When I was a kid (I think after I’ve either raised or am in the process of raising 6 kids and have been with the same partner for 19 years I’m allowed to use that phrase) being a geek was not chic. I can relate honest to Tesla (May we all be protected by the lord of lightning) stories about being bullied, threatened, and beaten because I was a fat four eyed little geek in a world of non geeks. Like so many of the last generation of geeks I spent many years trying to hide pr minimize the extent to which I was different and strange.
Sometime around the turn of the millennium things changed.
I can’t put my finger on the cause, I’ve heard a lot of plausible theories but none of them have convinced me beyond a reasonable doubt, as to how and why it happened but nowadays the geeks are the cool kids. The gamers (Table Top and Video), the comic book nerds, the cinema snobs, the music elitists, and… (god’s I don’t want to say this) the foodies are now the people who set the trends. They are the ones on television and in the public spotlight.
I find it all a little confusing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled my hobbies and fascinations are now getting the attention I, and many others, have always thought they deserved. Comic Con in San Diego has become the largest gathering of the culture in the entire world with attendance in recent years breaking over 130,000. My convention of choice is Gen Con (the four largest days of gaming) in Indianapolis Indiana. It’s the event I plan my year around, it’s the ne certain vacation I get to take with my entire family, and it always serves to remind me why I love who I am and what I do.
But all is not rosy in the land of the geeks.
We geeks, in all stripes and varieties, have enjoyed what I feel is a well deserved reputation for inclusiveness. Having historically been the ones picked on and treated as second class we tended to attract and be attracted to the other outcasts and fringe members of society. When I was young my friends were of all races, both sexes, all religions, and very important to me all sexual identities. This continued into my adulthood and I like to believe has been a positive influence on my children.
In 2011 I went to Penguin Con, a convention in South Eastern Michigan, with my wife and best friends. While there we took part in a discussion group about the evolution of geek culture and how it’s all become main stream. It was a good discussion until someone brought up the Twilight Phenomenon. When the subject was broached the conversation went from real discussion and good natured barbs to a level if vitriol I’ve never experienced amongst geeks. And remember I was there for the D&D edition wars, the Star Wars Original vs. Special Edition debates, Lucas’s Prequels, and JJ’s Star Trek Reboot so I know vitriol.
Full disclosure I bought my middle daughter the books for her birthday when she turned 13 and I read the first one. I didn’t like it. I didn’t loathe it I just didn’t care for it. The story didn’t hold my interest. Some people like to say Stephanie Meyer can’t write and I will say for the record that is complete bullshit. Her style is geared directly for the audience she writes for and nobody else. That might make her a writer people don’t like but it doesn’t make her a bad writer.
I left that tiny conference room at the Southfield Marriot in a state of shock. I’d spent forty five minutes watching a group of good natured if slightly polarized geeks devolve into a bloodthirsty mob. I was half afraid they were going to decide we needed to get the torches and pitchforks in preparation of a mass hunting of all Goths at the convention.
That was the eye opener.
Since then I’ve been seeing it everywhere. I’m one hundred percent sure it was always there but I think as geeks become the top dogs on some realms it’s getting worse. There is a lot of hate out there. Granted there is a million times more acceptance and camaraderie but the hate is more blatant. I see it on the internet, I see it at conventions, and I see it in the media people who once long ago wouldn’t have wanted to hurt a fly are being cruel just because they can be cruel.
One story I want to relate has to with Science Fiction literature. I frequent a few different messages boards across the info webs. Remember those awesome places? They’re still out there but there was a time when they were pretty much the way to socialize online where you didn’t have to fend off pervs wanting to know you’re A/S/L and if you had braces.
Anyway I was on this board and people were asking for science fiction book recommendations. We were all contributing our favorites to the list but there was this one asshole that had something shitty to say about every book brought up. It wasn’t even a discussion the trolling little bastard was being mean for no other reason than he enjoyed being mean. He was and still is that jackass who love to do nothing more than spin people into a tornado and let them go just so he can see what will happen.
In other words he’s the textbook internet tough guy.
What does all of this have to do with anything?
Okay, last night was the Super Bowl. The night that so many sports geeks live for. Yes sports geeks, these people, the uber fans who play in half a dozen fantasy leagues every year, the ones who memorize stats and know the personalities of the coaches and players better than they do their spouses and children, if those people aren’t geeks than nobody is allowed to wear that title.
So it was Super Bowl Sunday and what did I see all across the Social Media Sphere? Hate, I saw a metric fuck ton of hate. But wait was it hate from Sports Geeks directed at Gamers, Trekkies, Whovians, Bronies, Foodies, Movie Snobs, or Music Elitists? Nope it was the other way around, I saw my community acting like the bullies I knew in Junior High School. Oh not tons of them, not even the majority of them. But it was enough of them to make me clench up and fight the urge to apologize for my people.
It was embarrassing.
So what’s my point?
Thing need to change. No I don’t want them going back to the way they were, I want thing to progress. There will always be conflict and disagreement but few things would make me happier than if we could go back to talking about things as opposed to trying to tear each other apart.
I know… pipe dreams and unicorn farts.
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