An Open Letter to FanX (formerly Salt Lake Comic Con)

FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention has been like our second home for the past 5 years. We’ve become friends with some of the people in the office, who’ve treated us with nothing but kindness. When my grandmother died last year, those friends in the office went out of their way to make FanX the least stressful convention I’ve ever worked/attended. I will always be grateful to those friends I’ve made at the office.

You must be following news surrounding the con, I mean it is your con. Just in case, here are the cliff notes. A local author had interactions with one of the cofounders of the con about the changes in the sexual harassment policy and some things that were said by the other cofounder in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. The author was standing up for other women who had been harassed by a fellow local author/guest. Emails were exchanged, and the author was told that if she didn’t feel comfortable with the changes she should “sit this one out.” She was also later told by one of the cofounders that he has four daughters and has been aware of the issues “long before it became trendy with #metoo.”

The #MeToo movement is not a trend. This movement has inspired women all over the world to build up the courage and strength to name their harassers and push forward to start their healing processes. Nobody should have to “sit this one out” because they don’t feel safe at a convention. The convention should do everything to make sure all guests feel safe at all times and don’t fear reporting harassment.

I try to teach J to recognize his privilege and to be an ally to all those who are marginalized. I understand that the promise of change has been made, but if those changes aren’t made, I don’t see how J and I would be able to continue our participation with FanX. This is not a decision that has been made lightly nor did I make this decision by myself. J has been attending FanX events since he was 2. We’ve made so many friends because of the events and have found our Geek Family because of it. We had a conversation and came to the conclusion that we will have to “sit this one out” until those changes are implemented and victims of abuse feel safe reporting their harassers. In my opinion the statement made is a good start, but FanX needs to become more transparent and possibly shift to a non-profit organization with a board of directors at the helm.

Thank you for your time and we hope that the necessary changes are made and that you do right by your fans.

James and J

PS: I know we might face some backlash for this, but this isn’t about us. This is about becoming a community who protects victims and ensures a safe environment. Listen to and support the victims.

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Why Star Wars?

A long long time ago in a state not so far away (from me at least). I was living in a town called Sterling. This town didn’t have many people living in. When I was growing up, it was definitely under 15,000 people. It was one of those “everyone know your face and your business” kinds of towns. There wasn’t a lot to do in my hometown. You could sneak alcohol from your parents and meet up at the park with your friends, or you could invite friends over to hang out and play video games at your house. I’m thinking you can guess which one I did, mostly.

My dad introduced us to Star Wars at a pretty young age. I’m pretty sure we wore out the tape on a few Original Trilogy VHS box sets. I loved Star Wars. Growing up in a small farming community and realizing you don’t want to be a farmer, can make you feel stuck. As I grew older I felt myself identifying more and more with Luke. I wanted something more than the life I had and Star Wars was my escape for many years. I’d play games like Knights of the Old Republic, Episode I Racer, Super Star Wars, and other games just to feel an actual sense of belonging. I would check out books from the expanded universe from my middle school library and rack up late fees because I would try to hide how much I really loved Star Wars.

When I became a parent, one question started rolling through my mind. When is the right age to share my love of Star Wars? I wanted J to be old enough to understand some of the dialogue while being old enough to ask questions. How would I introduce him to Star Wars? I thought the easiest way would be to listen to the soundtrack over and over again. So, after I became an at-home dad, I would turn on the soundtrack while I was doing the dishes or the laundry. Then, I started buying the Jefferey Brown “Darth Vader and Son” books, waiting for the day that J would know the characters and want to know more about the stories. When it was announced that Disney was purchasing Lucasfilm, my heart jumped for joy. I remember thinking to myself, “my dad was able to see the original trilogy in theaters, I got to see the prequels in theaters and now J gets to experience the same feeling we had all those years before.” I decided that J needed to see the Original Trilogy before we went to see The Force Awakens. He was 4, and I was surprised by how much he sat through in his first screening. He recognized every song that we had been listening to for years. His eyes lit up with the first ignition of a lightsaber and he’s never looked back.

After we watched the original trilogy, we ventured into Episode I and Episode II. J loved that Anakin was so young when the Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon found him. He loved the creatures, and yes he even loved Jar Jar. We took a break after Attack of the Clones so we could watch clone Wars. After watching every season, we jumped right back into the prequels. J saw the struggle in Anakin and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He was in awe during Obi-Wan and Anakin’s battle on Mustafar and after the battle was said and done, he simply said, “well Anakin had to get robot parts somehow.”

Then came Rebels. A show that we could start together and finish together. We watched every episode we could together. Sometimes I watched ahead because I can admit that I have little self control when it comes to watching my stories. Rebels was a show that we could talk about and (even though he youngling) have meaningful conversations about. We talked about light, dark, and balance. It’s amazing to think that so many wonderful memories that I will have for the rest of my life with my son revolve around Rebels.

At this point you are probably bored out of your mind at my babbling, so we will move on to Rogue One. I have a rule about making costumes for J. He has to ask me to make them. I will not force a character’s look on him. Rogue One was a movie that I wanted to see before taking J, I wanted to see if it would be “okay” for someone of his age. During the credits I leaned over to my wife and said, “I hope he asks for a Cassian cosplay!” She agreed. After watching Rogue One, my wife and I agreed that the movie was no more violent than anything else in the Star Wars universe, so I immediately purchased tickets for J and myself. When J and I were in our screening, he leaned over and said, “daddy, can you make me a Cassian cosplay?” Immediately my heart began racing at the thought of how adorable J would be as Cassian. I never thought it would take the internet by storm. Because of that costume, he was on the Reddit front page, he had an article written about him on starwars.com, and he’s had the chance to meet a few actors from various Star Wars films.

Now onto the conclusion of this piece. If you’ve hung on this long, you deserve a solid answer. Why Star Wars? Star Wars is a connection. It connects 3 generations of fans all over the globe and I am lucky to be apart of that statistic. Some of my fondest memories and friendships have happened because of Star Wars, and I will never be able to thank George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, the actors, the writers, the directors, the production teams, and everyone else who has ever been involved with Star Wars enough for all the memories that you have helped create for my family with the stories you tell.

Storytime with J

J’s class has been learning a lot about fairytales and fractured fairytales. During their Writers Workshop time, the kids would write about the heroes and villains they would like to have in their own fairytales. The kids then had the assignment to write a fairytale. Below is The fairytale that J wrote (with a little editing by me). We hope you enjoy it.

The Lost Apprentices

Written and Illustrated by J

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, there lived two apprentices. The first one was named J. The second one was named Antony. They loved to do really, really cool things like fighting bad guys. One day they found a portal leading to the Marvel dimension. They got pulled in by a giant scrap robot. The giant scrap robot was controlled by a bad guy called Ultron. They found some super heroes called The Avengers. They only found three Avengers. One was named Iron Man. The second one was named Hulk. The third one was named Captain America. They all were struggling. Then, right there in the sky, they found an Imperial Space Station called the Death Star. The Death Star was trying to invade and destroy the Earth.

J fighting Ultron

They found a squadron of X-Wings. The X-Wings were called there by the apprentices. Then, out of nowhere, they found some U-Wings. On Earth, they were calling out a lot of the ships. They found another bad guy that was named Loki. Loki was helping the Death Star. They saw another portal, and Loki pulled them out of the portal. Then they saw a guy named Firestorm coming out of the portal. Out of nowhere, a guy on a motorcycle named Ghost Rider with a flaming skull and chain came to help Firestorm defeat Loki.

Ghost Rider and Firestorm fighting Loki

J warns, “we must destroy the Death Star by shooting an Ion torpedo into it! And we have to distract the troopers so they can’t get into their cannons and destroy the X-Wings.”

Out of nowhere, a U-Wing picked them up so they could fly to the Death Star. The U-Wing dropped them off at the tractor beam so they could be sucked into the Death Star. Then, out of nowhere, Darth Vader came. He was a Sith Master. His lightsaber’s color was red. The apprentices charged at him. Then Vader cut Antony’s arm off.

A hero name Doctor Strange came and reversed Antony’s arm injury with a weapon called the Eye of Agamotto. The Eye of Agamotto had a weird item called an Infinity Stone. There are six Infinity Stones. The one that is in the Eye of Agamotto is called the Time Stone. A second one, which is in a hero named Vision’s head, is called the Mind Stone. Doctor Strange used one of his awesome powers and shot Vader in the face.

Doctor Strange and J fighting Darth Vader

Then, a bad guy named Thanos destroyed the Eye of Agamotto by smashing it. He flew down to Earth, shooting everyone with time lasers, turning everyone into babies. They ran into a bad guy named Joker. Joker had a weird flower on the side of his chest and it shot pollen. He had a purple jacket, a white striped shirt that was green, and grey boots. His pants were purple. Joker was immediately beaten. And they lived very happy lives.

J fighting Thanos

Full disclosure, I didn’t edit much. I added a few words that he missed here and there. The biggest edit was wherever you see “out of nowhere”, J had originally written “out of the open”. As I said before, we hope you enjoyed J’s little story. Maybe I can convince him to write a new one of these once a month.