How I Became a Geek

So I was reminded of something today – Today’s the tenth anniversary of the re-release of Star Wars: A New Hope into theaters for the special edition. And I’m a big Star Wars fan. While I know I didn’t see the movie on the opening night, I distinctly remember hearing the theme music on the AP Five minute news update on WDEV.
My father (Who’s undoubtably reading this and getting a kick out of it) recounts this story often. “Do you think Andy would want to see Star Wars in theaters?” To which my mother replied: “Maybe, but if he gets scared, you can pull him out of it.” Or something along those lines. I remember driving down in our trooper to Montpelier, where we got in line and got tickets, and I wanted to see Empire Strikes Back for some reason, wanting to skip the first one. I spent the next 123 minutes glued to the screen, from the moment the yellow text scrolled up into space, followed by the Star Destroyer attacking the Tantative IV. On the car ride home, I distinctly remember loving the Storm Troopers, and secretly wished that I could eventually get one of those kick-ass suits.
Over the next couple weeks, my dad took me and my brother back to see The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. ROTJ was my favorite at the time because of the Speeder Bike chase.

Something about Star Wars completely captured my imagination – I had been exposed to some fantasy and science fiction films before, such as Escape from Witch Mountain, E.T., The King Arthur stories, and some others. I believe that I caught a glimpse of A New Hope once at a party at a friend’s house, but it was short enough not to make an impression. Something about the sheer epic level and storytelling of the movies pulled me in without a struggle.

So I’d seen the movies. We were given a copy of the original trilogy on VHS (Which we still have) – on full screen – and I swear that I watched those movies hundreds of times. I’m surprised that the tape is still intact. My memory is somewhat fuzzy on what happened next. At some point, I aquirred copies of The Courtship of Princess Leia (From Barnes and Noble), Heir to the Empire
(Given to me by the Moretown Library for helping out)
Heir to the Force (Bought from Brooks in Northfield). I’m not sure which order I read these in, but I remember being very impressed with Heir to the Empire, and sought out the next books in the series. Through various book clubs, I picked up Iron Fist (Which I really disliked for years – it was in the middle of the X-Wing series, so without any background information…) Guide to Vehicles and Vessels, and began to start picking up book after book after book, going through all of them very quickly.

It was in middle school that I began hanging out in the school library, and became friends with the librarian, Mrs. Allen (Who I need to e-mail at some point…) which would become helpful in the future. It was also in Middle School that I met my best friend, Eric, at the one of the school dances. I was dressed up as Luke Skywalker, and we had a long discussion about the three films. It would be a couple of years before I ran into him again, when we both entered High School. Though my time at the library, I got a greater access to books. Mrs. Allen was kind enough to order some of the harder to find ones for me, as well as newer releases. She also suggested that I try some other things, starting with Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. I realised then that there was a much broader universe out there besides Star Wars, and one that had likely influenced much of what made it onto the screen. Just as quickly, I discovered Dune by Frank Herbert, Foundation and I, Robot (In addition to a number of others) by Isaac Asimov, 2001: A Space Odyssey and others by Arthur C. Clarke, Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien, T.A. Barron’s books, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling. At school, I got lucky, because I was never harrassed for being a geek – everyone knew me as the random kid who regularly had about a dozen books on him, either in his pockets or backpack. I also got loosely into comics at this point, through some of the Star Wars ones that the library had.
Throughout High School, my tastes varied and changed a bit. I finally reached the X-Wing Series by Michael A. Stackpole, and was completely engrossed in those, reading them a dozen times, and got Eric hooked on them. I also got the Star Wars Encyclopedia for Christmas from my Grandmother (In addition to the Star Trek one- something I’ve always been amused by). During this time, Eric and I met Michael Stackpole, and through my increased use of the internet, I began tracking down other Star Wars authors via e-mail, pelting them with questions about the books. I also became a regular user of Theforce.net boards, starting in 1999, where I still regularly post, although not so much in the Star Wars sections any more. During this time, I got into other SciFi movies, such as Minority Report, The Matrix and a couple others, although reading remained my preference. Through this, I began reading new authors, such as Philip K. Dick and others who had movies based off of their works.
In 2000, I went off to Camp Abnaki, where I met another best friend of mine, Sam Gallagher, who was also interested in the same things that I was, although this took me a little while to realise – I listened to another CIT, who was paticularly mean to Sam, and after a couple of days, I realised that he was a) an asshole, and still is, and b) Sam was a cool guy. Through him, I learned of Dungeons and Dragons, a role playing game, which I would slowly get more and more into. Sam is also responsible for introducing Babylon 5 to me, and this was one of the second larger universes that I would become a fan of, as I borrowed the DVDs from him and watched the entire series over a couple years. It further showed me that there were some incredible Science Fiction TV shows out there. None the less, I continued to pick up the newer Star Wars and books, now having come to a point where I was waiting for the next release. I started writing a lot on my own, and even started trying to sell stories to magazines, which never happened, although it’s still a dream of mine.
During this time, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones was released in theaters, and for some reason, I never went to them on opening night, although I would eventually make it out to see then three times apiece. I loved them completely then, although my impressions of them have cooled somewhat. I loved, and still love the stories that t
hey have, although not so much the acting.
The summer after I graduated, I got one of the coolest things that I own, a set of Storm Trooper armor. That previous spring, our high school band (where I played Trumpet) played music from Star Wars, after bugging my director for five years. To celebrate, I got on the internet and put in a request to the 501st Legion (Whom I’d learned about through the Star Wars insider magazine) and asked if any would be interested in coming up to march around. One did, and it was one of the coolest concerts that we had. My dad still has it on tape, and I’ve got some pictures still. The guy – Scott – sold me a suit of armor later on that summer, and it arrived the week after camp ended. My dream of owning a suit – something that I’d had since I first saw the movie, was realised. I wore it on Halloween since then, and bring it out at camp for the campers. At the end of my senior year, I began work as a content provider for The Unofficial Clone Wars Site, which would become the largest website dedicated to the Clone Wars, all the media (books, comics, cartoons, etc) between Attack of the Clones and the upcoming Revenge of the Sith. This gave me a place in the Star Wars community, and allowed me to have a reason to harass a number of authors, including Matthew Stover, Michael Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Karen Traviss, Steve Perry, Michael Reeves, Steven Barnes, Sean Stewart, Kathy Tyers, Troy Denning, Walter Jon Williams (Mostly through the website, although some through TFN) as well as comic creaters John Ostrander, Jan Duursema and a couple of others. The site’s still around today, although we’ve gone onto a haitus, because well, the Clone Wars are pretty much over.
This brings me up to college, where I enrolled at Norwich University. I quickly found the Norwich University Tactical Society, the resident gamers club, and made a number of friends due to common interest in books and movies. It was at the end of 2003 that I came across the first thing that really took Star Wars off of my radar, was Firefly. I bought the DVD set on a whim after seeing an ad for it in a SciFi magazine and watched the entire 14 episode run over my winter break. The different approach to Science Fiction (SciFi + Western) and the fun characters really got me interested in storytelling and the actual visual approach to SciFi on TV. This influenced me in a number of ways in the way that I see and percieve TV and movies now. At the same time, I saw a preview of the upcoming remake of Battlestar Galactica, and quickly got hooked on that when that hit the air, and over the next couple semesters, watched all of Farscape (4 seasons and a miniseries) and Stargate SG-1 (at the time, 7 seasons). I also picked up Taken (SciFi miniseries) and Dark Angel.
2004 marked a huge year for me, as it was the year of Celebration 3. Eric and I had planned on going together back in high school, but he wasn’t able to make it out. I saved money, got a plane ticket and hotel, and flew out, missing some school to do so. There, I was a volunteer for Del Rey books and the convention as a whole, and ended up meeting a number of the authors whom I’d interviewed and talked to over the year. In addition, I met a number of fellow fans that I knew only through TFN, as well as some new people. A chance encounter with a girl named Lihn on the flight over led me to Sarah, who’s since become my girlfriend. It was certainly something that I never would have expected. The convention was extrodinary, because of the number of people in the same place who shared all the same interests as I did. We gawked over the new Revenge of the Sith footage, talked about the upcoming Firefly movie (Serenity), exchanged e-mail addresses and took pictures. I even got to meet one of my idols, Timothy Zahn.
That summer, Revenge of the Sith was released, and I went, for the first time, to a Star Wars movie on the opening night, in full Storm Trooper armor, making the evening news and front page of Vermont’s biggest newpaper (I even edged out news that President Bush was attacked by a grenade while overseas.) For the rest of the summer, a number of people commented on that, and I still get people who remember it. I liked Revenge of the Sith, and could appreciate it on a better level now, with my interest in film and how to watch better. That fall, Serenity was released, and I liked it even more than I did ROTS. Battlestar Galactica also came back that fall, and I was elected President of the Norwich University Tactical Society, where I still am today.
That next spring, a year ago, I went to London, where I found J.R.R. Tolkien’s pub and school where he taught, and met Philip Pullman along the way, got interested in Dr. Who (Britian’s largest TV show), and did my final project on fandom in the UK. I returned home, spent the summer at camp teaching kids how to play D&D, and returned to school for the current year, again as president. I dressed up as the Storm Trooper at work on Halloween and got really into TV over the year, especially SciFi TV. Heroes has become a huge show for me, as well as EurekaThe Dresden Files, all new shows.
This brings me up to the present moment, where I’m watching A New Hope while writing this. I can’t believe how much has happened over the past ten years, who I’ve met, who I’ve talked to and written. I’ve found someone significant who’s just as much of a geek as I am. I’ve gotten back to my roots with SciFi books over the past break, and I have to wonder:

What’s next?

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