Sword & Laser ep. 12 - Interview with LeVar Burton

Uploaded by geekandsundry on Sep 14, 2012

TOM MERRITT: Coming up, Amazon's got a Kindle
announcement that's gonna blow your mind, Belmont.
TOM MERRITT: Oh, yeah.
VERONICA BELMONT: And we have Mr. LeVar Burton on the show.
Take a look, he's not in a book.
He's on Sword and Laser.
Sword and Laser.
Sword and Laser.
Sword and Laser.

VERONICA BELMONT: Hey, everyone.
Welcome to the Sword and Laser.
I'm Veronica Belmont.
TOM MERRITT: And I'm Tom Merritt.
VERONICA BELMONT: And this is the show where we speak to
fantastic authors in the science fiction and fantasy
genres, ask some of your questions, and talk about all
the great new books that are coming out.
TOM MERRITT: That's true.
If you're new to genre fiction and looking for tips, you're
in the right place.
But also, if you're an old-time sci-fi and fantasy
savant who just wants to soak in all the latest and
greatest, you, my friend, are also in the right place.
VERONICA BELMONT: And speaking of places for readers to come
and hang out, we're very excited--
VERONICA BELMONT: --very excited to have LeVar Burton
on the show today.
I'm sure we'll talk a little bit about his time on the
Enterprise but also about the return of Reading Rainbow.
TOM MERRITT: Very excited about that.
But first the news.
It burns so quickly.
That's why we call our news Quick Burns.

VERONICA BELMONT: First off, huge-o congratulations to the
Hugo award winners.
Yeah, Tom wrote that line.
VERONICA BELMONT: John Scalzi was the first toastmaster at
Worldcon in Chicago.
And a great time was had by all.
Among the winners were Jo Walton's Among Others for best
novel; "The Man Who Bridged the Myst" by Kij Johnson for
best novella; io9's own Charlie Jane Anders won best
novelette for "Six Months, Three Days" --
congratulations --
and John DeNardo's SF Signal for best fanzine.
Game of Thrones' Season One got best dramatic
presentation, long form.
And Doctor Who's episode, "The Doctor's Wife," written by
Neil Gaiman, took home best dramatic
presentation, short from.
TOM MERRITT: Good winners.
Actually, a lot of good nominees this year, too.
Good news, Patrick Rothfuss fans.
Oh, sorry, no, it's not the release date of the third in
the Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy.
But it is more Rothfuss coming your way.
Tor.com reports the September issue of Locus magazine lists
the sale to DAW books of the first book in a new fantasy
series by Rothfuss.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yes, I hear it might be a trilogy.
VERONICA BELMONT: That's what we're hearing so far, which is
very exciting.
As you may know, The Hobbit movie comes out in December
and will now be the first of three movies.
Warner Brothers has released official names and release
dates, too.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes out
December 14, 2012.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smog will hit screens
December 13, 2013.
And The Hobbit: There and Back Again arrives July 18, 2014.
TOM MERRITT: That's a whole lot of hobbit.
VERONICA BELMONT: That's a whole lot of hobbitses.
TOM MERRITT: Amazon announced a whole new line of Kindles.
The new Kindle Paperwhite features a wider screen with a
front light for reading in the dark without the eye strain.
TOM MERRITT: There's also new Kindle Fires, including a
larger 8.9-inch Kindle HD Fire.
The best part of the announcement in my opinion?
Whispersync for audiobooks.
So if you pause your audiobook on one device, you could pick
up right where you left off on another device or even in a
non-audio version of the eBook.
I didn't hear that part.
I didn't hear about that.
TOM MERRITT: Oh, yeah.
VERONICA BELMONT: I already ordered my Paperwhite, because
I was super excited about the front-lit display.
And now I'm hearing about this Whisper--
So if I'm listening on Audible?
TOM MERRITT: You could be reading on your Paperwhite and
then pick up on your Audible version on your phone.
VERONICA BELMONT: From the Kindle, from the reading to
the audiobook!
VERONICA BELMONT: That is the thing I wanted the most of
everything I said!
I can't believe this.
I'm really just figuring this out for the very first time.
It's amazing.
VERONICA BELMONT: So I can listen to an audiobook, and
then it will pick up on the paper version of the Kindle?
I don't believe you.
TOM MERRITT: That's what they said.
I haven't tried it.
It's called immersion.
I'm so excited!
It's exactly what I wanted for a really, really long time!
OK anyway, I'll guess we'll move on.
TOM MERRITT: Are you ready for the next bit?
VERONICA BELMONT: I'm really excited about that.
TOM MERRITT: There's one more Burn.
VERONICA BELMONT: How'd I miss that?
TOM MERRITT: I don't know.
And finally, if you like science fiction and music,
John Anealio has you covered.
The music teacher an co-host of the Functional Nerds
podcast has a new album coming out September 18.
You'll get songs about steampunk, NANOWRIMO, George
RR Martin, and angry robots.
The album is $5 and is available at johnanealio.com.
TOM MERRITT: While we try to bring Veronica down off of her
Kindle high, Lem, our dragon, is trying to get
LeVar Burton on screen.
So while he gets that all connected, you please enjoy
this look at today in alternate history.

VERONICA BELMONT: We are positively giddy to have LeVar
Burton with us today.
Thank you so much for joining us, LeVar.
I like giddy.
My question to you and Tom is which of you would be the
sword, and which is the laser?
VERONICA BELMONT: I am the sword.
TOM MERRITT: She's the sword.
I'm the laser.
We both cross over often, but we sort of
help each other out.
LEVAR BURTON: OK, all right.
VERONICA BELMONT: So we have a lot of really great questions
from our viewers over on Goodreads.
And the first one comes from Rob.
He says "Reading Rainbow was important, a
huge part of my childhood.
Has there been discussion about bringing it back as a
web show, or is the focus now entirely on the new Reading
Rainbow app?"
LEVAR BURTON: Yeah, Rob, the focus is on the Reading
Rainbow app.
Bringing it back as a web show, very unlikely.
Very unlikely.
I mean, I come from the universe of Star Trek, so I've
learned to never say never.
So I just say "highly unlikely" instead.
TOM MERRITT: Speaking of Star Trek, you had to expect we'd
have some fans with questions about that.
Sean wants to know if you had the power of Q, is there any
one scene or line of dialogue from The Next Generation that
you would erase from existence?

Not a single one.
Ah, maybe I'd erase one red alert.
That's all.
Just one.
TOM MERRITT: Just tone it down a bit.
LEVAR BURTON: Just a random red alert.
Just take it out.
VERONICA BELMONT: Maybe there was like an orange level alert
in that particular instance maybe.
LEVAR BURTON: We didn't do many alerts at orange level.
We went from pretty much calm to red alert every episode.
TOM MERRITT: Zero to 60 quick.
VERONICA BELMONT: Terpkristin wants to know, "What are you
reading right now?
What book have you read this year that you would
recommend to others?
And do we have to take your word for it?"
LEVAR BURTON: Yes or no.

I'm always reading science fiction.
And right now, my science fiction is in the form of one
of the Gardner Dozois' Best in Science Fiction compendiums.
I think it's for 2006 or 2007.
I'm still catching up.
But they're great, because it's great short
story science fiction.
And it's my favorite thing to read when I
get in bed at night.
And that is my favorite time to read.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, those are fantastic compilations.
If anybody just can't decide what to
read next, it's perfect.
You get like a chocolate box full of great stuff.
LEVAR BURTON: And they're huge.
They're like jillions of-- well, not jillions.
But you know what I mean.
TOM MERRITT: Metaphorically jillions.
LEVAR BURTON: It's a lot of bang for the buck--
TOM MERRITT: Definitely.
LEVAR BURTON: --in the Gardner Dozois collections.
TOM MERRITT: Rick wants to know what you think it would
take to bring a successful Star Trek TV show back.
Rick, to bring a successful Star Trek TV show back, you
would have to be a master of time and space.
Reverse the clock on all of us aging actors about 15 years.
And then convince Paramount to pay us all the
money that we'd want.
Good luck with that.
TOM MERRITT: So we need the singularity.
LEVAR BURTON: We need the singularity.
VERONICA BELMONT: I have a very personal
confession to make.
I had a dream recently.
This is very embarrassing to admit, and I
apologize in advance.
LEVAR BURTON: Are you sure you want to share this with me?
TOM MERRITT: I know, right?
No, I had dream recently that The Next Generation cast was
getting back together for a big reunion thing.
And I woke up crying with happiness.
VERONICA BELMONT: How embarrassing is that?
There were like tears in my eyes.
I was like, that would be so great.
And everyone was there.
And everyone was happy to see each other.
And I don't know why I was there.
But it was awesome.
LEVAR BURTON: You should have been [INAUDIBLE]
VERONICA BELMONT: That's nice of you say, but I don't know
if Paramount would let me on the lot.
I've got the crazy eyes going when I comes to The Next
TOM MERRITT: You're a former CBS employee, though.
LEVAR BURTON: Actually, I think we would all like one
last shot, one last crack at it.
And the truth is, we are all getting older.
So I feel like a 40-year-old woman who hasn't
had her first child.
The clock is ticking.
VERONICA BELMONT: Now to kind of change gears a little bit.
Jim wants know if you have any good stories or anecdotes to
share with us from your guest appearance on Community,
another big geek favorite.
LEVAR BURTON: I loved being on Community.
I think Donald Glover is incredibly talented.
He used to write for 30 Rock.
Did you know that?
VERONICA BELMONT: I think I did, yeah.
LEVAR BURTON: The guy's just ridiculously talented.
I met Chevy back in the '70s.
So it was good to see him again.
And I just love the show.
I think it's so smart, so clever.
And I had a really, really good time.
They let me be myself and ad-lib.
And it was a lot of fun.
TOM MERRITT: A different Jim asks a question
about Reading Rainbow.
He says you mentioned in your talk at DragonCon about future
plans to extend the app service to some sort of
educator resource.
And he is a teacher who actually, one of the first
books he bought as an educator was the Reading Rainbow Guide
to Children's Books.
Are there any plans for more educator resources?
LEVAR BURTON: Oh absolutely.
When it was on TV, Reading Rainbow was the most watched
television resource in our nation's classroom.
And here we are with the Reading Rainbow app, and we
definitely feel that we have something of value to offer
all the teachers in the classroom in this age group
and certainly where reading is concerned.
So we're in the process of putting that program together.
We're just a couple of months in the marketplace now.
So we have a lot of plans going forward.
And a program for teachers and for schools is definitely at
the top of our list of things that we want to
do in terms of expanding.
VERONICA BELMONT: What's the response been like
so far to the app?
LEVAR BURTON: It's been amazing.
I'm really, really happy that people are discovering us and
figuring out that it is exactly what they
imagined it might be.
It's books and video and LeVar and adventure and
discovery and fun.
So the more people discover it, the better it is.
And we're certainly here for the long haul.
I mean, this is just the first product in what plan on being
a long line of products for children and their families.
VERONICA BELMONT: You know, you've affected so many
people, not just of my generation, but the Reading
Rainbow name has just endured--
TOM MERRITT: But even my generation.
VERONICA BELMONT: Even your old, old generation.
But it's just so wonderful to see new people getting a
chance to experience it and learn from it.
And I think that's really cool.
LEVAR BURTON: That's what's so exciting to me is that we are
reaching now kids who don't have a frame of reference for
LeVar or for Reading Rainbow.
And their parents are turning them on to something from
their own childhoods that they really loved.
And it's really amazing.
And I'm grateful to be part of it.
VERONICA BELMONT: On that similar note, Sarah says, I
started watching The Next Generation because she grew up
watching you on Reading Rainbow.
"I was always curious if you were able to see anything with
those glasses on.
It was supposed to enhance the character's vision, but did it
hinder your own?"
LEVAR BURTON: And that is the wonderment that is
When LeVar put the visor on, he became nearly blind.
Yet the character, Geordi, when he puts it on, he sees
more than anyone else around him.

It doesn't make sense, but it works.
VERONICA BELMONT: So then I guess the answer is that you
could not see out of the visor at all.
Well, I mean, I could see a little.
But I couldn't see much.
It was not necessarily the best part of
being Geordi La Forge.
TOM MERRITT: So when you got the contacts in the movies
later, you were pretty excited, I bet.
LEVAR BURTON: I always thought that, look, we have this very
sophisticated technology in the 24th century.
Certainly we can take the visor and put it into an
ocular implant.
But the producers and Rick Berman specifically always
argued with me in saying that the visor was one of the
iconic visuals that we use to telegraph the level of
technological sophistication in the future and that it was
really necessary in order to give fans, both new and old,
an anchor upon which to hang sort of the idea of how far we
had come with our technological advancements.
TOM MERRITT: That's interesting.
I hadn't thought about the storytelling
aspect of that visually.
That's a really interesting point.
LEVAR BURTON: Absolutely, yeah.
TOM MERRITT: Roxanne wants to say that Reading Rainbow
helped to cement her love of reading and storytelling and
wants to ask you what childhood book pulled you into
the world of reading?
LEVAR BURTON: That's easy.
Captains Courageous.
I was in the third grade.
Rudyard Kipling.
I was mesmerized and immersed in the story and the
And at the end of the story, I got depressed.
I was very sad to leave that world.
I had totally come to know these characters and just
enjoyed being in the world that they were in so much.
So that was the book that I was reading when the light
bulb went on, the penny dropped, and I was
like, oh, I get it.
Reading, nice.
VERONICA BELMONT: Our final question comes from Julia who
says, "As a person with a disability, I found great
inspiration from Geordi La Forge.
What was it like for an able-bodied person to portray
a person with a disability?
Also, in regards to portraying a person with a disability,
what do you feel was done well and what could've been done
LEVAR BURTON: I loved playing Geordi, and I loved the fact
that he was a person dealing with a physical challenge.

And a large part of the nature of his character was that it
did not, in any way, hold him back from
achieving his dreams.
I don't know that there's anything that I would say we
should have or could have done better.
For me, when I was a kid watching Star Trek, the
presence of Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura made a
world of difference to me as a young kid of
color in that mix.
Because Gene's vision was saying when the future comes,
there's a place for everybody at this table.
And to have grown up and become a member of the family
of Star Trek and representing for people out there and
everywhere who also are dealing with physical
challenges, it was quite extraordinary.
It's difficult to put into words.
But amazing.
TOM MERRITT: Before we wrap up, I just want to ask you,
we're a science fiction and fantasy show, if you could
pick one book to introduce someone to that world, what do
you think it would be?
VERONICA BELMONT: It's a tough question, we know.
LEVAR BURTON: It really is.
Because my tendency is to want to go back to the classics and
go Asimov or Heinlein.
But I'm going to go with my heart, because my favorite
science fiction writer is Octavia Butler.
And so I'm going to go with the Parable of the Sower.
TOM MERRITT: Great choice.
I think Octavia Butler, very under--
not underrated necessarily, but under talked about.
VERONICA BELMONT: We should do an Octavia Butler
book at some point.
LEVAR BURTON: She is largely undiscovered by the population
outside of the genre.
And the woman was just, wow.
So hugely, hugely talented.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, thank you so much for joining us.
And of course, on a personal note, Reading Rainbow was one
of the things that got me into reading growing up and is one
of the reasons that I wanted to do this show
and to do this podcast.
So thank you for being such a wonderful inspiration to so
many of us.
LEVAR BURTON: God bless.
Thank you guys so much.
My life is so good these days.
Reading Rainbow is back.
This is the 25th anniversary of Star Trek The Next
Generation, the 35th anniversary of Roots.
Back on TV with TNT on Perception,
Monday nights, 10 o'clock.
I'm grateful.
TOM MERRITT: That's great stuff.
And LeVar, thank you for taking the time to
talk with us today.
Really appreciate it.
LEVAR BURTON: Absolutely.
Have a great day.
TOM MERRITT: All right.
Reading Rainbow is back as an app, folks.
You can find all about it at rrkidz--
that's K-I-D-Z--
dot com.
Now let's tell you about some hot new books coming out in
the next couple of weeks in the calendar.

VERONICA BELMONT: Tuesday, September 18 is another big
day for books.
We'll see The Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson,
David Weber's Midst Toil and Tribulation, The Diviners by
Libba Bray, Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff and Fallen Masters by
John Edward.
TOM MERRITT: And right after that, on Wednesday the 19th,
comes Inside HBO's Game of Thrones by Bryan Cogman.
Back to the fiction, on Thursday, September 20, 2012,
is the anthology, Walk the Fire.
VERONICA BELMONT: And looking ahead to Tuesday, September
25, the highly anticipated Dodger by Terry Pratchett and
Book Two of The Mongoliad by, oh, I don't know, 6,000
authors or something, if you count the
contributions of the internet.
TOM MERRITT: There's a lot of real authors on that.
Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear.
A lot of them.
We interviewed all of them.
TOM MERRITT: People we're not insulting by not
naming them right now.
VERONICA BELMONT: We interviewed all 6,000 of them
in an earlier episode of the Sword and Laser.
TOM MERRITT: Neal Stephenson was on a
treadmill drinking a Guinness.
TOM MERRITT: But it's time now for the last of our
whiteboards from Aaron.
TOM MERRITT: Or is it?
Time will tell.
Meanwhile, it's OK to get a little teary-eyed.
But try to pay attention.
There's important information in this one about
monsters and vampires.
AARON: Most urban fantasy comes Kresley Cole style, in
which the werewolves and vampires are a big secret, or
Anita Blake style, in which they're all out of the closet.
The brilliance of Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series
is that it's on the historic cusp, right as the world is
becoming aware that, yes, Virginia the
monsters are real.
The first book is good.
But the second, Kitty Goes to Washington is great.
Having a recently outed werewolf testifying before
Congress debating the legal implications of
a paranormal universe?
That's solid gold.
And bonus, Vaughn's vampires are absolutely not sparkly.
TOM MERRITT: That was a Twilight jab.
VERONICA BELMONT: Commenters, are you upset by that?
Let us know.
Tell Aaron how you feel about sparkly vampires.
Write in the comments.
TOM MERRITT: He's used to it.
VERONICA BELMONT: But folks, you too can be lauded and
loved and famous, just like Aaron.
Send us in your videos.
Just upload your message to your favorite video hosting
provider, like YouTube for example, and email us the link
to feedback@swordandlaser.com.
TOM MERRITT: Well, that's it folks.
If you'd like more great ideas of things to read, be sure to
watch our book club episode.
Last week, we kicked off Foundation by Isaac Asimov.
And in a couple of weeks, we'll wrap it up.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel.
It's the green button up there in the corner at
Send us email.
Our email address, as she just mentioned,
And of course, join in that Goodreads forum at
We'll see you next time.