I’m posting this column from Dublin, Ireland.
I wrote it before going on holiday, but it’s coming to you from the Emerald Isle where they obviously like science-fiction. The Forbidden Planet shop is in the middle of downtown, and the other day, there were Storm Troopers and Jedi in front of a big video store on O’Connell Street.
It’s a good place for a geek.
I’ve gone over this before, but for the purposes of this outing, it’s probably a good idea to give you my definitions for a couple of terms.
A geek is someone who has a great interest in and possibly a great knowledge about a particular subject. Avid sports fans who can give you game scores going back to 1919 or spend endless hours creating a fantasy sports team are geeks. Gardeners who can give you the Latin names of all their plants are geeks. Cooks who delve into their projects with the fervor of a chemist looking for a cure for cancer are geeks.
Here at Airlock Alpha, we are playing to an audience that has many science-fiction and fantasy geeks among its members.
Nerds are people who often have the kinds of interests that geeks do but they also have a great penchant for academics and usually excel in school because they want to, not just because other people want them to. Many of them are very good at math and science, and have science-fiction and fantasy interests as their hobbies.
Again, here at Airlock Alpha, we are playing to an audience that has many science-fiction and fantasy nerds among its members.
Many people have false notions about science-fiction and fantasy nerds and geeks. They think they are clumsy, socially inept, unattractive, and generally to be avoided — especially when they wear costumes. (The fact that non-geeks wear sports jerseys and band T-shirts when they are not members of the team or the band and therefore are wearing costumes seems to be lost on them.)
The things that people find wrong with science-fiction geeks and nerds are all superficial things that don’t matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of life.
This column is basically a pep talk for those among us who may have misgivings about being labeled by others as geeks or nerds.
Take pride in the labels and you’ll take the wind out of the naysayers’ sails.
You can be a nerd and a geek, and maybe you are, but never fear. The geeks and nerds of this earth are the ones who will have the greatest adventures in life. Among them are the people who will find cures for diseases that now kill or disable millions of people. The people who will make it to other planets in our galaxy and maybe planets in other galaxies, and the people who will do good in the world just because it’s the right thing to do.
One of my friends works with a bunch of guys who adamantly deny being geeks. Yet, when she commented on Green Lantern to one of them, he promptly quoted the oath. Another day, she walked in on two of her co-workers arguing about which Batman was best. She has informed these fellows that they are members of the great geek brotherhood and sisterhood.
Another lady friend of mine had no idea she was indeed a nerd/geek herself. She’s a bona fide Robert E. Howard scholar, and yet, she wasn’t aware of how important Mr. Howard is to the history of fantasy literature. She was surprised to learn that practically everyone who has read a lot of either science-fiction or fantasy is aware of Robert E. Howard. She had become interested in Howard because of his boxing stories, but as she delved more into his work, she found the fantasy.
Now, she knows she is among friends when among geeks. We’re working on getting her more familiar with other authors and geek culture in general.
This past summer, I hosted a panel on pet peeves at a large anime con. The room was filled with young people, most in costumes I didn’t recognize because I am not a big anime fan. The other people who were supposed to be on the panel ditched (the slackers), so I had to go it alone. No worries, I just told the group that they could complain about whatever bothered them.
One asked if he could complain about his parents, and I said that might not be so good since I am a parent and grandparent and am looking at things from the other side now. That didn’t seem to register in the way I thought it would. I thought that the people there would stick to what bothered them about their anime fandoms, the shows themselves, or anime conventions. But nope! Many of them took my willingness to let them vent as a sign they could complain about their parents.
There is a point to this anecdote, and I will get to it, really.
Lots of them had the same complaint. Their parents thought their interest in anime was stupid and didn’t hold back from telling them so. They could see the irony in this because most of those who had this complaint said their parents loved “Star Trek” or had Star Wars toys all over or something else of that sort.
Every generation has to have something the parents just don’t get. That’s just the way of the world.
Now, here’s the point.
This room full of young people, most the age of my oldest granddaughter or maybe a little older, were bright, energetic, big fans of anime and science-fiction and fantasy, and in need of someone to validate them. I ended the hour by telling them that they are intelligent, clever, and talented and that they should never let what anyone else says make them think they were not all those things. I don’t know if they took that message to heart, but I hope the grandma with the “Serenity”-inspired costume had some effect.
The community of science-fiction and fantasy fans has its foibles and missteps, but the majority of the time, it’s accepting of anyone who has geek or nerd bent.
Once you find a group of fans, you find acceptance, and that’s a wonderful thing. But remember that even if you don’t have a group of fans to validate you, you can validate yourself.
Just in case a little validation from an outside source would do you good though, YOU ARE AWESOME!
Next time: A Geek Goes to Ireland
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