I am a self-confessed geek. I’m sitting here in an old denim jacket with the arms cut off, and stitched onto the back of this jacket is ‘Lion’. If you don’t know why this is geeky, it’s because Lion was the name of the group who did the metal version of the Transformers theme song for the original animated movie. The fact that I own a jacket like this is geeky. The fact that I’m proud to own a jacket like this is even geekier.
Some history: the word ‘geek’ derives from a Germanic word, ‘geck’, meaning foolish or crazy. This became attached to circus freaks (‘gecken’), before making its way across the Atlantic, whereupon it mutated into ‘geek’ and described a sideshow performer whose, um, speciality was biting the heads of live chickens.
Anyway, ‘geek’ entered the high school lexicon, where it became an insult aimed at the weird kids, the ones with lesser social skills. This being high school, it also became attached to the smart kids, or the introverts, or the outsiders, the ones who preferred computers and sci-fi to football.
Of course, many of these kids became successes after high school – cue Bill Gates – so when computer culture took off in the nineties, geek was reclaimed as a self-identifier, a badge of honour. After all, geeks were tge innovators, the puoneers, the ones who took all their smarts and changed the world.
That shouldn’t come as too mich of a surprise, because geeks see the world differently. For instance, look at this picture:
If you’re not a geek, you’ll look at that picture and say “Oh look, plastic cutlery.” A geek looks at that and says “Haha! May the forks be with you!” It’s all a matter of perspective. You have know idea how excited my friends and I were when we discovered a room at work called the Transformer House. You may be thinking that’s just where they keep various electrical infrastructure, and that’s fair enough; we were making jokes about Megatron for weeks. And by “weeks” I mean “still are.”
We also make lists. I once went to a real ale festival, which was an experience considering I don’t drink. I wanted to make myself useful though, so, taking the scores out of ten that everyone was awarding the various ales, I predicted the next one they should try out. I’m confident in my working, and it would have made an excellent contribution to the evening, were it not for the fact that the perfect ale was, in fact, locked in the cellar and everyone was too drunk to ask for it to be unlocked. Epic fail, as we say on the internet; however, the picture below is the end result of an evening’s hard work:
Okay, so I’m aware that this is making geeks look weird, and that’s unfair considering that this should be a day of celebration. I spent a chunk of it (my lunch break, to be precise) doing something that geek culture is famous for – I argued about Star Trek on the internet.
No I didn’t, I embraced the fundamental creativity that comes with being a geek. I’m not being pretentious here – along with the near obsessive love for science fiction shows (and trivia about science fiction shows) comes an urge to play in the same sandbox as George Lucas or Joss Whedon or whoever. Fanfiction is a massive part of geek culture; some of it is terrible, some of it is obscene, some of it is better than the real thing, but it would be crazy to overlook its importance. Especially when you consider just one subsection of geekery – the men and women who were writing Doctor Who fanfic back in the day are now the people making the show. The amateur-turned-pro thing is a big deal for geek culture. Heck, you could even argue that a degree of the Open Source movement is driven by a similar urge – they’re just writing fanfic for code.
Anyway, back to what I did at lunch time – I chonicled the adventures of Indiana Potato-Head:
You could argue that only someone very geeky would do something like that. I would argue that you’re right. I would also argue that I got some cool pictures of Indiana Potato-Head and ultimately that’s what matters.
All that said, it’s only really when thinking about Geek Pride Day that I realised my surroundings are a total giveaway. Following are three pictures from my home and workstation – see if you can spot where they might differ from the average household of a thirty-something urban professional:
But at least I don’t have a Periodic Table shower curtain.
But here’s the thing; I’m geek and I love it. I like the creativity that comes with it. I like the thirst for knowledge, the community, the joy and the internet. I’ve made some great friends just through a shared love of eighties cartoons or comics or whatever, and I have absolutely no problem with being the guy who wikipedias an answer to even the most obscure musings people come up with. When it comes to 21st century archetypes, I’m geek and I’m proud.
Just don’t blame me for the Matrix sequels.