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Origin Story

Looking Skywards

‘Looking Skywards’ 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?!

It’s hard to say when I first became a nerd. My earliest memories include my mom reading me J.R.R. Tolkein’s Letters to Father Christmas, and, later, excerpts from Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern series. I’ve always been fascinated with the natural world, and was a pretty outdoorsy kid. And from an early age I loved stargazing. However, even if I can’t narrow my entry to nerdom specifically, there are a few discrete events that definitely set me on my current path.

The first one I can think of is when I was 7 or so, my parents took me to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in D.C. At some point during that trip, they decided to treat my twin brother and I to a showing at the IMAX theater. The film we saw was a documentary narrated by none other than Leonard Nimoy, entitled Destiny in Space.

DestinyInSpace

To be honest, the film actually hasn’t aged all that well, but at the time, the imagery absolutely captivated me. Soaring over the newly radar-mapped terrain of Venus. Watching Mars become slowly more Earth-like as it was terraformed. Astronauts spacewalking above the surface of the Earth. From that point on, I had been bitten by the space bug, and I got it bad.

A few years later, at a Scholastic Bookfair (remember those?) my brother picked up a beautiful illustrated paperback, entitled Extraterrestrial: A Field Guide for Earthlings. It was the first book I had ever come across that presented the possibility of alien life as a serious scientific topic. It imagined how actual extraterrestrial lifeforms might evolve under a variety of environmental conditions, what sense organs they might use, possible body layouts, and even speculated on more radical forms of life that we might not even initially recognize. While it didn’t seem like as a big of idea at the time, the idea that aliens were a concept that could be seriously addressed scientifically stuck with me.

Although this guy doesn't help _at all_.
Although this guy doesn’t help at all.

As I hit middle school, I became increasingly interested in the sciences. Unsurprisingly, I also got more into science fiction, as well. After cutting my teeth on my mom’s old Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey paperbacks (guess where I got my scifi gene from?), I started exploring the science fiction and fantasy section of the local library. First, I read mostly McCaffrey, but soon serendipitous discoveries lead me to other authors. The cover of Ringworld intrigued me, and introduced me to Larry Niven, who’s hard science fiction I devoured (I was particularly fond of the Known Space series). Via The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I discovered Robert Heinlein, though I found a lot of his writings a bit more difficult to get into (I did slog through most of I Will Fear No Evil, but I had additional motivation). Later my list of favorite authors would include Alfred Bester, Rodger Zelanzy, Neal Stephenson, Lois McMaster Bujold (who’s Vorkosigan Saga is one of my current favorites), Connie Willis, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Neil Gaiman.

So... much... great... sci fi!
So… much… great… sci fi!

Also, as an aside, I became a massive band geek, and would later have the distinction of being That One Guy in the Piccolo Section, but that’s another story for another day.

As I made it into high school, naturally I began to think about college and careers. Unsurprisingly, I looked at space-related careers – considering being perhaps an astronomer or astrophysicist, or maybe an aerospace engineer. I would later back down from both of those careers as, at the time, I thought they’d be too math intensive for me (ironically, my actual work now is focused pretty much exclusively on mathematical modeling). In any case, the question was somewhat incidental – from age 12 onward, I knew what I really wanted to do was be an astronaut – but I figured I should at least have some options.

However, towards the end of high school, I somehow stumbled upon a new and upcoming field of study: astrobiology, the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life throughout the universe, including beyond Earth. While I was still fascinated with studying life beyond Earth from a scientific point of view, I had no idea that this was a real area of study, with NASA support and everything. I suddenly knew what I wanted to do with my life.

This. Changes. Everything!
This. Changes. Everything!

In college, wanting to cover all my bases, I double majored in astronomy and biology, and did my senior paper for my astronomy degree on the possibility of biosignatures on Mars. During the summer before my senior year, I also got the opportunity to intern at NASA, analyzing images of Jupiter’s moon Europa from the Hubble Space Telescope; to date, that experience remains the best summer job I’ve ever had.

Recognize!
Recognize! Yes, I was geeking out a little!

At some point, I went to a talk given by former astronaut Kathy Thornton, who mentioned off-hand that having a terminal degree (e.g., a PhD or an M.D.) was a requirement to have a serious chance of being selected into the astronaut corps. While I don’t want to say this single-handedly persuaded me to go to grad school, it certainly sealed the deal.

I eventually located a graduate school that had an astrobiology lab (there are about a dozen universities in the U.S. that are involved in astrobiology research), though, ironically, rather than astronomy or biology, it was actually housed in the geology and environmental science departments. I got my first chance to do real scientific research – the topic I eventually focused on was using mathematical modeling to help understand microbial ecosystems that exist in extreme environments (underneath glaciers, in hot springs, and so forth). The hope is to use these models to try to characterize what constitutes a habitable environment for life (for example, if we find microbial communities underneath the ice sheets of Antarctica, is it possible similar communities exist underneath the polar cap of Mars), and what sorts of detectable effects those ecosystems have on their environments (this may sound dry, but it isn’t; my master’s thesis involved this place).

Here I am, doing science-y stuff!
Here I am, doing science-y stuff!

At the moment, I’m currently working on my PhD in the subject. My dream job is to be a researcher for NASA, being on the cutting edge in our search for life throughout our Solar System. Following this path has allowed me to embrace my nerdiness to new levels, turning a passion into a career (and if you think cons are nerdy, wait until you experience a science conference). I’ve gone from reading science fiction to pretty much living it (I’m a gender-changing scientist who hunts for aliens- tell me my life isn’t the plot of a New Wave scifi story from the early ’70s). And I’m sure there’s even greater heights of nerdiness awaiting me on my journey.

And for the record, no matter what, I still fully intend to become an astronaut.


Tess

Tessa is a 28 year old PhD student, and perhaps the world’s only queer trans astrobiologist. A nerd going way back, her interests include science fiction, space exploration, sustainability, science communication, and feminism and gender. Her hobbies also include horseback riding, playing the flute, social dancing, knitting, and occasional attempts at writing fiction. She currently resides in Tempe, AZ with her even nerdier fiancee and a mastiff mix who thinks he’s a lapdog. She tweets occasionally @spacermase.

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Going Rogue

‘Going Rogue’ 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?!

This is where I tell you how I became a Nerd Girl.

Some people are born great and some have greatness thrust upon them. But I truly believe becoming a nerd was my destiny. It was unavoidable.

I was fossil hunting with my father since I was old enough to walk, learning about crystals, sediment layers, and geology. I also learned to love plants and nature from my father’s gardening obsessions. And I have always loved space, dinosaurs, time travel, robots and diseases. Even as a very young child.

These fossils...
These kind of fossils…
Not these kinds of fossils. That would have been hella cool, tho...
Not these kinds of fossils. That would have been hella cool, tho…

I learned to read before I ever even started kindergarten. Do you know what kindergarten is like when you can read a novel and the rest of the class is still learning letters? It is boring as f*ck.

Thankfully, I liked to read and spent my class time occupying myself with books. I quickly found that as long as I completed the work, answered when called upon, and didn’t disrupt the class, nobody really cared what I did. So I read. All day. Everyday. For 13 years of school.

“This interruption better be important,” is a sentiment I had often.

It was only a matter of time until I read every book in the children’s section of our public library and moved up to the adult books. I was 10 when that happened. It was a glorious day.

Maybe I would have just been your average book worm had I not discovered comics. Maybe I would not have become the nerd I am now. But, I did discover them. I did a post about getting into comics here. But after consulting with my brother, I’ve gotten the deeper story.

Once upon a time in 1992, there was a kick ass cartoon called X-Men. I was never a kid that liked TV. I always preferred reading. TV was loud and obnoxious. Books were quiet and imaginative.

I watched a few shows. Fraggle Rock. Chip and Dale. Pinwheel. That kind of thing. But my brother T and sister J were all about TV. They watched almost every kids’ show that we could get on our antennae. One day I walked in on them watching X Men. It was another loud cartoon that had people fighting in skin tight outfits.

Who wouldn't want to know what was going on with this situation?
Who wouldn’t want to know what was going on with this situation?

But for some reason it captured my attention and I sat down to watch it. What I remember most about that episode was Rogue. And I loved her.

She had amazing hair, a strong southern accent, and a sarcastic attitude. I immediately wanted to know more about her. I mean, she was super strong, and pretty, and could freaking fly!

Seriously. She is fabulous!
Seriously. She is fabulous!

The more I watched the show, the more I learned about her. She came from a broken home and had shitty parents. I could relate. She didn’t like being touched, which I could relate to even more. Never mind that her touching people caused them pain or death. I could relate!

We happened to live a few blocks from a comic book store at that time and one block from the library. I began spending nearly all my free time at one of those two places.

My love of Rogue quickly turned into an obsession with the X-Men. I started collecting their trading cards. And then bought the aforementioned hat. I already loved to read and comics were an easy transition.

It was insane. Photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/coolandcollected/
It was insane. Photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/coolandcollected/

But one thing that hasn’t changed is my love for Rogue. She was a fantastic character. She was interesting in a way that so few female characters are allowed to be, even nowadays.

I mean, she started out bad. She puts the first boy she kisses into a coma then runs away from her abusive father and joins the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. During that time she kills Ms. Marvel and absorbs all her power. Horrified by her actions (and battling Ms. Marvel’s personality) she runs away from the second abusive home in her life and finds Professor X and the X-Men.

She still can’t touch anyone. She still feels guilt at the things she has done. She spends the rest of her life using Ms. Marvel’s powers to do good in the world. And she tries very hard to avoid using her own natural powers.

People like to talk about how Jean Grey has so little control over her powers. And that is true. But Rogue? She cannot utilize her original powers at all. She keeps herself fully covered. She cannot even kiss someone for fear of permanently hurting them. Jean Grey has poor control. Rogue has zero control.

Now I haven’t read her comics in many years and I am sure a lot has happened since then. But I am talking about the original character that I loved all those years ago.

She is complex and interesting and sometimes her good intentions go awry. She messes up, she hurts people. She has an attitude that is not all sugar and spice. She has a love interest in Gambit that she can never be with. How can I not love a character like that?

We've all been there, Rogue.
We’ve all been there, Rogue. We’ve all been there.

I outgrew my love for X-Men and Marvel in general. Don’t get me wrong; I watch the movies. But I have issues with Marvel and Stan Lee specifically. I moved on to other things in the comic book world. And I am sure I will be sharing those loves with you all soon enough.That is one of the overarching wonderful things about being a nerd – there is so much out there to love!


MaurnasMaurnas is the barely anonymous alias of a reclusive Floridian fangirl. She has an alleged humor blog at cursitivity.WordPress.com and can also be found at maurnas@cursitivity on Twitter. She writes almost as much as she reads but has done nothing with her debatable talents thus far other than all the blogging and tweeting and writing.

I Find Your Lack of Ending Disturbing

‘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.

I mean look at me. I am in my happy place.
I mean look at me. I am in my happy place!

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.

This stuff is pretty important, I guess?
This stuff is pretty important, I guess?

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.

So, you know, kind of like this.
So, you know, kind of like this.

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 was all like, 'There's more? Hells yea it's my lucky day!'
I was all like, ‘There’s more? Hells yea it’s my lucky day!’ This was also, apparently, the beginning of my binge watching habit….

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.

There was angry sputtering and everything...!
There was angry sputtering and everything…!

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.

The struggle was real.
The struggle was real.

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!

Use this for reference.
Use this for reference.

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 basically missed the alternate view explosion...
I basically missed the alternate view explosion…

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!

'Calm your shit' is how he probably approaches most of us nerds...
‘Calm your sh*t’ is how he probably approaches most of us nerds…

Ahem.

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.

Real like photo of me in a home-made Jedi robe that I just HAD TO HAVE (thanks mom!)
Real life photo of me in a home-made Jedi robe that I just HAD TO HAVE (thanks mom!)

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)

This part was always the most fun!
This part was always the most fun!

I sought out like-minded people on this cool thing called the ‘internet’ and stumbled across a lovely website called “Star Wars Chicks.”

This place is still around!
This place is still around!

That was an important discovery because of two things:

  1. It made me realize that being a nerd and a girl was not a total anomaly
  2. 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!


Eve2Eve 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.

Origin Story

Ka-POW!
Ka-POW!

All good superheros have an origin story. This is ours.

Some Nerd Girl represents all the ladies out there – young and old – who find joy in all the nerdy things in life. We thrive in a culture of creativity, invention, learning, laughing, exploring, expanding and damn good storytelling. We love everything from web comics, robots and video games to books, board games and cosplay and so much more in between. The universe of our interests is dizzying, and we’re here to tell you all about it!

You might be thinking; why focus only on the X chromosome? I mean, isn’t the goal to be equal and gender neutral these days?

Quite frankly; that would be a relief! The truth us, there are still a lot of misconceptions out there that deserve discussion and introspection. At the same time, there are plenty of things that deserve celebration as well – and we want to make sure we reinforce those times of triumph. We hope that by sharing our experiences and opening a dialog about all things interesting or controversial, we will contribute to the evolution of the culture we proudly subscribe to.

At Some Nerd Girl, you’ll see a series of Origin Stories where our writers tell you when and where they first realized the nerd inside of them. You’ll hear about convention tales, whether they be good, bad, or ugly. And you’ll see original pieces and recommendations for all things nerdy!

Our contributors are diverse – anyone who wants a voice regarding women in medium or the culture is welcome to be a part of our troupe. We hope you’ll enjoy hearing from them and nerding out with us!

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