Saturday, August 30, 2014

Impression's De Comic-Con

I have been a long-time convention goer, ever since attending my first Star Trek con back at the tender age of 16. Ironically, this was only a few days after William Shatner's infamous "Get a Life!" skit on Saturday Night Live. I remember thinking that there was no way that a convention could be like that, only to find out that the SNL skit was pretty spot-on. At the end, I figured that this was a one time event in my life, a bucket list item to be crossed off, just so you you could tell your grandkids you did it.

I was wrong.

I did go back again -a lot. Over the course of the next decade, my friends and I would venture into Manhattan, sometimes 4 or 5 times a year, to feed our need to be around (and I use the term lovingly) geeks like us. For myself, the treat was seeing and meeting celebrities from my favorite shows and movies, and getting their autographs. (My favorites are my personalized Dave Prowse/Darth Vader autograph and my DC Comics Star Trek # 19, written by Walter Koenig, and signed by him as well -also personalized.)

My con experiences lasted into my mid-twenties, until I moved from New York to Wisconsin, married, and began raising a family. The idea of attending a con was put on the back burner, but the need to fill that geek-centric part of my soul still tugged at me. I needed to let my geek-flag fly.

Star Trek's Karl Urban onstage.
On August 23, 2014, I attended my first con in years, making the trek down to Chicago (Rosemont, IL, actually) for the big Wizard World Comic-Con. I expected it to be big, bigger even than the epic 3-day Creation Con held in New York every Thanksgiving weekend, but even I was taken back by the immensity of the venue. Whereas the shows I had attended previously had maybe 2 - 3 big name guests, Comic-Con had literally dozens, either appearing onstage for Q&A sessions, or signing autographs and doing photo-ops.Michael Rooker and Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Karl Urban (Star Trek), Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar (Big Bang Theory), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredble Hulk), director John Carpenter, and the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, along with pro-wrestlers, comic writers and artists were in attendance. And yes, Stan Lee was there too.


Star Lord takes aim.
One of the great attractions of cons are the cos-players, people who go to great lengths to emulate their favorite T.V., movie, or comic book, or anime characters. Costumes range from fairly simple (Wearing an ARC-reactor under your T-shirt and saying you're Tony Stark) to the complex (A full-blown Iron Man suit). The Guardians of the Galaxy made an appearance. Mal, Kaylee, and Jayne of Firefly/Serenity were there. I counted no fewer than six Black Widow's,and at least an even number of Harley Quinn's. Star Wars was surprisingly under-represented, though I did spot at least two of the obligatory slave-girl Leia's. Whovians were very much in existence, with various Doctors represented by both genders, as well as several women wearing Tardis-themed dresses. Superheroes were everywhere, including The Greatest American Hero, from the 80's T.V. show. Each and every cos-player was happy to take the time to pose for pictures, some even thanking me for taking their picture.

There were delights and disappointments. I was thrilled to see just about every toy I ever played with as a kid at some of the vendor's tables. Many were out of the package, well-worn,and well-loved, and ala Toy Story, just waiting for someone to play with them again. I was also pleased to see that the prices on these items were not ridiculously over-priced, nor were their modern day counterparts, most reasonably priced between $5-$10-a fair deal for in-package toys dating back 10 years or more. Unfortunately, I never did find the Dexter Jettster action figure I was looking for.

On the downside, I was disappointed at how Cons have changed in the last twenty years.When I used to attend, autographs were never charged for-that was included within your admission price. At best you would have to pay for a photo to get signed (around $5). This time around, I dropped $60 for a 1-day admission. Prices for photo or autograph sessions ranged between $40 to $150 or more depending on the celebrity. I don't know how people justify that kind of expense, no matter how popular the star.

On the flip-side, I should note that many celebrities were happy to allow photo-ops at their autograph tables, if the line was not too busy. Comic-Con policy forbids taking pictures from outside the autograph venues, even from a distance. Sad.

The truly great thing about cons like these is how they become a sort of microcosm of our society today. All types exist here in a Roddenberry-esque kind of Utopia. Age, race, beliefs are not as evident to con-goers. We all come together to get our geek on and celebrate that diversity amongst kindred souls.

I already plan on attending next years event. If you're there, look me up. Perhaps you'll even appear in a future blog post. Until then friends, keep on geekin' on.






Friday, August 1, 2014

A Lost Era of Klingon History - Star Trek : The Final Reflection

While looking back 30 years into the past for my 1984 movie retrospective Setting the Way-Back Machine, I came to realize that this is not only the 30th anniversary of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, but also one of the finest Star Trek novels I have ever read. So for this post, I'm going to introduce you (or re-introduce for some) to the John M. Ford novel The Final Reflection.

The Final Reflection is unique in that the original series trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are barely present within its pages, and have no bearing on the tale whatsoever. They appear only as bookends at the beginning and end of the book. The rest is written as a historical novel detailing a little known (and according to Federation files, fictionalized) period in history set before the birth of Kirk. It is also unique in that it focuses on those events from the Klingon, not Human, point of view.

The story follows a Klingon Captain named Krenn, who starts out as an orphan child with no House to speak of. Krenn and other orphans are used as playing pieces in high-stakes live chess games played by the Klingon elite. Impressed by his performance, an Admiral adopts Krenn and proceeds to set him on the path to command, which he rises to quickly. On one particular mission, where he ferries a human Federation envoy to the first Babel conference, he learns a lesson in peace, and discovers a Klingon plot to bring the Empire and the Federation into a war that could destroy both. Krenn must then decide which is more important, total, unquestioning devotion to the Empire, or turning against the Empire in order to save it.

Written long before The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or Enterprise were ever conceived, The Final Reflection offers a fascinating inside look at the (arguably) most fascinating alien race in Star Trek lore, a look that is different from anything we have come to know from those shows. The characters are believable, likable, and as honorable as any Klingon we have seen. The battle scenes (and there are quite a few) are well-written and tense, and the pace of the novel is swift, with some surprising bits of humor that comes from the characters interactions, and not at their expense.

The beauty of this novel, despite the fact that it is totally non-canon from a modern Star Trek point-of-view, is that it stands out as a well-written science fiction novel overall. All author John M. Ford would have had to do was change some names of characters and races, and removed the Kirk-centric prologue and epilogue, and he would have had a wonderful, original sci-fi work that easily could have generated further adventures of Captain Krenn and crew.

Though I still have my original paperback from years back, and there are still some copies floating around, I was delighted to find that this fine work is still available as an e-book from Amazon (I have provided the link below.). If you ever get the chance, and are not too much of a Trek purist and can overlook the discrepancies that several seasons of television and movies provide, I highly recommend taking a look at this fascinating bit of little-known Klingon history.

http://www.amazon.com/Final-Reflection-Star-Trek-Original-ebook/dp/B000FC0OH2