Why We Love Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Part 2

A few weeks ago, I started this post series about the attraction of science fiction and fantasy in popular culture.  The first reason I addressed was the ability for science fiction and fantasy to be all-encompassing; they are easily able to address multiple issues within a single piece of work, hence they are able to reach a broader audience with a wide range of interests.  You can read all of Part 1 here if you missed it.

Many of you left comments on Part 1 when I asked you why you thought science fiction and fantasy were so adored, even by those who don't necessarily call themselves geeks or nerds.  Today, for my 10th post of this blog, I'd like to discuss another reason found in many of these comments: escapism.

From http://pitchersandpoets.com/2009/09/01/watching-the-hero-walk-alone-together-ritual-community-power-and-baseball/
'Nuff said.
To be honest, I do not plan to discuss the escapist nature of science fiction and fantasy in great length.  There are hundreds of books, essays, and articles written on this topic, many of which you can just google.  Of course, I'd highly recommend J.R.R. Tolkien's "On Fairy Stories" and C.S. Lewis's "On Science Fiction," which both succinctly yet accurately address escapism in these two genres.  I firmly believe their ideas on this topic are still valid today, no matter how old-fashioned some of their other ones may be.

Essentially, what you need to know about the escapist nature of science fiction and fantasy is this: some people think these books are no more than scribbles on pages to help divert your attention from real-world issues, and other people think these books are helpful specifically because they show you the real world from a new perspective.  My thoughts?  The latter couldn't be more correct.

Sure, there are many of us who do take guilty pleasure in picking up a less-than-Pulitzer-Prize-winning romantic fantasy romp just for the fun of it.  There are also those of us who felt like we could live "normal" lives only within the science fiction worlds we discovered.  However, many of us recognize the implicit nature of science fiction and fantasy to take us outside of ourselves, outside of our limited viewpoints, to illuminate the issues, hypocrisies, and ideas in the world around us that we are not otherwise aware of or may not otherwise have been open to hearing.  Because of this, we are terrified at the concept of an Orwellian-inspired government that uses Newspeak to convince its citizens of its ideas regardless of morality (or are we there already?).  We cheer for Sam and Optimus Prime in their fight to save humanity, because they have shown us that we humans have immeasurable value.  We also ache to see the love and acceptance Harry finds with Ron and Hermoine radiated into our suffering, spiteful Muggle world.  This is why escapism is not just a quick little vacation for our minds; if anything, escapism engages our minds to think even more deeply about our everyday routines, and how the larger forces at work behind those routines may ultimately be driving us towards a life of slavery or a life of freedom.

As these genres start to become more popular and therefore more widely accepted (and more often than not, their fans seen as intuitive instead of "geeky"), people formerly opposed to science fiction and fantasy on the grounds of unreal escapism seem to be questioning their assumptions.  Maybe these "escapist" books really do hold more value than previously suspected.   Maybe there's a real-life, applicable reason four out of the five top-grossing films of all time are science fiction or fantasy.

Maybe science fiction and fantasy can help us escape and then come back to change the world.


Celebrate Geek Pride Day!

In honor of it being Geek Pride Day (or rather, in honor of it having been Geek Pride Day, since it's almost over where I live), I decided to finally post a picture of my newest geek apparel procurement:

We love ya, Kermit.

Yes, that is me, and no, I didn't feel like showing my face because I hated my hair at the moment.  Focus on the shirt, people.  It's awesome.  I like it a lot better than this Kermit getup:

Um... what?

I've yet to wear my new shirt to work but I'm hoping that when I do, I get some good feedback that I can post here (unlike Lady Gaga's outfit, I'm sure)!  If you want your own "Geek is Chic" Kermit shirt, you can purchase it on Amazon, though I found mine at Macy's for only $9 on sale.  *does a Dutch High Dance, hereafter known as a DHD*


Wonder Woman: Bonnie Burton

If any of you geeks out there are at all involved in the deeper levels of Star Wars fandom, then you may know that Bonnie Burton was one of its key components as she was their social media coordinator and blogger for the Official Star Wars blog.  I'm sure many of you shared in my disappointment when you saw Bonnie announce on May 7 on her Twitter account that she was laid off by Lucasfilm after 9 years of employment there.

Seriously, were the Lucasfilm execs under a Sith mind trick while making that decision?

Love the hair.  
Bonnie Burton was one of my role models.  When I first started digging into the Star Wars franchise, I discovered that Miss Burton played a central role, and I immediately tagged her as a role model.  There was a woman holding a real job in the Star Wars company?  What more could an aspiring, geeky female writer want?  (Yes, I realize there are other women involved in the Star Wars franchise, but in case you forgot who I'm writing about in this post, please reference the post title.)

I should clarify.  Just because she no longer works at Lucasfilm does not mean she's not one of my role models anymore: Bonnie Burton is one of my role models.  I can't see that position of hers ever being lost in my book of Wonder Women, no matter what the circumstance.  Therefore, to celebrate her positive influence on the world of geekdom and in my life, I've assigned characteristics to every letter of her first name to explain what I think about Bonnie.  Call it junior high-ish; I can take it.

B - beautiful.  Bonnie wrote about the influence that Betty Page had on her life on her website, and this "inspired [her] to do [her] own thing and not care what others thought."  To me, Bonnie has a firm grasp on what it means to be a beautiful woman.
O - original.  Bonnie always comes up with unique content that I can't help adore, like her new co-authored book Weight Hacking: A How-To Guide for Geeks Who Want to Lose Weight and Get Fit.  And she was the first person to marry R2-D2 (no joke).  Beat that.
N - nice.  My co-worker and I always argue that the word nice is an empty word, something that people throw around carelessly when they don't really know what to say.  I beg to differ here.  Every time I interact with Bonnie on Twitter, she is polite, respectful, and flat-out a nice lady.
Caution: herbs on board.
N - nifty.  Bonnie is notorious (hey, look, another n-word!) for her Star Wars crafts; she can make pretty much anything around the house into something related to that beloved film series.  I mean, who doesn't want their herbs planted in an AT-AT?
I - inspirational.  Self-explanatory.
E - encouraging.  Many times I notice that Bonnie's tweets are complimentary, supportive, and benign towards those she interacts with; I'm not sure I've once noticed her purposefully say anything rude or hateful, and that's a rare gem in the wide, untamed wilderness that is known as the Internet.

I know I'm just another fan and another geek among millions, especially since the dawning of this recent online nerd revolution.  However, I hope that this little tribute has not fallen on deaf ears.  To those of you who feel the same way about Bonnie's inspiration, please, learn something from her example and make the geek world a better place for all of us.


My Geeked Up Life: Andre Norton

Quick update: I have started reading Daybreak: 2250 A.D. based on a recommendation from my co-worker.  He was the first one to make this suggestion when I told him about my idea for this blog and for having my readers make me geekier, so I must pay homage.

I will post my review of the book when I'm done!  If you've read this book before or anything else by Andre Norton, do you like the book/author?


Obsess Much?

Why, yes, I am trying to save the universe.
No matter how hard we try, many of us will never be able to forget our “firsts” – our first crush, our first day of school, our first crush, our first pet, etc.  And that is just in the childhood years.  There’s also our first dates, our first loves, our first house, our first kid.  Subaru’s current ad campaign is even about sharing the story of your first car.  How many of us remember our first gaming obsessions?

In high school in the '90s, I became a favorite among the guys as soon as I showed a propensity for Halo: Combat Evolved.  I had already played SNES when I was younger, and had owned a Nintendo 64 in junior high, but I had consistently played Mario Kart or Star Wars: Rogue Squadron more than anything else.  I rarely delved into FPSs (besides GoldenEye 007, which was wickedly fun in its own right but probably now wishes it could be Halo or Call of Duty).

However, Halo addicts all know that you just need a chance for a first play, and after that you must satiate your desire with continual fixes.  As it happens, I got my first play at a friend's house and went home depressed that I could not continue shooting Grunts and marveling at this odd, new ringworld.  After a few months' of life without Halo, I realized there was only one way to fill the void: I bought myself an XBox solely so I could play the game.  Now I'm not saying I wasn't obsessed with my N64 games; at the time, I thought I was.  Then Master Chief made me realize that my N64 friends were like those friends you hang out with in high school whom you vaguely keep in touch after graduation, whereas he was able to live the moments of my life along with me, for the rest of my life.  Kind of like a spouse, except not really, because of obvious reasons.

No amount of rehab can cure me of my addiction to this series, but I don’t consider this a limiting, or even a negative, situation.  If anything, Halo opened up the glorious gaming world for me in ways I never thought possible.  I was thrust into the personal stories the game creators had slaved hours on end to write, and suddenly I realized that games could be so much more than mere entertainment, more than some pew-pew-pews at the bad guys.  Many reach the level of art.  And thus my desire to explore the world of video games expanded.

So thank you, Bungie, for introducing me to one of the loves of my life, and I'm not just talking about Halo.

How about you?  What was your first gaming obsession?  I would love to hear them, and I will collect some of the best and write them up in a future "Obsess Much?" post!