I have decided to use the “three things” email as a weekly writing exercise. I will copy the results into my blog(s) and send it to my discussion list—thereby forcing me to keep up with my craft in some small part. So with no further ado:
1. Star Wars or Star trek and why?
This is one of those questions that would have received a different answer depending on when you asked me. Growing up, Star Wars was that classic movie series I watched when U.S.A. ran its Christmas marathon and when my grandparents’ friends wanted something to amuse the kids while the adults talked about adult things. It was a fun piece of distraction but nothing special in-and-of itself. Star trek on the other hand was one of the few shows that I loved, that my parents let me watch, and that seemed to get bigger and bigger the older I got.
My local cable affiliate regularly ran marathons of the original pulpy series. Late Saturday nights were characterized by Wild Kingdom, inspector gadget, the Muppets, and Nickelodeon’s star trek cartoon. Afterword’s we would go night-sledding in my back yard where I would pretend that the house lights were shuttle landing lights while I slid down a hill on an alien planet into the mysterious darkness of a Vermont winter evening. I remember watching the original first episode of star trek the next generation—again while my parents were having a party. I loved Data and Worf. Reading rainbow did an entire episode on STNG from Geordi’s perspective. I even had a couple packs of the associated CCG when I was in high school. I got all the novels I could find on audio from the library of Congress.
STNG’s high production values, interesting characters, and revealing outfits seemed fresh—edgy—scandalously adult to my elementary school sensitivities. The original series was interesting—gritty—ruff in a way that gave it a certain charm long before I knew what the term “pulp” meant. People forget sometimes that while Star Wars was a movie classic, star trek was a cultural phenomenon—especially during the late 80s. Star trek was the bigger “thing.” I played with Star Wars toys, colored in a C3PO coloring book, played Star Wars video games, and even listened to a dramatization of the movies on public radio—all from a very young age. Both franchises were present—trek simply was expanding at the time while Star Wars wouldn’t hit critical mass until the 90s.
Star Wars didn’t start to grow on me until a friend introduced me to west end’s original d6 RPG. At the same time super Nintendo had a video game that would let you fire away with blaster, homing missiles, drive a land speeder, pilot an x-wing, battle with lightsaber, and get tons of extra lives using the classic Capcom cheat code. The graphics and sound were so advanced at the time that it felt like I was playing in the actual movie. I watched friends play x-wing the computer game, played the Nintendo and the classic Atari cartridges, built force sensitive x-wing pilots in the RPG, and re-watched the movies over-and-over again. In college I watched all the remastered movies in the theatres on opening night. My two first VCR tape purchases were a complete collection of James Bond titles and the Star Wars trilogy (the originals thank you very much George.) Post-college, I read the endless collection of novels, played the West End RPG with friends, watched the prequels, and debated the nature of good and evil—dark side VS. light side endlessly.
Star Wars seemed to age better than trek despite Lucas’s ham-fisted attempts at revitalizing the franchise. Leia Organa Solo was a bad ass force-wielding, blaster shooting, negotiating princess who was equally at home in formal garb or slave bikini duds. Han was a gritty take no prisoners softy with a heart of gold and an iron fist for his enemies—he shot first damn it. Mara Jade and Lando started off as supporting characters who grew into heroes in their own right. In addition to the characters, I found continuity issues in the world of trek. What gave the federation the right to decide what was best for everyone else? The conflicts that energized me in middle school seemed trite and campy as an adult. Books like red shirts did a great job of satiring the genre to the point where I still enjoy watching old episodes—I simply cannot recapture the wonder they evoked in my formative years. So short answer—Star Wars.
2. What is the hottest thing you have ever eaten?
That would be the mad dog collectors’ edition hot sauce:
They call it a sauce but I cannot figure out who would use it as a condiment. It is made with 6,000,000 scoville pepper extract. I made a five-pound batch of jerky recently using a splash of this stuff and woooo boy! My hands burned for 24 hours just from folding it into the meat. I can only eat two pieces of the resulting death sticks before I have to down a glass of milk. The really crazy thing is that the company that makes this stuff has a sauce called plutonium extract which is 50% hotter. If you are interested in what it is like to take this murder sauce straight, the following video will be instructive.
So, not going to give that nonsense a try without some major rewards in the offing and probably not even then.
3. Which fictional character most inspires you and why?
I hate having to choose. If I have to pick just one though, it would be paladin from the TV western “have gun, will travel.” He combines several elements I admire—taste and courtesy—a sense for what is right even in morally gray territory—the ability to persevere in the face of physical and emotional challenges—the desire not to use violence to solve problems while retaining the ability to do so when circumstances require. I love the fact that he grapples with what is right and wrong—not just when he is justified in throwing down. It makes for a character equally at home ruffing it on the range and debating poetry over a game of bridge in the salons of high society—a warrior poet in the true sense.