Saturday, 10 am til 6 pm, I volunteered for the charity English PEN at Nine Worlds. What is Nine Worlds? A Geek convention. Am I a geek? Well, no. And going into this convention, I wasn’t exactly enthused about the events that were advertised – just very much there to help the charity. I think the uber-fans of sci-fi, fantasy and magical realms are the most stereotyped individuals in society. Geeks. Nerds. If you’re American, dweebs. Along with these derogatory nicknames comes the assumption that all these fans are a bit, well, weird. Isolated. Friendless. Kind of sweaty. Obese. Over-enthusiastic about everything. Just a bit… odd. And socially awkward.
Walking into the convention, I admit – I held and believed these stereotypes. However, I found that the longer I spent at the convention, the more my preconceptions changed. So here are my observations (as an outsider) of ‘geek culture’ and ‘fandom’.
1) Everyone is really happy.
I kind of assumed that the super fans would be… alone? And quite morose. But how wrong I was! I spoke to some of the nicest, most enthusiastic, smartest, intellectual and genuinely happy and lovely people I have ever met.
2) Quite a lot of people attend in ‘civilian clothes’.
One assumes that at a geek convention, everyone is going to go all out and wear some seriously outlandish clothes. But this is another preconception. Actually, if you think about it, it is no different attending this kind of convention than going to a theatre performance – some people wear the fan-orientated merchandise and some people don’t. It’s not weird at a production of Fame to see leggings galore, so why would it be weird to see people wearing a Doctor Who outfit?
3) Those who do attend in full regalia, have some seriously good sewing skills.
I have never been more impressed with the extensive amounts of effort put into (beware: technical term) ‘cosplay’ outfits. A huge highlight of my volunteering was watching the outfits roll past my stand. The phenomenal Victorian style corsets and bustles, the length of the hand knitted Doctor Who scarves, the unicorn horns… As an amateur sewer myself, I was blown away! Going the whole hog is part and parcel of the event and why the hell not! For a non-geek such as myself, I thoroughly revelled in the fabulous, fantastical attire.
4) Geeks are obese and sweaty. With ponytails and beards. And men.
These are all… lies. Obviously, you get the odd obese, sweaty, ponytailed, bearded man anywhere. The assumption can be that this is what a geek looks like. Attend a convention like this and you’ll see that it isn’t true. There were, obviously, some that fulfilled this criteria. In general though, this is a myth – a stereotype blown out of proportion. Not only this, but a massive surprise for me was the huge amount of women! In fact, I’m almost tempted to say that there was a higher proportion of women than men. Not only this – but there were so many couples! Which also kind of dispels the fact that geeks are alone…
5) Finally, I might actually be a geek myself…
So, when I said I was coming from an outsider’s perspective, I may have lied. I am a massive Harry Potter fan. Although I only got to attend one event, ‘Hermione: feminist icon?’, I hand-on-heart loved it. To engage with so many bright, intelligent people about feminism, and Hermione’s character analysis in both the books and the films was genuinely a laugh. I laughed a lot.
What have I learnt about geek culture and geek fandom? Whether it’s Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Doctor Who, there is a real giggle to be had. It’s all just a fun hobby after all. Okay, Live Action Muggle Quidditch seemed a bit of a step too far for me, but the talks sounded interesting, thought provoking and political. Of course you’re going to get some odd people in attendance, but at any convention you’re going to get the extremes. Think of a One Direction concert and their superfans hysterically crying, for goodness’ sake. I know which I’d rather attend – make me an honorary geek any day of the week.