Science-Fiction Geeks Unite for Sci-Fi Summit

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A close up of a busy city street

This past weekend brought us Creation Entertainment’s 16th Annual Grand Slam: The Sci-Fi Summit. It was held in the same location as the year before, at the Burbank Airport Marriott in their convention center. I was looking forward to this all week. Maybe that makes me a geek, but most of you who would say that have obviously never been to a Star Trek convention.

Many think they’re all filled with the biggest nerds on the planet, the ones whom you never wanted to be seen with on the high school campus. Believe it or not, most of the people who go to these conventions are quite normal. Only 3% of those who go are into dressing like the characters and spending so much time creating costumes from scratch. There was a person who was dressed as one of those snakehead creatures from “Stargate” (I never watched the movie or the shows). I cannot help but think of all the time this person spent making this costume, and of how many dates he or she didn’t go on. Oh, the curse of being a science-fiction, TV-show fan!

The grief we get from others who think we are completely weird for being more intelligent than they are. These are the same people who think they are more normal for going to football games (which I do like) and dress up in the favorite jerseys, wear face paint, and yell like they just got out of an insane asylum. That’s normal to them. Go figure.

I’ll be honest, I have been going to these conventions since I was in junior high school. The first one I went to had Patrick Stewart as the special guest. The day he was on was also the same day that Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison, and that brought a huge response when Patrick told everyone that. That remains a very special memory for me, and I even got a good shot of him as he walked off the stage to a standing ovation from fans. Patrick even did some Shakespeare for us, and the crowd got so silent that you could hear a pin drop. I know that saying is overused, but there was no other way to describe it.

I also got to see another one with Marina Sirtis, Counselor Deanna Troi herself. She was hilarious as she answered one fan’s question:

“Who designs your dresses?”

“Men. Men designed those dresses!”

Several years later, these conventions went from having one guest to lots of them. It has gone from just Star Trek actors to actors from all science fiction shows like “Stargate,” “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “Hercules,” “Battlestar Galactica” (new and old), and even “Lost.” Today was the second day of the 16th Annual Grand Slam Sci-Fi Summit, and it featured guests from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Hercules,” and the new and brilliant version of “Battlestar Galactica.”

The first big guest of the day was Brent Spiner, best known for playing Data on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Brent was on hand to entertain the fans, and to also promote a new CD of his singing abilities which are quite good to say the least. People asked if he got typecast because he played Data. His response was interesting:

“Actually, I never got typecast by playing Data because it was a one of a kind role. There was no other role like it before. However, I ended up getting typecast as a scientist after I did ‘Independence Day.'”

Brent on to say that when he was called to take a part in “Superhero: The Movie,” it was as a scientist. However, he wanted to play the part of the villain, but the director told him:

“You’ll need to audition for that.”

Brent’s reply:

“That’s fine.”

I actually haven’t seen the movie, so I’m not sure if Brent actually got the part or not. But judging from the reviews of critics as well as good friends of mine (online or offline), it doesn’t sound like I am missing too much. There is a great Tom Cruise impersonation in it which spoofs that scary video that Scientology tried to get off the internet.

One of the big thrills that fans have at these conventions is that they have the opportunity to ask their favorite actors questions that they meant to ask them a long time ago. One of the fans told Brent that “Star Trek: Nemesis” was his favorite Star Trek movie. This brought a rather indifferent response from the audience, and many did not agree with that one fan. Spiner was actually co-wrote the story along with John Logan, and Logan was screenwriter for movies like “Gladiator” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator.” Brent thought that it was at least better than “Star Trek: Insurrection,” or for that matter, “Superhero – The Movie.” The fact that anyone cheered at the mention of the aforementioned movie made Brent stare at the audience in total surprise. But the audience was in total agreement with Brent when he said the best movie for the Next Generation crew was “Star Trek: First Contact.”

Someone else asked Brent if he would ever consider doing a TV show ever again after playing Data on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Brent said that he and his fellow cast members worked 16 to 20 hour days when they worked on the show. These days, Brent said that he “really likes to sleep now.” Enough said.

While Kevin Sorbo was onstage with Michael Hurst from “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” I went around the Burbank Marriott Convention Center to check out the various vendors selling stuff. This brings me to one of my key problems with this particular convention; it feels a lot smaller than usual. Usually, conventions like these spread over the whole hotel that it takes place in. But it was a lot smaller than I had ever seen it before. I should have known something was up when I saw no one waiting outside to get inside. Granted, I got to the Burbank Marriott at around noon, but I have seen it going nuts outside around then before.

People sell things like action figures, spaceships, and weapons which haven’t even been taken out of their original packaging. Hence, they are all the more valuable. I guess that this would be more exciting if I was interested in buying this stuff, but I was really interested in buying some out of print soundtracks. Besides, I bought all these toys when I went to the Star Trek Tour in Long Beach a couple of months ago. I have to save some money in this lifetime. Of course, I did still buy the uncut film score to “Crocodile Dundee” as well as the music to the second season of “Twin Peaks.” It’s great music to an audacious TV show that I still have never watched.

The other big guest of the day was Grace Park who currently plays Boomer/Athena on the brilliant reimagining of “Battlestar Galactica.” She is beautiful to say the least (she is a former model), and she jumped right into questions. The show has just begun its 4th and final season, and while she was not about to give anything away as to what will happen. All she would say is that there will be a lot of questions left unanswered, and that the characters lives will not end when the show ends. Grace also said that there will be a lot more deaths before the show ends with its final episode. In regards to the show perhaps moving to the big screen or future TV movies like “Razor,” she said that probably will not happen. Glen A. Larson was thinking about doing a “Battlestar Galactica” movie, but with the original actors and stars from the 1979 original. Whether that will ever happen remains to be seen.

The best story she got to tell us onstage was on what made her become an actress. She originally started off as a model, and was at one time featured in Maxim magazine (’nuff said). What bothered her was that when she did the photo shoots, they never provided her with lunch or water. She had to come with her own bottle of water. It goes without saying that models are people, especially those who prove to be as good at acting as Grace Park has proven with her work playing multiple incarnations of (more or less) the same character.

Anyway, Grace said that her first film was either “Romeo Must Die” with Jet Li, or some TV movie that she couldn’t remember the name of. While she was on the set of one of those, she noticed that they actually had a lunch break which excited her to no end. There was a catering truck outside that was serving some high end food like clams, lobster, and I guess even salmon among other things. This was in part because it was one of the last days of the shoot, so the catering company there could go ahead and spend whatever money that they had left in their budget that was given to them by the film studio. Grace sounded like she was having a ball eating all this great food that she would never have gotten at a photo shoot for her modeling work. This led to her ecstatic response:

“That’s what made me want to be an actress!”

I left for the day not too long after that. There were opportunities to pay for photo opportunities with the stars that attended, and they went for $40 and up. The money from those goes to different charities by the way. I have never really done those, nor have I had the urge to. I’m sure it would be fun, but I don’t want to come to these people as just another fan. Brent Spiner later showed up in the vendor area to meet fans and sell and autograph his new CD. I kept going by his area, but I couldn’t think of one damn thing to say. I’d like to have a conversation with these people one-on-one instead of just gushing about how much I love their work, but it’s hard. We all want to tell them how much we love someone’s work, but we really want it to mean something. Maybe it will, but I am never really sure.

I walked out of the convention and went back to my car (I lucked out and got a cool spot right in front), and there was a big van outside giving free bottles of Jolt cola. Free drinks? Even if there is no alcohol, I can’t resist something free! I just wish I had the same feeling of excitement and agitation at this convention after I took a sip of this stuff.

This particular sci-fi convention (at least the day I went) was a letdown. Not terrible, but it felt kind of dead compared to other ones I have been to. The drawing power for these events are always the guests, and they made it worthwhile this time around. But the smallness of the vendors there just made it feel like something was missing.

But not to worry; in the week after next, the same location will have the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention, and that is sure to be packed! Looking forward to that, and it won’t come soon enough.

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