Geek is the preferred term these days but nerd is what I heard the most in my adult life. One coworker preferred to call me a dork. Well, she had enough issues of her own. I think in high school it was “he’s into weird stuff”. But ever since 7th grade I knew my interests were different than the norm. I read too much anyway and the fact that I was reading stuff with spaceships or guys with swords on the covers came across as a little bit strange to some of my classmates and family. I remember in high school speech class we were to read aloud a poem of our own choosing. I picked a Ray Bradbury poem that was in the Dangerous Visions anthology.
“Oh come, please come, to the Poor Mouth Fair
Where the Saints kneel round in their underwear
And say out prayers that most need saying
For needful sinners who’ve forgotten praying;
And in every alcove and niche you spy
The living dead who envy the long since gone
Who never wished to die.”
Ray Bradbury, “Christ, Old Student In A New School”
It pretty much soared over everyone’s head like a spaceship. I think my teacher got it and I think it scared him to death.
When I was in college, it was much more accepted to read science fiction and comics. We were still in a minority but at least left alone. Music was a more common denominator back then, especially among us guys. Endless debates over top ten lists, best guitar players, stereo equipment. The FM stations were pretty insane back then. We had a campus radio station that stuck to a public radio format all day until 11:00 pm. Then they would let the student DJs play what they and their friends wanted to hear until 1:00 am. And being the DJs were all male, what we got was non-stop hard rock, proto-metal, prog rock, and maybe some nasty funk. So it was a wide-open world and you could really well, be a geek about it.
When I got out to the work place, I worked first in a stereo store. While none of the guys I worked with were into swords and spaceships, they were all definitely at home with whipping up the top ten Beatles songs at a seconds notice. So the passion was there. But I learned to keep the rest of my nature under wraps. I shouldn’t have but I did.
Then I stumbled into insurance and that was when I really had to go into the closet. Or at least I felt I had to. The last big insurance company I worked at there were a few of my fellow citizens amongst the unbelievers. One woman decorated her cube with action figures and that was the first time I had ever seen anything like that in the corporate world. I was amazed (and a little jealous) of her passion. I felt mine was fading. I was struggling with my first novel and the corporate mindset was really getting to me. I remember taking a left brain right brain test and was horrified to find that my left scored higher. I died a little that day.
I got a reprieve when I moved to publishing. Even though we were working in the legal field, I was truly surrounded by my people. People who had played Dungeons and Dragons. People who knew more about speculative fiction than I did. I remember one of my best friends there standing up in his cube once standing up and exclaiming that he could not remember the name of the statues the Fellowship paddled between and three of us stood up to scold him for not remembering. It was nerd heaven and for once in my life, I felt like I could let my freak flag fly at my job.
So it took me a long time but I finally learned the lesson that Simon Pegg talks about in that picture I posted earlier. I don’t care if you don’t get what I do, or what I like, or why I am so passionate about the books I read, the movies I watch, the music I listen to. I’ve been liberated. And you should be to, no matter what your passion and how accepted it is. Unless you don’t know who Simon Pegg is. In that case there’s no hope.