The geekiest thing we have ever done (to date)

You might have noticed our latest Facebook posts starring our trip mascot, Timmy the Tiny Borg, and several of you have guessed correctly: we did go to a SciFi convention.

Specifically, we went to the Grand Slam SciFi Summit in Burbank, California.

It. Was. Grand.

I decided to do a FAQ style write-up about this because

a)      Of course I had to blog it, and

b)       I love interviewing myself. I do it all the time. Just kidding. Or am I?

So, without further ado…let the questions begin.

Q: What is the Grand Slam SciFi Summit?

A: It’s a convention where some of the stars of the SciFi genre get together and talk about their time on the shows in which they took part, new film or stage projects, and pretty much whatever else they want. They also take questions from audience members at the end of each session, and there are photo and autograph opportunities as well.

Q: Why did you go?

A: Because it was there, and we thought it would be fun. And guess what? It was.

The more complex answer:

Most of you have figured out by now that Ben and I don’t really do conventional. The truth is, we’re both pretty dedicated to being ourselves and liking what we like. Which means if you think going to a SciFi con is silly, meh. No offense, but I don’t care.

When you start living life with the understanding that you can absolutely be yourself, life gets really fun. I highly recommend it.

Q: Who was there?

A: A lot of people. Nearly the whole cast of Star Trek The Next Generation: Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Michael Dorn.

After watching them all together, I have no idea how they EVER got any filming done. They are all complete goobers.

From other shows: Robert Picardo (Voyager’s doctor), Rene Auberjonois (Odo from DS9), Armin Shimmerman (Quark from DS9), Bruce Boxleitner (the title character from Tron), John Noble (Denethor from Lord of the Rings and Walter from Fringe), James Marsters (Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and many others.

Q: Did you ask them any questions?

A: Not in the sessions themselves, but we got to chat with a few people.

Q: Who did you meet?

A: Welllll….

LeVar Burton: This was really quick, so I think I got a “hi” out before the picture was taken. Cool fact: it was his birthday! We had our picture taken with LeVar Burton on his birthday. That’s pretty neat.

Robert Picardo: He. Was. Adorable. Super sweet, and thought I was younger than Ben which earns him eternal cool points. In his session he talked about how he’d already gone to Mass that morning, and then auctioned off an autographed cast photo from one of his shows with the proceeds to be given to a Catholic charity. I would like to say for the record: respect earned for that move. Especially considering where we were and keeping in mind that Catholics get a lot of flak just for being Catholic. That was awesome.

Rene Aberjonois: OH MY GOSH MY FAVORITE HE WAS SO CUTE! He’s a real character actor (and a character himself to boot). His speaking session was my favorite because he was incredibly animated, frank, and all around delightful. He talked a lot about how he got into acting in the first place, and as he did so he would lapse into different characters. The guy has range, and confidence in his art. Oh, additional bonus respect points: MARRIED FIFTY YEARS. Boom. He’s cool.

When he was in his twenties he was cast as the doctor in the movie Mash – and declined the same role in the TV series because he was done with the character and wanted to move on to something else. That’s a difficult thing to do, turn down steady work as an actor. By the time he got to Star Trek, though, he was already an established character actor and was no longer afraid of being typecast (he played Odo in his fifites!). We got to chat with him and Armin Shimmerman for awhile as well. Both very kind. And didn’t have far to travel, either – they both lived a only a few miles away.

James Marsters: Spike is pretty close to his actual character (aside from the killing and evil and all that jazz), essentially a punk rocker (well, he actually is), so Spike was really fun for him to play. He’s a real talker – loves to share stories about the set. Fun guy.

John Noble: Very quiet, gentlemanly Australian. Super sweet!

Let’s see, who else…Connor Trinneer from Enterprise and some of the other younger stars of the genre – Sam Witwer (Battlestar Galactica and a few other shows), Tyler Posey, Steven R. McQueen. Tyler Posey got points for having atrocious handwriting and being the friendliest of all the younger stars.

We didn’t end up getting to talk to Brent Spiner but Ben nodded at him as he passed in the hallway, so that totally counts. We’re like, best buds now. Yeah.

Q: What were some other highlights? (and keep it quick, cuz this is getting long-winded)

A: Saturday night was just a Next Generation cast reunion, which consisted of all of them sitting on a stage with microphones and talking for about an hour while a moderator desperately tried to steer the conversation toward coherence.

It was hilarious.

I said it earlier, but I have no idea how they got any work done on set – because they spent most of their stage time being complete goobers and giving each other crap.

Other highlights included Patrick Stewart’s solo time on stage, of course. Random fact: He loves Stewie from Family Guy. It was also his nickname as a kid. That’s right, Patrick Stewart was Stewie.

Sidenote: Marina Sirtis is probably one of the loudest people I’ve ever encountered in my entire life. She was also hysterically funny. I really liked her.

I also liked the bit where LeVar Burton interviewed Michael Dorn’s mustache.

Like I said, I don’t know how they ever got anything done.

Q: Takeaways?

A: Believe it or not, yes, there were some pretty deep takeaways here.

The intrinsic value of art. It was actually something I was already thinking about, but several actors talked about the value of being involved in the arts just for the love of it. Obviously there are things to be considered (like feeding yourself and keeping a roof over your head), but I’ve been thinking about how much we do things for accolades and applause. It’s human nature to love positive feedback, and I’m as guilty as any of us on that point, but if that’s a primary motivator…then maybe we’re not performing with integrity. Something rings false about that.

The value of originality and strong identity. Most of these performers seemed so confident in who they were, and that really impressed me. I think some of that is a natural ease with your identity that comes with age, but it struck me that confident people are free to be more creative, because as (healthy) confidence grows, fear recedes. When you are less fearful, you can do MORE. That inspired me.

Overall, great experience. I feel grateful and excited for our next adventures.

I want to leave you with this:

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but just haven’t gotten around to doing?

Just go do it.


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