Monday, September 17, 2018


Here is my (tentative) schedule for ARCHON 2018, October 12-14, 2018, in metro St Louis (Gateway Center, Collinsville, IL).


Black Panther: Making History
4 pm, Salon 4 (Gateway Center)
Discuss the cultural phenomenon and what it means for audiences and filmmakers.

Trivia Thunderdome: Celebrity Edition
7 pm, Lasalle (Gateway Center)
Come see your favorite Archon panelists and guests compete for trivia supremacy in the Geek Universe All-Star Trivia Thunderdome! Host Jim Yelton has 5 rounds of questions covering genre TV, movies, books, games, comics, and more. Categories include “Before Superheroes were Awesome,” “Trump or Ferengi,” and an entire round of ‘80’s Themed questions. 4 players enter...only one will survive!

Game of Thrones: The Last Moves to Make
9 pm, Salon 6 (Gateway Center)
One season left and anything can happen. How's it all going to end? Why does this show still grab our attention?


Author Reading with Benjamin Philip, Van Plexico, and Daniel Yezbik
10 am, Illini A (Gateway Center)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Beyond Infinity War
2 pm, Salon 6 (Gateway Center)
Everything is terrible and the universe is in disarray. What's going to happen next?

I'm Still Crying: Avengers: Infinity War
3 pm, Salon 6 (Gateway Center)
Grab the tissues, and let's discuss the movie.

What Made You Want to Write?
5 pm, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
Share your personal stories of why you wanted to be a writer.

Comic Books on the Silver Screen
7 pm, Salon 6 (Gateway Center)
We have 5-6 superhero movies a year now. When is it too much? Or is this just enough to sustain interest?

Friday, August 24, 2018

Suggestions for First Time DragonCon Attendees

Some advice for first-time DragonCon attendees. (This will be my 21st and I still feel like I’ve only ever scratched the surface of all the stuff going on.)

- Take some time to sit back and look around and take it all in. DragonCon is hectic—it’s “go go go” almost 24/7 from Thursday afternoon through Monday afternoon. But there’s so much to see if you just stop a minute and look up. There are like 80,000 people there and roughly half of them will be in some kind of costume, and many of those are excellent (and/or funny). That’s the thing DragonCon is most known for, and it’s worth seeing. And most of those people won’t be in the parade so even if you watch that, you will still only see most of the costumes in the halls and streets.

- Go outside occasionally. It’s entirely possible to fly into Hartsfield-Jackson, take the subway to Peachtree Center, take the skywalks to most of the hotels, and never go outside the entire weekend. But get some air, man! (And see all the crowds out there, too. And there are other places to eat besides just the food court!)

- Hit events in multiple tracks. I know some attendees basically “live” all weekend in one track room, and that’s cool—but DragonCon has SO MANY tracks and every single one of them does things slightly different, each with its own flair and quirks and unique personalities and great people running it. You might discover new stuff you never expected would become a favorite.

- Don’t expect to arrive at the main hotels zone on Saturday morning and be able to go anywhere. The parade has gotten HUGE and the streets are blocked off for it—and all the people wanting to watch it absolutely clog the sidewalks all around. I’ve literally been trapped inside the Marta subway station for over an hour before and almost missed a panel I was on. It starts at 10 am but people are packing the sidewalks well before that. Get down there early and get inside while you can!!

- Like every other Chick Fil A, the super-popular and insanely crowded one in Peachtree Center Food Court is closed on Sunday. So it is packed on Friday and Saturday. And there’s never anywhere to sit, anywhere in the food court, unless you lurk and pounce on a table as people are leaving or you ask to sit at a table with people already there. (I’ve done this many times and they’re always very kind about it.)

- I will add more as I think of it!

Thursday, August 02, 2018

DragonCon 2018 tentative schedule

Okay, gang— here’s where to find me and what I will be doing at DragonCon this year.
Always subject to change, and I will be adding a Reading session as well.

Title: Barnes and Niven 
Description: Steven Barnes and Larry Niven talk about collaborating with each other, with Jerry Pournelle, & with others.
Time: Fri 11:30 am Location: Regency VI-VII - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel 
(Tentative Panelists: Steven Barnes, Larry Niven, Van Allen Plexico)

NEW: Battlestar Galactica Frakkin’ 40th/15th Anniversary Panel
Battlestar Galactica 1978; Galactica 1980; Battlestar Galactica 2003; Caprica; Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome; the comics; the books; the toys; the people. Whatever version you prefer, whatever your experience--we’ll reminisce over 40 years of BSG. With American Sci-Fi Classics.
Location: Westin Chastain DE
Time: Friday 1 pm

Title: Military SciFi Writers and Creators - Media Edition
Description: A roundtable with military science fiction writers and artists--whether in tie-ins or independent worlds--to discuss the genre, trends, real-world accuracy, and working within the complex worlds of Military Sci-Fi.
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Chastain DE - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Georges Jeanty, Kacey Ezell, Amy J. Murphy)

Title: Beowulf in Media Adaptions
Description: Hwæt! The epic of Beowulf has been adapted several times for screens large and small. What elements translate well and which do not? Is the world still waiting for a true screen adaption of one of our oldest stories?
Time: Fri 05:30 pm Location: L401-L403 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico)

Title: Babylon 5: In the Beginning, 25 Years Later
Description: This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Babylon 5 premiere, and it lives on in our hearts and minds. Come join our panelists as we all share our favorite memories and experiences of this amazing show, “Our Last Best Hope for Peace.” Dual programming with American Sci-Fi Classics.
Time: Fri 07:00 pm Location: Chastain DE - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico, John Hudgens)

Title: Schoolhouse Rock 45th Anniversary: That's What's Happening
Description: Celebrate the Saturday morning classics where galaxy girls and legislation that wore bowties (and nothing else) taught us everything we need to know. Everything.
Time: Sat 10:00 am Location: M103-M105 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Jim Beard, Kevin Eldridge, Sue Kisenwether, Mike Faber, Van Allen Plexico)

Title: Pulp: Not Just Old Paper
Description: Pulp is a genre like unto no other. In the past, it started a lot of careers. It's enjoying a resurgence, so our panelists will tell us about it, why they find it interesting, & why they write it.
Time: Sat 01:00 pm Location: Embassy AB - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel 
(Tentative Panelists: Bobby Nash, James Palmer, Van Allen Plexico, Jim Beard, John G. Hartness)

Title: SciFi Jeopardy
Description: Host Van Plexico provides answers to which you give the questions. Anything from SF is fair game. There will be prizes!!!
Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: Embassy AB - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel 
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico)

Title: Marvel vs. DC Trivia
Description: Pit your knowledge of the Fantastic Four against someone's knowledge of the Justice League! Join us for our longstanding tradition of Marvel vs. DC Trivia, hosted as always by Van Allen Plexico.
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: International South - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel 
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico)

Title: Tolkien Fan Wars
Description: Tolkien fans are nothing if not passionate, from Balrog wings to elven ears, and book purists to movie enthusiasts (but which director?) Come to join some friendly debates!
Time: Sat 07:00 pm Location: L401-L403 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico, Constance G.J. Wagner)

Title: Dead Author Society
Description: In a revisit, authors that have left us return to share their knowledge and personalities - and answer questions. Our panelists will act as their avatars.
Time: Sat 10:00 pm Location: Embassy AB - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico, Jim Beard)

Title: Reading Session: Van Allen Plexico 
Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Marietta Room - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico)

Title: 2001's 50th Anniversary: Also Sprach Arthur C. Clarke 
Description: Although it's not the anniversary of the story, it is of the Kubrick movie. So let us examine the movie in terms of the book & remember a giant.
Time: Sun 04:00 pm Location: Embassy AB - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel 
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico, Steven Barnes)

Title: The Rise and Fall of Denethor
Description: The nearly Númenórean Steward is one of Tolkien's most morally grey characters. Heathen? Tragic hero? Political realist? Victim of fake news? Let's talk about him!
Time: Mon 10:00 am Location: L401-L403 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Van Allen Plexico, Constance G.J. Wagner)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

30 Favorite Movies List: July 21, 2018

Updated July 21, 2018
These rankings do NOT include James Bond or Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, each of which have their own rankings I've done elsewhere. I choose not to include them here.

Here are my current 30 FAVORITE MOVIES:

The Top Ten:

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)
2. Star Wars (1977 cut)

I have watched Star Wars and Fellowship dozens or hundreds of times each, and not only do they never get old to me, I always get that same sense of exhilaration during and after seeing them, almost like it's the first time all over again. They have swapped the 1 and 2 spots back and forth ever since Fellowship came out in 2001, but it's always been one of those two in the top spot and neither has ever fallen below 2nd. They are the supreme "ragtag heroes get together and go on a journey to defeat the bad guys" stories, which are my favorite kind of stories. Both have epic moments of majesty and excitement and awe and wonder. And excellent pacing in the biggest moments.

3. Ready Player One

This movie debuts at #3 on the list. I waited until I'd seen it a third time, to be sure it wasn't just the excitement of it being new and my loving the novel it's based on that caused me to rank it so very highly. But it seems to be holding steady here. It's not quite the top two for me, but I can't imagine preferring anything else below here to seeing it again right now. It might drop later; I wouldn't be surprised. But not far.

4. Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut)

My love for this movie continues to grow. There's just so much there to love. The characters, the story, the travelogue (I tend toward those, as this list reveals), the history, the epic quality, everything. It's the only movie I can see jumping ahead of Ready Player One for third place any time soon.

5. The 13th Warrior

It has everything I love in a good travelogue adventure movie, including a compelling and appealing main character, a fascinating semi-historical background mixed with outright fantasy, a great score, and a team of specialists off on a journey to do a job that may turn violent. Same thing I love about Fellowship of the Ring and Ocean's Eleven, for example.

6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

There's no reason this one shouldn't be higher. It is truly THE epic fantasy film ever. But for whatever reason--maybe the long stretches of the hobbits and Gollum--I get ever so slightly bored. It deserves all the acclaim and the Oscars, but it's not a Top 5 for me currently. Just barely.

7. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

An excellent film adaptation of roughly 2/3 of what is appealing about the books. If they'd given us just a few scenes of Dr. Maturin the deadly assassin while on land, it would have been perfect.
8. Last of the Mohicans (Michael Mann 1992)

Epic and wonderful. It somehow combines being almost an art film (and a gorgeously shot one) about Colonial America with a rousing adventure tale of Hawkeye and his family battling the French and their Native American allies. And it pulls off both things very well.
9. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Director’s Cut)

The only "real" Star Trek movie ever made and the only actual "Science Fiction" film out of them as well; the rest are action-oriented space fantasies. Which is fine, but they all lack the power and majesty of this one. The Director's Cut tightens everything up dramatically, moves things along better, and adds better effects (especially of V'Ger). The ending of this movie is almost transcendent for me as well as for the characters.

10. Ocean's 11 (2001)
My favorite heist movie. Extremely appealing cast. Just super fun.

The rest:

11. Ice Station Zebra
12. Casablanca
13. Serenity
14. Gandhi
15. A Bridge Too Far
16. Lawrence of Arabia
17. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (US)
18. Dead Again
19. Payback
20. Henry V (1989)
21. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
22. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
23. The Revenant
24. Babe
25. The Crow
26. North by Northwest
27. Die Hard
28. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
29. V for Vendetta
30 Tombstone
31. Where Eagles Dare