The Creation of a Toy

It’s not unusual for fans to build replicas of props in a favorite movie or TV show. You see that sort of stuff pretty much anytime fen gather. The really popular stuff – phasers, communicators, and the like – ends up being made available at the local toy store.

A more unusual event is when fans create something new that’s based on a movie and the toy companies decide to make that available too. Not because it was in a movie, not because there’s an established market for it, but because it’s just so right.

Take for instance the case of R2-KT.

Back in 2004, Katie Johnson was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Her father, Albin Johnson, was the founder of the 501st Legion Star Wars Costuming Club and when word got out, fans world wide started doing everything they could to support Katie and her family.

In April of 2005, Katie’s sister said she wanted R2-D2 to watch over her Katie the way he’d watched over Amidala in Episode II. The R2 Builder’s Club (a group that builds remote controlled R2-units) got involved and set out to build one, to be named R2-KT in Katie’s honor. When it became apparent that the droid wasn’t going to be ready soon enough, Andy Schwarz, one of the club’s members, repainted his own R2-D2 and dispatched him to watch over Katie until R2-KT could take over.

Katie passed away in November of 2005, but R2-KT has been accompanying members of the 501st as they visit kids in the hospital.

At San Diego Comic Con this week, Hasbro and Lucasfilms have released a limited edition R2-KT toy in conjunction with a $100,000 donation to Make-A-Wish. At a glance, it’s just a pink R2-D2 toy. But when you know the story behind the toy – it’s a lot more.

Links of Interest:

New Voyages Episode Premier

New Voyages has announced that the premier of the new episode, “World Enough and Time” will take place on August 23. The event will feature a special streaming live video broadcast from Beverly Hills with George Takei, James Cawley, Marc Zicree, Michael Reaves and others involved in creating the series. The premier event will be followed by a streaming broadcast of the episode.

An advance screening of the episode will take place during the Shore Leave 29 convention.

Venue Change for Vulkon in Columbus, Ohio

I just got word this evening that the Vulkon in Columbus, OH on July 13-15 has had a last minute change of venue. The new location is the University Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, located at 3110 Olentangy River Road.

The new hotel has fewer rooms available, so Vulkon has also arranged a room block at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn and will be providing free shuttle service between the two locations.

Check the Vulkon web site for more information about the Columbus convention.

Gardening through Time and Space

Cmdr Z recently passed along a link to a UK web site where participants can send in photos of their garden sheds. The site’s readers can then vote for the prestigious “Shed of the Year” award. A number of the sheds bear a striking resemblance to Doctor Who’s TARDIS.

This should come as no surprise to those of us who have gardens. Whether it’s a huge vegetable garden, or the tiniest postage stamp of a flowerbed, it’s a very familiar problem.

The sheer multitude of tools, stakes, fertilizer, pots, and so on needed to maintain even the smallest garden is so overwhelming that using a spare TARDIS is the only way to avoid having the shed occupy more square footage than the actual garden.

A Browncoat is Born

Back in August I gave my brother a copy of the Firefly box set. He’d heard of the show, but having no great interest in it, promptly put the discs to one side with plans to watch them “someday.”

“Someday” arrived last weekend.

During a phone conversation on Saturday, Dave told me he and his wife had watched the first several episodes. After some thought he agreed that it made sense for a frontier planet to have horses instead of cars (after all building new horses doesn’t require as much manufacturing infrastructure) but overall he was skeptical of the whole “spaghetti western” motif.

By Wednesday they had watched the first three discs and found themselves in agreement with those who feel that the Fox network executives who cancelled the show deserve to be consigned to “the special hell.” (The one normally reserved for child molesters and people who talk in theater.)

I got another email from him this evening. His daughters aren’t old enough to watch the show, but he’s taught them to sing “The Hero of Canton.”

The World’s First War Zone Game Convention

A group of gamers who’ve been deployed to Iraq have decided to organize their own in-country gaming convention. Ziggurat Con is being organized by GIs at Camp Adder, Tallil Airbase in Iraq. The Ziggurat of Ur – which gives the Con its name — is within the base perimeter.

“There is a deeper sense of camaraderie in a war zone than you see back home,” said SPC David Amberson, the con’s organizer who is also a supply soldier with Alpha Company, 86th Signal Battalion. “You eat with these people, work with them on a daily basis, and can even share a tent with the same people. When work is over for the day, we can sit back, relax, drink our favorite sodas, eat our favorite snacks, and play a bit of D&D. This helps us relax in a very stressful environment. We found a place where we can go somewhere far away from the IED’s, mortar attacks, and gunfire, without ever leaving the safety of our camp. The next step was only logical.”

With no local gaming stores or publishers however, the convention is in need of support in the form of donations of gaming products. Many game publishers have agreed to supply game products to help the Con along, including aethereal FORGE, Sovereign Press, Final Redoubt Press, Goodman Games, Paizo Publishing and Steve Jackson Games, but more is needed.

According to SPC Amberson, “This convention is currently in drastic need of prizes and giveaways for the troops”. “Everything donated will go directly to the troops, or to MWR to use as loaner books for the soldiers.”

For more information, including how to send donations, visit the Ziggurat Con web site.

Toronto Trek Reaches for the Stars, Changes Name to Polaris

Now in its 21st year, the organizers of the convention formerly known as Toronto Trek have rebranded the event as Polaris. The organizers assure their attendees

Just because “Trek” isn’t in our name, it doesn’t mean that it’s no longer in our hearts!

Our commitment to “Star Trek” programming will remain so long as you tell us that this is what you want to see. The name change is to help make it clear that we welcome ALL fans of science fiction, no matter which show or movie they enjoy the most.

Polaris takes place on July 6 – 8 in Toronto, Canada. Announced guests include Torri Higginson, Erick Avari, Katee Sackhoff, Marina Sirtis, Teryl Rothery, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Tanya Huff, Derwin Mak, Kenneth Tam, Terri Osborne, Julie E. Czerneda and Douglas Smith.

More information on the name change is available on the Polaris web site.