SOWYGO 5: Out Damn Geek

Besides being a nerd on a lot of other things I’m also an atheist nerd. I enjoy the debates and the arguments – provided there’s a chance of actual points being made and them going somewhere-  and as a ‘militant’ atheist I have been overjoyed by the rise of the New Atheism as represented by the Four Horsemen (Dawkins, Dennet, Harris and Hitchins).

I see some parallels between the new atheist movement and the idea of being proud to be a geek. There’s something of a campaign to raise awareness of atheists and atheist groups, to help them know they’re not alone (in the US and other more heavily theistic nations) and a lot of ideas have been taken from the homosexual movements of the 80s. The idea of coming out of the ‘closet’, of making public declarations of non-belief, to take a stand and to let other people know that you exist.

Geeks are already getting ‘out there’ but we could all do with a bit more of that, outing ourselves and not hiding it like it’s something to be ashamed of. Starting conversations to help people understand, even making pamphlets that explain our obscure hobbies in ways that people who aren’t involved can understand.

Speak Out With Your Geek Out has been a great act of self-affirmation within the nerd community but has it actually reached out to ‘normal people’ that much? Let’s keep the spirit of the idea going and reach out to someone who isn’t likely to have seen it or been aware that it was going on.

Read a book at work or on the tube, have a conversation with your family about their hobbies, then bring up yours, put your hobbies on your CV, make a facebook, twitter or G+ post to everyone and let them know you’re proud to be a geek!

Normal blog/gaming service resumed tomorrow!

SOWYGO 4: Geeknesses Wot I don’t Get

I have a very analytical approach to things. I take my time to look into them and the issues around them, the evidence and then I come to a conditional conclusion that is subject to change, on the presentation of other evidence that holds water or is sufficient and well executed enough to demonstrably contradict previous evidence. The first step though, is to ask. SOWYGO is mainly about getting positive images of various nerdery out there but I think there’s an opportunity here for some cross-nerdery understanding. So, here’s some geekdoms, some fandoms, that I don’t get and which I invite you to educate me on:

1. Furries

What I don’t get: Anthro art I get (Omaha, Usagi), werewolves, centaurs, mythical creatures I can get my head around but… obsession over cartoonish characters, dressing up in a suit – however impressive the craft – taking on a persona outside of a role-playing game, that I don’t get. I’m not going to ignore the elephant in the room here either, the whole furry sex thing just makes me blink, or gag, especially when things get… weirder. Someone explain Doug Winger to me (don’t click).

 

2. Sports Nerdery

What I don’t get: Any of it. Car racing is just people driving in circles and the variations are minor. Cricket takes forever to get going. The shenanigans of football players off the pitch are far more interesting than the actual games themselves and they’re hideously overpaid. It just seems to be the same thing over and over again and the statistical obsession goes far beyond the aspy behaviour of the worst Traveller players into scary, scary savant territory. What’s the appeal?

3. Historical Wargaming

What I don’t get: You already know what happens. Historical battles are often determined by overwhelming force or sheer tactical advantage so, when you recreate the battle the outcome is probably about 90% predetermined. If you step out of that what’s putting you off fantasy wargaming? (Assuming it does put you off). The rules used for historical wargaming also seem to be impenetrable compared to fantasy or SF gaming, inaccessible, difficult or with little room for chance. What’s up with that?

4. Wine/Ale

What I don’t get: Wine makes me sick anyway and I can’t stand the taste of beer, so I’ll never enjoy it, but it’s just rotten grape juice isn’t it? Studies consistently show that most people aren’t able to tell the difference and that price and label creates far more of a difference to people’s perception than the wine itself. So… huh? Ale… less of a problem, I can’t stand it but I can smell or taste the difference but what’s the appeal of all the very different kinds?

5. Cosplay

What I don’t get: Most of the characters that people dress up as are from computer games or fantasy art and those are impossibly perfect physical specimens. Sure you can do great photo-sets with photoshop and get panted at by nerd boys and girls, but that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Most geeks, nerds, freaks etc (hell, most PEOPLE) don’t look like anime characters or computer game characters and trying to – without MAJOR disfiguring surgery – is a fool’s errand. I get the crafting side and all that, I just don’t get the whole thing when it’s all put together.

Please help me understand your geekdoms, the ones above, or others!

SOWYGO 3: The Professional Geek

The ultimate dream for many a weirdo, freak, nerd or geek is to turn their amateur hobby into a professional concern. To make their particular obsession their job and to make a living at it. This is awesome, I do it, but it’s not without its drawbacks and difficulties as well.

1. Everything is work.

They say if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. As it turns out that’s absolute bullshit. What actually happens is that EVERYTHING becomes work. What you end up doing for money may be something you love and enjoy but when your income depends on it, it gets stressful and when you do take time off you’re doing the same thing that you do for work.

On the other hand: Everything is also something fun. While it can taint your enjoyment, it makes ‘going to work’ every day a damn sight easier.

2. You’re never ‘off’.

When what you love is what you do you can really never switch off. Your all-consuming hobby becomes your whole life. Everything you see, everything you do seems to relate to your hobby.

On the other hand: It’s a great excuse to get yourself a secondary hobby so you CAN get a break. Secondary nerdery is also awesome. For me that’s probably comics, films and computer games but you can get your own, damn you.

3. Conventions become work, damn it

So, you get to go to that big convention that you love so much. Trouble is, you’re working. You can’t leave your stall or stand and go wandering off or some mouth-breathing neckbeard is going to have it away on their toes with your stuff. The bastards. If you meet people it’s generally for business and all the other businessy nerds are all busy too. You might make some money, but the con experience from the other side of the table often sucks.

On the other hand: Fans are rad, their enthusiasm is infectious and they can usually be persuaded to go and get you a bottle of scotch and a chocolate bar so you don’t have to leave.

4. Geeks are Unprofessional

Being a ‘professional’ geek is something of an oxymoron. Unless you’re working for a big company it’s all pretty small scale and personal as a business. This means getting bigger is tricky, a lot depends on personal relationships and you know how clannish geeks are. People come to blows over Kirk Vs Picard for the love of Thor. That means deadlines can slip, getting money can be tricky and people can be dicks.

On the other hand: That’s actually something that’s nice about geek-related businesses. It’s still small and personal and people’s passion and interest really comes across.

5. People think you owe them

If you’re a professional geek and you make cool geeky stuff, people start thinking they can get up in your face and tell you how to do what you do as though they know better. If they really did, they’d probably do it themselves. At least they’re still buying your stuff and care about it, but still, it can be a grind.

On the other hand: At least they’re giving you ideas, even if it might be done in a bad way.

SOWYGO:2 A Very British Nerd

Being a British geek has its advantages. I live near the inspiration for The Shire and Watership down, in spitting distance of the places that have inspired so many fantasy and science fiction authors over the years. Britain is home to a great tradition of thoughtful and involving SF and fantasy with an intellectual bent that draws you in and allows you to take yourself a little more seriously. HG Wells, for example, was not ‘merely’ a science fiction author but a committed and important socialist and intellectual and a member – for a while – of the Fabian movement. A tradition continued today by writers such as China Mieville, though he’d probably smack me round the back of the head for the comparison.

It’s also good to be a geek in the UK because even though kids at school might be mean and nasty the society as a whole is pretty tolerant of people’s ‘eccentricity’. You’re not so much a ‘freak’ as a ‘character’, though really you need to be rich to get away with that with any consistency.

There’s one thing that, I think, overrides the geek experience in the United Kingdom across so many boundaries from the mid 70s until the modern day and that’s the science fiction anthology comic, 2000AD.

There’s been many attempts at comics for boys and ‘grown ups’ in the UK but the only one really still going, the only one that’s weathered all storms is 2000AD.

I’m not a comic book fan, I’m a fan of a particular comic book. Oh sure, I will read a lot of other comics but the only one I’m really an absolute fan for is 2000AD. Nemesis the Warlock, Judge Dredd, Nikolai Dante, Zenith, Slaine, Rogue Trooper, I grew up with these and they’re still there and still quality. Many of the greats of modern comics passed through 2000AD and I’d never have found Luther Arkwright if not for Bryan Talbot’s work on Nemesis which presaged the whole ‘steampunk’ thing by years.

2000AD is uniquely and perfectly British and is still creating new classics. It’s irreverent, thoughtful, sarcastic, cynical, brutal, imaginative and perfect. If you’re a nerd over here you’ve at least heard of it and it forms a sort of social, common experience, a cement for the nerd community of common reference points.

I still have almost every issue I ever had in storage boxes and every through years I go back and read everything. It’s like revisiting old friends, even the series that get forgotten like Sooner or Later or Hap Hazzard.

If you haven’t read it, start reading it now. It’s still good, still great, especially Savage which I consider to be one of the best things being done in comics – full stop – today.

SOWYGO1: A Geek is Born

Speak Out With Your Geek Out has a loose definition of what a ‘geek’ is, as a way of trying to break down barriers. For me though a quintessential part of the geek experience is being discriminated against. There are plenty of other things that are nerdy and the division is ridiculous but it does exist. There’s little that’s nerdier than sports fandom after all, all the statistics, all the history, all the fiddly details, probabilities, state of the pitch or the ground… but sports nerdery is commonly accepted and nobody bats an eyelid. Remember the scores and line up from a football game in 1966 and nobody gives a damn, recite the plot of a Batman comic from the same period and people will look at you askance.

That’s why I’m supporting SOWYGO, to point this out but also to talk about more traditional nerdery and my nerdery experiences. Maybe it’s better to call this stuff ‘fandom’, fandom is truly universal and can apply to anything and everything. Let’s just keep that in mind, we’re all fen, of something.

I’m a pretty general-purpose geek. I like science fiction, fantasy, comics, computer games and odd facts. My brain will instantly forget things like anniversaries, birthdays, doctor’s appointments or anything else ‘important’ but I can remember the finest details of science fiction series from my childhood or old issues of 2000AD.

How’d I end up this way?

I don’t think I stood much of a chance of not being a geek. My dad was a teacher (maths) and then one of the first computing teachers before moving into IT more generally. He had an encyclopaedic collection of 70s paperback science fiction and my mum had her own collection of Narnia books and spy novels. I was read to a lot and I devoured books whole, that was my gateway into the wider world of nerdery because I wanted all of the things I read about to become true. I wanted to live in these worlds and if I couldn’t live in these worlds I wanted to pretend and to imagine my own.

And that was it, I was lost, though I’ve never been happier to be lost. Books took me into role-playing games and that, right there, is my particular raison d’geek. My compulsive and obsessive side is fixated upon that, the making of worlds, the rolling of dice, tinkering with rules to simulate worlds in the imagination and that’s why this website and all my work exists.

From a prevalence of books in my childhood to a creator of worlds and games.

Ain’t so bad being made a geek.