Caprica had power steering now, so I plugged in Smellerbee, and we rocked out all the way to Roseville, where Tris and sophia_helix were deeply mired in Tetris Attack, which is like Bejeweled but better and with Mario characters. Sophia brought up our obsession with "points," in that in Super Mario Brothers, you actually got 50 points for breaking bricks, so even though it was completely pointless, you would do it just to get the points. And now we want "points" in real life too.
Which was a perfect segue into the fact that I had brought all five volumes of Scott Pilgrim for her to borrow. To my delight, she was extremely excited, as she had been wanting to read it and couldn't get it all from the library. I had asked her whether she'd wanted to borrow something before leaving, but she couldn't think of anything, and after I hung up, I realized she of all people needed to read the series, being as into video games as I was.
We played several rounds of Tetris Attack and ate popcorn and cookies.
I had also brought some card games, so we played some Family Business, which was great fun since we treated our gangsters with the respect their nicknames deserved. Up against the wall, "Big Tuna." Yeah, "Happy" and "Pretty," you're going to die. Get back on the Hit List, "The Gorilla"! Vito Genovese, you don't even have a nickname. "Kid Twist" reigns supreme! Tris and Sophia formed an alliance against me during one game, but Tris and I also ended up murderizing Sophia at the beginning of one game. That may have been the same game. I think we only played two. I won one, and Tris won the other.
Sophia's friend, Kathleen, arrived. I thought I had not met her, but she realized later that we had, in fact, met at last year's WonderCon. She was part of "their friends"! But that hardly counted, as we hadn't interacted at all. Sophia likened it to being on an airplane seated on the ends of the row.
We had made plans to see I Love You, Man since we were all fans of Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, and Rashida Jones. I demanded that we go in my new car so I could show it off. Tris called shotgun. She mused that my New Car Smell smelled like rum tastes.
At the theatre, we grabbed snacks and drinks, but no napkins. I went out and grabbed napkins during the trailers; Sophia said I was a good boy. I shared gourmet pretzel bites with Tris. She cowered in fear from John Krasinski's beard in the Away We Go trailer.
I Love You, Man is great! The marketing for this movie is awful and focuses on really stupid shit rather than the entire point of the movie, which is the bromance. It's about two dudes becoming friends! And Paul Rudd is a total spaz with verbal diarrhea who says ridiculously dumb things like "Totes McGoats" (and the advertising does not convey the fact that these things are supposed to be stupid, that it's a running gag throughout the movie that he says these idiotic things and feels like a dumbass about them). And Jason Segel is Marshall-esque but also generally Segel-y! And Rashida Jones is superduper adorable. And there are all sorts of great cameos. It's a really funny movie, and very sweet.
After the movie, we went back to the apartment to wait for lodessa and her boyfriend and make plans for dinner, given that our lunch had consisted of popcorn and cookies and pretzel bites. Alex was back. With a typewriter for some reason. While he did other stuff, we played Fluxx. Sophia and Tris fought vengefully over the Toaster.
Ariel and Pink the Person arrived, and in the course of ensuing conversations, I said something that Ariel declared to be the best sarcastic comeback of all time, but I don't remember what it was anymore. I wasn't even being sarcastic, I don't think, which was the strange part.
There was much hullabaloo over where to eat dinner, as most everyone in the room loved "Dos," but Ariel thought all the food tasted like ash or something. Valiant arguments were made back and forth, but no headway was made. Tris had a craving for chow fun, so we Yelped a nearby Chinese place, and it was settled. I demanded we go in my new car so I could show it off. Unfortunately, I couldn't fit everyone, so we took two cars. Tris, Ariel, and Pink the Person came with me, and we were off. Tris learned that Caprica was named after Caprica the Cylon, not Caprica the Planet. We sang along to "Intervention" on the way to Rose Garden Chinese Restaurant.
Although we had planned on bringing food back, we decided to just eat there instead. We sat at a round table, seating order as follows (clockwise): me, Tris, Kathleen, Alex, Sophia, Ariel, Pink the Person. Dinner was full of chow fun and chow mein and fried rice and lo mein and chicken and vegetables and Ariel's potstickers. Also, I said something funny that Pink the Person laughed at. I have no idea what it was anymore. But I do remember at that moment just really appreciating being around people who found me funny. It's, like, all I have to give to the world, so it makes me feel good. Especially when I'm not even trying to be especially funny.
My General Chicken Lo Mein ("General Chicken!" *salutes*) tasted like Chicken McNuggets. There's a reason Roseville is not known for its Chinese food. (There is also a reason Chinese food menus are known for hilarity. The "Rainbow Shrimp" dish described the two shrimp sauces thusly: "One is spicy, the other is tastier." Which turned into a running joke the rest of the weekend because Sophia and I are both fond of running jokes.)
We made a couple stops at grocery stores to get drinks and snacks. Pink the Person discovered this ridiculous blue Mountain Dew that looked like antifreeze but sounded like it might taste good. Sophia lamented the paltry selection of cookies and cider. Tris and I had a Standing Like This Contest.
Back at the apartment, we busted out our drinks and snacks; the blue shit did taste good, if nothing like Mountain Dew. Tris wanted to play That Game We Played at Other Rachel's Place That One Time, a.k.a. Botticelli. I agreed that it was a good group to play it with, so I explained the rules, and we went at it (sans Alex, who was tired and sleepy). I started out by being Michael Scott, whom Sophia eventually guessed with "Did you go to magic camp?" She chose Marc Antony, but the real one rather than the one from Rome, which made her answer to "Are you fictional?" very confusing ("Yes. Wait, no."). Ariel chose Lilah Morgan, whom Sophia guessed with a reference to their Angel/Dollhouse crossover idea. Since Tris and I had just been screwing Ariel over by using Dexter Morgans, when Sophia said her letter was D, my first question was, "Do you like to surprise motherfuckers?" (She did not.) Tris guessed Wendy Darling, finally, with "Can you fly?" Tris gave us P, and Ariel and I were both sort of zeroing in on Will from His Dak Materials but we couldn't remember his last name, which led to this exchange.
Ariel and Pink the Person had to leave because it was late. I have almost gotten used to the fact that Pink the Person talks. Almost. It was good to see them again.
It was sleepover time! Kathleen, Tris, and I covered the floor of the living room. I was zonked, but Tris stayed up longer, too mesmerized by Tetris Attack.
We slept in till 10 or so Sunday morning. Breakfast was a crumpet with raspberry jam and leftover Chinese food and blue shit. Also We ♥ Katamari.
The girls went out to do girly shopping. Alex needed to be at Borders by 12:30 since Amber's signing was at 1. I demanded that we go in my new car so I could show it off. (Actually, by this point, Sophia was already hip to my desires and suggesting it herself.) Unfortunately, some bastard bird had pooped on my windshield! I scraped some of it off in the parking lot.
As we entered, Alex pointed toward the back where the signing would be (I had heard him mention The Classroom earlier). I said I needed to wash my hands, so he pointed me toward the bathroom.
The bathroom was adjacent to the Seattle's Best Coffee area. As I walked down, I saw a girl talking on the phone telling someone the signing was at 1. I figured she was a fan talking to her friend until I realized that she was, in fact, Amber Benson. I did not break stride at all as I continued to the bathroom to wash my hands. Inside the bathroom, my heart was pounding. I've met more celebrities than I can count at this point, but I still can't shake this initial OMG OMG OMG reaction. I'm not even some big Amber Benson fanboy or anything, but that did not change the fact that one of the stars of one of my favorite shows of all time was RIGHT THERE. When I exited, she was still on the phone, and I didn't want to interrupt her. I waited for her to hang up and my heartbeat to return to a normal rate before walking out of the bathroom corridor. I walked past her and said, "Alex is here, by the way. He's at The Classroom."
"The Classroom?" she asked.
"That's what the thing is called?" I said, as I walked away, totally cool, not being all weird like the guy and girl in Serenity and Firefly shirts observing her like they'd just discovered a turkey wandering around their apartment complex.
I found The Classroom or whatever, the place the signing was supposed to be, but there was no sign of Alex, so I went back to where I'd seen Amber, and there he was. "I was looking for you!" I told him. And he introduced me to Amber, who is incredibly nice and sweet and down-to-earth. She's very normal and easy to talk to.
This was her third signing of the weekend, so she was very tired. She'd been at Borderlands yesterday, and it had been packed. I wasn't sure if I'd been, but she said it was in the Mission, so I've probably stopped in at some point. I brought up the hairless cats that I knew about from dinner with Seanan Friday night. I told Amber that Seanan had been at the signing, and she recognized the name. Well, of course, you don't forget Seanan. (Coincidentally enough, like Seanan, she also told us about people giving her lots of free books.)
In my hand was her new book, Death's Daughter, which I had bought at Borders a couple days ago for the signing. Alex and Amber discussed the fact that it was coming out in its first printing as a mass market paperback; although some people thought she'd be disappointed, Amber thought it was really the only way it would have come out in this economy. Hardbacks and even trade paperbacks are more expensive. She thought the target audience preferred mass market paperbacks anyway. I said it was a good size since you could put it in your pocket and it was easy to read. Hardbacks are great, but you can't read them with one hand.
We also talked about bookmarks. I liked using a folded-up sheet of notebook paper; I didn't need a real bookmark. Amber liked using whatever she could find at the time as a bookmark for that specific book and letting the bookmark serve as a sort of reminder of the book-reading experience. I mentioned finding used books or library books with those sorts of things still in them, which was fun.
Amber asked if I wanted her to sign my book now so I wouldn't have to wait in line. Aw! That would work. I spelled my name for her. I asked if I could also have a picture. A barista in the back joked that she could be in the background.
"Where's your woman?" Amber asked Alex. He explained about the girly shopping at Victoria's Secret. I could have hung out at a lingerie store or a bookstore. Amber really liked the Borders; she wanted to look around and buy stuff. I said I preferred Borders to Barnes and Noble because their Rewards program was free and they sent you coupons all the time, so there was never any reason to go into Borders and pay full price. She thought she'd signed up for that, but she wasn't getting the e-mails, so maybe they were in her spam folder. After I taught Amber about Borders Rewards, Alex taught me even more; apparently when you spend $150, you get $10 back or something? I had not spent that much anyway.
Amber asked how I knew Alex. I knew him through his wife, and I knew his wife through Veronica Mars fandom. (Now, this turned out to be a LIE. I assume I know everyone through VM fandom now, much like I assume everyone is my age. But I actually met sophia_helix because of one nutty day when we both commented on three different journals and realized we ought to be friends. In my defense, however, one of those posts was a VM post!)
"Veronica Mars, huh?" she said. She knew there was a huge online fandom.
"Yeah, I know, like, half of my friends because of Veronica Mars."
"It's so funny that Michael Muhney is responsible for bringing so many people together," she said. Which completely threw me at first until I remembered...
"Oh yeah, you did a movie together!"
"He's a sweet guy," she said. "But very goofy." I talked about the Alamo Drafthouse; she said the owner of the Drafthouse—"Henri?" "Yeah!"—had taken her out in Houston since she didn't know anybody. I told her about visiting the set and meeting the cast and crew and how great the crew was.
It was time for the signing to begin, so we talked on the way to The Classroom. Alex showed her to her seat, and I went around and entered like a normal person to take a seat in the front row. First, Amber read a selection from her book:
Then it was Q&A time! I don't remember all the Qs and As, but here goes.
How did she go from actor to novelist? Well, it happened like this: a fan named Little Willow offered to make Amber a website. She also did Christopher Golden's website. So she hooked them up one day, and Christopher Golden said he'd love to do a Tara comic with Amber. So they did. And then the BBC asked them to do this "Buffy meets Jane Austen" animated web series thing, but they explained that they didn't actually own Buffy and pitched their own idea, which became Ghosts of Albion. And then Random House asked them to novelize that world, and Amber discovered she really enjoyed writing prose. And after having learned from Christopher Golden, she wanted to do something on her own, and that's how the book came to be!
Why fantasy? Well, she'd always loved fantasy, but the major inspiration was Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books (which True Blood is based on). They were sort of her first introduction to the genre of urban fantasy/paranormal romance, and she thought she could write one of those. Although her book is sort of an aberration of the genre since there are no vampires or werewolves or half-vampires or half-werewolves all having sex with each other. She mentioned some strange discussions between editors she'd overheard at NYCC. Apparently it was a no-no for someone to have sex with a werewolf while he or she was in werewolf form, because that was a different genre entirely...
Was this a stand-alone book or the first in a series? Well, it's a trilogy, and it's actually an homage to Dante in that the first book takes place in Hell, the second in Purgatory, and the third in Heaven. The third book will wrap up the One Long Story but would still leave things open for more stories in that world. She had pitched it as one book, but they decided they wanted a trilogy instead because everything has to be a trilogy. (She might not have said it like that.)
What's with the cover? Well, the first cover they sent her was neon orange, which was nixed pretty quickly. Then they sent her a blue one similar to the current cover, and she thought the woman, er, kind of looked like a man. Could they soften her up a bit? So they PhotoShopped away her makeup or something, and they were left with...that woman on the cover. Who doesn't really look like Amber's mental image of Calliope Reaper-Jones; she pictures more of a Zooey Deschanel type with the wide eyes. "Maybe for the movie!" someone said. "Yeah," said Amber. "'Sorry, Cover Model, you're great, but we're going to go with Zooey Deschanel.'"
Ooh, ooh, let's do my question now.
"Did you take time off to write the book, or did you juggle it with your acting and filmmaking, and if so, how did you do that?"
"If I had more energy," she said, "I would do a mwahahaha evil laugh. Like I took time off!" She'd been constantly working on other projects, but whenever she had any free time in her trailer, she was writing. I guess that's the only way these things get done. You just have to write.
Did she have any other independent films coming out? Well, she'd just finished co-directing a movie with her boyfriend (Adam Busch). It was an office comedy with alien undertones, and it featured Samm Levine and starred Jonathan Woodward.
Given all that she's done, does she think Joss Whedon has helped shape her career? Oh, definitely. Other people want to date Joss; she wants to be Joss. The man's an empire! But, no, she won't be doing an Internet musical of her own since, unlike Joss, she can't write music.
Any more Joss stories? She has a CD of Joss and Kai singing all the OMWF songs. Joss wrote her songs higher than her range, even though he knew her range. But he was a great dude and did not flaunt his wealth; he drove to work in a beat-up car and regular clothes. Everyone was excited when he finally got a new car. "We were talking about Veronica Mars and how great the crew was"—and she looked in my direction—"and Buffy was the same way. It was like a family." She talked about the Shakespeare readings that led to OMWF. But the one bit of trivia I had not heard before was that Joss based a character in Firefly on her: Inara. Amber was all, "So you think I'm a prostitute?"
Any James Marsters stories? Well, she put him in a dress, so that was pretty great. And when she first met him, she was surprised he wasn't British. He's actually a very sweet guy, and she feels kind of sorry that he can't really appreciate being a sex object and being harangued by women in low-cut blouses at cons because he always has a girlfriend. Also, like Cosgrove and Sokka, he likes meat.
Any tour stories? She mentioned she'd had issues with one of her contacts before a signing in San Francisco, so she'd had to squint and cover an eye when doing her reading. And when she did the signing, one guy came up and handed her a piece of paper with Things You Can Do to Fix Your Eye. It was pretty amusing.
Does she think they'll bring her back on Supernatural? She would love to, since she really enjoyed A) playing a vampire and B) not dying. It seemed like she was the go-to girl to die now. She'd thought Jared and Jensen might be real jerks because they were the only two stars of the show, but, as any Supernatural fan knows, they're big adorkable sweeties. And they bring their dogs on set; it's like a dog kennel up there. Also, she did not tell The Boyfriend how much she enjoyed being carried by Jared.
So she's dating the guy who killed her on Buffy. How weird is that, huh? He's actually very sweet! As it appears everyone is in Amber's world.
And then there no more questions or so unless I forgot some which I probably did. People lined up for the signing. Sophia and Tris asked me what they had missed, as they had arrived halfway through the Q&A. I said she had talked about...stuff. Sophia asked how I could write these posts but only come up with "...stuff."
There were a couple interesting signings. One girl had flown all the way from Colorado. One woman had brought her, like, eight-year-old daughters, to whom she was showing Buffy. Amber was so adorable with them, and they appeared to be completely mesmerized by her voice. Then for the picture, she squatted down so they would be taller than she was. It was very cute.
Once the personalized signings were over, Alex brought over his stuff and the stickers to mark the other books Autographed Copies. While she did that, I took Sophia over to marvel at the epic awfulness of Ellen Hopkins, who writes books entirely as angsty ninth-grade poetry. I cannot imagine why anyone would read a book like that. And yet she has made an entire career out of it! Five books so far in that goddamn style! WHY.
(And speaking of epic awfulness, I heard mention of a SciFi Channel Original Movie, so I told Amber about my Chocolate Party where we'd gotten together to watch Gryphon. It had been really fun! "Yeah, fun to laugh at," she said, or something like that. I think everyone who does those movies knows how bad they are. But won't turn down a paycheck.)
There was a motivational speaker scheduled next, so Amber had to finish up and vacate. We relocated to a nearby stack and had a stimulating discussion about Penguin imprints, which allowed me to mention Rosemary and Rue to Amber so maybe she will keep an eye out for it and read it and recommend it on her blog or whatever and then all the Whedon fans will obey. I also got the e-mail address for her publicist to set up a possible interview for Ramblings of a TV Whore and/or With a Good Book.
We headed outside. Amber would have liked to go out with us, but she had a long drive back to L.A. ahead of her and something in the morning, so she had to be off. She gave us all hugs before going.
People wanted lunch, and, luckily, the much-maligned "Dos" was a few yards away. Dos Coyotes was the full name, and, luckily, they had fish tacos, which I was craving after their appearance in I Love You, Man. The fish here was grilled mahi-mahi, which I had never had. And they had special "California Fish Tacos" at the moment, which came with an orange-cucumber salsa. The tacos were pretty good, although I'm used to fried fish in my fish tacos. The mahi-mahi tasted slightly fish-y but not too much. Alex let me have a bite of his favorite, the salmon burrito, and it was very good and I think I will get it next time.
At the end of our meal, we were joined by Alex's friend, Aithne, who had not made it in time to meet Amber, unfortunately. Alex had tried to keep her there a little longer, but it didn't work out.
Kathleen kept me company on the short drive back to the apartment (we split into three groups of two).
Back at the apartment, we watched the unrated version of Forgetting Sarah Marshall since Kathleen and Aithne had not seen it. It was still hilarious, and it was especially amusing to see Paul Rudd and Jason Segel in scenes together essentially having switched roles from I Love You, Man.
"I really hate the girl who plays Sarah Marshall," said Aithne. I said nothing. She went on about how much she wanted her to die on Heroes. I said nothing.
"You're going to make Sunil cry!" said Sophia. Heh.
After the movie, we watched the gag reel and Line-o-Rama (which was a bunch of improvised lines) and the "We've Got to Do Something" music video for bonus hilarity.
Then Kathleen had to go! Which was too bad. Not only because she was a fun addition to the group but also because she missed the turkey. Or maybe she didn't miss the turkey. Anyway, there was a turkey.
Sophia thought this post needed a turkey. This turkey wanders around the place. No one knows from whence it came.
It walks around doing turkey things and being a turkey.
And then it vanishes. Was it ever really there?
Now it looks like it's back in a zoo. OR PERHAPS I AM THE ONE IN THE ZOO.
Then there was more Tetris Attack before it was time for me to go home! Sadness. I am 2 for 2 in having a really good time up there.