Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Hello, Stapler Fans!

I apologize for the radio silence. I was in New Orleans visiting my recently-relocated brother and getting my nerd on.

Interestingly, those two things are what I'd like to write about today.

While showing off some pictures to my brother's coworkers, I said something to the effect of, "We may be a bunch of nerds, but we bring it to the table when it comes to costuming for a Masquerade." (This is New Orleans. They take their Masquerades seriously.)

A moment later, my brother and I left for lunch. As we were heading out, he told me that I shouldn't refer to myself, my friends, or my pastimes as nerdy, as "it sends the wrong message."

"You're cool, and your friends are cool. You're not nerds," he said. "When you do that, it sounds like you're on the defensive."

He then likened it to black people referring to themselves with the N word.

A little extreme, I thought, but a point interestingly made.

Going in that line of thought, I definitely feel that words like "geek" and "nerd" have been "taken back," as it were.

I spent much of yesterday mulling this over, so you can imagine how I felt when my best friend picked me up from the airport and started saying things like, "How was your nerd-con?" and "They seem pretty cool for a bunch of Harry Potter nerds." (Note: I am in no way saying this N-word is like *that* N-word, so trolls, take your wank elsewhere.)

Until my brother had said that, I would have been the first person to say I was at a nerd convention, and that the people I'd met were pretty cool for a bunch of nerds.

Heck, even Warren Ellis calls San Diego Comic Con "Nerd Prom." Is he winking at his readership, or alienating them?

I proudly call myself a geek, and enjoy my geeky hobbies. I feel weird that geek culture is becoming more and more mainstream. I was supremely weirded out when, during my tenure at a local comic book store, a group of Mean Girl types from a school where I'd been a social outcast stopped in. To my further shock, they left with armfuls of manga.

Not only have the terms "geek" and "nerd" been taken back, but the cultures they describe are becoming more and more mainstream. Most people may not go to a Harry Potter convention, but it's a safe bet, going by numbers alone, that most people have read Harry Potter.

When I use nerdy or geeky to describe something, it's an adjective without a value judgement. Or, if there is one, to me, its value is positive.

I proudly announce my attendance of genre conventions, of SCA events, etc. They're fun hobbies. I've met some of my best friends because of these interests.

And really, if the geek culture hadn't embraced itself, items like this would not exist:

A shirt I have always wanted.

I don't really know the answer to this question. When people identify themselves as a geek or as queer, they are taking a charged word and using it to describe themselves, without a negativity, but with all the descriptive association those words can mean. "I like genre books and movies." "I am not heterosexual."

If we enjoy what those words mean, why not use them?

If someone accused me of being a geek, the only thing I could think to say back would be "Really? You only just noticed?"


Trisha Lynn said...

"Nerd Prom" is a phrase that pre-dated Warren Ellis' use of it, iirc. It's something us Tarts used for a while, I think.

I take Wil Wheaton's view when it comes to admitting my geekery. I am slightly apologetic about it, and this was brought home to me when I was being introduced by a friend I'd originally met through anime fanfiction to his evangelical church friends.

"How'd you meet?" they'd ask politely.

He and I would look at each other and pause, before I finally offered up that we were in a writer's group in college. This is technically not a lie because both of us were writers and we were both in college when we met... on the opposite sides of the country, via the Internet. And what we wrote was not exactly original, and it even was slightly illegal.

However, as Wheaton put it in the interview I did with him, it's far better to be a geek and to grow up a geek than not to be. Geeks come in all shapes, sizes and hobbies. Gourmet food fans are colloquially known as "foodies" and enjoy reading and watching the Food Network shows they lovingly call "food porn." Name a hobby and I assure you, I can find the geek in it.

Mnemosyne said...

I had a job last year where I worked with people who were self-consciously "cool." They worked in advertising, they'd gone to art school, they just knew they were on the cutting edge.

And I ended up hating it. I couldn't relate to them, and they couldn't relate to me. When I would wear my Angry Squid hoodie on Fridays, they'd look at me like I was an alien, and I would feel like I'd tried to explain a joke to someone in a foreign language.

I quit that job, and now I'm (still) in entertainment, but I'm working at a library/archive where people will sit and discuss Harry Potter and "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" over lunch. I joke that I'm among my own kind again but ... it's not really a joke. I'm far more comfortable with this group of people than I ever was with the Cool Kids I used to work with.

Oh, and since my fellow nerds will want to know, you buy Angry Squid merchandise from the Feed Store online. Prompt delivery, great quality, very recommended.

Miss sophie said...

I proud to be a geek, I associate it with possitives and I'm the first to stae loudly and proudly that I am. But nerd? I get extremely defensive if someone calls me a nerd. Nerds are... uncool american kids getting picked on for being pedantic. Geeks have glamour.
I think this may be a UK language distinction, but I'm not sure. I sometimes feel guilty and even a little hypocrtical about my nerd aversion, but geek is a label I embrace.

La Gringa said...

I am a nerd and a geek and proud of it. :-)