Book Review: Geek Wisdom - The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture

PrintE-mail Written by Robin Pierce

Review: Geek Wisdom - The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture / Edited by: Stephen H. Segal / Published by: Quirk Books

Let’s lay our cards on the table. We’re called geeks, we’re called nerds. We worship vehemently at the altar of popular culture. Like all followers of any kind of faith or belief, we’ve been persecuted and mocked over the years - but the laughing and the incessant patronising behaviour (because some of us are perceived as being reality challenged) and in a lot of cases, bullied for being "different", never fazed (or phasered) our instinctive calling.

We are unique because of our openness to far out ideas, our reluctance to relinquish the myths of our childhoods be they written by JK Rowling, Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Isaac Asimov, Terrance Dicks or Stan Lee. And last, but no means least, by our determination that it’s okay to demand there’s more to mass entertainment than the X-factor, Kardashian weddings, and "I used to be almost a celebrity now I’m in the jungle and being paid a bundle to bitch and whine" type reality shows. (And they call US reality challenged?).

Call us odd? We’re proudly marching to the beat of a different drum.

But now as the back cover blurb of Geek Wisdom proudly proclaims:

"Computer nerds are titans of industry, comic book superheroes are Hollywood idols and the internet is our night on the town.

Clearly geeks know something about life in the 21st century that other folks don’t."

And it’s true. The Geeks have inherited the Earth. Big time. Previously marginalised, we run the show now. And what has united us over the years, in magazines such as this one? Our culture.

Our culture has its foundation in throwaway entertainment. Comic books, TV series, films Just... stuff. "Stuff" which has transcended its humble origins and become high culture all its own. "Stuff" which has become valuable not only in monetary terms (have you seen the prices of some of the golden and silver age comic books at auction these days?), but which has become THE enduring, sanity saving element in the lives of those of us who follow it - and quote it. And this is where Geek Wisdom comes in.

I was wary at first in case this book was another parody. A literary dig in the ribs, a one joke wonder that would irritate and reinforce a negative stereotype of us as a bunch of losers who hide in fantasy because we’re unable to cope with real life. (Many’s the time I’ve heard THAT one).

But I couldn’t have been further from the mark. Geek Wisdom is and does exactly what it says on the cover. It really IS the (and I quote) "sacred teachings of nerd culture". Okay, so using the word sacred may be pushing it a little far, but what the editors have accomplished here is nothing short of wonderful. They’ve subdivided this two hundred plus page book into six sections where the reader can look up wisdom about the self, relationships, humankind, conflict, the universe and the future. Each page has a notable quote from an iconic character either fictional or actually living, and there follows a brief one page essay explaining a real life moral or lesson to be gained from that quote.

It’s so simple, yet ingenious that in reading the book, I was stunned that nobody has thought of this idea before (to my knowledge anyway). The quotes are far ranging. Some are of course obvious; "May the Force be with you", "Klaatu Barada Nikto", "it was beauty killed the beast", but the essays that follow are anything but obvious. They’re insightful, sometimes startlingly so, they’re witty, deeply philosophical in places using the quotes as metaphors for dealing with everyday situations, and they are certain to cause debate among us geeks for years to come.

Basically, I’m as guilty as anybody I know (probably more so if I’m honest) for using a quick geeky quote to explain a situation, and it’s surprising how these quotes are becoming universal. For example, suspicious of something going wrong with a task you’ve been assigned at your job but can’t quite pin down what it may be? "Spider sense is tingling". You get the idea.

I thought I had a good arsenal of them, but now I have a couple of hundred more - and plenty of food for thought. Who would’ve imagined that some Zen-like wisdom could be gleaned from the likes of Willie Wonka, Darth Vader, Poison Ivy, and Auric Goldfinger? I mean, Spock, a certain Time Lord of our acquaintance, Galileo, Albert Einstein, Yoda, Carl Sagan George Orwell and Alan Moore - certainly, but Weird Al Yankovic, Wolverine and the Super Mario Brothers? They’re all here, and looked at with the perspective and insight afforded to us by this book - we can all learn something from them. Even "Autobots - roll out" has a message if you’re open to the idea (and who of us isn’t?)

The book can be dipped into at leisure for the odd "pot luck" quote suitable for a particular occasion, but personally that wasn’t good enough for me. I couldn’t resist reading it from cover to cover and I virtually devoured the book, finding it entertaining, illuminating and strangely enough empowering in equal measures.

Recommended reading.

'Geek Wisdom - The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture' is out now

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