August 10, 2012

How To Feed and Care For a New Geek

Sometime in the past year or so a thing happened that I've been waiting and hoping for: my little sister asked me about Battlestar Galactica. You see, she's not nerdy by nature. We watched some of the series when she visited a while ago, and she liked it but I don't think she was ready to commit to the show or the possible "g" word that accompanied it. I didn't pressure, just rambled on a bit about Starbuck and Apollo and the quest to find Earth. I think the episode of Portlandia that explored BSG obsession might have been the tipping point that pulled her back.

Soon, she asked about Doctor Who. Then during a visit, she watched Star Wars with me for the first time. We watched A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. She approved. She saw The Avengers of her own accord. We lived in the same city briefly, and I showed her season one of Game of Thrones and she asked to borrow the book.

Then, a couple of days ago, do you know what I saw her like on Facebook? An article about Joss Whedon directing Avengers 2. I squealed. It's just so much fun to see her excited about stuff that's traditionally been in my world. And then, she followed it up with magic. She started watching Firefly and has been inhaling the series at a pace that would make any Browncoat proud. She's texting me stuff like "Kaylee is so adorable" and tweeting quotes. My geek heart is swelling with happiness. She figured out on her own that these shows and movies have potential - and I just helped her along with my enthusiasm (I have that in spades).

And I think that's the best way to foster curiosity for geeky interests.

Be helpful.

  • Do suggest things you think someone would like based on what you know about their interests.
  • Do mention things you love and why you love them without pushing. We know how awesome Blade Runner is, but people who don't aren't sold by you bringing it up every time you talk with them. They'll eventually feel guilty because they haven't watched it yet and stop talking to you.
  • Do answer questions but don't be a know it all. Someone asking about the Death Star doesn't need to know about how the Battle of Yavin serves as a point in time in the Star Wars universe against which other events are measured. It's a fine line, and let me tell you - flooding people with too much information just because you know it can scare them off.
  • Let new geeks digest stuff. Don't make them feel bad because they didn't watch all of a series in a day. Don't barrage them with tons of questions about what they liked until they've had time to process it. In short, don't freak them the frak out with your intensity.

Be open. 

  • Realize that not everyone is going to love the same series or books as you and even if they do, they might not love them in the same way. When that happens with a new geek, don't immediately react with "Are you crazy? This/that is the best thing ever!" Create an environment where people can tell you what they like and dislike without judgment. It will just help you figure out new recommendations.
  • Show new geeks that it's an open club which welcomes new members and let them know that you don't have to know all the trivia or all the facets of everything or have been a fan for decades to be a geek. Tell them they don't need to do anything to "earn" the title other than being passionate, and if they run across anyone who tells them otherwise, they should run the other way.
Mostly: don't be condescending.

I came to a couple of my greatest geek loves late in the game. I didn't see Star Wars for the first time until it was re-released in the theaters. I was around 16. And yeah, that means I call it Episode IV: A New Hope and that I've seen the special editions more than I've seen the original versions. Some folks tease me about that. Now? I can roll with it (it still occasionally annoys me). However, if I would have heard those remarks in a condescending tone while I was new to the movies? I would have walked away, too worried about being judged and not fitting in.

Lord of the Rings is another example. I didn't pick up the books until I saw Fellowship at the theater. There was no one around to really guide me along the path. I mean, I saw that trilogy and Star Wars with friends who liked the universes but not so much that any of them sat me down to tell me about The Hobbit or Silmarillion or how I needed to see the original trilogy as it was first shown - so I stumbled along. It was okay, but boy, if I would have had Twitter during that time... Seeing people share their excitement about stuff like Doctor Who and comics opened so many corners of geekdom to me - all because people followed the general guidelines above. I try to pay it forward as much as I can, and so should you.

Feel free to share more helpful tips on how to properly care for new geeks in the comments!


  1. 3 simple rules for feeding and caring of new geeks.

    -Never feed them after midnight.
    -Don't expose them to bright light, especially sunlight. It'll kill them.
    -And never, ever get them wet.

  2. I think this is a great post! I dislike a lot of the "gate keeping" that can go on in the geek culture. Congrats on raising your little sister well. Haha, as the "little sister" in this tale, I do have some contributions!

    My contribution to Rule Suggestions:
    -Don't get upset if they decide to obsess over 1 thing and read/watch it over and over again for like, half a year, and consequently don't get around to seeing/reading pretty much anything else. Basically, understand that there's a LOT of info out there on geeky stuff, and sometimes Lord of the Rings is all you want to focus on!

    -Introduce them to other nerdy people.

    -Offering fast food to accompany watching something is always a good bribe.

    1. Step one is so very important, thanks for mentioning it!

  3. Very good article :)I also didnt read Lord of the rings until the movies came out - same thing with Harry Potter - Sometimes it takes a push to get you into something...specially since the geek world is so very vast!

    1. I know! I dislike when people give me a hard time about not having yet watched the one thing they love - there's way too much to get to!

  4. Hee! It makes me so happy to hear of geek converts. Especially to Firefly.

    I guess I'd add 'don't be too enthusiastic' since that is almost always something I end up doing, and I'm not sure that it convinces people. Good, clear reasoning (like you mentioned) works a lot better than wild blatherings. "JOSS WHEDON OH MY GOSH AND DOLLHOUSE TOO OH YEAH HE DID AVENGERS"

    Awesome post. :D

    1. I am sometimes (often) guilty of being too enthusiastic. ;)

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