Archive for December, 2008

Holiday Hiatus
December 12, 2008

The staff at Stuff Geeks Love are taking off until after the new year so they can enjoy the holidays with their families. We hope your holidays are full of Stuff You LOVE.

We will return on January 6, 2009, with more stuff geeks love.

The Standard Geek Uniform
December 9, 2008

How Geek is your outfit? Give yourself one point for each of the following:

geekuniform[ ] Beard

[ ] Black T-Shirt with White Writing On It

[ ] Combat Boots

[ ] Fedora

[ ] Item of Skull-Related Jewelry

[ ] Leatherman Multi-Tool

[ ] Long Hair, Preferably in a Ponytail.

[ ] Pocketwatch on Chain

[ ] Shirt With “Tribal” Design

[ ] Trenchcoat or Peacoat

[ ] Wolf Shirt

[ ] Zippo Lighter (+1 Bonus Point if you don’t smoke)

And give yourself two points for any of these:

[ ] Kaftan

[ ] Kilt

[ ] T-Shirt for a Television Show (+1 Bonus Point if it’s been cancelled)

Finally, subtract one point for every item of clothing you’re wearing that isn’t black.

The higher your score is, the higher the level of geek in your wardrobe!

Because they have a habit of expressing their individuality through mimicking others, geeks LOVE the Standard Geek Uniform!

Collections
December 5, 2008

Mostly they collect dust.

Mostly they collect dust.

When the game company Wizards of the Coast released the CCG Magic: the Gathering in 1993, they had no idea that what they were actually printing was big fat check to themselves. Magic was a gold mine, and all because of the first “C” in the abbreviation: “Collectible”.

If it’s true that possession is 9/10 of the law, then the law has nothing on geeks, who value possession above all else. CSI and Grey’s Anatomy have legions of fans, but there are far fewer action figures those shows’ characters than there are of Doctor Who‘s. That’s because normal people are able to enjoy a television show without having to wear the shirt, own the toys, and read the comic book. (While it’s true there were a few CSI comics released, they didn’t sell that well because the average CSI viewer wouldn’t think to walk into a comic book shop.) Geeks don’t feel they’ve properly demonstrated their appreciation until they’ve spent money. And once they start spending, they don’t stop.

A geek never owns some action figures, dice, or DVDs. He has a collection of them. And while the average person would consider the term “collection” to properly describe a group of similar items, for the geek the word is literal. His movie soundtrack collection is just that to him: a painstakingly assembled amassment that can be stacked against others’ collections.

Of course, although geeks use the word “collection” as coin or stamp collectors might, there really is no similarity. True collectors seek out specific items and carefully add them to an organized and catalogued grouping. Geeks merely grab whatever’s at arm’s reach and throw it in the pile. As has been said before here, for geeks it’s all about quantity, never quality.

To get back to the subject of Magic, the cards were released in limited sets, consisting of dozens (and sometimes a couple hundred) cards in each set. The sets were not sold complete; one had to assemble a set from a number of “booster packs” that had only about a dozen cards randomly packed into them. But there was never any question about whether or not a Magic player would assemble the entire set; they are physically unable to not do so. In fact, the number one complaint about the game is that players are “forced” to buy new cards as they’re released.

Similarly, this is how comic book stores stay in business. Readers may spit boiling venom at the current Incredible Hulk storyline, but they’ll never just not buy it; that would leave a hole in their “collection”. Despite the secondary market for comics — especially modern ones — all but drying up, comic readers still bag, board, and “slab” them for a market that no longer exists. This is because they’re the only monthly periodicals in the world that are “collected”.

If you notice, whenever a newspaper has space to fill and decides to talk to the local comic book geek about his weirdo habit, they always want to report on what the most valuable item in his collection is. This is because newspapers, which are run by relatively normal people, assume that a collection has an item that is really the star of the show. They’re not used to the equivalent of a coin collector being asked to show his collection and then pulling out whatever nickels and quarters happen to be in his pockets at the moment.

Calling a big pile of crap a “collection” is more than just a way for the geek to make all his junk seem fancier. It’s not just a way to justify buying it in the first place (“Even though this astromech droid is just a repainted R2-D2, I collect droids.”), it’s an excuse for buying more junk. It’s also an excuse for buying the same junk again, which is a bonus thing geeks love doing. Hasbro has made a fortune selling Star Wars action figure “collectors” the same characters over and over again. Some toy collectors love generic soldier figures because then they can buy the exact same toy several times to make an army for their “collection”.

Since buying and owning stuff is a central tenet of geekdom, and this provides a means to both justify and propel doing so, geeks LOVE collections!

Fan Fiction
December 2, 2008

If there’s one thing you need to know about geeks, it’s that they believe the real world is like high school… or like they imagined high school was. Though most of us just got on with things in high school, geeks imagined themselves to be victimized, rendered powerless by their oppressors and humiliated in front of their peers. “Powerless” is the key word here: Geeks, ultimately, do not feel they control their lives, and this nagging insecurity undermines and informs everything they say and do and believe, from their politics to their entertainment.

Take fan fiction. Fan fiction is one of the cornerstone industries of the Internet, ostensibly based on the idea of fans of genre entertainment (anything from Star Trek to Buffy to Doctor Who to the Muppets, with no shortage of crossovers between all these properties and more) writing out fun “what if” stories for the satisfaction of themselves and other like-minded fans. If that combination seems odd to you, then you’ve not been a geek. To the geek, all things they cherish are of equal value, so it makes perfect sense for Strawberry Shortcake to team up with He-Man to defeat Cobra Commander.

"Results 1 - 10 of about 2,810,990 for he-man strawberry shortcake fan fiction. (0.46 seconds)"

Result #1 of about 2,810,990 for 'he-man strawberry shortcake fan fiction'.

You may wonder why some prolific authors of fan fiction don’t make the jump from publishing on the Internet with the moniker “BuffytheVampireLayer” to real, paid work, but consider that some of these geeks build up a reputation as authors of “great” fan fiction and are celebrated by groups of the kind of people who celebrate authors of fan fiction. Faced with the prospect of actually having to work and improve their craft in a tougher market, geeks will almost invariably choose the easier route to “fame” and “fortune.” Cheap and laughable power is preferable to hard work and the prospect of failure.

That need for power is prevalent in the text of most fan fiction, too. Fan fiction writers and audiences, like their mainstream, celeb culture-loving brethren, regard their beloved obsessions with an unhealthy mix of hate and envy. Geeks happily incorporate genre fiction into their identity, along with their love of hot foods, caffeinated products, and other pop culture junk. But even geeks know this is an unstable foundation for their lives.

Enter resentment.

You see, to a geek, the paid, professional creative staff that puts out the entertainment they love so much can never get it right. Their first reaction to any new installment in their drug of choice isn’t “is this any good?” but “is this right?”, a telling distinction. Analyzing the merit of stories and themes is hard, and a geek would much rather blather on about trivia than do any serious delving. Given a geek’s shifting criteria of “rightness,” it’s possible (nay, probable) they will never actually let themselves enjoy the things they love.

Fan fiction helps geeks cope with this grievous problem. With it, the geek can assert control over the pop culture icons they love to make them do things the “right” way — and as a geek is an unqualified critic first and an actual creative person second, these efforts are often laborious and plainly display the geek’s many insecurities.

In fact, there’s a whole subgenre dedicated to this: the “Mary Sue” story. In a Mary Sue story, a new character (a stand-in for the author) enters, say, Hogwarts, and soon wins over the love and admiration of every major character. The Mary Sue will often fall in love with the author’s favorite character, and previous rivalries — say, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy — will be mended, often due to the Mary Sue’s actions.

Mary Sue fiction is perhaps most distinguishable for its complete lack of real conflict. That’s because, to a geek, storytelling is more a security blanket than it is a challenge to consider new perspectives, or even simply to be entertained.

Fan fiction allows the geek to act like a powerful arbiter who determines what is cool and right, so of course geeks LOVE fan fiction!

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