Over the Memorial Day weekend, I attended Wiscon, the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention. The Apex Magazine party on Friday night featured a game called ‘Conversational Roulette’ in which the game master gives each contestant three minutes to tell an impromptu story based on a given theme. When I played, the theme was ‘running away to the circus’ and I confessed my preschool ambition to become a trapeze artist and wear a black sequined leotard, with black lipstick and nail polish (this was in the early 60’s long before Goth anything) and do stunts in midair, high above the crowd. I did not win my round, but got one vote.
I sat nearby when the game master started another round with a new set of three players and the theme ‘the most formative movie of your life.’ The winner of the round cited ‘The Princess Bride’ but dissed Princess Buttercup for not doing anything to rescue herself. (Isn’t it hard enough just being the Most Beautiful Woman in the World?)
A travesty that he should win (sorry, Nolan) – but the mention and my later conversation with Nolan Belk on the subject, got me to thinking about why I like that movie so much and what it has in common with some of my other favorite movies, shows and stories. For instance, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ and the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, and even Jane Austen’s works.
Princess stands out for great dialog that reveals a great cast of characters, each one, from heroes to villains to bit players, drawn with a loving eye to their unique, relatable human foibles.
Whedon’s BTVS strikes me as having that same virtue of great dialog deftly revealing great, relatable characters. Whedon and Goldman both create characters I care about, people who I want to accompany on their journeys.
Just as importantly, both shows are written with a sense of humor that tells me the writer is not taking himself or the material too seriously.
Saturday night I attended a banquet and awards ceremony for the Science Fiction Research Association, which brings critical and serious literary attention the genre of F/SF – and I’m all for it. The genre is my first love when it comes to reading material, from fairy tales to hard scientific extrapolations based on the expanding frontier of human knowledge. I love stories that help me to look at the world, humanity and the whole universe beyond us from new perspectives. I’m pleased to see my favorite genre grow in literary merit in the eyes of a broader readership…
At the same time, I’m concerned about losing some of the pleasure I find in that genre. I’m afraid the quest for serious literary standing will lead to the pitfall of stories that take themselves too seriously, that lose their sense of humor and the ability to make a little bit of fun at themselves along the way.
I was somewhat reassured that one of the award winning papers of the evening was in praise of ‘Buckaroo Banzai.’ Clearly a movie I must now see.