Not-So-Civil War, or Embracing Polyfanory

Geek Speaks…Fiction! GeekMom
Image: Melanie R. Meadors
Image: Melanie R. Meadors

You might know Anton Strout from his Simon Canderous paranormal detective urban fantasy series. Or maybe you’re familiar with his Spellmason Chronicles, about a girl and her gargoyle fighting epic-level mayhem in modern day Manhattan. Or, you could know him as the host of The Once and Future Podcast, a weekly geeky show that focuses on authors and other creative types in the nerdiverse. Or, it could be, you might not know him at all. But as far as geeks go, Anton is one of the biggest I know, and it turns out, he has a few things to say on the subject. Please welcome Anton as our guest to GeekMom, where he basically geeks out about…geeking out!

You host 118 episodes of The Once & Future Podcast (and counting!) and you’re bound to find some recurring themes. My conversations with authors and other creative types for it have all proven illuminating in each their own way, but not only that, there has been an interesting side effect to producing the show.

It has become my weekly psychotherapy session.

Image: Ace/Roc Books
Image: Ace/Roc Books

Long before producing the show ever entered my brain meat, I had already gotten into the whole fantasy writing business because of an early and deep love of all things nerdtastic. As a creator of fantastical fiction, it became refreshing to produce the podcast because I felt validated when hearing how other authors succeeded/coped/dealt with failure. We had much commonality: we all wrote, we all read, and we were almost to a person fanboys and fangirls of all things genre. Every so often, however, I also discovered that we were all forced to deal with the darker side of fandom, too: outage over the next book in a series not coming out fast enough, fighting over who knew more trivia about comics, literary vs. pop fiction, who worshipped a beloved series more, and who were the real fans out there?

This isn’t the Quickening, Highlanders. It’s not a contest. There can actually be more than one, and as far as taking up my personal sword to chop off the head of the Kurgans lurking in the dark recesses of fandom?

I think I’m done, people. I’m tired, fatigued like I’m seriously pinned down at the Battle of Serenity Valley.

Now I realize that this might come off as somewhat hypocritical. I am, after all, nerd rage complaining about complaining in fandom… but I mean, really, what do I get from engaging the seemingly endless stream of haters and elitists? When did we lose all civility towards each other in nerd culture and when the hell did it become all-out war?

This not-so-Civil War of ours takes away from our enjoyment of things, and takes away time we could actually be consuming more of what we love, and to what end?

For starters, it helps to acknowledge that a great deal of arguing on the internet is a fruitless endeavor, much like my attempts to construct a life-size functioning Voltron out of Legos and old computer parts. First I ask myself: can I reason someone out of a position they didn’t use reason or logic to get to in the first place? This question alone eliminates a surprising amount of my personal desire to engage in conflict by at least 80%.

Which is not to say there are not reasonable and worthwhile discussions to be had out there in the nerdiverse. There are problems within our genre community and fandom that do deserve our attention, and there are voices to be listened to, most of which are far more likely to make better points that I could ever articulate on those subject matters. To those voices, I will be an ally and a booster of signals.

But as I stare into the abyss of ever-growing negativity in our cultural world, I am just far too fatigued to attempt diving into the endless haystack of OUTRAGE just so I can find that one shining needle of conversational merit.

Therefore, most pointless discussion gets thrown onto the burning funeral pyre of such circular rage-fueled topics as religion, politics, or opposing viewpoints on the series finale of Lost.
So if you can’t beat ‘em… now what? How do you best rage against the hate machine?
As your eyes pass over this right here and right now, dear reader, I am asking you to make a choice: embrace the polyfanorous life. Or rather, recommit to it. In all the fandom outrage, you might have forgotten what you love, or why you love it.

Polyfanory in action Photo: Anton Strout, used with permission
Polyfanory in action
Photo: Anton Strout, used with permission

Polyfanory is the Zen road to burning away the darkness. It’s flipping the switch in your brain to reclaim all that might currently be lost to you: the root of how you yourself actually got to the point of fanatical love of grokking all things nerd and geek in the first place.

How did I get there? By going back to my roots. By going back to allowing myself to unconditionally and unapologetically feeling awesome about all the early things I fell in love with. Why? Because whether others join me or not in this pursuit, I still reap the benefits by choosing to come from a place of love and passion.

If I do find those who also share my passions then that simply becomes icing on an already delicious nerdcake! Sure, the cynics, haters, and detracting trolls want you to believe that the cake is a lie, but think back to a time before all the outrage, to a time from your youth.

Cake was amazing, and so was your love of whatever you chose to geek out over.

*puts on old man glasses and shakes cane at you*

Back in my day (meaning the 1990’s), the early wonderment of the internet was not lost on me. As a youthful nerd who spent a lot of time alone and isolated, I fought hard to find my tribe in this amazing new world. I ventured into the net with a positive, hopeful view of humanity, a Star Trek utopian vision of camaraderie and cooperation, boldly going where no Anton had gone before (and probably violating the Prime Directive every chance I got).

There on the Internet I found evidence of my people, my tribe. These were the Avengers who assembled, those who knew who watched the Watchmen, those who understood that all who wander are not lost. Yet underneath all that love ran a deep, Ghostbusters 2-ish toxic river of sludge.

I know more than you ever could about insert-fandom-here, it burbled. I earned my geek cred the one true way. I’m old school, which means my knowledge matters more. No n00bs allowed. My genitalia somehow makes me a more valid consumer of nerd culture than you.

And despite all my rage at these attitudes, I couldn’t help but think: So?

Image: Ace/Roc Books
Image: Ace/Roc Books

Know more about The Silmarillion than me? That’s cool. I could probably tell you more about Battle of the Planets/Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. I’ll probably even love you all the more for your passion. If your passion, however, is predicated in a believe that someone is less than you just because you know more genre trivia/has different genitals /made an error on Season 3 Buffy trivia that you pounced on?

Then into the Sarlacc Pit of wasting my time with you!

At my core, I grew into who I was as a widespread fan of things because I’m a lover, not a fighter. And I implore the rest of you to embrace your own polyfanorous lifestyle. Love what you love, and love it hard, but without dipping your toes into the toxic river of sludge that flows beneath to do so. Be the Ghostbusters, riding in the Statue of Liberty, using positive energy to turn the tide of toxicity on the New York City of your soul.

I promise you that your passion will kill that hate simply because you’re engaging what is best in you. Even if it doesn’t, it is the journey not the destination that is truly important, and love of anything grows and spreads.

And because I’m a big Tolkien nerd, I can’t help but with a quote from Haldir in The Fellowship of the Ring when choosing the light in the face of a seeming darkness that permeates our genre world:
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

Image: Anton Strout, used with permission
Image: Anton Strout, used with permission

Urban fantasy author Anton Strout has given readers equal shares of chills and laughter since the first book of his Simon Canderous paranormal detective series, Dead To Me, came out from Penguin/Ace Books in 2008, giving Jim Butcher fans some fast moving entertainment between Dresden Files books. He continues his tales of mayhem in Manhattan with his second series, the Spellmason Chronicles, as he treats readers to the story of a girl and her gargoyle, and explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and love with his trademark snarky twist. Anton is the author of many short stories in anthologies, including the upcoming Shadowed Souls, co-edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes. He is the host and curator of content at The Once and Future Podcast, a geeky show featuring speculative fiction and those who create it.

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