When cultures collide

The other day, I struck up a conversation with a stranger only to learn that she shared my interest in arts and crafts. I told her about a clay sculpture I was working on, and she shared with me a particular crochet project she planned to start soon.

I didn’t meet this person at the bar or the local supermarket. No, our conversation played out in speech bubbles above our respective characters in the lobby area of an MMORPG, or massively multiplayer online role-playing game. On top of that, the projects we discussed were also video game-oriented: I was working on a sculpture of my avatar, or in-game persona, and she (at least, I assume it was a “she”) planned to crochet a stuffed version of one of the creatures that inhabit the virtual world in which we met.

This snippet of cyber socialization is just one example of what I believe to be a marriage of two growing cultures. As gaming – and nerd culture in general – finds its way to a larger audience, so too does DIY culture, which boasts a community of tinkerers and creators. The interaction that goes into the gaming experience, especially in those arenas where players are encouraged to invent their own narratives, is not unlike the level of creativity do-it-yourselfers might exhibit with their own projects. Quite often, the two interests intersect.

It’s a generational thing, too – more and more adults grew up playing video games, investing time and emotion into fantasy worlds. Likewise, new technologies allow us to develop talents that were once the monopoly of industry specialists. Never before has it been so easy to find the resources needed to take on complex projects. For my own part, while researching for my clay sculpture, I found information on what brands of clay and paint work best for certain projects, as well as a guide explaining how to use small magnets and screws to create posable, detachable limbs like those found on plastic figurines.

And so it is when these dual interests of gaming and creating are married that true wonders are born – like Katamari-inspired hats, a kid’s-room mural of the first stage in Super Mario Bros., or even rock music based on the Mega Man franchise. Other gamers – many of them now adults and even parents – pick up on the memories of a shared experience. At times, the products of our nostalgia take on a life of their own, becoming more than just fan-created devotions to a particular game or character.

Maybe it’s just a case of silly adults who refuse to grow up, clinging to their childhood memories by taking something imaginary and giving it life in reality. Or, perhaps, we are taking hold of something we perceive as meaningful and, through our own efforts, giving voice to that meaning in a feat of self-expression. Who knows.

Anyway, I’ve got some sculpting to do.

Writing out the what ifs….

I’m about to reveal my deepest, darkest, most guiltiest of pleasures.

I love fan fiction.

I read it. I write it. Heck, I’ve even edited a few stories here and there.

For those scratching their heads about this fan fiction thing, I’ll explain. Fan fiction is exactly what it sounds like, fictional stories written by fans of a specific television show, comic book, movie, etc.

If you didn’t like the way a certain film or book ended, you can write it differently, the way you think it should have went. Or if you want to expand on a television show that has long since ended, you can do it.

What if Gilligan hadn’t thwarted one of the Professor’s many plans to repair the S.S. Minnow?

What if Jack had been able to fit on that floating chunk of wood with Rose after the Titanic went down?

What happens when Superman loses his powers for real and is forced to live without them (kind of like in Superman II but like forever)?a meal at the fortress of solitude
What if McDreamy stayed with his wife and away from Meredith at Seattle Grace?

These are the types of things that fan fiction writers have tackled in the past.

Fan-written fiction itself has been around for a long time but didn’t start to really take off until Star Trek rose in popularity. As my co-worker and huge Trekkie friend Jared Hunt said, you’ve got to find something to do in your time without Trek.

There are some in the fan fiction world who argue that Star Trek: Nemesis (the last of the Trek movies with the TNG crew), was a work of fan fiction because the screenwriter was a long-time Trek fan when he put pen to paper on Nemesis, sending the crew and the Enterprise-E looking for some guy named Shinzon who is essentially some kind of humanoid living amongst Remans. That, however, is another post for another day.

It’s not something I went looking for. I was looking for something to do, specifically something to read. I’d devoured all the books I had in my room and the library was out of the question just then, so I started wandering about the internet.

It was sophomore year of high school and I’d just gotten my first computer, so the internet was still this brand new thing full of the unknown. One night I simply typed the name of my favorite television show at the time (the long ago cancelled Roswell) into a search engine and up popped a website boasting fan fiction about the show.

Confused and curious, I started reading. An hour in and I was hooked. There were so many stories involving the Pod Squad and their adventures in Roswell or what could have happened to them after the show ended when they packed up and fled the tiny New Mexico town.

Within a few months I’d read every scrap of fan generated fiction on that website and had gone in search of more. That’s how I landed on www.fanfiction.net, one of the largest repositories of fan fiction on the internet.

There was so much to read and not enough hours in the day. Continue reading

The Sky Mall's the limit!

Traveling suits me.  I like the idea of finding a good value on air travel to a destination where the weather suits my clothes.  There’s significance to being transported by an airplane and knowing that you will be at your journey’s end in a jiffy rather than traveling by car and dealing with those no-good blockheads who refuse to use a turn signal, or get off their cellphones long enough to notice they’re in the middle of two lanes.

Flying, of course, has its drawbacks.  People with annoying children, people with unknown sicknesses that they want to share, people who insist on conversing while you attempt to read, people who want to expose their filthy feet and prop them up on the seat, people who stink, people in general.  As “solitary-geek-lone wolves”, my wife and I could easily live on a deserted island, so long as there is an occasional comic-convention to attend.

Flying also has its masked humor; Sky Mall being the most notable.  On our most recent excursion to Mega-Con in Orlando, I had forgotten to bring suitable reading material for the one hour flight.  To pass the time, I picked up the most recent catalogue.  Brooke Burke was on the cover, which was an odd shroud to this tripe.  Here are a few of the items I found to be the most absurd. Continue reading

Mr. Sulu made my day!

Well, as was established in my last post, I’m a HUGE Star Trek nerd.  (I promise to blog about something else soon, trust me!)

Yesterday, while cruising around the “Twitterverse,” I ran across the Twitter account from our favorite Star Trek: TOS helmsman Mr. George Takei (@GeorgeTakei), and of course I had to hit “FOLLOW”!!!

I mean, it was packed with pure, irreverent humor, such as:

– “Everything happens for a reason. Often it’s alcohol. #SecretsInTheSauce.”
– “When I use the holodeck, I’m in the Captain’s chair, looking at the back of Kirk’s head. #RhymesWithTakei
– “The new iPad 2 weighs a lot less and even sports a camera. In other words, it’s more Asian than ever. #BiteMeApple
– “Who is this Justin Bieber, and why is everyone picking on her hair?”

What’s better than being a part of the humor? Well, it was this direct message I received this morning:

Irreverent humor from Mr. Sulu himself!!

Yes, yes, I’m sure he probably has a standard message he sends to every follower. But just the fact that such a figurehead in sci-fi lore may have — for what was I’m sure only been a brief period of time — had Jared Hunt (@jaredwv) on the brain, well, that’s just FREAKIN’ SWEET in my book!!!

"Mad Men" season five pushed back to 2012

Will Sterling/Cooper/Draper/Price survive the loss of American Tobacco? Is Joan really pregnant? Will Don Draper take up journaling again? We won’t find out until next year.

After months of delay — allegedly caused by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner holding out for more money — AMC announced yesterday it will go forward with it’s hit period piece. With or without Weiner.

Weiner released a statement today denying any hardball haggling with the cable network. He said he’s just fighting for his cast. AMC apparently wants him to cut two cast members every year for three years.

Either way, fans are over a barrel. Good thing the season four box set is out.

Jennifer Garner as a grandmotherly detective? Why sure!

Charleston’s own Jennifer Garner appears to be ready to take on the role of Agatha Christie’s venerable detective Miss Jane Marple.

Garner, 38, is a particularly young Miss Marple, who is depicted as a grandmotherly sort in the classic mysteries. Apparently, Miss Marple is taking a turn for the glamorous.

What do you think? Will our Jen make a great Miss Marple?

And, who’s gonna play Christie’s other great detective, Hercule Poirot? Maybe Charleston’s Sam Trammell?

DIY diagnostic medicine

The internet is a hypochondriac’s best worst friend. Thanks to WebMD, I have diagnosed myself with dozens of debilitating diseases, all with symptoms very similar to the common cold.

But research takes time, time that a person with early-onset leprosy doesn’t have.  I’ve created this handy flowchart to speed up the process. (Click to view it full-size.)

Little Miss Lois Lane

I hand out comic books to practically anybody I think might want one, particularly my own goofy kids. For one thing, who doesn’t like books with pictures?

I especially like to give them to the kids because I really believe comics are a great introduction to reading and an excellent encourager of imagination.

But I’ve got girls in my house. Naturally, they’re particularly keen on girl heroines.

Superman and Batman only go so far for them.

That’s why I was sorry to hear about something that will never be.

A comic book writer and artist named Dean Trippe pitched an idea to DC Comics about a series of young adult novels called “Lois Lane, Girl Reporter.” It was to be about an 11-year-old Lois Lane and her adventures in journalism.

Are you kidding? Lois Lane? And her adventures as an 11-year-old? And I’m a guy with little girls, a newspaper job and an appreciation for funny books? Where do I sign up?

Trippe recently wrote about the idea on his own blog. Sadly, he concluded, the comic book company just wasn’t interested.

Myself, I think a Lois Lane book for kids would be great. What’s not to love about Lois Lane? Hyper-competent, curious, often dangling out of a helicopter. With the exception of maybe the helicopter part, she has a lot of the attributes I’d like to see in my own girls.

As long as we’re on the topic of hyper-competent girls who need their own spotlight, how about Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series? Wouldn’t it be cool if she could have her own book or two?

And what about you, Gentle Reader? What kind of reading material for kids do you like?