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V-Con 27 Report

V-Con was held over the weekend of October 11th-13th, 2002 at the Plaza 500 Hotel. It was very reasonably priced and quite enjoyable to attend. You may wonder what exactly is V-Con and that can best be answered from the FAQ on their web site:

"Vcon is an annual volunteer run convention, that operates under the auspices of The Vcon Society, a legal not-for-profit Society that operates under the BC Society Act. We run Vcon because we like it. Vcon is basically a social event, meant to be a gathering of fans of science fiction and fantasy. It also operates to promote SF and fantasy in our community. For aspiring SF and fantasy writers it also serves as a meeting/networking ground and offers panels and workshops with professional writers.

Vcon is run entirely by volunteers, who have no stake in the convention, other than the wish to see Vcon continue as a popular event. If by some miracle a Vcon makes money, that money is put towards the following year's convention."

Palle Hoffstein, V-Con's Chair, said that this year's con had about 500 attendees, 600 paid memberships and 65 guests. He also said, "we had more attendees and more paid memberships than any Vcon since Vcon 20." A large part of the high attendance was attributed to J. Michael Straczynski and Laura Bertram who plays Trance on Andromeda.

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Introduction and Background
V-Con 27 Program Cover
V-Con 27 Program Cover (photo ©1994 BROM)
I am happy to report that this was my third time to see J. Michael Straczynski in person. The first was at Westercon 50 which took place at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers back on July 3rd-6th, 1997. The second time was at a Gathering that was held at Simon Fraser University on May 27th, 2001 and was hosted by the NW-B5 group. While both of these JMS experiences have been wonderful in their own right, my latest at V-Con 27 is going to be one of the most memorable.

I had been keeping an eye on the developments of V-Con 27 for quite a number of months, hoping that JMS would make an appearance there. I figured there might be a good chance since he does try to attend fan run conventions. Also, if he was working on Jeremiah, he would already be in the area which would make it easy for him to attend. I was very pleased to receive a message from the V-Con mailing list on Aug 22nd, 2002 that JMS has been booked for V-Con 27! I quickly made reservations and plans to attend since nothing could keep me away now.

The NW-B5 group was making plans to host a drop-in room for their members who attended V-Con. They wanted to invite as many Legend of the Rangers and Jeremiah cast members as possible but it was difficult due to the lateness the invites were sent and the con took place over Canada's Thanksgiving weekend. I helped as much as I could with the few Jeremiah contacts that I have but unfortunately, no one was able to attend except Enid-Raye Adams who played Firell on Rangers. Even then, she just snuck in during JMS' Question and Answer Session so very few people got to see her.

In addition to the cast member invitations, they wanted to show some Jeremiah episodes which I happily provided for them. That was one of the hardest things for me to do before V-Con ... pick five hours worth to people who have never seen the show. Do I show the first half of season one so they get a flavor of what the show is about or do I pick out all the "WHAM" episodes and reveal spoilers when they do see the entire season? Well, I am getting ahead of myself so you will just have to finish reading my report to find out.

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Monica's V-Con 27 Report
View from the Plaza 500
The magnificent view from the 15th floor of the Plaza 500 [Larger Image] (photo ©2002 Monica Hübinette)
This convention report will be very limited in scope because I don't do all the normal convention activities like filking, gaming or dressing up in costume. In fact, I only atttended one day (Saturday) since that was the only day JMS was scheduled to appear. I am sure the rest of the convention was enjoyable and I am sorry I cannot confirm that personally.

My husband and I arrived at V-Con around 11am on a beautiful Saturday October 12th, 2002. J. Michael Straczynski was scheduled to give a Question and Answer Session in Oak rooms C and D at 12 noon so we had arrived in plenty of time to look around the con before getting in line for his presentation. We found the check-in desk with little difficulty and got our badges with lightening speed. I was especially impressed with the fact that they spelled our last name with the umlauts!

We wandered around a bit to orient ourselves with where things were. The Game Room was the first room after check-in and it was quite large and filled with people playing various games. I was most amused by the Lego Junkyard Wars set up and wish I had stuck around to see that played out. Unfortunately, the only time I came back to the Game Room was to fill up my water bottle. Ah, well ... maybe next year.

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J. Michael Straczynski Question & Answer Session
JMS Q&A Attendees
Looking behind us at the large number of attendees to JMS' Q&A Session [Larger Image] (photo ©2002 Monica Hübinette)
We made some quick passes through the Art and Dealer Rooms before deciding it was time to get in line for the Q&A session. When we got to the Oak rooms, there were different panels taking place in each room. We wanted to be in the front because I was going to record the session for later reference. So, while people were lining up in front of Oak C, we made our way down to Oak D since we figured once the divider was taken down, it would end up being the front. Our thinking ahead paid off and we got some nice, cushy front row seats. The turn out to the room was quite good since we saw a number of people who had to stand in the back and along the sides of the room.

We had to wait a few minutes before the presentation started because JMS had arrived with a video that he wanted to show. The convention organizers worked quickly to set something up for him and ten minutes later, the lights dimmed. What showed on screen was a short Babylon 5 music video that was very entertaining and humorous. I don't remember many details from it but it has been something that he has shown at other functions like this before. Uproarious applause greeted JMS as the video ended and the lights turned on again. He stood at the front of the room basking in the adoration of his fans.

J. Michael Straczynski
JMS beams proudly after showing his B5 video [Larger Image] (photo ©2002 Monica Hübinette)
I don't want to go into too much detail about the session since I intend to publish the entire transcript soon, but I do want to share some highlights and a general overview of the time he spent with us.

After some funny comments about the thin microphone that was more suited to sitting on a desk rather than something to carry around, JMS ditched it and proceeded to take questions from the audience. He explained that the organizers wanted him to share some specific stories but since he only had an hour, he would rather spend most of it answering questions. However, he did have one caveat ... if the question was "dull" then he would go to a story on "The List".

Not surprisingly, most of the questions were focused around Babylon 5 which were recieved quite well and only a few times did he have to refer to "The List". At certain times, I got the impression that he would have liked to talk more about his current project, Jeremiah, but I think he also realized that many people there would not have had the chance to see it yet. J. Michael Straczynski is a wonderful speaker who is highly entertaining and funny. You can tell how much he enjoyed working on B5 by the stories he tells and the delight you see in his eyes when he talks about those days. I had heard some of the stories before, but never tire of listening to them again.

He did say one key thing about Jeremiah during the Q&A that I want to point out ... Season Two will probably air around March 2003.

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J. Michael Straczynski Autograph Session
J. Michael Straczynski
JMS signs a bunch of our Jeremiah items [Larger Image] (photo ©2002 Monica Hübinette)
The autograph session was scheduled an hour after the Q&A so we had some time to find out where it was going to be held and also take another look around the Dealers Room. We were getting pretty thirsty so my husband went off to get some beverages. In the meantime, I picked up a 8x10 photo of the Babylon 5 station for JMS to sign. I was amused by the fact that I had to buy something for him to sign since I really didn't need to. I had brought at least 15 items already (90% of them Jeremiah related) but I wanted to get something for my best friend's birthday so that justified spending $10 CAD for it. By the time I got my photo, my husband was back with our drinks and sitting down next to the table where JMS would be doing his autograph session. Little did we know that they started the line right where we were sitting so we ended up being second in line! I got about 5-6 items ready to be signed and waited for him to arrive.

"Oh, so -you're- Monica!"

One of the items I wanted to have autographed was a mouse pad that I made up to test out a future endevor to sell some unique Jeremiah merchandise. The images on the mouse pad were not entirely copyright free so I was worried about letting him see it in person. I decided to take a chance because I really wanted it signed and he would find out about my site that way as well. I swallowed my fear that he won't like it or ask me to not make these items ever again and put down my stack of Jeremiah items for him to sign.

Jeremiah Mouse Pad
Jeremiah's mouse pad signed by J. Michael Straczynski [Larger Image] (photo ©2002 Monica Hübinette)
Of course, the first thing he saw was this mouse pad. He looked at it and asked in a fairly stern voice where I got it. I panicked a bit but managed to say as nonchalantly as possible that I had just made them up myself. He looked pretty surprised at that and then looked up at me and said something like, "Oh, so you're Monica!" and proceeded to sign the mouse pad.

He just couldn't stop gushing about it and even had to flag down an Associate Producer that he brought with him from Jeremiah, Sara "Samm" Barnes. She was across the hall in the Art Room and he held up the mouse pad and called out to her that they needed one of these for the office. I am just beaming with pride by now and feel a little embarrassed in front of all the people who were still patiently waiting in line for autographs.

JMS puts the mouse pad aside and continues to sign the rest of my items. In the midst of signing my things, he casually mentions that he likes my site. By now, I am pretty much a blabbering idiot but manage to thank him for the compliment and say that I am surprised he even knew of it. He quips back that he does manage to get online now and then. I laugh and before I manage to say anything I might regret later, I hurrily gather up my things in order to make room for the next people in line.

Sara 'Samm' Barnes
Jeremiah's Associate Producer Sara "Samm" Barnes takes a look at our mouse pad [Larger Image] (photo ©2002 Monica Hübinette)
At the time when he mentioned my name, I thought that he was simply going to ask my name in order to sign my things. Then when he saw my name tag, he just answered an unasked question, "Oh, so you're Monica!". However, after playing the events in my head over the next few days, I wondered if he actually recognized my name in relation to my web site. The URL was on the mouse pad and he did mention he had visited before. I guess it wouldn't be too far fetched for him to make the connection since I post in the moderated newsgroup that he frequents as well. In any case, I was on cloud nine for the next few days.

Since I had so many things I wanted to get autographed, I figured I would take one more chance and got in line a second time. I got to chat with some people who were interested in what I was going to have signed. In the meantime, I spotted Samm Barnes in the Dealer Room and decided to give her one of the extra mouse pads I had brought with me. I told her it was a pleasure meeting her and have enjoyed her work on the show ... especially the two episodes she wrote. She was very nice and grateful for the gift and seemed pleased that I knew who she was.

As I approached JMS again, he didn't appear to be too worn out so I bribed him to sign more things for me in exchange for his very own mouse pad. I don't think it was really necessary since he seemed happy to sign a few more things. There were also a few people who were getting their picture taken with the Great Maker so I asked if it would be alright if I got a photo as well. It wasn't a problem and as you can see, I am grinning from ear to ear.

J. Michael Straczynski and Monica Hubinette
J. Michael Straczynski and Monica Hübinette [Larger Image] (photo ©2002 Monica Hübinette)
By now, I realize that we haven't eaten all day because we had gotten up too late to eat breakfast and we got so wrapped up in the excitement of seeing the Great Maker. No wonder I feel so light headed and giddy! :) So, my husband and I make our way across the street to the little mall that had a food court and shared a huge plate of chicken teriyaki. We also spent some time just sitting outside and enjoying the sunshine with our dog who had been patiently waiting in the car for us all day. It was a shame to spend such a lovely day indoors but it was definitely worth it.

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NW-B5 Video and Drop-In Room
Next on our agenda was the NW-B5 video and drop-in room. There were some snacks provided by John Francis and Dennis Kristos who hosted the room. The food was really meant for the cast members, JMS and other invited guests, however none of the crew showed up. Still, the food was appriciated by those who stayed for the evenings festivities ... the Jeremiah videos!

Jeremaih, Kurdy, Lee, Erin and Markus
The residents of Thunder Mountain: Jeremiah, Kurdy, Lee Chen, Erin and Markus Alexander (photo ©2002 MGM/Showtime)
Like I mentioned before, it was very difficult to pick five hours worth of Jeremiah episodes. Since I had a six hour tape, I figured I would fill that up but what episodes would I show? I could fit about eight episodes on the six hour tape so that was almost half a season. Should I just show the first eight episodes or pick and choose the best ones of the season? I eventually chose the eight top rated episodes from my Theo Rating Results page. So, I recorded the following episodes on the tape ... #1&2: The Long Road (Part 1), #4: ... And the Ground, Sown With Salt, #8: Firewall, #14: Tripwire, #18: A Means to an End, #19: Things Left Unsaid (Part 1) and #20: Things Left Unsaid (Part 2).

Watching these episodes again with people who haven't seen this series but are great fans of JMS' work was a great experience. I was a bit worried about how these particular episodes would flow into each other and if they would need some additional explainations but I was pleasantly surprised how seamless they went together. Everyone who was there had a good time and had nothing but good things to say about the show. I even met a few people who were involved with the production of the show and it was great to hear their stories.

"Jeremiah is a fantastic show."

We started out the evening with over a dozen people in the room and about eight of those people stayed for the entire night of programming. I only had five hours scheduled but provided six hours of episodes so I was really pushing people's endurance. Since these were all the "WHAM" episodes, it was really hard to leave once you got into it. It was exciting to see everyone's reactions to the show. They laughed at all the appropriate places and when there was an especially moving scene, there was dead silence. You could see how everyone was affected by scenes like the annihilation of the town of Camden or when the Brothers of the Apocalypse were revealed. It was hard to see the reactions on people's faces since it was so dark in the room, but you could tell that people were just enthralled with the show.

John Francis and Dennis Kristos
John Francis and Dennis Kristos [Larger Image] (photo ©2002 Monica Hübinette)
I cannot recommend it enough to share these particular episodes with people who you think would enjoy this show ... especially if they are JMS fans. It was an amazing experience. I want to close my report with some thoughts from John Francis who summed up Jeremiah better than I can:

"Jeremiah is a fantastic show. Sure, it is a different premise than Babylon 5. But all the classic elements that made B5 such a great success story-wise are present in Jeremiah. The only-just-right-amount-of-info revealed by J. Michael Straczynski. The question-answering later on to reward the audience with new questions constantly evolving. All the qualitites JMS manages to to write that keep viewer interest alive plus his 'heart' about the human condition all serve to make this show every bit as well done as B5 ever was. Yes, if you are tired of B5 writing, then you will not find anything new here. But if you like the manner that JMS writes in as much as I, then you will be sold hook, line and sinker.

After 6 hours straight in a room -- no breaks, anyone can get a little edgy, but at the video room, no one was, and everyone enjoyed themselves. A comment to Joe's writing magnetizing your attention..."

Thank you to everyone who made V-Con 27 such a wonderful event. It was an experience I will NEVER forget.

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