My friend Linda B. is a major genre fangirl. There was a time when she could be spotted at MediaWest conferences, dressed as a middle-aged Corellian spice trader* and participating in blaster battles all over the conference hotels.
She and other fellow geeks would see plays and skits, admire others’ costumes, buy fan fiction (including some rather startling “slash” fiction) and, yeah, shoot at one another.
She and several other middle-aged women would share hotel rooms and at some point conduct readings of abysmally written fan fiction. A particular “Star Wars” story always brought the house down with the line, “Han spurted into the room.”
Good times, despite the expense of traveling from Alaska to Lansing and the “con crud” that she always seemed to catch.
These days she’s staying closer to home – working, writing plays, making jewelry and doing free-form bead weaving – but she’s still a geek. Or maybe she’s a nerd. Probably both.
Either way she’s a fangirl, which is how she came to send me the link to this Wil Wheaton video, “Why it’s awesome to be a nerd.” This is the kind of thing that slips over her transom on a regular basis, along with things like song parodies based on characters from “The X-Files” or news about the latest Doctor to play “Dr. Who.”
Filmed at the Calgary Comic Expo (nerd alert!), the short video was Wheaton being asked to explain nerd-dom to an attendee’s unborn child. When he was a kid, his interest in things like science and word games and books meant he was considered “weird.”
“People really teased us about that,” he says, “and made us feel there was something wrong with us.”
Yep. Yep. And yep.
Back when the Earth was still cooling I was a total nerd, known in those days as a “teacher’s pet” (when the speakers were being kind). Eternally on the periphery, I knew that girls weren’t supposed to act/feel the way I did.
I took plenty of teasing for being good at school (“Reference books are never taken out”), for being nearsighted (“Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”), for loving to read, for being inquisitive. But you know what really sucked? Being the only person who felt that way.
There were no book groups, or honors English classes, or any media telling us to develop our minds. Thus there was no one to ask why all the toys for girls had to do with babies and homemaking, or why girls couldn’t wear slacks to school, or why girls being smart was a bad thing.
If only there had been a Wil Wheaton to tell me that loving to learn was okay. That sitting around and reading the encyclopedia was actually kind of cool. That being a nerd/geek was “not about what you love – it’s about how you love it.”
In the post, Wheaton says conference-goers are a happy bunch because they’re among friends, i.e., people who love the same things they do.
And by others, too, “who love things you don’t even know about, but you love your respective things in the same way, so you get to love your thing enthusiastically, completely, unironically, without fear of judgement.”
(Wheaton misspelled “judgment,” but I guess I’m being judgey.)
I’m still a geek/nerd these days, fascinated by personal finance, puns, weird facts, history, writing and – with the friend mentioned above – genre television. Often bad genre television: She’ll record stuff like “Finding Bigfoot” and “Deep South Paranormal,” or Syfy movies like “Chupacabra vs. the Alamo,” and we’ll sit on her couch, eating chocolate and laughing hysterically.
(We haven’t watched “Sharknado” but we haven’t ruled it out, either.)
Some good genre television, too: “Chopped,” and “Mythbusters,” and “Warehouse 13.” I only watch this stuff with her, because DF and I don’t own a television. I can’t really explain why I enjoy it so much.
But then again, I don’t have to: Nerds don’t judge other nerds’ tastes. We’re just happy that our fellow geeks have found things that make them happy. I may not completely understand her fascination with John Barrowman, but I will defend to the death her right to experience it.
So let your geek flag fly. Be secure in your love of presidential trivia or all things “Star Trek.” Don’t worry what other people think about your passion for tinkering computers or creating elaborate model railroad setups. You could even start a blog about it (if you must).
Just don’t apologize for what drives you. Suppose Bill Gates or Steve Jobs had followed the same paths as everyone else? Just think of the technology we might not have. Or the arguments over which system is better.
*I didn’t really have to provide a reference, but I just couldn’t resist linking to a site called “Wookieepedia.” Guess that really makes me a nerd.