Dr. Geek: Geeking Out for 2013

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2012 has been a good year for geeks.  The Mars rover Curiosity made a spectacular landing, prompting many to find NASA nerds sexy for, probably, the first time ever.  The Avengers knocked out all competition at the box office, including The Dark Knight Rises, cementing the fervor of Whedonites and the investment of Marvel.  Star Wars is no longer the independent darling that made it the powerhouse it is, as it is now enslaved to the Disney empire.  There have been continued advancements in consumer electronics, with more and more tablets and AIs coming online, not to mention the first release of a new  gaming console since Nintendo first unveiled the Wii.  More importantly, the nerds and geeks of the world rose up and prevented the shutdown of their online activities.  Oh, and the meme has gone mainstream — which means we may have to find a new way to slyly comment about them.

Now, since you are reading this, you can safely assume that the world has not ended as some conspiracy theorists and New Age devotees have believed.  And, as this is my last entry for the column this year, I thought it would be a good time to look ahead to what awaits in the next year.  While still no flying cars, holographic movies or hoverboards (you have two more years, world, to make my Back to the Future dreams come true!), 2013 promises to bring many goodies for geeks and nerds.  Let’s take a look at what awaits in some specific categories, including my personal picks for what to anticipate in 2013.

Film:  Now, no doubt, there are a lot of movies coming in 2013 that people are waiting for.  Each person has their personal tastes.  I am certain a good number of Superman and DC fans cannot wait to see what Zack Snyder did with Man of Steel.  And there may even be those anticipating the release of The Wolverine, although, if they exist, they seem to be a small group of people who do not spend much time online.  Of course, there is tremendous excitement among some for the new J.J. Abrams’ outing, Star Trek Into Darkness.   However, there is also tremendous mainstream interest in the sequel to the decidedly more general audience intended Star Trek, which, to me, precludes it from being worthy of anticipation by true geeks and nerds.  Now, the same may be true for Iron Man 3especially given the broad success of The Avengers this year, so I am not going to say that is the most anticipated true geek/nerd film of next year.

No, I am going with Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim.  The movie is crafted for any true otaku and Japanophile.  The film centers around the invasion of Earth by gigantic creatures from another dimension, and the humans who rise up to fight them in massive robotic exoskeletons.  Just saying invasion from another dimension may be enough to dissuade the general audience from seeing the film.  Pacific Rim is basically our chance as geeks and nerds to answer the fan question: what would happen if NERV from Neon Genesis Evangelion was hired to fight Godzilla?  The movie features kaiju (a fancy word for giant monsters) being beaten down by immense mecha, all with the visual styling from the demented mind that created the creatures of Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Pan’s Labyrinth.  The movie is made by a fan for fans, and those tend to go well, i.e. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Star Wars: A New Hope.  

Television: It is hard to judge television by the now old-fashioned television season that runs from fall to summer.  So many good things now happen off that schedule that it hardly seems to matter.  Case in point, what occurs on cable, such as HBO’s stellar programming and AMC’s amazing series.  We have Game of Thrones returning for it’s third season, with promises for more battles, more dragons, and more politics.  As a mid-season replacement, NBC will bring us the return of / end of Community, but it remains to be seen how the series will fare without the series’ creator Dan Harmon in control.  From across the pond, the BBC will be bringing us the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who in November, and rumors abound about how many previous Doctors and companions may make an appearance — needless to say, the beginning of filming in April will be hounded over by Whovians.

But of them all, I think the most anticipated television event will be the series finale of Breaking Bad.  I say this because it is a series finale: unless Vince Gilligan and AMC decided upon some rather stupid move, this will be the end of Walt and Jesse’s story.  And while the year will probably also see the end of Community, the sitcom’s conclusion doesn’t feel right without the showrunner who started it: there may be substantial loss in consistency that meets that show’s end.  But Breaking Bad has not had this problem of faltering storytelling: every season has just been an improvement on the previous.  Walt’s descent into villainy has been an amazing feat of storytelling and acting to behold, and the series finale only begs the question of can he be redeemed or should be be punished for his acts?  The last eight episodes will either answer the question to our satisfaction, or go out Soprano‘s style, leaving us confused and wanting more.

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Comics: This year Marvel announced a revamp of their superhero comic lines, called Marvel Now, to follow DC Comic’s complete restart of all of their superhero comic lines in 2011 with The New 52.  It remains to be seen how well Marvel’s new titles will fare in 2013, given certain controversies like Peter Parker’s “fate”, but at least they didn’t wipe the slate clean and start over like DC’s brood.  One interesting result from DC’s reboot is the resurrection of Dial H for Heroes, which has been drawing on the unique talents of writer China Mieville.  Mieville’s storytelling appears well-suited for a series about people being able to gain superhero powers and identities by dialing a phone for them.  When the issues are collected in their first trade, this will be a good read for superhero, scifi, and fantasy geeks and nerds.

One series that is a fresh and original story began this year — so you can start it now and get ready for more in 2013.  The series is Brian K. Vaughan’s monthly for Image Comics, Saga.  The title indicates the scope of the series: a couple from different sides of a warring faction tries to escape a feuding planet with their child while being hunted by their respective governments and assassins.  A Romeo and Juliet style romance, the story unfolds within an intensely imaginative world, full of creatures inspired from science fiction, fantasy, anime, dreams and nightmares.  If robots having sex, an assassin with an lie-detecting cat, a spider-woman assassin, and an epic love story are your cup of tea, then you are a true geek and nerd.  If you haven’t checked out the first trade, treat yourself, and get ready to wait for the story to continue in 2013.

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Games: I have never been much of a gamer, preferring to either watch people play complex games so that I can just get the story, or playing games that do not require a huge investment of my time, such as puzzle games and button mashers.  Now, with that caveat in mind, there are some games coming in 2013 that are making my fingers itch for a controller.  And not just games for the Nintendo Wii U.  Coming from Sega for PS3 and Xbox 360, Aliens: Colonial Marines looks to give fans of the movie of the same name an experience to be on LV426 to fight off the alien scourge.  Notable because it may actually be a good game to be based on the Alien series, and it might help keep the series alive despite Prometheus’ attempt to kill it earlier this year.  A much more interesting new release is Irrational Games’ Bioshock Infinite for Xbox 360 and PS3.  While only thematically so, the game is the latest in the Bioshock series, and appears to incorporate elements from the steampunk culture that should keep geeks and nerds happy and entertained as they test their moral mettle in the game.

Now, those both sound good — immersive and entertaining — but a new game from Activision featuring the Merc with the Mouth, Deadpool, gives prominence to a fan favorite who, thus far, has not received a lot of attention outside of the comic frame.  Created in 1991, he has popped up in cartoons, but those not familiar with this break-the-fourth-wall style in the comics probably know him most from Ryan Reynolds portrayal in the disaster Wolverine.  Among the circles of true believers, he is well-loved for his antics, and those antics appear well-suited for a video game (as has been seen in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3).  A whole game devoted to his style of humor and killing should be a fun time for as long as it lasts.

Consumer electronics: No doubt we are living through a period of immense innovation in consumer electronics, with new devices and updated devices seemingly coming out every other month.  Next year we might be seeing Apple introducing an updated iPad (iPad 5) and iPhone (iPhone 5S) and getting into the smart TV business with iTV.  With Nintendo a year ahead of them, Microsoft may be playing catch-up next year by releasing an updated Xbox system, currently being called by geeks and nerds Xbox 720 (which may indicate it’s initial cost…).  While we may not see devices on sale next year, more and more flexible screen devices are being shown at consumer electronics shows, allowing for the possibility of wearing phones.  This innovation is a little further down the line for the modern market, but wearable computers are coming.

Perhaps the next innovation to truly impact the market are the smart glasses.  Companies are developing augmented reality capable glasses that would provide for a hands-free digital immersion in the physical world.  Google made the first big splash in the arena by announcing Project Glass, aka the Google Glasses, but it looks like their device will not be ready for the market until 2014.  Vuzix may be beating them to the game with a single eye-piece device they claim to have ready mid-2013.  While neither the Vuzix nor Google devices will likely be big sellers during their initial offerings — since it will take awhile for consumers to get used to the idea of consistent heads-up displays — the devices do indicate a new direction in mobile devices.  Look for more devices to follow the hands-free trajectory in the coming years.

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Science: The final category to explore is more a hopeful considering  of what may lie ahead in 2013 thanks to science.  Science is basically the bread-and-butter for geeks and nerds: whether a techie or a scifi fan, much of what drives us comes from the findings and musings of science.  We have come far as a species, and despite some of our baser nature, we continue to make astonishing discoveries.  Curiosity recently found simple organic compounds that, while they do not casually indicate life either past or present, they do indicate an amazing step forwards — and finding life off our planet just became a little closer, maybe within the next year.

I want to end on this note because I do not think there would be a more hopeful thing for us than to realize the potential for what is out there.  If we believe that life is possible elsewhere in the universe, then I think we would be more likely to go out there and look for it — to see our kinship with this extraterrestrial life and what we could learn from it.  This is the hope I have for the next year — or if not then, then perhaps the year after it.  Soon we will have an answer to the question: are we alone in the universe?  It is a question that for a long time has fueled the imagination and drive of geeks and nerds, whether they answer it through fiction or fact.  It is perhaps the most anticipated event for 2013, or any year thereafter.

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About CarrieLynn Reinhard

I've been a scifi fan all my life, so I figured I should actually make money being so. And since I've always wanted to be a scientist -- at one point I was convinced I knew how to clone dinosaurs from their hollow bones -- the career path of being a scientist who studies fans and their media obsessions made the most sense for a woman obviously way too influenced by Jurassic Park. I've been all around the world studying fans, superheroes, virtual worlds, digital games, the media industry, and various media technologies. Now I'm an assistant professor in new media studies and audience reception studies at Dominican University just outside of Chicago, and discuss my research and other issues in the world of geekdom at my blog, www.playingwithresearch.com.