Star Wars authors at Origins Game Fair

Ohio has several good yearly conventions, and the one for gamers is Origins Game Fair every summer in Columbus.  My husband B headed down for four days to meet some friends and play some games.  While he was there, I discovered that two of my favorite Star Wars authors were also in attendance!  So I gnashed my teeth that I had stayed home and sent B to go meet them. 🙂

He went first to Timothy Zahn’s booth.  Zahn is best known for kicking off the old Star Wars Expanded Universe books with the Heir to the Empire trilogy, and he recently brought one of his best-loved characters back into SW canon with Thrawn (which is on my to-read list).

B got to chat with Zahn for a little bit, and with a promise of my undying love in return, he procured me a signed copy of one of his books.  Scoundrels is a fun little heist story featuring Han Solo and Lando; I reviewed it here a few years back.  B knew I already own the Heir to the Empire trilogy, and Zahn was kind enough to suggest that he sign bookplates for my copies of those novels as well.  There was a lot of squeeing when B got home with this surprise.

I asked B if he told Zahn that Mara Jade is my favorite EU character, but sadly he had not.

Next, he found Michael Stackpole’s booth.  Stackpole is known for his excellent Star Wars X-wing series, and I have read a few of his fantasy novels as well (check out reviews here and here.)  Sadly, Stackpole had already sold out of books, but B got to chat with him for a bit as well.  He was able to inform him that I named my laptop after his X-wing pilot character Corran Horn (it’s silver, like his lightsaber).

In retrospect, I’m not at all surprised that these two authors should be at Origins, because they are both known to fans as big gaming nerds and frequently attend cons.  They’ve both written in game universes like WOW and Starcraft; Stackpole just finished a novel set in the Pathfinder universe, a tabletop RPG setting similar to D&D.  Stackpole has also been a game designer his entire career and is a board member of GAMA, who runs Origins.

So, who knows?  Maybe next year I’ll make it down to Origins to meet them both in person. 🙂

 

Wonder Woman Symposium recap

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of Wonder Woman, and to celebrate the Cleveland Public Library hosted a symposium last weekend featuring speakers on a variety of topics.  Guests included current comic book authors and artists, academics, and a few people with an even more personal connection to golden age DC comics.

Although I’m not a big Wonder Woman fan or anything, I was interested in this symposium because I’ve been reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore for our next GeekyNerdy Book Club (stay tuned for that next week).

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At the Cleveland Public Library

I live about 45 min from Cleveland, but I heard about the event because it was co-sponsored by Kent State University (to which I live much nearer).  The symposium ran over three days, but I was only able to make it up on Saturday afternoon.  I dragged my husband along, too, and we both enjoyed it.  Here are the sessions we attended.

Laura Siegel

Daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel

Clevelanders are very proud of our Superman connection; Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were attending high school in the Cleveland area when they met and later teamed up to create the most iconic superhero of our times.

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Laura Siegel speaks in front of a picture of her father, Jerry Siegel

What I did not know was that Laura’s mother (known alternately as Jolan, Helen, and Joanne) was actually originally the model for Lois Lane, both physically and in spirit.

Laura Siegel was a very engaging speaker, taking about how her mom met Jerry and Joe when she advertised for a modeling job and they were looking for a model for their independent “girl reporter.”  (Interestingly, Jerry, Joe, and Joanne were all the children of immigrants.)  Joanne went on to have a variety of jobs all over the country, embodying the go-getter spirit of Lois Lane; she wasn’t one to let being a woman stop her from doing anything.

Peter Coogan

Director of the Institute for Comic Studies

Now the discussion turned a little more academic; Peter Coogan is one of the pioneers of the field of study of comic books, and his talk sparked a lot of discussion between my husband and me.  His talk was centered around the idea that Wonder Woman is a “superheroine” and not a “female superhero.”  This may seem like a distinction without a difference, but he gave support for the idea that Wonder Woman’s original storylines have a completely different narrative than a typical superhero like Batman or Superman.

The superhero narrative is American mythology, and can be traced back to Daniel Boone.  Typically, the hero goes away to develop his powers, returns and then steps up to fight an external evil (when it can’t be repelled by normal societal means), and then having expelled the evil, steps back into solitude.

Wonder Woman, as her creator William Moulton Marston intended, is instead based on early feminist propaganda narratives.  There is no “going away;” she already has her powers.  Her weapons, bracelets and lasso, are defensive and restraining, not really offensive.  Instead of repelling the antagonists, she seeks to help them solve their problems and blend back into society.  And instead of retreating to a Batcave or Fortress of Solitude, the story ends with her taking part in society with her friends.

This talk was really fascinating to me, and I may do a whole post about it later if anyone else finds it interesting.

Christie Marston

Granddaughter of William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman

Christie Marston, wearing an awesome Wonder Woman robe, took questions from the audience.  I was particularly interested to hear her, since I’ve just finished reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which talks a lot about her family.  She was dismissive of the book, calling it “fiction,” especially the parts about the Moulton family.

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Christie Marston answers questions

She spoke about how her grandmother, Elizabeth Holloway, was the real-life Wonder Woman.  They both had the same attitude: do what needs to get done, and be kind.  She spoke enthusiastically about Peter Coogan’s descriptions of Wonder Woman’s “superheroine” themes from his talk, and said she hoped the upcoming WW movie would show those themes.

We weren’t able to stay for the round table discussion, but we enjoyed what we did get to see, and the rest of the audience seemed to as well.  There were plenty of people wearing comic shirts, and even some dressed as Wonder Woman (I think there was a cosplay event during lunch?)

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Symposium swag

I’ve really come around to Wonder Woman since my first introduction to her in the Justice League cartoons, and I think this event was a great way to celebrate her and her important role in comics and American culture.  You’ll definitely be hearing more about her here soon!

Western Reserve Book Festival

Last weekend I stopped by the Western Reserve Book Festival at Hiram College,  which was a new kind of experience for me.  Hiram, a lovely little liberal arts school (I actually applied there for college), was playing host to several dozen authors from the Northeast Ohio region (frequently referred to as the Western Reserve…we leave off the “Connecticut” part anymore).

I talked to a bunch of authors of varying genres, both traditionally published and independent; there was poetry, nonfiction (including some regional history), mystery, and (my favorite, of course) fantasy and sci-fi.  I was especially excited to meet Cinda Williams Chima, a well-known YA fantasy author.  I was really intrigued by her contemporary fantasy series set in Ohio.

A independent local bookstore, The Learned Owl, had copies of the authors’ books for sale.  My mom bought a couple I thought looked interesting and had them signed for me…and then put them away for Christmas presents.  So I’ll let you all know more about them a couple months from now haha.

I was also experiencing the event not just as a reader but also as an aspiring author.  The idea that I might be in those authors’ seats someday was fascinating and terrifying all at once.  I guess I don’t have to worry about the “business” side of writing until I’ve actually written something, but it was kind of a preview behind the curtain of that aspect of being an author.

Some of the authors had really good pitches for their books, others were more laid back in their approach.  (To be fair, I went in the mid-afternoon so I have only sympathy for any author who was tired of talking by then.  I would have been exhausted.)  One in particular had the best hook I’ve ever heard; her book was a mystery-thriller intertwining the stories of two women and featuring a local “haunted” house as well as the text of actual letters her real-life stalker sent her.  I was so intrigued by her “elevator speech” that I considered checking out her book further despite it not being my type of book at all.

Another interesting tidbit: I bought a board book for my little niece, and as the author was signing it she mentioned that it was not intended to be a board book at all, but rather a picture book (which would have been more appropriate for my niece’s age).  But apparently the publisher had other ideas and changed it.

So all in all it was a great learning experience about authorship as well as a good time getting more books!