Star Trek has changed countless people’s live in countless ways. Just ask Gwen Chadwick Brown and Eric Allan Hall. Star Trek brought Gwen together with her husband David and Eric together with his wife Jessica.
Gwen, a confirmed Next Generation fan, met David at the video store where he worked. The two Georgians chatted when she went to rent Generations, and the rest is history. But some back story is in order. “I worked at a local fast food place my husband frequented,” Gwen says. “He had two jobs at the time, and the other was as a dispatcher at a local police department. Around June of 1995 he came in wearing his uniform -- I looooove men in uniform. He came back every few days. I’d check him out, but never said anything. I saw one of my male co-workers speaking to a girl that David was with, and this girl was flirting big time with my co-worker, so I figured she was not David’s girlfriend. I asked the co-worker if he knew David and he told me he did and that he also worked at a local video store. It took me a few weeks to get up the nerve to go there. I don’t know what I was thinking, but in late August I showed up after work in my sad-looking burger chain uniform. I casually looked around and saw they had Generations, which I hadn’t seen. I took it to the counter and asked to get an account for rental.”
David glimpsed Gwen’s selection and asked if she was a Trek fan. Gwen revealed her fondness for TNG, while he described himself as a TOS fan. They talked about favorite characters; his is Kira, hers is Data. They discussed other sci-fi shows. She’d just gotten into Red Dwarf and he was a Doctor Who guy. She was soon to start college, and he, having graduated from that same college, offered tips. So it went… for two hours, and two weeks later they were engaged.
Gwen and David now live in Buford, Georgia. They’re still married and still share a joint passion for Trek and all things sci-fi. “Recently, we got to go to MegaCon in Orlando and I finally met Brent Spiner, or as my mom said, ‘Did you meet Data?’” Gwen says. “We also met LeVar Burton, John de Lancie, Robert Picardo, and Nichelle Nichols, who’s so beautiful and I hope I age half as well. We currently have TOS and TNG costumes that we wear sometimes."
“In February, we’ll have a new Trek convention in Atlanta and I am sooo excited,” she adds. “Trek was there with me through a rough time in my life. Right after high school, my parents had financial problems. College was out of the question, although I was an honor student and had been accepted to two schools. About a year later, we moved from Cumming, where I’d lived all my life, to Dahlonega, where I only knew a few family members. Trek wasn’t (solely) what got me through, but it did help, and if it wasn’t for Trek, I may never have had that conversation that led to a marriage that’s now in its fourteenth year.”
Meanwhile, in Midvale, Utah, Eric Allan Hall met his future wife Jessica at a speed dating event. Nearly 200 people were on hand, and about halfway through, Eric connected with Jessica. Eric remembers, “In our five minutes together we found out we both love to travel. We also talked about costuming and our love of Trek, and she mentioned Data was her favorite character. After the official speed dating, there was a dance. I (had) my camera phone and showed her a picture of me dressed like Data from the previous year's Las Vegas convention. Our first date was me going to her house to show her fan films I made using my friends as actors, where I appeared as Data. Then I invited her to join my cousin and I and a group of friends for Halloween doing a group costume as the X-Men. We continued to date and got engaged about a year later. We attended a couple of Trek conventions while dating, one in Seattle, when she met my parents, and one in Vegas.”
Eric had been attending conventions since 1992. Early on, he became fascinated with costumes. His mom crafted his first, a maroon, Wrath of Khan-style jacket. In 1993, he bought a TNG uniform from Rubie’s and dressed as Data for Halloween. It was at conventions that Eric realized he belonged to a like-minded community. “At my second convention, I remember seeing a guy in a well-made Klingon outfit,” Eric says. “I admired the work he put into his costume and props, and decided that was something I wanted to do as well. I started work on my Borg costume in 1993, and I've been working on it ever since. When I went to my first Vegas convention in 2002, I knew I’d hit the ‘big time.’”
For several years in a row, the finalists at Creation’s Vegas convention costume contests have been Eric and other familiar faces. Eric explains that costuming is not about "competing" with peers and friends as much as it's about creating something others enjoy. “Especially for the Vegas convention, people come from literally all over the world,” he says. “It's a good feeling when someone (including Brent Spiner) compliments you on your costume and asks for a photo with you. I feel good if I’ve brightened someone's day a bit or even given them a smile as I revel in my geekiness as I wander around at the convention dressed as Data or as a Borg. I imagine it's a bit like being a costumed character at Disneyland and posing with passers-by.
Anyone who encountered Eric and Jessica at the most recent Vegas convention knows Trek is a family affair. They’ve passed their appreciation of Trek – and costuming – down to their kids. “My four-year-old, Cleo, loves watching The Animated Series on DVD with me,” Eric says. “She frequently asks about Spock, where he lives, and where his spaceship is. My wife and I take the kids with us to the Vegas convention every year, and she's made a Seven of Nine outfit for Cleo, as well as a Borg outfit and a Lal costume. We also have a TNG and TOS uniform that fit her as well. Our three-year old, Allan, has a TNG shirt and a Borg costume, and our 11-month old, Spencer, has a Klingon onesie!”