I’m going to dare to say that it’s not a novel observation to point out that there are different kinds of nerds.
Nerdom (or you may prefer the “geekdom” nomenclature) is a broad and varied discipline, spotted with perhaps as many rabbit holes as there are stars: comic nerds, yes; game nerds both tabletop and video; train nerds and figurine nerds and audio/visual nerds and computer nerds. For many of us, these fascinations bleed over and encroach upon other territories. I think most nerds come to find a broad range of interests.
There are also Deep Nerds, one might call them; distinct in some ways from the Deep Ones. Trekkies and Star Wars nerds; Babylon 5 nerds; LARPers and that guy who’s read every Stephen King novel five times. In Japan some of these people fall into the otaku category, which in the native culture largely remains a pejorative despite attempts in the West to appropriate the term as a badge of fandom. Being super into Naruto is cool if that’s your thing, even if some people might find it a little weird. Hibernating for weeks at a time in the dark recesses of your sleeping place is anti-social and ill-advised.
My own nerdacles have been growing out steadily and grasping at various objects. Sometimes the stickers stick, and sometimes there’s just no suction. What can you do?
Repeatedly I have found myself surprised or amazed and certain previous perceptions smashed to bits. I’ve had to do a lot of gluing.
Over the past several months, I’ve discovered a number of nerd-bloggers who belong to a somewhat aged and well-established enclave. This group is welcoming but quiet. Largely unassuming but deep in tradition. While some of these folk do dabble in video games and more mainstream nerd media, their main focus is upon either tabletop gaming and/or classic SFF.
I thought my love of Herbert and Asimov and Lewis qualified me as a classicist of sorts, but there are older and deeper magics still. I’ve only recently come to know the works of Vance and Burroughs. Robert E. Howard remained at my periphery for far too long. And there’s a much longer reading list.
Upon infiltrating the society of which I speak, one encounters references to a mysterious text known as Appendix N. At first I glossed over these mentionings. I’ve played a few tabletop games, but my interest in the older incarnations of D&D is thin, though respectful, and mostly academic. As you linger, however, these rumblings will continue, and will be invoked not only in the context of gaming, but of literature and great works.
In short, Appendix N is a list of works at the end of the original Dungeon Masters Guide for Dungeons and Dragons. It lists the major influences of game creator Gary Gygax, and includes authors who are well known today and some who have fallen into obscurity outside of most circles. For my part, once I finish with the John Carter stories, I’m excited to seek out more Vance and discover this Poul Anderson I keep reading about. With Appendix N as a reference, my reading list has expanded substantially.
Alex at Cirsova sometimes predicts that a new pulp SFF Renaissance is either approaching or has already begun. Given the resurgent popularity of Tolkien and Lewis in recent years and the expansion and mainstreaming of the genre by Hollywood and authors like Rowling, he may be right. I certainly hope he is, and I hope his efforts at bringing back business-sustainable pulp SFF magazines is a roaring success.
I also hope that through my own current awakening and whatever meager influence I have as a blogger and Twitter denizen, I can contribute to this rediscovery of great SFF by others, before it is lost to antiquity.