Over at Spiked, an article entitled The geek shall inherit the Earth. Written by a self-professed geek about to attend her Nth Doctor Who conference. Oh but here's what she thinks about geek culture:
The criticism traditionally heaped upon science fiction and fantasy - that they are infantile and escapist genres - has always been fairly risible. There is no reason why science fiction, fantasy, and yes, even comic books, cannot be used in an ambitious way to explore the human condition, just as all fiction can. Science fiction and fantasy often provide a fascinating insight into the concerns of the times in which they are produced, from the progressive aspirations of the US science fiction writers of the 1950s, to JRR Tolkien's Catholic morality in The Lord of the Rings.
But the criticism of science fiction and fantasy fans - that we are infantile and escapist people, and socially inept to boot - sadly has a little more truth to it. Of course, there are many pastimes that people pursue obsessively, and it may seem a little unfair to stick the boot into sci-fi geeks rather than car fanatics, opera buffs or stamp collectors. But of all the hobbies and interests out there, being preoccupied with the details of otherworldly settings and characters, at the expense of being engaged with the world you actually inhabit, does bespeak a certain retreat from society into the safety of one's imagination.
Fighting words! Or rather: a real tempest in a teacup, and the self-loathing here (or is it holier-than-thou? Sometimes I can't tell 'em apart) isn't really worth picking on. So: I'm a bit of a geek, though only a bit. And PLEASE TELL US WHAT DO YOU THINK WALLY?
I think she's more right than most geeks would admit, and less right than she thinks.
The fundamental problem with 'fans', as I see it, is the all-too-common unwillingness to allow any kind of external metric for quality into discussions of the cult material. Buffy fans might love that show for its extraordinary emotional fidelity and integrity, but at the end of the day you have to recognize that All in the Family went there decades ago, in perhaps different form. You might know a hell of a lot about Mercedes Lackey or Larry Niven, but you're not doing them justice until you can put them in a literary context that includes real masters of story and voice. Far too many people read tawdry generic fantasy precisely because it's easy, because it's a familiar language - regardless of the fact that most of the stuff is just crap. Like fan fiction: nice to be a part of something, I suppose, even though it'll only ever be 9th best at best. (College parallel: you know those people who'd show up to a class on popular media and turn every single discussion into a variation on, 'How can you not understand that information wants to be free??'? Those people are motherfucking geeks of the worst kind. Fans, you might say.)
I don't know about 'infantile' as a descriptor for fans - no more infantile than dogmatic politicos or the people who made XXX starring Vin Diesel. Regardless: I was at the MIT Science Fiction Society the other day, and the people there were more than a bit uneasy about hanging out with people until we got onto the subject of science fiction - at which point the conversation quickly became really interesting, because I have no interest in reading sci fi, but the worker was willing to talk about its wider literary/cultural role. I hate the idea that there're five topics that are approved for discussion in a certain subculture, or topics that are required to enable any other conversation. (Then again, my friends are of the bullshitting about everything is noble variety for the most part, so maybe it's a personal value judgment on my part.)
OK this is disorganized and I'm going to stop here.