A Word In Your Ear
by Rob Wynne
Some while ago, I saw this exchange between two friends on
Now, these are obviously long-time friends being
tongue-in-cheek with each other, and clearly Ryan is being
affectionately self-deprecating (and getting in a subtle dig at sports
jocks *grin*). But it got me to thinking again about the entire concept
of "geek cred", and why it bothers me so much: geek cred is an othering
construct that was invented by people who really ought to know better.
The thing that was so affirming about the discovery of science
fiction fandom was the sense that I belonged there. I had
found my tribe. It didn't much matter to me then that I liked
a particular kind of SF and someone else liked a different kind.
We were brought together by our shared love of similar
things, and where our experiences did not overlap, that just meant we
had things to share with one another.
The Internet changed the landscape of geek culture in much the
same way it changed the landscape of everything else. Where
we once had to wait until the next con or monthly club meeting to
connect with other geeks, now we could build communities online and
have those conversations constantly. And this was a
tremendous gift, because no matter how niche your particular subculture
might be, you can find your community out there on the net.
As a result, many people who had never discovered conventions
and local clubs found their communities for the first time in the
glowing amber text of an Usenet group or the black and grey boxes of
some web forum.
In his novel Life, the Universe, and
Everything, Douglas Adams described the reaction of
the people of Krikkit, when they piloted their first spacecraft past
the dust cloud which surrounded their planet and which had led them to
mistakenly believe their world was the only place that existed in the
They saw the staggering
jewels of the night in their infinite dust and their minds sang with
For a while they flew on,
motionless against the starry sweep of the Galaxy, itself motionless
against the infinite sweep of the Universe. And then they turned round.
"It'll have to go," the men
of Krikkit said as they headed back for home.
On the way back they sang a
number of tuneful and reflective songs on the subjects of peace,
justice, morality, culture, sport, family life and the obliteration of
all other life forms.
In much the same way, certain fans reacted to this inrush of
new people with a certain amount of horror, and quickly set about
devising ways to telling the difference between "true fans" and
interlopers. (This isn't entirely an Internet era phenomenon,
of course. Literary SF fans looked down on media fans, for
example. But I feel it's become a more widespread problem in
the modern age.)
Along with this inrush of new fans, however, something else
was happening: SF was becoming mainstream, on its way to
becoming ubiquitous. This meant that not only were a lot of
<shudder> normal people flocking into our chatrooms and
forums, but there was more and more material to consume. It's no longer
possible for any one
person to watch every TV show, view every movie, read every book and
comic book, listen to every song, and play every video games.
It's no longer even possible for any one person to watch all
of the best of what's on offer, and that's just what's out now, not
counting the years of collected material the pre-dates the current boom.
All of this isn't even addressing a more important point:
taste is subjective, and not everyone's going to like every
thing. I'm a fan of Game of Thrones,
but I can certainly understand why it's not to some people's liking.
One of my best friends is completely disinterested in the
whole Marvel Universe series of movies that are currently dominating
the box office. Some people don't like Star
Trek, and some people don't understand why the
phrase "50 DKP minus" makes me giggle. And yet all of these
people can be geeks -- real geeks. There's not an asterisk by
your name if you didn't enjoy the Star Wars
films. You can still play in our reindeer games.
The only thing required for full geek status is to
love something passionately and want to share that love with others.
Period, full stop. That is all ye know on earth,
and all ye need to know..
© 2014 Rob Wynne
Rob Wynne is a musician, podcaster, gamer, con runner, and occasional blogger who currently lives in Seattle. In 1997, he helped Dan Hollifield create Aphelion Webzine, and has been on the committee of Gafilk, the Georgia filk convention, since 1999. In 2011, he helped launch the podcast Tadpoolery, a general interest geek-oriented show.
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