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Amazingly, the panel is nearly over before someone realizes we haven't even mentioned The Avengers yet (though the lead up films obviously drove the discussion). This seems perplexing at first, and then it dawns on the room: The Avengers is a continuity-driven superhero crossover written and directed by Joss Whedon, and this is a sci fi/fantasy convention - no one here is worried that The Avengers will be anything less than awesome.

Night time, bed time, busy last day tomorrow. Wishing we'd saved some of that pizza.

Monday 1/16

The last day of a con is almost always morose and weird, especially if it's a workday. A lot of the diehards have already gone home, the Cosplayers are gone from the lobby, and the creeping sense that reality awaits hangs over everything. And I've got to start my day moderating.

Star Wars At 35

This one I was a little worried about. More than any other, Star Wars fandom in 2012 is defined by bitterness: hating the prequels, hating the special editions, hating Lucas ... it's all so tiresome and inescapable. Fortunately, the room seems to share my desire to stay positive, so the focus remains mostly on nostalgia and looking on the bright side. If nothing else, I remain surprised that the Clone Wars cartoon seems to have become the still good standard bearer for the franchise, even among a lot of older fans.

MST3K, The Panel

My schedule today was three panels, one right after the other, all in the same room. Good thing it was good stuff like this. MST3K discussions invariably wind up as a quote-athon, but I'm surprised at how many people turned up (including some Escapist fans!) who hadn't yet gotten into the show yet and were looking for a starting point. One of the questioners aims to stir the pot by asking the Joel vs. Mike question, but the prevailing good mood isn't having it (the panel unanimously settles on the different styles, different hosts middle path).

The Alien As Metaphor

Final panel is a serious one, again moderated by my colleague Dan Kimmel. This is the thoughtful stuff - aliens in movies/books/etc. standing in for ideas or groups, and whether or not new paradigms for this sort of thing are emerging. District 9 figures prominently as a modern example, though I'll note that the current reboot culture has taken its toll on the ease of discussion. Every mention of mainstays like The Day The Earth Stood Still or War of The Worlds has to be prefaced with "Which one?" Still, it's good to see intellectual topics pull an audience in a convention scene that's increasingly about trivia and fan-to-fan marketing (not that there's anything wrong with that).

With my panel work done and the con winding down, it's time to head home and collapse from exhaustion ... and with this column winding down, it's probably time to hunt for a kitschy summation metaphor. Or, I could just say what I think - that for all the weirdness associated with them, and for all the talk that ubiquity of web-forums have made them less relevant, I'm glad that the sci fi con tradition still exists. So much of fandom (hell, so much of modern life) is about being apart from the rest, it's more important than ever to be around lots of people with shared interests. The day geek culture decides it's done with the con scene is a day geek culture gets a lot poorer.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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