As the title indicates, this past weekend I attended my first virtual SFF convention, Flights of Foundry. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it proved an interesting, informative, and all around good experience.
The panels and presentations were all excellent, and while not entirely the same as they might have been held in meat-space, didn’t lose anything essential in digital form. There is something to be said for the convenience of being able to pop into (and out of, if necessary) a whole array of fascinating programming events and discussions, with participants from around the world, without having to set foot outside my home. [Edit: I forgot to mention how much easier it was to take notes! I’m much more comfortable typing notes into a keyboard than trying to write them out longhand or capture them somehow on one of those newfangled pocket gizmos.] That said, one of my favorite things about conventions is the in-person contact and conversation with folks I might not otherwise get to meet face-to-face, which is sadly not feasible right now. Overall, I’d say the pros and cons balance out, so that Flights of Foundry was easily on par with other SFF cons I’ve attended.
I moderated a panel on Adaptation and Remix Culture, with SL Huang, Cislyn Smith, and Rebecca Slitt. While tech issues caused me to be about 10 minutes late (another hazard of the online format), I thought the discussion went well. When I arrived, the other participants were already discussing The Lizzy Benet Diaries (modernized Pride and Prejudice done in the form of a series of vlogs; very entertaining; look it up), which I took as a good sign.
The most nerve-wracking portion of the con for me was my Sunday presentation on How to Create Your Own Fictional Religion. My impostor syndrome was flowing strong, but I got through the presentation and reactions seemed positive. There was one follow up question I bungled though. (There were probably more I bungled, but one I recall in particular.) One attendee asked for examples of animism in SFF, and my mind just blanked. I ended up blurting out something about Avatar: The Last Airbender.
While I love ATLA (and do encourage anyone and everyone to watch it, if they haven’t already; if you have already watched it, watch it again), that had to be one of the dumbest answers I could give. Here I’d been encouraging everyone to be careful of their Western bias, and I went immediately to a Western property that took heavy influences from Eastern media and culture (especially anime), rather than going to the source.
I’m not sure how my brain managed to skip over films like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away, considering how huge of a Ghibli/Miyazaki geek I am. (I saw Princess Mononoke in the theater about 8 times when it came to the US back in 1999. And then I went to see it again a few years ago for a 20th anniversary screening. I’ve also been to the Ghibli Museum in Japan, which is AMAZING. Again, huge geek.)
But my biggest oversight was not mentioning Mushi-shi, an anime with its roots buried deep in animism and Shinto. In its own unique way Mushi-shi makes a science out of animism. The protagonist Ginko is a mushi-shi, an itinerant doctor/shaman studying strange life forms called mushi which inhabit the natural world but are somehow alien and different from other forms of life. The show is episodic, each installment a quiet, nearly slice-of-life tale about people dealing with the weird effects a mushi is having on their lives or community, as Ginko attempts to help them and perhaps untangle the mystery of yet another mushi. I’m not sure where (if anywhere) it’s readily available to watch right now, but if you find a way to watch it, do.
Sorry this post kind of became a plug for anime I like. That’s my ADD-brain, which has been working overtime to be extra ADD in this time of crisis.
Stay safe, everyone.