Well, Bubonicon 46 is over. The Albuquerque science-fiction convention (The “Con”) was held in early August this year to give attendees the chance to go to other conventions around the world, especially the world science-fiction convention, WorldCon, which is being held in London, England, later in August. That said, I really felt the early setting of this Con. I’ve been attending Bubonicon since #41 in 2009, (which isn’t a long time) but I still felt out of place. Don’t get me wrong, the con was great, one of the best I’ve been to, but I could feel the “earliness” all the time. It was like, “Something’s wrong–I don’t belong here. At least not at this time.”
In any event, I had a great time. My purpose here is not to review the Con in detail, but I will briefly summarize a couple of the sessions I went to. The theme of the Con this year was “Sidekicks and Minions.” There are a lot of sidekicks in literature and cinema, such as Sherlock Holmes’s sidekick, Dr. Watson, and The Lone Ranger’s sidekick Tonto. Others mentioned in a couple of the sessions were Don Quixote’s sidekick Sancho Panza, and Batman’s sidekick, Robin. One of the questions discussed in one session was how to differentiate between a sidekick and a foil, or a sidekick and a minion. Most seemed to agree a minion was someone of lower rank than the main character, especially in a military situation. A foil was not really defined, but my opinion is that a foil is someone the main character, for example, Holmes, bounces his ideas off of, and takes into his confidence, but is not necessarily equal in stature to the main character. Watson, for example, could never become Holmes. He could never solve cases in the same manner as Holmes, and didn’t even try, though he did discuss the cases with Holmes and even, on occasion, provide an insight to the consulting detective in solving the case. That doesn’t make Watson a bumbling idiot, though. Not in the slightest. He was, after all, a physician and served in the British Army in India and Afghanistan. Later, back in London, he started his own medical practice. But he was no Holmes.
Contrast Watson/Holmes with Tonto/Lone Ranger. I always felt Tonto was almost the equal of The Lone Ranger. Tonto was as intelligent as the masked man, just second in command, so to speak. Similar Robin to Batman. Robin always went into the battle with Batman against the bad guys just as vehemently as Batman did, and was just as competent as Batman in most situations, though he was a lot younger and lacked the experience of the more mature Batman. These guys are not foils; they are intelligent crime fighters in their own right. Tonto could replace The Lone Ranger if the situation warranted; likewise Robin.
But Sancho Panza could never replace Don Quixote, and Captain Hastings could never replace Hercule Poirot. (He tried at least once and failed miserably.)
Sidekicks are important in literature. In most cases, they are not a secondary character, and it is a mistake to think of them as such. With a sidekick, the story takes on the elements of a team, though it is important to understand that one is in charge, and the other takes orders. These are two characters who solve the riddle embedded within the plot, and bring the perpetrator to justice. Sidekicks take the pressure off the main character. They have their own life.
A sidekick differs from a team in another important way, too. In a team–for example, Captain Kirk, Commander Spock, Commander Scott, and Dr. McCoy on Star Trek–each character has a specific duty to perform on board the Enterprise, and only occasionally are they put together as a team. They are not sidekicks. A sidekick goes wherever the main character goes and shares all, or almost all, experiences with him. He works directly for the main character, not for a separate agency.
Any other sidekicks you know of? How do you think of them?