Weeks To Geek: Impressions of Walter Koenig & Geek Culture

Walter Koenig is writing graphic novels these days.  His newest one, Things to Come # 2, is available on Amazon.

That’s why he was at the Wild Cat Comic Con, which was held this past weekend at Pennsylvania College of Technology.  You can read about my involvement with the con here and here and here.

I did not attend his presentation, which was about the graphic novels, but at the closing ceremony of the con, Koenig gave a Q&A and shared his short film with a public audience for the first time.

Here’s his head shot:

Walter Koenig Head Shot

I didn’t watch Star Trek much.  I saw a few episodes when I was a kid, but more The Next Generation,  than the original, and I enjoyed it well enough, but I couldn’t conjure a mental image when I heard that Koenig was going to be at the Con.  I consulted IMDb and checked out his website, and felt confident that I would have another 40 hours of media catch up to play in order to be equipped to comment adequately on his work.

So I offer the following as a Trekkie outsider.

My experience at WCC’s closing ceremony

Koenig is tiny and frail and he wears a big, black jacket.  He wears a black baseball cap.  Baseball caps always make people look like cartoon characters.  From my seat in the audience, I can’t tell if his coat is leather, but it looks heavy on his shoulders.  Maybe he is hunched with age.  That head shot makes him look at least a decade younger than he does in person.

Even though his physical presence is microscopic, he commands the stage with grace and humor.  His voice has the lilt of a person who had training in diction back when Hollywood cared about such things.

He shows us a short film he made called “Handball,” that is more self indulgent character sketch born out of grief than contribution to the film canon.

I think, “when you’re a guy who was part of a show that people now treat like a religion, you can do that,” and I feel like it’s okay.

The film deals with loss and haunting.  Maybe you know that Koenig lost a son too recently.  Anyone who’s lost a child, no matter how long ago, has done it too recently.

At the end of the film, “For Andrew” flashes across for a few seconds.

After the film, a man in the audience who is old enough to know better asks, “Is Andrew your son?”

Koenig’s discomfort is clear.

Later, the same man asks, “So was the film about your son?”

Koenig’s discomfort is clearer.

Later still, someone else asks a more intrepid question about the connection between the obvious theme of loss in the film and Koenig’s son.  Koenig says, at that point, something like, “You never get over losing a child.  Sometimes you try to think about something else, you have to.”

I am embarrassed for the people who are asking questions in the audience.  With only two exceptions, the questions are masturbatory and showy and designed by the askers to indicate how much privileged understanding they have of Star Trek and what they imagine to be true about Koenig as a person, instead of his character, Anton Checkov.

They seem to be folks who fail to understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction, reality and make believe.

They insist on asking him about multiple science fiction movies, even though he clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  He says his favorite film last year was Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which makes me so happy.

The aesthetic in his short film is realism.

He is clearly bewildered by the audience’s insistence that he is like them.  Or maybe I project my own bewilderment, it must be something he’s used to.

I can’t help but pity him for his fifty-year career that’s besotted by fans who fail to recognize the difference between a character and the actor who plays him.  I think about that funny, but smart movie, Nurse Betty.

And I pity the geeks, too:  The people who believe that he’s something more than a regular guy, an artist, who lives in a posh house in California somewhere, who has more money than most people, and who also happened to play a beloved role on a beloved show which became another show which became another show which became some movies and a bunch of toys and stuff.*

I am relieved for him when the time is up, when Koenig can go sit in his first-class airplane seat and warm himself with a cup of tea and think about himself and the world and be sad.

He deserves to be sad.  But he is motoring forth.  His website is abuzz with projects and ideas.  He even has a blog.

If only more of us regular people could be like Walter Koenig the man, instead of dressing up like his character on Star Trek.

*It begs mentioning that not a single person asked a single question about his more recent Babylon 5.

Grumpy, Prescriptive Jerk on the Internet: Joel Stein

There were about eight copies of this image hanging out on the internet. I got it from the row on google search images.

Am I going to piss off Joel Stein?

Maybe.  But I’m pretty sure he gets a kick out of waxing acerbic against random people and things on his blog and in the New York Times.  Frankly, I reckon I’m so far off his radar that there’s no real worry.  And even if he leaves an angry note, how is it bad to have Joel Stein at my blog?  Even if I do think he’s a Juan Kerr.

I read this very short bit by him at the New York Times online (which keeps reminding me how much less I’ll be able to read there for free starting soon, and I find that to be disappointing and obnoxious), and it made me curious, “Who is this douche?”

Apparently, this douche hates america and loves porn.

Funny, right?  But I think it’s a pop culture joke I don’t get.  But here’s further evidence of his ego-maniacal/ego-moronical persona.

I think that’s his schtick.

Anyway, the thing that bugs me mercilessly about his railing against adults reading young adult fiction is that I think he’s just doing it to be reactionary.

I do not think his bombast is genuine.  I think he is in it for the comments.  And what’s worse than a troll?  A person who invites and encourages them.

Can you imagine some of the angered Potter Parents who’ve commented on Stein’s little rant?  You can go read them.  I don’t wanna*.

Lordy, it’ll be like those nutty parents from my childhood who wore Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle boys’ underwear as hats for a TMNT concert (in like 1989, times was different then).

Why try to argue with those nutjobs?

And why not let them read the same stuff their kids are reading?  What if they’re doing it so they can discuss it at dinner?  What if they’re working on some kind of children’s lit advanced degree?

What if they are, themselves, trying to write some YA, and reading some YA so as to do it better?  I have told you before how important it is to read if you’re going to write.   Doesn’t matter what you want to write, it’s best to get an idea of how others have done it before you get started.

And who cares if an adult is reading children’s literature for entertainment?  YA is, at the moment, one of the few genres that’s consistently challenging boundaries of all sorts.

Here’s a redeeming blog post by Joel Stein, though I wonder if Cassandra’s really his wife’s name, or if it’s some kind of misogynistic internet code name for her.

Tell me, blog readers, what do you think?  Is Stein a pompous weirdo, or is he a smooth criminal, or is he just misunderstood?

*Oh and, actually, I did read some of the comments.  Not as bad as I thought.  Pretty smart, thoughtful comments calling Joel Stein out on his odd logic.

**And another thing, I really don’t read YA, either.  A few titles I’ll read when/if I get around to it, but I’m kind of saving it so I can read with  m’Child, who’s probably going to love all of the stuff I haven’t yet read.  Like Sci Fi & Fanstasy & whatnot.