The Realmies Strike Back: Lorehaven and Why Geek Matters Part 2

I wrote a post recently in which I called out Lorehaven over their decision to distance themselves from the word ‘geek’ in favor of appealing to fans of speculative fiction genres that geeks have carried the torch for until the genres and geek culture in general became popular in recent times. I thought it was disrespectful and unwise to appropriate geek culture’s genres while distancing themselves from (and demonizing) geeks who are enthusiastic about their fandoms.

Most folks seemed more interested in the fact that I’d “attacked” Christian horror novelist Mike Duran. By most folks, I mean his friends from Realm Makers, an annual convention of Christian speculative fiction authors where Mike has presented at.

In the post, I wrote:

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?

In the comments, I wrote something else entirely (but we’ll get to that).

Realmies descended on me like a murder of winged monkeys to ostensibly defend a besieged Mike Duran…

…whose only comment on the matter belied the fact that he was deeply and gravely unconcerned: “Heh. It looks like Tony Breeden is still trolling me.” Nevertheless, they heaped abuse on me in his name over the next few days. One even remarked on the fact that I’d been beaten up and ridiculed daily for being a natural-born geek (before the geek culture was cool) by saying, “Thank you for your sacrifice.” Because I wasn’t really being bullied; I was doing my part as a martyr for the geek revolution, right? Oddly, some invited me to the next Realm Makers so I can see how warm and inviting they are in person… after tearing into me like a pack of starving wolves. If I only had the witness of Realmies to show me what Christ is like, well… Cue Admiral Ackbar’s most famous line and Hard Pass!

Before I say anything else. let me make it clear that I will not be apologizing for anything in that post. Except the polo shirt thing. Initially, I picked out the fact that Mike Duran admitted he wore Dockers at Realm Makers and a polo shirt when he coukd have cosplayed or at least worn a geek-themed T-shirt. It seemed disingenuous to me. It turns out that Realm Makers’ policy for the particular banquet he was attending has a dress code policy of cosplay or wear something nice! So a T-shirt would’ve been off the table. Who knew?

Some people made comments where they thought I was saying I was a true geek and Mike isn’t, or that that only geeks should attend geek-related events, and other such nonsense where I was a stereotypical example of uber-geeks being snobbish about their level of geekdom. I didn’t write anything of the sort. I weep for the Realmies’ apparent level of reading comprehension.

What I wrote was this:

My advice to Geek Generalists who benefit from geek culture as authors is: Shut up about it or embrace it (Who knows? You might even like it), but don’t tell us to tone it down.

In other words, it wouldn’t kill you to sample more of the geek culture you sell to, but by Grabthar’s Hammer please don’t whine about being left out.

Once I had a moment to reflect (you can thank John Otte) I realized to my chagrin that I had basically got Mike Duran and E. Stephen Burnett backwards. Well, sort of. Let me explain.

E. Stephen Burnett, editor of Lorehaven, had begun his post, “Should Christian Fans Call Ourselves ‘Geeks’?” by writing:

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.

He then provided three examples of muggles looking for a safe space at geek events: Mike Duran, Rebecca Luella Miller and Adam Graham. Burnett went on to make a point tbat I assume was meant to convey the idea that Lorehaven would attempt to be all things to all people, be they geek or speculative fiction fan. This sentiment was savagely undermined by the fact that he declared my kind of geek with uber-geek snobbery and identified us as a negative association of the word geek:

Geeks may obsess about stories’ minutiae, and rank those who don’t as “lesser” geeks

Not all geeks who are passionate about the details of their fandoms are also snobbish. That’s a stereotype that is often used to other and dehumanize them so that it’s acceptable to ostracize and even abuse us.

So thanks for keeping that hateful meme alive. Not to worry, Burnett, because most of the Realmies who leapt to Mike Duran’s defense also invoked that stereotype.

I zeroed in on Mike’s comment because he had previously written a post wherein he warned that affirming Christian geek culture poses problems and wherein he opined that geek culfure shouldn’t be targeted as a specific mission field. So when Burnett identified Mike Duran as a “family member” who is “sidelined” when we “fully embrace the ‘geek’ label by name” or identify speculative fiction genres as geeky, my red flags went off. I fully embrace the geek label because it is who I am. I interpreted Mike’s article through the filter Burnett provided.

Unfortunately, Mike Duran wasn’t asking for a safe space. Nor was he saying that geeks should tone it down or shut up in the presence of muggles, despite his prdviously written mistrust of Christian geek culture. Only the editor of Lorehaven was suggesting that fully embracing the geek label or classifying speculative fiction genres as geeky was somehow sidelining non-geek fans of speculative fiction.

If Burnett was trying to echo Mike Duran’s sentiment that traditional geeks shouldn’t “forget the strangers in your midst,” he failed miserably because he demonized those geeks as stereotypical snobs and made it seem to those geeks he demonized that folks like Mike Duran, who are “not SO into” geek culture and are really fans of speculative fiction genres, wanted a safe space where by implication geeks should tone things down or shut up when in the presence of geeks who aren’t as passionate about the details of their fandoms.

I take full responsibility for not researching this issue better (as is my usual custom) and letting that passion run away with me. I also apologize to Mike Duran for misrepresenting his views in the process.

Lorehaven on the other hand still deserves the note of caution I sounded. As I said before, I do hope I end up being wrong about them; however, the hurtful stereotypes included in Burnett’s post and the tone of a recent exchange with Ben Wolf, Lorehaven’s founder, don’t exactly give me much hope that I am.

As for Realm Makers, well, if I ever do attend it will be in spite of the treatment I’ve received from Realmies and not because of their post-assault promises that they’re a really nice, open-minded, welcoming bunch after all. It turns out that the only one who might need a safe space at Realm Makers is me!

 

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5 thoughts on “The Realmies Strike Back: Lorehaven and Why Geek Matters Part 2

  1. Fretting over someone's blog commentary for 7 1/2 months and writing 3 blog posts in reply, including insulting the guy, hardly seems like a worthwhile use of God-given time. As Christians, it goes beyond wasteful to the point of living unlike Christ. It's not good for the Body to throw insults and reputation grenades, it's not loving, it's not gracious, and it's not professional.

    A lot of the natural pushback from your last blog post was because it, to any average readers, read as an attack (and because the reason's given for the response were questionable, it read as a preemptive attack). After kicking shins, you repeatedly retreated in online interactions to the argument that those who responded were harassing you in the same way others once harassed you for being a geek. Have you considered that those same people who are responding are also geeks, many of who were also harassed and are tired of it, so they're quick to defend someone who is being bullied online.

    I'm not going to pick apart the arguments. I'm not going to explain why your accusations have been overblown and why no one you're going after is attacking geekdom (actually, they're just trying to expand their audience while maintaining the dedicated core). If you earnestly inquired about how the interactions of the past year could have been handled better, I would provide some suggestions, as much of what's going on here is defensiveness due to misconstrued motives and opinion. What I am going to do is simply say stop throwing torches and get some help. I mean that, and not in the derogatory figurative sense, but in the trying-to-be-helpful literal sense. The fixation on Mike Duran's comments (going back to the start of the year based on your linked post) and now Lorehaven is borderline obsessive. It can't be healthy physically, mentally, or spiritually.

    The Christian spec fic community isn't out to bully you and ruin the same qualities of geekdom that they likewise love. But they are understandably miffed by the digital punches being thrown at acquaintances and friends. Stand down, because while the subjects being fought over are not significant in the big picture, the bitterness, upheaval of peace, and reputational impacts are.

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  2. If you say so.

    Still, if I only had the Christ that Realmies showed me over the past few days, do you think I'd ever want to be a Christian? If an “attack” on Mike Duran was wrong, why were the vicious attacks by Christians in response acceptable? Please cite me a Scripture where the Bible says to render evim for evil.

    Point in fact, I just publicly apologized to Mike Duran and here you are heaping criticism on me and acting like you know me at all. If you'd done your research, you'd know that far from obsessing over Mike Duran, I've been writing heavily at one of my many other blogs (namely, http://Exotheology.org). I simply realized that the last time I'd written about Mike Duran's views, he was saying that we shouldn't embrace geek culture and we shouldn't even make geek culture a targeted mission field. Plus, I've written so sparsely on this blog as of late that it was literally the 4th post down.

    On the bright side, at least you only provided your initials to this ill-advised comment and not your name.

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