Tomorrow is something of a significant anniversary for yours truly. On
Aug. 31, 2001, the first issue of Geek Trivia that I authored was
published. Those of you around in the old days will recall that Geek
Trivia was once a very different animal. The articles were shorter (200
words as opposed to 800 words), the mail delivered three times a week
(M-W-F as opposed to just Wednesdays) and there was no on-site archive.
One issue of the mail would ask a question, and the next issue would
provide the answer, along with a new question. Of course, you could get
a sneak-peak pop-up window of the answer via an in-mail hyperlink, but
those HTML files are lost to dustbins of history.
I did, however, save the original Word file I submitted to my editor.
So, here you go folks, the Geek Trivia Q&A that launched my
TITLE: Talent borrows, genius steals
Q. Matt Groening
has achieved international fame and a devoted fan following for his work as
creator of the animated sitcoms The Simpsons and Futurama. When
asked about his inspiration for The Simpsons, Groening credits his
upbringing in Oregon and the experiences of his family. Indeed, each member of
the Simpson clan is named after someone in Groening's own family - except one.
WHICH SIMPSON IS NOT NAMED AFTER A MEMBER OF MATT GROENING'S
A. We asked you
which member of the titular family from the animated sitcom The Simpsons
is not named after someone from series creator Matt Groening's own family. The
answer is Bart Simpson, whose name is an anagram for "brat" rather
than a direct reference to the Groening clan. Homer and Marge Simpson are named
after Groening's parents, Lisa and Maggie are named after Groening's younger
sisters, and Abraham "Grandpa" Simpson is named after Groening's
youngest son (his oldest son is also named Homer). Despite the original name,
Groening claims that Bart represents both himself and his brother Mark.
Groening's older sister Patty enjoys a namesake in Marge Simpson's older
sister, Patty Bouvier.
Yeah, it's pretty lame. In the intervening years, I've had to up the
quality level quite a bit, which I like to think played some small part
in saving the mail from cancellation. Of course, I could
also be the
reason the mail was considered for cancellation in the first place.
Geek Trivia was one of the very first e-mail newsletters TechRepublic
had ever launched, and it
existed for quite a while before I ever worked here. When I was hired
on as an e-mail editor in March of 2001, one of my first assignments
was as a fact-checker on Geek Trivia. Back then, a great guy named
Gregory Aye was contracted to write Geek Trivia, and he did a fine job.
A few months into my editing gig, we started rearranging our
contributor budgets and—not surprisingly—Geek Trivia was not a high
priority, especially as the "anything goes" spirit of the dot-com rush
died down. My editor asked if I would consider writing Geek
Trivia—temporarily—just to keep it alive until we sorted through the
contributor priorities. I agreed, and four years and 200 articles
later, I'm still at it. Geek Trivia has been up for cancellation more
than once since then, which is why it has been reduced from
thrice-weekly to just weekly (but I and my editors beefed it up in
compensation, largely without telling anybody). Then in 2003 we
actually cancelled the mail, only to receive an outcry of support from
the fans that forced us to revive it.
That was sweet. Seriously, one of the great experiences of my life.
Probably the only time I really felt like my writing had an impact on
people, even if it was only as a disposable distraction.
In the subsequent year and a half, I've fought to keep Geek Trivia, even
though I'm now a Community Admin and no longer a part of the e-mail
operations here at TechRepublic. I imagine I'll keep doing it as long
as I work here, or at least as long as they let me. It's very, very
hard work, but I've had way too much fun doing it. I guess like some of
my fans, I'm just way too fond of Geek Trivia to ever let it go. Here's
to another four years.
[Postscript—A special mention should be made of my past and present
editors, Mary Weilage and Jenna Marks, respectively. These two have
done as much if not more than I ever have to ensure the quality of the
Geek Trivia product, despite the immensely disproportionate workload
this mail requires (I research weird crap). Of course, these two ladies
have been fighting the good fight in our newsletter operations for
longer than I've been an employee, and most good things that happen in
that area have their lovely fingerprints upon them. I couldn't have
done it without them.]