Friday , May 17 2024

GalaxyCon: William Shatner Spins Some Stories

William Shatner, perhaps better known as Captain Kirk, shared experiences and wisdom with an overflow crowd of fans at GalaxyCon.

GalaxyCon, which calls itself a “Festival of Fandom,” came to Austin, Texas, for the first time this September. It brought together celebrities, artists, writers, voice actors, entertainers, creators, and fan groups to interact on the topics they enjoy. These include comic books, pop culture, sci-fi, fantasy, anime, gaming, and cosplay.

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William Shatner filling the GalaxyCon stage all by himself

Kirk All Alone

The program listed the event as a “William Shatner Q&A,” but the iconic, 92-year-old actor sat at center stage by himself. He began telling stories. As I listened, I thought, “The old guy is just rambling on,” but I was wrong. His presentation seemed random at first, but revealed itself as an intricately structured presentation.

Australia played a big part in his talk. He mentioned the reality-survival-tv show Stars on Mars. On the show a group of international celebrities inhabit a simulated Martian colony built near Coober Pedy, Australia. Shatner pointed out, “And I’m the host.” One person in the audience applauded. That resulted in some unplanned laughter.

Shatner

Where’re You Going?

An audience interaction during the speech that seemed random when it happened tied into something later in his speech. As Shatner was speaking about adventures in Australia, he spotted an audience member stand up and start to walk out. Shatner yelled, “Hey, where do you think you’re going? I’m not done yet. Get up here.”

The young man came up to the stage and Shatner asked him his name and why he was leaving. His name was Justin and he said, “My friend just texted me and I have to go meet him.” Shatner joked, “Well text him back and tell him you’ll be there in half an hour. I should be finished by then.”

Later in the speech, it was revealed that there was a purpose to Shatner’s tongue-in-cheek meanness.

Receiving Message, Captain

One theme of his speech was that good things can often come out of seemingly bad circumstances. Shatner explained, “What I just did to Justin, I did during a Broadway play, and it turned everything around.”

He recalled how he had had the lead role in the Broadway adaptation of the novel The World of Suzie Wong. The play had a famous story, a top producer, and a top director. They previewed it off-Broadway two times, each time making improvements. Then it opened on Broadway.

Suzie Wong

“New York had seven newspapers back then,” Shatner explained, “and every one of them said our play was an abomination. A turkey. Normally with reviews like that a play closes immediately. But our production team had taken a three-month advance on anticipated revenue and if we closed, they would have had to pay it back. So, they made us keep going.

“As we acted, we could hear the seats clicking closed as people got up to walk out. Sometimes an entire row at once. So, I started interacting with them like I did with Justin. In the three months, we took 15 minutes out of the play and turned it into a comedy, and it ran for two years.” In 1960, it was made into a movie.

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Shatner and co-star France Nuyen on Broadway in 1958

Beam Me Up, Sydney

Shatner also spoke about how his role as Captain Kirk made people think he was an expert on technology. Two tech adventures were particularly interesting.

In one instance he was hired by an Australian company to address 1,500 potential buyers of its tech product. He was burned out on flying to Australia, so they set up a hologram projector in Los Angeles and he was able to address the buyers with his hologram image in Sydney.

Another tech adventure involved a chatbot that was used to help a man overcome his grief over the death of his fiancée. Shatner later interviewed the chatbot. He remembered wondering, “Computers know what two plus two is, but how can they know what justice or love is?”

He recalled the chatbot interview: “I said, ‘Chatbot, do you know what love is?’ It replied, ‘I am not programmed to do love.’ But then it gave examples of thoughts about love from Plato, Aristotle, and more.

“I had an engaging conversation with the chatbot for almost an hour. It made me ask, ‘Will AI take over?’ When I left that interview, I was confronted with the question, ‘How can we teach morality to technology?’”

Re-Entry

The above only touches on the many topics of Shatner’s speech. I left out hunting wallabies with a bow and arrow in Tasmania, suffering PTSD from being attacked by clouds of flies, flying in a propeller-driven parachute, and dealing with opal-mining drug addicts. If you get a chance to hear William Shatner speak, go for it. This was the highlight of GalaxyCon for me.

For more GalaxyCon fun, check its website which contains links to all its social media, and info about its other events online and in Des Moines, Richmond, Columbus and Raleigh.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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