Geek Girls Rule! #69 – What Made You Geek?

So, on Livejournal there’s been a meme going around having people list the albums that most influenced them in their lives.  And since I’m a mix of obsessive, frequently bored at work and just plain in love with the sound of my own “voice” I’ve expanded on it to include why those albums impacted me like they did.  Also, it stems from a conversation a bunch of us had after Mr. Geek Girl What Rules’ regular Saturday game broke up, where we expounded on why another album by that artist might be a better album, but that the one we listed was the one that had most impacted us. 

But it got me thinking back to those things that had most influenced me in my geekiness as well.  I mean, music definitely influenced the expression of my sexuality, but not so much the geekness of me.  So, I decided to start my own meme here:  What made you geek?

I can definitely point to several influences on my overwhelming Geekness that stem from my childhood. 

The episode of Starsky and Hutch where a dance instructor thinks he’s a vampire.  Shut up.  It scared the crap out of me as a child, but it entranced me, too.  It gave me nightmares for weeks, but at the same time, I didn’t want those nightmares to end.  This show began my lifelong love of vampire literature.

Firesign Theater.  My father loved Firesign Theater.  We would turn out all the lights, light candles and lay on the living room floor and listen to the Firesign Theater albums, while my dad explained to me what was funny and subversive in the jokes and why they mattered.  I was five when I first remember doing this.  “Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him” and “In the Next World You’re on Your Own” are two I definitely remember, and possibly “How Can You Be In Two Places At Once, When You’re Not Anywhere at All.”  Actually, I remember that last one for sure and my Dad explaining the joke on the cover.  Google it.  This began my love of subversive comedy.

Monty Python.  Need I say more.  We used to be allowed to stay up past our bedtimes to sit and watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus with my Dad.  And when we got our first VCR “Life of Brian” was one of the first films we rented.  And yes, like most Geeks my age I can recite The Holy Grail.  My father firmly states that Life of Brian is the vastly superior film.  He also loves Brazil so what can you do?

The Colour out of Space and other stories.  This was a short story collection my Dad had, that had found its way into my bookshelf when I was very young.  I was probably 8 or 9 when I read it the first time.  I still have it somewhere.  This was my first exposure to Lovecraft, Asimov and many other authors.  The original “Nightfall” by Asimov was in this one, and scared the crap out of me.

Star Wars.  I saw Star Wars in the theater.  I was six.  One of the hockey teams my Dad was coaching won the playoffs, so he and the team sponsor, took everyone to the theater for the movie.  I wanted to be Princess Leia sooooooo bad.  She was strong and funny and sarcastic.  I had a Princess Leia doll, the 18 inch one.  Unlike Barbie she had feet that looked like feet and could stand on her own.  I loved that doll.  I dressed up as Princess Leia on the next Halloween. 

Sherlock Holmes.  My Dad read me Sherlock Holmes the way other people’s parents read them Clifford the Big Red Dog or the Sweet Pickles books.  Every night my Dad read me at least one chapter of each novel, and we worked our way through them entirely.  We had 221B Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes game and played it until we’d solved everything and could solve them by rote.  When I was a small nerdy child, my best friend Brent and I played Sherlock Holmes, he got to be Watson.  Granted, I totally didn’t get the opium references at that point.  But hey…

Alfred Hitchcock.  By the age of 8 I was a HUGE Alfred Hitchcock fan.  I’d seen The Birds and Vertigo.  I watched Alfred Hitchcock presents every week.  One time, because we didn’t like the way AHP ended one week, my partner in crime Brent and I captured a bug, an ant I believe, named it Alfred Hitchcock and buried it alive.   Oh yes, I was broken from a very young age.  Granted, we were immediately overcome with guilt about hurting the ant, and tried to rescue it, which if it hadn’t already gotten away, probably crushed it.  What?  We were 7. 

Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.  My folks gave me a copy one of them had from college when I was in 3rd grade, after I’d tested out at a college reading level.  I read it cover to cover.  I inhaled it.  I also read the vastly inferior Bullfinch’s Mythology, but Edith Hamilton remains my gold standard.  I really need a good copy of it.  I was in a weekly class for the “academically talented” and I did so many presentations on myth and folklore.  I taught a mythology unit to my fourth grade class.  I still love mythology, and have loads of books on every mythology I can get my hands on.  I use this knowledge heavily and frequently while GM-ing.

Encyclopedia Brown.  Here we have the ultimate geek.  Encyclopedia Brown, the super smart kid who is fast on his feet,smarter than the adults and knows karate or something so he doesn’t get beat up.  And he’s nice to girls.  I still have most of my old Encyclopedia Brown books.  You read it, gathering the same clues Encyclopedia had, and when you thought you’d solved it, you turned to the back of the book to see if you were right.  This and Sherlock Holmes started my lifelong love affair with mysteries. 

Mrs. Stubblefield reading my 6th Grade class The Hobbit.  Not the book itself, but my teacher Mrs. Stubblefield reading it to us.  She read us a chapter or two a day if we’d behaved ourselves in class, and wow, that worked.  I swear she had the most well-behaved 6th graders in that school.  Even the jocky “reading’s for nerds” guys wanted to hear the next chapter.  She did voices and made us look up words that no one could define for her.  It was pure brilliance.  And between that and her collection of first edition Oz books, she furthered my nascent love of Fantasy.

Sharon Jackson and LEAP.  I can’t remember what the acronym stands for anymore, but this is that class for the “academically talented” I mentioned earlier.  Once a week they bussed the kids that were smart to the point that our regular teachers just didn’t know what to do with us off to another school for a day of advanced lessons, like chemistry, mythology, learning how to research, biology, experiments taught by Mrs. Jackson. 
We did the construct a case around an egg and drop it from the second storey experiment.  That experiment and many others I would come back and wind up teaching to my fourth grade class.  I spent fourth grade basically as a teaching assistant.  If it weren’t for LEAP the whole year would have pretty much been a wash for me.  I taught lessons, I graded papers, I ran the mimeograph machine and lost Gods only know how many braincells to that thing.  And I was bored out of my ever loving mind.  LEAP gave me something to do with myself while I was saddled with a teacher who just didn’t know what to do with me.  We always had homework from LEAP, and that year I asked for extra because I just didn’t have anything to DO in my regular class. 
Mrs. Jackson was something else, too.  It must have been amazingly hard to teach as many subjects as she did, negotiate as many field trips to cool places and do it with four or five separate groups of kids from different schools, who were all temperamental know-it-alls, all used to being the smartest kid in the room.  She was nothing short of amazing. 

Richie Rich comics.  My Dad loved Richie Rich.  Back when I was collecting them they were only about 20 cents an issue.  Aaaaah, youth…  Anyway, Richie Rich began my love affair with comics.  From Richie Rich I branched out into Archie (up until the point the rights were bought by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I think), Sad Sack, Tales from the Crypt, the Silver Surfer, and on.  But it all began with Richie Rich. 

My Dad.  My Father is a great big kid, and using me and my sister as his excuse to get a lot of the things he loved that were deemed childish, he fostered in us a love of those things as well.  My Dad is also a tremendous Sci Fi geek, loves Star Trek, Star Wars and Babylon 5.  I bought him a Bab5 script signed by Straczynski for Father’s Day one year, and he couldn’t wait to take it to work to show it off.  Granted, my Mom did a fair amount of supporting his childishness as well.  He always gets a trainset for Christmas.  If he ever gets around to setting all his trains up like he keeps threatening to do, he’s going to need a polebarn.  And Legos.  Dad is a Legomaniac. 

So those are the things that influenced my brand of geekiness.  Tell me yours.  What got you started?  What in your childhood bent you this way?  Why do you love what you love?

I’m looking forward to hearing your answers.  I really am.

3 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #69 – What Made You Geek?

  1. That’s an interesting train of thoughts that you started here. I’m struggling with the memories and how to organize them. I guess I’ll sort them by themes.

    Music : it’s always been an important part of my life. It started with my father’s collection of records. Sure I had my own records as a kid, but a big influence was my dad’s LPs. For instance there was the Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. Mind you I’m really not big on this band in general. But the synthesizers in this LP sawed the seed of a love for electronic music in general. As a teenager I went through different periods where my understanding of music would expand by contacts with friends and magazines. It started with Kim Wilde and her electropop. And there was this amazing Star Trek (first movie) sound track that is huge in my love for scifi too. I played with my spaceships for hours on this music. Later Depeche Mode was my entrance to “new wave” which evolved toward more hermetic forms of music like Goth, Punk or Death Metal. When I say Goth, I mean the genre from the 80s with bands like Christian Death, Fields of the Nephilim, Alien Sex Fiend, Sisters of Mercy… I remember cheating to enter night clubs at 16. It’s probably not very geeky at first sight but Geekitude and underground/subculture movements really overlap in my experience. In my twenties I encountered the free party movement, with its plethora of beats, crazy sounds, psychedelism, DIY stolen from the Punk, revolt against governmental control and disdain for copyrights. I could still listen to most music I used to love and find it some redeeming qualities. But the evolution is still going on, I’m still discovering new genres that get me pumped up. If it ever ends I’ll be scared, very scared. Like I get calcified or sth.

    Fantasy/Scifi/Imagination : I think my mom started it by reading books about Greek Mythology. Blessed she who avoided stupid little red hood stories and went straight for the hardcore weirdness of the Pantheon. It’s almost crazy in a way to choose those books : they’re full of immoral, violent, transgressive ideas. I love that she chose this material to cultivate my imagination. Obviously other books, movies contributed a lot after that, but that was the starting point. My first D&D box was something I found in a catalog on my own so I can really say that I’m a self made gamer in a way.

    Science : Again my mother is instrumental in this, with a little help from my godfather too. They stimulated my attraction for knowledge and difficult abstract concepts. For instance my mother bought me a personal computer (ZX81) when nobody knew they even existed. My dad is more of the artist intuitive type. His influence didn’t appear clearly to me (though is not negligible) but it’s a very different realm. He brought a very balanced nuanced approach to life that touched more esoteric/soft science aspects like religion, psychology, Asian philosophies. I’m still in the process of absorbing these contradictory influences. My dad gave me the mental attitude to accept (sometimes) the very ambivalent nature of human beliefs and certitude for instance.

    I could multiply the influences and roots of my geekism but I think the main traits are here. Oh and thanks for sharing Geek Girls Rule 🙂

  2. I had college-level reading skills when I was still in grade school. I grew up reading Grimm’s faerie tales, Greek mythology, and anything else I could get my hands on. I was always reading. Always. Sometimes instead of doing schoolwork. I was put in special education early-on. We were all outcasts and rejects, but we still had each other, disablities and all.

    I met plenty of immigrants from all over the world at my parents’ work, which led to my life-long love with foreign food, and a willingness to talk to anyone and everyone. I listened to everything from classical to mariachi and Spanish music, though my tastes now run to alternative rock. I lived in Mexico, and learned a fair bit of Spanish, and traveled all over. Then I found roleplaying games. I found a troupe and joined a game, and that was that. 🙂

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