Ready to play Six Degrees of Gen Con Separation? Sure you are! Let’s start with our two celebrity interviews for this issue, Gen Con guests Jamie Bamber (Apollo on Battlestar Galactica) and Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda). It’s a hop, skip and a jump: Sorbo just wrapped up shooting Last Chance Café for Lifetime, in which he plays the husband of Kate Vernon, who in turn plays the older femme fatale who’s frequently trying to seduce Bamber’s Apollo on BSG. Two steps!
Or if you want to cheat and use reality TV as a shortcut, they both appeared together on Celebrity Poker Showdown, in which they got their clocks thoroughly cleaned by Jason Alexander (another piece of evidence for the Nerds Rule theory, elaborated upon elsewhere; below you can read Sorbo’s version of why he came in last, right behind Bamber).
And to bring mythology into it, both of their best-known characters, Apollo and Hercules, are Greek gods, sons of Zeus, half-brothers who — er, it’s probably best to leave the rest to the fanfic writers.
Jamie Bamber got his start in acting as a boy in London when his mother cast him as the Wicked Witch of the West in a grade-school production of The Wizard of Oz. Since then his roles have been decidedly less gender-ambiguous, including portrayals of soldiers on Horatio Hornblower and Band of Brothers before taking on Captain Lee Adama in BSG.
NUVO: You’ve done a string of military roles now; how did that come about? How do you craft each character, one after another, from that mold?
Bamber: It just comes out that way; when you’re a young guy, a lot of the drama out there is war and armies and dramatic times. It makes for very good stories. It’s much like shows with police or lawyers; there’s built-in drama. There’s something very intellectual about being a soldier, learning to follow orders and give orders and make a smoothly functioning machine, while at the same time making a balance between the conscience of the soldier and the good of the group. The characters I play always have a personal conscience — they have a sense of duty and a sense of personal duty as well, which I suppose is what makes them distinctive.
NUVO: You’re a relative newcomer as sci-fi icons go; have you been to many conventions?
Bamber: I’ve had a little bit of experience with conventions so far. It’s a strange departure as an actor to show up and just be yourself. But I really enjoy meeting with fans of the show, the biggest fans in fact. There’s some memorable stuff — once I had my photo taken with a group of Jedi chefs, who literally dressed up as Jedi who were chefs, except instead of cooking implements like knives and forks, they had lightsabers.
NUVO: Why do you think BSG has struck such a cultural nerve?
Bamber: I think our show is mold breaking — it’s good sci-fi, it holds a broad appeal, it has a wide array of interests. I hope it raises the bar and gets most of the creative community’s mind on what’s important: the characters and development and ideas, rather than the effects or the outfits. I think it’s important that sci-fi stick to its roots, which is to comment on the world in which we live. To ask “what if?” George Orwell’s 1984 is benchmark sci-fi to me — it’s very social and political, even though there’s not a lot of science in it, and I’m hoping our show is bringing sci-fi back to its benchmarks, helping make sci-fi respected as a serious genre. I have misgivings about remakes, when there are so many original ideas floating around, but when I read it I thought it was very bold to heighten the reality rather than the drama. The characters all jumped off the page, they were all conflicted. The tone of our show is that we change things and accelerate. Things that other shows might take a year to unfold are done in two hours for us. It’s distilled, purified drama that’s right up there on the screen. I think that our show is going to be watched for years to come.
NUVO: What other goals do you have as an actor and a member of the creative community?
Bamber: I’m very keen to play as many different characters as I can. I would love to produce and direct someday. I’ve been very lucky in the people I work with. I’ve learned a lot from watching our director, Michael Rymer, and from Edward James Olmos, who has such passion and conviction. He’s written and directed and acted, as well as being a social pioneer. I love the industry I find myself in and I want to be involved with it as much as I can.
Jamie Bamber is hosting a Q&A session at Gen Con on Saturday, Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. Check the Gen Con schedule for location and details, which are subject to change.
Kevin Sorbo, the man whose characters span 12,000 years and whose haircut drove countless fangirls to despair, had a far more difficult challenge the day I got him on the phone: juggling two under-5 kids and one newborn while answering questions from a lifelong nerd. Most sane people would take the Twelve Labors of Hercules over that.
NUVO: You’ve been a genre mainstay for 13 years now; have you done many conventions in that time?
Sorbo: Actually, I was never available for conventions, because I was so busy with filming. I went to Dragon Con for the first time last year, and they’ve been inviting me for 11 years. In those 12 years, between those two series, I probably went to five or six conventions. I was invited to so many. I love to travel, I love shooting the shit with the fans and getting up there and talking, showing blooper reels and having a good laugh. This last 18 months I’ve probably done about 10 of these cons. I wouldn’t have a career if not for the fans.
NUVO: What are your interactions with fandom like?
Sorbo: I try to do auctions at these conventions to raise money for my foundations — A World Fit For Kids and Afterschool Alliance — and it’s interesting to see what fans will do to get the chance to go up on stage with you. I once auctioned off a pair of my underwear. People are nervous, their palms are sweating when they meet you. It’s amazing you can have that kind of effect on people. I was lucky to play two characters who were very likable; they were heroes, they made mistakes and they didn’t win all the time either. People feel like they know you already when they meet you.
NUVO: Is there a downside to that?
Sorbo: If you’re fortunate enough to have a career at all, you want your privacy. Once I went to a movie and I got recognized by the staff, who called friends and family. There were 70 people waiting for me outside the theater with things to sign. I just wanted a bit of privacy, but I also understand the flip side of that. You sign, you smile and you move on. I don’t want to be a jerk. The best compliment I ever got was from a director on the fifth season of Hercules, and he said, “Wow, five years and your crew still likes you!” Which is quite telling, I think.
NUVO: You’ve got the unusual position of having been the star of two very different, very successful genre franchises. Is there much of a difference between the Hercules and Andromeda fan bases?
Sorbo: Oh, there’s a big difference. Hercules has a very laid-back fan base; it’s a family-friendly, fun fantasy show. There were moral issues there. I never killed anyone in the show; it’s quite different than [Hercules spinoff] Xena, where you’ve got a full-on lesbian show and killed 20 guys a show! I did one of the Xena conventions and it’s a totally different fan base. The Andromeda people are a more educated base who know more about the show than I do. I had a guy in San Francisco who had a 10-inch-thick binder that he asked questions from, and I sat there with a glazed look and finally said, “Just ask me my favorite color, pal!”
NUVO: When you cut your hair after Hercules you must have killed a thousand fangirls’ dreams. I’m not sure my fiancé is ever going to forgive you, actually.
Sorbo: When I cut it, people were upset! Girls like that bad-boy image, the different, unbusinesslike guy.
NUVO: What’s next for you from here?
Sorbo: I’m not really sure. I don’t quite understand the TV world. I did a sitcom pilot about sports, from the guy that produced Coach, and we were the No. 1 tested pilot for ABC, and they didn’t pick us up. I don’t understand the logic of these guys. I just finished filming Last Chance Café and Walking Tall 2 and 3, which are going straight to DVD. That’s the place studios are finding the money at these days.
NUVO: Last question, since we’re talking about a gaming convention: Who’s a better poker player, you or Jamie Bamber?
Sorbo: Me. I had to throw my game in New Orleans against Jamie last April because I had already committed myself to golf at the Hootie and the Blowfish celebrity charity event. But I did live in Vegas the past 13 years! I learned a thing or two.
Kevin Sorbo will be hosting a Q&A Session on Friday, Aug. 11 at 11 a.m. Check the Gen Con schedule for location and details, which are subject to change.
Nerdi Gras, Nerd Prom, Nerdbekistan Geekzapoppin’ — I could come up with euphemisms for Gen Con, “The Greatest Four Days in Gaming,” all day long. Post-ironic hipsters like myself enjoy coming up with euphemisms no end, especially when it comes to reclaiming that once-hated term “nerd.” But now it’s a term of pride and endearment — ever since the point at which we realized we’ve pretty much taken over the world.
(George W. Bush may be profoundly and proudly anti-intellectual, but even he owes his lofty status to Karl Rove — a dyed-in-the-wool nerd if ever there was one.)
It’s one of the signs of Indianapolis’ strength as a convention hub to nail, for four years in a row, one of the trifecta of all nerd crossroads (alongside the Electronic Entertainment Expo and the San Diego Comic Con, both the biggest conventions of their kind).
Gen Con focuses on games of all sorts — collectible card games, dice games, board games, miniatures games, war games — but the beginning and end has always been role-playing games. They’re the central hub for a surprisingly vigorous subculture.
When I was growing up in small-town Indiana, RPGing was something of an aberration, still looked upon with deep suspicion by the teen mainstream and parents alike. I still remember the time in the late 1980s when my mom took all the Dungeons & Dragons books in my collection and burned them so I wouldn’t get taken in by the devil. Now my mom watches South Park religiously. Times change.
But for the young gamer in a small town, where it was a 40-mile drive just to get a new set of dice, Gen Con was something magical, a distant conclave of the gaming elite, complete with God’s own gaming shop and tens of thousands of people just like you. For the 13-year-old self, leafing through well-worn pages of Dragon magazine, it was magical.
Four years into Gen Con’s run in Indianapolis, it still is.
courtesy of Randy Porter, Indianapolis’ Keeper of Ancient Gen Con Lore
(Much more at http://mypage.iu.edu/~wrporter/)
1. Registration book, tickets and all the stuff they send you. Even a map so you can memorize downtown Indianapolis.
2. An umbrella, in case it rains.
3. A water bottle, unless you love $3 Indianapolis Convention Center Cokes.
4. Meds. There’s nothing worse than getting sick at Gen Con. Plus throat lozenges so you don’t lose your voice.
5. If you’re chilling at the auction or just waiting around, its good to have something to read and, of course, it’s better to have bought it in the Dealer’s Room.
5a. Eyeglass prescription, spare glasses and contacts.
6. Cell phone, Palm Pilot and Family Service Radios for the tech savvy Gen Con attendee. Oh, by the way, always have some batteries ready to go. Cell phone reception in the ICC is terrible, so you are warned.
7. Smuggled-in food. Unless you also love $4 hot dogs, your backpack can hide that sandwich you want instead of the food in the ICC.
8. Game crap, dice, pencils, pens, that sort of stuff.
9. Money. I recommend travelers checks, they are just like cash but better. Most of the hotels have safe or lock boxes to place cash. There are ATMs all over ICC, but in the first year Gen Con wiped out most of the ATMs.
10. Last but not least, one of those little inflatable pillows so you can zonk out and catch some zzzzzs in the hall.
Parties and bands make four days of gaming worth every second
So you have a crush on that sultry dark elf magician Linzeal you met on Everquest last month. Are you curious if she is really a he? What about the trash-talking bard you gamed with on Sunday? Is he really 21 years old or a mere 14? Trade in your controller and keyboard for a martini and step away from the realm of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (… and Texas Hold ’Em and Dungeons & Dragons) during this year’s Gen Con after-parties. You never know. If you stay up late in Indy this week, you may find out Linzeal really is as hot as she seems online.
After warming up thousands of visitors to the Indianapolis Convention Center, Gen Con after-parties attract sci-fi fans, goths, gamers and computer aficionados to the best nightclub events of the season — as memorable as your first triumphant win at a Magic card game.
Indy promoter and bartender Chris Conner organized this year’s events, booking everyone from sideshow artists to national electronic recording artists. For the 24-year-old sociology graduate from IUPUI, nightclub events celebrating goth and industrial music — often of interest to gamers, and the highlight of this year’s after-parties — “are a destination that transcend all time and space,” Conner says. “They’re kind of sacred.” For those over age 21, after-gaming nightlife will keep the party going all night long. So grab some energy drinks, bag up your dice and hit the bars.
Wednesday, Aug. 9
What: New Music Night
Where: The Melody Inn, 3826 N. Illinois St. 317-923-4707. Doors open at 10 p.m.
Cost: $3, 21+
Link: www.indygoth.com; www.melodyindy.com
The Gen Con after-parties kick off with New Music Night, featuring Gen Con giveaways and a surprise CD release by Artoffact Records, at the historic Melody Inn, established in 1933. DJs Copper Top, Rony and special guest DJ Colt 13 (Chicago, Ill.) will spin fresh industrial and electronic music. Relax here at the oak bar before heading out to game all day at the convention Thursday or shoot some pool with friends.
Thursday, Aug. 10
What: Mojo the Human Freak and Rash the Clown at Strange Days
Where: The Vault, 120 E. Market St.,
317-964-0433. Doors open at 9 p.m.
Cost: $5, 21+
Links: www.guerrillaart.net; www.myspace.com/thesupersecretsideshow
The weekly Indianapolis goth/industrial DJ and dance night, Strange Days, introduces sideshow artists Mojo the Human Freak and Rash the Clown of The Super Secret Sideshow as this gruesome twosome prepares to awe the audience with shocking stunts. Fresh from this year’s Ozzfest in Indy where they performed alongside the Bros. Grim Sideshow, Mojo will perform such acts as swinging a solid oak barstool from six-gauge flesh hooks punched through his nipples, wrist escapes and the human pincushion act, while Rash enacts the rubber man trick (he puts himself through a tennis racket sideways) and cheek-to-cheek piercing.
Bloomington, Ind.-born Mojo, 34, a fetish photographer for Guerilla Art and a sideshow performer, refers to his work with Rash, 33, as “a sick and twisted Laurel and Hardy bit from hell that no man was ever meant to see.”
“Your body is the only thing you own outright, and one should be able to do with it as they see fit,” says Mojo, who has performed everywhere from Alaska to Vegas. He began publicly acting out body-defying stunts during his 2000 stint with the Blue Monkeys at the Indiana State Fair and has since opened for The Insane Clown Posse.
“This is so much more than a mere ‘hobby,” he says. “This is a piece of Americana that was almost wiped out at one point, and we’re just doing our part to keep it alive in our own twisted way, like the ones that came before us.”
Friday, Aug. 11
What: Zoica with November Process
Where: Ice Lounge, 235 S. Meridian St. (across from the Red Eye Café),
317-951-2174. Doors open at 9 p.m.
Cost: $7, 21+
Links: www.theazoic.com; www.myspace.com/theazoic; www.nilaihah.com; www.novemberprocess.com
Glowing off the heels of her most recent album, Illuminate (2004, Nilaihah Records) — a stimulating collection of danceable electronic songs — Columbus, Ohio’s Kristy Venrick, vocalist and keyboardist of The Azoic, will debut her solo side project, Zoica, during Indy’s Gen Con weekend.
“I’m one of those people that rarely sleeps (as I’m told) and always have my hands in something,” Venrick says.
Aside from producing her own music, Venrick supports the bands released by her company Nilaihah Records, some of which include Conetik, Namnambulu and Null Device.
“I feel I’ve grown a tremendous amount in the past year, but still have so much more to learn and accomplish,” she says. “It’s amazing how our ‘vision’ and ‘perspective’ actually encompass all our senses. For me, my lyrics are that portal into my mind and reflect my experiences. Hopefully others see that and can also grow.”
While taking a break from embracing personal and musical challenges, Venrick looks forward to tackling her first-ever Gen Con.
“I’ve been known to play some video games now and again,” she says. “I’m a bit more partial to the racing games.”
With an Azoic track, “Conflict (Turmoil Mix),” recently featured on the Xbox Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3 game, Venrick looks forward to performing classic Azoic tracks and new music from her forthcoming album as Zoica at the Indy gig.
The main Gen Con event — sponsored by NUVO, The Word, Echo Immortalis, Bats! …meow, Eldritch Horrors, Ltd., Intimidation Factory and Eden Promotions — will feature a performance by Zoica, as well as equally talented electronic band November Process (think Depeche Mode and Front 242) from Denver, Colo., with Indianapolis’ own DJ Copper Top on MIDI/device controlling.
“We’ve finally managed to perfect our methods of working together on music over long distances,” says vocalist/programmer Chuck Gish of nü-industrial band November Process. “Since one member lives in Austria, one in Germany and one in the U.S., it was always an issue, but now we’ve pretty much eliminated all of the difficulties.”
In addition to the live bands, Indy DJs Rony, Mister E DJ and special guest DJ Synthpuder (Denver, Colo., Costa Rica) spin electronic, goth, EBM and industrial music at the sophisticated Ice Lounge — a three-story lounge featuring a Sushi on the Rocks, open during dinner hours, as well as two full bars, a dance floor, private VIP rooms and comfy sofas. Conner expects the bar to reach its full capacity of more than 800 people.
“It will be the ‘con’ within the ‘con,’” Conner says.
Saturday, Aug. 12
What: Gen Con Farwell Show with Cruciform Injection, the Gothsicles and DJ Rev. Spook
Where: Radio Radio, 1119 E. Prospect St., 317-955-0995. Doors open at 9 p.m.
Cost: $7, 21+
Links: www.cruciforminjection.com; www.myspace.com/cruciforminjection; www.apophisconsortium.com; www.myspce.com/thegothsicles; www.gothsicles.com; www.futureshock.net
Rounding out the 2006 Gen Con after-parties, Cruciform Injection, which recently released a new album, Aftermath, performs harsh industrial music with guests the Gothsicles (Milwaukee, Wis.) and DJ Rev. Spook (Louisville, Ky.) at the annual send-off gathering.
“I like to keep the crowd guessing,” says frontman Micah Skaritka of Cruciform Injection. “For a while we had zombies that appeared out of the crowd, biting, mauling and creating general terror. … Gen Con is always our best show of the year. The crowd is great and it really is the only reason we continue to perform during the convention.”
Skaritka, who owns his own publishing company, The Apophis Consortium (at a booth each year at Gen Con), publishes Obsidian, “a dark horror role-playing game set in the future after hell comes to Earth,” according to Skaritka. “Pretty fitting to the music if you ask me,” he adds, looking forward to the “four days of debauchery in and around Indy this [week].”
DJ Rev. Spook, who works as a broadcast journalist for 84 WHAS, has spun experimental, punk, industrial and deathrock since 1986. “I have a code I work by,” he says. “I never spin my own music — remixes I do of other peoples’ songs excluded, never bend to pressure from label promoters or other industry sleazes to play music that sucks, [never play] NIN, [Marilyn] Manson [or Rob] Zombie, and I try to push underground stuff and older material that never got attention but should have. [I also] push local acts, even if I don’t like them.”
The Wednesday through Friday, Gen Con’s after-party event series will benefit the Damien Center (HIV/AIDS care and research, www.damien.org), and the Saturday gig will benefit the Electronic Freedom Foundation (http://eff.org), with proceeds being donated to both organizations.
Promoter Conner chose to benefit the Damien Center to honor one of his former professors — an academic inspiration — who has HIV herself, and to support consumer’s rights to use electronic and digital technology, which is the EFF’s purpose.
“If I can get a portion of 25,000 people to have a good time, plus support a good cause, then I will do it!” Conner says.
“The locals have come to know Gen Con as the time of year to come out,” adds Conner, who has spent more than $7,300 out-of-pocket to run the after-party events. “People just want to be around others like them, in mass quantities. This is the time to do that. A lot of goth and gaming go hand-in-hand, so I’m able to provide the music outlet for them. … Gen Con is for gamers. The after-parties are for everyone.”
Editor’s Note: For information on another Gen Con after-party, the Third Annual Forum Stink Party, log onto www.GenCon.com. On Wednesday, Aug. 9 at 6 p.m. (location TBA), registered Gen Con members that RSVP can gather for the Gen Con gaming pre-party.