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When I started writing my most recent book, I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture, I wanted to make an argument about aesthetics. Namely, I wanted to argue that when it comes to art, geeks tend to like works of realist fantasy, which puts the lie to the widespread belief that realism and fantasy are opposites. (They’re not: realism is a mode, or way of making art, while fantasy is a genre; any genre can be done in any mode.)

As I worked on the book, however, I realized that people were just as interested, if not more interested, in the history of geek culture. Whenever I told people what I was doing, they said that they hoped the book would explain why geeky stuff is everywhere these days—why it’s taken over the culture. Why are all the movies at the Cineplex superhero movies? Why is everyone talking about Game of Thrones? Why is it now considered OK, or mostly OK, for adults to read Harry Potter novels and comic books? So I knew I needed to write about that, too.

As it turned out, this wasn’t a problem, because the two topics are intimately intertwined. Indeed, you can’t understand the history of geek culture without also grasping its aesthetics.

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Marvel vs DC

Some people say that Superman is boring because he’s too powerful. Who could beat him in a fight? No one. He’s stronger and faster than everybody else, on top of which he can fly, see through walls, hear people whisper from halfway around the world, fire laser beams from his eyes, freeze things with his breath—plus he’s nigh indestructible, to boot. There’s practically nothing he can’t do. He can survive direct hits from nukes, and bathe in the sun without breaking a sweat. And since no one can beat him, the thinking goes, Superman, the Man of Steel, is never really in any danger, which means his stories lack peril, tension, suspense. There aren’t any stakes. There’s no thrill.

But to think about Superman this way misunderstands not only the character, but the superhero genre as a whole—what makes it unique, and what type of stories it’s best suited to tell. Worse still, this misunderstanding obscures the genre’s historical limitations, as well as how artists might transcend those limitations in the future.

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Last month, I visited Google (as part of their Talks at Google series) to discuss my latest book, I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture. Over the course of an hour, I spoke with Josh Pyle and other Google employees about how geeks have become a mainstream demographic, and what that entails: what geeks want, why corporations increasingly cater to geeks, and how those intersecting desires have resulted in the geek community’s current political struggles. Thanks to Google for inviting me to speak, and thanks to everyone who checks out the video below—I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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On May 8th, FSG will publish my book I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture, which is available for pre-order here.

About the book:

In I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing, A. D. Jameson takes geeks and non-geeks alike on a surprising and insightful journey through the science fiction, fantasy, and superhero franchises that now dominate pop culture. Walking us through the rise of geekdom from its underground origins to the top of the box office and bestseller lists, Jameson takes in franchises like The Lord of the Rings, Guardians of the Galaxy, Harry Potter, Star Trek, and, in particular, Star Wars—as well as phenomena like fan fiction, cosplay, and YouTube parodies. Along the way, he blasts through the clichés surrounding geek culture: that its fans are mindless consumers who will embrace all things Spider-Man or Batman, regardless of quality; or that the popularity and financial success of Star Wars led to the death of ambitious filmmaking.

A lifelong geek, Jameson shines a new light on beloved classics, explaining the enormous love (and hate) they are capable of inspiring in fan and non-fan alike, while exploding misconceptions as to how and why they were made. I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing tells the story of how the geeks have inherited the earth.

“Funny, incisive, and timely … Jameson does for geeks what geek culture does for its superheroes: he takes them seriously, respects their power, and refuses to hide his deep affection.” — Lawrence Kasdan, co-screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens, and Solo: A Star Wars Story

“Self-aware and self-reflective, A. D. Jameson deftly examines the development of mainstream geek culture from an insider’s perspective. He traces the path of contemporary geek media from Lucas to, well, Lucas, celebrating the future-forward thinkers in gender-fluid cosplay gear who will inherit geekdom and arguing that even if cranky critics like me find some superhero movies are getting staid that the geeks are capable of reinventing cinema again.” — Film critic April Wolfe, host of the Switchblade Sisters podcast

“Compulsively readable, Jameson’s Geek Culture is a tasty combination of personal memoir, survey of the rise of geek culture, and defense of the value of geek literature and arts. Enjoyable for the general reader and exceedingly useful to teachers, academics, and anyone interested in the past, current, and future of geekdom.” — Mary Ann Mohanraj, author of The Stars Change, founder of Strange Horizons, and Director of the Speculative Literature Foundation

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In all seriousness, though only inasmuch as I know anything about these things (i.e., not much):

  1. He likes athletics and kept in shape while president and thus served as a good role model in that regard.
  2. He tried cracking down on sex tourism in SE Asia. I lived in Thailand between 2003–5 and this probably got more attention there than here?
  3. He tried doing something about AIDS in Africa.
  4. In 2005, he helped establish the King Abdullah scholarship program. Since then, I’ve taught several Saudi students who came to the US to study through that program.
  5. He comes across as a nice enough guy who would be, as the saying goes, someone you could have a beer with.

Other than that, he was a godawful, terrible, horrible, monstrous, disastrous president and I hated every second of his two terms.

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No doubt because he got a free blood pressure test and consultation today*:

Walgreens knowledge is power

Biopower!

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I’m something of a politics junkie. I also adore maps. So you can imagine my joy when I came across this very detailed (county-by-county!) elections-results map by John Nelson. Extremely high-res versions are available, just click here.

It will come in very useful when you plan your next move.

Update: More maps here and here.

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