Monday, January 20, 2014

Con Report: MarsCon, Day 2 & Day 3

My final panel on Saturday was the standing-room-only Sherlock Holmes Roundtable, which was a lot of fun, lively, dynamic discussion about all incarnations of our favorite detective, led by Mike Pederson and Adele Gardner. Sorry these notes are pretty “stream of consciousness” – or as much as I could capture in the fast-flowing discussion!

“Study in Emerald” – Neil Gaiman short story in collection Study in Sherlock
Laurie R. King, Mary Russell series, starting with “The Beekeeper's Apprentice”
Carol Nelson Douglas, the Irene Adler series

Best movie versions: Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett

Favorite Watsons?
David Burke, Martin Freeman
Lucy Liu? She would have been a better Sherlock!

Mike was very turned off by the “medically induced coma” storyline – if the show doesn’t respect science, how can it really be Sherlock Holmes?

Tom Baker (the inevitable question of Dr Who connections) was in a 1982 TV miniseries of Hound of the Baskervilles!

WhoLock – fantastic, high quality fan mashup of Sherlock and Dr. Who – check out the videos and a behind-the-scenes, making of video

Matt Smith read for Watson, ended up in Dr. Who!

Watson, from “Three Garridebs”:
“It was worth a wound; it was worth many wounds; to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.”

“Adventure of the Yellow Face” – interracial relationship – very unusual for Doyle’s treatment of it in his time

Moriarty was only in 1 Doyle story!
Great performance by Andrew Scott in Sherlock

Mycroft – Sherlock’s version is closer to Billy Wilder movie, Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Watson’s wife is played by Martin Freeman’s wife in Sherlock Season 3 – she’s a wonderful character!

Lara Pulver plays Irene Adler in Sherlock
“weaponized femininity”

Does Sherlock have sex? Should he?
"Study in Scarlet" – it’s clear that if something doesn’t help him solve cases, it’s simply not on his radar. He doesn’t know that the planets revolve around the sun!

Watson says that emotion is abhorrent to Sherlock

Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock woos a chambermaid for his case – very awkward – comes off as cruel and mean – not proud, but doing what he thinks needs to be done.

Great moment in Sherlock Season 1 when he is cruel to Molly about a Christmas gift, then feels very abashed.

Doyle often shows Sherlock as cruel to Watson – “you tell me what you think…no, here’s why you’re all wrong!”

It’s been said that any good writer could have come up with Sherlock, but only Doyle could have created Watson

John Bell was Doyle’s teacher – model for Sherlock Holmes – what he see as “flaws” in the character are almost certainly the product of their time

House is really an homage to Bell, inspired by Sherlock Holmes
Drug problem
Glad they’ve pulled back from that as a focus on Sherlock

Greg Lestrade – could almost be in his own series – seems so richly realized by Rupert Graves in Sherlock, as if he were just taking a break from doing some other show to cameo in Sherlock

Now, on to Sunday, or Day 3…

“Beyond the ‘Strong Female Protagonist’” Writing Women who are more than ‘Kickass’” with Jim Hines, L. Jagi (“jah-gee”)Lamplighter, John C. Wright, Meriah Crawford, and a special guest appearance by Alethea Kontis

Does “strong” = “kickass”?
How about “complete”? “Competent”? Real – 3-dimensional – more than token, or all action, or romance – willing to die to accomplish her goals (if necessary)

Nausicaa is a strong character, not for fighting, but as a leader and someone who never gives up

Veronica Mars
Oracle – still a superhero and fighting the bad guys in her wheelchair
Willow (pre-magic)
Robin McKinley – all of her stories are wonderful – Deerskin is an especially great character, with a dark, touching story arc
Avatar, Last Airbender (series) – all the female characters are strong! Excellent show!
Hermione (do I really need to say from Harry Potter?)
Mrs Weasley - she’s the strong, quiet background character, then she has her “Hell no” moment and really comes through
Lessa in McCaffrey’a Pern stories

Trauma as an aspect of storytelling
It’s easy to use to give complexity to character’s development or growth
Rape is used far too often – in a way it almost cheapens the tragic reality of women raped in real life – rarely true to their experiences
Being orphaned is another too-used trope – makes for a good “Hero’s Journey” arc

It’s a shame characters can’t come from a “normal” background – without trauma in their childhood – and still become “strong” characters

Alethea’s Woodcutter family is a big, messy, squabbly family with both parents and connected siblings

The Incredibles!

What about “Mary Sue” characters?
Mary Sue refers to a Star Trek fan fiction character and generally refers to a character created for wish fulfillment
Is it too dismissive a term/criticism?
Couldn’t James Bond be defined as a Mary Sue?
Jim Hines quote: “Conan is such a Mary Sue!”
John Carter = Mary Sue (?)

The audience (reading or watching) is torn by what we think we want from women characters – “that’s not believable” or “that’s not satisfying”

There’s an inherent conflict in the differences between tropes and pacing:
Drama, action, romance
Jagi discusses “The needs of drama vs the needs of culture”

Women have *had* to grow up projecting themselves into male characters/stories
Men don’t as much have experience with this, and they find it harder to project into a female character – possibly because they are trained from an early age to suppress any affinity with their feminine selves

There’s a documentary coming out later this year called something like “The Masks We Wear” that interviews boys ages 10 to 17 (or older), and there are marked differences in how they talk about their relationships at an early age vs each later year.
Boys might find it easier to identify with an alien or a robot than with a woman!

My own aside here:
It seems it very difficult to have a conversation about gender, nature, and culture without it diverging wildly away from the topic at hand. It’s clearly still very charged, and we’re in the early stages of beginning to address in healthy, positive ways.

How do you make a character “strong” without “conquering their femininity”?
Show characters tempted or struggling with humanity, but use the best in themselves to overcome!

Next up:
Carry Ryan’s writing workshop

Dogs in house

January word count


  1. Writing Report:
    Novel editing, tiny edits Ch18, Ch19 again, start Ch20

    Time: ~40 min
    (Had to run off to distressed toddler before could post update...)

    1. Hey, you're making steady, consistent progress! And with a toddler! :) Keep up the great work. Thanks for keeping company!