A Life Well Lived

When I was a young child, there were two television shows I was allowed to stay up late and watch with my parents.  One was Monty Python, the other was Star Trek. That may explain a few things about me and my sense of humour, come to think of it.  As I grew older I became aware of boys and started having crushes on tv characters, like many teenage girls did.  But while most of my female acquaintances – at least the ones who admitted to watching Star Trek – fell madly in love with the dashing captain of the USS Enterprise, it was the cool, enigmatic First Officer that captured both my attention and my heart.  I, in my girlish daydreams, fantasized that I would be the one to melt that icy exterior.  Yeah, I know, get in line.  As the years went on, and my teenage crush faded, it was comforting to know that when there was nothing else on I could usually find a Star Trek episode somewhere.  I got so I could practically recite the lines with the actors.  I got into fandom, and into conventions because of Star Trek; my father took me to my first convention when I was eleven years old (held at the Royal York Hotel in 1976) and after that I never looked back.

Today we lost Leonard Nimoy.  He was so much more than just Mr. Spock but, of course, that’s the way he will be forever remembered by many people who may never have known that he did other things.  I remember, many, many years ago, my dad showing me a newspaper clipping (which I may still have) describing Mr. Nimoy playing Sherlock Holmes in a stage play in the US – how I would have liked to see that.  I remember seeing him on Mission Impossible, after Star Trek was cancelled, playing the ex-magician Paris.  I remember watching Zombies of the Stratosphere late at night – or perhaps it was in the wee hours of the morning – in black and white on a flickering television screen.  I remember watching a pre-Star Trek Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner acting together in an episode of Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mr. Shatner playing the part of the wide-eyed ingenue to  – spoiler alert – Mr. Nimoy’s nasty bad guy.  Recently I’ve been watching Fringe on Netflix, having missed it the first time around, and I’ve been enjoying him immensely as the morally ambiguous William Bell.  As someone who loves music, I remember his music – from the silly fun of The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins to his serious version of Johnny Cash’s I Walk The Line.

The thing that I think a lot of people will remember about Leonard Nimoy, aside from Star Trek of course, is how much he loved people and loved his fans.  It was evident at cons, and evident in his Twitter conversations.  In January of last year he tweeted “Any here want to make me their honorary grandfather consider it done. ”  I was one of the thousands upon thousands of fans who rushed to tweeted him back and formalise what we already knew – he was like a part of our family. And, while we knew he was mortal and – more recently – struggling with health issues, he was still so much a presence and so larger than life that we thought he’d always be there. Unfortunately it was not to be.

Goodnight, Grandpa Leonard.  Be at rest, be at peace.  My world is a slightly dimmer place tonight without you in it.

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.