I didn't choose to be a nerd. I was born this way. My parents may have sensed I was... different back in 1977 when they took me to see Star Wars, but it was confirmed when we left the theater. The sense that my world was forever changed stood in stark contrast to their complete and utter confusion. Even now, after six movies, countless books, action figures, clone wars, and a Christmas Special featuring Bea Arthur's most moving performance, they still can't quite figure out what "The Force" is or why Jar Jar nearly sent my entire generation to the insane asylum.
I think that's one of the most interesting differences between nerds and the general non-ComicCon-going population. Nerds appreciate the gestalt of movies, television shows, books, and video games, and commit to memory the treasured detailed comings and goings of hundreds of characters and worlds. Anyone can read 4000 pages chronicling the shenanigans of a dwarf and a dragon queen, but only a nerd is going to take issue with HBO staging an epic daytime sea battle at night. A nerd is going to be able to rank which Robin is the best one (it's Dick Grayson). A nerd is going to understand the logic of destroying Vulcan in the reboot. A nerd is going to understand what a reboot is.
Today's nerds aren't only comic book hoarding, mouth breathing basement dwellers. There are comedy nerds-- those who can name each and every SNL host; font and design nerds-- those who would never use Comic Sans Serif or PowerPoint; and food nerds-- those whose DVRs are devoted to the Gordon Ramsey oeuvre. Nerds are people who are extraordinarily passionate (and, yes, perhaps borderline obsessive and socially awkward) about their most favorite things.
And things are changing quickly. The lines separating Nerd Culture and Pop Culture are blurring, perhaps because after years of pushing AV equipment in and out of classrooms, nerds are quickly gaining control of the media, technology, and distribution systems. Yet, an expanse as wide as the wastelands of Arrakis still exists between the two.
After trying, and failing, to explain to a friend why Frodo couldn't just hitch a ride to Mordor on one of those giant eagles, I looked for a way to translate nerd to norm. I thought a vehicle like a haiku, a simple and ancient art form that, like a Skeksis going after a Gelfling, could extract the very essence of an idea into three lines of 5 7 5. Well, I thought, that would just be the best haiku ever. "Best. Haiku. Ever." Five syllables. Huh.
"Nerd Haiku" [Lyons Press, $9.95] celebrates everything that nerds hold dear: from comic books to summer blockbusters to fast-acting asthma medications. And maybe it will serve as a bridge, a bifrost if you will, inviting others into the warm and welcoming folds of our invisibility cloaks. But fair warning: confuse River Song with River Tam and you're on your own.