My 9-year-old daughters love to be thought of as strange. Truly love it.
I regularly refer to one of them as an “odd little duck,” and her face lights up every time. “Thank you,” she says, and usually as an afterthought, “you’re weird, too.”
It’s shorthand in my house for “I love you and everything about you.” That it’s okay to not be like everyone else, to not like the same stuff as whatever is popular that particular hour — to actually have your own thoughts, dreams, preferences, and opinions is both modeled and celebrated daily.
My oldest daughter likes some of the same stuff as her friends, and encourages them to check out whatever nerdy thing she’s into. And whether they enjoy it or not, it’s okay with her. She has a group of friends, and they make her happy. They all like some of the same stuff, and diverge on others. In their friendship, they focus on the common ground.
When I was in college, the majority of my friends were geeks. Like, full-on nerds. They were also artists, writers, dreamers, geniuses, and great people to be around. A few of them have gone on to become full-time web designers, Computer programmers, math teachers, or scientists.
I took exactly one science course in college, one computer course, and zero mathematics. I’d had my fill of the rest in advanced high school classes. It wasn’t that those subjects didn’t interest me. Science just wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.
When we got together, we took in science fiction movies, played Magic: The Gathering, did some role-playing, or sat around with huge cups of coffee discussing those things on a deep, philosophical, distinctly college student level.
We had differences. We still do. (I’m proud to still call most of them my friends.) But what mattered was where our interests converged — and more to the point, what mattered was that we had each other to call “friend.”
But this is all background. A foundation, if you will. My hope here is to illustrate a single point, to focus with laser-like intensity on one thing, and one thing only: That it is not our differences that define us, but our similarities.
In a recent post, Should Christian Fans Call Ourselves ‘Geeks’?, E. Stephen Burnett revealed that his hope with the new magazine venture, Lorehaven, is to essentially cast a wide net for fans of science fiction and fantasy, particularly in churches and other Christian groups. Though Lorehaven will embrace both its geek heritage and the books the magazine will showcase, he’s chosen to downplay the label of “geek” in favor of more inclusive messaging.
I applaud this move.
Every summer, a new science fiction blockbuster comes out and rakes in millions from fans ranging from lovers of action movies to full-on nerds. “Geek cred” is not required to enjoy these things; one need only find them enjoyable. It’s true: you can check out the latest Star Trek movie, enjoy it, and not have an opinion who was the better Spock. You can anticipate the new Star Wars movie, and have no plans whatsoever on showing up with your hair in buns or dressed as a Wookie.
See, everyone has a little Geek in them. A little part of themselves that waxes enthusiastic about That One Thing. Whether it’s a show (or entire genre), music, computing, astronomy, art, philosophy, or whatever — we all have that thing we get excited about, want to share, want everyone around us to love just as much as we do.
But the Geek, the RPG-ing, cosplaying, graphic-novel-reading Geek, is an odd duck.
And I love each and every one of them.
I love that they live and breath what they love. I love that they find unique and interesting outlets for both their enthusiasm and creativity.
I don’t do all the “stuff” other geeks do. I like science fiction and fantasy. I enjoy the occasional CCG (collectible card game) and RPG. I’m not really a fan of superheroes in general, but I have a selection of graphic novels I enjoy greatly. There are conversations I love having with my fellow sci-fi enthusiasts, and conversations I quietly slip away from. And I don’t dress up. Ever. Even on Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year, I can generally only be bothered to find a mask I can slip on and off quickly. Two years ago, I dressed as Kevin Smith’s Silent Bob, and the quick trim I gave my beard was the most effort I’d put into a costume in decades.
I just don’t have the energy to get enthusiastic about everything my friends enjoy. I’m old, I’m fat, I’m tired, and I have four kids. Sue me.
But these trappings, these peripherals, aren’t what brought us together anyway. Not really. The idea of a costume ball wasn’t what drew me to Realm Makers over the ACFW five years ago, and it’s not the thing that keeps me coming back.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to see my fellow creators in their costumes. They’re full of imagination and fun! But last year I wore a tie to the Awards Gala, and the year before that, I told everyone I was Jayne Cobb, because he dressed just like me, and it kept me from having to go back to my room for a polo shirt.
No, what brings us together as storytellers is actually decidedly similar to what brought us together as Christians.
It’s the story.
That’s the thing that unites us. That’s the reason we come together as fans and creators, in our varying degrees of outward enthusiasm.
And that’s the beauty of the newly-announced Lorehaven.
You aren’t looked at funny when you let your freak (or geek!) flag fly, and you’re just as accepted if you don’t. Because we are united by The Story. You don’t have to dress as a favorite sci-fi or fantasy character to write it, and it’s cool if you decide you want to. You don’t have to pick a side in the Marvel vs. DC battle just because you happen to like space ships or elves or ghosts and ghouls.
Lorehaven, like Realm Makers, is about finding the fan, the reader, regardless of their level of enthusiasm.
Let’s recognize that fans come in a wide range and variety of interest. Some folks love military sci-fi. Some love Tolkien-esque fantasy. Some love all of it. The point of Lorehaven, so far as I’ve been able to tell, is to help every level of fan find books they might enjoy–by writers who love to create it just as much as read it.