Finding your spirit geek

Last week on Twitter it was suggested that the reason I had such a fascination with bees was that they were my totem animal. While I maintain that my fascination has more to do with their role in the ecosystem and its impending collapse, the suggestion helped me to finally find a good name for an idea I’ve had for quite some time: the spirit geek.

The spirit geek sits at the top of your influence pyramid. They are the discovery that leads to all of the other discoveries. They inspire you to learn more about a subject, be it a fictional world, a technique for creating software, or anything you might geek out about. They might be a fictional character, a writer or journalist, a historical figure, or your mom or dad.

Whoever they are, the spirit geek is the one person, and I think there can be only one at a time, who most inspires you to seek whatever it is that you seek.

My spirit geek is Michael Chabon, though Joe Hill is ever closer to supplanting him. His essays, more than his fiction, are what puts him at the top for me. I love his novels, but it was his book MAPS AND LEGENDS that clarified for me how empty the distinction was between genre and so-called literary fiction. It’s also full of references to writers and artists who influenced him. I’ve gone on to read some of those writers, who led me to other writers, who led me here.

So, who is your spirit geek? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter. Who knows, some of us might even find a new spirit geek to follow.

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The Garlicks

I have a little guilt about not giving this campaign more attention sooner. I was aware that Neil Gaiman had already mentioned the campaign to his mighty following. What possible added impact could I have? I would guess that 100% of you lot already follow him, and it seemed like I’d just be parroting him, and what’s the point in that? Still, I wish I’d written this post last week, before there were only double-digit hours to go. I was trying to avoid being a brain-dead retweet-machine, and because Neil had mentioned this campaign already, I didn’t give this one enough of a look. Now, I feel it’s no better for me to fail to talk about a project because others already are, than it is to support a project for the same reason.

The Garlicks is a graphic novel about a vampire girl, to be published as a webcomic at http://thegarlicks.net. The artist and writer, Lea Hernandez, is an industry veteran, and the comic is a creator-owned property. The campaign and chosen subject matter call to mind a delicious stew of timely trends: kid-lit/YA, creator-owned webcomics, vampires, and the sadly common questions about whether “women read comics” (they do).

But all that industry claptrap aside, the pilot of the book, as available via the Kickstarter, is charming, funny and well-written and drawn. The campaign is ambitious, and intended to allow Lea a full year to concentrate on the book. It’s a book that, if it’s given the chance to see the light of day, seems likely to be a great read and a lot of fun. I’m not sure why the campaign is stalling. With 60 plus hours to go it’s about 30% funded.

I’m talking about it here because I think the book should exist. I’m glad that Lea is out there still talking about it and not giving up. A big part of why I’m doing this is to try to draw attention to creators that I think are worthy of support, and art that should get to be made. For that reason, I hope you’ll take a look at The Garlicks, and consider if you agree with me. And with Neil.

Being geek

Over the weekend on Twitter, I asked what people thought it meant to be a geek. I decided to ask after sending out a link to crime writer Christa Faust’s (possibly NSFW) current campaign, when it occurred to me that crime fiction might not be considered geeky. I get excited about it, so it’s geeky to me, but I wanted to know what a bunch of other self-proclaimed geeks might think.

The responses I heard were interesting. Here’s a paraphrased sample: geeks are creators; are passionate, loving enthusiasts and not just fans; want to pursue knowledge beyond what’s just needed for normal application; are odd or non-mainstream people; willing to show unfashionable enthusiasm. You’re a geek if you get excited about something, regardless of what that might be. You’re a geek if you take joy in knowledge. Genre is irrelevant.

Two aspects jump out at me from these responses: knowledge and love. It’s incredibly easy to state a shallow definition of a geek; you like computers, or fantasy/sf, or comics, or RPG, and those interests are what make you a geek. But we who self-identify as geeks think the specific interests are less relevant than the depth of interest. We think the level of enthusiasm and study or even scholarship is what makes us geeks.

This isn’t exactly new ground. Michael Chabon covered it in his essay, The Amateur Family. (Sidebar: I have an abiding love for Chabon’s writing, and you may get sick of me talking about him if you’re here a lot.) The word he uses instead of geek is amateur, which I have no quarrel with aside from it making a lousy and opaque and possibly risque handle: @amateurstarter.

Knowledge and love. If you ask me, self-assigning to a group of people who believe that joy in knowledge and love are among their defining characteristics is a pretty great place to be.

Here’s a few quick links to currently running projects that sound cool:

Clang, a gaming project to build realistic swordfighting: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/260688528/clang?ref=live (h/t @elquesogrande1)

The Garlicks, a graphic novel about a family of vampires: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/divalea/the-garlicks-pandora-orange-fail-vampire (h/t @EscapePodComics)

Ace Detective: a storytelling card game set in the 1940s noir era: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1545517208/ace-detective-storytelling-game-featuring-black-ma (h/t @eFridayPfender)

Thanks to all who responded with their thoughts on geekery: @syntheticbrain, @eFridayPfender, @NotTimothy, @FryingSkyline, @PatrickStedem, @jemaleddin, @berkbig, @1000mortsDotCom, @derrangedferret, @nerderypublic, @BlessedStSean.