When I was a kid in the 80s, comic books cost about 50 cents, and that was one of my first experiences being an all-out geek. I used to buy them off the spinner racks (since comic book shops as I know them now were hard to find back then) in stationery stores (remember those?) and ride my bike home with them tucked safely under my arm. Back then, only Marvel and DC were the heavy hitters in the comic book industry, and I don't remember there being a huge rivalry between being a Spider-man fan or a Superman fan. I blame that on the comic book movies. I even went to a "comic book convention" of a sort in NY back then, too, but this was pre-New York Comic Con. Not sure where it was, but it was tiiiiiiny compared to the NY Comic Cons I've been to in the last few years.
Also in the early 80s, my step-brother introduced me to this role playing game called Dungeons & Dragons, and he had these small paper booklets that housed all of this magical information about clerics, paladins, etc., and I became intrigued (to put it mildly). I fell in love with dragon dice and even bought these tiny metal figures that I painted. Talk about empowering!
My transformation into a Geek was complete. Well, for that time, anyway.
I've been interested in all things fringe and odd since then, and I fully embrace that. I still read comic books (when I'm not disenchanted with the direction that DC Comics is going), digging into my long boxes once in a while for a taste of the books I came to love as a child. I've been included in two separate issues of Wonder Woman (the first, thanks to artist Yanick Paquette, who drew my face as a framed portrait in a museum scene, and second, thanks to Gail Simone, who included an idea of mine in her last issue of the series). I could go on and on about my love of all things Amazonian, but suffice to say, I have a "Wonder Shrine" in my home office, and it continues to grow one piece at a time.
When I was younger, I used to hear people talk about my Geekish kin, mostly guys, who were said to live in their parents' basement, be completely enmeshed in all things odd and alienating, and even speak their own version of Geek-lish (the English we speak when we're around others of our kind). Unfortunately, these guys had the reputation of being unhygienic and less than proficient in interpersonal relations. I think that stereotype is far from accurate: I bathe regularly, know how to speak with non-Geeks with great skill, and I own my own home (in Florida, we don't have basements anyway). It's safe to say that that version of a Geek isn't the predominant one, at least in my experience.
Having published a few fantasy novels, I go to my share of science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions all over the country to connect with my kindred spirits, selling and signing my books. I've had friends question me as to why I don't just find a traditional publisher (since I am an independent author who publishes through CreateSpace) and let them promote me so I don't have to go to the conventions.
Here's the thing: I want to go.
I get a huge kick out of the Cosplayers who go, and I have tremendous respect for anyone who dresses up as a video game character or superhero or even the Starship Enterprise. These people aren't weird—they're heroes! They're brave souls who risk ridicule and shaming from others, but they don't care. They don their homemade costumes, many of which constructed to last for years, and parade through the aisles proudly. Not sure I could do that, but I give them kudos!
Then, there are the Vendors (basically those people who sell things I either can't afford or just don't have room in my house for), and I just become a 10 year old all over again (erasing 36 years ain't easy, trust me). Sometimes being a teacher has its advantages, especially when my income doesn't permit me to go home with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise. These people make me drool.
Having been to my fair share of Cons, I've also met some incredible People, some of whom I get to see each year I go. The networking that you can do with likeminded people is extraordinary—trust me. I trade books with fellow authors, or just get tips on merchandising my table. Regardless, it's worth the table fee just to see these people who are my family. And, through Facebook, I meet even more people who I will meet in person when I return to the conventions.
I get to break out all my comic book related T-shirts, wear my jeans and sneakers, and relax. Sitting at my table helps me come out of my shell. I'm actually quite a wallflower, believe it or not. In person, it takes a lot to get me to talk if I don't know you. When people come over to me, I do my best to engage them in a way that lets me get to know them, whether they buy a book from me or not. It's not always about the sale; it's about the connections.
Lastly, I get to bring stories back to my classroom (those I can repeat, anyway), and regale my students with the craziness of the convention. They're amused by my interest in Cthulhu and comic books. How many kids can say their AP English teacher has comic book posters on the wall (as well as posters of his own novel covers) and Con badges, too (one is signed by Stan Lee—thank you, Michael D'Alessio!).
I don't intend to rein in my Geek any time soon. So, if you want to chat comics, fantasy novels, or even just get to know me, stop on by when you see me at a Convention or find me on Facebook. I'm always looking to make new friends with whom I can speak Geeklish. :)
(By the way, I capitalized words to show how important I think they are.)