Bridesmaid Brawl – Defend the Pizza!

I just wanted a beer and some quiet conversation with friends I don’t get to see often enough. That’s one of the best parts of going to a convention after all. After Saturday night at the bar in the convention hotel I can say there are times when quiet conversation might be overrated.

A small group of us sat at our table off to the side of the bar area. We had dwindled to the last four, Brian, Christine, Kelly and myself. At least part of the reason the crowd dwindled was the noise level in the bar. The majority of the crowd was comprised of two wedding parties. The receptions for these groups were earlier in the day at the hotel and now some of the guests had decided to carry those revels on long into the night… with 90s pop songs played so loud it was impossible for me to hear what the people sitting next to me were saying without shouting. Brian’s voice carried well enough for me to hear.

“Please tell me this is happening.” Brian wanted to turn and stare, but we advised against it. Directly behind him two of the ‘leftover’ bridesmaids had decided they would dance with each other since nobody else would dance with them. They had progressed, fairly rapidly, from dancing to slow dancing with a dip involved. They were becoming quite familiar with each other.

“Yes, it’s happening. They’re practicing for their own wedding. They don’t realize it yet, but that’s what it is. I’m glad gay weddings are allowed in New Jersey now.” Christine seemed happy to let it go at that.

“But why is it happening behind me?” Brian was holding up his smart phone. “I’m going to pretend to be taking a selfie and see if I can get this on camera.”

“I’m going for more drinks.” Christine headed for the bar.

We didn’t know it at the time, but that refill actually had excellent timing. It was going to be the last round for the night. It didn’t take long before Christine was back and amused.

“You should have seen the horrified look on that poor guys face.” She handed out drinks all around. “He volunteered to get a round of shots. Six shots and sixty dollars later he didn’t look happy.”

In the background noise we heard a shrill voice cut through, “I’m hangry!”

I didn’t realize that was even a word. It is apparently the mashing together of hungry and angry. It was also one of those times I realized that stereotypes exist for a reason. I don’t think an actor could have made up the New Jersey accent that went along with the pronunciation. I was glad I wasn’t closer to the person making that statement. The sound cut through everything around it, including my head.

Since the kitchen was closed and the bar had no food someone in bridal party one decided it would be a great idea to have food delivered to the bar in the hotel. A call was made and a short time later a delivery driver wandered through the lobby with his warming bags filled with the wonderful cheesy goodness that is pizza. Bridal party one stacked the pies on a nearby table and went back to the serious business of drinking themselves to oblivion… and that choice started the cascade.

Somebody from bridal party two thought cheesy goodness was a great idea. That person wandered over and snatched pizza from the stack. The amount of pizza taken is in question here. The action happened behind me to my right. I thought it was a single slice, but Brian contends it was an entire box of pizza. I would be quicker to forgive somebody’s grubby mitts on the outside of the box than to forgive getting their fingers inside and potentially onto the crust of the slice I might eat next. Bridal party one was not in the giving, or forgiving mood after so many shots. They called out the pizza thief.

Begin the downward spiral.

Heated words, mostly profane or unintelligible were shouted in exchange. Members of each bridal party moved into position based on their desire to defend or hold back various other members of the bridal parties. Shouting slid to shoving. Shoving ratcheted up the shouting. Drunken warriors decided that shoving was the sort of insult not to be taken lightly.

A punch was thrown.

I couldn’t see who it was. I don’t know that it matters in the end. I’m certain there are people on both sides of this mess that will point fingers at others for years to come. That punch was like the starter pistol at a foot race. That’s when the brawl started. It’s been a lot of years since I’d witnessed a melee like that. There was shouting and shoving. There were punches and teams of people trying to hold back the most loudly drunken or dangerous (or both) in the crowd. In my experience holding someone back only opens them up to a head-shot from the opposition, and that held true in this case. Chairs tumbled. People tumbled. Bodies surged back and forth across the length and width of the bar area.

Imagine if you will the musicians on the deck of the sinking Titanic. This was our table. There we sat, sipping our last round and commentating while chaos swirled around us. Miraculously we avoided the surging mess. Brian picked up his phone. “I need to record this. It will be a YouTube hit.”

I responded, “Dude, IF you record it and somebody sees you recording it your phone will end up becoming ‘Exhibit A’ in the court case. Do you really want that?”

“Good point. I’m down to my last bar anyway, I don’t know if I’ve got enough battery to get the whole thing.”

The “clean up” lights all came on and the music screeched to a halt. The bar manager whistled loud enough to get some attention and then she screamed into the masses, “That’s it! This party is over and you all have to get out! The police have been called!” There was a lull as the various parties pulled back and regrouped. We thought it was over. That’s when the Greyhound appeared. It was the only way I could describe this woman. She had to be six feet tall. She was rail thin and her cheek bones had the elongated structure that always reminds me of an animal. She would have been sleek and fast looking except for the bulbous chest attachments. They couldn’t have been real breasts. They were so round an prominently displayed they should have had an advertisement for the manufacturer on them. She was still dressed for the wedding reception. She was wearing a skin tight green mini dress and high heels.

Quick side note here – observing something like this tends to lead to confusion. I called the dress green, Christine called the dress blue and Brian called it purple – all in the course of the same conversation. Three witnesses to the exact same event with multiple descriptions of the same mini dress. Some details will be lost to history, some will continue to be debated and some will be resolved. We resolved that Brian’s fashion assessment was dead wrong almost immediately and settled for teal.

Greyhound took exception to something that was said from the crowd. She lashed out. Lashed out makes it sound more vicious than it really was. She was the next example of stereotypes existing for a reason, she totally hit like a girl. It’s not a fair stereotype, but there you have it. Her swing was so ineffectual that she attempted to move on to another form of attack. It may have been an abortive attempt at a kick that was restricted by the tight green mini dress. It may have been her secret Muay Thai training and she was attempting a knee strike. It amounted to a total fail in every way except one. The brawl was off and running again.

People that were holding others back turned and joined the fray. Those that had been slowly heading toward the exit were suddenly in the path of destruction. People ended up tumbling over the railings placed in the false windows out into the main hotel lobby. The hollow coconut sound of a head striking something solid was heard over the rest of the sounds along with the meaty slap of flesh landing on tile. We were certain somebody wasn’t going to get up but the human body can endure a great deal of punishment when fueled by alcohol. I think I saw blood. Brian confirmed it, there was blood. Christine confirmed that one of the guys lost his shirt… it made me question for just a moment if some women see fighting in a far different light then men. I was distracted from that thought as some of the mass surged toward our table. The chairs beside us were knocked over, the table slid our direction.

Christine grabbed the edge of our table, “If they come this way I’m flipping this table.”

Brian looked at me. Unspoken rule flashed between us. Don’t make eye contact or you’re “in”. I shook my head. I had no desire to join this disaster in the making. I’ve seen the results of events like this in the past and nobody comes out a winner.

The crowd surged to the lobby. The police arrived. Things finally began to wind to a close. Thankfully Brian and Christine, being the amiable folks they are, had a good relationship with one of the bartenders. Said bartender wandered over to our table to reassure us, “Guys just sit tight. We know this mess had nothing to do with you. Once there’s a clear path you can head out. Really sorry, but we’re closing early.” So there we still sat, finishing the last of our drinks and chatting about all the action. Christine released her grip from the edge of our table and pulled the cloth up to look at the legs.

“It’s probably good that I didn’t flip this. The legs aren’t what I thought. All this would have totally landed on you.” Christine half smiled as she looked my way. I was not comforted by it.

Another minute or two and we stood and wandered to the bar to finish our conversation with the bartender. He started by telling us this wasn’t actually the worst brawl he’d seen. There was apparently another occasion when the hotel had booked five receptions on the same day including one for police officers. That days festivities kicked off when one group claimed their bride was by far the prettiest of all those in attendance that day. I thought that was far too subjective a concept to fight over. Defend the pizza was a much more clear cut battle cry. I looked around. Other than some smeared cheese and pepperoni and a half mashed pepper, the pizza (and the box) was gone. I think it was saved, but I won’t know for certain until the cell phone video we saw being recorded (by somebody else) makes it to the internet.

I wanted to listen in to the rest of the story the bartender was telling but I was distracted by the only other person still in the bar. There was also a girls soccer team staying in the hotel this weekend. We’d seen them in various encounters with parts of the convention on and off through the day. One soccer dad had taken the opportunity after the team curfew to hit the bar. His eyes were bloodshot and watery. He only swayed a little as he stood there.

“Is this some kind of convention?” he asked. It sounded a little slurred, but not a great deal. He was right on the edge of happy.

“Yeah, there’s a science fiction convention here this weekend but this brawl didn’t have anything to do with it. That was the bridal parties.” I answered him.

“Do you guys do this every year?” he forged ahead without really hearing my answer.

“Yes, the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society holds a convention every year.” I turned my head trying to catch more of the bartenders story.

“I wanted to know because tonight was awesome,” he continued with drunken emphasis. “I got kissed by a guy in a dress, I saw a geisha with a phoenix cape and a skunk in a wheel chair. I totally have to come back next year!”

“Well, those folks were part of the convention, but there’s so much more. There are authors, costumers, artists, editors, publishers, and anyone else that’s connected to science fiction and fandom in the area.” I wasn’t sure where this was going.

“Science fiction? Like zombies and stuff? My kids totally think the zombie apocalypse will be a real thing.” He quirked his brow and did his best drunken serious look.

“Well, zombies are part of the whole thing but some of that strays into horror as well.” I had turned hoping that subtle body language would work.

“We totally need to stay in touch man. This was awesome.”

I did the only thing I could think of at the time. I reached into my pocket and gave him my friend Jay’s business card. “That would be great man. Take this and look up these zombie stories. I’m sure the girls will like them.”

He thanked me and with a happy smile wandered off to find his room, or the next bit of excitement for the evening. I’ll never know.

We decided we’d had enough for one night and headed for our rooms. It was almost too much to take in, the level of stupid that fueled our entertainment for the evening. Heading back into the room I was splitting with three other folks was the first step on the road to an epic story. Kelly, who had been remarkably quiet through most of the proceedings spoke up as soon as we got through the door, “Ruth you decided to call it a night about fifteen minutes too early. You’re never going to believe what happened just after you left…”

By the time I was leaving the convention the next afternoon the story of the bridesmaid brawl of 2014 had already come back around and was being passed back to our group, “Did you hear what happened at the bar last night?”

I didn’t hear. I didn’t need to, I was there.

I forgot my socks – or – Philcon 2014

This was the first time I was an invited guest of Philcon. I was very excited to attend. I have attended other conventions, even working on staff, for a number of years but had very little experience with this convention. Being asked to be there as a guest was just fantastic.

It’s good to be lucky in friends – and I am. I was able to hitch a ride with my friend Mary and split a room 4 ways with some other friends. It was nostalgic to get back to that kind of feeling, get to the con on a tight budget. My friends made my convention much more fun than it might have otherwise been. I had a great weekend – even if I did forget my socks. I remembered to do the laundry before I departed, just missed that one little detail on the way out the door.

The folks working the convention were nothing but nice to me. Long before everything got underway I threw myself on the mercy of the program committee. I was rewarded greatly! I was able to be on a technology panel, two art panels, a literary panel, a gaming panel and a fan panel! It was a remarkably diverse set of folks I got to hang out with and I was thrilled to meet some new friends and fellow fans.

There was great conversation and interesting viewpoints. I’m not going to give a panel for panel breakdown here. The best way to get in on these conversations is to attend. Get out there and go to a convention! You might discover an artist or author you like. You could hear how language is being preserved, how long is too long for a book series or where a really good fan fiction site is. You could watch an anime you’ve never had the chance to see or play a game you’ve wanted to try ever since you heard about it from a friend.

IF you’re really lucky you’ll be part of an epic story like the Bridesmaid Brawl… Defend the Pizza!

This great weekend was not without its issues. I was fortunate not to have issues of my own, but many of the folks I know did have problems. I heard complaints about the failings of other guest schedules. There were tracks or topics that had been on program for many years that failed to appear this year. The schedules were delivered late and the web site was terribly slow to update. The actual schedule for things like the opening of the dealer room were in question. Certain events failed to get advertising and died before ever getting off the ground. The con suite seemed to be thin on the snack front. It could have been the times I was there, but for the most part the gaming suite was far better stocked (the bonus being you could jump in on a game while you snacked as well). These sort of things can happen to a convention being run by fans and volunteers. There was one thing I noticed that can’t happen to a convention – at least not often or the convention will fail.

Attendees were few and far between. It might have been timing – world fantasy convention was just a week or two before and it was in Washington DC so many folks that might have gone to Philcon could have blown the budget there and skipped this year. It might have been the proximity to Thanksgiving travel. I could be completely wrong about the number of folks that were there – but it certainly didn’t feel that way. I saw a lot of empty seats at the panels. There certainly weren’t crowds in the hallways. I was on one panel where the panelists outnumbered the audience two to one. It made for a conversational atmosphere while we were sitting there but it worries me for the future. I hope more folks sign up and show up. This con gave me the feeling it was old, possibly dying and that would be a shame.

I hope next year to be invited again. I hope you will sign up and get there too. I also hope I remember my socks next year.


The entire internet (at least anyone not out shopping on black Friday) seems to have lost its collective mind over something again. This time it’s a preview for the new Star Wars movie.

For most of my life I’ve loved previews. I always wanted to be in the theater early, seated with my popcorn and ready to see the future flicker to life before me. Previews would get you talking, help you make plans for your entertainment budget and help you believe in the magic of Hollywood. Maybe I’m the one that’s changed, but previews are not the same to me anymore.

I have reviewed and critiqued previews before. I’ve got more than one web page bookmarked that exist purely to show these previews on demand. There are archives of previews that can be reviewed and dissected at any time before or after the film itself has come out. They’re shown in high definition at your fingertips any time you’d like to see them. I stare at the screen today and feel that the magic is gone. It’s certainly not at the theater any more.

I went to the theater with my daughter to see Big Hero 6 just a couple of weeks ago. I’m so happy she’s interested in stories with heart and imagination. I’m glad she’s excited to see some of the same types of films I love. We sat there in the theater waiting for things to get rolling with popcorn and excitement. Then, right at the time the film was scheduled to start we were bombarded with 27 minutes of advertisements and previews before the movie we actually came to see started. That was one of the last few steps toward my dislike of previews. Almost a half an hour? That’s more than enough to test the patience of an adult, never mind a child. I heard one of the other children in attendance ‘whisper’ to his mother, “What are we watching?” Once we passed this barrage we moved on to a film that, while good, certainly had a couple of its best moments totally given away by the previews. The funny is lost when you’ve already seen it in the advertisements before the film.

So, the theater is no longer the haven of previews it once was but I should be selective and pick the ones I want to see here on my computer. That brings me back to the Star Wars preview out there today.

I watched it. IF the creative team wanted eyeballs on advertisement, they won. I had to see it. I was compelled by my childhood and driven by my devotion to the preview.

We got a few seconds of film, tied together with the music we know and love. Those few seconds spawned no fewer than a dozen shot by shot breakdowns that popped up on my news feeds. Screen captures, questions of symbology involved, cursing, begging and threats of nut kicking for failure. It’s not even dinner time yet – wait until the shoppers get home. True, there were no plot critical elements or ‘best moments’ from this film that were given away here. There was nothing beyond a handful of images here FOR A MOVIE THAT IS AT LEAST A YEAR AWAY. We’re not into December 2014 yet this ad is for a film due to release in December 2015 (IF everything stays on schedule and doesn’t end up getting pushed back like Jupiter Ascending – you know the one that was supposed to be out this past July?). A year away and we’re getting shot by shot take-downs form a few seconds of film?

I am not excited by this. I’m really not sure I’ll remain that interested. Star Wars is firmly planted in my childhood and was one of the formative influences of my life. This ad was more depressing than exciting to me. I can’t ignore it, but it’s difficult to care. I won’t see this film on opening day and have my doubts that I’ll even see it in the theater. The real choice maker on that one will be my daughter. IF she wants to see it in the theater, we’ll go. If we go to the theater, we might arrive in time for the ads to start and hope they run shorter than a half an hour. We might get seats and go for popcorn while the previews run.

Today was the day. I don’t like previews anymore.

SYFY is Back?

This was originally published in Watch The Skies for November 2014

“If I insult you, it’s probably because you deserved it.” Harlan Ellison

Disclaimer: I don’t have cable any more. More than two and a half years ago I got fed up with another rate increase. I had just taken my second paycut in an attempt to survive a floundering economy and things looked bleak. I was forced to take a long, hard look at what cable television programming had to offer me and that programming came up wanting. Choice made, cable cut. While the seperation was difficult, I believe much like dropping a dangerous addiction, I don’t miss it.

I have stated many times that I am a fan first and foremost when it comes to all things science fiction and fantasy. One of the things I enjoyed when I had cable was the channel where those things I loved could call home. Then came a number of very poor choices from that channel, not the least of those being professional wrestling. While professional wrestling is fiction of a sort it fails to meet the criteria for science fiction on every front. I spent a great deal of time bashing and despariging the network that once gave me a weekly dose of crumudgeon (and I still miss those rants). I was not alone.

While the channel carrying the name of my beloved genre was busy trying to shed the loyal fan base the entertainment, the core, the very shows that should have lived there dashed off to other channels where they met with wild success. There are now far more popular genre television shows on other channels as there are on the network that claims them, if only in title. There were a number of failed experiments in genre programs that I would have thought should have been on a channel dedicated to science fiction. It should have all been on a channel dedicated to science fiction. Reaching out and trying to attain something is vital. Own the subject, good, bad or indifferent. The channel didn’t, it ran and hid. It was, and is frustrating. The experiments, the thought provoking stories wrapped around circumstances not of this world were popping up anyplace other than “home”.

Giving credit where credit is due, the channel I have often compared to a sexually transmitted disease now seems to be owning the error of their ways. A recent article published by EW gives some insight into how things will work going forward and gets the new head of original programming Bill McGoldrick to answer some of these criticisms. The article is full of hope and positive, forward thinking statements.

“I think now it’s about giving our audience some fresh stuff.” Mr. McGoldrick said. He gave out some thoughts on where the channel has been and where he sees things going. I’m intrigued by what he has to say. I like the idea that the channel dedicated to science fiction will be heading back to outer space. The mini series Ascension looks like it could be absolutely fascinating. The other thing it is? Most importantly it’s not like other things that are on right now. The things that do the best, the ones that get the highest ratings or score the biggest returns are the things that give a story that’s different than what’s out there. I don’t want another procedural. I want compelling story telling.

They talk a good talk, but can they walk that good walk or are they just walking dead? I look forward to finding out. The EW article is worth the read.


I’m very excited to have been invited to participate as a guest at this year’s Philcon. The convention is taking place next weekend and I’m very excited to be headed there. It even looks like I got all panels I was interested in / am qualified to talk about. That reduces my anxiety a great deal. It should be a great weekend. IF you can, get out to the convention!

Here is my schedule:

Fri 9:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Bernie Mojzes (mod), David M. Axler, Mark Wolverton,
Daniel Grotta, Eric Hardenbrook]

Is our society too dependent on technology? Are we becoming
cybermen? From smartphones and tablets to online communities and
relationships, have we become unable to function without our
mechanical assistants

Sat 12:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Eric Hardenbrook (mod), Robert Kauffmann, Mike McPhail,
Ray Ridenour]

Discussing the differences between approaching art as a hobby versus
art as a professional career

Sat 2:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Ray Ridenour (mod), Eric Hardenbrook, Robert Kauffmann,
Luke Stelmaszek, Brian Thomas]

The blending of art and technology is more and more common. Can
artists even work without their computers anymore? Has the digital
world overtaken the traditional paintbrush? Artists discuss the
latest trends of these two world colliding into each other, and what
techniques they use now to create their art

Sat 3:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)

[Panelists: Tom Purdom (mod), D.L. Carter, Eric Hardenbrook, Neal

Is anyone really going to start a 14-volume bug-crusher fantasy
series? (Not mentioning any names, of course). At what point does
the sheer size of a series discourage new readers

Sat 9:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Robert C Roman (mod), Eric Hardenbrook, Anna Kashina,
Joan Wendland]

How is a literary work made into a game? Are there some books that
just aren’t suitable or can gamers game everything

Sun 10:00 AM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

[Panelists: Anastasia Klimchynskaya (mod), Eric Hardenbrook, Berakha
Lana Guggenheim, Diane Kovalcin, Deborah Stanish]

There was a time when paper fanzines were the dominant source of fan
writing. Now, with the internet and the World Wide Web, other forms
of fan writing have taken the stage, such as blogs, vlogs, websites
and podcasts. What has fan writing become and what might it be like
in the future

The Wonder of a 10 year old

I tend to stay away from too much family talk here. I make every attempt to stay away from the cult of personality culture that has developed in this country. I hope that people can find health and happiness in whatever form their family takes – and I don’t really care what the star du jour is doing when not at work. I think people working in public view – as famous or as unknown as you like – still have a right to have enjoyable family time and YOU don’t get to be part of that.

Having said all that, I want to share a bit of conversation I had with my daughter today.

Her, “So, I was the first person in my science class to finish the circuit and make the light bulb light up.”

Me, “That’s great sweetie!”

Her, “Yeah, I was also the first person to shock myself. That was tingly. What do you call the metal part at the bottom of a light bulb?”

It was such an awesome little conversation. There was more about the young man sitting next to her dropping his bulb and how one of the other kids wanted to copy her and she wouldn’t because, “you’re supposed to be learning…” but the point was how she encapsulated all the wonder and excellence of growing and learning in just a couple of sentences. I love that she was first in science for anything. That’s great. I love that she’s taken a few notes from Hermione (from Harry Potter) and wants everyone to learn not just copy. I particularly love that she mentioned she was also the first to get… let’s say negative results from her work. She electrocuted herself just a teeny bit and didn’t even slow down. She kept working and wondering and trying to figure stuff out. It was awesome and I did what I could to encourage more of that behavior. I couldn’t have been happier.

I am so constantly amazed by my daughter and all the wonder that goes with being ten. I am just going to soak it in because I know it will be gone too soon. IF you have a chance, get out there and wonder like a ten year old. Think past the bumps and the wrong turns and keep driving toward what you’re really interested in. That feeling will go away far too quickly if you let it.


I’m happy to say that my short story “Desire” will be part of an anthology project! The story collection will be connected to a strategy board game – and both are based on an alternate history where Japan came out the winner of WWII. It’s a shared world project where my story will actually be braided together with a couple of the other authors’ stories. I’m excited about this project. I’ve been able to read one of the stories mine is braided with and I enjoyed it. I can’t wait to see what the other author comes up with.

So – first things first – here is a link to the Kickstart for the anthology: Tokyo Yakuza

Here is the cool part – I’ve got art that goes with my story. No, it doesn’t match what’s on the Kickstarter but I suspect that’s because I was slow to repsond. My story isn’t available yet – they’re being released piecemeal as the project moves along. I will let everyone know for sure when my story becomes available. Until then, go ahead and check out the first one! It’s up on Amazon: The Things We Try To Forget.

Tokyo Yakuza 31 (Desire)

I will keep everyone up to speed as we move along through the project!

Old News?

On the off chance that I catch a reader here that isn’t connected to me via Watch The Skies where I posted this originally – how original is Hollywood?

Hollywood is unoriginal. Shocking to hear I’m sure. Somebody’s gone and done a study to try to back that up. I linked it below, but I question how the whole thing is broken down, grouped and quantified. I’m not opposed to a movie based on a book (or comic) if it’s something that hasn’t been done 3 times before (rebooting Spiderman again anyone?). I’ve got something all written up and ready to take on SyFy for this month’s Watch The Skies Fanzine, but I saw this and thought I’d see what others had to say on the subject a little ahead of this month’s meeting…