I have the great pleasure of having author of YA debut novelist, Andy Robb, on my blog today as part of the Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind Blog Tour! Andy has popped over today to share with us the list of his top ten geeky obsessions. It's awesome!
Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind gave me the chance to look back over my adolescence and work out what it was that made me a Geek. What I wasn’t expecting was to find that my adulthood Geeky obsessions are even nerdier than ever. Some of my fixations weren’t around when I was hacking my way through puberty. But Archie, the book’s main character, is a 21st Century Geek, so I’m delighted to say he’s embraced most of them. What follows are my own personal obsessions, done in one of those Top Ten lists that are pretty Geeky in themselves.
And in reverse order…
10) Anime. I was getting out of kids’ cartoons just as Manga was coming in. Since then, it’s taken on a whole new dimension, embracing adult themes and exploring ideas that were previously taboo. But what I do remember is that toons like Battle of the Planets and Ulysses 31 had the coolest theme tunes – like the animators suddenly woke up and went “Hey! We can’t put this out there without some cranking electric guitars and faux-metal vocals! It just doesn’t make sense!” Anime has a whole subculture attached to it and there are Geeks who go to conventions wearing Cosplay outfits of their favourite characters I’ll stick to my Incredible Hulk outfit, which consists of some torn jeans and green food-colouring. Which leads me on to…
9) The Incredible Hulk. I was always into comics and did the usual: Batman, Spidey, Judge Dredd and Star Wars. But I came across a re-release of Hulk #1 in my paper-shop and soaked it up. For some reason, the Hulk really spoke to me. I think he’s the way many Geeks feel: misunderstood, singled-out and hunted. But what he has, that we don’t, is the ability to run around with his top off and thrash anything and anyone who’s hounding him. Geeks are often seen to be outsiders and the Hulk is the ultimate comic-book outsider. I even went out and bought an Incredible Hulk Work-out Kit when I was 11. It didn’t work out.
8) Batman. Batman’s the other side of the comic coin. What I love about him is that he was a guy with no super-powers whatsoever but, after a fateful encounter with Joe Chill (according to the original story), he decided to dress up as a bat and right wrongs. He’s been through many incarnations, from the Zap! Ka-Pow! strips of the sixties to the almost-psychotic figure in Frank Miller’s classic, The Dark Knight Returns. I love Bats in all his guises, but I especially like Miller’s ragged version, because it reveals what Bruce Wayne might be up to when he’s in his fifties. And, yes, I had a Batman costume as a kid.
7) Comics in general. I still read comics – mainly The Beano these days. But what comics did for me was introduce me to a new world of artistry, of guys like Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Bob Kane and Jack Kirby. For those of you who don’t know, these names would appear at the start of strips; they were the writers, creators or – most importantly for me – the artists. I’d research the artists I’d like and this would lead me to other comics that I’d never heard of, like Doc Savage, Swamp Thing and Tales of the Uncanny. It also spurred me on to try and draw, copying the Hulk or Judge Dredd or even trying to make up my own heroes (the Ice King never saw the light of day). Archie, like me, is bound up in comics. For him, they are a way of identifying the similarities and differences between his actions and those of the guys in tights.
6) Star Trek. Star Trek was staple tea-time viewing and I loved the interplay between Bones, Spock and Kirk. I wouldn’t like to say who was my favourite, but I think I always leaned toward Spock. I think it’s the outsider thing again. And Spock had those cool outfits that he wore in his quarters, plus all those weird-looking things on his shelves. But I didn’t really like it when he played that Vulcan mandolin. Plus, Leonard Nimoy proved that you can look cool in a pair of pointy ears and a medieval-style haircut. I had the haircut.
5) Star Wars. Star Wars is Trek’s bigger, brasher brother. In 1977, when I saw A New Hope for the first time and watched that Star Destroyer fly over my head at the beginning, my little mind exploded. I was always a Han Solo fan – he was cool, cocky and hung out with a Wookie; what’s not to like? But I liked Vader, too – even though he scared me. And, personally, given the choice, if I’d been offered to learn from him or Kenobi, I’d have opted for the red lightsaber every time. Archie’s a Star Wars Geek and, like the best of us, can make the philosophy, plot and even lines of the films pertinent to his daily life.
4) Doctor Who. I came in just as Jon Pertwee turned into Tom Baker. I remember feeling a bit narked that my white-haired hero had turned into some goggle-eyed berk, but Baker won me over in a very short time and he’s now ‘my’ Doctor. I think he’s the ultimate Geek Hero: he’s an outsider, he’s complex, he’s knowledgeable, but he refuses to use violence in any shape or form. Plus there’s the TARDIS. I spent the best part of being twelve trying to understand the Laws of Time and working out if I could build a time machine. I only got as far as building a console out of cardboard and polystyrene.
3) The Rolling Stones. A slight diversion, I know – but I’m a Stones Geek. The first track of theirs I heard was Jumpin’ Jack Flash, at the age of sixteen – and it was the beginning of a love affair that isn’t over yet. The thing with the Stones is, music aside, I love the characters involved: the preening, flouncing Jagger, the salacious, wheezing Richards, the crowd-pleasing Wood and the lugubrious, distant Watts. Most Stones Geeks agree that there are three albums that are classics (Exile, Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed), but the rest are up for grabs. I think we’re all waiting for the album that recaptures the magic of those three.
2) Dungeons & Dragons. I first came across the Grandfather of Role-playing games (RPGs) through a Sunday supplement at the age of eleven. Although I read about the game in this paper, it was the photos of the miniatures themselves that captured me. I started collecting and painting them. But once I’d got a few, I realised I had nothing really to do with them, so I checked out the game itself. It was a revelation: you could create worlds in which you were a hero or a bad guy and go on quests or battle the forces of darkness. In a way, it was my first foray into telling stories. There’s a bit in Geekhood where Archie’s über-Geek mate, Matt, likens Geeks to alchemists: creating gold from base materials. I think this is true of RPGs – and not only are you creating a story, but you’re creating a story in which you exist. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my love of RPGs deepened as my parents divorced. For me, and for Archie, it was a constructive and positive way of leaving the Bad Stuff behind; an Exit sign in Elvish runes.
1) Lego. I have my son to thank for this. As a kid, I didn’t like Lego much. As a Dad, you start paying attention to what’s in toyshops. And suddenly I was seeing Star Wars Lego, Indiana Jones Lego, Batman Lego and now there’s Avengers Lego and even Lord of the Rings Lego! When I play with my son, we don’t just build stuff; we make little minifigs to represent ourselves and then we play as though we’re in an adventure. I suppose it’s a bit like an RPG, just without the dice. And I hope that those games have some influence on him later in life – I hope he’s a Geek, too.
Obsessions don’t mean you have to be an outsider. As Matt says in the book, there are loads of different types of Geek: football Geeks, music Geeks, film Geeks – the list is endless. What Archie learns is something I’ve learned: that being a Geek doesn’t have to set you apart from the world; in many ways it can make you an important part of it.
Thank you, Andy, for such a great guest post! I was agreeing with quite a few of them. What would be on your top ten geek list? I think The Big Bang Theory would be top of mine!
Be sure to check out Andy's website, the Geekhood Website, and the book itself, which is released on 4th June! You can also read my rave review, which was posted earlier today.