I am a Nerd (take two)

Class reunion
not exactly fun
until the third rum
and Coke.
Then one school chum
interrupts the hum
and buzz
and half-drunken fuzz
for a joke.
His Genuine Draft thunks down
(the emblematic drink of this small midwestern town)
and he says
“So… Doyce
“… are you still a nerd?”

(Before I proceed, a disclaimer
about this guy, not me,
he’s
a bit of a skeeze
he might say he hasn’t let the years change him
I might say he hasn’t changed his denim
Wranglers. Might be the same pair
he wore down there
under his gown, where
he stood up with the rest of us
mortarboard on like the rest of us
all the way down at the end of the line
fiftieth out of forty-nine
diploma-receiving graduates.

See,
he’s
not so much ‘chum like a friend you meet’
as ‘chum like that stuff sharks eat’
no real friend of mine
and, certainly, it would feel sickly sublime
to simply dismiss him this time,
ask how his wife likes the wine
or how it feels standing in line
for unemployment.

But there would be no enjoyment.)

We’re all together here
Feeling the booze and beer
and good cheer
sitting at folding tables
telling each other fables.
about the last twenty-five years.

So rather than rage,
I decide to engage
and say:
“A nerd? Me?
Let’s see.”

I’m not going to waste time talking
about roleplaying games, walking
to school every day hauling
three bursting gym bags full of rule books.
And all the funny looks.

I mean, you know that already, you were there
And at the time, it’s not like I cared
What anyone thought
What kind of stares I got.
No one was going to kick my ass
Not when there were only fifty kids in our class
And the biggest nerds in school at the time
Were five of the varsity football front line.

No: let’s move forward in time.

Am I a nerd?

The person who convinced me to write my first book
I met in college when she came over to look
at photocopied posters for a local gaming convention
(my personal invention)
which me and my friends were hanging… on every wall in campus.
And she wanted to ask us
if we’d ever played
Vampire: the Masquerade.
(We’re still close today.
I introduced her to her husband at one of those college game days.
Their daughter’s name is Ray.)

Am I a nerd?

My first job after graduation:
A friend said “Hey, this guy’s the one
We should pay to come
to Denver.
He’s literate, savvy, never
backs down from learning something new.
Just the guy for the tech support crew.”
What he didn’t mention when they made their choice
Was he’d never met me, or heard my voice.
The only handshakes we’d ever exchanged
Were via modem, connecting in the 2400 baud range.
For him, my qualifying certificate
Was building a text-only, multi-user dungeon
on the internet.

Am I a nerd?

My wife and I met Online,
the story of our times
but a dating site? Tame.
We met playing video games
Saving the world with ice and flame
Or bows and blades
Looting digital upgrades.
From twenty-player raids.
Dorks, right?
Our date nights
Were orc fights.
Sure, we became friends because we’re clever and witty
And had things in common, like saving Paragon City.
But you know what charmed her
What floated her
boat?
I kept up with her Buffy the Vampire Slayer quotes.

Am I nerd?

My kids would say yes
if I had to guess.
My daughter, nine, at recess
plays the part of a zombie princess
scary, but cool, in a ragged black dress.
Leading her armies onto the field
with a magic sword only she can wield.
(The other kid gets an unbreakable shield.)
Does she get teased?
Not that I’ve seen
And if so, she’d handle it better than me.
“You know who’s a nerd?!?” She shouts to the school.
I am… but all of you are, too.”
A nerd, she explains,
is just a name
For someone who gets excited about video games
Or Science, or Music, going to space,
reading a book with a grin on your face.
The local sports teams, shooting some pics,
or baking soufflés with just the right lift.
Nerds just care
about something
so much
they scare
you.

So you ask me this question to… what?
Make me blush?
See if my spirit is easily crushed?
I can’t even guess
so let me address
the query
with something far less
than indignant fury.
“A nerd? Me?
“Yes.
“Absolutely.”

He says:
“Wow. Okay.
“I just wanted to see
“If you liked what they did with the new Hobbit movies.”

And my wife,
thus far silent throughout the exchange
cries out in pain
“OH GOD!

“… now he’s really going to get going.”

A Disappointing Pattern I see in a subset of Doctor Who Fandom

This is something I’ve been turning over for a long while, mostly to see if it was a flash-in-the-pan thing or a real pattern. Since it keeps popping back up into my field of view, I’m going to call it a pattern at this point.

Although the title of the post is pretty clear, I want to specifically restate: this isn’t something I see in all of Doctor Who Fandom – the percentage is small, in fact, but (as is sometimes the case) very vocal and thus very visible.

So here we are. Series Eight of the new Doctor Who has wrapped up with the 2014 Christmas special and, in those eight series and assorted specials, we’ve watched five(ish) Doctors and something like nine or ten(ish) companions, if you don’t count the one-offs that came and went within a single special.

Everyone has opinions about these Doctors and these Companions. Everyone has their favorites.

But there’s a pattern I’ve seen within a vocal minority that is disappointing, and rather than drag the ‘reveal’ out, I’ll get right to it.

If a companion is smart or capable or talented and appears to know it and believe it to the point where they don’t require the validation of the Doctor’s approval, this vocal minority (hereafter: VM) does not like them.

I’ll dance down the list of Companions to quickly illustrate what I’m talking about.

  • Rose: Shop girl. Doesn’t think much of herself. A VM favorite, though not usually the #1, due to two issues: she channels the energy of the Tardis’s heart at the end of her first season to basically mess about with the Doctor’s timeline, and how dare she, and she’s apparently cool enough for the Doctor to fall in (romantic) love with her, so that’s two VM strikes against.

  • Martha: A doctor. Smart. Confident. Capable. Talks back to the Doctor and is generally very clever. All huge strikes against her with the VM.

  • Captain Jack: Clever, sexy, action-oriented time-traveler who happens to be sort of immortal, due to questionable use of Tardis/Timelord energy. Generally either not seen as a companion, or is a VM favorite.

  • Donna: Temp office worker who acts very confident but secretly (yet very obviously) isn’t, and actually thinks very little of herself. Like Rose, also channels a pile of timelord-only energy for a few moments of awesomeness at the end of her season, but pays for it in a quite horrible way. Usually the VM #1 favorite.

  • River Song: Is River Song (Clever, sexy, action-oriented time-traveler who happens to be sort of immortal, due to questionable use of Tardis/Timelord energy). Generally loathed by the VM.

  • Amy Pond, Solo: Sexy, clever, and has the audacity to mock the Doctor’s sartorial choices. Disliked by the VM from at least the second episode in which she appears (where she has the gall to wander off and start asking questions and making decisions all by herself. The nerve.)

  • Amy Pond, Married: Pretty, clever, but “settled” for Rory. Suddenly much less objectionable to the VM.

  • Rory: Sometimes not seen as a companion by the VM, or as the element that makes Amy “palatable.”

  • Clara: Clever, school teacher sexy, takes no guff from the Doctors, generally seen as pretty awesome by most characters in the show. Strongly disliked by the VM, ranging from her “Impossible Girl” stunt (stepping into the Doctor’s timeline to protect him, see Rose’s Bad Wolf trick), to (more recently) the VM-rage-inducing ploy of simply pretending to be the Doctor during an episode where the Doctor was stuck inside a shrunken Tardis.

So let me sum that up again.

If a companion is smart/capable/confident/sexy/talented and appears to know it and believe it to the point where they don’t require the validation of the Doctor’s approval, the VM does not like them.

Unless they’re Captain Jack.

So, to paraphrase:

“If a companion is a smart/capable/confident/sexy/talented woman, and does not require the Doctor’s (read: male) validation of these qualities, they are bad. If they ‘know their place’ (secretly have a poor self-image, or in Amy’s case, get married), they’re good.”

doctor umm

I doubt anyone (well: very many) in the VM would put it that way, but doesn’t in any way mean it’s inaccurate.

So… yeah.

I don’t know what can be said about this, besides point it out. It’s highly unlikely anyone in this Vocal Minority will ever even see this post.

But other people might see it, and might agree, and might encounter someone in the VM, and point it out and, by pointing it out, perhaps cause some reevaluation. I mean, hey: like who you like – everything is about personal taste, obviously – but if there’s a certain kind of pattern, it might be worth taking a hard look at the whole thing.

Maybe.

Hell, maybe I’m imagining the whole thing.

Though to be honest, I’m not that kind of optimist.

I’m going to get this out of the way before Wednesday night

I liked The Battle of Five Armies.

No, it wasn't perfect, but even imperfect, I believe it's a better retelling than the original book (as I’ve said before).

And let's be honest: I don't want perfection in creative stuff – I want creative stuff – I want invention and experimentation and the unexpected.

I don't want The Hobbit copy-pasted onto a movie screen and, (thankfully) that's certainly not what Peter Jackson gave us.

  • He gave us love where Tolkien never thought to invest it.
  • He gave Legolas a reason to defy his father and ride to Rivendell in fifty years.
  • He gave the Arkenstone more meaning and more merit.
  • He gave Thorin's line more of the tragic doom that seems to haunt all dwarves, satisfying the expectations set up by the oh-so-dwarvish ending of Desolation of Smaug (something else I talked about already, at length).

I am happy with the movie for all those reasons and a hundred more that I can't list, because I haven't seen it yet, of course.

The things I've mentioned, I trust will be there.

Not hope, the way I hope the next Star Wars movie will be good.

Trust. Belief.

Because Jackson has absolutely earned it.

Halloween Book Review/Recommendation: A Murder of Crows

It was we crows who took your daughter, in case you were wondering. She didn’t run away.

Here's the basic premise of Deanna Knippling's latest book – the crows have found a human girl who tells stories and, being somewhat… possessive of stories, carry the girl away to live with them.

But the girl is shocked to silence by the flurry of wings and talons and beaks and (let's be honest) bird shit, and won't talk – won't tell the stories that drew the crows to her in the first place.

Awk-ward, you might say. *

The solution to this problem is that the girl's new feathered foster family tell her the human stories they know: a way of priming the pump and reminding her who and what she is.

Those stories, and the interstitial moments with the girl and new and old family, form the bones of A Murder of Crows – as a fine a skeleton as you could want for Halloween.

Deanna had me hooked from that first, wonderful line, and the short stories were exactly what I wanted, this time of year, both in subject and length.

Are you in the same kind of mood? Need a little macabre for chilly autumn nights?

Allow me to make a recommendation…

A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters and the Macabre – Kindle edition by DeAnna Knippling. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters and the Macabre – Kindle edition by DeAnna Knippling. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters and the Macabre.