Dragon*Con and the Geek Hierachy

A few years ago the diagram of the geek hierarchy spread through the blogosphere. When I was a teenage fan in the 1980s, I’ll admit to feeling a lot like this. When I’d go to the Atlanta Fantasy Fair, I felt superior to the people who dressed up in hall costumes. “I may be a comic book nerd” said I, “but at least I’m not wearing a long Doctor Who scarf like an idiot.” Most of that attitude towards whatever other fannish sub-clique caught my ire that day was 100% my own insecurities at play. I wanted a pecking order because that gave me someone to feel better than. “These Star Trek fans are fools, I’m here to meet Will Eisner! I’m obviously a man (ha!) of more refined tastes.”

A fact that became clear later and probably I even knew then is that outside of the building, every single one of us were the same. Years later, I was doing Reality Break and because of that had moved up whatever hierarchy chart existed. I interacted with the famous and infamous of science fiction all the time. Nancy Kress and Poppy Z Brite called my home phone! In 1996 for Dragon*Con right before the Olympics, I was hanging out in one of the hotel lobbys with Greg Theakston, who I had interviewed on the live remote earlier that day. This wasn’t a deep friendship, it was a short-duration acquaintanceship that I doubt he even remembers now. We were talking about Jack Kirby or some such at that time. I was wearing a full business suit and tie, as was Greg. Amazingly to me, we got the weirdest attitude and hassles from hotel security even though we were the only normal looking people as far as the eye could see. That’s when it hit me square between the eyes. Whether we are wearing suits or Wookie hats, once that badge goes on we are the exact same thing to the outside world, what the Subgeniuses call “The Conspiracy.”

I’m older now and I’m mellower about this, and I’m one thousand times more comfortable in my skin. Where I used to keep it a dark secret that I’m a science fiction and comic book fan, nowadays I’m out and proud with those aspects of my life. Pretty much everyone that knows me knows that. Hell, half the people that know me do so because I’m a fan.

I don’t do nearly enough volunteering and charity in my life, something I need to fix. However, here’s a small thing I do that costs me exactly nothing in time or energy. It actually saves me time and energy. I don’t make fun of anyone at Dragon*Con for anything. Not even for smelling funny, being awkward and completely inept socially, for wearing costumes that are age and/or weight inappropriate, for saying dumb things. I don’t care. This is a long, cold, shitty, lonely life and if dressing up like the green belly dancer girl from the original Star Trek or pretending you are a fictional super-heroine makes your life a little better, have at it. Moments of true joy are hard enough to come by in this world. If wearing funny clothes or putting on an accent that you haven’t practiced enough or acting like a complete spazz makes you feel better, do it with my blessing. Don’t knock me over, don’t harsh anyone else’s mellow, be a good steward of the space carved out to allow you this freedom and don’t deprive anyone else of the same, and then we are cool.

It’s taken me many years to fully grok that bullying and making fun of the vulnerable is not a manifestation of strength but of weakness. The true strength is required to be tolerant of those weaker, sillier, more awkward, smaller than you. That’s why I try to reserve my shots for those bigger and stronger than me and instead cherish and protect and help the spastic fans. Extrapolate this out to the borders of this country and the rest of the world and you see where my political philosophy has headed. This is in large partl because of science fiction fandom, and Georgia fandom in particular. Dragon*Con makes you mighty.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

3 thoughts on “Dragon*Con and the Geek Hierachy”

  1. Moon Faerie says:

    I’m glad we accept ourselves as we grow up – mture, mature, how mature ^^’ – I believe that’s part of life, our doubts and fears.

    I don’t believe in that geek hierarchy. Come on! Some may look a little weirder and siller – and maybe they are ^^ – but they’re no less than anyone else. Somo silly looking-people may have a bigger heart than most bastards around us… and that’s what counts ^^ However… I’ve met some stupid and annoying geeks too. Wich means stupidity can affect anyone, no matter the label xD

  2. Viv says:

    The second to the last paragraph has really touched me. Can you imagine how much MORE fun we’d have at cons if everyone felt that way? Or even our day-to-day life?!?! Such a simple thing, but revolutionary.

  3. dave says:

    Viv, glad you ran across this old post and found something of value in it. I brought this attitude with me to Balticon and Heroes Con and deployed it in both cases. It’s not hard, and it really does make things better. It’s a very small gift that we can give, one that costs us nothing, to just not be mean to our goofier brothers and sisters.

    Now that Dragon*Con is always the same weekend as that college football game in the Georgia Dome, I see some need for protection of our weaker members of the tribe. I trailed some jocks through the Hilton on Saturday night last year when they looked like they were going to play “poke the freak.” That’s just not acceptable and I am bugged when people invade the safe space and make it less safe. People paid money and waited all year to have this space, you don’t get to take it away for your own dickish amusement, even if your team just won.

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