Last week’s Comicon in Phoenix thoroughly drained my resolve. It made me question my nerd-identity. I wandered around the mass of well-dressed, attractive 18-25 year-olds, many of whom basing their costumes on animes and shows I had never even heard of before, thinking “Is this what a nerd is these days? Am I still a nerd, or am I too uncool to even hang with nerds anymore?” However, I have now come to my senses. I am still a nerd. I have been and always shall be a nerd. I’m not going to let the narrow definition of nerdness put forth by convention promoters define who I am. A nerd is not what someone appears like on the outside, but who they are inside. And on the inside, I fit all the classic definitions:
When I was eight, I spent my entire summer vacation at my cousins’ house in LA programming adventure games in BASIC into their Tandy 1000. I had to be dragged away from that location so that my cousins could take me to Disneyland and the beach.
When I was nine, I taught myself several words of German by comparing the sections in a multi-lingual instruction manual that came with Defender for the Atari 2600. Not that I could carry on a conversation with anyone with words like “Spiel” (game), “Kriegspiel” (wargame) or “Punkten” (points) but it was enough for me to know that other languages existed and that they could be understood given time and effort.
When I was 15, when asked to do a group project with another classmate in my “television production” class, instead of dealing with the embarrassment of having to ask someone to be my partner, I called upon my computer to be my partner and stayed up late every night for the next two weeks programming an elaborate CGI cartoon to fulfill that assignment (well, as elaborate as one could get on a TI-99/4a Home Computer with 48 KB of RAM). I still only got a C because “it was supposed to be a group project!”
When I was in high school, before I even knew of such a thing as the Internet, I wrote Star Trek and Lord of the Rings fanfiction… that didn’t involve slash pairings of anyone… and oh yeah, it was in French.
When I was in college, I spent more of my time playing Final Fantasy VII and Civilization II than going to classes or doing homework assignments, and I still passed my classes… mostly.
Far be it from me to base my identity on past achievements (not that they got me anywhere anyway). But even today…
I can name pretty much everybody who starred in the five series of Star Trek, but I couldn’t name you ten pro athletes (that haven’t been in the news lately) or the teams they’re on.
I prefer “children’s” television shows and movies to the sex, drugs and violence-filled nonsense they say is mature “adult” entertainment. I’d rather watch Spongebob make a fart joke than see Jaime Lannister fuck his sister any day of the week. To be fair, however, one of my favorite TV miniseries is I, Claudius, which has more than its share of incest and butchery, but they have the good sense and fair taste to leave most of that off-screen. Plus it’s historical, which makes it okay in my book.
Last night, I was in bed with a naked woman (aka my wife), and I was too busy reading a Wikipedia article about Klingons to notice.
I find it frustrating and annoying when I’m talking to people and they say I’m using too much “college talk.” I’m not trying to confuse or patronize anybody, that’s just the way I talk. Sometimes a “big word” just slips out that I don’t realize is not in most people’s vocabularies. Like “vocabulary.”
I go to a comic book convention or a comic book store not to look for X-Men or Superman, but Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck. I also look for Astérix, Tintin, and Lucky Luke, but only if they’re in the original French.
I watch Disney movies… unironically. And I don’t have kids.
My dream is to live in an underground house shaped like a Hobbit hole.
I’ve watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail approximately fifty times, and it still makes me laugh.
I’m learning French right now, but not just to do the tourist thing in Paris. I think it would be pretty neat to read Voltaire, Hugo, and Montaigne in the original language, as well as reading news and literature from the world that Anglo-American corporate interests don’t care to translate.
Once I have reached a certain fluency in French, I want to work my way around the other Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese) and eventually learn Latin. Outside of the Vatican and a few university classics departments, Latin is about as useful in the modern world as speaking Klingon, but it was the language of art, science, politics and culture in the Western world for over 2,000 years, so it’s got to count for something.
And oh yeah, I want to learn Klingon too. So I can finally understand Shakespeare.
And I think I might get back to German, too, if only to be able to read the rest of that Atari manual.
So yeah. I think I am very much a nerd. That, or a very peculiar, uncool hipster. Nerd is something that I will always be. If Star Trek ceased to exist, I would still be a nerd. If Tolkien never wrote the Lord of the Rings, the world would be a much sadder place, but I would still be a nerd. And just because I’m not a tech billionaire or a social networking millionaire or the target audience for Comicons doesn’t mean my nerdness is any less important or valuable than any other’s. At the end of the day, I’ll still be misunderstood, made fun of, and unpopular. And that’s what being a nerd is all about.