I awoke on January 1st 2016, to a bright new year, but also to the death of Wayne Rogers. Wayne Rogers played Trapper John Mcintyre on M*A*S*H, a show which early on helped to define my sense of humor, and made me realize that I could never practice medicine. M*A*S*H is my go to show. It is what I watch when I am sick, it is what I watch when I am homesick or nostalgic. Continue reading Goodbye, Farewell, Amen: Ten Episodes of Trapper John
Welcome to our weekly Geek Speaks..Fiction series where authors talk about the geekdoms that inspired them.
Our guest today, Laura Anne Gilman is the author of nearly twenty books, including the Nebula award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy. Her next book project, SILVER ON THE ROAD, is the first in the Devil’s West series from Saga / Simon & Schuster.
I am a child of fandom. Be it the Muppets or Star Wars (my childhood favorites), or X-Files, (my first “adult” fandoms), I’ve been one of the quiet but dedicated fans, who may not wear my heart as cosplay, but was cheering those cosplayers along.
You will never hear me saying “oh, I don’t watch tv.” I think television has been one of the greatest storytelling devices of our lifetime, up there with the commercial printing press and digitally-adjustable font sizes. Is there crap out there? Absolutely. But theres also genius.
And when I look at my own work, I can see their influence, from the very earliest to the most current productions.
- The Muppets. There is nothing about the Muppets that I do not still geek over, from the opening number to the guest stars, to the way their scripts managed to remain true to the ‘reality’ of their lives without ever losing the madcap glee of being a muppet. It was my first real experience with an ensemble cast, seeing how disparate stories interweave and overlap, without ever getting tangled. I learned how to snark from Statler and Waldorf – the fine and surprisingly delicate art of cutting without drawing actual blood – and how to love characters that are utterly self-absorbed from Miss Piggy and Fozzie, each in their own delightful way. Farron, the east wind magician in SILVER ON THE ROAD, inherited those balances, and his interactions with Gabriel carry the same real “on the same team but not friends” vibe that the Muppet Show brought out, every single week.
Ten years ago, I left home.
College was over, I was getting married and moving three thousand miles away. I left many things behind me: friends, family, and a business apprenticeship with WHSmith. I also left a lot of stuff. Things from my 23 years of life that I had accumulated but didn’t need immediately.
Now, I have two children of my own, and all of that stuff is still in my parent’s attic. My Dad has been sending over pictures of things I had left behind, things they would like to get rid of! It’s like looking at a snapshot of my geek-stages-of-development, I can see how interests have waned or survived.
An obsession with Disney survived all stages of my geek-growth. What began as a four year old watching an incomplete, pirated copy of The Jungle Book, saw me through three trips to Disney World, and into a Bachelors thesis in the representations of foreign cultures in the works of Walt Disney. It is the thesis that led to the vast collection of books about Walt Disney and his works, both pro- and anti-Disney, that linger on bookshelves wherever I live.
An interest in world mythology did not come with me past the necessary reading I did during, and a little bit past, college. It was useful when reading through Percy Jackson and the Olympians a few years back. Looking at these books reminds me of the person I was in college, of the person I thought I would become, and thankfully didn’t.
My love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer is on a downhill slope at the moment. It was an addiction when it first came out. My friend in college would easily shell out ninety British pounds as soon as the DVDs came out, and we would gorge ourselves on everything Sunnydale. I proudly wore my Sunnydale High School T-shirt. Yet these days, I am more a fair-weather fan than anything else. I just sold my DVDs, since the show is now readily available in several digital media I partake in. One thing that did last from this era, more so than the Buffy addiction, was my love of written accounts of television shows. Be it on Wikipedia or through written books such as this one, I love a good synopsis. I still hang on to The Good Life, MASH, and Taxi. Though I have since dispensed with my guide to Friends and The Simpsons.
Much of the geek that I am is owed to my dad. From him, I got my love of classic television, my need for collectibles, and all of the stuff that goes along with a show. These two pictures of the cast of MASH were purchased during the height of my collecting years. One featuring the original cast, and one featuring the final cast. Many an afternoon has been spent with an internal debate raging about the merits of both. Are you an early years fan, or a later years fan? I love Henry in the early years but Charles is one of my favorite characters. I love the dynamic of Trapper and Hawkeye, but Hawkeye and BJ are simply wonderful. Re-watching some MASH recently it occurs to me that I may have actually married BJ, I’m trying not to think about that too much. Though the pictures will not remain in my house, the DVDs do, and at least once a year I have a good sit down with some of my favorite episodes.
My Bumblelion backpack was not purchased in the eighties for a child who loved the show, it was purchased in the late nineties, by a nineteen year old at a collectors fair! I used it once and then never again, but something in me has a hard time getting rid of this. The Wuzzles is one of the cartoons I remember from my childhood, one of my first introductions to Disney on television, and this piece in particular, a reminder of the nineties teenage obsession with backpacks that resemble things. Shaun the Sheep was the fore-runner at my school. I had Fozzie Bear and an Ewok, both of which I still have and use, occasionally. On looking up The Wuzzles recently, I was shocked to learn it was only one season, my childhood remembers a far longer epic than this.
More mythology that did not survive, including an obsession with period paraphernalia from America, and a love of travel books, no doubt attributable to Hugh Grant’s character in Notting Hill.
For a long time I would buy any book that referenced Winnie the Pooh. Even though I only read the original stories when my son was born in 2009, back in the nineties, Britain was going through a wave of Pooh-Mania and I happily hopped on board. I still have my un-read copy of The Tao of Pooh, though I did get rid of Tigger’s Little Book of Bounce.
Sharks of Tropical and Temperate Seas, now this book was devoured several times over in my youth. Before my tenth grade chemistry teacher told me that I would never be able to handle it, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I was obsessed with the larger creatures of our oceans including whales, sharks, and dolphins. I would read everything I could get my hands on. This particular volume was taken with me on my third trip to Disney World. I regaled a travel companion with talk of the sharks we were currently flying over, and how to deal with them if we crashed into the ocean. I carried it with me to a behind the scenes tour at Sea World, where I got to touch a baby tiger shark—highlight of the trip. I no longer read up on the life aquatic, but I do retain my interest, and a membership at the Boston Aquarium.
This time, I need to actually get rid of things instead of putting them in a “maybe” pile for future years.
Gone are the math workbooks of my childhood, gone are the Sweet Valley High books of my teenage years. Off to a fellow GeekMom are my X-files postcards. Back home with me to Maine will come: my MASH bubblegum cards, my eraser collection, and a few Wuzzles. I’m a hoarder by nature so it is hard to part with some things, but I remember the joy I had in finding them originally. It leads me to hope that there is someone out there just waiting to find a 1994 travel guide to Bruges or an original set of Simpsons trading cards.
What does your attic say about you?