Out of Geekdom

Nothing about writing today, because I didn’t work on anything writing related last night.  It was a time to relax and recharge, and I’ll get into things a little tonight after I return from getting my nails done and grabbing something to eat.  No, I needed a nap and the need to sit and watch some TV last night, all the while thinking about something that’s been on my mind for a while.

It has to do with geekdom.  If you’ve followed the blog for a while you’ve seen some of my posts about my various steps into things geeky.  I’ve been into a lot of different things over the years, and I suppose I could say that I’ve tempered that love with a sense of reality, turning my love of various fandoms into a thing that I nurtured and cherished.

However . . . this year I’ve stepped into a “geeky gift exchange” that was limited to a small number of people, and since joining I’ve been going nuts.  No, really:  I’ve been really beating myself up the last couple of weeks over being in this group.  I should point out that I get like this with any gift exchange, because I’m fairly particular about giving gifts.  It’s not the value that I want someone to remember, but rather, I want them to have something that comes from my heart and speaks to them.

And then I begin reading what people in the group already own, what they’ve collected–and I began feeling bad.  Not for them, but rather, for me.

To paraphrase Karen Blixen, I had a collection in geeky things in my library in my home.  It wasn’t big, but it was growing, and it covered a lot of different things.

My first love had always been book–science fiction to be exact.  I was a space travel junkie, but there were a few other stories that I loved just as well, and in the 1960s and 70s I spent hours reading and trying to find stories relating to my favorite authors.  I collected Omni and Twilight Zone magazines, both sadly gone these days, and both of which offered fantastic stories and information while they were out.  I had nearly every issues of the first and all the issues produced during the Twilight Zone‘s short, two year run.  Twilight Zone was famous for first-run printings of Harlan Ellison’s Grail and Paladin of the Last Hour, among his best writing and my favorite stories, as well as Steven King’s The Jaunt and his now-famous review of The Evil Dead where Steven pretty much lost his shit and gushed out his love for the picture.

Then it was Doctor Who, which I started watching in PBS in Chicago about 1980.  Yes, twenty-five years before all the fans who today talk about how they’ve seen ALL THE EPISODES of the show, starting with Rose in 2005.  Uh, huh, sure you have.  I was fortunate to be able to watch the show on one of only two networks in North America that ran it at that time.  (The other network was a station in Toronto, Canada.)  After a while I began taping the show so I could go back and watch episodes when the mood struck, and when our local station finally managed to get access to the then full catalog of existing episodes (just under a hundred are missing, having been destroyed during various BBC vault purges), I was kept busy buying VHS tapes in bulk.

Then I asked for a scarf.

The Forth Doctor was my first Doctor, and he was known for, among other things, his long scarves.  My first wife, pregnant with our son, felt like she needed something to do, so she found a pattern for the multi-colored, eighteen foot scarf, and made it for me.  It was big and heavy, but it was also glorious.  I would actually wear it out and to work, and I didn’t mind the stares shot my way by people who wondered what in the hell I had wrapped around my body.

I few years later I wore that scarf to a huge convention where I met several of the actors, watched the first North American viewing of the Doctor Who episodes The War Games and The Caves of Androzani, and eventually had my picture taken standing alongside a full-sized Dalek that two guys had made in their auto body shop in high school.

This is not that Dalek:  back in my day Daleks didn't sport v-neck armor.

This is not that Dalek: back in my day Daleks didn’t sport v-neck armor.

I went to several DW cons over the next few years, cosplayed a few more times (we just called it “dressing up in costume” because we didn’t know what I was going to get labeled in the future), and met more actors.  At one con I managed to spend nearly forty minutes chatting with Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor, and we just talked about things–not always about the show, but stuff about what it was like to act, what it was like to be in other shows, what it was like to live in England and have to hop a flight to Chicago where he’d find himself talking to people like me.  We did get to talking about his not being allowed to have a Regeneration Episode, and he had a . . . few . . . choice . . . words on that matter.  Still and all, Colin was an extremely nice guy and a lot of fun.

Again, not Colin, but I am digging the blond, Helena-like blond hair that I'd like for my own.

Again, not Colin, but I am digging the blond, Helena-like blond hair that I’d like for my own.

There were several other things I got into over the year.  Role Playing Games, of which I have dozens, and some of the games I ran during the 1990s were, in a way, legendary.  I collected Battletech miniatures, some of which are impossible to find.  I’d have people paint them and put them on display around the home.  During the period I was between my first and second marriages I began collecting anime:  some movies, some OVAs, a few wall scrolls, more than a couple of figurines that could only be bought in Japan–which, thanks to the Internet, was doable.  I also began collecting animation cells from various productions.  Of these I don’t have many:  maybe a dozen.  The majority are from the original Sailor Moon and Urusei Yatsura, with a couple coming from Song of Escaflowne and Silent Mobius.

All old school stuff, but as they are the original, hand-painted cells, they were and are worth a big of cash.  I know a couple ran about $200 in late 1990s money, and I believe the head shot I have of Lum set me back about $300.  The one I really wanted, the one I got into a bidding war with two other collectors, was for a full-body portrait of Sailor Saturn and her Silence Glaive, which was about as rare a cell as they came.  I stopped when my $850 bid was passed, and I later learned from the seller that the winning bid was $1,100.  Yeah, the things we did twenty years ago when we had money.

A figurine of what the cell would have sort of looked like.  Yeah, I just loved some World Destroying Firefly . . .

A figurine of what the cell would have sort of looked like. Yeah, I just loved some World Destroying Firefly . . .

So what happened to all this stuff?  Well . . .

You see, while I was happy in my geekdom, and wanted to continue adding to the collection, others close to me–otherwise known as First and Second Wives–had other ideas.  My first wife grew bored with my geekness–as she did with just about everything else pertaining to me–and began getting pissy with my collections and my interest.  When I got to where everything I did turned into a big argument, I stopped the pursuit of all things geek, though I didn’t actually curtail my gaming on the weekends.  It was during the time just after I moved out that I lost my Omni and Twilight Zone magazine collections:  my ex told me she sold them at a garage sale, but I’m more of a mind that she tossed them in the bin.  I later lost my Doctor Who VHS collection to my stepson, who my second wife allowed to make off with my boxes of tapes.  I was also “convinced” by my second wife to give him my scarf, because there wasn’t any need to keep it, right?

Some of the other things that happened during my current marriage has been the boxing of my figurines and the removal of my wall posters.  Some of them went to my daughter, but most of them have gone into garage storage.  I was told having them around the house looked–well, not good, right?  My Battletech miniatures are boxed up as well, since I was informed that it wouldn’t be a good thing to put them on display.  I never managed to frame my animation cells, either, and right now they’re sitting in my closet back in Indiana, still in their shipping sleeves.  I’m heading Back to Indiana in a week, and I promise to get a few photos of these and put them up for you to see.  One day my daughter will get them if she really wants them; if not, I’ll probably give them away to someone who’d love a pissed-off looking Sailor Mars about to fireball someone’s ass.

I really have no one to blame for my current geeky apathy other than myself.  Yes, I received little to no support in my pursuits, and in so many instances I felt as if I was working in a vacuum with my fandom, because the only one who felt an interest in these things was me.  Just like with my gaming–which I eventually stopped because I was told by someone that they didn’t understand why I gamed, and kept wanting me to scale back my weekend endeavors in that area–I agreed to curtail these activities, and ultimately I lost interest in the act of surrounding myself with things that reminded me of those interests I loved.

These days I keep my geekness to the area of intellectual endeavor, because I can always look something up and memorize facts and use that knowledge to kinda keep me warm a cozy.  It’s not always comforting, however:  it’s like the difference between having a sweater that keeps the chill away, and curling up under a comforter with someone you love who’s going to whisper in your ear, “I’d blow up a star to be able to speak to you one last time.”  No, not nearly the same.

Which is why I see what others I know have and love, and brings on the tears because it reminds me of what I once had–

And what, over the decades, I’ve lost because I didn’t want to upset people who didn’t support me.

Hey, it’s never too late to turn that around, is it?

Expiration Infinium

First, the great news:  Her Demonic Majesty is up on Amazon this very moment, so if you want a copy, go snag her here!  It took some fooling around, but she’s up and live.  If you buy it and like it, please leave a review.  If you buy it and don’t like, please leave a review and I can try to do better next time.

Now, on to the not-so-great . . .

I spend time on Facebook.  Some times I’m there to chat with friends, sometimes to play games, other times just to see what sort of insanity is passing for real life.  It can be a place of bad information, where if you posted as a fact that taping swiss cheese to your genitals for a week would release enzymes into your blood that would help you lose weight, someone would re-post it with a, “Yeah, this could work!” tag line.  It is also a realm of memes, both good and bad, some funny and others not so much.

I happened to check my home wall yesterday and came across a meme, one with a upset looking character in the picture, and the wording explaining everything:  “I’m still pissed they canceled Firefly.”

Really?  After ten years you’re still pissed?  Please, give it rest and watch your DVDs one more time to relieve whatever angst is gnawing at you, though chances are good you’re still gonna be pissed in 2023.  Maybe you can get together with your friends and hold a “Still Pissed Twenty Years Later!” convention–you know, to remind all the other pissed off people you know that your darkest moment was the day Fox put the ax to your greatest show evar.

Fandom is a strange thing.  I will admit to being a fan of several things, and I will even admit to getting right down to the point where I could recite even the lamest point of trivia for my favorite forms of entertainment.  But when things went away, when they ended on a good or bad note, when things were left hanging because some suit looking over a spread sheet said, “This show is eating up too much revenue can it and put on wrestling in it’s place,” I’ve also sort of went, “Okay, what’s next?” and moved on.

Ah, but there are some people who just can’t let go, who are gonna be upset when something they love ends.  Just last week we heard about how Charlaine Harris, she of the The Southern Vampire Mysteries novels that became True Blood, was receiving death threats from fans upset she is taking their Sookie away.  I remember the forums soon after Farscape was canceled, and Bonnie Hammer got C-worded about a thousand times.  And I’ve suffered through years of the sordid tales of raped childhoods because The Phantom Menace was release–or, worse yet, because Gredo shot first.

As some omnipotent alien once said, “All good things must come to an end,” and these days if it’s a television series, or a movie, the only way that’s gonna happen is if there’s money to be made by doing so.  That’s what happened with Star Trek:  the demographics were underestimated, the the first movie was made, didn’t do what was expected, and someone went, “I got an idea–“, the second move came out, and the rest is history.

That didn’t happen with Serenity.  There was a very loud and boisterous fan base that snapped up DVDs, and the studio thought, “Hey, they want a movie, maybe we can make something off this.”  And the movie was made, and that’s when it was discovered that while the fan base was loud and boisterous, they weren’t as large as was hoped, and that was the reason there wasn’t another movie, and there hasn’t been another series–and likely will never be.

Sometimes you have to let these things go, because they were good in their moment, but when you want to see them again, as they were, a decade later, you’re going to have something that will never live up to the expectations of the fans.  Say Joss doesn’t want to make another billion dollars with super hero movies, and decides to ruin Nathan Fillion’s and Morena Baccarin’s careers (as he said he’d have to do when he was on Reddit).  So everyone comes back ten years later–oh, wait.  Two characters don’t, ’cause they’re dead, and if you know where Joss was going with the story, Morena Baccarin doesn’t have to worry about long term contracts, ’cause she’s going belly up soon.  Simon and Kaylee are probably knockin’ out kids, and do you want those rugrats on a ship, ’cause we all know how well precocious kids and space ships get along.

No, you’re not going to have a continuation of what left the air ten years ago–you’re gonna have a reboot.  Let the childhood raping begin.

It’s never a happy moment when something you love goes away.  But nothing last forever–and if it does, thy name be The Simpsons, which is still on television because it’s a money maker for Fox.  Everything else goes the way of dusty death, and I’ve even planed out the end of some of my stories–

Though it would help if I could get them started first.

Service For the Common Fan

With time on my hand until my next project–meaning by this time next week I’ll be laying out the research for something–I was playing with my 3D modeling program, where I roughed out a design for a ship I created for a role playing game, and I looking through social media.  I shouldn’t say, “Looking through social media,” because that sounds as if I was searching for something.  The reality is you just wait for a notification to pop up, and you decide if it’s worth your while to respond.

Time and again I’ll find something on Facebook that sorta, kinda pisses me off.  This is something I’ve written about a few times, and the Internet being what it is, I’ll probably write about it some more in the future.  Probably about the time a few dozen of my friends posts the legal notice that Facebook can’t “own” their post, and resulting counter-posts that tell them they’re full of shit . . .

One of the things that was going around the other day was the picture of a tee shirt emblazoned with the words, “Cancel Glee and Renew Firefly“.  While I understand the fan base for Firefly is almost second to none–well, when compared to some fan bases–my reaction, as a geek, comes in two stages.  One, Fox, and every other network out there today, is looking to make money.  Glee makes buttloads of money for Fox, and the thought that they’d dump a cash cow like Glee for a show that didn’t make it through its one and only season is pretty much up there with the unshaken belief that I was going to win that half-billion dollar Powerball drawing last night–which is to say, pretty ludicrous.

Then there’s idea two, which is:  it’s over.  It’s been ten years.  Let it go.  You’ll feel better.  Really, you will.

When Your God Joss even says that bringing back the show is a little crazy, because, on top of everything else he’s said that he’d need to ruin the careers of more than a few of the actors to make the show happen, you know it’s not going to happen.  We’re not talking about a situation where a studio discovered later that, hey, this show we canceled a few years back is still making a lot of money for us, lets try making some movies and see what happens–no, this is a case of, “Yeah, it makes a bit of money for us, but we tried the movie thing, didn’t really work out–oh look:  Fringe is on!”

I know Browncoats are a . . . shall we say, enthusiastic group, and they’ll find for their show until the end of time.  I don’t blame them, because I understand fandom, I understand geekness, and there have been a few things that have happened to my favorite shows and stories that have left me a little weepy in the end–

But then I got over it and moved on to something else.

This attitude isn’t unique to the Browncoats.  Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last fifteen years, you probably know how butthurt many Star Wars fans have been since the reissuing of the Special Editions, and the appearance of Episode 1:  The Phantom Menace, and the two movies that followed.  To say “George Lucas raped my childhood!” is a fair bit of hyperbole is something of an understatement, and I’ve seen statements from fans that have gone well beyond that discussion.  Seriously, though:  if Greedo shooting first = your childhood being raped, your childhood sucked tree roots from the start and you can’t come to grips with that fact, or you’re simply batshit insane.

Out of fairness I will say:  I’ve never been a fan of Star Wars, and I’ve been known to say in private conversations that George Lucas is a hack.  That said, as far as I’m concern, the franchise was George’s property for decades, and as its creator, if he wanted to CGI Han in a tutu for the Original Trilogy, it’s his damn business.  See, that’s what comes from creating something:  it’s yours, and you can change things if you are able.  Some times changes make sense, other times not, and some will be plain damn stupid.  But when it’s yours, then if you feel you need to fix or change something, you can.

That’s why we have these things known as “Director Cuts” of movies, or “Unabridged Versions” of books.  The guy who helped create the magic wants to show you what they really wanted, and they change things.  Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s bad; sometimes it’s genius.  Usually there’s some groaning from some corner of the fanbase, but that’s okay, because that is the nature of some people, to groan because someone had the temerity to change their favorite thing!

It’s this last thing that sort of gets my hackles up more than a little, that fans believe that once you put something out there that they love and cherish–nay, they have the need to possess it with their heart and soul–it becomes theirs.  Every scene, every word, even the actors who walk about the stage and help create the characters–it all makes some fans act like a seagull from Finding Nemo:  mine, mine, mine, mine, mine!

There is one expression from this base that is usually reserved for an actor or actress who has left a successful franchise  but who left an incredible mark during their tenure–and that expression is, “They need to come back and do (guest shot, cameo, on-screen strip) because they owe it to the fans!”

My question is always the same:  “Why?”

Actors, directors, and writers don’t owe it to anyone to keep retreating the same ground over and over because it’s going to give some of their fan base the fix for the jones they have.  I used to hear this after George Clooney had moved on from ER and was doing movies:  “He needs to come back for a few episodes because it owes it to the fans.”  Actually, no, he doesn’t.  Also heard that about Jim Carry:  “He needs to do another (Ace Ventura/Dumb and Dumber) because he owes it to the fans.”  Again, he doesn’t–though that last movie is suppose to be in the works, but I think it’s more about owing money to people than owing anything to fans.

Sure, fans have done great things to keep certain properties going well beyond the point where they should have died.  But many have also developed a sense of entitlement about some properties as well, acting as if, by the mere fact they’ve watched a set of DVDs 3,204 times in the last seven years, and are going to watch them again this coming weekend, that you, the actor, the director, the writer–you owe it to them to keep going back to this well and make them happy!

This isn’t something new.  Anyone remember The Final Problem being the last ever Sherlock Holmes story ever written?  Of course you don’t.  That’s because, even though Holmes and Moriarty did a header into the swirling waters of the Reichenback Falls, Arthur Conan Doyle later wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles–which was set before The Final Problem–and eventually brought Holmes back to life in The Adventure of the Empty House.

The reason for this return is often said to have been due to “pressure from the fans” to bring their favorite detective back to life.  This could be more truthfully be called, “Conan Doyle was dealing with crazy ass fanboys,” and you’d be right on the money.  After The Final Problem was published, fans took to the streets wearing black armbands and wandering about pissed off.  Conan Doyle’s publisher received tones of hate mail, and death threats were sent to author.  People created “Keep Holmes Alive” clubs, and wrote their own fan fiction where Holmes not only didn’t die, but probably had sex with the writer afterwards.

In short, Conan Doyle suffered the wrath of obsessive fans who felt he owed it to them to keep writing about Sherlock, and since he didn’t know if one of these people was an ancestor of Annie Wilkes, he muttered the Victorian gentleman’s equivalent of, “Screw this noise,” and got to puttin’ pen to paper.

It’s a problem for us creative types, that if we get “popular”, then we need to understand that not only might we be the subject of adulation, but of more than a few people who are going to accuse us of being sell-out hacks, blind to the needs of fandom everywhere.  When the later happens, there are a few avenues available.  We can fall prey to the scorn, and just give up ever dealing with these people; we can take fandom with a grain of salt and create as best an interface as possible; we can even become a fan darling and do what we can to make them all nice and happy . . .

Or, we can just laugh all the way to the bank, because it’ll always be there, and make the best of the situations.  For example, George Lucas finally said, “The hell with it,” and sold Star Wars to Disney for four billion and change.  Now The Mouse can deal with all the butthurt coming their way when they bring Darth Vader back from the dead, happy in the fact they’ve made a billion dollars from fan off a movie that will likely raped a new generation of childhoods.

As for George, he’ll probably keep doing this:

Yes, he’s making fun of the people who got all over his shit about changing a pivotal scene in Episode IV.  And he did it by wearing a tee shirt that more than a few geeks have bought to show their displeasure at his change.

And you know who made that tee shirt?  A company owned by . . . George Lucas.

Well played, Sir.  Well played.