This post is inspired by a brilliant essay by Freddie deBoer which asks the question, now the geek culture is so dominant, why do self identified geeks still feel like a persecuted minority? Freddy doesn't actually answer the question but he's really good at sketching the overwhelming importance of geekdom (although my dictation software doesn't recognize the word geekdom) at this moment in time.
But it led me to ask myself, "Am I a geek?"
There's a simple answer: I am too old and thus by definition too uncool to be a geek.
Turn the clock back 50 years, however, and in many respects I was the perfect geek, and not just because I loved science fiction when most other people scorned it (mainly I think because they found it incomprehensible). To me, science fiction, the science fiction in books and stories, talked about the important stuff. And for that reason, I was just weird. This opinion was shared by adults, teachers, and kids my own age. Whether they harassed me, or were just puzzled by me, they really were not interested in the world of science fiction, in the world as seen through science fiction.
I eventually at university found other people who shared my tastes and I became involved in what was then called fandom. There was more than one variety of fandom of course even back then, but the core fandom was fandom about books and stories. Yes, some people were interested in comics, and we kept hoping people would make some good science fiction movies, but reading and writing were the entrance to the real stuff. Fans read, talk about what they read, wrote about what they read ("fanzines"), and sometimes wrote their own stories and became pros instead of mere fans.
So I was a fan, and if the word had been used back then, I would have been called a geek.
But I'm pretty sure I never would have qualified as a geek by today's standards. Let me just talk about one particular thing. Even when I was eight years old, I found DC comics to be too childish for me. Maybe I was a little older than eight, maybe I was 11. Despite all the evident improvement in the comic book genre that took place only a few years later, I never could take superheroes very seriously. And although there have been many good SF movies made since the 1960s, I've never been able to be as enthusiastic about video SF and fantasy as I have about the written stuff that has meant so much to me – too much video is just dumbed down versions of stuff that was better when the original writer wrote the book.
Thus when I went to see the Avengers the summer, it was mainly because I thought Joss Whedon (whose talent I appreciate so much that I actually have watched seasons and seasons of stories about vampires, about which I otherwise care not) might do something special with it. It turned out to be a pleasant interlude in a comfortable theater, not a reverential experience with my childhood heroes.
So there it is: old-time fan, WorldCon attendee, Lord of the Rings nut, a fan who became an SCA person, back when the whole SCA was made up of fans– but geek? I dunno.
Let me get back to watching old episodes of Babylon 5 and I will think about some more.
Image: Only vaguely interested.
Update: From John Scalzi's site, Teresa provides this historical perspective (taken from a comment by Telzey Amberdon at CNN, responding to a Joe Peacock piece there on women geeks): (Now see http://geekout.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/24/booth-babes-need-not-apply/):
“When you wrote, “I find it fantastic that women are finally able to enjoy a culture that has predominately been male-oriented and male-driven.”, I laughed so hard at this exhibition of absolutely adorable male privilege that I found myself unable to take the rest of the article seriously. Women invented media culture when they invented fanfiction for Man from Uncle and Star Trek, and then mounted the very first media convention for Star Trek, and all the subsequent ones for the next 10 years or so. I attended the second Star Trek convention held in NYC in 1973 and it was given by mostly all women and attended by mostly all women. You found predominantly male fans at literary (literary as in books and magazines like Analog and Astounding) SciFi and Fantasy conventions, and those guys sneered at us, making sure we understood that female media fans were beneath the far more intellectual book-oriented male fans. Not that we didn’t let whatever guys who wanted to come to our conventions attend: we felt the more, the merrier. But it was a 90% female vs 10% male attendance at those early cons, if I remember correctly. Possibly higher than 90%. When Shatner did his “Get a life!” turn on SNL, he addressed that tiny percentage of usually-dorky males you’d see at a media con back then – I remember wondering aloud where the heck the fannish women were at in that sketch. I’d never seen an all-male crowd at any of the media cons I’d been to. But such is male privilege, it sees what it wants to see, I suppose. OTOH, maybe Mr. Shatner just didn’t want to be seen screaming at women. Such was our happy inclusiveness that eventually men started to enjoy media fandom in greater numbers as they abandoned literary fandom in droves and all the pulp SciFi magazines crumbled, and just look: they apparently think they invented it now. You guys are so cute, if somewhat annoying! I suggest you pick up Bjo Trimble’s “On the Good Ship Enterprise–My 15 Years With Star Trek” if you want to read about all the women who invented media fandom and the culture. Pics or it didn’t happen: I’ve got a ton of pictures from that era of fannishness and it’s chicks all the way. A few males, but mostly women. Leave my sisters alone and consider yourself lucky we allowed you guys into *our* culture.”