Geek as Chic
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Science fiction embodies creativity and limitless possibilities
The emergence of science fiction into mainstream
Since we were kids, we tend not to share some things we like, if they are "different," for fear of ridicule; no one wants to be the outcast for liking things deemed "uncool," as most of us tend to assimilate and hope the other kids will like us, or at least, be under the radar, so we don't get mocked by all the "cool" kids. Something that had been deemed uncool, was science fiction, or "sci-fi," as images of Star Trek are immediately invoked. However, science fiction is more than Star Trek, which has now become popular, due to television producer, screenwriter, and director J.J. Abram's (Alias, Lost) revamp of the franchise with the recent movies; the first film grossed over $257 million, domestic, according to Box Office Mojo, an online movie and box office reporting service.
My journey into the discovery in the truth behind the science fiction genre began when I was living in San Diego with my then-boyfriend, Mike, who was a geek in sheep's clothing; he was an avid mountain biker, who has ridden with professional mountain bikers. However, what beat within the heart of this outdoorsman was the love for Star Wars, video games, and vintage The Amazing Spiderman comic books, fondly recalling his childhood, filled with days of "borrowing" his dad's Batman number one, and reading it in his tree house (I await the gasp of those shocked at the mention of removing vintage comics from their protective covers).
The first comic convention I attended was the infamous San Diego Comic-Con in 2005, which has become exponentially popular, an expansion from the celebration of the original comics themselves, to the reincarnation of comics into film, including the Spiderman trilogy, the Iron Man trilogy, and The Avengers, among the numerous comics created by Stan Lee, deemed a god in the Marvel comic universe. According to Box Office Mojo, each Spiderman film grossed between $336 to 403 million, each Iron Man film grossed between $312 to 409 million, and The Avengers grossed over $623 million (domestic), the top seven grossing films originating from Marvel comics. In order to get an autograph from Stan Lee at the San Diego convention, you had to enter one line of a booth to obtain a ticket, which allows you access into the actual line to get an autograph, as a limited number of vouchers are given; all vouchers were given within ten minutes of the booth opening.
As a comic-con virgin, I never could have imagined what I would encounter in this new, bizarre world, full of guys dressed in Jedi robes, swinging their lightsabers (some of which were custom-made), defending the honor of a little person dressed as Sailor Moon. The halls were replete with science fiction and fantasy aficionados, dressed in elaborate costumes, many of which included "Slave Princess Leia." I initially thought, "I can't believe there are so many people this dedicated," but then I came to realize, "These people have guts. There was no way I would go out in public dressed as Slave Princess Leia." These people were incredibly awesome.
The sitcom The Big Bang Theory helped to propel science fiction as mainstream, as the ensemble consists of "nerdy" physicists Leonard, Sheldon, and Raj, except for Howard, who is merely an engineer; something Sheldon rarely neglects to remind him of. These guys share the love of Star Wars, Stan Lee, comics, video games, whatever you would associate as "sci-fi" or "nerdy." What girl cannot relate when she's trying to talk to her boyfriend while he's playing Halo? The Halo series is a single-person-shooter game. Halo 3 has a campaign option, where the second person is forced to be the Arbiter, an elite Covenant Sangheili soldier, whom Master Chief is now working with. (I was never allowed to be Master Chief. I was also forced to drive the Warthog scouting and reconnaissance vehicle; I would honk the horn, which signals the Marines to jump in' sometimes, no one would'). The Master Chief (the chief of the Spartan soldiers) tries to save the world by ridding it of different groups of alien and human flood forms, including renegade Brutes and their little grunts, whom after getting shot in the head, can have confetti fly out as they cheer. These are things I should not know, yet sadly, I do.
Penny, originally the only lead female character, arrives with a few of her friends during coveted "Halo night;" "A few of my girlfriends and I got tired of dancing and came over to see if you wanted to have sex." Not a blink, as the guys continue their fierce battle. As the ladies exit, Leonard pauses the game, wondering if someone had said anything (season one, "The Dumpling Paradox").
As the series progressed, Sheldon acquires another arch-nemesis (one of many), in the form of Wil Wheaton (which he eventually forgoes, replacing Wheaton with Brent Spiner as his new nemesis). Wil Wheaton was Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: the Next Generation, and one of the kids in Stand By Me, the film version of Stephen King's The Body. Wheaton was a polite and cordial person, whom I've met at one of these conventions.
We had gone to a show in Sacramento, where Mike's dad sells some of his vintage comics and toys, driving up from San Diego, so that he wasn't sitting at his booth alone, and he could walk around, as someone (meaning, me) would be there to watch his booth. Mike's dad had a Star Trek: the Next Generation number one comic and wanted it autograph by Wheaton. We saw Wheaton wandering around near the booth, but I didn't want to ask since he was enjoying his time at the convention as a guest; at this point, Mike's dad immediately shouts, "Excuse me, Mr. Wheaton. She wants an autograph!" How mortifying on so many levels. Wheaton politely tells me that he would be doing signings at his booth in about five minutes. Mike and I venture towards his booth ten minutes later, as he empties his backpack full of different colored pens.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer series was one of my favorites (no one can deny it was cult-classic, transitioning into comic form, as the series continued through the comics after the series finale), as well as Family Guy, particularly the first season, so I was excited to learn Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family Guy, Robot Chicken) would be at the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con. After his panel, I went up to the stage in hopes of him signing something I had from Family Guy, in which he quietly replies, "I can't'" I'm sure he was only permitted to sign at a booth at a scheduled time, and I knew he felt bad.
After returning to Seattle from San Diego, we discovered that Seattle hosts the Emerald City Comic Convention (ECCC), which has also become bigger and mainstream. The first year we attended was in 2010, where the most memorable experience was meeting the creators of Red vs. Blue. Red vs. Blue stemmed from the Halo video game series, where a red army of Spartan soldiers is pitted against the blue army. These Spartans are hilarious, because they are such idiots; a favorite of mine is blue Spartan, Caboose, known for his child-like tendencies, "I know my name! You can ask me, if you forget." There is also a red Spartan wearing pink armor, named Donut (yes, Donut is a guy). We met the man behind the voice of Caboose, actor and writer, Joel Heyman, as he was signing the latest season of the Red vs. Blue DVD.
I do offer an example of why this series is so entertaining: Simmons, a red Spartan, gets mad at his team and switches over to the other team, by painting his armor blue' but forgets he is now in the blue army. He brings Sheila the tank to attack the red army, as he shouts, "Suck it blue- I mean red! Suck it blue-uh damn! Red! God, this is harder than I thought'" as he fools no one. Back at the blue camp, blue Spartan Church describes the team members of the red army to "blue Simmons," "' no one listens to [Simmons] and they always make fun of his behind his back."
With a slight quiver in Simmons' voice, "What do they say?"
"Oh, just how he's not good at stuff, and how he's dumb' and also how he's not as attractive as other people are'"
Eventually, Simmons runs off, on the verge of tears, as Church asks where he is going. "I have to use the bathroom'" as Sheila the tank comments, "You do know that's Simmons, right?"
As hard as I fought against it, I discovered how interesting the sci-fi genre was, when we stumbled across a Doctor Who marathon on the now-"Syfy" network. The series which has spanned 50 years, Doctor Who follows the adventures of "The Doctor," an immortal time-lord, who regenerates, rather than dies (a new Doctor has been cast) and his companion; I admit, I do have a favorite Doctor, portrayed by David Tennant for three seasons. As the LA Times observes, Tennant's "vivacious performance as the time-and-space-traveling alien helped catapult the long-running British television series into the mainstream of popular culture." I imagine Tennant was a favorite among fans as the LA Times describes Tennant's heartbreaking final episode, "The End of Time" in 2010, as "Tennant's Doctor bids farewell to his friends and regenerated into Matt Smith's Doctor," which included a montage of the current lives of the Doctor's closest companions and friends. Admittedly, I miss Tennant's Doctor.
One of my favorite shows is an original Syfy network series, Warehouse 13. The premise is that there are "artifacts" all over the world which possess powers that can potentially destroy the world; Secret Service agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering were recruited by the warehouse keeper, Artie Nielsen, to search for these artifacts and neutralize them before they bring the apocalypse to the world; after neutralization, they are stored in the warehouse, warehouse number 13, as their tech-goddess, Claudia Donovan does the inventory, in addition to going out into the field with Lattimer and Bering.
I met Eddie McClintock, who portrays Agent Pete Lattimer at the 10th annual Emerald City Comic Convention; he was a lovely man, as he took the time to actually talk to people as he was signing. I was next in line with my Warehouse 13 season 2 DVD, as he looks over at me and I say hello. He smiles, says hello, and introduces himself, as he reaches his hand out to shake my hand. I shake his hand and tell him my name, and of course, "Nice to meet you." He also sees Mike behind me and says, "Hey man, how ya doin'?" as he reaches his hand to introduce himself. I admit, this was one of my geek moments, as my mind went blank, not wanting to say something incredibly stupid and embarrassing myself.
When people think of "sci-fi," the immediate image of Star Trek or Star Wars is evoked. True, they fall within the genre, but sci-fi is a genre of thinking outside the box, viewing what we think as "real" in an alternate perspective. The perfect example is the classic, black and white Twilight Zone series. An interesting episode entitled, "Probe 7, Over and Out," accounts astronaut Colonel Cook as he learns that a nuclear war has broken out on his home planet. He lands on a distant and barren planet, with no home to return to, perhaps being the last living person in the universe. There he meets a woman who has also escaped a nuclear holocaust. Cook introduces himself, Adam Cook, to the woman, named Eve.
What I have discovered within science fiction was more than outer space and aliens; it is a loyal dog guiding his owner to the true path into Heaven (The Twilight Zone, "The Hunt,"); a warehouse replete with dangerous, powerful "artifacts," (Warehouse 13); and a Pacific Northwest town filled with scientific geniuses and ensuing mayhem (Eureka), as science fiction embodies creativity and limitless possibilities.
"Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn't exist yet' It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible."'Ray Bradbury, American Writer (1920-2012)
The Emerald City Comic Convention will take place March 28-30, 2014. For more information, please visit: http://emeraldcitycomicon.com/
The San Diego Comic-Con takes place the last weekend of July, where tickets sell out almost instantaneously, as demonstrated by the recent The Big Bang Theory episode entitled, "The Convention Conundrum," as the guys discover only Sunday passes are left. Sheldon laments, Sunday is the worst day as everyone is leaving and all the good panels have finished. Yet another concept I can empathize with. Only on The Big Bang Theory can a stalker (Sheldon) follow icon, James Earl Jones to his favorite sushi restaurant, and spend the entire evening with Jones, sharing an ice cream sundae, riding the Ferris wheel, and pranking Carrie Fisher.
For more information on the San Diego Comic Convention, please visit: http://www.comic-con.org/
Louisa Lew, Contributing Writer: Louisa Lew graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s Degree in the Liberal Arts, double majoring in Political Science and Film. She is currently a Freelance Copy Editor and Writer, living in Seattle with her two dogs. (more...)