Are We The Popular Kids Yet?
(whose book Exile launches in eBook tomorrow! Woot!)
When I was a kid I saw Star Wars IV seventeen times in the theater. I got a lot of street cred in the 4th grade from that, though it had less to do with the actual movie and more to do with overindulgence. Overindulgence to the immature has long meant social acceptance.
But really, I didn’t think of Star Wars as geeky, or myself as geeky. The only mainstream-acknowledge SF book I’d read to that point was L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time (which I still don’t love to this day). Of course most kids’ books were and are fantasy, maybe even some of the earliest widespread urban fantasy even though most of it took place in the country: like EB White’s trifecta: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan. My favorite show as a kid was Fantasy Island; despite the title I didn’t think of it as fantasy. Star Trek was just okay to me. I didn’t think of The Narnia Chronicles as fantasy until well after adulthood. Actually I disregarded it when I finished the series. The whole “religious trick” at the end put me off it for several years—yeah, a little slow on the Christian symbolism uptake as a kid. Napoleon Dynamite’s “liger” still makes me laugh; I’ve got reams of drawings of mixed-up animals in my basement. But all I knew was people thought I was a pretty good artist. Later, as an adult and teacher, I chalked up fantasy in kids’ books as based on the fairy tales kids have loved through the ages. It was something you were supposed to give up for thrillers and mysteries and romances as you grew up. Well, hell, I read all those, too.
Clearly, though, I wasn’t mainstream. I was teased and bullied for much of my school years. But I never associated my likes with other kids’ seeming hatred of me. After all, I had no friends in middle school. Who would I even tell that I was watching Tom Baker’s Dr. Who religiously, read LOTR over and over, still listened to my Star Wars double album soundtrack, or that I was writing my first novel? I’m pretty sure the teasing was from the wandering gaze behind my big-frame glasses and the braces. Don’t even get me started on the pony-tails and claw bangs.
But, as so often is the case: Beer to the rescue! Fast forward to my late teens and twenties. At some point I let those interests go, not out of social concerns but because I was socially busy. I’d come into my own. Despite dabbling for a few years in the SCA, (which I still miss and still wish I had time for) I wasn’t a geek anymore. I bleached my hair and learned how to act in social situations. I even married a guy who was, like, normal. I had two adorable kids.
And then, I started writing again. I think my personal geek-cred comes from my enjoying what I want and fucking-off the rest, which is what being a geek has been all along. I like fantasy, some SF, not so much films or gaming, though I’ve done some obsessive online RPGing in my day. Do I look like a geek on the outside? Probably not. Fuck that, too.
Besides, there’s a lot of talk about F/SF hitting the mainstream. Maybe, if recent movies and GRR Martin are any indication. But SF/F/comic elements in film aren’t new. How many Superman movies have there been, anyway? I wouldn’t know, I’m not a comic fan.
Despite mainstream “acceptance” of my geek likes, I often have less a sense of fitting in than ever, not really in geekdom, nor in my neighborhood, a charming place with fantastic schools I like to call Stepford. I write some erotica (try talking about that on the SF panel circuit or at PTA), I write violent male characters (should I have used a pseudonym? Should I have put my picture on the back jacket flap? Maybe I should let my hair go back to brown and wear glasses again…) and I’m about to launch into more space opera (hyperdrive, anyone?) I wonder if there are regions where Exile won’t sell well because it’s got a dark-skinned guy on the cover and a white chick on the back flap. I certainly am aware that my unsold future religious dystopian thriller with gay protagonists won’t go over well in certain quarters. Thing is, I’m mostly beyond caring what people think, and maybe that’s the point, right?
Am I mainstream? Is SF/F mainstream? Hell, look at my FB feed. SF/F is my mainstream. I don’t care what’s in your feed. But I do get the vague sense that I’m not the only one who doesn’t care what other people like (until we can bond over it). SF/F at large no longer cares either. In that sense, I think geekdom has grown since the turn of the century.
Oh, and I still haven’t seen the gangnam video. I’ve got violent SF/F novels to write, a stack of books to read, and Tard Vader Cat memes to share.Read More...