When it came to my research, I never took any shortcuts. Over the past five years, I'd worked my way down the entire recommended gunter reading list. Douglas Adams. Kurt Vonnegut. Neal Stephenson. Richard K. Morgan. Stephen King. Orson Scott Card. Terry Pratchett. Terry Brooks. Bester, Bradbury, Haldeman, Heinlein, Tolkien, Vance, Gibson, Gaiman, Sterling, Moorcock, Scalzi, Zelazny. I read every novel by every single one of Halliday's favorite authors.
And I didn't stop there.
I also watched every single film he referenced in the Almanac. If it was one of Halliday's favorites, like WarGames, Ghostbusters, Real Genius, Better Off Dead, or Revenge of the Nerds, I rewatched it until I knew every scene by heart.
I devoured each of what Halliday referred to as "The Holy Trilogies": Star Wars (original and prequel trilogies, in that order), Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Mad Max, Back to the Future, and Indiana Jones. (Halliday once said that he preferred to pretend the other Indiana Jones films, from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull onward, didn't exist. I tended to agree.)
I also absorbed the complete filmographies of each of his favorite directors. Cameron, Gilliam, Jackson, Fincher, Kubrick, Lucas, Spielberg, Del Toro, Tarantino. And, of course, Kevin Smith.
I spent three months studying every John Hughes teen movie and memorizing all the key lines of dialogue.
Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.
You could say I covered all the bases.
I studied Monty Python. And not just Holy Grail, either. Every single one of their films, albums, and books, and every episode of the original BBC series. (Including those two "lost" episodes they did for German television.)
I wasn't going to cut any corners.
I wasn't going to miss something obvious.
Somewhere along the way, I started to go overboard.
I may, in fact, have started to go a little insane.
I watched every episode of The Greatest American Hero, Airwolf, The A-Team, Knight Rider, Misfits of Science, and The Muppet Show.
What about The Simpsons, you ask?
I knew more about Springfield than I knew about my own city.
Star Trek? Oh, I did my homework. TOS, TNG, DS9. Even Voyager and Enterprise. I watched them all in chronological order. The movies, too. Phasers locked on target.
I gave myself a crash course in '80s Saturday-morning cartoons.
I learned the name of every last goddamn Gobot and Transformer.
Land of the Lost, Thundarr the Barbarian, He-Man, Schoolhouse Rock!, G.I. Joe - I knew them all. Because knowing is half the battle.
Who was my friend, when things got rough? H.R. Pufnstuf.
Japan? Did I cover Japan?
Yes. Yes indeed. Anime and live-action. Godzilla, Gamera, Star Blazers, The Space Giants, and G-Force. Go, Speed Racer, Go.
I wasn't some dilettante.
I wasn't screwing around.
I memorized every last Bill Hicks stand-up routine.
Music? Well, covering all the music wasn't easy.
It took some time.
The '80s was a long decade (ten whole years), and Halliday didn't seem to have had very discerning taste. He listened to everything. So I did too. Pop, rock, new wave, punk, heavy metal. From the Police to Journey to R.E.M. to the Clash. I tackled it all.
I burned through the entire They Might Be Giants discography in under two weeks. Devo took a little longer.
I watched a lot of YouTube videos of cute geeky girls playing '80s cover tunes on ukuleles. Technically, this wasn't part of my research, but I had a serious cute-geeky-girls-playing-ukuleles fetish that I can neither explain nor defend.
I memorized lyrics. Silly lyrics, by bands with names like Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Pink Floyd.
I kept at it.
I burned the midnight oil.
Did you know that Midnight Oil was an Australian band, with a 1987 hit titled "Beds Are Burning"?
I was obsessed. I wouldn't quit. My grades suffered. I didn't care.
I read every issue of every comic book title Halliday had ever collected.
I wasn't going to have anyone questioning my commitment.
Especially when it came to the videogames.
Videogames were my area of expertise.
My double-weapon specialization.
My dream Jeopardy! category.
I downloaded every game mentioned or referenced in the Almanac, from Akalabeth to Zaxxon. I played each title until I had mastered it, then moved on to the next one.
You'd be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever. Twelve hours a day, seven days a week, is a lot of study time.