Debrief: Dragon Con 2021

Debrief: Dragon Con 2021
Atlanta, GA – September 2 through September 6, 2021

Just like that, Dragon Con 2021 is in the books! And, wow, it was a weird year.

Attendance was reported at 42,000 and you could definitely feel it. Thanks to the pandemic precautions – proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test along with a 100 percent masking requirement – and attendance caps (including limits on daily sales), the crowds were significantly thinner. Let me tell you, though, I could get used to an attendance cap at Dragon Con. Maybe 65,000 to 70,000 in normal times?

Despite the smaller crowds, we did a lot of good work this year for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, raising $120,000 for that charity. That’s $10,000 more than we pulled together in 2019 with just over double the weekend crowd.

It was also a getaway that I really needed. With everything that’s been going on recently, I needed to see the geek family and get my mind orbiting around a lot of fun and creative things. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve missed these people.

It’s important to note that the Marriott and Hyatt were flooded with partiers at night who weren’t wearing face masks. It seemed that, once the sun went down, enforcement went out the window. Since I’m seeing several reports of attendees popping positive for COVID-19, panelists who refused to wear masks on panels, and vendors who went unmasked at their booths, I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone get tested for COVID-19 (both rapid and PCR if you can) and limit the spread as much as possible in the meantime.

There were a lot of naked respiratory orifices at Dragon Con 2021. Far. Too. Many.

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Dragon Con 2021

Dragon Con 2021
Atlanta, GA – September 2 through September 6, 2021

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Dragon Con!

It’s an annual tradition for me. It’s also a family reunion of sorts as I catch up with dear friends from around the world. This year will be my twelfth time attending (counting last year’s virtual events) and my sixth year as an attending professional.

If you plan to be there, you can find me at various over Labor Day weekend according to the schedule below. This year is a bit lighter than normal due to the continued pandemic – the COVID-19 coronavirus is neither joke nor hoax, and I fully support masking and vaccination until it is eliminated – but I’ll still be around having fun. I won’t be attending any parties or large gatherings, and I will be adhering to Dragon Con policies to combat the pandemic.

The convention app is available now – look for Dragon Con by Core-apps in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store – and will have the schedule of events soon. The list of confirmed guests, performers, artists, and attending professionals is available on the official Dragon Con site.

Dragon Con itself takes place in downtown Atlanta spanning five hotels (Sheraton Atlanta, Hilton Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, and Westin Peachtree Plaza) and the AmericasMart Atlanta exhibition center. The convention draws approximately 70,000 to 80,000 attendees annually and showcases one of the city’s most popular parades on Saturday morning at 10am. This year, the attendance numbers will be lower due to COVID-19 and the parade is supposed to be closed to the public. It’s gonna be an interesting con in that regard.

Dragon Con prides itself on contributions to charity and the community. You can find more information about those efforts on their webpage. Each year, the convention partners with a local charity organization and this year’s partner is the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta.

If you’re new to the convention, consider stopping by the Dragon Con Newbies group on Facebook. It is run by Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony, and me, and is an in-depth community resource for information about this massive (and sometimes overwhelming) event. Memberships (tickets) for this year’s convention are available, however, due to the pandemic, memberships are limited.

Along with the attendance caps, all attendees are required to wear masks that adhere to CDC guidelines. The other preventative measures taken by the con this year can be found on their website.

If you want a printable copy of my schedule, I have a convenient PDF.

Note: All Dragon Con schedules are tentative until the convention ends on Monday. Even then, things are a bit suspect. As things change before the convention, I’ll update this post.

Revision History:

    • Rev 0 – 20 Aug 2021: Initial post.

The Schedule

I will be around starting Thursday to check in to the hotel, pick up my badge and Hard Rock Dragon Con gear, and get the ball rolling.

12:00p-4:00p: Dragon Con Newbies Walking and Rolling Tours (4 hours)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
Want to get a ‘lay of the land’ and find your way around the hotels? Did you know there’s a food court? Meet others new to Dragon Con and get a tour with some veteran con-goers. Last tours will leave approximately 3:30pm.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

5:30p-6:30p: Dragon Con Newbies Q&A (1 hour)
Main Programming
Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level, A601-A602
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share tips and tricks.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

10:00a: Dragon Con Newbies 101 (1 hour)
Main Programming
Hyatt, Regency V
First Dragon Con? Confused or overwhelmed? Savvy con attendees will share their tip and tricks for making your experience an awesome one.
Panelists include: Kevin Bachelder, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony

1:00p: Getting Started with Digital Media: The Ups & Downs (1 hour)
Digital Media
Hilton, Galleria 7
Have you always wanted to podcast? A group of experienced podcasters will help with ideas on how to get started & making it past the dreaded pod-burnout. Topics include picking a subject for your show, equipment to record with, how to get an audience, & more. For beginners & vets alike.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, Tyra A. Burton, Matthew Charles Malis

2:30p: Disney Afternoon: Rescue Rangers & More Goofiness! (1 hour)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
A tribute to chipmunks dressed like Magnum PI & Indiana Jones, & other Disney excellence.
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether, Bethany Kesler 

4:00p: Disney Afternoon: All-Duck Edition (1 hour)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We celebrate the afternoon cartoons that solved mysteries & rewrote history.
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether, Bethany Kesler

10:00p: Classic Sci-Fi Charity Lock-In: Howard the Duck (2.5 hours)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
We lock you in with a crowd of semi-willing participants to celebrate Marvel’s infamous – and very first – theatrical movie. The only way to escape: donate to the Dragon Con charity!
Panelists include: No one else? Don’t make me do this alone!

[It’s worth noting here that there won’t be a parade flood this year. Saturday one-day passes are not being sold and the parade is for badged attendees only.]

11:30a: ESW Presents Doctor Who: The Movie 25th Anniversary!
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
In 1996, Doctor Who returned to our televisions in the classic TV Movie. The Earth Station Who team will delve deep into this unique production & the uphill battle bringing it to life.
Panelists include: Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Sue Kisenwether

1:00p: Classic Series Doctor Who (1 hour)
BritTrack
Hilton, Galleria 5
With the release of the entire classic series on Britbox, there has never been better access to the bulk of Doctor Who history. We will discuss this, the release of The Faceless Ones animation, & the expanding worlds of Classic Who on audio.
Panelists include: Davey Beauchamp, Dr. Scott Viguié, R Alan Siler

5:30p: …And You Will Obey Me: Doctor Who‘s the Master at 50 (Pre-Recorded Virtual Panel)
BritTrack
BritTrack YouTube Channel
Yes, the Doctor’s best enemy, the Master, is turning 50 this year, & we have some big discussions ahead of us. Except, of course, until the Master uses his Tissue Compression Eliminator on them. Say something nice!
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether, Dr. Scott Viguié, Rob Levy

7:00p: Classic Sci-Fi Charity Lockdown: Mac & Me and More (2.5 hours)
American Science Fiction Classics
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M103-M105
Will we watch Mac & Me, the movie that plunged off the cliff & into our hearts forever? The only way to escape is by donating to the Dragon Con charity.
Panelists include: JC De La Torre, Rita De La Torre

1:00p: Rising from the Shark: Re-invent the Team! (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M301
It happens for any number of reasons, ratings, licensing, actors, but teams change up. We’ve seen it in on the big screen & small with Arrow, Legends, Flash, The Boys, & many others. We’ll look back at when it works or doesn’t. The lost & found members that we miss, or are thrilled to see.
Panelists include: M. Haynes

2:30p: Collectors Panel: Toys & Merchandising in MSFM (1 hour)
Military Sci-Fi Media
Chastain DE – Westin
MSFM is more than just the moving pictures on your screen. From action figures & collectibles to board games to comics to apparel, come discuss & take a look at all the ways you can bring your fandom directly into your home!
Panelists include: Van Allen Plexico, John Hudgens

4:00p: Black Widow: Shadow of the Red Room (1 hour)
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level, M302-M303
Long overdue from COVID & gender politics, Nat Romanoff finally gets to share her story. A spy thriller with considerations of family & identity. There are new heroes & villains, & all the usual MCU Easter eggs. Aren’t pockets great?
Panelists include: None specified at this time

8:30p: When Was Star Trek Ever Subtle? (1 hour)
Trek Track
Hilton Galleria 2-3
Star Trek has always been ripe with political & social commentary, but was it really more subtle during the TOS era? This panel will take a look back at several examples throughout the franchise and then ask: What’s changed, Star Trek or what we expect of it?
Panelists include: Sue Kisenwether

Nothing scheduled at this time.

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Culture on My Mind – Smarter Every Day Dives Deep into Nuclear Submarines

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Smarter Every Day Dives Deep into Nuclear Submarines
August 6, 2021

This week, the educational side of YouTube is on my mind. Specifically, I’m looking at Smarter Every Day.

The channel is run by Destin Sandlin, a mechanical and aerospace engineer from Alabama. His channel focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics, and each video provides him and his audience a chance to learn something new about the world around them. Smarter Every Day is a must-watch subscription on my YouTube feed.

Destin started a series of videos in June of last year focused on nuclear submarines. He was invited to participate in ICEX 2020, a biennial Navy exercise that explores operational readiness in the Arctic. The video series was particularly intriguing since I was a nuclear submarine officer, and I was very excited to see how the engineering and lifestyle complexities would be seen and interpreted by civilian eyes.

I wasn’t disappointed.

This series of videos was quite well done and offers an easy to digest perspective on the submarine force. My wife watched the series with me and finally understood some what my former job entailed. I want to thank Destin for that and for taking the time to teach the world about the basics of the Silent Service.

There are nine episodes in the series, filmed during a brief underway on the USS Toledo and released over a year. If you enjoy them as much as I did, consider chipping in to continue his mission through Audible, KiwiCo, or any of Destin’s other sponsors.

The first episode was published in June of 2020 and focused on ICEX. Specifically, Destin covered the science of arctic ice and how that data feeds into the Navy’s mission. After that, he boarded the Toledo and submerged beneath the ice cap.

The second episode debuted in July of 2020 and continued the story with a basic overview of his adventure and submarines overall.

The third episode took us into a torpedo tube and explored how a submarine’s teeth work. One trivia item that my wife found interesting as we discussed the video was how visitors are able to autograph the tube with grease pencil. My signature was one of the tube doors of the USS Greeneville, though I’m absolutely sure it has since been washed away by pressurized seawater over the ensuing two decades. 

The fourth episode premiered in October and focused on two of the most dangerous casualties that a submarine can face: Fire and flooding. Since Destin is an engineer, he was also able to explore the principles behind how the sailors fight these casualties.

The fifth entry was about how submariners eat. Since submarines are designed to make their own water, air, and electricity, food is truly the limiting factor for how long a boat can stay on station. The methods and creativity involved in feeding over a hundred sailors are unique in the submarine force.

The sixth episode came at the end of 2020 and explored how submarines listen underwater. It was quite fun to see just how far the discussion could go before hitting classified information. This video will give you the basics of the sonar science and how one can see underwater without light and windows.

In February, Destin discussed how submarines make and maintain breathable environments while underway. The counterintuitive science of lighting a fire to produce oxygen was a fun topic to watch him explore.

In May, sanitation was the topic du jour. Toilets and showers seem simple enough, but they’re a bit different on the boat. Water conservation is vitally important and one wrong move could mean getting a face full of feces. Not the most dangerous thing you might do on a submarine, but…

The series came to a close on July 30th with the complex evolution of surfacing the ship under the polar ice cap. Surfacing a submarine is already a complex and dangerous evolution, but the added wrinkle of precision piloting is a whole new level. It’s not something that I ever did, but I still studied the basic principles at one point.

 


Once again, if you’re interested in STEM topics, Smarter Every Day is a great place to land for quality education and production values. Thanks to Destin for sharing his perspectives and experiences with the world.

You can find Smarter Every Day on YouTube.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – The New Colossus

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The New Colossus

July 23, 2021

This week, I have Emma Lazarus on my mind.

Emma Lazarus was born on July 22, 1849, in New York City. She studied American and British literature and several languages, including German, French, and Italian. By the age of eleven, she was writing poetry. Over the course of her life her writing won recognition in the United States and Europe.

One of her most famous poems is the sonnet “The New Colossus”, which she wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty (formally known as Liberty Enlightening the World). She was convinced to write the poem by writer Constance Cary Harrison who argued that the statue would be of great significance to immigrants sailing into the harbor.

The sonnet was the first read at the auction of art and literary works in November 1883 and remained associated with the exhibit until it was closed after the pedestal was fully funded in 1885. The sonnet was largely forgotten after this, even at the statue’s formal opening in 1886, until 1901 when Georgina Schuyler stepped in.

Composer and article writer Georgina Schuyler, the great-granddaughter of Alexander and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, was a friend of Emma Lazarus. Lazarus died in November 1887 at the age of 38, most likely from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Schuyler spearheaded the effort to memorialize her friend and the sonnet. The effort succeeded in 1903 when a plaque bearing the sonnet’s text was placed on the inner wall of the statue’s pedestal.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Petrarchan sonnet evokes several images related to the statue’s New York Harbor home and prestige:

  • The title and the first two lines refer to the Greek Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and contrasts that symbol of imperial grandeur against the maternal strength of Lady Liberty.
  • The “sunset gates” are the Hudson and East Rivers, and the “imprisoned lightning” is the statue’s lighted torch.
  • The “twin cities” were New York City and Brooklyn, which were separate cities since the boroughs had yet been consolidated. That would happen in 1898.
  • The “huddled masses” were the large numbers of immigrants arriving during the 1880s. Emma Lazarus was also an activist and advocate for Jewish refugees who sought asylum from persecution in Czarist Russia.

The poem changed the face of the statue, shifting her from a monument to the principles of international republicanism to a welcoming mother figure that shined a beacon of hope to outcasts and downtrodden around the world. The symbol has cemented the reputation of the United States as a sanctuary and a golden beacon on the hill.

As poet and Princeton professor Esther Schor, author of the award-winning biography Emma Lazarus, stated: “The irony is that the statue goes on speaking, even when the tide turns against immigration — even against immigrants themselves, as they adjust to their American lives. You can’t think of the statue without hearing the words Emma Lazarus gave her.”


For more information on Emma Lazarus, the American Jewish Historical Society has a detailed presentation on her life and their efforts to memorialize her.

For a general overview of the Statue of Liberty’s history and more, check out this video by Jared Owen.


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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Independence Day

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Independence Day

July 2, 2021

This week, I’m thinking about a major holiday here in the United States. The Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. It was a pronouncement by the Thirteen Colonies that they should be independent states free of British control, a revolution that they were fighting for at the time in the Revolutionary War.

While the nation is not and has never been perfect, it still embodies certain elements that people around the world admire. For me, the American Dream is that we can reach that ideal some day, and that keeps me fighting for the principles expressed in the Declaration. I believe in the core philosophy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Today, two days before the anniversary of ratification (and on the anniversary of the Lee Resolution’s passage), please enjoy this presentation by Kenneth C. Davis on some of the lesser known facts about the Declaration of Independence.

If you’re celebrating the holiday, please be safe and have a good time.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Juneteenth

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Juneteenth

June 18, 2021

This week, I have Juneteenth on my mind.

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. It is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day. It was established in 1865, when over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Galveston, Texas were finally informed of their freedom.

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. It was formally issued on January 1, 1863, declaring that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were to be freed.

Planters and other slaveholders had migrated to the more geographically isolated Texas from eastern states to avoid the fighting, many of them bringing enslaved people with them. This increased the enslaved population of Texas by thousands, and by 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in the state.

News of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, which happened on April 9, 1865, reached Texas later in the month. The western Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2nd, and by June 18th, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government.

The following day, while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, General Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No. 3”, announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Even though the event is popularly thought of as “the end of slavery”, the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to those enslaved in Union-held territory. Those slaves would not be freed until a proclamation several months later after the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.

The freedom of formerly enslaved people in Texas was given legal status in a series of Texas Supreme Court decisions between 1868 and 1874.

June 19th is still officially celebrated as Juneteenth in Texas. Every state in the Union except South Dakota and Hawaii recognizes the event.


There are several places to find more information about Juneteenth and its impact on the Black community. I have highlighted four of them below. I hope that they offer a chance to learn about the importance of Juneteenth and spark further interest in finding out more about it.

“Why all Americans should honor Juneteenth” from Vox:

Vox also has a discussion and other resources at their website.

NextGen America presents a history of the event and how it has shaped the experience of Black people in the United States:

The Washington Post explores what Juneteenth tells us about the value of Black lives in America:

Finally, Dr. Shennette Garrett-Scott made a detailed presentation of the holiday’s history back in 2013:


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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Pershing’s Own and Queen

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Pershing’s Own and Queen

June 11, 2021

This week, I’m reaching back to May 2020 and the United States Army Band. The U.S. Army Voices and Downrange joined forces to present a medley of hits by Queen.

You can find more about Pershing’s Own and the Army Band’s ensembles at their official website.

These musical versions of Culture on My Mind are short and sweet. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you again very soon. Take care.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Gingertail’s Mandalorian

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Gingertail’s Mandalorian

May 28, 2021

This week, I have music from The Mandalorian on my mind.

Specifically, this cover by YouTuber Alina Gingertail.

These musical versions of Culture on My Mind are short and sweet. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you again very soon.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – The IDIC Podcast Festival

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The IDIC Podcast Festival

May 14, 2021

This week, I’m promoting a Star Trek-themed podcasting festival helmed by Women at Warp: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast.

IDIC Podcast Festival - 1920x1080

The Women at Warp crew will be hosting a virtual podcast festival on July 17-18, 2021. The weekend event will honor the Star Trek principle of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (IDIC) by celebrating and amplifying the diverse voices in Trek fandom through a series of live podcasts.

The general announcement, call for programming and contributors, and important dates leading up to the event can be found on the event page at the Women at Warp website.

The IDIC principle is something that I believe in and the Women at Warp team is a champion of the cause. I’m more than happy to spread the word.

Today’s press release follows.


Women at Warp Launches the IDIC Podcast Festival

Women at Warp: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast is pleased to launch our call for applications for the first IDIC Podcast Festival, set to run July 17-18, 2021. This weekend-long virtual event honors the Star Trek principle of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (IDIC) by celebrating and amplifying the diverse voices of our fandom through a series of live podcasts.

Over the past year, COVID-19 has taken away so many opportunities to connect with diverse creators and audiences in person. At the same time, we’ve seen fans taking to social media to seek out and share podcasts that approach Trek from diverse perspectives. As an intersectional podcast we know that women’s issues are inextricably connected to issues of race and class, LGBTQIAP2S+ issues, disability issues, and more. The transformative period that we are in gives us an opportunity to truly center voices from all these diverse communities in our fandom.

Any podcast that showcases diversity in its hosting lineup is welcome to apply for the IDIC Podcast Festival, whether newly-launched or well-established. We welcome shows that do not exclusively cover Star Trek in their regular episode lineup, but ask that panel submissions for this event be Trek-related.

Admission to this virtual event is free. Podcasts will be streamed live on Women at Warp’s Facebook and YouTube pages and podcasts will be welcome to share recordings in their own feeds after the event.

The deadline for podcasters to submit applications is Friday, June 18. Click here to apply.

For more information, visit out event page at womenatwarp.com/IDIC-fest or contact us at crew@womenatwarp.com.

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About Women at Warp

Women at Warp is a groundbreaking bi-weekly podcast committed to examining Star Trek from a feminist perspective, exploring Intersectional Diversity in Infinite Combinations with a rotating crew of seven hosts. Tune in for everything from episode and character analysis to history of women behind the scenes and in fan culture to discussion of larger themes and messages throughout the franchise. Women at Warp is part of Roddenberry Podcasts. For more information, please visit womenatwarp.com.

About Roddenberry Podcasts

Roddenberry Podcasts is a network of audio shows that deliver thought-provoking, insightful entertainment wherever you are. Podcasts that dig deep into Star Trek, social commentary, science and critical thinking – all ready to download in one place for you to enjoy on your commute or whenever you need a little lively discussion. For more information, please visit podcasts.roddenberry.com.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Death Mountain

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Death Mountain

May 7, 2021

This week, I have The Legend of Zelda on my mind.

We joined the Nintendo Switch crowd last Christmas and I finally got the chance to dive into the experience of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That game has simply blown me away. Embracing an open-world approach to gameplay, Breath of the Wild tells a grand story that is completely up to the player to structure as they see fit.

After the tutorial phase is completed, the player could easily take Link into the heart of evil and confront Ganon. Such an approach would be foolhardy of course, but the point is that conquering the dungeons is not a requirement this time around. On the other hand, the depth of the story, from the main quests to the various side quests and treasure hunts, is spectacular. There are a ton of stories across the Kingdom of Hyrule, and that’s what has kept me from finishing the game after nearly half a year of playing it.

I mean, yes, I feel bad leaving Princess Zelda in the lurch against the awesome power of Ganon while I gather crickets, buy a house, and broaden my wardrobe of armors, but the rich tableau is just that addictive.

One of the aspects I love is the music. Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata, and Hajime Wakai have composed a beautiful score that couples new themes with re-orchestrated tributes to the now 35-year-old history of the franchise. If you’re familiar with Zelda‘s musical history, there’s no finer example than the two Hyrule Castle themes in Breath of the Wild.

Among those tributes, however, was a theme that took me back to my childhood with a just a tiny bit of the nerves.

Welcome back to Death Mountain, it said.

The original Legend of Zelda was a (pun intended) game-changer in 1986 because it offered the possibility of preserving your progress with dedicated save files. Being able to pick up an adventure right where you left off is a standard now, but it was quite the novelty then. Over quite a long period, I fought my way across Hyrule and gathered the eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, but then sat the game down for a while.

During that time, my brother Nick was living in Washington and we wrote each other on a semi-regular basis. I sent him a letter that talked about school and life and my plans to storm Death Mountain. He had told me before about how difficult the dungeon was, but when he wrote back, he included a hand-drawn map of the level.

The map is lost to time now, but it still remains one of my treasured memories. It was photocopied from the original with custom artwork in the corner of Link rushing to the rescue. The maze of rooms and passages was coded by number and provided an easy to follow guide to the endgame. He even provided a suggested path that included the big treasures and simplest road to victory.

The battle itself, of course, was completely up to me.

I remember that it was a Sunday morning when I decided to tackle the level. All through the game, the music had been the same mix of the Overworld and the Dungeon themes, so I really had no idea what to expect in the final dungeon. The first step into the labyrinth brought the dark beats of the Death Mountain theme and I had to take a few minutes before leaving the opening room just to let it sink in.

The theme faded into the atmosphere as I ground my way through the level. I picked up the Red Ring to boost my defenses. I found the Silver Arrow, which is the only weapon that can kill Ganon. I meticulously tracked my progress and ended up at the room before the big battle.

This is where I lost it.

The Legend of Zelda was the first Nintendo game I had ever finished. When I reached that penultimate room, I knew that I was close to that milestone and my nerves hit me hard. Without even pausing the game, I sat the controller down and closed my eyes. While I centered myself, the music kept playing. After a few minutes, I picked up the controller again and walked into Ganon’s chamber.

The room was pitch black. Link held up the Triforce. Ganon snarled in the light. The fight was a blur but I distinctly remember firing the Silver Arrow and turning Ganon into dust, revealing the Triforce of Power.

I knew I had done it. I had beat the game. I entered the last chamber, met Princess Zelda, and watched the credits roll in a state of euphoria. It was amazing.

Looping back to Breath of the Wild, part of the story takes Link to Death Mountain. The game’s tribute to that theme caught me off guard. As I was climbing around the rocks those familiar notes took me right back to that feeling of nervous euphoria. I stopped for a moment and listened, remembering the story I recounted today, before smiling and climbing onward.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild could rest as a wonderful capstone to the franchise but we already know that it’s not the end of the line. It could easily be the basis for the oft-requested Zelda live-action or animated adaptation. So much of that is the story and the setting and the music and the artistry, but a big slice of it is personal. It’s my adoration of the mythology and the adventure.

It is the memories of working hard on something and reaching the payoff. It is the connection I share with my brother in a simple map to help me along the way.

It’s probably why The Legend of Zelda is my favorite video game franchise of all time.

I guess, in a way, I owe it to Death Mountain.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

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