Friday, June 11, 2010

Slayage! Part One

Hello everyone! SO... at the end of May I declared June to be Vampire Month on my blog. Then I posted something about a book launch for the new True Blood book... and promptly disappeared. Was it false advertising? No, of course not. I've actually been blogging madly about vampire-related things for the past week, but then my blog was reflected in a mirror and it all disappeared.

This is TOTALLY true. Ahem.

OK, so I was REALLY away on vacation. The first full week vacation I've taken where I didn't take a ton of work with me (did I still end up doing work late at night online? Of course I did, but not as much as usual!) and I was without kids OR husband... for the first time since having kids. Of course, knowing I have the vast majority of a book to write in the four weeks after returning cast a pall of nerve-addled anxiety over most of the trip, but I'm hoping I hid it well.

The first part of the vay-cay was to attend the Fourth Biennial Slayage Conference (the picture above was taken by Cynthea Masson). This is an academic conference on the Whedonverses, where you listen to scholars from around the world give papers on various aspects of the Whedonverse, from BtVS to Angel to Dollhouse, Firefly, Dr. Horrible, and the Season 8 comics. I attended Slayage in 2008 and was the keynote banquet speaker then, and this time was privileged to, once again, be the banquet keynote, but with a partner, Professor Pompoushead. Also known as Matthew Pateman. More on that to come...

The second half of the trip was heading to Universal Studios with my best friend Sue and two pals we'd met at the last Slayage conference, Ryan Warden and Ian Klein. Also, more on that to come in the following posts.

But, to begin, let's rewind to Thursday, June 3, where I was heading down to Florida. To prepare for the conference, in anticipation of many papers on the comic book series, I had to madly catch up on Season 8. I'd gotten up to the beginning of Wolves at the Gate, but had stopped there. When I'd gone to New York at the beginning of May, I'd met up with Ian and he lent me the most recent arc, "Twilight," and so I had those issues, and the night before I left I finished the Retreat arc, so I just had the Twilight ones to bring on the plane. Now... I'd been warned that these were seriously NSFW, but WHOA. I'm sitting on the plane next to a woman and her daughter (who was watching Treehouse, even though she looked way too old to be watching Treehouse) and suddenly turned the page and ACK!! I shut it quickly, then had to read it by keeping it almost entirely closed and trying to make out the words by only opening the books about an inch. It was a great arc, but of all the issues to be reading in public, it just figures this was the one I'd be reading. My best friend Sue was across the aisle from me, and the girl beside her began vomiting upon the plane's descent, so that took the focus off my comics and onto her. I actually felt terrible for the poor thing... I've never seen anyone vomit on a plane before, but she'd already been on one flight and had thrown up through that one, and then had to take this connecting flight. I get motion sickness at times, so I knew how she felt.

Off the plane, I was texting Ian that we were there and he and Ryan had arrived in Orlando a couple of hours ahead of us. We met up and went to find our rental car so we could drive to Historic St. Augustine.

It had been lovely and hot in Toronto leading up to our trip... hot without humidity, which is the perfect kind of hot. And by hot I mean up to 34 degrees on some days, which, for those who speak Fahrenheit, is in the low 90s. But that was NOTHING compared to how hot it was in Florida. Oh. Em. Gee. It was freakin' crazy hot and humid... like, the moment I stepped out of the airport my flat-ironed hair immediately began curling and wreaking horrible badly styled revenge, and I just knew my hair and I would return to that hate-hate relationship we've shared for so many years. The air was like soup.

Along the way we stopped at a sub place; for a sub combo we had to choose a Pepsi product, and Ian nearly had his hand severed from his body by the owner when he dared to reach into the cooler and grab a Coke. "PEPSI PRODUCTS!!!" the two people behind the counter screeched. Thus began the infectious giggles that pretty much accompanied the four of us wherever we went for the entire weekend. I had a bag of Cheetos, which were much different than the same brand in Canada: these were really fat and excellent. Ryan said if you put them into a microwave apparently amazing things happen. That reminds me... we intended to test that theory and never did. Sigh. Opportunity missed.

The drive was fun, and then we got to our hotel, a Holiday Inn (which was actually very nice) and a jet-lagged-but-not-really-looking-it Matthew Pateman met up with us there and we all headed out to Pizza Hut. Because when you're away in a new place, you should always try the exotic local food.

The conference was being hosted by Flagler College, which has to be one of the most picturesque universities in the United States.

It was once a hotel owned and built by Henry Flagler, a railroad magnate and hotelier in the area. This is looking down the street where we parked the car, looking toward the gates where, if you pass through them you walk into the Ponce de Leon dining hall (more on that in the next post).

And then it was up to the reception to meet the other Slayage peeps, where I also ran into BJ Keeton (he posts here as Professor Beej) and his wife Jennifer and it was lovely to finally see both of them in person! I chatted with many of the folks I'd become friends with at the last Slayage, and it was so nice to see them all. And almost NO ONE had changed one bit. At some point in the conference someone coined the term "Slayage" to mean a two-year period, as in, "a Slayage ago Lost was still in season 4!" and it would seem that no one who attends these conferences actually ages in a Slayage.

And then it was time for David Lavery's paper. David, along with Rhonda Wilcox and this year, Tanya Cochran, is the chair of the Slayage conference. He co-edited Fighting The Forces: What's At Stake In Buffy The Vampire Slayer?, the groundbreaking collection of academic essays on Buffy, and he is also the co-author/co-editor of Saving the World: A Guide to Heroes, the guide to Heroes that features a battle between myself and David about the season 1 finale (and again, more on that later...). The previous Saturday, I'd received an enigmatic email from David asking if A) I would be attending the reception, and B) if so, would I be interested in doing a dramatic reading? I said yes and yes, and was immediately intrigued. The following evening I, along with nine other people, found out we had become Chosen Ones to help him act out his paper, which was a look at Joss Whedon's interview style. He was focusing on five key interviews Joss had done throughout his career, and then he divided the 10 people into five groups of two people each, and we had to play the roles of interviewer or Joss. I, happily, was a Joss!! (I represented his female side, since I was the only female one up there.) I got the 2003 IGN interview, and it was fun. We were all lined up at the front and David and Rhonda conducted the back-and-forth online questionnaire Joss had participated in a few years ago, and they were hysterically funny, and then we all had scripts and had to jump in when it was our turn. Matthew was British Joss, and Ian was one, along with Jim Wilson (one of the Flagler hosts) and David Kociemba, who had done a great paper at the last conference about how to teach Buffy to a room of students where half have seen the entire series and the other half haven't seen a single episode (do you spoil? Do you keep secrets about the ending?)... of all of us, David got the tone of Joss's answering style down the best, even though at lunch Ian had us in stitches as he tried to do his lines with Joss's lisp (he didn't actually do it for the presentation). We had a ton of fun doing it, and David once again put on a fantastic show for people.

After that we headed off to Scarlett O'Hara's, a bar in town that Ian had yelped and found had good reviews (once again we were in stitches as he found a review for another place by a reviewer who wrote like Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock, and he read it out as if Kenneth were saying it... I'm laughing just thinking about that). A group of us headed down to Scarlett's to chill out after a day of traveling and prepare for the first official day of the conference. First I had to move the car out of the parking lot where we'd paid and onto the street where it was now free, but had the dilemma of it being a one-way street going the wrong way. So I backed it out of the parking lot and reversed the car all the way down the street, pulling into the spot and opening the car door to applause. Sue's drink was way too strong (not a common complaint you get in bars!) and Ian offered to drink it for her (he's such a caring soul) while I sat cross-legged in a rocking chair and was ribbed for looking like a yogi talking to her people. As I drank my non-alcoholic beverage.

Next up: The first full day of the conference!


yourblindspot said...

See? I warned you about the humidity -- guess I should have adopted a more serious tone, 'cause I WAS trying to be funny, but I was totally not joking.

I was this close to attending Flagler for college... right up until I found out we were expected to pay for it. Still, I love the place, and I love the town too. Can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

Anonymous said...

I went to a con in Tampa in July once. Arrggh.

Glad to know Dr. Lavery is doing well. I met him once through a mutual friend. Rhonda Wilcox was at Writercon (fan fiction) last year.

Sounds like a wonderful trip, even with the humidity.

Rebecca T. said...

I sounds like you had a BLAST! Can't wait to hear more :)

Austin Gorton said...

I don't envy the humidity, but I do even just about everything else.

Jennifer said...

It was great to get to see you, too! The banquet speech was phenomenal. You guys struck just the right balance of analysis and entertainment that was necessary for a banquet at an academic conference. I can't wait to read about your experiences at Wizarding World.