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When You’re the Oddball in a Room of Geeks

Scott and Becky Minor, founders of Realm Makers, as Dr. Strange and the Ancient One.

Sometimes I don’t think I fit in with geeks.

Which could be a problem when you attend conferences made up of them.

That realization first struck me during breakfast my second day at Realm Makers 2017. For the record, I had a fantastic time there! But I must admit feeling a little awkward on some occasions. Mainly because I lack geek cred. In that case, we were enjoying our coffee, fruit, and pastries, discussing books, writing, and our day jobs, when I happened to mention the film Batman v. Superman. I should have known. What followed was a lengthy, impassioned debate about DC comics, the DC v. Marvel Universe, the true character of Superman, and how dark is too dark for a comic book hero. Most of that conversation, I remained a spectator. Why? I’m just not THAT invested in either Batman or Superman.

Don’t get me wrong — I like both characters. In fact, I like a lot of the same characters and stories my fellow writers like. Star Wars. Star Trek. X-Men. Captain America. The Flash. Harry Potter. Vampires. Werewolves. I’m into all that stuff.

I’m just not SO into them that I want to dress up as a Jedi Knight, a Transformer, or a zombie and memorize the canonical histories of said characters. In fact, there’s lots of things I find I don’t share with my geeky friends who spent hours playing computers games and even care to get the best computers cases for different pages as https://www.hotrate.com/electronics/best-computer-cases/.

  • I’m not into cosplay.
  • Not into Nerfwars.
  • Not a huge techie.
  • Don’t play video games.
  • Have no side in the DC v. Marvel debate.
  • Can’t seem to get into anime.
  • Had to look up the word “grok” when it was used.

Quite a dud, right?

This can all make for some uncomfortable situations. Like the Friday night gala (pictured above) where I wore some Dockers and a polo shirt. The first person I walked up to that evening, I did not recognize the character they were dressed as. So I asked. And felt quite stupid afterwards. So I typically sit in the back during these events, not because I’m embarrassed being around such a lively, colorful crowd, but because I just feel a little out of place.

So, you ask, what am I doing at this type of writers convention? Good question. Mostly I love stories. I love to talk theology and sociology and trends in pop culture. I am fascinated by myth, creativity, and the archetypes that stir us. I perk up when we talk about the writing industry and how Christian creatives can be the salt of the earth. I wrestle with the role of artists in the Church and our struggle to find a place in the Body. I stop what I’m doing to join conversations about comparative religions and the parameters of sound doctrine. I grouse about the decline of Western Civilization and marvel at how God seeds hope through fictional tales.

I’m not sure what kind of geek this is. But whatever it is, I am it.

Much is made about such writing/comic cons being a place where oddballs can find their tribe. Thing is, I’m learning there’s another kind of oddball there. We may not see them as having “geek cred.” They won’t be recognized by their elaborate costumes or ability to cite random episodes from every season of Dr. Who. But they’re as much a part of the tribe as the Nerfwar veterans.

Memo to geek culture — don’t forget the strangers in your midst.

So if you happen upon me at a writer’s con and I’m not dressed up as an elf or a wookie, take heart in the fact that I’m probably discussing the boundaries of theology in spec-fic, postmodern theory, or the compatibility of a biblical worldview with the horror genre.

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{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Kerry Nietz August 5, 2017, 6:36 AM

    Aha. I see what you’re trying to do there. Crown yourself King Outcast of the Outcast convention. Not buying it. Anyone who paints skulls to look like movie aliens cannot hold that position. Sorry, you’re one of us.

    • Mike Duran August 5, 2017, 6:58 AM

      Ha! True about the skulls. I’d just never wear a wig.

  • Kat Heckenbach August 5, 2017, 6:40 AM

    “I’m not into cosplay.
    Not into Nerfwars.
    Not a huge techie.
    Don’t play video games.
    Have no side in the DC v. Marvel debate.
    Can’t seem to get into anime.
    Had to look up the word “grok” when it was used.”

    Other than me being fully on the Marvel side (except for Wonder Woman, and only for the movie franchise because I don’t read comics), and me cosplaying *only for Realm Makers*, I can totally relate to this part. I just have been going to cons for a while where I realized years ago there are different types of geek. My favorite local con has geeks from every spec-fic genre, as well as comic fans, anime/manga fans, gamers, and LARPers. We also do science panels and workshops taught by astronomers and ex-NASA employees and by a whole group of people with PhD’s in various disciplines. And we have panels for serious artists. Yes, I can sit and talk Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter for hours. But I walk around completely unaware of who many of the cosplayers are dressed as and only know what LARPing is from having gone for so long. I will never be a gamer. Anime and manga appeal to me zero percent. When the Nerf war is going on, you’ll find me hanging out in a quiet corner (or as happened at this last RM, packing up my art and books when the bookstore closed).

    Mike, you are totally a solid part of this geek world. Dude, you wear Cthulhu shirts to art events where you sell hand-painted skulls. You research some of the oddest stuff obsessively, and your office looks like it belongs to a vampire. You don’t have to fit every subcategory to belong. We may give you a hard time about not cosplaying, but it’s because you’re a good sport. And because we do see you as one of us. You. Are. A. Geek.

    • Gretchen August 5, 2017, 3:06 PM

      You research some of the oddest stuff obsessively, and your office looks like it belongs to a vampire
      Kat – there’s your money line! I’m totally LOLing
      I’ve had all the same thoughts and I hated spec fiction until I was about 30, so there’s that. But I know all kinds of random stuff that qualifies me as a geek. And there’s the socks thing and matter of my initials. That’s why my my tag line is “a different kind of GEKE”.

  • Kessie August 5, 2017, 6:49 AM

    Looking at the pictures, I didn’t recognize most costumes, beyond easy stuff like Doctor Who. I’m not super geeky, either. I’d probably sit in the back with you and debate whether there’s alien life out there.

  • Gray Rinehart August 5, 2017, 7:00 AM

    We all feel that little niggling sensation sometimes, that “I’m not sure I belong here” sensation, and sometimes it’s even true. And fandom is, despite its own politics and proclivities, pretty accepting. As I wrote in my song, “Dead Dog Party,”

    All my friends in fandom understand the things that I like
    And no matter what I am into, they don’t think I’m out of my mind

    Or, if they do, they’re polite enough to keep it to themselves most of the time.


  • Jebraun August 5, 2017, 8:04 AM

    I tick a lot of the same boxes. Though I did dress-up in steampunk for the banquet. And I joined the last hour of the nerf war. The thing is, Realmies seem to be a pretty accepting bunch (it was my first time there!), even if I couldn’t follow some of the intense discussions about HP (sorry, saw the movies but never read the books). Everyone’s unique brand of geekiness is appreciated! So you fit in just fine ?

  • Ronnell August 5, 2017, 8:13 AM

    Love your post. I’m with you, though I would’ve dress up for the banquet. I like what Jebraun just said, every level of geekiness is appreciated and supported.

  • Travis Perry August 5, 2017, 8:50 AM

    Well, Mike

    I love hard sci fi in a convention full of fantasy and space opera fans.
    I participate in cosplay, but don’t think I’m doing it quite right…
    I’ve been openly critical of the superhero movie genre in general, which is near-heresy in the RM circles.
    I find myself talking about things that do not seem to interest anybody and disinterested in what a lot of “geek” talk is about.
    I could put down more, but I just won’t.

    So you are not alone in feeling alone. FYI.

  • Andra M. August 5, 2017, 9:22 AM

    Like the other commenters before me, you’re not as alone or outcast as you think. Your list of differences is the same as mine. In fact, when I was thinking about attending this year’s RM, the gala part intimidated me. Having little interest in cosplay, I knew I would feel just as out of place.

  • Emilie Hendryx August 5, 2017, 9:25 AM

    I really appreciate this post. I would call myself a nerd (most notably a “booknerd” but that’s another story). I would also say that I love sci-fi and fantasy….but one persons love is another persons passion. I think, to create a truly genuine community of fellow “speckies”, we must understand that there are levels of “love” and that’s totally okay!

    I don’t subscribe to the idea that I have to know the answers to certain trivia questions or have seen every episode of some show in order to be considered in the “fandom” of that thing. I think that’s just another way that we can be divided as a group. Instead, I hope we can all celebrate the things we do enjoy (and agree to disagree on the things we don’t). At the heart of it, I would hope that even a remote interest in the “nerdy” things can constitue acceptance into the group. Not costumes required 😉

  • Donald S Crankshaw August 5, 2017, 9:28 AM

    I can relate some. I don’t do cosplay, or nerfwars, or any of that con stuff. But I don’t think that’s because I’m not geeky enough–I’m totally a tech-geek, computer gamer, role player, what-have-you. I think it’s just that I’m getting older. I’m not saying you have to stop that stuff when you reach your 40s–I know many don’t–but not having done that stuff in my 20s and 30s, I have no desire to start in my 40s. I’m just too old a dog to learn those types of tricks.

  • Tim George August 5, 2017, 9:42 AM

    There was a time I thought we were on opposite sides but I realize more and more than we are kindred souls.
    Maybe it’s my eclectic soul or sheer stubbornness, I just don’t get the geek wars over Marvel vs. DC and so forth. A young man I know (33 and single) dropped a much sought after date because she didn’t agree with his interpretation of the ending of The Matrix. “Dude,” I said, “you’re going to die a lonely and bitter old bachelor.”
    I’ll be 61 in September and I unabashedly enjoyed both Civil War and Batman vs. Superman. I think I can hold my own when debating the mythos that drives both story lines. But me in spandex is something I’ll spare by fellow writers from.

  • Tanara McCauley August 5, 2017, 2:33 PM

    This so resonates with me! I told someone before going that I was a little nervous because I’m a full-on nerd but not a geek. I didn’t dress up, but I couldn’t resist the Nerfwars. My son would never have forgiven me :-). I did love the conference, though, even as one of its strangers :-).

  • Ralene August 5, 2017, 4:50 PM

    You did see me call for the Assassins Creed couple (who were actually from Zelda, I guess) on stage in front of the whole conference, right? I think my geek card got revoked after that. LOL

    I totally get what you’re saying though. Although I do cosplay (at Realm Makers only), I often feel like a hack at RM because I can check off most of those boxes up there in your post as well.

    But I always enjoy seeing you just the same. You bring your own brand of geekiness, and that’s what being a geek is all about–being the unique you.

    • Mike Duran August 6, 2017, 6:55 AM

      LOL! That was YOU? Thanks, Ralene! Always enjoy seeing you too.

  • Rebekah Gyger August 6, 2017, 8:22 AM

    I totally understand! I feel the same way when I go. It seems like I’m just not geek enough for the other geeks! I love specfic and it is what I chose to read and watch, but I’m not quiet as obsessive over different fandoms as other people are. For geek clothing, I have one star wars shirt and then one Wonder Woman shirt that I still haven’t worn yet. And while I love reading and watching these things, I much prefer talking about cultures and the way myth and story affect people’s views. And while I think that I could get into cosplay, I just don’t have the money for it. And all of this adds up to my not taking part in a lot of conversations because I know that my knowledge of geek culture is limited compared to everyone else’s and I am likely to get called out by someone for getting something wrong (or else I just have no idea what anyone is talking about because I’m not in the fandom).

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller August 6, 2017, 11:12 AM

    I so identify, Mike. I’m even one who has advocated that writing fantasy is not for geeks, that good writing should be for everyone. C. S. Lewis would not have identified as a geek, just as he didn’t identify as a children’s book writer. He was writing a good story, and that’s what I aspire to. So I feel like a fish out of water in groups that identify as geeks. I don’t and have wondered if I do indeed belong.


  • Keturah August 6, 2017, 4:13 PM

    While half of my best friends are geeks or nerds, I am not! I loved the conference. But I admit not always feeling like I fit it ? I’m weird – just a different sort of weird. Loved the conference and the people, but still feel not a geek ?

  • Jay DiNitto August 7, 2017, 3:04 AM

    Since we’re trying one up each other here…I may have you beat, Mike. I don’t go/care about cons, nor about getting a publishing deal or about writing groups or book clubs. I like some anime and my day job is tech oriented. But who cares? Some of us will always live a little but outside the city gates.

  • Phyllis Wheeler August 7, 2017, 1:56 PM

    “Geek” has become such a divisive word. Am I geeky enough? Are you? I remember when it was a derisive word for the less social guys with pocket protectors and glasses with heavy black rims.

    I think we should focus on what we have in common. Much more fun.

  • Randy Streu August 17, 2017, 10:23 AM

    The only time I’ve ever done any sort of cosplay (other than Halloween) was a couple years ago when I told everyone I was Jayne from Firefly. But really, I was just wearing what I already had on, and didn’t feel like grabbing a polo shirt.

    It’s good to remind folks — especially passionate geeks like us — what it is that unites us. We have a lot more in common than the outward displays would suggest.

    I’m reminded of a song by Crashdog, called ?School. It was about the punk scene, but very much fits here.


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