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Friday, December 11, 2015

Nerd Stories!

Black, Holly; Castellucci, Cecil (editors)  (2009) Geektastic:  Stories form the Nerd Herd.  New York:  Little Brown.

Opening Lines:  "I awake tangled up in scratchy sheets with my head pounding and the taste of cheap alcohol and Tabasco sauce still in my mouth.  The spirit gum I used to attach my nose ridge and eyebrows sticks to the sheets as I roll over."

I am a nerd.  I have never felt bad about that, though my younger brother, looking out for me, has told me repeatedly that I am not a nerd.  The problem comes in definitions.  When I define a nerd, I think of someone who loves to learnt who  and read and is willing to jump into life with both feet, unafraid of looking foolish.  I think of someone who is willing to admit publicly that he or she loves Shakespeare and legos and the Periodic Table and comic books, and Plato and Star Wars and historical reenactments and so on.

My brother might define a nerd as someone who has trouble fitting in, who dresses unstylishly, who says awkward and embarrassing thing in public, and who lacks social skills.

Other people think of a nerd or a geek as someone who engaged in pop cultural texts that mark them as an outsider -- someone who dresses up like a klingon and goes to comic book conventions, or someone who gets together with their stormtrooper unit every weekend, or someone who is a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism and travels miles to participate in mock sword fights on the weekends.

Editors Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci gathered some really impressive authors and asked them if they could write about the broad subject of geekiness and nerdiness.  Some of the authors who appear in this volume are M. T. Anderson (the Octavian Nothing series), John Green (Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, etc.), Hope Larson (who wrote an excellent graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time), Garth Nix (Sabriel series), Scott Westerfield (Uglies, Leviathan) and many others.  Perhaps as a result, the topics of stories (and definitions of what it means to be a nerd) cover quite a range.  One of my favorites is a touching story about a shy but huge teenage bay who is part of a Society for Creative Anachronism group styling himself as "the Quiet Knight", He is quite taken by a girl in the group and later sees her at school and is able to sort of come to her rescue.  There are other stories about a Rocky Horror Picture Show aficionado, two best friends on the run from a nerd-hunting game, several stories of nerd love (the best kind), a cheerleader who decides to become a Star Trek fan, and one about a kid who goes to confront his favorite science fiction author about the possibility that author may have had an affair with the fan's mom.

 Clearly these are PG-13 rated stories (and maybe one or two that come close to being R rated), and this book is certainly not one that would work to study as a class.  But for students who may find some of themselves in some of the characters here, this book may be a good way to remind the non-conformists, the different, and those who really love learning, that they are not alone.

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