Mar 29, 2011

Accepting the geek – Part IV: The queens of geek

Welcome aboard the Bitter Trolley, and since I’ve collected your tickets and everyone is comfy, let’s get the Bitter Trolley underway.

As I mentioned in “Accepting the geek – Part I” - -it was a long trip for me to accept who I am, a geek. I say it proudly, and without reservation, and if anyone has issues with the person I am, then too bad for them. I like the person I have finally discovered I am, and I have made some amazing friends in this process of realization.

That’s what I want to talk about today, some of the people I’ve met as I’ve opened myself to accepting my geek. In particular, the women I have come to know. The geek women.

I will be up front and admit, like many, when I would think of geeks I had the image we’ve been fed by popular media for years, the nerdy, out-of-shape lonely guy living in his parent’s basement. If a woman is portrayed as a geek, she’s either fat or painfully thin, again with the glasses and so shut off from reality it’s scary.

Well guess what. Geek women are some of the smartest, sassiest, most quick-witted and beautiful women in the world. It’s interesting that if I hadn’t relented and finally got a Twitter account, I would never have known about the universe of geek women out there, and my life would be a lot duller than it is now.

One of the things I tell people that ask about Twitter is that with Facebook you can keep in contact with friends in a general way, but with Twitter you can expand your knowledge and meet people for whatever niche you choose. I was so lucky that early on in my Twitter journey I met a really wonderful lady named Terry, and we became friends quickly. Through her I started meeting scores of others who love sci-fi as much as I do, and in many cases more, many of them women. My world became richer and my intellect constantly challenged by these women, and I love that.

These are not the overall wearing types pop culture purveyors like to present (yeah, I did that on purpose LOL) – not even close. These are professional, educated and very intelligent women (and intelligent is so sexy) who can discuss how women are portrayed in sci-fi, then switch to nitpicks of episodes and explain the science of their argument then discuss their gaming adventures in the blink of an eye. Then say, “Sorry, gotta go, about to go for a 10-mile mountain bike ride.”

As I stated in an earlier ride on the Bitter Trolley, I am an avid Star Trek Online player, and the amount of women players astounds me. Sure there are guys that make women characters, but being able to hook into Ventrilo and talk to the other players, there are some stunning ladies (intellectually as well as physically) playing the game.

So what I have to wonder is why do so many of those who decide to present women like this do so? Are they scared of smart women, confident women and women that are not afraid to tell you what they are thinking?

It’s funny, when the amazing Jeri Ryan was cast as Seven of Nine, so many people derided it as a casting stunt, and the joke flew about geeks having their pin up girl. The truth is, if you have ever heard her talk, if you follow her on Twitter or read her writings, Jeri Ryan should be a role model for young women, and the fact she’s drop-dead gorgeous, well, that’s just a bonus for the geeks out here.

I have some coworkers that were discussing MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, but when they heard about a debate I was having with my geek women friends about the Star Trek Deep Space Nine finale “What You leave Behind” – they thought that was so odd. Really?  I still love the episode, but some things were pointed out to me about the ending no man ever had ever said to me. I like that. Oh, but it’s set in space, it must be silly. But real housewives shows aren't. Uh huh.

So who are the queens of geek? It's simple, it's not some actress or writer, it is the everyday woman out there who enjoys the adventure, the learning and the fun of sci-fi/fantasy/gaming. It's the women I am lucky to meet every day.

In the end it all boils down to one thing for me, geek women are the best of us, and I could not be more privileged and proud that I know them, and they accept and love me for who I am.

It is truly the geek man that is lucky, because geek women are more than a pretty face, they have the brains to keep us interested.

If you choose to make fun, to belittle or to tell us, “Get a life!” then you don’t get it. We have one, and it’s damn good.

Thanks for reading. And as always, thanks for riding the Bitter Trolley, and please, remember us for your future travels.

Oh, before you leave the Trolley, check out the following blogs by some wonderful geek women, it's worth the time:

Mar 18, 2011

Accepting the geek – Part III: Trek in print

Welcome aboard the Bitter Trolley, and since I’ve collected your tickets and everyone is comfy, let’s get the Bitter Trolley underway.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it was the discovery of the Gateways series while in Iraq that reignited my geek, so I thought it would be a good time to talk a little Trek lit. I know there is a lot more than just Trek out there for geek reading (and I have to just throw in, The novel "Batman – No Man’s Land" was fantastic), but for my pleasure reading I read Trek. Nothing against other sci-fi series, I just don’t have time.

I liked the Gateways series well enough, but I was lost in some of it because I had never read Trek lit, so Gateways really was a gateway for me.

In order to understand what I was reading I jumped on to start ordering other books, as well as the DVDs of every season of every Trek series. is truly one of my best friends when deployed.
Another major factor in my discovering Trek in print was author and really great guy, David Mack. When I went to and asked on the message board if anyone could help me find the Gateways novels I didn’t have, not only was Dave kind enough to send me the missing ones, but he sent a ton of sci-fi and fantasy novels, helping me build quite the library in our office.

As I was reading the Gateways series I was confused when I read “Cold Wars” by Peter David. I had never heard of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun of the U.S.S. Excalibur or the New Frontier series, so it truly was a “Huh???” moment for me.
Within a month I had ordered all the New Frontier novels and was on my way.
It became a daily ritual that when I left the embassy for my ride to work, then again at dinner, and during down times, I was reading the novels and loving it, now getting deeper into the novel universe and enjoying heading into the unknown.

When I returned to the States my reading slacked off, there was just no time with the daily grind of reintegrating, starting a new job, seeing my children, etc. I would get a book occasionally, but not with the passion I had overseas.

Then I deployed again.

This deployment I took Greg Cox’s two volume “The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh” and “To Reign in Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh,” and really enjoyed the ride.

I followed that with the TNG series “A Time To” series.
Truthfully, I had started the series in my 2004-2005 deployment, but wasn’t grabbed by it, and then got hooked on New Frontier. When I started reading it again in 2007 it did grab me, and the series got better with each book. When I finished the series it depressed me. It had been a long ride and well worth the trip.

Then it happened.

For Christmas I got some books that not only sucked me in, I read each in about two-three days, and when I was done I was so excited that my roommate, who laughed at my geekdom, was almost tempted to read the books. (He didn’t.)

The event was David Mack’s "Destiny" trilogy.

If you’ve read it, you already know. I really don’t have to say anything.

From the first sentence it pulls you in you and doesn’t let go.

And unlike some reviews I have seen that say Ezri Dax has been “Mary Sued,” I love the new, confident and authoritative Ezri. Sure, she has private doubts, but this is a great direction for the character, who is a Dax after all.

The suspense, action and tragedy in Destiny are thick, and the sheer scope of the trilogy across time and distance is breathtaking. I could gush for days.

I snapped up the post-Destiny novels as soon as they hit the shelves, and there wasn’t a bad book in the bunch. In the course of the last 18 months or so I have become huge fans of Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, Keith R. A. DeCandido and Kirsten Beyer. (More about her in a bit.)  It is not an exaggeration to say if it has their name on it, I am spending the money.

Which leads me to talk about two other print Trek adventures that have me racing at warp 9.9 (hey, not warp 10, then I turn into a salamander and wind up fathering Janeway’s tadpoles!) to the nearest bookseller.

I read the Voyager "Homecoming" novels by Christie Golden and liked them. They gave us the homecoming that we deserved after seven years in the Delta Quadrant and were so cheaply ripped off from getting in the series finale “Endgame.” Ms. Golden did it in a really nice way, and I still recommend these books to people.

But when I read “Star Trek Voyager: Full Circle” and “Star Trek Voyager: Unworthy” by Kirsten Beyer…I literally cheered at one point. THIS is what Voyager should be.
Ms. Beyer made the crew of Voyager alive, she brought them forward in stories where the people mattered, they were a team (and not just a captain, her humanity project and a hologram) and they breathed.
I cannot say enough good about these two books, and I am anxiously awaiting her newest Voyager novel, “Children of the Storm.”

Oh, and for the “I will never buy another Star Trek novel until Janeway is brought back” crowd – it’s your loss. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Finally, I would be not only remiss, but should serve time on Rura Penthe if I don’t discuss the “Star Trek: Vanguard” series.
Vanguard is a TOS-era series set on Starbase 47 *wink* also known as Vanguard, a new station built to support Starfleet operations near an interstellar expanse called The Taurus Reach.

The first novel, “Harbinger,” was written by David Mack, and the cast of characters he and then-editor Marco Palmieri came up with is spectacular. I loved the cameo by Kirk and the Enterprise crew in “Harbinger,” and the little things that Trek fans will agonize over, like the changes in TOS uniforms between "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and "The Man Trap" commented on by the characters.

But more importantly, the original characters in the series are tragic, fun, maddening, intense…I could go on. For a really good read about the Vanguard series read: “Star Trek: Vanguard – A Breath of Fresh Trek Air” by a truly wonderful lady, Terry Lynn Shull, at:

One of the really fun things about the Vanguard series is David Mack alternates with Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore in writing the books, and the authors are constantly trying to one-up each other, ending each novel with a cliffhanger so heavy you know they have to be beating their heads against the desk yelling, “You bastard! How am I gonna get this resolved????”

If you are a Trek fan and haven’t read Vanguard, you are truly missing a great experience. 

A final thought about the Trek printed universe. I’ve had the extraordinary luck to get to know some of the authors, emailing, chatting on Twitter and sitting and sharing adult beverages together, and if there is a nicer group of people, I don’t know where they are. I won’t say more about David Mack, I have been told I say too many nice things about him. :-)

But in the last year I have had the real pleasure of getting to know Dayton Ward, and he truly is one of the really fun and good people, and Kevin Dilmore and he make a great Abbott and Costello team when talking to them.

Marco Palmieri blew me away with his sincerity, warmth and genuine interest in what we were discussing. Funny story, I was talking to him about Ms. Beyer’s Voyager novels and gushing about them, he looked at me and pointed to the woman standing next to me and said, “Have you met Kirsten, she wrote those books.”
She was so kind, and she seemed blown away that I was reading her novels in Baghdad.

Finally, I just want to say that when talking to Keith R.A. DeCandido I was just awed by his energy, wit and general niceness.

Maybe part of my love for the Trek novels is that the people who write these adventures are the biggest fans out there, they love the Trek universe and want to take us on a ride that they are enjoying as much as anyone.

Whatever it is, this is a geek who cannot wait for the next installment of our continuing mission they take us on.

Thanks for reading. And as always, thanks for riding the Bitter Trolley, and please, remember us for your future travels.

Mar 10, 2011

Accepting the geek – Part II: The Dividing Line

Welcome aboard the Bitter Trolley, and since I’ve collected your tickets and everyone is comfy, let’s get the BT underway.

Sorry it has been so long since my last post, I had Army Reserve drill last weekend and that tends to eat a lot of time. I know it’s no excuse; there is never a good excuse, only the truth.  And my first duty here is to the truth.

"The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it's scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based! And if you can't find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you don't deserve to wear that uniform!"

Sorry, I channeled Jean-Luc Picard from one of my top five favorite TNG episodes. It happens.

So, last time we met here in the dining car explained how I came to embrace and accept the geek I am, and that I am not only happy with the person I am, but I have met some truly amazing people who share the same passions and humor.

But there was a polarizing event less than two years ago, and for the geek community there is still a divide that can run deep and sometimes lead to actual yelling. I saw it. When I’ve seen it I have to admit, it’s kind of made me sad to see.

What was the Fort Sumter of Trek? The 2009 release of JJ Abrams “Star Trek.”

Because the story evolves in an alternate timeline from the Kirk, Spock and McCoy we grew up with (Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley), some fans call it nuTrek. Others call is “Abramsverse.” But one thing many agree upon calling it is…well, there are a lot of less than flattering words they use. I am not in that group, and I have taken some heat for it. But let me explain where I’m coming from, and then we can discuss.

I first heard about nuTrek while in Iraq, when I saw the teaser trailer on I was SO excited, the Soldiers I was with can attest that I became obsessed with checking out about the film. See I have bad luck with movies and deployment.

See, “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” both were released while I was in Iraq, so was “Star Wars – Revenge of the Sith.” Ok, so the last one didn’t break me up too much, but still….

Finally after 24 months I was headed home and nuTrek was opening in theaters THE NEXT DAY! I made plans to see it (by myself…my wife has zero interest in sci-fi and made it a point to explain to me how very little she wanted to sit in a theater for a Star Trek movie) and was through the roof.

The movie started. I was not bothered by lens flares. I really liked the look of the film in fact. One of the big things I was worried about was would I be so jet-lagged after flying home 8,000 miles that even if this thing was “The Godfather” in Star Trek form, I’d fall asleep. It was not even close to happening.

After I left the theater I went home, my wife asked how it was. I had to think about it and said the most honest thing I could, “I don’t know.”

See, I liked a lot about the film, truly. There were things I didn’t like. Then there were things I just wish…weren’t. I mean, destroying Vulcan????
(And if that’s a spoiler for you, I am so not saying sorry. It’s been on DVD for how long now?)

But in keeping with IDIC, I accepted the film and was happy it was out. I know that for some, me saying that is like saying to them that Superman is a pussy, and I’d rather have….Aquaman…help me fight crime.

Superman is such a tool...I mean, look at this:

Enough said about that.

But back to the topic: Why? Why the outright open hostility some show towards nuTrek? I get picking the story, or some of the set designs. But we’re talking hard core MSNBC toward Ronald Reagan fans hatred I have seen.

I get it, by rebooting and having beloved, classic characters (and yes, I do have a blog planned how Star Trek is the modern mythology) played by new actors and changing the back-story, it shakes some people’s worlds. I get that. But the thing is – none of it is real anyway, so maybe I am being a heretic saying this, but I am along to enjoy stories that make me think and bring me some escape.

I have talked to people who literally could not say a good thing about nuTrek. That’s silly, and if I may, a tad hardheaded.

Here are five things about nuTrek I enjoyed:

5 – It was a Trek that was filmed for the BIG screen. People can have issues with lens flares and such, but this was a Trek deserving of the theater experience. I mean really, was “Insurrection” anything more than a TNG episode an hour longer?

4 – The music was amazing, and when the classic theme hit at the end (and I loved that, as if the nuCrew had earned it), I got goose bumps.

3 – The “origin” story. Look, maybe it’s not what I would have written, or you. But it IS the story of how the “original” crew met, something fans wanted for years. I admire them for tackling it.

2 - Chris Pine was outstanding in the role of James T. Kirk. He didn’t do a Shatner, he made it his own. Plus, let’s face it, he has the look.

1 – Not only was Capt. Christopher Pike in the film, but Bruce Greenwood owned ever scene he was in. He had a depth and charisma rarely seen in any Trek.

Now, five things I didn’t care for so much:

5 – Scotty as comic relief really bugged me. A lot. I am a Simon Pegg mark, and really felt let down by this characterization.

4 – The engine room. I think that says enough about that.

3 – Nero. That was not the epic villain we needed. We needed a Khan. Hell, I would have settled for a Harry Mudd.

2 – Spock/Uhura romance. Look, I am not opposed to it, it just….came out of nowhere. And if anything in the film deserved at least a sentence of explanation, this was it.

1 – Vulcan destroyed. Vulcan. Destroyed. VULCAN. DESTROYED! No matter how many times I say or write it, I get mad.

So I admit, there’s some big problems with the film. But for long-time Trekkies (or Trekkers, no diff to me) to bash the film is short sighted, and does not take into account something nuTrek opens for us.

The future.

Yeah, ironic huh?

See, we grew up in a world with just TOS (TAS was so no easy to find) and the books. Then there was TNG, changing everything.
Then the flood hit, we had DS9 (the most underappreciated Trek, and the best), Voyager (UGH in so many ways) and Enterprise (sadly, once they got their shit together it was cancelled). We had the TOS films, the TNG films…I think Rick Berman was right, we reached saturation.

Then we had a break and nuTrek came out. And you know what I noticed last year at my visit to Shore Leave? A lot of young people, teens and younger, wearing nuTrek uniforms while talking about the film and excited to learn more about Trek. They are excited about Star Trek! So what if it’s not the Trek we grew up with?

This is THEIRS. THEY are joining the family! Isn’t that a wonderful thing?

Look, I know nuTrek isn’t for everyone, I get it. But we have to look forward to get the next generation (no pun intended) to look back. Isn’t that what it’s about, passing this wonderful gift of Trek on to future generations?

Am I being naive?

I look forward to hearing thoughts on this topic.

Oh, if it is kind of disjointed I apologize, I am medicated at the moment and also working with a really crappy keyboard that has jumped all over the place while typing.

Thanks for reading. And as always, thanks for riding the Bitter Trolley, and please, remember us for your future travels.

Mar 1, 2011

A late night note about Star Trek Online

Welcome aboard the Bitter Trolley, and since I’ve collected your tickets and everyone is comfy, let’s get the BT underway.

I just got done playing the latest weekely episode, this one title "Coliseum," and I just wanted to say to Cryptic - THUMBS UP!

I'll post more later on the game and how it's made my nights better, but these weeklies are getting better and better. Keep up the great work!

The USS Gettysburg, NCC-91863-D on patrol

Thanks for riding the Bitter Trolley, and please, remember us for
your future travels.