering all sorts of Star Wars related material. The experience was absolutely a blast and they want me to come back next year to be on all the Star Wars panels again! I cannot wait. If you’d like to continue the conversation, find my contact info below. May the Force Be With You!!

About Marie:

I am so excited to have joined the Beyond the Blast Doors Star Wars conversation! As a person who is deeply passionate about every aspect of the galaxy far, far away, I'm always looking for ways to spread my Star Wars joy and love.

I've spoken at cons and written articles on a variety of topics but one of my biggest passions is the canon literature. I hope to help you find your way through the Maelstrom because what is out there is truly amazing!

Email: melisabethwilson@gmail.com

Twitter: @aliamorgaine

Blog: www.thestarwarsreview.blogspot.com