Meeting a Nerd Hero: My Encounter with Ernest Cline

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Yes, he’s wearing a Rush 2112 t-shirt.

I’ve had a busy spring. My spring semester class was by far the most difficult class I’ve taken thus far in my M. A. program. I was struggling with the material to start with, but then when my grandmother passed and I had to be out of town for a week, I got even further behind. Thank God for gracious professors. I rewarded myself for muscling through one of my papers with a brief jaunt to Asheville to listen to one of my favorite authors, Ready Player One‘s Ernest Cline. Cline was touring to promote the new paperback edition of his latest novel, Armada, and I knew I could never forgive myself if I didn’t haul myself to the last stop of the tour for the chance to hear him speak, especially when he was only a couple hours away. It was well worth the drive.

Ready Player One is my favorite book since Harry Potter. For anyone who knows me, you know this is the absolute highest praise that I can give it. I wrote a paper on it for class last spring. I’ve probably listened to the audiobook at least 10 times, if not more. Cline combines my love for all things retro (think 70s and 80s science fiction/fantasy/pop culture) and my enthusiasm for all things in the realm of nerd/geek culture in his novels. Hearing him speak was an exercise in wit, humor, and learning to write from your roots.

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Meeting the man himself!

Cline is the ultimate fanboy.  No surprises there, based on his body of work, but he would call himself, not a nerd, not a geek, but an “Enthusiast.” I like this term. While the world has now embraced nerd/geek culture to a degree, those who have long been nerds/geeks still get eye rolls when it comes to our unabashed enthusiasm for the things we love. Cline gave his audience a tour through his childhood, which essentially became the foundation for his novels.

Cline is an engaging speaker, keeping his audience in stitches with his humor, but I also learned something from him that really inspires me as a writer. Cline confessed that he wrote Ready Player One without hopes that it would actually be published. Because he approached the novel from that perspective, he unabashedly threw every single geek reference that he possibly could into the book. The book was written entirely for his enjoyment. When the book was published and hit the bestseller list, Cline was just as surprised as anyone else.

What would happen if I did that? What if I wrote my what I loved, not caring what anyone else thought? I’m certain that I’d have a novel or at least a short story by now. Just a note of encouragement from me to you. Write what you love. Write what you know. Chances are, there are other people in this world who will really get what you write. They’ll identify with you in some way. Confessedly, it was all I could do not to freak out when I met Ernie. I am thankful that though I could tell he was exhausted from being on the road and meeting fans, he took time to take photos, answer questions, sign autographs, and shake hands with each of his fans. Today, I raise my glass to you, Mr. Cline. Thanks for teaching me to write from my roots and to be myself. It never hurts to have a reminder.

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In the Night, My Hope Lives On

Normally I post something fun, witty, and nerdy here on my blog.

Today, I am simply too sad for that.

My Grandma passed a week ago, a friend lost her Grandma two nights ago, another friend and mentor lost her husband in a tragic accident on Saturday, and a couple at my church lost a 7 month-old baby to a heart defect on Sunday. Aside from my personal tragedies, the evil committed in Brussels today is infuriating and heartbreaking. How does humanity press on in spite of personal tragedy, loss, and acts of evil?

So in the night, my Hope lives on. 

Hope is seen clearest not in the best of circumstances, but in the worst. I have hope that one day, these tragedies will cease to exist because of the resurrected Jesus Christ.

The gates of hell will never stand against Him, so in the night, my Hope lives on.

In light of the Easter celebrations this coming weekend, I pray that you have hope. I only have hope that through my sadness, through the darkness my friends are facing, and through the evil being perpetrated throughout the world, that those who love justice, truth, and mercy will prevail.

In the night, my hope lives on.

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Progress

In the time-frame since my last post, I’ve done better at some of my 2016 goals than others. Shortly after my last post, I was blindsided by two weeks of bronchitis. Last week was spent catching up from bronchitis. Here I am now!

#LastWordBookHaul

My latest haul from my favorite local used bookstore.

My reading, retro gaming, and nerd knowledge goals have all progressed steadily, though none as quick as I’d like. You can check my progress on GoodReads here. As for retro gaming, I’ve had fun playing a couple RPGs on NES and my original Gameboy.

As I mentioned in my last post, I thought I had until summer to catch up on The X-Files. That information is INCORRECT! I’ve been scrambling to finish the original series so I can catch up on the new one, which by all accounts is fabulous. I just started season 9 last night, so I feel confident that I’ll be able to start the new series by next week. Once that’s finished, my husband wants me to watch Fringe with him. I’ve seen a handful of episodes and I’m a big fan of J. J. Abrams, so I’m looking forward to watching from the beginning. He’s already watched the series, but was very adamant about a rewatch. As you can see, I also picked up some new-to-me TV with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, mostly because I want to see Lena Headey play a character I don’t hate. Also, Summer Glau as a Terminator is a pretty fun idea. This will also allow me to have completed all the films and TV in the Terminator canon. My completionist tendencies will be very satisfied once I do that. I’ve seen seasons 1 & 2 of Orphan Black, but haven’t seen season 3 yet. Any Clone Club sestras here? Don’t spoil me, please, but I plan to get my paws on season 3 soon.

As for my writing and self-care goals, I hope to be able to keep writing here once a week. Again, bug me if I don’t! I also had a blog post go up today on the Mythgard site (my grad school), where I compiled a list of calls for papers, with the aid of fellow Mythgardians, Kris and Curtis. If you’re interested in fantasy, science fiction, medieval literature, and/or television, you should definitely check it out. On the subject of my self-care goals, we had originally planned to be out of town this weekend, but unfortunately our plans changed. The silver lining to that though is that I have a very rare Saturday off. I plan to do some things to take care of my apartment and to do some cooking, which is always a good stress reliever for me.

What have you been up to this winter? What goals are you working on? Anything fun going on in your neck of the woods?

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5 Goals for a Nerdy New Year

Greetings, friends!

The last few months of 2015 were extremely busy in my neck of the woods. Even the firstSaved by Faithfulness few weeks of 2016 have been full! However, I’m back into writing mode and looking forward to a new year. Here are 5 nerdy goals I want to pursue this year.

  1. Read 50 books. I have been lax on my pleasure reading since I started grad school. Now that I’m approaching the final stages of my graduate program (2 more classes and a thesis to complete after this semester), I want to make a concentrated effort to read more. This goal will include books I’m reading for class and for fun. I would particularly like getting caught up on A Song of Ice and Fire because I’m tired of getting spoiled on them via some less than charitable people on my facebook timeline. If you’re on GoodReads, you can connect with me there to see what I’m reading.
  2. Write consistently. As some of you know, I pay the bills largely by helping others manage their social media. However, once I finish writing for others, I occasionally find it difficult to write for myself. I need to get over that. Writing for me is important. I plan to write on this blog a minimum of one post a week, but ideally three posts a week. I would also like to branch out and write guest posts at other sites as well. Do you have a site you’d like me to write for? If so, please drop me a note at the contact link. You also have permission to bug me about the lack of content here. I don’t mind encouragement!
  3. Retro gaming. Last year, I enjoyed finding and collecting some retro game titles and consoles. This year, I’d like to focus playing through and beating some of the games I purchased. This week, I utilized some Christmas money to fulfill 6 year-old Ashley’s dream of owning a NES. I’d like to pick up some more games for it and have a great time reminiscing.
  4. Fill in the gaps in my film/television “Nerd Knowledge.” I’ve been working diligently to fill in the gaps of my “Nerd Knowledge,” as I call it, since I finished undergrad. This past year, I finished a 6-year project to watch ALL of Star Trek. Now that that’s out of the way, I want to focus on finishing The X-Files, including the films (especially before the reboot this summer), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dollhouse. Joss Whedon is always worth watching, in my opinion. What are you watching?
  5. Make time for myself. I think this last goal will prove to be the most challenging for me. I am very extroverted and also have difficulty saying no to special events and outings. I’ve also learned that it can be difficult for me to find time to do the things I need to do to care for myself and my husband. Part of that means learning to say no. I want to have at least one night of the week dedicated to be my night at home for rest and decompression. What do you do to help build time in for self-care? What things do you do to help yourself relax?

What are your nerd goals for the year? Share them in the comments. I hope your New Year has started off with a bang!

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Halloween Podcast Recommendation: Saturday Frights

Artwork by Sean Hartter

Artwork by Sean Hartter

About two years ago, I undertook the happy task of listening to every single episode (2009 to the present) of The Retroist Podcast. Being a podcast junkie, this took me just about all of the summer of 2013 (there were well over 100 episodes at that time). It’s quickly become my favorite podcast; I never miss an episode. I’ve always been a nostalgia addict, even as a little kid. The Retroist blog and podcast has helped feed that addiction. The Retroist Team has since branched out and now boast podcasts on classic coin-op arcade games, old time radio shows, and retro horror film/television. The latter is called Saturday Frights. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’m not a huge fan of the horror genre. My mind is very image averse, but I’ve always found it fascinating to research and learn about horror films and television. This strange little facet of my brain gets tickled every time I tune in. So, if you like horror, have a love/hate relationship with horror (like me), or just enjoy retro film and television, you’ll want to subscribe to Saturday Frights.

Vic Sage, one of nicest people I’ve ever met on the internet, and the mysterious Projectionist take a classic horror film or television episode and give the listener a brief plot summary, talk about the people in front of and behind the camera, and offer production details on the film. They’ve hit everything from episodes of The Twilight ZoneNight Gallery, and Ray Bradbury Theater to lesser known horror films like Re-Animator, GargoyleDark Night of the Scarecrow, and classics like The Invisible Man. For someone like me who dips their toe in the water of the horror genre, this has proven a great way to acquaint myself with horror without watching a bunch of slasher movies that will leave my wild imagination nightmare-ridden.

Saturday Frights makes a perfect addition to your Halloween listening line-up. It’s fun, spooky, and is a great way to find something new for your Halloween viewing pleasure.

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Halloween Film Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

PsychoI continue my Halloween nostalgia series with a few words on my favorite of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, Psycho. I was maybe 10 years old or so when I first saw Psycho. My cousin and I were having a sleepover on Christmas night, and as was our tradition, we watched a random movie, typically not holiday themed. In a series of unexplainable events, Psycho was the choice for the evening. I was never too scared watching Psycho, and was honestly delighted at the end. This film was also my introduction to Hitchcock. I’ve never been a huge fan of horror, but that film made me a fan of Alfred Hitchcock. During October, I especially enjoy exploring his other works.

Three years ago, I had the pleasure of introducing my husband to Psycho. Somehow he’d made it through life 1) having not seen Psycho, and 2) having not been spoiled on the ending! He was floored, freaked out, and impressed by the film. The shots, the cast, and Hitchcock’s signature shadowy villain shots captured his imagination and recaptured mine.

This is a classic truly worth watching and it still holds up over time. The horror genre has slowly grown on me over the past few years. I’m not one for slasher films, but I love the suspense horror that Hitchcock steeps into his work. I’d love recommendations for other works by Hitchcock I should watch and other works in the suspense horror vein.

I won’t say too much more on the film, as I would certainly hate to spoil you on it. This is a film worth watching without pre-googling or googling during the film. Alfred Hitchcock insisted that once the film started you must not leave the theater; you must enjoy the film from start to finish. And when you finish, don’t tell the ending.

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Halloween Special Review: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!Just about every holiday of the year has a Peanuts special to go along with it. Halloween is no different. This is a special that needs no introduction.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! is on my watch list every Halloween season. I’ve adored the Peanuts comic strips and specials my entire life. The Peanuts characters are the embodiment of childhood for me. There’s something comforting about having them with me every holiday season. I think that’s why they always gain a spot on my watch list every Halloween.

I’ve always related to the hapless Charlie Brown–often feeling left out and excluded, but ultimately still loved. I get clumsy with scissors too, so it would be unsurprising to me if I made a ghost costume with 1000 holes too. There are a few things that really make this special, well, special for me.

  1. The music. The music for all the Peanuts specials is just iconic. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! is no different. I’ve always enjoyed the music, but as I’ve gotten older and gained some musical knowledge, specifically in jazz as a sax player, I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for Vince Guaraldi’s scores. I’ve been known to make Autumn playlists filled exclusively with Vince Guaraldi’s work. I recommend you do the same.
  2. The jokes. The dry wit of Charles M. Schultz has never ceased to be funny to me. My husband and I sat down to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! together today and even though we’ve watched this multiple times in our lives, it’s still funny! “Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker,” and “Clearly we are separated by denominational differences,” were ones that struck us funny in particular during this viewing.
  3. The nostalgia. As I mentioned previously, the Peanuts characters embody childhood for me. This special represents everything Halloween should be–trick-or-treating, costumes, parties, and fun. It doesn’t have to be scary. It just has to be fun.

This is my sincere encouragement to you–tune in, pop in that DVD, or like me, dust off that VCR and watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!. It’s sure to put a smile on your face this Halloween season and it’s fun to share with your family and friends of any age. And remember, if you have the most sincere pumpkin patch, The Great Pumpkin will rise up from your pumpkin patch and leave toys for the good boys and girls.

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