Dragon*Con redux part I: My Con history

9 09 2009

Star Trek Experience
  

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

The wonderful magical microsociety of Dragon*Con, contained entirely within the mazelike confines of three connected hotels and one satellite a few blocks away, is something I think everyone should experience once. Do it, if only to get in touch with your inner geek and your secret furry. Everyone has one lurking inside, I like to think. There has to be a part of you that yearns to don a cape and prance around as if you were faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap freight trains in a single bound. If you don’t, you’re probably not much fun to be around anyway.

I remember being an outsider who had never been to a Con save for a couple Star Trek conventions when I was a preteen. It was all for research I was doing for a class, mind you. I remember stuffing myself into the circa-1970s orange bleachers inside the Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum so I could listen to Garrett Wang from Star Trek: Voyager, and John DeLancey, who played Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I found both actors’ schpiels to be engaging and expected such from all cons afterward.

I also had high expectations from having seen “Star Trek: The Experience” at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel, long before the forces of economy and practicality took away one of these old holdovers from Sin City’s drunken flirtations with family-friendliness, whimsy and imagination.

Having long ago left my preteen years in another galaxy, seeing these geeks (an affectionate term) standing on the train platform took me back to those geeky days of my youth when I used to thumb through an encyclopedia of information about “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” There was a time when I could describe the plot of every episode in great detail and tell you all about the various quirks and life stories of each character. I don’t know what happened to that part of me, but I don’t have it anymore and I kind of want it back. Looking at these current-day con lovers made me wish I was one of them. Not to mention that marveling at powerful superheroes’ ordinary means of transit made me laugh. Hard.

Another thing that’s important to consider is that Labor Day weekend is a busy one in Atlanta, and it’s a time when you might find yourself with a decked-out football fanatic on one side and a storm trooper on the other. One year I passed the time on my 45-minute trip intown by making interesting conversation with a chatty pirate’s wench. She had a lot to say about piracy and about life in general. I wished I’d had the gumption to capture that moment on film.

At some point, I’d seen enough of this fantastic tomfoolery and decided I had to be part of it. I decided to give it a shot. The journey began by standing in line for about an hour to buy tickets onsite. Lucky me, I could by a second year’s membership to Dragon*Con for just $10 more (or some ridiculous sum like that). So I did, and by that point, I was locked in for two years of this wonderful nonsense.

My first year at Dragon*Con, I approached the scene with a lot of trepidation. I went by myself into the wild and wooly crowd, armed with a camera and the excuse that I was just a journalist passing through. I told myself, “This year I’m just documenting a scene.” I opted to remain a detached observer of the absurdity around me.

My second year was the best. I had a plan. I even brought an iReport kit with me and interviewed people. With the help of coworkers and friends, I saw quite a bit of things and had lots of fun. Not to mention, I took way too many pictures. Afterward, I made my television debut talking about the event with a viking hat on.

My third year’s expedition to Dragon*Con was predated by an exhausting run through San Diego Comic-Con, which is a totally different animal and yet much the same. The focus is on comics primarily and it’s about twice as big, but not necessarily as cool or fun. I think at some point I just got a little tired. I realized that the Con experience has its limits. I look forward to it, and at the same time, I know that I will be fatigued and frustrated by it.

I’ll want to kick myself, but I’ll go to another con, and I’ll enjoy it. That’s the way it goes. After all the lines and crowds and odoriffic science fiction costumes around you, the memories are what remain.

It’s a unique thing, something you can’t really get anywhere else, and a surreal exploration of that part of us that still likes to dress up and pretend to be someone else. I hope that we can all dig deep and find it within ourselves, even if we wouldn’t be caught dead in Spandex.

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Progressive word-age

24 08 2009

I decided to try an exercise inspired by a Wired article on super-short stories. Here, I increase the length of a story by one word, step by step. Let it be known that in this exercise, I use different stories each time. I could make this difficulter (heh) by trying to bulk up the same story over and over again.

ONE WORD

Reborn.

TWO WORDS

Bigfoot exists.

THREE WORDS

My exoskeleton broke.

FOUR WORDS

We both changed genders.

FIVE WORDS

A boy becomes a butterfly.
Teen Werewolf struggles with puberty.

SIX WORDS

The tornado foiled the bank heist.

SEVEN WORDS

A time-traveling Weinermobile visits the 1920s.

EIGHT WORDS

I was forced to relive my prostitution years.

NINE WORDS

He refused to date her because she used a PC.

TEN WORDS

The heat wave thawed cryogenically frozen bodies, unleashing cranky zombies.

ELEVEN WORDS

Robots take over the world and make us into their sex slaves.

TWELVE WORDS

“Is that your car?”
“Yes, it is.”
“There’s a dead body inside.”

THIRTEEN WORDS

I really couldn’t have been happier about Ms. Thompson’s newborn half-swine son.

FOURTEEN WORDS

True, it’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s even harder to say hello again.

FIFTEEN WORDS

No surprise: The record shop owner was, in fact, a vampire in his spare time.

SEVENTEEN WORDS

Jake knew the palm reader was a hack when he saw her peeking at Chinese fortune cookies.

EIGHTEEN WORDS

We stopped at a creepy-looking house and took the people inside back to our even creepier abode.

NINETEEN WORDS

Piles of sticky zombies. That’s what you get for trying to use Coke’s secret ingredient to resurrect the dead.

TWENTY WORDS

The jukebox in the diner is special. It takes you back to the era mentioned in the song you choose.

TWENTY ONE WORDS

An asteroid is coming. Society is saying its own last rites and wondering why celebrity babies are such a big deal.

TWENTY TWO WORDS

You’re stuck in a black room with no doors, only walls. Someone knocks, but there’s no door there for you to answer.

TWENTY THREE WORDS

Our love story was rather ordinary. My girlfriend was very tolerant of the fact that exposure to radiation left me with extra genitals.

TWENTY FOUR WORDS

Secret Agent 008 told me the thugs were taking over. I quickly opened up a connection with Dimension X.

TWENTY FIVE WORDS

I just got back from a lengthy time travel trip, and you’d never believe what I saw. It’s true; man really did walk with dinosaurs.

TWENTY SIX WORDS

I fell in love with a handsome street vendor. He always gave me lots of freshly cooked meats, but all he wanted was a hamburger from Burger King.

TWENTY SEVEN WORDS

P.T. Barnum had nothing on this used-car salesman. He could have sold a hearse with fresh body parts inside. And that’s exactly what he did.

TWENTY EIGHT WORDS

The pot luck wasn’t lucky at all. The food was all bad and nobody wanted any of it. One thing led to another and soon a food fight erupted.

TWENTY NINE WORDS

The year is 2078. Robots have become technologically advanced enough to help in the galaxy-wide fight against invading aliens. We’re gearing up now because the invaders are coming.

THIRTY WORDS

He spoke softly and swung his hips like they were a pendulum. He had the charm of Elvis and the style of a ’57 Chevy. Too bad I killed him.

THIRTY ONE WORDS

The couple didn’t want a normal wedding. They wanted a tacky Vegas version, complete with flying Elvi and a sketchy drive-through chapel under the neon lights. Laura’s mom went ballistic.

THIRTY TWO WORDS

Christmas was pretty ordinary. Chestnuts, open fire, you know. All of a sudden Uncle Jack tells the kids Santa isn’t real and they freak out. But Santa comes and beats his arse.





Tweetin’

27 01 2008

Sorry for the lack of posts… much of the updates that I once wrote out to describe my life in oh-so-detailed form are currently being distilled into a sort of Cliff’s Notes form on the site known as Twitter. Follow me if you dare…

Here you will find my stash of longer-form posts and creative writing.

As a side note, my Web site domains and such are totally freaked as of right now.  I need to repair these.





Short story: Going out on a limb

13 01 2008

I was trying out a creative writing exercise that I put myself up to: Write a one-page short story in an hour. This ended up being a two-page short story, but I did write it in an hour. I suppose finishing is the key, and I could probably go back and cut this down to a one-page deal without losing too much. Anyway, I feel like this story sucks, but I guess I’ll get better. On the plus side, I’m pretty sure no one is going to pass this story off as their own. ANYWAY, I wrote it. I WROTE THIS STORY. With apologies to a few Web sites that mention the concept of writing a story using the basic plot elements of putting a man in a tree, throwing stones at him and getting him down.

Billy Gomez likes to climb trees in the backyard of his sprawling estate. It’s good exercise, and once he gets to the top, he can sit there for a couple hours and jot down a few poems or crank out a short story. It’s a good break for him.

He lives in the country in southern Georgia, and though the beach is only an hour away, you could never tell from visiting this town. So when he climbs the limbs of the old oak, he can see all the treetops like a bushy, green-knitted baby blanket that stretches on forever. This lends him inspiration that knows no bounds.

One day, he climbed this tree and sprained his ankle just as he got to the top. How would he ever get down? He remembered the words of an old English professor who had reminded him that all he had to do to write a good story was to “put a man up a tree, throw stones at him and then get him down.”

Billy looked around and nobody was throwing stones, not just yet. Still, things didn’t look too good. He was up in a tree, of course, and he had to get down. How would a Disney movie handle this? A talking animal would pop out from one of the tree knots and start singing a Broadway-style show tune. He looked and there it was. A squirrel was perched on a limb not far away, and it didn’t seem to fear him. He decided to sing to it.

“Hakuna matata,” he bellowed. “It means no worries for the rest of your days. It’s a problem-free philosophy, and…”

The squirrel slowly backed away from Billy, with a terrified expression and wide eyes.

“Figures. Well, you’re no Timon, either. I mean, I’d climb down, but my leg hurts like a son-of-a-gun. Hey, don’t run away!”

The squirrel froze in its spot, maintaining its terrified expression but not leaving the area.

“Ha, it’s a good thing you’re not a fully sentient being, I suppose. You’re mine now. So how am I going to get down. I mean, if I was you, I could just leap from limb to limb. I wouldn’t have sprained my ankle up in this tree.”

The squirrel looked at him blankly.

“Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it. I mean, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

The squirrel looked at him blankly.

How to get down? Firemen rescue cats, people climb. He of course had left his cell phone on the desk in his bedroom, so he couldn’t call for help, and jumping down wasn’t an option. He looked around for people out and about. His neighbor, two doors down, was out raking leaves in his yard. He called out to the neighbor.

“Hey Bob, can ya help me? Help me get down!”

That annoying neighbor. The two of them had never gotten on very well, and Bob couldn’t be counted on to help Billy unless there was a motivation for him to do so.

Billy and Bob weren’t yet in communication. He had to think of something. How would Peter Pan handle this? He would fly. He would never grow up. He would call on Tinker Bell. What would Superman do? Same thing. How would Star Trek characters handle this? They would probably transport themselves elsewhere. As for a mere mortal, there isn’t a whole lot to do. Or is there?

His only options were to sit in the tree for a while longer and write the greatest story ever told with all his spare time until someone came to find him, or to leap down from the tree and injure himself further.

Was anybody coming to throw stones? Maybe that had to happen first before he got rescued. Stones … stones. It dawned on him, maybe he had to do the throwing. But he didn’t have any stones. Tree limbs would have to do. He aimed a few at Bob’s yard.

Throw… arc… hit. Throw… arc… hit.

“Hey Bob, I’ve sunk your battleship!”

Bob looked up from his yardwork and got on the phone with everyone he could think of, and soon everyone in the neighborhood was bringing Billy down from that tree, including the local police.

 

 

Billy sat in a tiny jail cell, waiting for his wife to literally bail him out of his latest adventure. Lucia would be embarrassed, but she would figure out why he had needed to do what he did, even if a few misunderstandings got in the way. Fairytale wives always do.

Then, he noticed a shining white light. A beautiful woman appeared a few feet from him, with a halo of light surrounding her lithe body. She wore a low-cut blouse and a short jean skirt. Her voluptuous cleavage emitted light, rather than beholding shadows.

“What the…”

“Hell? What the hell? Is that what you’re trying to say?”

“Who are you?”

“I’m your freaking fairy Godmother, and you really jumped the gun, sir. I was coming for you.”

“But you didn’t. How could I have known you were going to come? You can’t count on magic! And you sure don’t look like one.”

“Hey, I ain’t gonna look like no frumpy old hag. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. So… there was a bit of a traffic jam on the fairie expressway, so I had a little trouble getting here. But I assure you, I was on my way!”

“You mean to tell me that you’ve got magical powers and you can’t just wish your way out of traffic?”

“Well… I mean, they’re not like human traffic jams. They’re magic traffic jams created by magical people. We kind of cancel each other out, you know. And come to think of it, I stop traffic wherever I go.”

“So are you gonna get me out of here?”

“No, I can’t really do that, because you had the power to do that all along. It’s kind of against the rules.”

“Don’t pull a Wizard of Oz on me now. Couldn’t Cinderella have made it on her own if she really wanted to? Get me out of here!”

“The thing is, Cinderella was in a bad domestic situation. We’re really sensitive to those sorts of things because they can escalate into something much worse. There’s no way she could have gotten all that bling for the ball on our own. She needed our help. Whereas you, your wife could bail you out. See, this is totally different.”

“Oh for crying out loud… you’re a fairy Godmother and you bothered to show up. Help me!”

“All right, all right, hang on a sec… maybe I can work my magic after all.”

The fairy Godmother walked over to the policemen at the front desk, flirted with them a bit and handed them some dollar bills she had magically counterfeited.

She strutted back toward Billy, glowing in the tiny institutional cell.

“Good doesn’t always win out,” she said, winking as she disappeared into nothing.

/NS