Tag Archives: Fandom

Letters from Vault 111

[Note: This is partially a bit of Fallout 4 satire, but also an ‘in character’ way to clear things off my chest that the game left unresolved. I almost always play female characters in Bethesda games, and this one is no different, so take note. There are MAJOR MAJOR SPOILERS ahead, so if you don’t want to know about the story and characters of Fallout 4, opt out now.)

From the desk of Evelyn Weir (née Moore), Sole Survivor of Vault 111, Director of the Institute, and General of the Minutemen:

[ Personal NoteI’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I don’t know if I was always this conversationally stunted, or if my long stint in cryo storage has somehow affected my brain. Maybe Nate was just too polite to point it out to me, but these days it seems that I can only respond to any talking point in four basic ways. I’m not sure why.  

Oftentimes what actually comes out of my mouth is different from what I intended to say, or I am unable to articulate certain feelings, nuances, or even share basic information. I’ll attempt to be funny and come off as hurtful; I’ll misinterpret what is being said and respond with something I would normally never dream of. I don’t remember being this limited in law school, but the person who emerged from Vault 111 is quite different in many ways from the person who went into it.

Regardless, this ‘limit of four’ does not appear to affect my ability to write, and so I pen these letters to my friends, family, and the people I’ve met along my travels in the Commonwealth. ]

To Shaun Weir, Former Director of the Institute:

Shaun

From the moment I set foot out of Vault 111, you were my driving concern, the reason behind my every thought and action. I wanted revenge for your father’s murder, of course, but more than that, I wanted my baby back. I did some things in my desperation that, looking back, I’m not proud of. I used people for information. I carved out Sanctuary Hills on the blood of many raiders, ghouls, and supermutants. I turned myself into something I could barely recognize in the mirror. But, I did what I had to. I needed the resources and allies to find you.

And then, when the moment arrived (with you staring down the barrels of my minigun while I stood there menacingly in red power armor), I realized that I had missed your whole life. Not only were you physically old enough to be my father, but you were dying to boot. And we were perfect strangers. We had no relationship, and you acted curiously detached from me at all points. Would a simple “I love you, mom” or a hug have been too much to ask?

I still think that you should have read Descartes and applied a healthy dose of cogito ergo sum to your conduct towards the Synths. They deserved better than what they got from you. They are your children, and my thus my grandchildren. I intend to treat them as such. I also think that what you asked me to do the Underground was not necessary, and horrible. That was a mistake, and one I wish I had never been a party to.

But even with the Underground’s blood on my hands, the loss of life was kept to a minimum. I can only imagine the carnage that would have come to pass if the Underground or the Brotherhood ever had their chance to destroy the Institute. I promise that I will continue your work with the Institute, albeit on a different trajectory. Too bad you were never able to fully articulate your vision of the future to me (which is still pretty nebulous, I have to admit). Regardless, I count myself lucky to have known you for the brief time I did, even if it was only to lose you again. You can’t know how much that hurt.

To Jack Valentine, Private Eye:

Valentine (Clipped)

I know you feel that you are merely a pretender with dead man’s life in your head, but I urge you to consider that our memories, our will, our personality…those are the things that make us who we are. I don’t see you as an android pretending to be Detective Jack Valentine of the BPD. No, I see you as Jack Valentine reborn. One day maybe you will, too. You didn’t choose this situation for yourself, of course, but you’ve done well with the hand of cards you were dealt. You and Ellie have helped countless people who were down or desperate, and I know you didn’t do it for the caps.

You were instrumental in helping me find my Shaun, and you stood with me through so many dangers and hardships to get to that point. I know you were unhappy with me when I sided with the Institute, and I don’t blame you. I would be in your place. Somehow, though, I couldn’t tell you that the son you helped me find was, in fact, the Institute’s leader. It seems like that might have cast my decision in a different light for you.

But, I am glad you haven’t abandoned me. Rest assured that I will use the resources of the Institute to determine why you were discarded, if you want, and to ensure the fair treatment of Synths of all types. Also, I hope you will consider staying on in Sanctuary Hills as its resident sheriff. The town needs it, and there is no one I would trust more in that position. The badge is yours if you want it.

To Piper Wright, Editor-in-Chief of Publick Occurrences:

Piper (Clipped)

Piper, you are my best friend. Some of my best memories of my time in the Commonwealth are when I donned the signature coat and fedora of the Silver Shroud. You looked the part of the side-kick in your dashing red trenchcoat. I loved those times. You hunt the truth, even when it’s hazardous to your health (shall we say especially when it’s hazardous to your health). But you never give up, and you help people, and not just when it’s convenient or easy.

Like Jack, you felt betrayed by my decision to join the Institute. I can’t seem to convince you with words (certainly when we speak face to face), so I hope that actions will suffice instead. I have already decreed that all Synths that want to live on the surface, freely and without further contact with us, may do so. The abduction and replacement program has been terminated (along with the troublesome scientist at the helm of it). You have my solemn and most sacred vow to use the technology and resources at my disposal to help rebuild the Commonwealth. You’ve put your trust in me before, and I hope that you will do so again.

So how about this: You want the real story of the century? How about an all-access press pass to the Institute itself? No restrictions, no censorship, just you and the inside scoop. What do you say? Oh, and you called it on Mayor McDonough, just FYI. Yep, totally a Synth. Again, not sure why I couldn’t tell you this before, but there it is.

To Codsworth:

Codsworth

You are the only living family I have left, my one link to my old life before the war. You remember Nate and Shaun just as I do, and the happy little home in the suburbs that we all shared together. You were there when we first brought Shaun home from the hospital. You cared for him, and us, tirelessly ever after.

And it is because of that, that I owe you the biggest apology I’ve ever given out. We didn’t take you to the vault when the alarms sounded. I should have tried, but I was scared. When the alarms went off, I ran. You deserved better than to be abandoned to that uncertain fate. I can’t tell you what it means to me that you remained around Sanctuary Hills for two centuries waiting for our return, or that we were reunited.

Like the others who had a stake in me finding Shaun, I couldn’t tell you that I had found him, and that he was alive. But he’s gone now, having died from a vaguely defined disease that the Institute, in all their knowledge, was powerless to stop. I know you would have wanted to see him again. He had Nate’s eyes, bright and clear and intelligent. Looking into them was like seeing a window to the past.

With his passing, however, I know that I can’t reclaim the past; I have to move forward. I used to think that family was only blood, only human, but I was wrong. You, Jack, and Curie have shown me that family transcends mere flesh and circuitry, and I’m glad you are here to help build a future with me.

[Personal Note: There’s so much more to say. I’m still reeling from all the ramifications of what my actions have brought about. “War never changes,” that’s what Nate used to say, but lives are something else, something different. If my time in the Commonwealth has taught me anything, it’s that Life is Change. We’ll just have to see where these changes take us. ]


The Golden Age of the Geekosphere

Tonight, I’m going to see Avengers: Age of Ultron (the movie I’m most excited to see this summer). That got me to thinking about the multitude of things that make being a geek/nerd/fanboy/fangirl just so cool these days.

Yes, we’ve got it pretty good, and here are 5 of my favorite reasons why:

1.) Nerd/Science Culture Acceptance

Bazinga!

What he said.

Let’s start with the most general of them. Over the last few years, what has been traditionally ‘nerd’ culture has leaked over into mainstream. Game of Thrones has been instrumental in this shift, along with shows like The Big Bang Theory and Sherlock. While the former has given us our share of fantasy and dragons (historically in the purview of geeks), the latter two have shown us that intelligent characters can carry a narrative, going far beyond the tape-around-the-glasses/pocket protector stereotypes of generations before.

We also have TV shows like Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, where we can see the beauty of science, and why it’s useful. We have websites like Geeks are Sexy and IFLScience. We can watch the livestream of the ISS, see sunsets from the surface of Mars, and use brand-new images of planets from Mercury to Ceres as our computer wallpaper. We may not have starships (yet), but little by little science is spreading into the public consciousness.

Maybe we’re a long way from mainstream or wholesale acceptance, but it’s a start. I’ll certainly take it.

2.) The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Assemble!

A triumph of the human spirit.

Okay, so you might think this is a big step down from #1, but go with me for a moment.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe did the impossible – it wove individual movie franchises into one big story. Despite its name, it isn’t just about the cinema anymore. We now have TV shows like Agent Carter, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Daredevil, not to mention comic books and cartoons, all of which take place in the MCU.

While this by itself makes the comic book fanboy in me want to do the Snoopy dance, the MCU showed audiences and studios alike that this is viable way to make movies. Marvel has plans for more movies in the MCU through 2020 and beyond.

That means that we will wind up with at least two decades of superhero movies, if you start the clock with X-Men in the year 2000. And the current generation of movie-goers will have had the privilege of living through this era, of seeing all this unfold in the theatre. That’s pretty exciting.

One of these days the MCU might play out, but right now it’s going strong. Even if others try to emulate the MCU badly (*cough* DC *cough*), we at least got Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy out of the deal, so go us!

3.) The Regeneration of Doctor Who

Vale Decem

You don’t have to go.

The years 1989 to 2004 were a dark time for Whovians. The only Who we got back then was that pretty awful TV movie that was a weak attempt at a reboot. I do admit to liking the style and charisma that Paul McCann brought to the character, and this was the first time we saw Who with more ‘modern’ effects. But… the Seventh Doctor got a punk death, Eric Roberts played the Master, and the story was just plain bad, and clearly written by people who were not invested in the franchise.

In 2005, however, Russell T. Davies rekindled the series with Christopher Eccleston as the title role. Steven Moffat took over as showrunner after David Tennant’s run, and the show is still going strong. I hope the BBC will learn from its mistake in 1989 and keep the show going indefinitely. Now that the ’12 Regeneration Limit’ issue has been addressed, there’s no reason why Doctor Who can’t continue to move forward with new adventures.  Doctor Who is something that science fiction fandom needs, and for the foreseeable future, we have it.

4.) Netflix & YouTube (& All the Social Media)

<3

I laughed, I cried, I rebuffered.

This is a pretty broad category, to be sure. Netflix and other video streaming platforms have given fans an unprecedented access to episodes of our favorite shows, past and present. Previously, fans had to make do with a library of DVDs or VHS tapes. Though there is often a delay between when a program is broadcast and when it ends up streaming, it gives fans nowadays the ability to binge watch whole shows. It’s just as easy to watch the original G1 Transformers as it is to watch the Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.

YouTube has made a great addition to fandom as well. Here you can share fan theories and lateral content, parodies, song covers, and cosplay advice. Some of the fan-made trailers for movies and TV shows are in many ways better than the actual thing. It’s a wide-open canvas for fans to express their creativity. If that weren’t enough, social media sites bring fans news and information with unprecedented speed, as well as giving us a way to connect with the people who make the TV shows, movies, and music videos unlike ever before. You could tweet to Neil Gaiman, Lindsey Stirling, or Emilia Clarke and they might actually Tweet back.

TECHNOLOGY!

5.) ThinkGeek

Hey, listen!

With or without a promo code.

What’s the surest way to know that geek fandoms are doing well? Merchandising. Manufacturers wouldn’t make a pizza cutter in the shape of the Enterprise, or plush facehuggers if they didn’t think there was a market for them. Turns out there is.

Marketing licensed merch and cool gadgets is nothing new, but no one, and I mean no one, does it better than ThinkGeek. There are endless places online to find fan-based T-shirts, but ThinkGeek goes above and beyond. They have collectibles, apparel, gadgets, toys, and things you didn’t think anyone would make but you are sure glad that they did.  Seriously, folks, there is a spotlight small enough to sit on your desk that is a miniature Bat Signal.

Beyond that, it feels like the people at ThinkGeek actually get these licenses. They know what these properties mean to the fans because they are fans of them themselves. Do yourself a favor and go sign up for their email newsletter. When it comes in, read it. Does is it sound like you are being pandered to by people who wouldn’t know a Wookie from a Dalek? Nope, not at all. It’s more like walking into a meet & greet at a local convention. They’re the friends-in-fandom you never knew you had. If you haven’t already, go check them out.

A Final Word

There are many more things I could list about the awesomeness of modern geekery, but that would take more than a humble blog post to even scratch the surface.  The upshot of it is: there has never been a better time to be a fan, and I’m glad to be a part of it all.

May this emerging golden age of the Geekosphere Live Long and Prosper.


Bronies and Fan Shaming

Look at any of the ‘about me’ sections here on my blog, my website, or Facebook page and you’ll see that I self-identify as a ‘fanboy.’ I am not ashamed to admit that I, as a grown man, love things like Transformers, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and any number of others.

Back in 2010 we saw the emergence of yet another type of fandom, this one stemming from Hasbro’s G4 reboot of the My Little Pony franchise. This caused a bit of a stir, however; some of the fans of the show were males of college age or older, calling themselves “Bronies.” While the term has since come to encompass female fans of the show as well, it’s not always easy to separate the ‘bro’ out of brony in the public consciousness.

Rainbow Dash

This blog post needs to be about 20% cooler.

So, we have grown men who are fans of a cartoon meant for little girls. Give that a moment’s consideration, folks. Does the idea of such a thing give you a twinge of doubt, or pause, or even make you a shade uncomfortable? If so, you might ponder why that is. I’ve given the subject a bit of thought myself, and here’s what I’ve found.

The Formula:

Let’s break this down to its elemental components. The factors that play a part here are gender, age, and fandom. Let’s explore a few examples:

Female + Age 8 + My Little Pony = Totally okay.
Male + Age 3 + My Little Pony = Okay, but he’ll grow out of it.

Female + Age 36 + Transformers = I wore parachute pants, too!
Male + Age 36 + Transformers = Oh, you’re a collector?

Female + Age 36 + My Little Pony = I still have my stuffed animals, too.
Male + Age 36 + My Little Pony = Ewww…pervert.

It’s that last combination that doesn’t jive with many of our notions of gender roles and age appropriateness. While a boy might be able to like a girl’s show when he’s little and doesn’t know the difference, he had better be playing with Tonka trucks and action figures by about age 7 and beyond.

The Manliest Brony In The World

This man builds Harley-Davidson motorcycles and is also one of the biggest Bronies in the world. Can’t you just hear the preconceived notions shattering like glass?

Ask yourself: is it really fair to think of female Transformers fans as an interesting anomaly, while male My Little Pony fans are somehow an aberration? Where is it written that you can only like something if you’re part of the target demographic? It’s a double-standard that fandom in general doesn’t need, and it should be eradicated whenever possible.

Why is that?

Apples to Apples:

While I can understand why the general public might immediately balk at the idea of Bronies, the most unsettling part of this story to me is the negative treatment Bronies have received from members of other fandoms.

Nerd/geek/fanboy demi-god Wil Wheaton once said, and I’m paraphrasing: “Fandom is about loving something, and not being apologetic about it.” If you’re a die-hard fan, it means you love something much more than the average person sitting next to you on the train. Maybe it’s the Philadelphia Eagles, or comic books, or Stars Wars. It doesn’t matter. One type of fandom is not inherently better or worse than any other.

COEXIST

There’s enough room in the ‘Verse for all of us.

Who knows why you love it so much. The reasons why are irrelevant; you love it, and as Wheaton said, you shouldn’t be apologetic about it. It is absolutely absurd for a bare-chested man, painted in green and yellow, sporting a headpiece shaped like a wedge of cheese, to look down on a woman who cosplays David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. The same goes for a man dressed as a Klingon ripping on another man for attending a con dressed as Rainbow Dash.

It’s all a kind of silliness when we step back and look at it, so why do we feel the need to judge anyone for it? There’s also another aspect to this to consider.

We Get Enough Shame As It Is:

Story time: when I was in high-school, I used be made fun of for being (amongst other things) a Star Trek fan. I won’t lie, it hurt. At the time, I couldn’t understand why my love for something was of any interest to them. What did it matter? Why did they feel the need to belittle me over something I liked? I just didn’t get it.

Wil Friggin' Wheaton!

For he IS the Kwisatz Haderach!

But now I realize that they were all simply outsiders to the fandom I cherished. If they had had any inkling of what the franchise, the characters, and the lessons in humanity meant to me on a personal level, or better yet, if we had shared some of those experiences in some way, perhaps they would understand why I was winning Trek trivia contests at cons by the age of 14.

Truth is, if you’re a huge fan of something, someone out there will not hesitate to tell you how stupid it is and why you’re an idiot for liking it. If we as fans are already going to get shame from outsiders, why would we ever consider doing that to another group within fandom itself? It’s pointless and self-defeating. We Whovians, Warsies, Trekkies (or Trekkers, if you prefer), Tributes, Gaimanites and Whedonites, et al. have got to stick together.

Final Thoughts:

If you still don’t know what to make of the Brony phenomenon, the best thing to do is actually check out the show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It’s on Netflix. Start from Season 1 and work your way up from there. Educate yourself about it, I dare you. Go listen to the songs “Winter Wrap-up” or “Hearts Strong As Horses” or “Play Your Part” and tell me there’s not something to it.

MLP:FIM

This is the logo. Before you judge, check it out for yourself.

As I said, I was skeptical of it at first, but then I realized I was guilty of the same crimes against fandom that I described above. So I watched it – all of it – and found that it was a show with well-developed characters (portrayed by a stellar VA cast), great world-building, fun and engaging adventures, and more than a little commentary about the nature of friendship itself. I think those are things that any age group or gender can appreciate.

We live in the era of dark, Nolan-esque, gritty reboots, a product of our post-9/11 society. You can see it in James Bond, The Man of Steel, Batman, oh and Transformers. In amongst all the needless collateral damage and blaring “Bwwaaaahhs” in the soundtrack, is it really that hard to believe fans might seek out something more positive and inspirational?

And, in the end, why should we deny anyone that?


Why I Love The Doctor

I’ve heard it said that being a geek means never having to say you’re sorry for loving something. Good thing, because this blog post is all about why I love the Doctor in Doctor Who.  If you’re a Whovian already, this post is likely just shooting fish in a barrel, but I will tell you why I love the show and the character of the Doctor in particular.

For those of you who are not necessarily fans of the show, here is a peek into that particular fandom.  It’s true that Whovians occupy a strange niche of the overall sci-fi genre. You can see them at conventions with their scarves, long coats or bow-ties, often waving around sonic screwdrivers with every photo-op.  Or maybe it’s just a T-shirt with a blue box on it or the words “Don’t Blink.”

Regardless of what they look like, these folks are linked together by a single television series that first debuted in 1963. The central character of that show is the Doctor (BTW, his last name is NOT ‘Who’), and is one of the most compelling and enduring characters in all of science fiction. Here’s why I love him:

50 Years Creates a Legend

doctor_who_50th_anniversary_tardis_logo_by_thedoctorwho2-d61qmle

Yeah, baby, yeah!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the show.  With more than 200 episodes in its continuity, not to mention novels, video games, comics and radio plays, the Doctor has been on a lot of adventures. This gives him a body of past accomplishments that practically dwarfs any other sci-fi character. Doctor Who is, after all, the longest running sci-fi TV show of all time.

Even in the current series, there are references and throwbacks to things which happened at the very beginning of the series.  By this point in the storyline, the Doctor has achieved a nearly unrivalled heroic status. I mean, if you can boast that you’ve saved the Universe or the Earth more times than Kirk or Picard, and possibly as many times as Superman, I’d say you have some bragging rights.

His Heart (Both of Them)

large

With all my heart.

The Doctor has lived over 900 years.  He’s fought evil forces and saved quadrillions of innocent lives. While some of his travels can be lighthearted, there are times when the Doctor is deadly serious, and must champion existence itself.  It is the force of his convictions and his almost unimaginable capacity for compassion and mercy that drive him. There are so many times in the series where he could have chosen the easy path and just walked away.  But he doesn’t.

The Doctor stands and fights, most of the time without weapons, and with only the help of his trusty sonic screwdriver and the companions at his side.  Yet, when the smoke clears, the Doctor is triumphant even against the most impossible odds. While he can’t always save everyone around him (the body count in Doctor Who can get pretty high), the Doctor finds a way − always.  He never runs out of hope. His hearts, much like his beloved TARDIS, have to be bigger on the inside, like a super-reversed Grinch.

His Mind Is His Greatest Weapon

Doctor+Who+3+I+love+that+you+add+the+Tardis+_45f1909bfa5f8247ca7bfb4fafbd0b2e

What he said.

Perhaps the thing I love about this character the most is that his mind is the most awesome weapon in his arsenal.  The Doctor is almost always able to outthink and outmaneuver his enemies, even if they initially get the drop on him. He has that uncanny knack for using the opposition’s strength against them.  So, the greater the force arrayed against him, the more dangerous he becomes.

In an age of brute-force action heroes, who are more concerned with kicking down doors and mowing down anything that moves, the Doctor presents us with a daring and compelling alternative.  He uses violence as a last resort, rather than leading with it. I think that this peace-loving mindset makes the storylines in Doctor Who that much more interesting and rich. (And this is coming from a guy who writes military science fiction!)

An Unbroken String of Great Performances

doctor_who_50_years_large_verge_medium_landscape

One man, eleven faces.

At the time of this writing, there have been 11 men who have played the Doctor in the main story (sorry, Peter Cushing and John Hurt!). If you ask a proper Whovian who the worst Doctor of the lot was, they might have a hard time answering. We all have our favorites, which can naturally eclipse some of the other incarnations of that most famous of Time Lords.

Here’s the cool part…even the weakest versions of the Doctor are still incredibly well played on screen. Each actor brought something to the role that stood out from his peers.  From William Hartnell’s First Doctor to Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, the performances have been outstanding from start to finish. Even when the sets and special effects were not all that stellar, each Doctor was still uniquely brilliant. No pressure, Peter Capaldi. Your Twelfth Doctor has some pretty big shoes to fill.

He’s Universally Applicable to…Everything

doctor-plumber-gi-thumb-296x197

Anyone surprised? Anyone?

With a ship that can travel to any point in time and space, the Doctor could quite literally show up anywhere.  There have been some limited crossovers with other series (mostly in comics and novels), but it would not be out of character for a blue box to just materialize in just about any other sci-fi universe or continuity. Believe it or not, there is a comic book storyline where the Eleventh Doctor teams up with Jean-luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D to fight a bunch of Borg/Cybermen hybrids. Yeah, my geek is showing.

But even within the confines of the show, we see the Doctor meet historical figures from Shakespeare to Madame de Pompadour. Whether he lands in Victorian England (which he does quite a bit), Renaissance Italy or Pompeii, there really is no storyline − past or present − that the Doctor couldn’t participate in. He just sort of goes with everything, and it’s glorious. The adventure possibilities are truly limitless.

_________________________________________________________

So there you have it, folks. In broad strokes, those are the reasons why this author loves the Doctor. If you are a science-fiction fan of any stripe, and haven’t watched this show, I can’t recommend Doctor Who enough to you.  In my opinion, the Doctor is one of the cornerstones of sci-fi, and is well worth discovering for yourself if you haven’t already. Who knows, you might just find yourself cruising ThinkGeek for a TARDIS mug or Dalek ice cube tray.

Allons-y!