|Yes, my action figures are cherry|
E. Stephen Burnett, editor of the forthcoming Lorehaven magazine, has written a post over at SpeculativeFaith.com called “Should Christian Fans Call Ourselves ‘Geeks’?” Lorehaven is a joint venture of SpeculativeFaith.com and Splickety, announced at the most recent Realm Makers confetence. Basically, it’s a free magazine for speculative fiction fans slated to deliver its first issue this fall.
Burnet begins his article on geeks with the following statement:
“All ‘geeks’ are fantastic story fans. But not all fantastic story fans are geeks.
And when we as Christians-who-are-fans speak of being ‘geeky,’ or fully embrace the “geek” identity by name, we risk accidentally sidelining other family members.”
One of the people he gives as an example is Mike Duran, who apparently had this to say after the Realm Makers conference this year:
“I like a lot of the same characters and stories my fellow writers like. Star Wars. Star Trek. X-Men. Captain America. The Flash. Harry Potter. Vampires. Werewolves. I’m into all that stuff…. I’m just not SO into them that I want to dress up as a Jedi Knight, a Transformer, or a zombie and memorize the canonical histories of said characters.
“This can all make for some uncomfortable situations. Like the Friday night gala where I wore some Dockers and a polo shirt. The first person I walked up to that evening, I did not recognize the character they were dressed as. So I asked. And felt quite stupid afterwards. So I typically sit in the back during these events, not because I’m embarrassed being around such a lively, colorful crowd, but because I just feel a little out of place.”
Wait. What? You wore Dockers and a polo shirt when you could’ve cosplayed or just worn a fandom T-shirt. [Update: It turns out thst Realm Makers’ policy is to either wear cosplay or something nice at the dinner he wss attending. We’ll overlook the fact that Mike ostensibly feels a polo shirt is something nice in favor of the fact that a fandom shirt would be prohibited under such a policy.]
|Our friend and fellow artist JR Earls demonstrates how to correctly rock cosplay. Note the absence of polo shirt..|
But wait. There’s more:
“So, you ask, what am I doing at this type of writers convention? Good question. Mostly I love stories. I love to talk theology and sociology and trends in pop culture. I am fascinated by myth, creativity, and the archetypes that stir us. I perk up when we talk about the writing industry and how Christian creatives can be the salt of the earth. I wrestle with the role of artists in the Church and our struggle to find a place in the Body. I stop what I’m doing to join conversations about comparative religions and the parameters of sound doctrine. I grouse about the decline of Western Civilization and marvel at how God seeds hope through fictional tales.
“I’m not sure what kind of geek this is. But whatever it is, I am it.
“Much is made about such writing/comic cons being a place where oddballs can find their tribe. Thing is, I’m learning there’s another kind of oddball there. We may not see them as having “geek cred.” They won’t be recognized by their elaborate costumes or ability to cite random episodes from every season of Dr. Who. But they’re as much a part of the tribe as the Nerfwar veterans.
“Memo to geek culture — don’t forget the strangers in your midst.
“So if you happen upon me at a writer’s con and I’m not dressed up as an elf or a wookie, take heart in the fact that I’m probably discussing the boundaries of theology in spec-fic, postmodern theory, or the compatibility of a biblical worldview with the horror genre.”
Heavens me! That whole bit just confirms my initial suspicions. He’s like a man who goes to a theme park, but doesn’t ride the rides or play games on the midway or even get his picture taken with Sassy the Squirrel. Instead, he sits on a bench waiting around for an opportunity to discuss the physics of roller coasters. He’s the guy at poolside with his Dockers rolled up to allow him to dip his toes in the water, lamenting that he doesn’t like diving or swimming but he’d be happy to talk about how he’d rather be somewhere else doing… anything else, but won’t you buy his books about the joy of swimming?
|Weird Al on Geek Problems: The only question that I thought was hard…|
His chubby outsider status is no accident. He’s actively cultivating it. It’s his choice not to try anything new. It’s his choice not to partake of the geek culture he benefits from as a writer. He shouldn’t expect us to provide him a safe space. He shouldn’t expect us to excuse his apathy toward geek culture. In fact, he shouldn’t be calling attention to the fact that he cares so little for the culture he sells to. It’s actually very, very unprofessional. I mean, can you imagine Stephen King or Clive Barker doing this?
And would it kill these guys to do a little research and at least pick a side in the DC versus Marvel “rivalry”? At least out of respect for the geeks who buy their books? The difference between Mike (and other Generalists) and I is that “I’m probably discussing the boundaries of theology in spec-fic, postmodern theory, or the compatibility of a biblical worldview with” my speculative fiction genres WHILE DRESSED IN COSPLAY. Oh wait. You really can do both!
E. Stephen Burnett ends his article with a few words about Lorehaven and the word “geek”:
“Yet for my Lorehaven book club, coming this September, I doubt I’ll use the term a lot. I’d rather show I love these stories because they help me love my Savior. And I’d rather show that “being a geek” is no strange novelty. Rather, humanity’s natural-born love for fantastic stories should unite all persons who love Jesus more than such stories—whether or not they cosplay, swap superhero trivia, or act holier-than-thou in any particular fandom.”
Notice how he paints the Generalist attitude toward geek culture and fandoms as a good thing. Being passionate about geek fandoms is painted as bad because some people haven’t bothered to understand it and don’t see the point and they feel left out when we start, well, geeking out over our fandoms.
Because they aren’t about the fandoms; They’re about the stories they SELL to the fandoms.
So if he’s saying that Lorehaven will distance themselves from the word geek for the sake if the book selling Generalists and basically pretend that they don’t benefit from genres that the House of Geek built, I find that kind of disrespectful. The speculative fiction genres are part of the geek culture heritage – and it’s absurd that folks like Mike Duran want to distance themselves and remain aloof from the geek fandoms from which they benefit. “I’m not with them. Too cool. Not THAT into it,” because… ((geek)) is still a by-word, right?
It’s not cool. Not even a little bit. Geeks take our fandoms seriously. To have someone sit by and say that they’re “not SO into” my geek culture feels like they think their attitude is more reasonable. It feels snobbish. It feels especially insulting when you write speculative fiction to feed those geekdoms but pretend like it’s about the Gospel… when these same authors also write a lot of criticism of messages (and dare I say sermonizing) in speculative fiction and reduce Christian speculative fiction to speculative fiction written by Christians from a Christian worldview (whatever that means).
Maybe that’s the real problem. They’re Generalists in all regards. They don’t delve too deeply into geek culture. They don’t even want to be overtly Christian. Except in a general sense that they will defend as above criticism.
Me? I was a geek before I was a Christian. I was even beat up and persecuted because of who I am. This is my turf. I’m not faking and I’m not dabbling. I’ve cosplayed and will be happy to shame Mike Duran for being too cool to do so, especially when he’d make such a great chubby version of Keiffer Sutherland’s David (The Lost Boys).
My advice to Geek Generalists who benefit from geek culture as authors is “S#!@ or get off of the pot.” Shut up about it (because, yes, it is insulting to hear you brag about how you’re into it but only reasonably so – and, yes again, that IS how it comes off) or embrace it. Who knows? You might even like it.
But it almost doesn’t sound like Lorehaven is going to be for geeks like me. And if that’s the case, I gotta ask: What kind of book clubs are you thinking you’re going to form exactly? Do you really suppose that the Generalists care enough about fandoms to form any kind of club because they’re passionate about the fandom sort of, but not SO much? OK, maybe they care enough about selling books to geeks to make it work, but doesn’t that come with the very real danger that we’ll figure it out and despise you for it.
I’m hoping that I’m wrong about Lorehaven. I’m hoping it caters more to Geeks than Generalists because, frankly, that’s not just my market, that’s not just my audience; that’s my people.
Until we reach The Last Door,
UPDATE: As it turns out, I do owe Mike Duran an apology. See the The Realmies Strike Back: Lorehaven and Why Geeks Matters Part 2 to see why.
A big thank you to JR Earls for letting me use his Joker cosplay photo on this post. You can find JR and his geek fandom related artwork at a lot of events here in West Virginia – and he often comes as the Joker! Take a moment to check out his artwork on his Facebook page