I haven’t told any stories here for quite some time, so how about I tell you one I’ve been meaning to ever since I started this blog?
This story is mostly about the first time I ever encountered something I would come to embrace, Geek Culture and the love of that special something you watch or read. At the time I thought what happened was ridiculous and I still do to some extent, but I now get the passion behind it.
Now, I’m going to ramble, diverge from the path and generally meander as we go. Why? Because the essence of the story is quite brief, but the flavour of it is why I remember it.
It happened when I was about nine or ten, it was certainly before I started secondary school which I did just after my twelfth birthday.
As a family we had gone on holiday to a caravan park, somewhere in DorsetI think. We had our own caravan and while I see them now and think “How would I fit in that?” at that time I was small enough that sharing with my Mum, Dad and Brother didn’t seem exceptionally cramped.
I know the camp was by the sea, there was a winding path down something really steep right to the beach. In my mind the path was on the edge of a cliff but I suspect it was just a large hill.
It was probably a Haven site, we liked going to them. Static caravans in one place, ones people brought with them elsewhere and most importantly, a kid’s club. I say most important because if there had been no organised kid’s entertainment I wouldn’t be telling this story. I also wouldn’t have ended up in a ridiculous fancy dress costume for a competition that I think I was the only one who entered. Can’t remember what the theme might have been, but my costume was a bin liner over my head with empty crisp and chocolate wrappers attached to it. I ended up walking around the whole site dressed like that and yet, amazingly, it’s not why I got into a fight.
Now, I watched a lot of TV as a kid, still do to be honest. I was always reading as well, that’s not relevant to this story directly, but I feel I need to balance out my declaration of being a square eyed kid. I could have been well on my way to being that stereotypical geeky kid we now all think of, if not for the fact that I was sports mad as well. I was a sprinter, I played football as much as I could, I was even drafted into my Year’s cricket team despite having no experience with the game because they assumed I’d be able to pick it up like any other sport. Well, I played, I was not good at it, but they still had me fill in a couple more times because I wasn’t utterly awful either.
What I am trying to say is that at the age of nine or ten I had a lot of interests, but none of them inspired in me the passion of the kid I am about to tell you about.
With my declaration of defending Wil Wheaton‘s honour in the title and the fact that this story takes place in ’90 or ’91, you will have probably already worked out that my first real interaction with a full on, dyed in the love for his show geek, was with a Star Trek fan.
I don’t remember his name, just that he was ginger, slightly tubby and was about two years older than me. We’d interacted at the various activities the kid’s club had done, but only in passing. It had been enough, however, that when we all sat down for a bonfire/campfire/barbeque thing (details about what we were doing are fuzzy, I remember sitting down and there being fire. I’m fairly certain it wasn’t an arson spree, but who knows?), I was quite happy to sit next to him and chat.
He was wearing a Star Trek T-shirt, original series or Next Gen I don’t recall, so that’s what we started to talk about. I hadn’t seen the original show, but I had seen the movies and I was enjoying watching the Next Generation.
Now, after a while it became clear to me that he knew a lot more about Trek than I did. The difference was huge, I vaguely remembered episodes I had seen only once, he could quote whole scenes.
And so, being me, I decided to mess with him. When I say mess, I mean lie. I was making up episodes I had seen and challenging him to identify them – just flat out fabrications of things that had never been in Trek, and yet he kept steering me back to real stories.
“What you mean is this, yeah? You’ve just got it a little muddled.”
“Um, I guess so.”
“Exactly, well, that’s this episode.”
Quite amazing in retrospect, but he kept his cool. The conversation was fun and we were laughing. I was enjoying making him figure out real things from the utter tosh I was talking and he seemed perfectly happy to be talking about Star Trek with someone who seemed to like it.
Then we moved on to favourite characters. I think his was McCoy, I remember him doing the “I’m not a…, I’m a Doctor!” thing several times.
I had never really thought about a favourite, but when I did the answer was clear, Data. I just thought Data was the best thing in Next Generation.
The kid did not agree “He’s just a replacement Spock. Pick someone else.”
(I will now say that these quote’s are not all verbatim, they are more general flavour of what was said. I’ll tell you when we get to the one thing he said I will always remember.)
I struggled to think, Worf was good, a fighter but not very funny. I couldn’t pick any of the women because, well, they were girls. Picard seemed too obvious. Then it hit me, the character I kinda identified with, who I would have liked to be if I was in Star Trek The Next Generation.
“I would say it’s Wesley Crusher.”
He stared at me, his face started to go red, I began to worry he was ill. Then he sucked in a huge breath, leaned right into my face and screamed “Wesley Crusher is a prick!” (That’s the quote I always remember.)
I’d never had anyone but my little brother scream in my face before, I was shocked. “No, he’s good, because he’s a kid like us, but he’s on a starship.”
Another deep breath, closer to my face and he screamed again “Wesley Crusher is the worst thing in the history of television!” (It may have been in the history of Star Trek, worst human to ever live, I don’t exactly recall, but you get the gist.)
Now, I liked Wesley, he seemed alright and if it had just been the first scream, I would probably have let it go. But the second seemed utterly unnecessary.
So I stepped up to the plate “You’re wrong! He’s great and you know nothing about Star Trek.”
He slapped me in the face! An actual slap, could have been trying for a punch, but what he delivered was a slap.
So I hit him in the chest.
At which point he grabbed me, threw me to the floor and knelt over me. He hit me again, a couple of times I think, and continued yelling about how Wesley Crusher was rubbish, how I was stupid and a bunch of other angry stuff.
Now, he was heavier and older than me and he had me pinned down good. But, unlike him (I imagine) I got into quite a lot of fights. My primary school had a field for play times which was also a football pitch. At some point before this happened I had declared the centre circle “The Fighting Circle” and anyone who entered it was fair game for a bit of a fight. Never too vicious, never bad enough that a teacher had to step in, but it did give me a lot of experience in scrapping.
It also taught me two things, I really hate getting hurt – it’s almost a phobia which is why I never got that good at mountain biking, too scared to go properly crazy. Secondly it taught me that the best way to win any fight was to fight dirty.
So, with a crazed twelve year old keeling above me I did what it is I do, and kneed him square in the bollocks.
As he rolled off me I sprang up and ran away yelling back that Wesley Crusher was great and he was stupid. I don’t remember seeing him after that.
So yeah, that is how I fought for Wil Wheaton’s honour (well, Wesley Crusher’s).
The other interesting thing that happened during that holiday which relates to my love of certain cultures now is that I ended up with my first Japanese comic.
In the site shop they sold bundles of six American comics for a pound. Being a voracious reader I was into the Beano and The Big Comic (anyone else remember that?), but I had nowhere at home to buy American comics. So I bought myself a bundle.
Most of what was in it has long since been lost, apart from two issues which blew my mind completely.
The first was the premiere issue of Those Annoying Post Bros. An utterly mental multi-dimensional, violent black and white comic about psychotic siblings who at one point end up killing like a thousand copies of one of them.
I loved it, but have had no luck since getting any more of them.
The second was to be the first turning point towards my enjoyment of Manga and Anime. It was issue 13 of Dark Horse’s translation of The Legend of Kamui.
Ninjas, sharks, arms chopped off, an eyeball popping out, all rendered in a realistic (compared to the Beano) style. I was absolutely captivated. I don’t know how many times I re-read that comic, but it did start to get a bit frayed.
Years later I was able to buy volumes 1 and 2 of The Legend of Kamui and see everything that had led up to that first issue I read.
Well, there you go. I said I’d ramble, I said I would digress. But now you have heard the story of how I first came to learn about the really obsessive geeks and come to find some things I could grow to love as well.