This is about as extreme as the nerd rage gets. Well, this and forming very strongly worded letters.
Check back every Monday for a new SNG comic!
Alex is our resident Webcomic creator. He grew up in Puerto Rico, but didn’t reach true Nerdom until he came state side when he was in middle school. He’s been drawing since he was five, but has only started posting Webcomics in the past year. You can check out his amazing and original work at tapastic.com/gomezalexj.
Last year I was presented with the amazing opportunity to give a speech at a TedX event in Sarasota, Florida. A friend had suggested that I apply, and my original speech idea was along the lines of “Women’s Roles/Voices in Geek Culture”. Little did I know how much that would change and evolve throughout the few months between being accepted as a speaker and the event itself.
As someone who is fully immersed in geek culture, I was admittedly surprised at the reactions to the first version of my speech. Basically, most of the people who heard it said that they either didn’t understand a lot of what I was talking about, or that they weren’t sure it was ‘universally palatable’ the way TedX speeches are supposed to be.
To be honest, it was difficult to take a step back from something I love so much and view it from an outsiders’ perspective. I wanted to use my speech to bring the idea of geek culture – and specifically, women’s involvement in it – to others. But suddenly I found myself wondering if it was even possible to do that in the twelve minutes I was allotted on stage.
Because that’s the thing you don’t know or see when you view Ted or TedX talks – that so much of the time, the end result – what you see live or online – is the product of months worth of coaching and feedback and editing (and in my case stress and anxiety and wondering if I’d ever get it right or if I should just admit that I was in over my head and throw in the towel).
My speech went through several iterations before it was completed, and as weird as it sounds I was both under- and over-prepared for the event itself. As fate would have it, I ended up giving a speech I was proud to have written…while suffering through a terrible case of bronchitis. I was medicated nearly out of my wits just to be able to get up on that stage, and this led to a lot more “um’s” and “uh’s” and other silliness that I wish I could edit out of what became the true final product.
But other than the difficulties that my illness caused (and of course the previous frustration with how to make my geeky story into something a bit more relatable to the general populace), TedX was nothing short of an amazing experience. I’m glad I didn’t throw in that towel, because not giving up meant that I got to spend nearly twelve minutes on a TedX stage, talking about the general ideas of self-defining oneself as a geek and how people can ‘geek out’ over so many things. Because there really are so many different kinds of geeks out there. I’m the geek who gets nearly obsessive over certain books and movies, who goes to conventions and speaks on panels about the things I love, who cosplays, who has a house full of Star Wars-themed rugs.
The question I tried to raise with my TedX speech was, what do you geek out about? And I’ll probably never stop talking about my TedX experience because that’s a conversation I’d like to keep going.
We at Some Nerd Girl wanted to know more about Tara’s experience – so we followed up with some burning questions!
What made you want to get your thoughts and ideas out there?
Well, I guess I’d been doing so for years through my blog and then writing for The Geekiary, as well as being a panelist at several conventions from 2012 on, but until my friend suggested that I apply to be a speaker, I’d never really thought about doing so – at least not for TedX.
What was your process for coming up with ideas and what you wanted to talk about?
When I was approached about applying to be a speaker, it was suggested that I stick with talking about geek culture, and to be honest, my original idea to focus on women’s roles/voices in geek culture immediately popped into my head.
How were you approached? What was the selection process like?
An acquaintance of mine was a speaking coach for TedX Sarasota and he thought I could bring something different to the table, so he suggested that I apply. I filled out the online application and was contacted maybe a month or two later – I can’t remember exactly how long. I’m not sure how the selection process went for TedX Sarasota, but I’ve since volunteered for TedX Greenville (just on the event staff) and I know that theirs is a pretty intense, time-consuming process, where they review all applicants, choose the ones they think best fit, and then continue to narrow it down from there. I’m assuming it’s probably similar with other TedX events.
Were you totally geeked out or were you like… of COURSE they picked me! ??
Oh I was totally surprised and nervous and excited. Even though I was encouraged to apply, I certainly never *expected* that I would be chosen. I actually had to keep it a secret for a while after I found out, and let me tell you, that was one of the most difficult secrets I’ve ever had to keep! I just wanted to tell everyone because it was such a big deal to me that I would get to be involved in something so amazing.
How familiar were you with TED Talks? Did you have any favorites that inspired you to go for it?
I knew about TED talks and had watched a few throughout the years, but before participating in this event I hadn’t really delved into them all that much. (Mostly due to lack of time on my part, to be honest.) That said, now that I’ve done one myself, I’m constantly on the lookout for good ones, new and old!
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Definitely having to take my original speech idea and basically rework it entirely so that it was more ‘universally palatable’….although coming down with a horrible case of bronchitis two days before the event didn’t help things either. Giving such an important speech all doped up on cold meds (I didn’t have time to go to a doctor and actually get real medication until after TedX) and with a 100+ degree fever was difficult to say the least.
What, if any, feedback or comments did you get afterwards? The nerd/geek culture is not always kind to those who point out girls love nerdy things, too.
Actually, it was during the preparation process that I struggled a bit – not that anyone was rude, but there were a lot of comments from the organizer and even fellow speakers that were along the lines of “this isn’t interesting because we don’t understand it”. I tried not to let it get to me, but I definitely got really stressed out about it, especially when I had to rewrite my speech several times. In the end, though, the final product was very well-received. I was approached by several attendees later on that day – some of them wanted to discuss similar interests (I had a great conversation about Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars EU novels); others just wanted to share with me what THEY ‘geek out’ about. To be honest, it was those conversations that really made the event memorable for me.
Tara has been a geek at heart all her life. She has spoken about geek culture at several industry conventions (including San Diego Comic-Con and Dragon Con), Ohio State University, and TedX Sarasota. She also co-founded and co-organizes Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones/Song of Ice & Fire convention in the U.S.. She resides in lovely Greenville, SC in a house full of Star Wars-themed carpets and a plethora of dogs and cats. You can find her personal stories at her blog, A Geek Saga.
‘I Find Your Lack of Ending Disturbing’ is part of a multi-post series where the writers of Some Nerd Girl share their Origin Stories – in other words, when and how did the nerdening happen?!
All nerds have an origin story – that moment when they realized they could not live without an action figure or seeing the next release of their favorite movie franchise. It just kind of snowballs from there. For some of us it’s early – like playing Wonder Woman or becoming obsessive about your rock collection when you’re five.
Mine was later than some of my fellow writers. A late-onset nerd, if you will. This is my origin story – how I became the science-fiction loving, costume-wearing, all American nerd that I am today.
When I was 12 years old, a pipe burst in my family’s bathroom over the Thanksgiving holiday. This event transformed my life in ways I still may not yet understand! Let me tell you how it all went down.
My dad is a do-it-yourself kind of guy, so naturally fixing this little problem was a challenge he readily accepted. He was not, however, under any illusion it would be a quick fix. So with two kids in the house with no school to attend all week, he decided it was better to send us off to our uncle’s house than to have us underfoot and complaining about trivial things like not having running water.
While my sister played Rollercoaster Tycoon all week; I was left somewhat adrift with no real concept of what to do. Recognizing this, my uncle asked if I wanted to watch this movie called “Star Wars”.
I had nothing better to do so I said yes.
He popped in a hand-labeled VHS tape – a recording from HBO – with modest video quality.
The opening credits rolled. The music was amazing. The action! The characters! Oh my god, this movie was amazing!
When it was over, I found out there were two more of these glorious movies. I insisted on watching them immediately.
I remember being only slightly terrified of Darth Vader (/s), and really sad when Ben Kenobi died. I felt bad for Luke and wanted to be Han when I grew up. I thought Leia was a total badass and Jabba was disgusting. I was completely ready to apply for a position in the Rebel Alliance when I was old enough!
Leia. Let’s pause a moment to talk about this glorious woman. She was probably the first strong female lead I’d ever really seen in a movie – outside of April O’Neil from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Leia took charge, wasn’t afraid to risk her life, and didn’t take sh*t – even from the roguish, handsome and impossibly charming Han Solo. As you will find in many of my upcoming pieces, strong female leads are _very_ important when it comes to getting me engaged in a movie, book or show. Star Trek Voyager, for all it’s flaws, was the Trek that made me fall in love with Trek. Between Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine, I was in strong female lead heaven!
And, if we’re going to be visiting retrospect land for a moment, the fact I wanted to BE Han Solo and was really, super interested in Leia in a bikini probably should have clued me into some facts about myself. Nooo, that revelation took like… way too long.
I digress – my Star War experience really escalated when, like, Han was trapped in carbonite! And then the Empire was winning! Holy sh*t this could not stand. So when Return of the Jedi started at 90 MPH with Leia being a bad ass bounty hunter and Luke kicking some Rancor ass, I was in it to win it.
Imagine my utter dismay when, just as the Rebels were getting ready to destroy the partially constructed Death Star in Jedi, that the TV screen suddenly blinked to blue.
Alarmed, I hopped up and performed immediate troubleshooting. I knew from wearing out my copy of the Lion King how to revive a VHS tape from the brink of death.
I inspected the tape and realized it was out. The movie was too long and the VHS simply ran out of recording space. I found my uncle and brandished the tape at him, explaining the atrocity. He could offer me no comfort, and so I sulked for the rest of the week and racked my brain for how I might get my hands on a copy of this Star Wars trilogy I had just discovered.
Do people KNOW about Star Wars?!, my naive 12 year old brain wondered with some concern. As far as I knew, Star Wars was a little known cult trilogy that only my uncle possessed. Neither of my parents were particularly nerdy, or interested in this ‘Star Wars’ I was going on about. I was on my own to find my Holy Grail. There was no Amazon or eBay I had access to. There was Blockbuster – but I didn’t want to rent these movies. I needed to own them.
And so my quest began. If I had watched RotJ all the way through, I might have simply moved on with my life thinking – well, that was fun. But I hadn’t seen the ending – and that was unacceptable. Completely unaware of how this glorious trilogy ended, I was on a mission that made me expand my knowledge of science fiction – of what was out there.
First I found a copy of A New Hope – a single, original VHS before the other two movies were even out. As an aside; I have no idea where this eventually went – mom and dad, if you’re reading this and you know, I’d like that back!
I digress. I’d already seen A New Hope. This find was exciting but did not complete my mission. Finally, after searching row after row of the Wagon Wheel Flea Market, I found the complete Trilogy Set. I was ecstatic – beyond thrilled in a way I haven’t often felt since. This is probably what sealed the deal for me. As the endorphin rush hit me full force; I knew I wanted to hold onto the feeling forever. And it was this Star Wars thing that had given it to me. I was to forever associate science fiction with happiness.
Waiting to get home with it was excruciating. I wasted no time popping in the RotJ VHS tape and fast forwarding to the exact second where I had left off.
I soon realized I had not missed much. A glorious explosion, certainly that was exciting – all that remained after that was an Ewok bender and a funeral pyre. Nevertheless – it was closure! For both me and Luke Skywalker. Han got the girl and everyone lived happily ever after!
You hear that JJ Abrams? EVERYONE LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER!
And that, my friends, is my origin story for becoming a nerd. It corresponded with the much anticipated Episode I release, and I was young enough to not be too critical of the prequels. My notoriety for being a nerd was widely known and (luckily!) accepted. Friends would bring me random Star Wars paraphernalia they’d gotten and I was the kid making lightsaber noises while dueling with an empty gift wrap tube given half a chance.
My friends and I actually attempted to choreograph the entire Duel of Fates fight scene in my side yard with two bokkens and a bo staff I had from my karate class. (Injuries were minimal)
I sought out like-minded people on this cool thing called the ‘internet’ and stumbled across a lovely website called “Star Wars Chicks.”
That was an important discovery because of two things:
It made me realize that being a nerd and a girl was not a total anomaly
I met my best friend of (now) 15 years there! Our adventures have been vast and included hitting each other with sticks and being there for one another during the best and worst times.
Being involved in this online community allowed me to express myself honestly and enjoy my passions without reserve. I could wax poetic about how wonderful and life-changing the internet is, but that is a topic for another blog post!
And so it’s true; a pipe busting in my family home at the age of 12 was the catalyst for my nerd-revelation that ultimately helped shape the smart, witty and of course talented person I am today. Thanks random catastrophe!
Eve is the founder of Some Nerd Girl and the author of urban fantasy novel Children of the Fallen. She has been writing since the age of 13 and has been flying her nerd flag for the past 16 years. You can visit her website at www.somenerdgirl.com and look up her works of fiction on Amazon.
SNG Original Webcomics are posted weekly every Monday!
Alex grew up in Puerto Rico, but didn’t reach true Nerdom until he came state side when he was in middle school. He’s been drawing since he was five, but has only started posting Webcomics in the past year. You can check out his amazing and original work at tapastic.com/gomezalexj.