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!