INFINITE IMPROBABILITY: How to be a better geek in 2014

December 31. 2013 12:25AM
By Rich Howells Weekender Editor

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The word “geek” isn't an insult anymore – it's a lifestyle, and like any way of life, it must be maintained. Even if you make the Comic Book Guy look like Biff Tannen, you can always improve your game, and you don't even need a crappy TBS reality game show to do so.
No matter what you're geeky about, here's my advice on how to be the very best geek you can be this year.
• Optimize your time to maximize your knowledge. With work, kids, school, or whatever else you have going on, it may seem like you never have time for the things you love, but maybe you're just not using your time wisely. Do you drive a half hour or more to your job? Pop in a podcast or an audio book instead of tuning in to that stupid pop station every morning. Do you have a stack of unread books by your bed? Read a chapter before bed (or on a bathroom break) instead of falling asleep to late-night infomercials.
• Attend cons big and small. More and more of us are traveling to major cities for major conventions, which has made the scene blow up in the last few years with big celebrity panels and newsworthy announcements, but there are also plenty of smaller cons out there in need of some love. Some are specialty cons focusing on a particular subgenre, while others are just your local comic shops and dealers coming together for a show. Either way, they can be just as fun as the big guys and are often the best source for deals on whatever your collection is missing.
• Don't brag – share. We were all noobs once. Back then, we never liked that obnoxious know-it-all who made sure we recognized how much bigger of a fan he was of everything than we were, and we certainly don't like him any more today. It's easy to criticize or shun the new guy, but it's much more productive to let him in on whatever you're passionate about, which, in turn, secures the future of fandom.
• They're not geek girls – just geeks. From revealing superheroine costumes to token damsels in distress, nerdy guys have almost as much explaining to do as jocks, but luckily, women are forgiving some of that inherent sexism and have been embracing our comics, shows, books, and movies now more than ever. Yet many still feel marginalized, questioned by jerks if they're “fake” geek girls just seeking attention and acceptance. Let me point out that there are fake people of both genders, so instead of joining the He-Man Woman Haters Club, grow up and accept change.
• Support what you don't understand. If you don't see what others enjoy about anime, that's fine, but should it be dismissed simply because you can't find something nice to say about it? Millions of dedicated fans around the world offer a resounding “no.” I know it's hard to resist jumping on “Twilight”-loving tweens, but chances are they'll move on to something better on their own. As for everything else, geeks should have nothing but love for other geeks – united we stand, divided we sound like whiny losers.
• There's always room for Jell-O… and another obsession. My regular comics and television programs kept me busy this past year, but that didn't stop me from giving “Adventure Time” a chance – and getting completely hooked. In fact, it's become my new favorite show, and after reading so many “Doctor Who” highlights lately, I stopped catching it here and there and started investing more time in the series – it lives up to the hype. If you're hearing so much about something, chances are it's because you're listening and debating giving it a shot. Don't worry – you'll still make time for everything else, and you might even discover something better.
• Network socially. Let's bury that stigma once and for all that geeks are loners living in basements and get out there and party… or just go see a midnight opening of a new superhero movie – whichever is more your speed. There are few things better than doing your favorite things, and one way to make them better is to do them with friends. Even just hanging out at the bar debating whether Batman or Captain America would win in a fight is both fun and social – and way better than doing so on the Internet with strangers.
• Shop local. There are plenty of big box stores out there to satisfy your collectible cravings, but it's places like your friendly neighborhood comic store where you can get sound recommendations from friendly staff members who share your passion and won't look at you funny when you ask for an Infinity Gauntlet bottle opener. And they need your help. The number of independent shops is shrinking all the time, so if you're unsure of where to start, try Comics on the Green (307 N. Washington Ave., Scranton), Rubber Mallet Comics (802 Wyoming Ave., West Pittston), or America's Most Wanted Collectibles (735 Washington Blvd., Williamsport). They have way cooler stuff than Walmart or Barnes & Noble anyway.
• Be loud and proud. I have probably entered into more geeky conversations because of my t-shirts than for any other reason. I'm almost always wearing my interests literally on my sleeve, and as a result, people can immediately identify me as a geek – and I love it. It helps break the ice in almost any situation and has actually led to friendships with people I may not have talked to otherwise.
• Consider the source. It's all well and good to go see the movie adaptation, but have you ever read the book or comics it's based on? Comic companies, even the big ones, are hurting, and book sales aren't what they used to be either. If you discover a film or TV show you enjoy, check out the source material, which is usually even better, and you'll often be rewarded with a more satisfying entertainment experience while helping the print industry survive.
• Kickstart creativity. Have you ever watched a trailer and thought, “Man, are they really out of original ideas?” I do every day, but this doesn't happen because every good story has been told – it's because those with the cash to bring those stories to life want a sure bet, not a gamble, so they play it safe with the same old shtick. That's where crowdfunding comes in. Creative people are getting their unique projects paid for through websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo by going directly to the fans, and your donations not only result in better art, but cool rewards as well. Surf around and you'll be surprised to find that even established names are using these websites now. Help level the playing field while sending Hollywood (or big publishers) a message.
• Bring something new to the table. Start a website. Record a podcast. Take an art class. Write that book you've been talking about. It's easy for geeks to consume and pick apart other people's work, but it's another to try your own hand at it. There are few things more rewarding than creating, so even if you're just bored one day, give it a shot and see what you come up with. It doesn't have to be a multimillion-dollar success to be fun.
• Expand your mind with real knowledge. I'm the first one to admit that I probably know the history of comic books better than I know world history, but it's never too late to learn. Instead of turning on some mindless entertainment, pop in a documentary or read a book on a subject that excites you. Truth is stranger than fiction, and it's often more interesting, too. Pop culture shouldn't be the only culture in your life – we geeks have a smarty pants image to uphold, after all.

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