We hear the word ‘Geek’ tossed around casually and pejoratively, but Geeks consider themselves as part of a grand tradition dating back to those Ur Geeks who thought of melting rocks to form metal tools, dreamed of sewer systems to make cities livable, and devoted their energies to figuring out how exactly man could fly. Da Vinci was a Geek, The Wright Brothers, yup Geeks, Mendel with his pea plants–the list goes on. Each had the ultimate Geek qualities—absolute devotion to matters deemed too arcane for the more popular heroes, perseverance, and the ability to look beyond the obvious into the strange to find the next big thing. Geeks do this knowing the social cost of being an outsider by choice but they persevere for that tingling of excitement when something really ‘cool’ happens.
Geeks have developed their own sense of community and style. Geek culture is in the popular mindset today at a level that matches the last great golden age of the geek—the Space Race. The tools have changed (more powerful and much smaller), the jargon has changed (more cyberpunk than trigonometric) but a lot of what was cool then remains just as influential today—just a bit broader.
You know if you are a Geek. There comes a point in every young Geek’s life when you realize that perhaps we care a bit too much. It can be comic books, baseball stats, skeins of yarn, Italian cinema or the electronics that surround you—but we are obsessed and more importantly we proudly wear our obsessions out in the open. We don’t hide our passion out of the fear of being ostracized by the non-Geek society (but we might keep it low-key when first meeting someone).
A Geek doesn’t care that others might find our dedication strange or a waste of time. In some ways, being outside of the mainstream is attractive to Geeks. We Geeks feel more comfortable on the side stage, in the back of the room or in our own communities.
Geeks often have wide-ranging interests. If you geek out over sci-fi movies, it wouldn’t be that unusual that you would also have strong opinions on the differences between computer operating systems, or the proper way to grill. Geeks often enjoy discovering new things to obsess over. Of course, when pursuing this desire to find shiny, new topics Geeks can get close to hipsterdom; but just as we approach ‘coolness’ inevitably a nerd snort will erupt and we are back to our proper Geek roots.
In this series, we will survey many of the topics of Geek obsessions, the unifying identifiers, the subcultures, the essential tools, and the heroes. We know that these lists will be far from complete and will generate a few nerd fights about how X was included and Y wasn’t. Our message to our beloved Geek comrades is that imagine that our lists are just a starting point, that they can expand out into non-whole, negative or even imaginary numbers. That way, your favorite Geek film may not be on our list but it can be number 4.255 or ≈√5.