You’ve never watched the complete 726 episodes of the 30 seasons of the 5 Star Trek series? You’ve never read Tolkien and you are unable to recite in original Elvish language the inscription adorning the One Ring? You have not considered the relationship between Batman and the Joker as the most complete illustration of Nietzsche’s theory of the will to power? You never took a peek at a cat passing by you watching a bug in the Matrix? Finally, the number 42 does not make you smile each time you encounter it?
Then rest assured, there is every chance that you are not a geek!
However, this term may be for you a familiar tone, for the media have seized it in recent years. In fact, the whole world has seized it, giving rise to a true “geek phenomenon.” You just have to consider the number of recent movies in theaters that are adaptations of comics, science-fiction or fantasy books: the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars, Matrix, and of course the countless movies inspired by American comics: the Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan, Superman Returns, Spiderman, X-Men, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Iron Man, Hulk, Fantastic Four’s, Kick Ass…
To the point that some sociologists devote entire theses to this phenomenon and that some even say that the world is becoming geek.
So you’ve been warned: to geek or not to geek, that is the question…
Meet the geek
Science without fiction is only but the ruin of the soul.
Daniel de Roulet.
But what is a geek, will you ask? Historically, the emergence of the geek mave stems directly from fictional genres based on the imagination, especially science fiction and fantasy. In the literary field, the founding authors of this movement in the 50s and 60s are Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Jack Vance, Michael Moorcock and JRR Tolkien, to name a few.
The audience of these writers consist in scientists (or people interested in science), but also all kinds of marginal. Philip K. Dick said that what characterizes his readers is that they all had, to one degree or another, an inability to accept the world as it is and that what they sought in science fiction was an opening into other possible worlds.
Subsequently, this emerging culture has been enriched by a number of references made by television series such as Star Trek and Star Wars movies. These two worlds have, each in their own way, contributed to the rise to the values underlying the geek culture.
In the late 70s and early 80s, new means allow geeks to indulge their passion for fantasy: first, the emergence of video games, which allow immersion in fictional worlds; then role play, which are based almost entirely on pure storytelling.
However, it is only with the Internet that the Geeks found their tool to (live long) and prosper, for the Internet , like their imagination, has no boundaries.
Although this is a complex and multifaceted movement, we can already, through this short history, making a first sketch of the geeks: they live an intense and passionate relationship with imagination, that they decline through a number of activities such as books, movies, video games, role-playing and strategy games. Sometimes they are scientists and sound computer users.
Socially, geeks tend to have a relatively closed social circle. Indeed, a unique feature of the geek culture is that it is highly self-referential, and used by geeks themselves as a underlying recognition system.
A galaxy of imagination
The books I write because I want to read them, the games because I want to play them, and stories I tell because I find them exciting personally.
But these historical and sociological considerations are ultimately unimportant considering the real issues of the geek phenomenon. And these issues, to my opinion, are essentially philosophical.
If you look at the geek culture as a whole, you will be dealing with thousands of fictional universes, which sometimes have a stunning degree of consistency (Tolkien, for instance, wanted the world of Middle-earth to be as realistic as possible, and developed not only a comprehensive physical map, but also a true language with its own vocabulary and grammatical structures).
These worlds relate to each other in an overall frame that has its own coherence, existing as a true galaxy of the imagination. And since a few years, this galaxy has spread everywhere in the real World through a plurality of media: Star Trek, for example represents today not only 728 television episodes and 12 movies, but more than twenty video games, hundreds of books, comics, etc.
You may say that all this is nothing so new: in the 19th century, the crowd was passionate about the Mysteries of Paris written by Eugune Sue, who have since then been declined worldwide time and again.
But another notable feature of geek culture is that it does not fit into a standard pattern or consumer society. It is remarkable that geeks have an active relationship with the world of fiction, which goes far beyond mere entertainment.
The father of the role-play, Gary Gygax was a typical geek (he is the inventor of the popular game Dungeons & Dragons, which derived much of games like World of Warcraft, Diablo or Guild Wars, gathering dozens of millions of players across the planet). It’s the same for Stan Lee, who is the creator of most legendary superheroes like Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, etc. The first video game designers were also passionate geeks, who were looking for ways to create more interaction with the world they loved.
Finally, the Internet would probably never became what it is today without the geeks. You may love or hate Bill Gates, but it is significant that he decide to show a roleplaying board on his office for his farewell video showing his last day at the office. What geeks have proven to the world is that imagination can shape reality. They have made the World more open and more fluid. But this is only the beginning, and who knows what new marvels they will invent in the future?