Category Archives: E[G] Reflections

Cassie’s Best of Season 1 Episode – Katamari Damacy

Katamari Damacy gameplay. Photo: g4tv.com

When we were asked to pick our favorite Season One episode of Educating [Geeks], I didn’t hesitate: Katamari Damacy, featuring Alice, Bri, Megan, Sara and me.

My selection was immediate, final and firm – and I’m still not quite sure why. The video game, hailing from Japan with a global following, is alright. I’m not a big fan of it like our resident Katamari expert Megan, and I was definitely the worst of the group at playing it.

But there’s just something so endearing about a cute, beleaguered, little alien dude who has to “roll around a sticky ball and pick sh*t up,” as Alice so eloquently describes it in the E[G] episode.

This is amazing and geekily heart-warming and ridiculous and amazing.
Photo: offbeatbride.com

Oh, and did I mention that the little alien dude is called The Prince of All Cosmos? And that his enormous father, The King of All Cosmos, is a malicious, insecure, slave-driving addict who forces his wee son to clean up the King’s mess throughout the universe so the stars and constellations can be restored?

The game’s feeble storyline has all the makings of a Shakespearean tragedy, or at least that’s how we all read into it. To be fair, we’re a group of women, and… you know, reading too much into meager details is kind of what we do. But there are some interesting aspects of the story and characters that can be gleaned from a few hours of play.

For instance, we couldn’t get over all of the sexual innuendo and references to drugs. Some were subtle, and some definitely weren’t. Either way, it made for a very amusing Saturday afternoon. Also, as a primarily single-player game, it allowed for side conversations and encouragement from the group, without the competition that multi-player games normally require.

Random baby cosplay. I just…
Photo: adailygoodthing.com

If you’re looking for a fun team-building exercise, Katamari may just be the game to assign. We also recommend you keep alcohol handy. Though it likely won’t help with your score, it’ll make The Prince and The King’s interactions that much more hilarious.

My favorite highlights from the podcast are:

  • 21:30 – 26:50 — Alice and Sara discuss their first cracks at Katamari, and Alice realizes her deep-rooted issues with WOW.
  • 30:10 – 32:30 — Megan explains a hilarious, yet horrifying, plot twist in the video game’s storyline.
  • 37:48 – 43:13 — Megan details Katamari’s origins at NAAMCO, and then describes another interesting video game that Katamari’s creator developed.
  • 57:14 – 57:35 — Alice, Bri, Megan and Sara break into the theme song, and it’s adorable.

Still not quite sure how Katamari works? Check out a fantastic commercial and fan video here.

 

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How John McClane Saved Christmas – Why Die Hard is the Best Christmas Movie

Everyone has their movie that comforts them during bad days, sickness, loss, and anything else life can throw at us. For my boss, its My Best Friend’s Wedding, for my father in law, its Princess Bride, and for my husband, its Fifth Element. Mine? Well, mine I’ve seen at least half a dozen times this year alone. Not only is it my go-to film, it’s also the greatest Christmas movie ever – Die Hard.

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Courtesy of Wikipedia

For those of you who are not familiar with this gem, Die Hard was released in 1988 and tells the tale of a recently separated young career woman, Holly Gennaro (Bonnie Bedelia), and a New York City police officer, John McClane (Bruce Willis). Holly moved to Los Angeles for her career while McClane stubbornly stayed behind in New York. McClane agrees to visit the family in Los Angeles for Christmas. McClane joins Holly at her company Christmas party, which is crashed by a group of well organized terrorists, lead by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). While all the party guests are corralled into the main space, McClane slips away and begins causing madness and mayhem for the terrorists. McClane begins to take out the terrorists one by one, and involves the local police, including beloved Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson). Once the police get involved, the media crews quickly follow, bringing us the much hated reporter, Richard Thornburg (William Atherton). Thornburg digs up dirt on McClane and broadcasts his and Holly’s children on air, causing Gruber to take Holly hostage. After McClane takes out most of the terrorists, Gruber’s true plan is uncovered. They aren’t terrorists at all – they are high end thieves looking to steal 640 million in bearer bonds.

Maybe the movie is so great because of Alan Rickman’s quick and biting wit, the fact that Bruce Willis has hair, the 80’s style hair on all the women, or how much you just love to hate William Atherton. But the reason Die Hard is the best Christmas movie is so much more than all these components. A great Christmas movie has 4 components; family issues, sentimentally, nostalgia, and violence. All the best traditional movies fit these criteria; think A Christmas Story, Home for the Holidays, and Home Alone.

The movie starts off with the family in disarray, McClane living in New York and Holly and the two kids (John Jr and Lucy) living in Los Angeles. They are on the brink of divorce, even though its clear that they still love each other.
Their relationship is rocky;
“Only John can drive somebody that crazy”
“Would you tell her that for me Al? Tell her John says he’s sorry”
but the dynamic seems to work for them.

When reporter Richard Thornburg discovers that McClane has family in the Los Angeles area, he endangers the lives of the whole family by showing up at the Holly’s house and interviewing their children on live TV. This triggers Hans to recognize Holly and connect her to McClane. All the while, the terroists are attempting to break into the 80’s super high security vault. Once they are successful, Ode to Joy blasts as they clean out all their take from the vault.

At the end of the movie, McClane rescues Holly, who has been taken hostage by Gruber, and they are reunited. There is nothing like a near death experience to reignite the spark and bring a family together. That and Holly punching Thornburg square in the face. (Side note, good for her!)

 

So when you are sitting around with your family this holiday season, skip the traditional “Christmas” movies and rent (or watch if you already own) Die Hard.

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Ender’s Kinder, Gentler Game: The Movie

EndersGamePoster

Photo: Summit Entertainment

Ender’s Game is a prime example of why I never read the book before watching the film adaptation.

I have many friends who do, and I’ve never understood the appeal. Being an aspiring screenwriter, it’s always seemed like setting oneself up for disappointment. The film can never encapsulate the entire novel with the natural limitations of production, run-time and audience attention spans. And it always seemed downright arduous to spend 90-120 minutes nitpitcking an otherwise decent standalone film.

After reading Ender’s Game for the first time, I later spent approximately 114 minutes in the local movie theater doing precisely that just a couple weeks after the film’s less-than-stellar release.

With an all-star cast featuring Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld and title star Asa Butterfield, one’s expectations might be fairly high for the adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel. After all, half of the cast has been up for Academy Awards at some point in their careers (including 16-year-old Steinfeld), and the book earned Orson Scott Card several awards and critical acclaim after its initial release in 1985. Since then, Ender’s Game has been a staple of children’s literature and top science fiction reading lists.

But, again, there are so many limitations that go into even above-average film adaptations. And while everyone involved likely meant well, they probably should have heeded Card’s warning that the story was “unfilmable.”

An example of a similarly ill-advised adaptation attempt was the Wachowski siblings’ take on David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, complete with their own star-studded cast. That particular independently-financed project cost a reported $102 million to produce, and just barely broke even with $130 million, thanks to international box office revenue. It was a colossal flop in the United States.

Ender’s Game is not quite in the same category as Cloud Atlas, as far as box office failure is concerned. But it’s blockbuster budget hasn’t yet been reconciled by moviegoers, either. Still, having earned $27 million in its opening weekend, Ender’s Game has a shot at pulling its own weight at Summit Entertainment.

A Bit of Background

EndersGameBookCover

When I was in third grade, I avoided this book on the advanced reading list because I was intimidated by the font. Yes, I was a weird kid.

For those unfamiliar with Ender’s Game, the ultra-futuristic story follows Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a brilliant, young outcast, from the age of six to 13, and later into adulthood. Born as a “Third” in a society where childbearing restrictions are heavily enforced, he must prove his worth by also being the third in his family to try testing into the International Fleet (I.F.), an elite organization formed by global powers in the fight against the alien Formic race — or “buggers,” as they’re derogatorily referred to in the novel.

It becomes clear, from the way Ender thinks and speaks, that he’s not your average six-year-old. In fact, his siblings aren’t your average kids, either. Valentine, the middle child, is sweet, observant and far too sympathetic for Battle School. Peter, the eldest, is vicious, calculating, and ultimately too heartless. Both washed out of initial I.F. testing. But something’s a bit too advanced, a bit too adult about these Wiggin kids. And that’s exactly what made them all perfect candidates for the intergalactic army that will fend off the next bugger attack.

As far as Ender and the rest of the world knows, the enemy Formic soldiers were only first destroyed decades ago by a mysterious, yet heroic, Hail Mary attempt by the famous war veteran Mazer Rackham. Though the intimate details of how Rackham beat the Formics are unclear, the I.F. and all world leaders hope for a repeat performance by the next great genius.

That genius is, naturally, Ender Wiggin. Or at least they hope he will be.

From Book to Script to Screen

The producers seemed to go to great lengths to make Card’s quietly introspective and brutal children’s story more palatable and digestible for mainstream film audiences. (Here’s where all aspiring producers go, “Duh.”) The film downplayed the abject violence that was illustrated in the novel, and barely skimmed the surface of Ender’s innate ability to enter a darker realm, despite his compassion and fears.

It’s Ender’s tactical skills under pressure, his ability to see the whole picture, that eventually lead I.F. Colonel Graff (played by Ford) and Major Anderson (Davis) to his doorstep. In a twist of fate, contrary to the Wiggins’ beliefs, Ender isn’t being passed up for the I.F.’s Battle School after all. They want him, and they want him now.

harrison-ford-enders-game

Harrison Ford plays a space-age mentor to a jaded, young prodigy. Sound familiar? Photo: Summit Entertainment

Except Graff and Anderson aren’t nearly as coldly aloof and borderline laissez-faire about their blatant misuse of a six-year-old boy in the film like they are in the novel. Instead, Ender (Butterfield) is aged to at least 12 years old from the beginning of the film, and Graff and Anderson are portrayed as far more reluctant, more humane… It takes away the complicated three dimensions of Graff that were developed in the novel, while simultaneously providing Anderson with more heart and spine.

Either way, as film-goers we’re clearly not meant to dislike Graff and Anderson as much as it seemed we were meant to dislike them in the book. Ah, the concessions that come with making a four-quadrant movie. Unfortunately, it looks like a few more concessions were made along the way, too.

Ender’s Truncated Quest

In the book, we follow Ender through several years of his childhood, where he encounters intense loneliness, left only to his silent, penetrating intellect and observations of the world around him. As Card said in his initial denouncement of the screenplay adaptation, “everything takes place in [Ender’s] head.” As readers, we’re merely along for the sad, isolated ride. For it’s through Ender’s isolation, Graff asserts, that the young boy will meet his true potential.

The problem with the film (“Duh” #2), is that the trials of these years had to be condensed into 45 minutes. Ender didn’t really have to prove his greatness to his peers or to his puppeteers in the film. In the novel, Ender had to scratch and claw for every bit of respect and friendship he earned, all while being undermined and exploited by adults who claimed to care for him, but whose loyalties ultimately remained with the preservation of humankind.

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Viola Davis as Major Anderson. One of the more notable changes is the gender change from book to film. Photo: Summit Entertainment

On screen, those trials and tribulations weren’t nearly as developed as in the book. In fact, they were woefully underdeveloped, even with the understanding of basic filmmaking limitations. A montage of Ender’s practices in the zero gravity battle room and his team’s competitions would have established his insanely high rankings and performance opposite established students, cementing his place as a leader among his peers.

It would’ve explained why his nemesis, Bonzo, hated him so so much, as it justified in the book. And, most importantly, it would have explained why the I.F. was jonesing so badly for Ender’s soul.

It’s understandable that very real production limitations might have prevented more scenes in the battle room, particularly since the special effects were so well-done. (The film cost $110 million for a reason.) But the development of Ender’s skills, as a fighter and as a leader, needed more material in the movie. If anything should have been preserved from the original work, that aspect of Ender’s character should’ve been.

Another aspect of Ender’s character that played into one of the book’s themes was his dark side. In the book, at six, he takes on a bully and puts him in the hospital. (The logic of doing so earns him a spot at Battle School.) At 11 or so, he takes on an older, more vicious bully, and the young man is allegedly sent home, health status unknown. There’s a level of ambiguity surrounding these boys’ injuries that seems to stem from the film’s unwillingness to take the plunge that the book ultimately did. But, honestly, you can’t blame the producers for skirting the issue.

NOVEL SPOILER ALERT: Ender later finds out that he didn’t simply injure both boys; he killed them. He finished them.

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Ender Wiggin is as much at war within as he is at war without. Image: Summit Entertainment

Throughout the novel and, to a lesser extent, the film, Ender’s greatest fear is that he will become his older brother Peter, a murderous monster. The ability to kill efficiently and effectively courses through Ender’s veins, but he fights it with the compassion of his older sister Valentine and the fear of a truly innocent and decent boy. As observant as he is about the world around him, he’s equally introspective. Ender knows his limitations and weaknesses, but he also knows his strengths.

It’s impossible for any movie to properly delve into the depths of this tortured boy’s mind, and unfortunately, the film barely reached beyond a very superficial level when it came to Ender’s darkness. It should also be noted that the traits Ender had in the novel, characteristics that make him a likeable film character, are his strength, integrity and selflessness. Seeing both sides of that coin in the novel helped make Ender’s heroic nature that much more admirable.

The Evolution of Ender’s Squad

enders-game-dragon-squad

Ender’s ragtag group of misfit geniuses. Photo: Summit Entertainment

In the novel, Ender comes across many different characters, both friends and foes. It’s not surprising that Ender’s pint-sized foil Bean was introduced right from the beginning of the film. Bean was a pivotal player in both the film and book, though he came into the original picture after Ender had become jaded. Ender and Bean later form a bond in the novel that’s instantly established in the film.

In addition to Bean, the film kept sharpshooter/token girl Petra (Steinfeld), loyal Alai and Dink, Ender’s aforementioned nemesis Bonzo, and, of all characters, beta-bully Bernard, who goes through a very Disney Channel-esque transformation into a trusted ally toward the end of the movie. There’s also a bit of blink-and-you-miss-it puppy love between Ender and Petra as they practiced in the battle room, a dynamic that wasn’t quite played up in the book. Thankfully, that wasn’t developed further in the movie, either.

The secondary characters are the ones we follow from Ender’s admission to the school to his graduation to Command School. In the novel, they are initially distant and eventually loyal, whereas Ender earns their loyalty in the film with relative ease. Again, everything in the story is accelerated in the film, so the complexities of his relationships, particularly with Alai and Dink, are pretty much lost in the adaptation.

Sibling Un-Rivalry and Going to Fairyland

It’s no surprise that the entire Peter/Valentine political shenanigans subplot was dropped. While, as a reader, one could see how that may play into later installments of the Ender Quartet, there was simply no room for it in the film. No question about that.

Though it’s really fun to note that, just as Card predicted the creation of the tablet with his characters’ portable “desks” (so cool), Card also did a spectacular job predicting the pervasive power of the Internet, and the social interactivity of message boards (and, now, social media), including how political and societal constructs could be shaped on a broad scale by the persistent, calculated voices of a faceless few.

The impressive nature of Card’s take on the future from his vantage point in 1985 would likely be lost on film audiences today. It’s one reason why this film may have performed better and resonated deeper with audiences had it been produced in the late 1990s, before the very literal hyper-speed advancement of technology and communication as we now know them — and before the concept of war in the minds of contemporary audiences was forever shifted.

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The film ties in the giant corpse motif from the book as part of Ender’s final discovery. Image: Summit Entertainment

While I wasn’t surprised that Valentine and Peter took a total backseat in the film, I was very surprised that Ender’s “Fairyland/End of the World” video game remained intact. Though the film is clearly geared towards teens and young adults, Ender’s video game, as illustrated in the book, was beyond trippy. Bizarre and a bit of a mind-f*ck don’t even begin to describe it.

Yet everything in it was clearly symbolic, from the ravenous wolf-children, to the snake, and the mirror that reflected Peter’s image back at Ender. I’m inclined to believe that the giant and two cups of poison likely had some deeper meaning, too. And most of that nightmarish game, including an added bonus of the eerie Formic Queen, were shown in the film. A bold move, since viewers who hadn’t read the book were probably lost.

Novel vs. Film: Veering Off Course

Naturally, the video game did not merely serve as Ender’s haunting, convicting vehicle for introspection in the film. Really, the video game was primarily used to explain the filmmakers’ decision to stray from the book’s ending in key ways, by planting the seed that Ender was always mentally and spiritually attached to the Formic race, even before he graduated from Battle School to Command School.

That’s where the film took a turn. To be fair, I found the intended shocker in the novel to feel strangely anticlimactic. It was not surprising at all that the same jerks who’d been messing with Ender all this time continued to mess with him until they got what they wanted: victory and the complete destruction of their enemies. After all of Ender’s suffering, that he unknowingly annihilated the Formic race in his so-called Graduation Test made complete and utter sense.

EndersGameFinalBattle

Ender and his classmates continue to fight against Mazer Rackham and the omnipotent computer — or do they? Photo: Summit Entertainment

In the film, there were far more clues given that this test, this “game,” was indeed the real deal leading up to the final battle. However, one thing the film did well was strike a chord of true shock and devastation in Ender and his classmates as they realized the truth behind their actions. They were never playing a game. They killed real, living creatures and their own fellow humans for the sake of their race’s survival. Worse still, there was no indication that the Formics were ever going to attack again. They were decimated from their home planet without provocation. For the first time in the film, Ender and his friends were absolutely, unquestionably, betrayed.

Again, perhaps this concept is lost on today’s audiences. In the age of Grand Theft Auto 5, Halo and a number of other popular urban and military warfare games, don’t most young people regularly “kill” other beings without any reason or logic? (This is not an argument that video games breed violent behavior, merely ambivalence and desensitization, as perhaps Card suggests in his book.)

“I will bear the shame of this genocide forever,” Ender declared in the movie — a line that cut to the heart of Ender’s destiny. He then said, “The way we win matters.” Both were powerful lines, well-delivered by Butterfield, that didn’t originate from the book, and hit so very close to what I believe is the overall theme of Card’s story: What makes us human, and how far must we go, how much must we destroy, in the name of our own survival?

Ender’s Ending and Beginning

In the film, after Ender’s last stand with Graff and all of I.F.’s military leaders, Ender didn’t simply fade away into the obscurity reserved for famed war heroes. Unlike the novel, he didn’t go the way of Mazer Rackham, his final teacher/manipulator. Ender also never spoke for the dead by quietly publishing work under a pseudonym that would subversively question mankind’s involvement in the Formics’ demise. Box office performance aside, this seemed to close the door on any other film adaptations of Card’s series.

EndersGame-LiveForever

In both the novel and film, Ender’s fate is sealed upon discovering that the Formic race was not completely wiped out. Image: Summit Entertainment

Instead, Ender discovered his destiny mere moments after his falling out with Graff & Co. Rather than the Formics connecting to Ender’s mind through the “ansible” device, as was established in the novel, it’s suggested that Ender was inexplicably connected to the surviving, well-meaning, Formic hive queen all along.

Was it intergalactic clairvoyance? A form of collective unconscious that would have even Carl Jung scratching his head? That part is a bit unclear.

Nevertheless, Ender’s secret, empathic connection to the Formic race was maintained in the film, with all of the spiritual ambiguity that was initiated in the book.

The novel concluded in a way where, especially knowing there are three sequels, you absolutely want more of Ender’s adventures. However, the film wrapped up Ender’s storyline so that his quest for peace and, ultimately, forgiveness was satisfactory.

Ender had been through enough, and had long since earned his right to “fly away and live forever.”

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I was a Stargate fangirl

Stargate SG-1 first resonated with me in the early 2000s during a period of tremendous teenage angst. The notion of four different people united in their quest for insight and adventure – and ultimately to protect the galaxy – attracted me in a way no show really had before. I didn’t grow up on Star Trek, and my parents didn’t bow at the altar of George Lucas’ Star Wars, so neither franchise was really on my radar.

Somehow Stargate SG-1 became the source of all my innately geeky happiness. I loved it. Perhaps a bit too much. By my senior year of high school, after the Sci-Fi Channel rescued the show from cancellation at Showtime, I had seen all of the series’ nearly 100 episodes. The show would then go on to hit the coveted 200-episode milestone during the rest of its run on basic cable, before taking a final bow in 2007.

The Stargate franchise on Sci-Fi/Syfy
I’ve argued – and I’m likely not the first – that Stargate SG-1 deserves most of the credit for allowing the Sci-Fi Channel to truly dive into the realm of not just original programming, but also one-hour, scripted programming.

The Stargate franchise attracted fans from all demographics. With the help of his mom years ago, Daniel cosplayed as Teal'c.

The Stargate franchise attracted fans from all age demographics. Years ago, with the help of his mom, teen Stargate junkie Daniel cosplayed as Teal’c (played by Chris Judge).

Stargate SG-1’s success gave them the opportunity to shift from solely syndicating series and science fiction films to actually throwing their content development hat into the ring. (This would eventually lead to Sci-Fi’s groundbreaking and much-buzzed-about original series, a 2003 re-tooling of the short-lived 1970s series, Battlestar Galactica.) With NBCUniversal’s known change-maker Bonnie Hammer at the helm, Sci-Fi was among the first niche cable networks to jump on the original, scripted programming bandwagon — a trend that has skyrocketed in popularity among cable networks over the past few years.

Shortly after establishing Stargate SG-1 as the network’s flagship show in 2002, Sci-Fi (later, Syfy) developed enough fare that meant they could offer a slate with multiple nights of scripted series. In addition to the aforementioned Battlestar Galactica and the successful, family-friendly Eureka (2006-2012), Sci-Fi launched two Stargate spin-offs, Stargate Atlantis (2004-2009) and Stargate Universe (2009-2011).

Stargate Universe attracted an all-star cast, but by 2009 the franchise’s candle appeared to be waning, and the second spin-off was unable to live on beyond two seasons. The franchise’s long-time studio MGM was also financially less stable than it had been years prior, and ultimately, even after two moderately successful direct-to-DVD SG-1 films, the time had come to close up shop.

It should also be noted that Universe premiered during a time when the industry first started bearing the brunt of intense audience fragmentation. No one quite knew what to do with vexing, time-shifted viewing behavior. (Are things really much better now?) Networks across the board simply couldn’t reconcile the ratings shows were getting with long-term programming goals, and many series got the axe perhaps before their time.

In 2011, when fans were in an uproar over Stargate Universe’s cancellation, Syfy Senior Executive Craig Engler personally explained the business reasons involved in the decision in an open letter to fans on the popular fan website, GateWorld.net.

GateWorld: The Stargate fandom’s hub
Despite the franchise’s disappointing limp toward the finish line in 2011, the original series attracted millions of viewers and hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans from nations all over the world during its initial run. It united viewers, as most TV series have done for decades, and I found a good portion of my teen and college years spent conversing with fellow fans on GateWorld.

When fellow Educating [Geeks] host Megan and I met at work in 2009, we discovered that we’d spent at least a couple years co-existing on the website’s popular forum, without ever having interacted. The fandom truly was that vast, and GateWorld was the Mecca for Stargate fans around the globe.

David Read (l), Stargate actor Amanda Tapping and Darren Sumner. Copyright Gateworld.net

GateWorld owner Darren Sumner (left) with Stargate actor Amanda Tapping and GateWorld co-editor David Read. Copyright GateWorld.net.

Darren Sumner started Gateworld back in 1999, shortly after marrying “the most patient woman.”

“Thank God she is also a sci-fi fan,” Sumner recalls.

He was so inspired by the show’s mythology — specifically citing the end of Stargate SG-1‘s Season Three episode, “Jolinar’s Memories” — that he decided to “track those connections” from story arcs back in Season One.

“GateWorld was born that night on a little corner of the Interwebs,” he says.

Originally a big fan of the original series and of GateWorld, David Read joined Sumner in developing specific content sections. Read worked in radio at that point, and helped out with the site in his free time. A few years later, Sumner promoted Read to co-editor, and the two became (at least from this former user’s recollection) a dynamic duo for covering all things Stargate.

Sumner appreciates the partnership with Read for how it helped shift the dynamics of the website. “Things changed dramatically when David came on board circa 2003, and started interviewing Stargate’s cast and crew,” Sumner says.

Later, and with what Sumner calls a “glorious” and “time-consuming routine,” they noticed that the website was really beginning to gain traction.

“It really clicked for me that [GateWorld] had become a hit when people I would meet on the street had been to the site,” Read recalls in an email. “That was a real turning point for me.”

It was around 2004, Read says, when he was still in college that things shifted. GateWorld was already an established hub for fans, but it had also earned the attention of those involved with the show. Creation Entertainment, a well-established convention company, invited Read and Sumner to host panels at Creation conventions in Chicago and Vancouver.

However, Stargate producers also granted Read and Sumner permission to visit the sets at Bridge Studios in British Columbia as part of GateWorld’s Stargate coverage.

The transformation for Sumner was impressive. “I went from a geek with a website to watching the show film, having dinner with various actors and crew members,” he says. “It’s been an incredible opportunity and I’ve never taken a second of it for granted.”

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Partners in Stargate coverage. Sumner and Read’s hard work led to on-set visits and exclusive interviews. Copyright GateWorld.net.

By that same token, Read believes the relationship with GateWorld and the Stargate team was mutually beneficial and a two-way street.

“It wasn’t so much a matter of clout that got us access to the cast and crew,” Read says, “as much as it was a shared appreciation – us for the quality of the shows, them for the quality of our site.”

After a while, it became pretty common to expect GateWorld’s coverage of conventions where Stargate cast and crew were scheduled to appear. It was a great way for fans worldwide to experience these events, even if they couldn’t attend in-person.

Personally, I discovered sci-fi conventions for the first time through my love of Stargate. (I dragged my very patient father to an impromptu X-Files fan gathering in Scottsdale before I was old enough to drive, but that doesn’t count.)

Over the course of four years, I had the awesome opportunity to meet, in-person, fellow SG-1 fans from around the world with whom I’d discussed, argued and commiserated about the show online.

Many of us became friends “in real life,” and I’m still in touch with a couple of them to this day. Though we’ve moved on from Stargate and we’ve gone our separate ways to our corners of the world, it was a period I don’t think any of us will ever forget.

But, again, the fandom was huge.

At the franchise’s peak, particularly when Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis were both airing on Friday nights, GateWorld averaged more than a million monthly visits, according to Sumner.

“Our forum recently celebrated two milestones: 50,000 members and 10 million posts,” Sumner says. “As proud as I am of all the hard work that we’ve done over the years, I’m also humbled and incredibly grateful that so many fellow Stargate fans found the site and chose to make it their home.”

Why SG-1 is worth watching
Beyond the storytelling and the special effects, I believe the ultimate success of SG-1 should be credited to its cast. And this isn’t some earth-shattering observation, either. Every ensemble show lives and dies, survives and thrives by the chemistry of its actors.

SG1 Season 8 prmo

Before Season Eight, from left: Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping, Chris Judge and Richard Dean Anderson. This was the last season that featured the original four actors. Copyright MGM/Sony Pictures Television.

Simply put, and with all due respect to the many other hard-working, creative people involved, Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping and Christopher Judge made that show what it was.

The characters weren’t perfect, and neither were the storylines. But there was something inexplicably engaging about these four actors, along with the secondary cast members who became fan-favorites as well. These people really seemed to love their jobs and each other, and that translated onscreen.

Supreme chemistry among actors, by the way, is the quickest way to attract hardcore fans. Pick a popular and/or long-lasting show, and try to argue that those actors don’t sell it as a cohesive unit (even if they hate each other). The writing can be amazing, the cinematography can be outstanding, but if the actors don’t gel when the cameras are rolling, just forget about it.

A strong female character in “Captain/Doctor” Samantha Carter
As great as the characters were as a team, they were each very solid characters on their own. And as fellow Geekhosts Megan, Alice and I discussed in the Stargate Season One podcast, Tapping’s Sam Carter was established as a great character early on – despite some infamous hiccups in her introduction.

All of E[G]’s hosts love strong characters regardless of gender, but if we find that a female character is weak, expect us to point it out without hesitation. In this case, first-time SG-1 viewer, Alice, really enjoyed Carter. (And Alice is a tough critic!)

The fact that Carter was such a great character hooked me when I first started watching in high school. I’d come from the Dana Scully School for Skeptics, and Sam Carter was a nice complement to that – emotionally open, a bit lighter and more outgoing. Unlike Megan, who wanted to study theoretical astrophysics after watching Stargate, I had absolutely no shot at following in Carter’s footsteps. I just really wasn’t that great at science or math. But I definitely thought Carter was an awesome character.

More than being beautiful, smart and strong, Carter was also earnest, compassionate and a loyal friend. She was a well-rounded female character who probably could’ve used more flaws or two in retrospect. But she was really a fun and insightful character who filled a role well beyond simply being “The Girl” — due in no small part to Tapping’s portrayal.

Which leads us to the embedded Castle clip below. For those unfamiliar with the ABC crime/romance comedy/drama (I know, just go with it next time it’s on. You’ll be glad you did.), Castle touches on all facets of pop culture, from comic books and soap operas to classic films and celebrities. In fact, I think it’s rare for an episode NOT to have a pop culture reference of some kind.

In the fifth season episode, “The Final Frontier,” written by Kate Sargeant, the main characters investigate a murder at a local sci-fi convention. Here, Beckett (Stana Katic) explains to Castle (Nathan Fillion) why she was so in love with “Nebula 9,” the campy space series whose washed-up stars are at the center of the investigation. I think most women who have fallen headfirst into a genre fandom — particularly one with a strong female character — can relate to this moment:

So, yes. Without a doubt. Indeed. I was a Stargate fangirl. In fact, I’ve been a fangirl of a few franchises over the years. I’m a passionate person by nature, so when I commit to something, it’s usually with fervor. It’s only with maturity, separation and a heaping dose of perspective that I’ve been able to step back from the things I once loved most, and look on those times with both fondness and self-awareness.

In searching for my identity through the Stargate fandom from the ages of 15-21, I learned so much about myself and the world. I don’t regret any of it. (Alright, there may be some things I regret.)

But now I recognize that it was all part of “the process,” the seasons in life that get us from Point A to Point B, regardless of age.

It’s been over six years since Stargate SG-1 concluded, and I’m still a fangirl. Now, I guess you could say I’m more a fangirl of life. Still passionate, still searching, still digging. And I thank the folks behind Stargate, and everyone I met along the way, for contributing to that journey.

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Geek [Reflections] – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

By Sara

“Oh no, not again.”

Yes, bowl of petunias from chapter 18, yes! I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy again! But that probably wasn’t what you were talking about, was it?

The problem with reading something that I’ve read over and over again is that the words have become such a part of me through the years that I don’t know where the book ends and my own thoughts begin. We all have that show or movie or book that shapes the way we view other shows or movies or books (or even the world) for the rest of our lives. But I get the feeling Douglas Adams may have set out specifically to do this.

It takes some skill to create a simile that can get your message across. It takes even more to create a simile based on the opposite of the message you are trying to convey. On the podcast, I brought up the description in Chapter 3 of the Vogon ships. “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.” We all got a crazy kick out of this. Megan was so amused by our gigglefest (listen for it at about the 10 minute mark) that she sent the rest of the Geek Hosts this message when she was editing the podcast: “You guys – THE WAY BRICKS DON’T!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAAA.”

And then there are the descriptions of other worlds and other beings that make you wish that there were a real Hitchhiker’s Guide. Among my favorites is the description of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal[1] (which is merely a side note in the entry about towels): “A mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous.” Am I the only one who closed her eyes after reading that line trying to figure out exactly what that meant? Once I did get it, I cracked up and promptly told my inner scientist to shut up. “But what kind of evolutionary pressures have to exist for an animal with that trait to be naturally selected?” she was trying to ask. But that line was funny enough that I could suspend my disbelief and keep laughing. Which is rare, because my inner scientist LOVES her a plot hole and is not used to being overruled.[2]

But we don’t have to really go far to meet all the animals that are described brilliantly by Douglas Adams. Or maybe you do if you’re reading this from a location that is land-locked or does not have an aquarium within a close radius[3]. “It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons.” In your best Keanu Reeves voice, I want you all to say it with me: “Whoa.”[4]

The hilarious profundity of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, though, always brings me back to that bowl of petunias. “Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now.” And with that, dear readers, I leave you with my hope that you will never look at a bowl of petunias (or the world) the same way again.


[1] Which reminds me, have you seen the IMDB photo of the lady that played the praying mantis teacher in the 4th episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Seriously. Look it up. Musetta Vander is her name.

[2] My inner scientist is also the one who gets mad at Fringe when they don’t insert intravenous needles correctly.

[3] Click “like” if you’re reading this from a square state or Siberia! What up, y’all!

[4] Alternate reaction: “You guys! The way dolphins don’t!”

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