A Book Nerd’s Paradise: San Diego Comic-Con 2015 Recap

Yes, in internet time Comic-Con is now officially old news, but as this is the first time I’ve ever been able to attend for any significant length of time (and only the second time I’ve been able to go at all) I’m still pretty hyped.  Not to mention that this year’s SDCC was proof that (pop-culturally speaking) it is a great time to be a book nerd.  There are a ton of book inspired films and tv shows about to enter the mainstream.  Here are some of my picks for the top science fiction and fantasy films about to come our way:

The Martian – October 2, 2015

Andy Weir’s The Martian was one of my favorite books from last year, so, naturally, I’m quite excited about the upcoming film.

Even more exciting, Andy Weir was part of a panel discussing the process of turning books into film and tv.  While Weir was very up-front about his limited involvement in the film’s production, he seemed quite excited about its release.  The trailer seems very true to the spirit of the book, and the production quality looks amazing.  Fingers crossed that the film will be good, because the book is fantastic and certainly deserves it.

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Andy Weir at the Book to Screen Panel at SDCC.

The Man in the High Castle – November 20, 2015, Amazon

I’ve been excited for this show ever since the test pilot went up on Amazon.  Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, The Man in the High Castle, this show is an alternate history about how life would have been different if the Allies had lost WWII.

I was super excited that it was seeing heavy promotion at Comic-Con – it is definitely a show that deserves to be wildly popular.  I was lucky enough to make it into the official panel, and attend the special premier at the Civic Theater.  The panel was fantastic – it was very apparent that this show is being made by a group of talented, dedicated, and intellectual artists who want the show to succeed.  I was very impressed with how the actors, writers, and producers discussed their work, and how they answered audience questions.  Obviously this show deals with sensitive topics, but it handles them in a thoughtful and purposeful way, and it is clear that every member of the cast and crew has made an effort to treat the material with the seriousness that it deserves.

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Lots of advertising throughout the con.
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The line to get into the panel took forever. Granted, the panel before it was the wildly popular Teen Titans Go, and the panel after was the similarly popular Vikings. I might have been one of the few in line specifically for High Castle, but it was totally worth it.

From the panel:

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The premier event was also tons of fun.  The event was held at the Civic Theater – a bit of a hike from the con itself, but totally worth the extra effort.  The guests were treated to period music, popcorn and beverages, and some pretty sweet swag as they waited for the first two episodes of the show.  I had already seen the first episode as part of the Amazon test period, but I was excited to have the story continued with the second episode, which totally lived up to the quality that was showcased in the first.  This is definitely going to be one of my tv obsessions for the foreseeable future.  This cinematic quality of the show is unbelievable, and the the images are absolutely iconic.  The show is clearly based on the novel, but has taken the idea to the next level – adding plot twists that deliver a level of excitement that the novel lacks.  This show is a total punch in the gut, but in a good way.  It absolutely delivers on “the feels” as the kids say.  This is definitely a show that should be on everyone’s radar this fall.  It will stream free for Amazon Prime members starting in November.

From the premier event:

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Free swag (a lanyard and a free limited edition copy of the novel) and the inside of the theater:

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The Expanse – December 14, 2015, Syfy

The writing duo of Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (collectively known as James S. A. Corey) were also on hand at the Page to Screen panel to discuss their upcoming television seriesThe Expanse.

The show is based on their popular space opera book series, which begins with Leviathan Wakes.  Unlike most of the other authors on the panel, both of these authors-turned-screen-writers/producers have had a strong influence on converting their work to another format.  At a separate event, which I was also able to attend, they debuted a full screening of the first episode.  This is perhaps the most visually stunning science fiction show I have ever seen.  The production quality is absolutely breathtaking.  At this point I’m sad I don’t have a larger screen to watch it on.  The pilot episode is a bit of a slow burn – more of an introduction to the world as opposed to an in-depth look at the characters, but I get the sense that the characters will get more fully explored as the show progresses.  It is a bit hard to predict how the show’s reception will be based on the first episode – I think there is certainly the potential for a hit here – but I want to see more before I decide if I will become fully invested.  Happily, I think the network’s plan to show the first two episodes on back-to-back nights (Monday December 14 and Tuesday December 15) is a good one – the first episode ends with a “need to know” cliffhanger, but I’m not sure if the events leading up to it would be enough to bring people back a week later.  As of now I’m cautiously optimistic, but I expect I’ll be overwhelmingly excited once I read the books, which have been sitting on my to-read-soon-shelf for quite some time.  Definitely something I will have to get to before December arrives.

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Childhood’s End – December 14, 2015, Syfy

Syfy is also running a three part mini series based on Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End this December.

I wasn’t able to see any of the Childhood’s End events while at Comic-Con (other than a bus and the fake news reports on screen at one of the Gas Lamp restaurants featuring the #Karellen story), but I did read the original novel shortly after the conclusion of SDCC (yet to be reviewed).  Based on the the trailer, it looks like this will be an updated version of the novel – closely following the story line, but placed in a modern setting.  The cast looks good, and again it looks like the show is trying to be respectful of the source material.  Overall, I’m pretty excited for this one too.

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The Childhood’s End bus… not the best photo, but it definitely stood out on the street!

The Magician’s – January 2016, Syfy

Syfy is clearly making a move towards being the channel for good science fiction programming – they have also picked up Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy as another upcoming series.

I’ve only read the first book of the series thus far, but based on what I’ve read, the trailer certainly seems to have captured the essence of the books.  Again, the production quality looks pretty good, and I’m fairy excited to see the magic happen on screen.  This is another series where I can’t really predict how the general audience will respond, though this has more to do with the books themselves (people seem to either love them or hate them) than what I’ve seen of the show in the trailers.  I’ll definitely tune in when the series starts, and hopefully it will be compelling enough to keep me coming back for more.

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The Magician’s author Lev Grossman.

In other book news…

Comic-Con was the kick-off for Ernest Cline’s Armada tour.  Which was sort of cool because we got some fun swag, but sort of not cool because we still had to wait until the Tuesday after Comic-Con for the book to show up.  Ernest Cline was a super cool and personable author who is clearly passionate about 80s pop culture.  He was fun to meet (I went a signing for Ready Player One since Armada wasn’t out yet) and to listen to in the panels he participated in.  We didn’t get to see any sneak peaks of the upcoming film (granted, we have to wait a few years to see it), but we did get to listen to him talk about having a film produced by Stephen Spielberg.  Pretty cool.

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The Fantasy/Sci-Fi Family Feud was also a great panel.  Team Sci-Fi consisted of Ernest Cline, Chuck Wendig, Daniel H. WIlson, and Austin Grossman.  Team Fantasy consisted of Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Naomi Novik, and Leigh Bardugo.  It was a fun time, where the take-home message was that the surveyed audience was a bunch of sheltered kids who consider Star Wars to be a cult classic.  Yeah.  I don’t get it either.

Team Sci-Fi:

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Team Fantasy:

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Apparently Patrick Rothfuss was reusing name tags from different panelists all weekend.

There were also a lot of great book signings and give-aways throughout the weekend.  The Tor and Penguin booths had a lot of fantastic give-aways, including Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager, and Robert Brockway’s The Unnoticeables.  Free autographed books and lots of fun swag – definitely worth the amount of time I spend hanging out around these booths.

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The Tor booth – I spent a lot of time near this booth waiting for lines to form.

There were tons of other book panels and events I didn’t have time to attend, but I certainly felt as though I had a book nerd’s dream weekend at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.  There were, of course, tons of other events, exclusives, and fandoms on display.

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It is, obviously, a good time to be a geek.  But looking at what’s popular now, and what I expect will be popular in the coming year, it’s an even better time to be a book loving geek.  I had a great time at Comic-Con, and I’m looking forward to the excitement continuing with all the upcoming shows and movies.  I can’t wait until October (and November and December) get here, but in the meantime I’ve got a lot of reading to do!

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Bye San Diego! I’ll see you next year!
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