Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Geek Out!

Today's little lesson is to consider taking my writing goal public.  For anyone reading along so far, it's pretty obvious that I've been doing that all alone, so that's not really much to get excited over.  So let's talk about something else.

Well, I'm nerdy for a start.  I've always been to some degree or another, although as I mentioned yesterday I'm not one of those nerds who actually get super good at something like computers or whatever. Instead I'm one of those nerds who likes a lot of nerdy stuff and enjoys hanging out with nerdy people.  

Being a nerd today really isn't quite the same experience as when I was growing up.  Back then, in the days before computers became ubiquitous and before movies like Revenge Of the Nerds and the like were made, it was really sort of a shameful thing.  Although thinking back on it the image of a young nerd was much different from the image of an adult one, so much so it was kind of hard to imagine how one would grow up into the other.  The kid nerds were socially awkward, bad at any physical activity, either grossly fat or just the opposite, and generally acne-ridden.  The assumption I suppose was that if you were physically in the "ideal" or at least "normal" range and weren't terribly unattractive, then you'd probably do sports or whatever instead of what the nerds settled for.

The adult nerds, at least in the stereotype of the day, were pretty much entirely skinny accountant types, or maybe scientists.  Some technical field with a lot of math, in any case.   Someone whose sole, highly understated joy was in making numbers balance.  A pretty dry image, really, and oddly the adult stereotype never included the overweight or at least those in the "normal" range.  Very odd, looking back on it.

Fact is, in those days the mainstream consciousness didn't seem to be really aware of things like science fiction or fantasy fans, which had been around much longer than I've been alive.  I suppose they were filed as more or less geeky pursuits when they were brought up, but aside from stuff like Star Trek and such on TV the great majority of people didn't seem to really notice it much.

Until Star Wars, that is.

Star Wars, the original that is rather than the sequels, really changed the landscape.  It was SF that the mainstream really couldn't ignore.  Sure, you could be unaware of the Foundation Trilogy or The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, but Star Wars?  There's no way.  It was literally everywhere, you couldn't ignore it.  And whatever faults George Lucas may have, he brought together elements that really appealed to almost everyone.

All of a sudden, there were mentions of a science fiction (or science fantasy, if you prefer) movie all over the mundane media.  Talk shows mentioned it, it popped up on the news, the idea that people would go see it multiple times was revolutionary and much talked about.  I remember an episode of The Price Is Right, of all things, where Bob Barker was very impressed at a woman who's seen the film over 80 times already and wasn't done yet.  She wasn't a stereotypical nerd, she was the very picture of an average housewife.

Anyone born in the past couple of decades might not realize what a big deal that was.  What with Blu-Ray, DVD, and even VHS before it, watching a movie over and over again really isn't that big a deal.  But none of that existed in those days, and in any case it was something like 20 years before SW came out on video.  To see a movie that many times, you had to actually go to the theatre and pay admission every time.  That's a hell of an investment in time and money just for a movie.  But people did, and stories of people seeing SW in the theatre over 100 times were everywhere.

And with that, the idea of what a nerd was changed.  It stopped being about science so much and started being about fandom.  Science fiction and fantasy conventions started to get more notice, although they'd already been around for a long time at that point, and a lot of new people came in.  Sure, the stereotypical nerd was still the glasses-wearing non-athlete who really wasn't very good socially, but who now at least had a wider variety of interests.  Plus, there were now recognized to be at least a few females in their ranks.  

This is about where I started making contact with geekdom.  For one thing, I literally grew up alongside the home computer.  The very first consumer models came out when I was a kid, and as I grew so did the whole concept of home computers.  It was all very exciting, weaned as I was on my brother's book collection which included a lot of SF, and this whole idea of thinking machines was definitely tied up in it.  I remember seeing the TRS-80 Model 1 with its octopus-like box with wires trailing in all directions playing Dancing Demon in the stores.  I remember the VIC-20, the Commodore 64 & 128 and the Amiga, sadly before its time.  I remember the feisty Tandy Color Computer that tried to go up against the C-64 without any real support from the company that built it.  I remember the poor, neglected TI 99/4A and the dumb little Timex-Sinclair ZX-89.  All the beginnings for what became so huge in all our lives.  Oddly, I didn't have much contact with Apple products until I was in university.  So I missed out on that history and jumped on with the old Power Macs with the black & white screens.

Not that I proved to be any good at programming any of those.    But I loved using them, and that continues to this day.  There's something compelling about these machines that let us do so much, and besides I somehow got very good at typing along the way which has turned out to be professionally useful.

But this is about being geeky, not about the history of computing.  While I was never cut out to program the damn things, I did like the company of those who did.  In a way, it was more the culture that I liked than what particular things they were doing.  That was probably the seeds of what I enjoy about things like the feminist and skeptical communities, it's a real pleasure to see smart people knock down the arguments of the uninformed or those motivated by self-interest to take bad positions.  I'm not really good at it myself, but a good verbal or written smackdown in just about any field is a joy to behold.

Also around that time, the very first video game arcades began to spring up.  Oh, and how different games were back in those days.  For one thing, they weren't even all overtly computer games.  The pinball machine, a classic game that goes back way further than the old arcade consoles, found a welcome home in the arcades that was more hospitable than the pool halls, bars and pizza joints they'd lived in up to that point.  Although even they became increasingly technological as time went on with digital scorekeeping and the like.  But the real draw, at least for me, were these shiny, glowing pixelated things that came in an ever-growing variety and complexity.  

We all know the names.  Pac-Man.  Omega Race.  Galaxian.  Space Invaders.  Berzerk. Tron.  And dozens, if not hundreds that came after them.  Simple in concept for the most part, but as more and more developers caught on to the trend the creativity exploded.  Asteroids. Venture. Missile Command. Too many to remember, even at the time.  It's a long line from Pong to Skyrim but this is where the changes really picked up momentum and I loved every minute of it.

Not that arcades were really the most social places, especially for a rural kid like me who only got to go every couple of weeks at best.  But they were a start, and really helped solidify me, always a bit of a outsider despite my social nature, as placing my interests in the geeky realms.

More interests came as I started to explore those avenues.  Comics.  Role-playing games (anyone remember Basic Dungeons and Dragons?  Or for extra credit, Original D&D?).   Anime too, at least the real stuff.  There were already some bad English translations like Star Blazers or Battle Of the Planets that I watched before that.  But I didn't fully understand where it came from until I got into the wider world of fandom.

Today I'm still largely into the same things.  Comics, computer games, anime, etc.  Although manga as a type has overshadowed the western comics for the most part it's still words and pictures.  I've also picked up a few new things, like illustration, live music and lesbian romance novels, that kinda fall outside the normal geek pursuits, but still have that same fannish appeal in some ways.  Certainly listening to nerdcore is geek as hell, so that's a thing.

I've lost track of some things too.  As exciting as Star Wars was back in the day, I really can't muster up much enthusiasm for it any more.  I totally lost track of Doctor Who after the series restarted a few years ago.  Television shows take a special effort for me to follow through on, and I can't tell you how many times I've tried to watch Avatar and still haven't gotten past the first season.  Maybe once I finally get finished with Adventure Time I'll get to it.

Hell, I don't even watch movies much.  The only one of the recent crop of Marvel movies I've seen was the first Iron Man, even though I was really hyped to go see Thor.  Somehow, movies like that fall into a weird blind spot for me where I really want to see them, but then I somehow forget to actually do it.  It doesn't help that I have a pretty limited social circle at the moment, and honestly it's not that much fun to go to the movies alone.  Maybe I'm just a bad geek that way.

Actually, I feel like that a fair amount of the time.  How can I be an anime fan when I rarely watch it?  How can I be into yuri when I haven't watched past the first episode of Sakura Trick, especially when I really liked it?  How can I be a geek when....fill in the blanks of something I feel like I should be into because it sounds like it's right up my alley.  Sherlock.  Doctor Who.  Black Butler. Secret Six. Harry Potter.  Whatever.

But that's pretty irrational when you look at it.  There aren't rules to being a geek or a fan or whatever.  Just like I didn't have to be a computer programmer way back in the day, I don't have to go see the Avengers now (that's a lie, I really do need to see the Avengers).  I can still be a nerd girl even if I sometimes feel like an inadequate one.  After all, that's the stereotype isn't it?  Geeks and nerds are what they are because they can't manage to do "real" things.  Like, I dunno.  Sports or something.

Whatever, I don't even hate sports.  I'm not good at them so at least I fit the stereotype that way, but it's not like I have any particular hostility towards them.  It's just there's a side of the world that I've always felt comfortable in, and like it or not that's where I'm happy to stay.

And I say that as a woman who's proud to call herself a nerd.

3 time units

1986 words

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