Debrief: WHOlanta 2018

Debrief: WHOlanta 2018
Atlanta, GA – May 4-6, 2018



WHOlanta 2018 is in the books and it was a fun show. It provided a chance to catch up with some friends and family, and it also opened the door to some new connections and possibilities.

First, I’d like to thank Darin Bush for putting up with all of our antics this weekend.  I deeply appreciate the space in your OtherWorlds slice of the con, and after seeing your leadership in action, you’re on the list. No, not that one, but rather one of convention track directors that I would work for on a moment’s notice. Alongside Darin, I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Erin McGourn and Gary Mitchel for keeping the OtherWorlds engine humming its chaotic harmony.

The opening salvo was welcoming attendees with a sorting ceremony for various science fiction characters. This was a first for me, and Bethany Kesler was key in breaking some of the rust free on my Houses of Hogwarts knowledge, including sharing a beautifully crafted description of each house that goes well beyond the basic of bravery, loyalty, intelligence, and ambition.

(By the way, E.T. is a Slytherin. We proved it this weekend. Bethany and Erin also have very convincing arguments for sorting Leia Organa and Steve Rogers into Slytherin. Ask them some time.)

Bethany and I have been working together at Dragon Con for years, but we definitely learned so much more about each other in the Late Night Nerd Fight sparring match. The assembled panel of moderator Erin, Darin, Gary, Bethany, and Jennifer Hartshorn were able to break me in the battle between Star Wars Rebels and Dark Matter. It was a ton of fun.

I really enjoyed working with Jennifer face-to-face for the first time. We have been on a handful of podcasts together in the past, but there’s so much more to feeding off physical cues. Jennifer has some great insights into Marvel films, and she was awesome during the Infinity War and Black Panther discussions. Outside of formal panels, it’s really fun just to sit and chat with her after all was said and done for the day. I also appreciated her support and feedback from the audience during the Star Wars panels.

Speaking of Star Wars, I finally got a chance to participate in the larger discussions of mythology and story in the GFFA, as well as an inadvertent tangent into the state of fandom. On that journey, I got to meet Christine Evans and Adam Throne, both of whom are amazing people. I’m glad to have met them this weekend and hope to work with them again soon.

I also got to work with Michael French on a con panel for what we’re both calling the first time. Our real first panel together was a Batman anniversary celebration at Dragon Con some years ago, and we have also been on countless Roll-a-Panel events at Dragon Cons past, but this is the first time we have been on a discussion panel together since we started seriously collaborating in the creative space. Michael is a smart guy with views on pop culture that challenge us to think outside the proverbial box, and I admire his style both as a humorist and a conversation driver. I enjoyed his insights on our current 1980s nostalgia and appreciated his thoughtful questions during the podcasting panel. I’m really looking forward to what comes next.

On the podcasting front, I loved catching up with Mike Faber, his wife Judy, and Michael Gordon of the Earth Station One network. This family is among the most open and giving people I know, and seeing them always brings a smile to my face. Sitting with Mike, Michael, Gary, and Erin on a panel about podcasting was a blast, and it also gave me the opportunity to meet Kirby Bartlett-Sloan of the 20MB Doctor Who Podcast. I also got to meet with Joe and Toni of The Watch-A-Thon of Rassilon, JC and Rita De La Torre of Seekers of the Lost Worlds, and the incredible Mark Maddox.

One of the biggest highlights of the show was talking about the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with my con bosses Darin, Gary, and the WHOlanta convention chair R. Alan Siler. Alan and I had not collaborated before this convention and it was stunning to see just how in sync we were about DS9 and our admiration of the series.  Alan also debuted Children of Time: The Companions of Doctor Who at the convention, and I was sure to snag a copy. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Some of my other favorite conversations this weekend: The current state of digital media (with Darin, Erin, and Gary); Justice League (with Gary, Mike Faber, and Adam); Star Trek: Discovery (with Bethany and the ever insightful Robert Lloyd); the Black Panther panel (watching Jennifer, Erin, Jessa Phillips, and Kamassa Herrmann discuss this film was amazing); and Indiana Jones and Brushes with History (Darin, Erin, Bethany, and Michael French have good panel chemistry, and Michael was in his finest Indy garb for the occasion).

The weekend was only amplified by the attendees. I adore the civility of the panel audiences at WHOlanta. The discussions and debates focused on topics and ideas, not personal attacks or opinions presented as facts. It is clear that the Internet Fanboy Mentality did not attend this convention.

Last but not least, I want to thank the convention organizers and staff for welcoming my wife and me as new volunteers.

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