I Am Geek, Hear Me Roar!

I recently discovered a cool site called The Mary Sue, which bills itself as “A Guide to Girl Geek Culture”. There’s a lot of neat stuff on there, and I end up checking it out almost every day. One of today’s articles, however, really hit home for me and I felt I had to share. The post, by Becky Chambers, is called What It Means To Be A Geek, and Ms. Chambers wrote it after her girlfriend’s sister pointedly denied being a geek, even though she obviously is.  Apparently there’s a certain stigma to being a geek…

I’ve always been proud of being a geek and that’s what I call myself both on the ‘net and in real life.  I have been known to wear my geek badge with a certain amount of militancy on occasion.  I got my first computer when I was 15 years old – a brand-new VIC-20, the two shows I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch were Star Trek and Monty Python (which probably explains a lot…), I still have my Grim Jack and Battlestar Galactica comic collection, and I know there are at least a couple of pictures out there of me in costume at various science fiction conventions and other events – no, I’m not going to provide links.  But I have friends who, like Ms. Chambers’ girlfriend’s sister, don’t want be labeled as ‘geeks’.  I have friends who won’t admit, outside of a very small circle of people, to any interests that might even be considered ‘geeky’.

I blame, in part, the media for this.  By that I mean the way television, movies, and the news media portray what they call ‘geeks’ – usually guys who are fixated on computers and Star Trek and have absolutely no social skills. The Big Bang Theory is a great example of this (yes, I know that two of the characters have had “meaningful relationships with the opposite sex”, but even then their complete dorkiness is played for laughs). Most non-fiction shows about science fiction or fantasy fans are limited to the ones who take their interests to the extreme – can we say Trekkies and Trekkies 2 by Denise Crosby, anyone?  If anyone out there can name a series or documentary that portrays geeks in a good light, please leave me a comment – I’d love know if my perception on this is skewed.

Even TV shows that are not about geeks fall prey to this – look at NCIS and Criminal Minds for example.  On both, the ‘girl geeks’ (Abby on NCIS and Penelope on CM) are caricatures of real people – fun, quirky, and strong, but caricatures nevertheless.  The ‘guy geeks’ (McGee on NCIS and Reid on CM) have fared a little better; they started out as stereotypes but have managed to grow a bit beyond their geeky boundaries, although the dork factor is still trotted out when they need a joke.

Back to the The Mary Sue article… The whole article is really worth taking the time to read, but what that resonated with me was this:

“The thing that all geeks have in common (other than carbon) is not what we are interested in, but how we go about consuming our interests. “Consuming” is the perfect word for it, because geeks are rarely a passive audience. We devour our interests. We are driven to know how things work. It isn’t enough for us just to enjoy something. When something piques our interest or elicits an emotional response from us, we have to know why.”

I love this description and, more importantly, I identify with it.  I recently spent hours (when I probably should have been job hunting…) going from website to website to website reading about Theodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa because it played a crucial part in a mystery story I had read and I wanted to know more about the painting and the story behind it.  Along those lines, another part of the article that really drew a visceral reaction from me was this:

“If you like something so much that a casual mention of it makes your whole being light up like a halogen lamp, if hearing a stranger fondly mention your favorite book or game is instant grounds for friendship, if you have ever found yourself bouncing out of your chair because something you learned blew your mind so hard that you physically could not contain yourself — you are a geek.”

Yup, that’s me.  I am a geek, hear me roar.

Indie Rock, Writing, and Blues – Oh My!

I had a busy day yesterday, but it turned out to be a lot of fun.  I headed off bright and early (well, early, at least…) to my monthly Writers’ Community of Durham Region breakfast meeting.  The WCDR is a 370+-strong writer’s organisation that I’ve been a member of, on and off, for years.  The speaker yesterday was David Bidini, who is a musician, writer, and hockey enthusiast.  David’s a member of the Canadian indie band, The Rheostatics, and On A Cold Road – his 1998 book about their cross-country trip opening for The Tragically Hip – won the 2006 F.G. Bressani award and was a finalist in this year’s Canada Reads competition.  His talk was great – funny, self-deprecating and studded with nuggets of wisdom.

The thing that stuck with me, and got me really thinking, was when David was talking about his writing process.  He said that, when he was writing surrounded by his band mates in their Delta 88 driving across Canada, he “was forced to write anytime, anywhere”.  That got me thinking  and I realised that I used to be a heck of a lot more productive with my writing when I stopped thinking of it as “I have to go up to my writing room, turn on my computer, and write”.  Back when I used to just hand-write on a pad of yellow foolscap (anyone remember that stuff?) I could crank out a lot more in half an hour than I ever do now.  Granted, most of it was crap, but at least it was crap that was on the page, not bottled up inside me.

I also realised something else.  I’ve been talking about writing this blog for months now, and had been agonising over my first post.  Last week I was stuck at the auto shop waiting for the brakes on my car to be fixed and instead of my netbook, I’d brought along a pad of paper and one of my favourite pens.  Well, I had that first post banged out in about forty-five minutes.  That was a real revelation to me and something I’m going to try in the next few weeks, doing first drafts on paper, not computer.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

(Right - Danny B, Left - Brian Gauci)

Energised and inspired, I headed to the other side of the city for a different type of inspiration.  Hubby and I met up with friends and had the pleasure of listening to the incomparable Danny B and Brian Gauci at the Fox and Fiddle in Etobicoke, where they’ll be playing for the next few weeks.  Danny’s a blues man I was introduced to several years back by dear friends of mine, and I love to listen to him sing.  He’s got that gravelly “blues voice” that sounds like he’s been gargling with rocks, and he never fails to bring me to tears with his version of Mr. Bojangles.  Brian, who accompanies Danny, is an amazing guitarist.  I have one of his CDs and I sometimes having it going in the background when I’m writing, especially when I’m toying around with my “hard-boiled PI” idea – it just strikes me as that kind of music.

While we were there, we ran into the lovely Tracy Shreve, who played Beverly Jackson on the Pax TV series Doc (yes, the one with Billy Ray Cyrus).  I love that series, and watching reruns recently on Vision TV has been my guilty escape from job hunting and other things I should be doing, so meeting her was a real pleasure.  She mentioned that she’s be doing some auditioning, so hopefully we’ll see her in something soon.

Welcome To The Madness

Hello, and welcome to the ubiquitous first blog post.  I guess this is where I’m supposed to tell you about myself and what I’m going to be blogging about, hopefully to entice you to come back and visit again (and again and again).

Let’s start off with a bit about me.  I’m female and according to some studies I’m a baby boomer, others peg me as a Gen X-er.  Me, I’ve always believed that age is just a number and, as a certain Prisoner I used to know once said, I am not a number.  I live on the outskirts of Toronto (yup, I’m a Canuckian) and am currently job searching after six years as an HR computer geek.

The title of this blog comes from a Stephen Leacock novel (Google it, ya damn kids!) and really does reflect me and my interests.  I’m hoping this blog will too.

Which brings us to the burning question – why am I doing this?  Well first and foremost I’m a writer and writers write, so this is a way for me to express my creativity and practice my craft at the same time.  Second, I like talking to people about the things I do, the things I’ve seen, and the things that interest me, and this seems like a logical extension of that.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, what’s she going to write about?  The simple answer is “whatever strikes my fancy”.  I can tell you some of the things you might, and likely will, see here.  I’ve travelled quite a bit, mostly to Portugal, and I’m already planning some posts around the amazing things I’ve seen and the amazing places I’ve stayed (think imperial palaces, monasteries and convents, to name a few).  I’m a living history re-enactor and, with this being the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, there are a number of events I’m hoping to attend and share with you.  As mentioned above, I’m a writer so I’ll probably share some of what I’m working on, events I attend, and any success I might have getting stuff published. Oh yeah, and I was geek before it was chic – still am, for that matter – so expect to see posts on geek stuff and events (can we say science fiction con, anyone?).

On thing I can say this blog probably won’t be is super-controversial.  I can’t see myself writing about politics, religion, or what’s going on in [insert latest hotspot here], so if you’re looking for that sort of blog you’re probably in the wrong place.  I’m aiming for a good ol’ “kitchen party” type of atmosphere. I’ve been told that I have a strange sense of humour, “eclectic” tastes and interests, and  – by more than a few people – that I’m downright weird.  That last one, by the way, I consider a compliment, thus proving the point.  I suspect my writing just might reflect that.

In terms of how often and when I plan to post new articles, as the great Ambassador G’Kar once said – “Expect me…when you see me.”  I’m going to try to post on Thursdays and Sundays, but I make no absolute guarantees.

I guess the only thing left to say is welcome to the madness!  Hope you enjoy the ride.