Happy Geek Pride Day! Even though we just celebrated May The Fourth Be With You three weeks ago, apparently the geek community gets another day to strut our stuff. Of course, the May holiday was just for Star Wars, whereas today’s celebration is of all aspects of geekiness—from obsessing over a cancelled television show to writing fanfiction for your favorite boy banders to downloading the latest apps to your awesome smartphone.
I’ve always known that I was geeky, that I was just off-base enough to care more about books and TV shows than my peers. I first logged online to write fanfiction in 2000, and I’ve been part of dozens of fan communities over the past twelve years. Something I’ve always valued about that time, of being a fan of obscure stuff, was that I also clearly understood that just because I loved something, didn’t mean everyone else did too. Thankfully, I was never bullied, though I’ll always remember the disappointment of freshman year of high school when I caught up with my best friend and started chattering about the latest episode of Buffy, only for her to shush me and say, “Zutter, we can’t talk about that stuff, we’re in public.”
Because of incidents like that, and I think also because I involve myself in a lot of social groups (New York media, theater, comics, etc.), I think I can sometimes “pass” as a non-geek, or at least not appear as geeky as I actually am. So here I’m going to lay out for you which aspects of pop culture I obsess over. If you share them, let’s talk! If not, share in the comments what makes you geek out.
In no particular order, here’s my list:
1. The Star Wars: Extended Universe novels: These were my bread and butter all through junior high. My dad got me into the Star Wars original trilogy when I was eight, so when I discovered a few years later that there were novels — dozens of them! — detailing what happened to Luke, Leia, and Han after the second Death Star got destroyed, and that we got to meet more relatable characters like Jacen and Jaina Solo, I was hooked. My family would regularly visit my grandparents in Germany, and I remember one summer my mom bought me seven of the Young Jedi Knights books (each about the size of a traditional novella) and wouldn’t let me read them until our flight. It was torture.
2. Tetris: My mom didn’t allow my sister and me to have a video game console growing up because she believed that we would get addicted. She was probably right, as my wide-eyed hours on the Internet years later would prove. But for the same reason of taking long transatlantic flights as a kid, I was allowed to have a GameBoy Color. I own only a handful of games because they seemed so expensive back then ($30, I think): Star Wars Pod Racer, Super Mario Bros., Pokémon, and Tetris.
Man, was I good at Tetris. I’d devote literal hours to a single game, digging myself into holes and then pulling through at the last minute. My record high score is somewhere around 1.4 million; since I can’t find any stats for the GameBoy Color version of the game and because my thumbs cramped up after that game, I’m going to assume that I must have broken some record. (Anyone who wants to help out/correct me, please do!)
3. Fanfiction: When discussing fandom with people, my ex would often say, “Oh, did you know that Natalie is the well-known fanfic author [my screen name]?” I would get so uncomfortable when he’d say that, a) because it was a dorky name that I’m not sharing with you and you’ll never find on Google, and b) because I wrote all that stuff when I was twelve years old.
However, in the past few years I’ve become a lot more comfortable with what I call the “training wheels” period of my writing career: By borrowing other people’s characters, I practiced setting up elaborate plots and keeping familiar characteristics consistent throughout dramatic twists and romantic dramas. Plus, the writing communities on LiveJournal have been more supportive than anything I’ve encountered with original writing; and yeah, I’m sort of well-known, at least in Tamora Pierce circles. I even dabble occasionally in fanfic, and hold fanfic nights with my roommates.