Morning, sinners. Glad folks seemed to like the oddity that was the first issue of the Speculative Singularity Serial. That’s a brand new gig that will be up on the blog every Friday, barring random calamitous acts of the Universe. You are welcome.
But let’s turn away from the surreal adventures of one Jackson O’Brien, at least for a moment, and hit 2016 hard with a bit of improvement, shall we? On the previous blog, I once dropped the gauntlet at the feet of all my fellow geeks, calling us all to account for how majorly we were all screwing the pooch in what I still proclaim to be the “Glorious Golden Age of Geekery”. While those sentiments haven’t changed, it occurred to me that I could go one step further in raising the bar. In short, true believers, browncoats, Whovians, Trekkies, etc. etc. et al, it’s time to make a blanket resolution; a code to aspire and do our level best to adhere to.
Before we begin, I define “geek” as: a person that displays devotion, love, or ardent fandom for speculative fiction genre media that, until recently (or still currently), was not widely accepted by popular consumption or trends.
Got that? Groovy. Let 2016 be the year we did better. Not for the industry, not for our perception as a market, and not for the sake of being walking ATM machines for every fluff piece of schlock nostalgia that gets fired into our individual orbits (though, we’ll totally still snap them up), but for ourselves. Here are, I think, three simple steps that can lend themselves towards that lofty goal.
Defend one another; not the label, not the things, not the fandoms.
Allow me to put a fresh spin on an old Tyler Durden quote: “You are NOT your fucking Loot Crate.” Let me qualify what I mean.
While I and others might see the inevitable heat-death of this Glorious Golden Age of Geekery, right now things are pretty friggin’ sweet. Unfortunately, things are also continuing to be marked by insane territorial disputes between fandoms, elitism based solely on how much of/what manner of things with a geeky bent you are hoarding, and STILL this absolutely ridiculous idea that there is some manner of boxes that must be ticked before someone can identify as a “geek” to begin with.
On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek? Wrong answers will result in banishment.
It’s 2016, and that whole “fake geek ANYTHING” schtick is still managing to breathe air? No. Nuke that shit from orbit, assurances or no. It needs to die. Now.
Let me wax on something that’s going to date me, though I couldn’t care less. I’m in my thirties. I grew up in the dark times; the stigma times. The times of open season on anyone daring to pocket a deck of Magic: The Gathering cards. My formative years were spent in the age where the passions that define geekdom were the fodder for ridicule at every strata of society. What we loved, what we wanted to buy, and what we wanted to pursue was all so niche as to be worthy of myth. A handful of offerings to our kind in media did not equate to blanket acceptance. Friends of mine still older had it even worse. Today? We’re living on easy street, by any definition, any permutation, and any set of examples you might bring to mind. We. Have. It. GOOD.
So why are we so righteously fucking it up for everyone involved? Listen, part of being a better geek is sticking by the people– not the auxiliary shit we’ve latched onto. You would think that even easier in this wondrous time of instant communication, collective, and connectivity, yet we’re still laying down lines of demarcation. Take a step back, and realize one beautiful, crystaline law of creation: everyone else, geeks or no, are people too. They’re not random NPC’s for you to unload your psychological baggage on, or harass because of a game error, or to go fully heinous and threaten just because you took one critique as a de facto physical assault on your person.
Look, it’s pretty damn simple: You like Sherlock. They like Red Dwarf. You have all the consoles, they have a PC. Or a Mac. Or whatever. You sling dice and graph paper, they dress up and do it at the local park. It’s all fine. Our fandoms are NOT our goddamn national flags. Seriously. That is tantamount to each of you liking a different condiment on your sandwich. It’s not worth going to war over. It’s not worth breaking down someone else over. If you think it is, then it’s high time you own up to the fact that there’s not something wrong with the fandom, but rather with YOU.
Everything was fine until Kirk lipped off about DS9 being inferior to Babylon 5.
Defend each other, stick with each other, embrace the idea that it’s so cool that people can be a geek about so much different stuff, because that’s a LOT of love going around! Open up to it. Be supportive from the amateur YouTube maker to the professionals cranking out the big ticket material.
Again, you are NOT your fucking Loot Crate.
Encourage those newly interested in what you love.
Hard truth time: you are not the keeper of the bridge, and there are no questions three. Stand down. You are not the appointed defender of the faithful. You are an outside observer; a willing participant in something that, by and large, will grow and develop without your agency. In short, this ain’t your bar, so why the fuck are you playing bouncer?
In 2016, try something different. Someone asks about Marvel after catching one of the movies? COOL! Show them your favorite graphic novel. Take a trip with them to the comic shop of your choice. Introduce them around. Talk shop with them. Educate. At no point and time does it fall to you to fucking scoff, belittle, or roll your eyes just because you got to the party before they did.
All of us, no matter how seasoned, began in ignorance. Be their media sherpa, not their geekdom judge. You are not The Law.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: nothing we love or buy into is, in reality, a viable status symbol, even among our own ilk. Stop treating it as such. It’s not a race, it’s not a noble pedigree. It’s not even worth a free sub sandwich.
I cut my tabletop experience with the old school Tomb of Horrors. What do I do when I meet someone getting into D&D? I play the newest shit with them. I encourage them. Then, we talk about their favorites thus far, and I guide them through my past favorites. Maybe they want to try them out, maybe not. Either way, their more receptive to the positive experience rather than the suckfest impenetrable wall too many of us are eager to erect. Now your watch doesn’t begin, because there IS NO WATCH TO BEGIN. You can totally keep your sweet black cloak, though.
The kid may not know much, but he does know easy fashion. Black goes with anything, including kingdom-spanning conspiracies and imminent undead doom.
Is the book better than the movie? Usually, sure. So, instead of bitching at what you perceive to be a scrub newbie non-fan just because the movie’s all they know, why not just smile, say “Oh, there’s so much MORE!” and loan them the book? Or, if they’re not down for that, how about you just be happy that the fandom was big enough for Hollywood to pull the trigger in the first place, and the two of you can talk about your favorite parts?
It’s really that simple. I know we’re bugger all for embracing change, but accepting newcomers isn’t about change. It’s about groundswell. You know what happens when new people wander in? Shit grows. The collective gets enriched. Those newling fans get inspired, and sometimes go on to create even MORE stuff for the rest of us to get excited about. How do I know? Simple: I’m one of those people that got inspired to go out and create, and there were key people who were awesome and super friendly guides in my life that made it so.
Be that guide.
That flows right into my main hope for all of us in 2016:
BE THE HERO YOU PROFESS TO BE A FAN OF.
You know what the best thing about geekdom is? The absolute pinnacle of radness and utter win that threads right through the heart of what we are? It’s not the merchandise. It’s not the games. It’s not the movies, or the shows, or the books, or anything outlying that can be bought. Certainly, we’ll pay our fair share for the best thing about us, but the benefits are, and should forever remain, free. So what’s our ultimate source of power?
It’s the stories.
Speculative fiction forms the backbone of everything we geeks are into, and I fervently believe we’ve forgotten how it, more than any other genre, taps directly into confronting all aspects of the human condition. It’s framed in fantastic escapism at times, yes, but through that lens we see ourselves laid bare, from the best to the worst. And time and time again we gravitate towards what would be echoed in ourselves for the better, even as we delight in the rogues that antagonize our chosen pantheon.
Of course, having a winning underwear-annihilating smile doesn’t hurt either.
Some mock, but that’s one of the great things about our swelling club. What others discount as childish, we know to be high prose and life lessons that I would gladly put on the same shelf as the venerated literature greats my AP classes drilled me on.
It’s the vignette of Superman consoling someone that’s suicidal. It’s The Doctor showing us that the best solutions are born from a mind that values life before blind violence. It’s the weary Captain of a crappy spaceship that is hopelessly outgunned, but chooses to fight and not give up because it’s the Right Thing To Do. It’s the entire videogame that rewards us for stepping up our pacifist gig, even when we want to lay waste. It’s Batman showing kindness on a villain who tried, but just had that one bad day. It’s any group of disparate beings that puts aside differences, recognizes the beauty in one another, and goes out to save the Universe. It’s the kid in the book who’s nothing special, lacks real power, yet goes on to be a hero through strength of determination and an open heart. It’s life, death, and the wonder of what 42 might actually mean for each of us.
And, in real life, it was one geek pulling a younger me aside and saying “I believe in you,” and how I’ve tried to make good on that faith ever since.
The swag we rush out to buy, the tchotchkes we slavishly collect, the DLC we grumble yet still shell out for, the variant covers and limited editions, and con exclusives and more; all of it means absolutely NOTHING without those stories, and by extension our geek family means nothing if we’ve failed to glean anything positive from said fandoms.
Too PC. SJW. Feminazi. Noob-sauce. Fake geek. Poser. More. None of these serve as doors in conversation. Not a single one. Each is more often than not flung as an insult to derail any dialogue, because empathy is considered a crutch for losers. None of these, or the mentality behind them, opens any portals for us to step through to solve the puzzle of each other, or learn anything to defeat the GLaDOS of our baser natures. And it is contemptible weak-willed bullshit.
Empathy and sympathy aren’t weakness. They’re the mark of the strong of heart, will, and the defining trait of the self-assured. We all know that you “don’t feed the trolls”, but how often do we tell each other “don’t emulate the trolls”, or simply “don’t be a troll”? How often do we check each other out of the easier path of abusing anonymity just to feel powerful? When was the last time we caped-up and even tried to come to the rescue?
How does it serve us, the whole of geekdom? We’ve come to accept so much negativity and poison out of sheer complacency that the idea of just being excellent to each other is seen as a radical notion, or a sign of thin-skinned weakness. Yet, time and time and time again, we’ll laud those characters that, in spite of it all, manage to take the high road. When they have no reason, no impetus, and no desire to do so, they act better than us. But, really, they ARE us. We CAN be them. It’s not weakness; changing the course of the lazy river instead of just being stoically carried along takes monumental strength.
No joke. Just truth. And feels.
One day, profit margins will decline. Sales will go too wonky. The outcry will be too toxic. And even this Glorious Golden Age of Geekery will diminish, and be a story all its own. Unlike the tales we love, however, we have full control over not only how it will end, but how it will be remembered.
So, fellow geeks, how do you want this serial to play out? Myself? I’m open to a new chapter. It reads—
“2016: The Year We Geeks Became Our Heroes.”
I think that’s a pretty exciting way to start the rest of this story, don’t you? Until next time, Capes and Horns Up.
What’s your goal for geeky self-improvement in the coming year? How has a fellow geek been your hero in the past? Sound off in the comments below, and thanks for reading!