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Monday, June 6, 2011


You should start at the beginning


Everyone who knows me knows that I am a proud, and unabashed, geek.  I love all things sci-fi and fantasy (well, not all things, but a lot), I love comics.  I play tabletop role playing games and write them professionally.  I dabble--very, very slightly--in console and computer gaming.  I love gadgets and technology, but I also maintain a deep and hearty appreciation for actual, honest-to-goodness books.  I own a Nook Color and love it to death, but my office has three things in it: my desk, a couple of comfy leather chairs, and five bookcases, full.  My wife's office has two more bookcases.  My bedroom has a bookcase, and my basement has a bookcase.  I dream of having a house one day large enough to have a big spare room that can function solely as a library.  My (and Julie's) books range from history to religious studies to new age to sci-fi to fantasy to gaming to reference to psychology and probably half a dozen or more topics I'm not remembering right now.

I love movies of many varieties, and have a pretty extensive DVD and Blu-Ray collection (and it's amazing how often I can't find something I want to watch).  I collect pipes.  I'm pursuing a Master's degree in library and information science, to be followed up by A+ certification and (hopefully) a doctorate. My undergraduate degrees are in English and religious studies.

My wedding ring is the One Ring, from Lord of the Rings. 

Yes, I'm a geek, and proud of it.

But how, exactly, did I become a geek?

That's the fault of George Lucas and Stan Lee.  Well, not Stan specifically, but I'm going to blame him as the icon he is.

George first, though.  You see, my earliest memory, at the age of two (going on three) was seeing the original Star Wars in the theater.  It came out just a few scant months before my third birthday, you see.  Mind you, this was the original release.  Before it was called "A New Hope."  Before we knew that Vader was Luke's father.  Before we knew about brother-sister kissing.  Before the awful Ewoks.  When our only example of a Jedi was a 50-odd-year-old wise man and a towering black menace who breathed, "I find your lack of faith disturbing."

That movie defined me.  It could be because it's the first thing I consciously remember.  It probably is, in fact.  But for whatever reason, it has stayed with me all of my life. I'm not as fanatical about it as some, but I'm far more fanatical than many.  I own two custom lightsabers, one built by a professional "saber smith," and one that I put together with more than a little help from my best pal, Mike, who is better with electronics than I am. The latter is my take on the Imperial Knight saber from the Star Wars: Legacy comic, but that's neither here nor there, now.

The real point is, Star Wars created in me a love of sci-fi and fantasy from the time I was two years old.  I love Star Wars so much that I am even capable of turning off my adult brain and watching the prequels as though I were still a little boy, and guess what?  I love the prequels, too.  I'm not looking to re-kindle that old, stupid argument here, either, so if your comment consists of "the prequels suck," don't expect it to see the light of day.  Thanks.

Moving on, as many young boys in the late 70's did, I fell in love with superheroes.  My first exposure to Stan Lee's great heroes Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Thor was through morning cartoons rather than actual comics, but super heroes have also been in my life for, well, all of it.  My mother likes to tell a story that I can scarcely remember about a day when I was four or so, and she was walking us through the parking lot at Zayre's (a department store a la K-Mart or Target that no longer exists in PA), when I leapt out in front of a car with my hand extended in a "STOP" motion.  She, of course, screamed in terror, and managed to whip me out from in front of the oncoming death freight.  I looked up at her with a betrayed expression, blinked innocently, and said, "Aw Ma, I could've stopped it.  I'm the Hulk!"

That was probably about the time Mom and I had the "fantasy vs. reality" talk.  That'd be my guess, anyway.

Next up: Gary Gygax.  Again, flash back to the tender age of five.  It was 1979.  Mom and dad were avid bowlers (a passion I would later take up--but we'll get to that when it's time).  On Thursday nights, they would drop us off at Grandma's house and head for their bowling league.  At the time, my uncles and aunts were mostly teens and mostly still living at home.  Two in particular--Aunt Joanie and Uncle Johnny--stand out.  Neither are really that much older than me, and my sister and I don't even always call them "aunt" and "uncle" anymore.  But when I was five, of course, they were Aunt Joanie and Uncle Johnny.

My memories of Aunt Joanie consist of her introducing me to pop and rock music, like Duran Duran, Hall and Oates, and Cyndi Lauper, and later demonstrating to me through her friendship with a "hair band" (though it's sad that this particular band got slapped with that mantra) of the late 80's/early 90's that rock stars are really just like other people...but again, we'll talk about music in a later post.

In this particular memory, Joanie stands out because Sara (my sis) would go hang out with her while I descended into the Dungeon. 

The Dungeon is how I kind of thought of Grandma's basement.  It was (still is, actually) a finished basement, and it was where Johnny slept.  There were the obligatory pictures of Farrah Fawcett in a bikini on the wall, along with the Wilson Sisters of Heart.  At five, I didn't get the allure of that...  There was also a pinball machine.   That was awesome even to a five-year-old.

It was also where Johnny and his (junior?) high buddies--including a guy named Alan, who will factor in later--played Dungeons & Dragons.  Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, to be exact.  The game had just come out.  And I was introduced to it at five, as I sat in with my uncle and his buddies to play.  Every session would start with Alan generating a random dungeon from the DMG.  Then I would be handed this piece of paper with all these words and numbers on it that I could barely read--yes, barely.  Mom said I was sight-reading by three, and able to read on my own quite well by five.

So they handed me this piece of paper--this character sheet-- and told me which of the funny-looking dice to roll when, and even let me play in character sometimes.  As a five-year-old, I had a pretty active imagination, so role playing wasn't exactly a stretch.

Once, my grandmother yelled down the stairs, "Johnny, don't yinz be teaching him anything bad down there!"

To which Johnny shouted, "Here, Jase, smoke this!!!"

His friends laughed uproariously.  It took me many years to understand that joke.

I had a bit of a dry spell for a few years in the mid-80's, but basically I've been playing RPG's ever since.

So there you have it.  I became a geek through the fault of George Lucas, Stan Lee, and E. Gary Gygax.  If any three men could be said to have shaped my life, it's them.

Go on to Interlude 1.

1 comment:

  1. Better than some influences. I blame Gygax, Frank Herbert, and Leonard Nimoy myself.


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