I'd been meaning to write this book review for some time, when I was sent a review copy of this book. Well, better late than never!
Geek Wisdom. The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture. Edited by Stephen H. Segal, with contributions by Zaki Hasan, N.K. Jemisin, Eric San Juan, and Genevieve Valentine.
The subtitle of this book makes an interesting point: Geekdown is like a sub-culture, and in many ways it's like a religion. (Indeed, this is a small book, easy to carry in the hand and full of quotable quotes - just like the Bible.) And the common knowledge of most of these quotes is what binds us together. A quick way of finding out who's an outsider and who's One of Us (gabba gabba). Not many people know the meaning of "The Cake is a lie". But those who do are likely to also be familiar with "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." or "Worst. Episode. Ever." Not just capable of using these phrases, but knowing their source, or laughing in recognition when they're used (like when Inigo Montoya was quoted in reference to Republicans' mis-using the word "teabagging.") In a lot of ways, these phrases are like a shibboleth - another word handed down to us via the Bible.
The book itself thus would work as a cool quiz book. Quick: What are the sources of:
"My God - It's full of stars!" "My name is Talking Tina, and I'm going to kill you." "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads." "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." "Resistance is futile." "Klaatu Barada Nikto!" "There is no spoon." "We're made of star stuff." "Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds." "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"
In case you weren't counting, that's ten. How many did you know (comment below, if desired). I'll bet the average score of the people reading this is at least 7, possibly 8, with many folks getting a perfect 10/10.
It's kind of like when you win Bible Trivia in Vacation Bible School. But for geeks.
So that's one cool thing about this book - it makes us nerds proud to be nerds. Happy that there are other "happy mutants" out there that like the same things, and remember the same things. I mean, millions of people saw "Star Wars", even multiple times, but how big is the slice of people who remember where Luke whined he was going to pick up some Power Converters? This book offers constant reassurance to geeks - many of whom had traumatic childhoods from more conventionally interesting and popular classmates.
It's also a learning experience. My pal Jim Terman once told me that he could happily spend a day just reading random articles in wikipedia. Me, too. You, too, probably. And there are - shock! - a few awesome quotes in here I'd never heard of. Like: "Until a man is 25, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest mother f+++er in the world." Awesome quote, never heard of it before. Probably because I (shame and eternal shame! Nothing but shame) I never made it all the way through "Snow Crash." But, well, now I feel like I have.
Another cool thing about this book is that there are interesting commentaries about the quotes. You'd think that there wouldn't be a full page of stuff to write about some of them like "Soylent Green is made out of people!" But, heck, hour-long sermons riff on one-line Bible quotes. Some of the commentaries here are interesting, pithy quotations of themselves (hence the various contributors like N.K. Jemisin et al.). Like: "The lifestyle of comfort that we likely take for granted has been built on a foundation of systemic dehumanization." Wowzers. There are also insightful comments like: "Sometimes, parody or pastiche shows a deeper love for the original source material than a hundred official sequels ever could. In forty years, has there really ever been a better "Star Trek" movie than "Galaxy Quest" (1999) - or a better "Fantastic Four" movie than "The Incredibles"?" Or: "If geeks are anything, we are opinionated. We wield our views like +1 spiked clubs, casting judgment upon throwaway entertainment as if we were debating scripture (ahem)." And thus this little tome is doubly full of wisdom.
Best. Geek book. Ever.
Was "Open the pod bay doors" the first thing you ever said to Siri? Then this book is for you.
Alas! I only got 7 on first thought. And the Talking Tina one I know not from the original (never saw the episode) but from the Twilight Zone pinball machine, where there is a sequence of "Hi, I'm talking Tina! Here's your Extra Ball!" (and in the backglass animation, she drops the ball, which then explodes, and she giggles).
Ah, the last one I thought I recognized but couldn't remember the source(s). I'm more likely to have remembered it from my comparative religions class in college (a class I think more people should take, BTW, but it probably makes the fundies heads -- not considered sensible Christians like you -- go all 'splody).
Believe it or not, I've never actually watched Back to the Future or The Matrix. I don't watch a whole lot of movies. I have, however, ridden behind the train from BTTF 2, and through the old-west town, although by the time I rode through, it had burned down. (That locomotive is a particular celebrity; it's also James West's train from Wild Wild West and about a hundred other movies and television shows; it's at the Jamestown (CA) State Historic Park, and is only run on special occasions.)