Last week I travelled to Atlanta to spend the weekend surrounded by our native people, the geeks and gamers and fantasy fans at Dragon*Con. My family and I arrived on Thursday, wanting to get checked in to the hotel and registered for the con early enough to avoid the truly massive crowds expected later. We were dragging our luggage through the tunnels connecting the hotels, passing people wearing everything from sci fi t-shirts to full steampunk formal wear, when we came upon a group of men in business suits, all chattering together excitedly. “Did you see that guy?” one man was asking. “He was wearing a Star Wars helmet!” My husband and I laughed and kept moving. The businessmen clearly hadn’t spent much time in geek company before, and if he was surprised by the stormtrooper in helmet and jeans, he was in for one very startling weekend. But as we continued on our way, I couldn’t help thinking about my youth, a time when my hobbies and likes earned derision from my peers. I learned pretty quickly to keep my mouth shut about what I read and did. If it wasn’t school or church-related, the kids I went to school with didn’t want to know. Reading science fiction? Playing Dungeons and Dragons? Not considered cool. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I learned to accept who I was regardless of my peers’ feelings on the subject. It wasn’t easy, but it was the only way I could survive. I don’t like to imagine how miserable my life might have been if I hadn’t toughened up and flown my geek flag with pride. I met my husband playing D&D in college. Some of my closest friends are people I met when I joined the Wench’s Guild and began visiting Renaissance faires on a regular basis. I certainly never would have found the courage to write and submit the work for sale if I hadn’t let my geek girl out to play.
This week is Speak Out With Your Geek Out week. This week is about making sure you all know you’re not alone. Are you over 40 and still happily playing role-playing games? A single guy who spends more Saturday nights online than out dancing in clubs? Do you have more Renaissance garb in your closet than ordinary work clothes? Are you a bank employee/insurance salesman/dental hygienist who reads fantasy at lunch and writes on Sundays? I hear from other authors all the time, talking about their lonely adolescences spent with books as their only friends. We all made it, and now we know that being weird in high school only meant we got to grow up and be interesting adults. These days the geeks have more outlets to find their way than we did thirty years ago. My beloved geek son has bonded with people in his dorm over video games and AutoCad. But there are still people who like to laugh at the “freaks” when we wander by. That’s okay – let them laugh. In fact, we can laugh right back. Individuality is a beautiful thing, so embrace it.
I’m Misty, and I’m a geek. I read and write fantasy, I spend entirely too much time in fabric stores cooing over the silks and planning my next costume for con or faire, and lord help me when Beatriz and I happen to wander into a Big Lots or a thrift store together. I belly dance. I collect dragons and pirate toys. I drive an awful lot of miles to spend the day at Renaissance faires. I pretend to be a pirate captain, and I have 20 people who pretend to be my crew. I play D&D on a regular basis with my husband, my son and our friends. The nice part of all these activities is that they feed my imagination, and sometimes I find myself writing new things into current projects based on what happened at faire or in game. I discover great lines from things people say when we’re pretending to be pirates or wenches. People who wonder where we get our ideas? The kind of life we choose to lead supplies us with all the ideas we could ever use. I could be ordinary, but I’ve chosen to be weird.
Are you a geek too? Tell me about it.