The Code of the Nerd

One of the key elements to creating an immersive world is populating it with fully developed characters. Characters that are not stereotypes or collections of descriptions, but rounded individuals with hopes, desires, and ethical beliefs. This is what makes a character feel like a real living person. A character’s love of folk music and yoga are interesting details that do say something about their nature, but what makes you a real person is not what band you like, books you read, or games you play, but what you do under pressure or how you treat others. What things make you feel angry, happy, or sad.

My uncle once told me something as a teen that I didn’t understand for years: your real friends are not the people who like the same things as you, they are the people who act and think like you. Liking the same band is not equivalent in any way to caring about the same cultural issues or even more so, thinking or feeling at the same level.

One of the best things about being a comic book nerd is that my ethical code often meshes incredibly well with that of the other dorks shopping there. I don’t know if reading about heroes for twenty years has affected my understanding of honor, duty, or justice, or if I picked up fantasy novels and comic books because the characters had similar beliefs to mine to begin with. It is a broad stereotype to say that nerds are gracious and accepting, but for the most part this has always been the case. Comic book store people are immeasurably patient with the occasionally socially awkward members of their nerd cohort. I aspire to be that patient with others.

I’ve always joked that I’m a “closet nerd,” people didn’t know that I collected comics or read sci-fi or fantasy novels because I didn’t look the like the stereotype. Consequently, I would occasionally endure challenges to my knowledge of nerd-culture as a test of whether I belonged to that group; a sort of authenticity check, if you will. Proving that you are the Nerd King of Nerdiness by challenges of knowledge is a normal form of rivalry in nerd-culture.

As time has passed and nerd-culture has become more mainstream (or perhaps vice versa), I’ve seen these normal authenticity checks sour into something less well-meaning, more of a negative authenticity assumption than a check. Suddenly there are rules to admission into nerdom. As though if you didn’t start reading comics by age ten, you were never eligible for nerd enrollment. I see this sort of authenticity bullying everywhere, from calling people noobs as a derogatory name, to saying that someone isn’t an authentic nerd because they only started reading A Song of Ice and Fire after seeing the TV show.

I like liking things. I like people who like things. I especially like it when people like the things that I like, because then I know I will get more of those things. Without all of our boring coworkers and, dare I say, our parents, shelling out $15 to see the Avengers, there would be no Avengers 2 for those of us who know a Skrull when we see one, no matter what you call it.

We were all noobs at some point. We all want more nerdy stuff to enjoy. Instead of rolling your eyes at someone’s sudden discovery of The Walking Dead on TV, loan them the trade, or maybe even loan them Y:The Last Man and blow their minds. Elevate the casual nerds to your level. And remember what my uncle said, the people who just fell in love with Firefly, may have more in common with you than a love of the shiny. Give them a chance.

Welcome, noobs! And happy reading to all.

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