Category Archives: geek

NY Times article about geeks and DnD

The New York Times posted a thoughtful article about Gary Gygax’s contribution to geek – and therefore mass – culture (NYT login required).

Op-Ed Contributor: Geek Love

I like his discussion of D&D’s effect on introvert-thinker geek types, particularly his point about how having a way to quantify personalities helps them cope with people in the real world. I, uh, totally do not identify with that.

The path in the diagram that goes through “painting pewter figurines” to “web designer” = me. It’s a cute diagram, but it assumes that all geeks are male, and don’t get me started on that. There are plenty of female geeks out there. One of my earliest D&D memories is of my mom (who is also a programmer) having her first edition thief character kill the rest of the party in their sleep so she could run away with all the treasure. My brother and I were so mad.


Nature vs nurture vs the universe’s sense of humor

princess cheerleader - my nightmareSince we found out we’re having a girl, the sidekick and I have been more interested in the next-door-neighbor children. They’re fraternal twin girls, 4 years old, and unlike the twins I’ve met who seem to match, between them they cover a spectrum of female characteristics.

The other day the twins proudly showed off t-shirts they’d picked out for the first day of preschool. One twin’s said “Princess” and the other twin’s said “Soccer”. This sums up each of their personalities. One of them, Girly Twin, always wears dresses and enjoys drama and all things princessy. Sporty Twin, on the other hand, always wears shorts and t-shirts and loves being athletic. She’s making decent progress with the whiffle ball and bat.

They have pretty much the same genes and are being raised in the same environment, so how are they so different? Did each of them have the innate potential for certain interests when they were born?

This is why the sidekick and I fear that in spite of our introverted geek dork personalities and a fairly gender-role-balanced home environment we’ll end up with an extroverted princess daughter who wants to wear short skirts and cheer for boys.

Swords Against Death, Fritz Leiber, love.

Swords Against Death, 1970 edition
My battered 1970 paperback edition of Swords Against Death.

I just finished one of my semiannual readings of one of my beat-up old Fritz Leiber paperbacks. It’s time for some Fritz Leiber love!

Here’s the quiz:

1. What seminal fantasy short story, written in 1939, introduced the iconic characters of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser? (Hint: it’s the one that’s so wryly phrased and so perfectly entertaining that Clare giggles uncontrollably all the way through it.)

2. Who wrote the following: “All I ever try to write is a good story with a good measure of strangeness in it. The supreme goddess of the universe is Mystery, and being well entertained is the highest joy.”

3. Compare and contrast the works of Tolkien and Leiber. Which has
a. Elves?
b. Sex?
c. Noble heroes?
d. Amoral antiheroes?
e. Lots of poems?
f. Lots of humor?

4. Which is the best action scene:
a. Fafhrd storms a viking boat unarmed then saves it from capsizing in “The Sunken Land”.
b. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser fight geology cultists while sliding down a glacier in “The Seven Black Priests”.
c. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser get separated while trying to escape from the thieves’ guild in “Thieves’ House”.

5. Which scene is creepiest:
a. Gray Mouser tells Fafhrd about the “black cloaks” at the end of “The Sunken Land”.
b. Fafhrd meets the undead master thieves in the crypts of the Thieves’ Guild.
c. Fafhrd and Gray Mouser discover the nature of the mysterious tower in “The Jewels in the Forest”.

Highlight for answers!

1. “The Jewels in the Forest”, first published in Unknown, 1939. Its original title, “Two Sought Adventure” is also an acceptable answer.

2. Fritz Leiber. Read his books.

3. a. Tolkien, b. Leiber, c. Tolkien, d. Leiber, e. Tolkien, f. Leiber

4. Tough call. My vote’s on a. the viking ship scene, because it has drunk vikings.

5. b. Undead thieves! Anything that creeps out the unflappable Fafhrd is creepy indeed.

Learn more at Wikipedia: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

I got your magical unicorn story right here, sweetheart.

Last night the BHE* and I visited my sister-in-law. It was the first night she was home alone with a newborn and a four-year-old, so we went over to help put the four-year-old niece, J, to bed while the new niece was being attended to.

One of the steps in J’s inflexible bedtime ritual is the telling of an original “Once-upon-a-time” story as she lies in bed. J was very weepy about not having her mom put her to bed, and when it was time for the story she melted down. “You don’t know how to tell stories!” she wailed. I assured her that I do, and I tell stories all the time, but she kept insisting that she needed a certain kind of special story that I wouldn’t be able to tell. Finally she yelled “I like special stories! You don’t know how to tell stories with special things like magic and unicorns and dragons!”.

I suppressed my impulse to demonstrate my knowledge of hit dice and special attacks, and explained to her that although she doesn’t know me very well, I really really do know a lot about magic, unicorns, and dragons, and I tell stories about them all the time. Eventually she calmed down, and after we’d had a few minutes of the story about her two stuffed unicorns (Uni and
Whitey) visiting a lady who lives in the woods and gives nuts to squirrels she said “I like your kind of story the best.”

I can’t believe a preschooler questioned my magical unicorn creds. Clearly I haven’t been spending enough time with her.

*Best Husband Ever. I asked him what he wanted to be called, and he said “Whatever I say is going to come back to haunt me.”

So who wants to liaise with me?

You are 29% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.

Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.

You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You’ll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!

Geek [to You]: I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!

You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at