06 August 2012

Geekdom and me, part 1

I've been thinking about writing a post about fandom and what it means and how it's changing (or isn't changing) for a while, and then there was apparently a spat about who's a real geek or not, and then the ReaderCon harassment thing happened, and the whole conversation of who's a geek, who cons are for, and whether women are welcome blew up a bit.

If I'd written the post when I first thought of it, I may have seemed prescient. (Or not; as if my readership is that big...) So now, I'm taking advantage of the Zeitgeist serendipitously.

I didn't grow up a geek. I was smart. I should have been in the gifted program but my mom wouldn't let me, so I was just in the advanced track in my elementary school. I finished first grade math before Christmas, and I had to change classrooms to a second grade class. I corrected my kindergarten teacher's spelling of "vulture." (She wanted to spell it with a g.)

I liked to read, but my mom isn't a big reader. She mostly had Harlequins and Barbara Cartlands, which I read a few of. I'd read from the two-volume dictionary, or the four-volume medical encyclopedia from my grandpa's time in pharmacology school, or, if I was really bored, the copy of Emily Post's Etiquette from 1917.

I don't have fond memories of going to the public library to check out books. The only times I ever went there were for English papers, when I needed to access the literary criticism books. I borrowed books from the school libraries, though, and I tore through the L'Engles in sixth grade, I think, and Earthsea, and, for some reason I'll never know, The Left Hand of Darkness. I have no idea why it was in a middle school library.

My grandma would buy me books whenever she went to the used book store. That's how I got my first copy of Lord of the Rings, which I read so many times the cover fell off. Then I got the Book of Lost Tales, which I found recently, with all the notes and bookmarks for cross-referencing.

My dad would take me to the bookstore when he visited, and that's how I got more books. He's an old school Trekkie, and when I visited him at his house, or in his truck (he drives a big rig), I'd read whatever books he had around. I read a lot of Stephen King one summer, and another summer it was Ben Bova's Mars.

So I had geeky interests as a teenager, but I never knew there was such a thing as fandom until much later. I didn't read a lot of the geek youth "canon" until I was 30!

At college, I fell in with the LARP crowd, didn't really get into tabletop, etc, but it was awesome to meet more people who liked nerdy things and be able to be open about it, because the popular kids wouldn't harass me over it. (As if being fat, smart, and poor weren't enough...)

When I moved to North Carolina, I joined the UNC anime club, through which I had my first fandom and con-going experiences. I still read books, often ones suggested by one of the older members of the club. (He told me I should buy Shards of Honor when we were stuck in an airport. Then I tracked down everything else Bujold had written up to that point, which was 2000 I think.)

That's my background in being a geek. Or not, whatever. I've fairly thoroughly embraced my geek nature, and if someone wants to label me a poser, that's not my problem. I'll go more into the what is fandom/who are fans in my next post.

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