For those of you who miss my more serious blog posts, I apologize but simply have such raging cabin fever that I’m getting a little slaphappy and have to amuse myself to stay sane.
I’ve spent a LOT of time on the internet lately while cocooned in blankets, sipping spiked cocoa, and thus I’ve spent a lot of time taking in fandom. My observations have led me to the conclusion that people are crazy, and people are awesome. My real-life friends and I have had multiple conversations about the difference between being a nerd, a geek, or a dork – the fact that we’ve had this conversation probably proves some kind of point. (I don’t mean to leave anyone out or offend anyone, so see my previous blog post “Is My Nerd Showing?” if you need clarification on my general definition of what it means to be a nerd.) For the most part, I enjoy interacting with fans of things that I too am a fan of, and I’m endlessly fascinated by how fired up people get when talking about things that don’t really matter.
Really, I’m kind of asking for it. My Twitter profile @kynacoba declares, “I love all things nerd,” and that has led to questions I might as well elaborate upon here.
First of all, what’s the point in being a nerd?
Having interests is always a good thing. Caring about and connecting with stories is, I think, an important part of how we understand and relate to each other. And, quite frankly, sometimes it’s just fun to discuss/argue/debate things that don’t really matter. A friend once said that it’s okay if someone has different opinions on religion, politics, etc. but that it’s NOT okay if someone doesn’t like your favorite TV show. It’s kind of a nice break to care so passionately about things that don’t affect daily reality. It’s nice to connect with people who love what you do. I try not to be an elitist about matters of taste (that’s never really made sense to me as a mindset), and it’s infectious to see others’ enthusiasm, even if you don’t care about the subject of their enthusiasm.
At the very least, being a nerd exposes you to a wide range of new things and to the people who care deeply about them.
As a writer, how does being a nerd matter?
I think being exposed to other peoples’ beloved stories does a lot for stretching the imagination. And people who really, really know their stuff help me see the importance of making a story as deep, as rich, as complex, and as smart as possible – people who like things and really like things don’t want to be insulted by a lack of creative effort.
As for my own nerdy things that I love, there are some TV shows, movies, books, etc. that I know are absolutely foundational in shaping my own creativity. Some stories from childhood are so ingrained that I probably don’t even realize how much they shape me. Some stories from adulthood trigger some part of my brain that goes “Ah-ha!” because I see something in a light I hadn’t considered before.
I think it’s arrogant for artists to not acknowledge that other art inspires and shapes our own creativity. Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could. (If you just sang that in your head, +100 points.) The things we love obviously influence the things we create. But there’s also a problem when you love something so much that all you’re doing is copying the object of your affection. I read some books and think, “Wow, you like Stephen King” or “Lost fan, much?” So, I think it’s also important to watch out for not going overboard in how your beloved stories shape your creativity – you have to find a way to use ideas that you love but make it YOURS, in your own voice.
So, what are a few of my favorite things to be a nerd about?
- Star Wars. The originals, I mean – and if I even have to clarify that point, we’re probably not going to be friends. When I was little, my parents taped the Star Wars movies off of TV. My brother and I watched them to the point of memorization and tape exhaustion. Even today when watching on glorious Blu-ray, I still know where the commercial breaks would cut off about 3 seconds. I think a big part of my love of Star Wars is the fact that most of it looks like something we could have built in our fort. The imagination and creativity it took to literally create these movies’ worlds is amazing – free of the temptation to overuse CGI…which came later. The adventure story is simple, with a layer of depth underneath that clearly shaped my own imagination.
My brother dated a girl who didn’t watch Star Wars until adulthood (I know, right?!), and when she finally humored us, at the end she said that it was probably something we enjoyed out of childhood nostalgia. There is likely some truth to this for anyone who grew up watching Star Wars three times a week, but I also think these movies are essential for anyone who loves Science Fiction.
- Star Trek. Admittedly, I don’t like Star Trek as much as I probably should. I appreciate the history of what the show/movies did/do for Science Fiction, but I’ve never liked the general world that much. As a kid watching The Next Generation, I didn’t like how they either made alien races a part of the Federation or else those aliens seemed to be the bad guys. Even in my little pre-teen brain, I remember thinking of the Federation as “The Man.” Something about the neat and tidy, semi-utopian world just doesn’t feel realistic to me – replicators making essentially whatever you need, most everyone conveniently speaking English, etc. I understand the philosophy behind it, but it’s a little too optimistic for me.
All that being said, Star Trek is important enough that I have to list it as one of my favorites. The scope and variety is impressive and fun. The different incarnations over the years have been interesting. I like Deep Space Nine best of the shows, and I think I liked the depth of characters there. Also, I’m glad the new movie versions are tweaking the story now.
- Lost. Yes, even the end. The whole “sideways” part of things ended so beautifully that I forgave a lot of the flatness of that last season. And if you try to tell me they were dead the whole time, expect an eye roll.
I think the #1 thing I enjoyed about Lost was that it didn’t question the intelligence of the audience. Right up until the end, I had no idea where things were headed – as someone who regularly sorts out plots before they’re done, this was a welcome joy. The complexity and mystery and the variety of characters was wonderful. I think probably more than any other show, Lost pushed me to be a better storyteller.
- Firefly. Oh, sweet, charming, clever, funny, lovely show, how I miss thee. My earliest memories of this show are:
1- My friends dismissing it because of the “hooker in space” only to then later become obsessed fans.
2- Having a great inside joke about the “special hell.”
It’s just flat out enjoyable, and I don’t think you necessarily have to be a Sci-Fi fan to love it. Highly quotable, I’ve solidified friendships over love of this show. It’s like gateway Sci-Fi.
- Arrested Development. My thoughts on AD are very similar to my thoughts on Firefly. A guy once thought I was great and said, “Marry me,” and of course I responded, “Babysit me!” He didn’t get it; we’re no longer friends (there’s probably more to it, but this is the reason I remember).
- Space: Above and Beyond. This one’s a little out there, I know. But this show did a LOT for my childhood creative juices. Shane was an early inspiration for my own character of Bullseye. Everything with the In Vetroes inspired a lot of my use of clones. And I’ve never looked at pancakes the same again.
- X-Men and Batman. HUGE influences for my own series. As kids, we watched the cartoons at every possible moment. We read the comics. We spent literally hours upon hours drawing our own mutant characters (see some examples here).
- Enders Game, Speaker for the Dead, Ender’s Shadow, etc. I have a love/hate relationship with Orson Scott Card, but crap damn it the man can tell a story. It’s one of the prouder accomplishments of my adult life that I’ve gotten almost my entire friend circle to read this series.
- Dr. Who. I really do love Dr. Who, but I list it here as more of a confession: Until about 3-4 months ago, I’d only seen 4 episodes. I just could not get into it. But, I felt like a bad nerd for not liking Dr. Who, so my brother made a list of which episodes to skip because he knew they’d be the ones to turn me off. Thus entering with low expectations, I was soon sucked in. I still have a ways to go, but I can honestly say that I think I’ve cried over this show more than anything since the Lost finale.
And, as a fan of my own books has pointed out, it is nuts that I was capable of creating my character of Trok without knowing about the doctor. That might, in fact, be the reason I connect so much with the Doctor – I’m very, very familiar with the immortal, time-traveling, searching-for-connection kind of character. The consistency of the writing for this one character over DECADES is also really, really impressive, as is the ability of the different actors to play the same character.
So, yeah. Those are things I’m nerdily devoted to. There are many, many more. And people who enjoy these things also enjoy other things I’m not as well-versed in, so there’s always more to take in. For example, I know next to nothing about video games. This is mostly because I’m absolute rubbish – my brother will attest to the fact that, if there’s a corner to run into or a way to grenade myself, I will find it. I really love watching people play video games, and the artistry is usually quite impressive to me. So that’s up next.