While working on my new podcast, Kaijuvision Radio, I re-learned that one of the appeals of fiction—particularly genre fiction—is wish fulfillment. Not just for readers/viewers but for creators as well.
You might be thinking this is a bad thing; a sign of someone living in a fantasy world. While I acknowledge that’s true in some cases, I’d also argue that it speaks to a deeper, nobler desire within people’s hearts.
In the podcast, my co-host, Brian Scherschell, and I were talking about the alien invasion plot in 1966’s Invasion of Astro-Monster (aka Godzilla vs. Monster Zero). The heroes, most of them non-military types, band together to repel invaders from Planet X. The audience is able to see themselves in those characters and live vicariously through them for 90 minutes because they understand what it means to protect what is theirs. For those living in countries that have been successfully invaded, it’s satisfying for them to defeat invaders. Americans, on the other hand, have a huge independent streak in them, and they will do what it takes to preserve their freedom.
Wish fulfillment can also come in the form of seeing characters do things one wishes he could do but can’t, which makes it a form of escapism. These could range from things that are impossible (flying like Superman, for example) to things that are possible but unlikely (like captaining a ship). In these cases, the stories could become inspirational. One can’t soar under his own power like Supes, but one could become a pilot. One may not be a ship captain, but he could become one, even if it’s only on his own private yacht.
I realized recently that even romance stories have elements of wish fulfillment. The audience wishes they could have relationships as exciting, sensual, and committed as the ones in those tales because it seems impossible to find true love in real life.
It’s in these cases that wish fulfillment speaks to someone’s inner character and desires. Maybe they can’t “leap tall buildings in a single bound” but they can still be heroic, even if it’s in a small way. They know something isn’t right in the world and want to make it better. They could volunteer at a soup kitchen or go on a missions trip. They can love the way they want to be loved. They can make their wishes a reality, and by doing so, inspire others.
I’ve heard countless stories of people who became engineers, doctors, and writers because of Star Trek. They saw characters like Scotty doing cool things in the Enterprise’s engine room and decided on their career field. Now, while they aren’t exploring the galaxy, they’re creating fantastic new technologies. That’s the inspirational power wish fulfillment can have.
It can also be a mirror into oneself. If one finds himself reveling in Superman’s abundant superpowers because he wants to have power over others, it should give him pause for concern. I’ve known people with power fantasies like that. It always makes them weaker because they don’t aspire to do greater things. I pity them.
What do you think, readers? Is wish fulfillment in fiction good or bad? Why? What are some examples from your favorite stories?
“But I Digress…” Hosted by Nathan Marchand It’s been a while, but since Star Trek is one of my all-time favorite franchises/fandoms, I thought I should weigh in on the premiere episode of the newest Trek series, Discovery. Is it worth breaking down the paywall? Watch my review to find out!
Today, September 8, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise. It’s no secret that I’m a Trekker. Heck, almost every version of my author bio mentions that my love of speculative fiction—and by extension, writing—came from watching late-night reruns of the original Star Trek series with my Dad. It didn’t stop there, though. I ate up everything Trek. I watched all the spin-offs. I was obsessed with the movies. I had/have toys, magazines, and books. Star Trek defined science fiction for me for a long time. It was my first and possibly most important fandom.
What makes this franchise appealing to me are its cerebral stories, amazing characters, and positive outlook. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, intended the show to not simply be escapist entertainment but stories that tackled current issues head-on and spurred viewers to think deeply about them. This, in my opinion, is not only a mark of good science fiction but also a mark of good storytelling and art.
So, in honor of this golden anniversary, I’m presenting my top ten favorite episodes of all the Trek series (I’m excluding Star Trek: The Animated Seriessince all but one episode isn’t considered canonical). It wasn’t easy narrowing this down or ranking the episodes. Some series have too many good ones to pick from.
Regardless, it’s time “to boldly go where no man has gone before”!
In a Mirror, Darkly (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Enterprise, despite a solid cast and premise—a prequel series showing the early days of Starfleet and the formation of the United Federation of Planets—took several seasons to figure itself out. At a time when superior shows like Firefly were getting cancelled after only 14 episodes, it’s astonishing this show was given that long to find its space legs (it was probably because UPN was desperate). Sadly, it was cancelled prematurely.
Regardless, while Enterprise never quite reached the heights of Deep Space Nine or The Next Generation, it did have some good episodes. The best was this two-parter from near the end of its fourth and final season. It makes callbacks to several Original Series episodes, most notably “Mirror, Mirror” and “The Tholian Web,” and ties up some loose ends from them. It takes place in the Mirror Universe, where all the good guys are evil (hence “bearded Spock” in the original episode), so we get to see the entire cast ham it up as their evil counterparts. We see the formation of the Terran Empire. We see what became of the U.S.S. Defiant. We even see a Gorn! The proverbial cherry on top, though, was the new title sequence created specifically for this two-parter which showed the alternate, warlike history of the Mirror Universe. That hasn’t been done in any other episode of any Trek series, making it unique.
Scorpion (Star Trek: Voyager)
Voyager started with such promise: a Federation starship stranded in a distant, unexplored region of the galaxy while integrating a group of Maquis (i.e. terrorist) operatives into their crew. Sadly, it never fully utilized or explored this set-up. Plus, the characters and plots didn’t always work or relied on gimmicks.
But then came this epic two-parter, which served as the third season finale and the fourth season premiere. It featured the first post-Star Trek: First Contactappearance of the terrifying Borg. This cybernetic horde was previously established as originating from the Delta Quadrant, the region of the galaxy the U.S.S. Voyager had been stranded in, so this was something bound to happen. However, the Borg had now encountered a race from another dimension so powerful, it could kick them around like a schoolyard bully. Dubbed Species 8472, they sought to destroy all life in our universe. Captain Janeway, desperate to get Voyager home, decides to “appeal to the devil” and offers to help the Borg fight Species 8472 in exchange for safe passage through the cyber-horde’s space. This causes conflict in the crew, showing how dysfunctional they could’ve been if written properly, but ultimately culminates in a harrowing war. The episode also marked the first appearance of arguably the series’ best character: the former Borg drone Seven of Nine.
If I had any complaints, it’s that the Borg started showing far too often after this and Species 8472 was all but de-fanged later.
Trials and Tribble-ations (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Twenty years ago for the franchise’s 30th anniversary, both Deep Space Nine and Voyager celebrated with special episodes. However, DS9’s is the best. In a much lighter episode than was typical of the series (you’ll see why farther down the list), Captain Sisko and crew are transported back in time to the TOS era—specifically to the fan-favorite episode “The Trouble with Tribbles”—by a Klingon spy who was exposed by Captain Kirk in that episode. What follows is a borderline meta-story with several of the DS9 characters “geeking out” as they try to thwart the Klingon villain’s plot without interfering with the timeline. There are some good-natured jokes poked at TOS, but it’s mostly a tribute.
The best scene, hands down, is when the DS9 character walk into a bar filled with TOS Klingons, who lack forehead ridges, and bombard Worf with questions trying to figure out what happened (this had been a longstanding point of confusion/contention among fans). Worf simply replied, “We don’t talk about it with outsiders.” (Enterprise would later explain it, for better or worse).
The episode was created using green screen technology that seamlessly added the DS9 actors into footage from the original episode. Classic sets were re-created. The episode is also notable for presenting the original Enterprise and the space station with CGI, setting the precedent for the remastered version of TOS that would come later.
Relics (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Noticing a pattern with some of my entries on this list? If not, it’s that I like episodes that harken back to TOS (which is my favorite of the Trek series). While TNG featured appearances by three TOS characters, this is arguably the best. James Doohan reprises his role as Scotty, the engineer on the first two Enterprises whose repairs could defy physics. Here he is discovered by the Enterprise-D being held in a transporter buffer to survive his ship’s crash landing. He predictably clashes with Geordi la Forge, the more seriously-minded engineer of the new Enterprise, but they eventually team-up to save the ship from being trapped in a Dyson sphere.
The episode is definitely carried by Doohan, who plays Scotty as an old-timer past his prime living in an era he doesn’t understand and which doesn’t understand him. There’s a great moment where he goes to the holodeck and has it recreate the bridge of his Enterprise so he can reminisce (when the computer which Enterprise he wants, Scotty replies, “NCC one seven oh one. No bloody A, B, C, or D.”) He’s joined by Captain Picard, who shares a drink with him. It’s one of several great moments.
Amok Time (Star Trek: The Original Series)
This is one of the seminal episodes of TOS. People only passingly familiar with the series know about this episode. It did significant world-building regarding Vulcan culture and biology as well as explaining important parts of Spock’s background. It also features many of the common TOS tropes (like Kirk getting his shirt ripped). In this, Spock must return to home planet and take a wife before he dies from pon-farr, a time of madness when a Vulcan’s mating instincts kick into high-gear. It daringly touched on a difficult subject—sexuality—by couching it in an alien culture. It also saw the friendship between Kirk and Spock (and to a lesser extent those two and Dr. McCoy) tested to an extent not seen before and possibly never equaled since. The climax has Kirk fighting Spock to the death as part of an ancient Vulcan ritual. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s a great one.
This was an ambitious episode that spared no expense. It has a fairly large set for the surface of Vulcan and extensive costuming. The fight choreography is some of the best in the entire series. The tension runs high as the episode progresses. Leonard Nimoy gives one of his greatest performances as Spock. It’s also noteworthy for marking the first appearance of the famous Vulcan salute and the phrase, “Live long and prosper.”
The City on the Edge of Forever (Star Trek: The Original Series)
What?! This is only number five on my list when it’s usually regaled as the greatest episode of TOS! You can stone me later.
No Trek list is complete without it, so I had to include it. I don’t deny its greatness it’s just that there’s an episode I like a bit more. Regardless, it’s amazing, if you know of the episode’s storied production, that it turned out as great as it is. In this, Kirk and Spock travel back in time via the Guardian of Forever to prevent Dr. McCoy, who’s in a drug-induced mania, from altering the course of history. Kirk and Spock find themselves in Depression-era New York City, where they meet a woman named Edith Keeler who runs a homeless shelter. Despite the misery around her, she remains optimistic that humanity will one day reach the stars and end war. Kirk, predictably, falls in love with her. However, Spock discovers that she will die a week later. Complicating matters, he also figures out (because he’s Spock and he’s smarter than everyone) that McCoy will prevent her death, allowing her to lead an anti-war movement that keeps the United States out of WWII, allowing the Axis to win. So, Kirk faces a moral dilemma: does he save the woman he loves or save history?
This was the most expensive episode of the show’s first season, what with its location shooting and brand-new sets. But it’s the writing and acting that elevates the episode. William Shatner, known for his often hammy overacting, gives a heartbreaking, nuanced, and subdued performance. While the audience knows what’s coming, it still packs a potent punch. It’s a rare time where we see Kirk affected by one of his love interests. No wonder it’s ranked by many people who worked on the series as their favorite episode.
Tapestry (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
I know most people rank “The Inner Light” as the best Picard episode, but I always preferred this one. For one thing, I remember watching this more often than “The Inner Light” and connecting with it more. Plus, it has Q in it. No TNG list is complete without the nigh-omnipotent imp.
Picard seemingly dies and meets Q, who allows Kirk to inhabit the body of his younger self and prevent the heart injury that eventually led to his death. What follows is equal parts It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. Picard not only witnesses the events of his life, which included getting into a bar fight where he was stabbed through the heart, but he also gets a chance to make changes and see how his life would’ve been different. While he saves his life, he also never becomes the captain of the Enterprise-D and instead serves as an unremarkable junior officer. It forces him to choose between surviving and being ordinary or dying after extraordinary life.
The episode offered tremendous insight into Picard’s character and backstory. We see that he wasn’t always the level-headed diplomat of a captain he is now. We see the moment that changed his life. The episode also saw great development for Q, who evolved from being a petty imp to a nuanced, three-dimensional character. The brilliance of the episode (spoiler warning) is it’s never revealed if Picard’s experiences were real, a dream, or an illusion created by Q to teach Picard a lesson. Any of those could be true.
In the Pale Moonlight (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Remember what I said about DS9 being dark? This episode illustrates that in deep shadows! While many argue it doesn’t adhere to Roddenberry’s optimistic view of humanity or his vision for Star Trek, it’s quite possibly the best episode of DS9.
By this point in the series, the Federation was at war with a race of shapeshifting aliens from the Gamma Quadrant called the Dominion. The Dominion was determined to wipe out all the “solids” in the galaxy (their natural form is a gelatinous goo, hence the slur). The Federation had managed to make an alliance with the Klingon Empire, but the war wasn’t going well. The Romulan Empire was neutral in the conflict, but the Dominion had extended overtures to them. Their choice would tip the balance of power.
The story is told in flashback as Sisko records his confession in his log. Sisko knew from his dealings with the Dominion that they would destroy the Romulans once they won the war, but he had no evidence to prove it. With a Romulan ambassador soon to visit the station, he turned to Garak, a former spy, to manufacture evidence of the Dominion’s treachery. After a long string of shady dealings, the evidence is made and presented to the ambassador—who famously declares, “It’s a FAAAAAKE!” He says he will return to Romulus and expose this deception, but later Sisko learns that the ambassador’s ship exploded before it arrived. He confronts Garak, who confesses that he planted a bomb on the ambassador’s ship to make it look like the Dominion assassinated him. The episode ends with this haunting monologue from Sisko:
“So… I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all… I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would. Garak was right about one thing, a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant. So I will learn to live with it. Because I can live with it. I can live with it… Computer, erase that entire personal log.”
This story is rife with questions about morality. Is it right to compromise for the greater good? While Sisko’s assessments were probably true, he couldn’t prove it. The new alliance was predicated on a lie. Yet, as the end of the series shows, the end seems to justify the means because the alliance of these three powers won the war. There are no easy answers. Given that some Trek episodes were overly fond of pat answers, this story stands in stark contrast.
Balance of Terror (Star Trek: The Original Series)
This classic episode would come to define much of Star Trek to come, both in the series, the movies, and the spin-offs. It introduced the Romulans, who are an off-shoot of the Vulcans. While may have initially been done to reuse Nimoy’s make-up on other actors, the Romulans became an integral part of the Trek universe. It also featured actor Mark Leonard, who would later return as Spock’s father, Sarek.
The story is simple: the Enterprise is dispatched to the Neutral Zone to track down a ship that is destroying Federation outposts with a powerful new weapon. It turns out to be a Romulan bird-of-prey using a cloaking device and plasma torpedoes. What follows is what can be described as a submarine battle in space. The Enterprise and bird-of-prey stalk each other, attacking intermittently in the hopes of wounding or destroying the other. The Romulan ship is running low on fuel and simply needs to escape, yet it has the superior weaponry. The tension runs high. This would become the model for future battle scenes in the franchise up until the 2009 film.
But it’s more than simply a tale of war. The Romulan captain (Mark Leonard) is a valiant, clever, and honorable man fighting for his people. He’s no shallow villain. He respects Kirk, who in turn respects him. There’s an air of sadness when he is defeated. The episode also examines the human toll of war. A pair of young officers were having their wedding officiated by Kirk at the beginning of the episode before they were interrupted by the mission. The man dies during the battle, so the episode ends with Kirk trying to console the woman. It’s a touching moment that shows Kirk cares deeply for his crew and any loss they suffer affects him.
The Best of Both Worlds (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
This episode was lightning in a bottle. Everything came together. The script. The acting. The effects. The music. Plot points set up in previous episodes. The stakes are high. Picard, who usually tries to talk his way out of a fight, faces a powerful, ruthless enemy he can’t negotiate with. It forces everyone out of their comfort zones. It is truly a classic epic.
At first, the story is simple enough: the Borg arrive in Federation space intending to invade Earth. Amidst that, however, is a subplot where Cmd. Riker is offered a promotion to captain, something he frequently turned down to remain first officer on the Enterprise-D. These stories come to a head when the Borg capture Picard. Riker reluctantly accepts the promotion during the crisis and assumes command. Then they learn that Picard has been assimilated, so now he must face his own captain and the unstoppable Borg.
The moment that solidified this as classic comes at the end of part one. It was the first time a Star Trek series had a season-ending cliffhanger. La Forge has created a weapon he thought might destroy the Borg ship, but now Riker must choose between firing on the Borg and killing Picard or holding off to save him but risk the safety of billions. The camera zooms in on Riker’s face, he says, “Mister Worf…fire!” and it fades to black as the ominous choir sings. Given that there were rumors that Patrick Stewart (Picard) might not return to the show, it was conceivable Picard would die. It was a long, arduous summer.
Admittedly, part two isn’t as strong as part one, but it was still a satisfying and epic conclusion. It became a benchmark event in the history of the franchise and the history of the Trek universe with such things as the Battle of Wolf 359. The consequences of this two-parter were felt for many years.
Honestly, I could rave for hours about the episodes of Star Trek I love. The fact that I’ve already written this many astonishes me. I hope this sampler of my faves sparks your interest in the franchise. Considering all five series are on Netflix, you can easily binge through all 729 episodes!
Marvel Comics recently announced it was launching a new title with an all-female Avengers team called A-Force. It seems like it will feature many of the House of Ideas’ most famous superheroines—like She-Hulk, Black Widow, and Phoenix—many of whom have been members of the main Avengers team.
I’m not opposed to this idea in concept. If Marvel thinks they can generate good stories with a team like this, I’m all for it. The problem, I think, is that doesn’t seem to be their motivation. This reeks of political correctness. It’s an attempt at “diversifying” their titles because they think it’ll appeal to a wider audience. (Ironic considering this team technically isn’t diverse because it has no men on it).
The comic book industry has been dominated by men since its inception. Generally speaking, male authors write male protagonists because they’re drawing upon their own experiences as a male. Now, that doesn’t mean they haven’t written any female characters well. I’d argue there are plenty out there. Unfortunately, comics have a reputation for presenting those characters as sexual objects. Some of it is deserved, but I’d say some of it isn’t. It depends on the individual creators, companies, and/or eras. Regardless, my point remains that it’s understandable that superheroines are a minority in comics because most creators are male (and that’s not a bad thing).
This comic, whether it’s good or not, seems like it’s based on the notion that particular demographics won’t enjoy a story unless the protagonists share their gender, ethnicity, religion, and/or whatnot. In this case, they could be assuming that women won’t read the regular Avengers titles because there are only a few women on the team at any given time (in the first movie, there was only one). This extends to other demographics (i.e. only black people will enjoy stories featuring black characters).
I reject this idea. I’m sure it’s true for some people, but I don’t think most audiences care. What I look for is a good story with characters I like and/or identify with. This goes way beyond skin color or reproductive organs. A truly great story is one that focuses on human experiences, which transcend those outward superficial differences. I read/watch The Hunger Games because it has a good story; the protagonist’s gender had little or no effect on my enjoyment. Everyone has dealt with stuff like trauma, pain, joy, love, and rejection. Those things aren’t a respecter of persons, whether they be fictional or real.
One of my favorite characters in the Star Trek franchise is Benjamin Sisko from Deep Space Nine. Obviously, he’s a black man. But guess what? I never notice. What do I notice? His soft-spoken demeanor, his furious temper, his love for his son, and the pain of losing his wife in battle. All universally human experiences. Read this excerpt from the show’s bible that describes the character. Nowhere does it mention his ethnicity. It was only brought up in the show when it was necessary. That’s how it should always be handled. A character’s ethnicity, gender, and/or religious beliefs can be used to create drama (or comedy), but it shouldn’t define them. It’s only a small part of who they are. Trying to base the character around those traits will, in fact, alienate audiences.
Adding arbitrary diversity also hampers stories. Case in point: Tauriel in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films. She’s not from the book or any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings canon. She was created by Jackson and his wife, Fran, because they wanted to add a woman to the almost all-male cast in the hopes of attracting a female audience. She’s completely extraneous to the story. What little purpose she has is to serve as one point in an unnecessary love triangle between her, Kili, and Legolas (who also wasn’t in the book, but I’m willing to accept him here because it’s arguable he was one of the Elves in the story). In other words, Jackson seems to think women want to see cliché “love stories” that go nowhere. Tauriel might be an okay character in concept, but ultimately she’s just part of what amounts a big-budget fanfiction. Instead, Jackson should’ve focused on Bilbo’s growth, which anyone can identify with. Stories don’t need to have romance to be appealing to women.
In the very early stages of writing my first novel, Pandora’s Box, I thought the protagonist would be male. But as the story progressed, I realized it’d be better if the “hero” was actually a heroine. By doing that, I believe I made the story much stronger and more interesting. I didn’t do it to broaden (or narrow) it’s appeal or make some sort of statement—I did it because it was what the story needed. That’s why one of my author mantras is, “Story is king.” Whatever my tale needs, I give it. If it’s a female protagonist, then a female protagonist. If it’s a German scientist, then a German scientist. If it’s a trope-tastic ninja, then a trope-tastic ninja. 😛
So, if you’re concerned with having diversity in your story, don’t bother unless it’ll serve it well. Focus instead on telling as good of a story as you can. That will get you an audience from all races, colors, and creeds.
I wanted to write about this last week, but busyness and September 11 joined forces to make me write a timelier blog.
September 8 marked the 48th anniversary of Star Trek. I’m a Trekker. (I prefer that term to “Trekkie.”) I’ve loved the Star Trek franchise since I was three years old and watched reruns of the Original Series on a local Fox affiliate with my Dad. I’ve watched almost every episode of all five TV series (ST: The Next Generation, ST: Deep Space Nine, ST: Voyager, ST: Enterprise) and I own all the movies (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khanis my all-time favorite film). The franchise helped inspire me to become a science fiction writer, so it’s near and dear to me.
I was sad to see Enterprise get cancelled when it finally found its space legs. For several years, I thought the franchise was dead. Then J.J. Abrams revived it with his epic reboot/prequel/remake/whatever. I liked its sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, even more (despite having a title that would’ve been improved with a well-placed colon).
However, there was always something about Abrams’ version that bugged me. I wasn’t sure what, though. It got many things right: the characters and their dynamics, the adventure, the “personality” of the ships, the optimism, and the music, among other things. It didn’t dawn on me what the issue was until last week. Truthfully, it’s something I think I always knew—and had even heard fans discuss—but it didn’t hit me until then.
Mr. Roddenberry, who died in 1991, created Star Trek as a serious science fiction TV series that addressed mature themes and issues. In other words, it was cerebral science fiction. This was something seen in books and magazines but not on television in that day. It was ahead of its time.
That’s what “Nu Trek” lacks. It’s fun. There’s plenty of space-faring action and adventure with great characters played by wonderful actors, but it isn’t as cerebral. Yes, it plays on themes like friendship and family, but it doesn’t have big sci-fi ideas like the franchise did at its peak. There are no Cold War allegories (the Klingons in TOS), no questions about individuality vs. collectivism (the Borg in TNG), or observations about the effects of religion in people’s lives (the Bajorans and Sisko in DS9). Abrams did exactly what he said he wanted to do: inject some Star Wars into Star Trek (he always preferred the former, hence why he’s directing Episode VII). It wasn’t just in terms of style, though. The story and themes play out more like a Star Wars film.
I’m not saying this is bad. I love Star Wars, but for different reasons. While fans argue which is better, the truth is that they’re apples and oranges. Each is distinct and does what it does well. But with these new films, Trek has veered more in the direction of Wars. I’m not opposed to a new style. Far from it. Any franchise can benefit from a fresh perspective, even from someone who hasn’t been inundated with its lore (Nicholas Meyer wasn’t a fan when he landed the job to direct Wrath of Khan, though he did do his homework). But Abrams’ films aren’t quite Roddenberry’s vision.
Think of it like this: old-school Trek was the class valedictorian while “Nu Trek” is his fun-loving classmate. Sure, he probably gets all B’s in his classes, but he obviously isn’t as smart as the former. Likewise, the valedictorian knows how to have a good time, but he isn’t as much of a party animal.
This is why I’d like to see Trek return to television. It’s easier to tell cerebral stories in a television format. I’m glad Star Trek is fun again, but it needs to have substance, too.
That would please the Great Bird of the Galaxy (Gene’s nickname) and he would bless the franchise even more.
First, before I get my main thesis, I’d like to thank everyone at the Roanoke Public Library in Roanoke, Indiana, for having me give a lecture on fantasy writing last Thursday. It was a small crowd (stupid weather!), but it was fun. I’d love to come back, especially if you have room for one more lecturer.
Since I spent a fair amount of time preparing the lecture and I’m sure some people didn’t come but wanted to, I’m going to expand it a bit and make it into a multi-part series for my vlog, “But I Digress….” Expect the first video soon!
Anyway, as I was going to say…
A few weeks ago, I got involved in a short but heated discussion between a friend and her sister (they shall remain nameless) on Facebook. My friend had posted a photo of an angel someone made of snow. Being that we’re both Whovians (“Doctor Who” fans), I commented, “Don’t blink!” (This was a reference to the nefarious Weeping Angels). My friend then went on about how they were also the evil Snowmen from another episode, so you couldn’t look at them or blink. Her sister then commented, saying she looked at the photo and blinked and nothing happened. At first, I thought she was being sarcastic, but I realized she wasn’t. The sister then said she didn’t understand how anyone could be “obsessed” with fictional things like this when real life had more to offer. My friend, myself, and one other person tried to explain things to her. Since I came into the discussion later, I just posted this quotation from my friend “Jack”:
When I hit adolescence, I started getting the feeling that kids my age didn’t watch things like cartoons. That was the age one “outgrew” them. We were supposed to do better things with our time…like chase the opposite sex in a hormone-crazed frenzy and read books like Twilight (how is that book more mature than cartoons?). But guess what? I kept watching the cartoons I thought were good. In secret. Yes, I was embarrassed that I enjoyed watching shows “Beast Wars,” “Spider-Man,” and “Batman: The Animated Series.” I wanted to be seen as mature and grown-up, at least in public. I spent most of teenage years living this quasi-double life. I was quite a serious lad at the time. It took college to lighten me up.
Now I make no secret that I enjoy cartoons, comic books, and other “childish” forms of entertainment. Seriously, look at my video collection:
Part of that is the nostalgia craze that’s been going on for over a decade, which has made these things more acceptable. But there are still those who would look at this and say, “These shouldn’t be on a grown man’s shelf.” They’d cite 1 Corinthian 13:11 as evidence that such a person was immature.
But here’s the truth: only children worry about being perceived as grown-up. Many children at one point or another wished they were adults. They worry about what people will think of them if they “act childish.” With age, however, comes the attitude that what people think doesn’t matter, and the wisdom that true maturity comes from how one treats others and his responsibilities.
Yes, people read comics, watch “Doctor Who,” and play video games as an escape. They’re called “escapist entertainment” for a reason. It’s a stress relief because life is often hard. The problem is when one lets it become an addiction, a source of one’s self-worth. I’ve seen this happen. It’s sad. But anything, no matter how good it is, can become an addiction. There’s a difference between someone who has an occasional sip of wine and an alcoholic.
There’s also something to be said about cultivating an imagination. People who are imaginative see things like nobody else. They invent, they create. Ideas are their playthings. Without people like them, we wouldn’t have technology, culture, and philosophies. Heck, I keep hearing stories about how much of the tech seen in “Star Trek” and its spin-offs keeps inspiring real gadgets!
Art enriches our lives. It illustrates truths. It provides a lens that puts life into perspective. It expresses things we might have trouble articulating (hence why most couples have a favorite love song). We see ourselves in all our beauty and ugliness. It gives us ideals to strive for. It expresses our deepest longings.
In other words, it helps us figure out life. And life then in turn enriches art. The two need each other like a husband needs a wife, and vice versa. Without it, there would be no color to life. We would be robots.
Most importantly, art is an expression of being God’s image bearers. God created the universe. It isn’t purely functional. It’s full of color and wonder and adventure. I drove through Pennsylvania and Maryland a few months ago and was blown away by the rolling hills, mountains, and multicolored leaves. I grew up in house that was constantly surrounded by mischievous animals. And need I mention the wonder of the night sky? God is an artist.
Think about that next time you want to criticize someone for being an “out-of-touch child” just because he made his own lightsaber.
I’m a writer, and I can’t find the words to express how fun Gen-Con was this year! Here’s a video compilation of the fun things I did and crazy/amazing people I met. Thanks Eric Anderson and Darrin Ball for joining me on this adventure!
After a three-hour trip, I arrived yesterday in Indianapolis at a Hampton Inn and met my friends Eric and Darrin, who were both attending Gen-Con. (I was glad I an audiobook of Moby Dick with me). Darrin was kind enough to get us a room. I must say, I’m not used to staying in a hotel. The last time I did, if I remember right, was in 2004 on a college-sponsored mission trip to New York City, and it was a barely passable motel. To be honest, I feel like I’m being treated like a king at this hotel!
Anyway, Eric and I went to the Indiana Convention Center to pick up tickets and set up. Like last year, hauling my boxes of books was a workout that left me with a sore lower back, albeit briefly. I met a few of my neighbors, although not as many as I did last year. The writer next to me is a gentleman I call “Captain Charisma” because he sells his books like an auctioneer who was once a used car salesman. He’s difficult to compete with.
After setting up, I met Eric and we wandered back to the parking garage, taking a little time to listen to a free Five Year Mission show in a beer tent (no, we didn’t drink, but I did contemplate getting a Tribble drunk. Yes, I’m a nerd, and I think about such things!.
We returned just in time to get the pizzas Darrin ordered. He got four because there was a special. It was way more than we needed, so we’ll be eating the leftovers all weekend. We played a few games of Space Alert, revised some HeroScape custom figures Eric and I created, and went to bed.
We were all so high on excitement, we could hardly sleep.
After eating a better breakfast than I’ve had in months, I dressed in my first cosplay, Capt. James T. Kirk, complete with communicator and phaser. We made excellent time getting to the ICC, though we did have a long walk.
The doors opened one hour early at 9pm. Sadly, I don’t have much to say about my sales today. Almost everyone today didn’t buy anything from anyone. They either didn’t have money or wanted to peruse before buying. I only made two sales and donated one novel to an auction a group is doing to raise money for a food pantry. I did, however, get many people interested in Children of the Wells, including a fellow author who was so intrigued by it, he kept asking me questions about it for 10-15 minutes.
My highlight today was meeting Walter Koenig, an actor best known for playing Pavel Chekhov in the original Star Trek and Bester in Babylon 5. I was surprised to see he was so soft-spoken, I could barely hear him, and he himself seemed to be a little hard of hearing. I got an autograph, but like last year, I wanted to give the celebrities free copies of my books. I asked him, “Do you accept gifts from fans?” He replied, “Yes, yes, yes!” while pretending to gobble up food. I gave him copies of my books, showing him where I had signed Pandora’s Box, saying, “Thanks for the memories! Keep going boldly where no man has gone before!” He saw that the book was dedicated to my mother, which he said was “very nice.” I took a picture with him, and he held my book up to the camera. Finally, I asked him, “Who’d win in a fight, Chekhov or Bester?” He said, “Bester has certain advantages.”
(I wish he had said what Nick Hayden said, “Bester. He is a nuclear wessel.”)
I went a writing seminar taught by Michael A. Stackpole on writing in the digital age. I realized I went to the same one last year, but the material was different. It was reassuring to hear things had changed for the better for indie writers like myself.
From 7pm-9pm, I played a game I used to play every Saturday with friends in college: Epic Duels. But instead of it being Star Wars-themed, it was a custom version made for the anime franchise Mobile Suit Gundam. I had a great time talking with the players about animes and Epic Duels variations.
I finished the day by briefly watching Eric kick butt at the board game Monsterpocalypse and playing in a card draw Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 tourney. In this game, our characters are selected by drawing names from a hat, essentially. I didn’t usually get characters I was good with, so I lost in the first round.
Meeting up with Darrin and Eric, we drove back to the hotel.
I’ve been very busy with several writing and personal projects, so I wasn’t able to film a review for “Star Trek Into Darkness.” However, I managed to get an old friend to do the review for me–none other than Capt. James T. Kirk himself! (Did I mention I’m a HUGE Trekker?)
However, I did see the movie (at midnight) and wrote a review for it on my column for Examiner. You can read it here.
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A Man from Another Time Exploring Another Universe