Apr 8 2013 9:00am

Geek Love: Gargoyles & Geek Girls

Geek Love Gargoyles and Geek GirlsIn Neal Stephenson’s rightly-beloved masterpiece Snow Crash, there are a few memorable moments of scorn in the story—which I’ve always thought, sidebar, to be slyly narrated by one of the characters, in an unbreaking deadpan manipulation of the fourth wall—for what their near-future society terms “gargoyles.”

These are people who, unsatisfied with the seamlessness of human-use technology, strap video cameras and tape recorders to their bodies, in order to more fully embody surveillance culture (couture, if you like). Of all the mystifyingly accurate parts of the satire/prophecy the book contains, that one always stuck with me. I liked to imagine them, steampunky almost, uploading their experiences at baud rates, one photo and soundbite at a time.

Of course the real future—us—is a much different situation, and we’re engaged right now in a cluster storm of debates about privacy, technology, even the very basics of how to accomplish capitalism in a world where information is literally free, because the real future takes its form from continuity. It’s a rare technology that survives without fitting seamlessly into daily life, which is why the few evolutionary jumps that actually change the way we operate ourselves—the PC, the Smartphone—do such big things to our economy.

Generally, when we say “early adopter” we mean physical technology, hardware. But there’s a rumbling undercurrent over the past few years that I think applies a new meaning to the word, and it has to do with the acquisition of IP. And it has to do also with being a dick.

Used to be, you’d save your money and walk down to the comic book store and load up on Sandman, or New Mutants—dating myself there!—and then you’d have those objects. And you’d know when you met someone else in a Sandman t-shirt, or carrying a trade paperback, that you had at least a few things in common. They were intellectual, but too—what’s the word?—they had to do with a kind of reaching out, a science-fiction fan’s sense of wonder and imagination. You had more than just an interest in common, you had a worldview.

But you had something else, too, which we don’t ever talk about: You had the money to acquire these objects. Geek interests, like any other interest, are also secretly an indication of socioeconomic level. Outliers—I myself would forego lunch sometimes—might make sacrifices to acquire those resources, sure. But they’re still an indication of class, cultural capital.

Add the education necessary to enjoy comics, a household that favored reading, the cash for those t-shirts and comics (and Star Wars toys, or pulp memorabilia), and it represents a cultural gatekeeping, with the result being a fairly standard “geek” demographic that has hardened into stereotype.

Which is where, I think, the trouble starts. Remember that “geek”—in this connotation, specifically; I’m not talking about model-trains or sports facts, just genre-interested geeks—only sprung into existence as a cultural idea somewhere around the late 70s. And since then, even today, we have an image of The Geek that usually includes us. You might not be overweight or have acne, or whatever the going joke is, but you know a geek when you see him: One of us.

Depending on your definition of Us.

So what happens in the delirious future we’ve colonized, whereby the internet and multi-player gaming has brought down those walls? If you’re buying into that part of geek life that says nobody likes you, you’re too special for normal people, girls don’t get it, you’re in the Friend Zone, I’d imagine it feels a lot like being invaded.

Patton Oswalt has of late engaged in some pretty heightened rhetoric about this modern lament: How hard it is, to be a Geek, to be authentic, to be special and above the mainstream, when the mainstream is coming for you. When I asked on Facebook what I should write about today, one sweet guy—a longterm FB buddy—wrote, “...Man, it’s not safe to be a geek anymore. Too many fauxsers. In a world (!) where Thrones and Hobbit are everywhere, where is REAL Geekdom. Geekdom has become like Williamsburg.”

Points for cleverness, but I did have to tell him whatever I ended up writing would be the precise opposite of that. Because I don’t buy it. Yes, there’s a feedback loop in play, and if you’re denied approval in one area of life and consistently rewarded in another, you’re at no fault if you decide to live there permanently.

But wasn’t the endgame supposed to be that the geeks would inherit? Didn’t we want a science-fiction world? Didn’t we want to proudly wear our Superboy Prime red-on-black t-shirts and talk about Sandman at parties? God, didn’t we want to talk to girls about Sandman? Wasn’t that the entire point?

We look at nightmarish representations like Big Bang Theory, see Twilight girls flooding into our Comic-Cons, and we react with the dogged immune response we always have: Not one of us. Young women, having bypassed those old gatekeepers, no longer having to deal with comic bookstore sexual disasters, buying so much manga that it shoves American comics off the shelves of your local Barnes & Noble....

It’s a changing landscape, for sure. And there are downsides to every revolution. But the fact is that you got what you wanted, and any old genie can tell you that you never like the shape your next granted wish will assume.

One of the smartest documents I have ever read is the oft-discussed (and of course -remixed) list of Geek Social Fallacies, which I’ve always found mind-blowing not just in its perspicacity, but the way it’s accepted as the universal fact it is, rather than ticking people off. I admit I needed it explained to me: That ostracizing even the most malicious, depressing, toxic and angry-by-turns geek jerk would be worse, because ostracizing is worse than misbehaving.

Every social group has its rules, but that one was really tough for me: If we can’t kick him out, and we can’t confront him—God forbid—then we just sit here and listen to his creepy misogynist tirades, or socially awkward substitutions of “I like it” for “It is good,” or intense screaming about whether some dumb thing is better than some other dumb thing... Because it is the moral thing to do. We don’t turn that persecution back in among ourselves.

But what if he’s a girl? What if she doesn’t like the things you like, or in the right order? What if she hasn’t bought enough merchandise to qualify? What if she’s just getting interested in, say, the Green Lantern, and doesn’t yet know the difference between Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner? Well, that’s a different story. She’s clearly a fake; she’s infiltrating, she’s making a mockery. She probably watches Big Bang Theory, and thinks wearing glasses makes her something other than a hipster, etc.

I think the reaction to this comes out of the same circle-the-wagons feeling that means you don’t want to exclude a misfit, actually. I think it’s the other side of that coin. It’s weird to say that a policy of inclusion leads to exclusion, but only insofar as you’re forgetting the other half of the geek psychology in play, which is that You know a geek when you see one, and Everybody else is the enemy. How dare anybody waltz so carelessly into something that you’ve spent your life defending and being bullied and embattled about? Really, they’re just bringing the fight to you.

And this is leaving out the sex stuff for now, because that’s a whole other ball of wax, but it’s a big part too. There’s a now-classic joke meme about a guy complaining that you can’t talk to women, because they don’t like the things you like, and the second a “geek girl” brings up the things he likes, he attacks her for being a poseur. It’s a joke, but not a very funny one.

And the reasons for this have to do with sour grapes, they have to do with considering those girls’ opinions irrelevant in the first place: How could any person who didn’t grow up acquiring the same IP you did, defending it—often from imaginary judgments—like you did, possibly like it correctly, which is to say, in the same way?

Any static behavior, from self-harm to sexual manipulation, begins life as a solution to a problem. An injured animal strikes out at you because it doesn’t want to get hurt more. But the thing about solutions is, they don’t always go away once the problem’s solved. Your long-ago persecution means crafting a response that flips the binary: What makes you feel worthless, out there, becomes your value, in here. In the safe nerd space, among your friends.

But how long does that persist? Once we inherit the Earth, what do we do with it? And how long can we go on, as a culture, overlooking the fact that the mountain has come to Mohammad? Is it really an eternal fact that the loneliness of “niche” is better than connecting? Is it even possible to separate overarching misogynist tendencies from geek hierarchy from those burnt fingers and age-old hurt feelings?

The brave new world of the post-geek can look a lot like the same old world, if you hold onto that label for yourself. And because so many of these geek conversations are self-validating, those on the outside learn to mimic this behavior as a way of getting in. But however they do it, the point is to connect. This thing that made you feel worthless in the first place, being handed to you in a way that doesn’t seem legitimate? That’s the best that’s going to happen. And it’s pretty great.

I don’t think it’s a mistake that this latest geek backlash began right around the time Avengers hit it big. What Sandman was twenty years ago, Joss Whedon has become now: A gateway drug for geeks in training, for girls who thought all that stuff was silly, for jocks and jerks and those awful, terrible, normal people. The difference is that twenty years ago, there wasn’t a workable internet for them to crash your geek conversations, ruin everything, start shipping Hawkeye and the Hulk and writing little poems and making little gifs about it. You had somewhere to hide.

But think about it this way: Ask a geek what Snow Crash is about, he’ll tell you it’s about a pizza-delivering samurai. And he’s not wrong—the guy’s named “Hiro Protagonist,” for Pete’s sake—but that’s not the whole story. The secret of Snow Crash is that it’s a first-person narrative told, in a neatly subtle literary trick, from the perspective of one of the secondary characters, a teenage skater chick. It works because she’s invisible: She’s the narrator, but not the protagonist, because you are, in your heart of hearts, a pizza-delivery samurai.

There is a world out there which will always be a hassle, guaranteed. But it’s also one in which all that old identifying dross and semiotics are irrelevant: Not the way you got there, nor the money you used to acquire it, matter anymore. All you’re asked to do, in return for these infinite new possibilities of connection, is to take advantage. Stop being a gargoyle and take a look around.

It’s not about better or worse, bigger fan or wider knowledge base: It’s about the offer being made to you, that we will have something to talk about. This is the beginning of that story, and it’s only the beginning of that shift. Which is always the hardest part. But when they stop being invisible, you have two choices: You can get pissed, or you can make your peace with it and be grateful that you’re less alone.

Because you’re not wrong. The Twilight girls are taking over Comic-Con, and everywhere you look there’s Bronies, and your parents keep trying to connect with you by discussing TBBT, and everything is the worst.

They didn’t just welcome you into their world, they invaded yours, and made it mainstream, and stupid, and dumbed-down, and they watched the wrong TV shows so Firefly got cancelled and now, years later, they’re talking about how it’s their favorite show: Mainstreamers are, make no mistake, out to get you.

We just forgot to mention it’s a rescue mission.

Jacob Clifton is a freelance writer and critic based in Austin, Texas. He currently recaps The Good Wife, Bates Motel, and Defiance for Television Without Check out, Twitter and Facebook.

Fade Manley
1. fadeaccompli
I love a lot of the things being said in this essay, but it felt...odd. Because every single instance of "you" assumed a man was reading this essay, and I am not. Because I always identified with the "teenage chick" in Snow Crash, and thought it was a neat trick that the story was so often told by the pizza delivery guy who was often just on the periphery of the big events going on around him.

No one invaded my world. I was there reading Tolkein and Andre Norton long before I knew it was some sort of social thing that involved other people. I guess I do feel sorry, though, for the people who feel "invaded" by having to share cool things with people who aren't exactly like them; it is a sad thing to not be able to handle that, and I hope they get better at it.
Nicholas Winter
2. Nicholas Winter
Not beloved by all readers.

A local genre book club read this several months back. It was universally disliked by the members under thirty in age. One male ragged on it for twenty minutes. The main complaint was that the technology wasn't really cyberpunk despite being booked as such. Oh and that the characters sucked.

I being somewhat older pointed out that it was indeed innovative but perhaps it hadn't aged well.

They went convinced with most saying that they wouldn't read any more of his work based on this novel.
Harry Burger
3. Lightbringer
I found a semigeek girlfriend, and it's awesome. She already likes a bunch of our stuff and wants more, so I can introduce her to more and that brings us closer. I don't plan on letting this one go easily.

These noobs are welcome to join the party, as long as they show proper humility, are willing to acknowledge they are starting at the bottom and look to the master geeks for wisdom. Being the authority figure and showing off our dominance in the field is the ultimate revenge, and it spreads our memes.

As long as they aren't Twilight fans - that's about as antifeminist as you get, and betrays centuries of mythology. They are irredeemable until they renounce the sparkling vampires.
Nicholas Winter
4. Mark Mercer
Just geekily pointing out that it's Conner Kent, Kon-El, Superboy cloned of Lex Luthor and Superman DNA, who wears the red-on-black. Not Superboy-Prime, who is Evil.
D. Bell
5. SchuylerH
@2: I thought that Snow Crash is brilliantly daft but the Metaverse makes no sense from a design perspective. Stephenson was never really cyberpunk, a couple of years too late in my opinion
(he even kills off a cyberpunk-inspired character early in The Diamond Age to make a point) so the technology complaint is no surprise. Still, I haven't read anything of his since Cryptonomicon and have no hope of getting through the Baroque Cycle.
Blake Cates
6. ShamrockJack
This sort of gatekeeping happens not just within our little, humble community but everywhere. I recently had a chat with a mate who is "a diehard 49ers fan" who was lamenting that people were jumping on his beloved team's bandwagon after they had such a good season. He claimed that he was born a Niners fan, as his dad was one. I pointed out that at some point in his childhood he watched football with his dad and decided he liked it.

I read comics voraciously. My father did as well in the sixties. I don't remember a time in my life without comics, but some do stand out. I'd even argue that they have the potential to be my first.

Nerd is cool, so they say. Some years from now it will be passé. This is the way of cool, it's cyclical. When Lord of the Rings and X-Men were popular, people Were happy to discuss them. When Avengers ceases to amaze the mass public then it will return to this more insular thing. Sooner or later the next thing will come around and many people will forget how many times they saw The Hobbit.

My point is: enjoy it while it lasts and use it as an opportunity to share your passions with the world. Yesterday's "I love Harry Potter" is today's "I love The Hobbit" and tomorrow's "I love Wheel of Time."

There are, however, always people who find something new and want to stick around for the long haul. We need to nurture these people, regardless of gender, so that we have someone to talk to. Rather than berating the poor girl for not knowing about Kyle Rayner, take it as an opportunity to share Kyle with her.
Beccy Higman
7. Jazzlet
@ Lightbringer You are joking right? Because if you are not I hope your semigeek girlfriend wakes up and runs away fast.
Evan Langlinais
8. Skwid
Jacob, thanks for this piece! It's really excellent; one of the best original articles has put up in recent days.

I'm with Jazzlet@7 in really hoping that Lightbringer was trying for ironic humor and just missing the mark spectacularly...
Nicholas Winter
9. tnv
I agree with fadeaccompli --- the article makes good points but the strange assumption that it is speaking only to males at all times. As a woman, I definitely related to YT rather than to Hiro, and remember what happens to YT far more than what happens to Hiro.

I admit when the author brought up gargoyles, the acquisition of IP and being a dick, I expected that the article will be about people in our modern society who are technologically gargoyle-equivalents taking photos of others (especially of women) without their permission. Beneath the cut, the article took a rather different turn.

@Nicholas Winter re: Snow Crash: interesting, as I have previously heard before that the age you read that book matters --- the people I know who like it a lot, myself included, all read it in their teens, at the turn of the century, while people of the same age who came to it in their twenties found it "meh." You did not mention whether there are any teenagers in your reading group, or whether the people over thirty who liked it had read the book before when they were younger. It would be interesting to control for those two factors.
Nicholas Winter
10. chaosprime
If you can't make ordinary capabilities work, if you develop anything, you develop extraordinary capabilities. This can bring to light possibilities that people with working ordinary capabilities never would have known existed.

But if the hero descends into the underworlds and returns, not with gifts, but with treasures to be hoarded, "you can't have this because you didn't pay for it the way I did"... well, I guess you showed them, didn'tcha?
Jeremy Goff
11. JeremyM
I just had to say that this was a fantastic post. The subject of who is and is not a true geek fascinates me. I can tell you that coming into the community later in my life, rather than growing up with it, I would have said screw it and gone on to something else if I had been given grief over not following something since its inception or since my childhood. Luckily I had great friends I was able to talk and discover things with. Now my love of geekdom just enriches my life by making it easy to make personal connections very quickly and have an almost instant friend by loving the same things. I just can't imagine getting pissed off about finding a new person to share that love with, even if their knowledge of something isn't as deep as mine.
Risha Jorgensen
12. RishaBree make it sound oddly like the Geek Social Fallacies are rules you actually follow, not a list of mistakes to avoid at all costs.
Nicholas Winter
13. Evan R
To expand on #6:

Hippies, punks, and every other subculture has gone through the same thing. Simply because the subculture grows beyond the size where personal connections and trust can enforce some kind of behavioral standards. As some original hippie put it, suddenly people that looked just like you were trying to sell you oregano.

It's not that fake people come in, it's just that the size of the community requires different kinds of behavior and rules. Like the difference between a village and a big city. Some people perceive this as "fake people" and make themselves look like jerks trying to enforce exclusion, which is impossible anyway.

Note that many long-lasting social groups do enforce heavy entry requirements: tribal scarification, strict religious rules, etc....but that's not my idea of fun.
Alan Brown
14. AlanBrown
Very interesting article. I am a geek from a line of geeks (for example, a chance meeting at a con with me, my father and my son later inspired a story in Analog about a genetic component to fandom). But one of the most precious things I learned about being a geek is that it hurts to be made fun of by others. So it breaks my heart when I see geeks doing the same thing to others that has been done to them--judging people, mocking them, and categorizing them. I understand where it comes from, the primal urge to define 'us' and 'them', and to think that 'us' is better. But it is ugly, and they should know better.
So, I ask everyone to rise to the better angels of their nature. Do not do as others might have done to you in the past. Instead, do as you wish others had done. Don't judge others--instead, help them celebrate what they enjoy, lead them to other things that they might also be interested in, and don't expect them to like exactly what you like. There is room in this world for Star Wars and Star Trek fans, fantasy lovers, cosplayers, book readers, movie watchers, TV fans-- enjoy the popularity and diversity of it all -- we are blessed to live in an age where there is an abundance of SFF riches to enjoy.
Nicholas Winter
15. xaaronx
I'm a guy who read Snow Crash first as a teenager, and I too identified at least as much with YT as with Hiro. The idea that she's invisible is really weird.
Jacob Clifton
16. JAClifton
I agree, that would have been an odd assertion to make. That's why I said the opposite.
Nicholas Winter
17. Hester
Dating myself as well, I can remember the unnerving gender-stuff tones to being a lady in a comic book store back in the day. What was interesting then, and I don't know exactly how it applies now to the gatekeeping, was that rattling off cred was not necessarily a smart thing to do if you were female, and sheltered (as many geeks of that day, from my understanding, were). Because proving that you knew what the guys knew didn't usually guarantee you entrance to their club; instead, because of sex stuff, it tended to get you looks like you were a particularly hot dog that could play the piano. Shocking, entertaining, perverse even, but not in any way One of Them.

The best strategy, to talk about the things you loved, tended to be explaining your knowledge in acrobatic question form, referencing imaginary other people who had imparted knowledge. "Oh what an interesting point, my brother talks about this all the time and he says X, do you think that has merit?"

This was a hassle, and harder to fake when special-requesting the subbed versions of Serial Experiments Lain on VHS.

Now I can walk into a videogame store and mention Psychonauts and be accepted fairly immediately as having the right password, and it's such a relief, and the infiltrator argument seems so stupid and damaging, that I've mostly ignored this next evolution in gatekeeping. But now, having read this article, I'm finally starting to connect the "girl geek" experience with the happy acceptance of Bronies and love of Teen Girl TV.
Nicholas Winter
18. xaaronx
JAClifton @16: Were you responding to me? If so, then I must be badly misreading you and what appears to be the plain, literal meaning of the words you used e.g. "invisible".
Jacob Clifton
19. JAClifton
@18: Invisibility of YT as a character is impossible. She's the best, and my favorite character in most of fiction. Invisibility of YT as the actual first-person narrator of a novel most people think of as a third-person novel, though? I did some pretty extensive research to see whether anybody else had ever pointed that out, and found nothing: The plain, literal meaning of the word "invisible," which was contained in an entire paragraph about this literary trick of the text. I'm sorry that wasn't clear.
Nicholas Winter
20. rudyralishaz
I enjoyed the article in both its content and tone but I would like to say that the last line of the post put me off a bit " We just forgot to mention it’s a rescue mission." As a life long geek/nerd/pick your label I gladly welcome all invaders as at least on the inside we can keep an eye on them if not actually convert them, but I feel no need to be rescued by them. No thanks, I'm doing great over here no outside assistance needed.
Nicholas Winter
21. Anne Bonney
@#20 Really? Because it seems to me that if you accept the premise of geekdom (and the article) that living in a niche, clinging to the esoteric and actually reveling in the singularness of being so "different" is the norm, then what your looking at is a subculture of loneliness. It's expecting people to embrace isolation. That doesn't sound awesome.

Then if you look at some of the issues that come of that mindset and are being address here -- the aggressive gatekeeping, the amplification of cultural misogyny, the defensiveness and lingering shame about ourselves and what we like-- then, no, maybe it's not all good. You may not be a second away from drowning, but waving off the life raft probably isn't the smartest thing either.
Nicholas Winter
23. Scottly
@20 I thought the "rescue" arrow was pointing the other way here -- not curing the geek mutation but spreading the love. Planet future. You raise a good point though. Who actually needs the save?
Nicholas Winter
24. Etherbeard
I think you're making a mistake if you see Snow Crash as an attempt at cyberpunk. I've heard it referred to as post-cyberpunk which I think is a good description. If Stephenson had wanted to write a truly cyberpunk novel, I have no doubt he could have, but he didn't do much more than use a fairly traditional cyberpunk setting. His big departure from the subgenre was in not using an antihero as the main character, going so far as to even name him Hiro Protagonist, and it makes a huge difference. Hiro's social values are much different than what you'd expect from a cyberpunk character. He doesnt want society to crumble and is willing to stick his neck out to makle sure it doesn't. The same is true of YT. Very early on she tries to help Hiro, a complete stranger at the time, make his botched pizza delivery (I remember his car wound up in a swimming pool, I don't recall if it was YT's fault). A bit later, when she's in trouble, he returns the favor. Acts like these would be completely out of place in the world of Neuromancer. It gives Snow Crash a much different flavor and allows it to say much different things.
Nicholas Winter
25. Scottly
I really like the note on "comics or lunch?" It's a small theme here -- seeds of a larger "theory of the phasered class" -- but worth keeping in mind as the column goes on and the community evolves its drinking games. Where is the bar to entry? What are the opportunity costs? Is full-bore geeking out a necessity, a luxury or something else?
Nicholas Winter
26. jenphalian
"God, didn’t we want to talk to girls about Sandman? Wasn’t that the entire point?"
This article is so close to great and falls entirely flat with the "we" addressing only males.
Jacob Clifton
27. JAClifton
@1, @9, @25: I'm sure that some women are also guilty of this, but what's wrong with them goes way deeper than male privilege, which is what this particular piece is about.

The thing about addressing privilege is that 90% of the internet is Jezebel, or Tumblr, complaining about privilege and explaining to each other what privilege is, over and over. I'm not sure who that's helping, or why, but I do know that when somebody is perpetrating something -- and this is something overwhelmingly done by men, which is what privilege means -- you address the person doing it. (Exponentially trickier when they don't know they're doing it, which is again how privilege works.)

So my choices are:

1. Thread the incredibly difficult needle in a way that the person actually hears and understands what they're doing and why, which involves sympathy and compassion to the why and the how of it, and addressing the person head-on. Or,
2. I could write the same article you've enjoyed countless times before, where we all get together in the comments and talk about the patriarchy, changing nothing and crossing no bridges and talking only to ourselves. Or,
3. After long deliberation, and multiple drafts, I write #1, in just this way, knowing that a few women readers will feel excluded because it's not directly addressing them, but overwhelmingly more readers, men and women, will see the point that's being made without needing it to be all about them.

As a gay man I can tell you that it's been quite a rare occasion that I've brought up Sandman at a party to get a girl into bed: It's not my "we" either. What confuses me about this complaint is the underlying assumption that this is something I did accidentally.
Nicholas Winter
29. jenphalian
@27: When I initially landed on the article, I thought it was about 'hardcore' or long-term geeks accepting newcomers and casual fans without gatekeeping. I think that's a wonderful topic that we ought to keep addressing in fandom.

When I got to the line I quoted, about talking to girls, I stopped reading. Because oh, here's another thing talking to geeks as though all the geeks are dudes, and ladygeeks are some new phenomenon that needs to be defended. I read Sandman in my 9th grade chemistry class when another girl handed it to me and said, "I know you're not into comics much but you've GOT to read this." It is frustrating as hell to sit on the sideline as though womanly or queer geek life were somehow different from 'regular' geek life.

Anyway, if the point of the piece is to talk about male privilege, not geek gatekeeping, then I was mistaken and I won't worry about it. But thank you for addressing these topics and thank you for responding to comments.
Nicholas Winter
30. jenphalian
...and to be perfectly clear, we feel excluded because you deliberately excluded us, not because we need it to be "all about us." We have a LOT of training in reading, enjoying, and identifying with work that has a male protagonist. I imagine you have at least as much experience identifying with writing that isn't about your experience.
Jacob Clifton
31. JAClifton
Well, if you'd read the piece we could maybe talk about that, but as it stands I'm not sure what purpose it would serve. I'm sorry that a single pronoun ruined things for you so much you couldn't manage to do that, and I've tried to clarify the decisions behind that choice. I don't know what else to tell ya.
Jen Melchert
32. jenphalian
I did read the rest of the piece on my second visit to the page. I shouldn't have worded my comment above to imply I never finished it. There are certainly good points in it. I'm just expressing frustration.
Nicholas Winter
33. jmanna
Okay, I've been lurking but I'm going to say my piece.

I did read the piece, the entire thing, several times. I winced through portions of it.

It's not a single pronouse. It's assume that all young girls at cons are twilight fans or at all Twilight fans are young girls. Claiming the point was to talk to girls about Sandman. Again and again you give examples of /girls/ being excluded. So it /is/ about us. If it's not that you're a poor writer because you've poorly conveyed the point that it's not about women BY CONSTANTLY mentioning them and then trotting out male entitlement catch phrases.

Women don't need your saving. Especially when you work so hard to tell them through the article that they am 'other' and not the same.

If you truly want to be feminist or at least helpful and inclusive then start by asking why the women comment here feel the way they do instead of telling them why they shouldn't.
Jacob Clifton
34. JAClifton
I did no such thing, but I thank you for your very reasoned response.

And for policing the boundaries of feminism, and telling me my rights as a gay man to discuss male privilege. And for putting words in my mouth.

I'm sorry you feel it was implied that you am other, but your right to attack me about it stops at the point when you decide that you can read my mind more clearly than the words in front of your face.
Nicholas Winter
35. jmanna
I find unending irony in seeing someone talk about geek elitism while being snide and condesending.

I suggest you read up on 'Silencing':

I also recommend reading this:

Last, on male privledge:

I don't recommend speaking about gender issues of any kind until reading those links. They are the basics.

You keep mentioning you're gay. Do you think that is some kind of get out of jail free card? Or you trying to imply that because you've been marginalized you know about all marginalization? Basically, you haven't explained why it matters to the conversation. I undertand how it matters to you bu not the conversatuion.

I've read the words and if that's not what you mean you have poorly conveyed your message. The fact you have to keep saying 'that's not what I meant' in the comments shows that.

But you have shown you are firm in your belief You Are Right and this is conversation is one step from Godwin's law so...
Jacob Clifton
36. JAClifton
To disagree is not to silence. And you're inventing tone, once again, that isn't there. You're attacking my right to an ideology and a conversation to which I haven't once laid claim. I have neither tried to silence you nor told you what to think or feel about this subject. I have tried to defend myself from your personal attacks, that's all, and to clarify for other readers where I was coming from.

I am not comfortable speaking on behalf of others, or telling others what to think and say. It seems that you are, but I'm not. Those avenues are not open to me. What I can do is write from my own experience, and I can explain my choices. Those are the things that I can do.

What I can't do is work with you to reach your goal here, if I don't understand what it is. And I have to admit, I'm mystified on that one. So why don't you tell me what you'd like to see happen, and we can work together to arrive there.
Ursula L
37. Ursula
As a woman who has enjoyed science fiction her whole life, I normally find to be a safe space, one where being a woman who enjoys science fiction is accepted as quite natural.

This post really needs a trigger warning. Because it is quite awful to come to, and find something like this, where women who enjoy science fiction are so thoroughly othered, and reduced to mere "geek girls."
Jacob Clifton
38. JAClifton
I am very sorry it was so awful for you. Thank you for sharing your concerns, and I hope you know that they'll be carried forward as the series continues.
Bridget McGovern
39. BMcGovern
@Ursula: I am quite sorry that you feel that way, but having read and edited the column before it was published on the site, I wasn't alienated in the least by Jacob's post, as a woman or a reader. Having monitored these comments closely, I can see how some of the phrasing and the decision to to talk about the perpetrators of male privilege directly (as discussed at comment #27) has been taken amiss, but personally I can't see how the essay can be construed as an attack on women who enjoy science fiction.

Everyone is welcome to their opinion, of course, and part of the purpose of this article (and this series in general) is to generate discussion about issues in the geek community, many of which will prove to be rather sensitive. But I think the ideas being expressed are worth engaging with, rather than writing off--just my two cents.
Nicholas Winter
40. hapax

Golly, given the crystalline clarity of your writing, I simply can't fathom how so many commenters got confused. If only they would *just* *read* the plain sense of your words!

From the OP (one example of many, to give the general flavor):

God, didn’t we want to talk to girls about Sandman[/i]? Wasn’t that the entire point?

From comment 27:

but I do know that when somebody is perpetrating something -- and this is something overwhelmingly done by men, which is what privilege means[i] -- you address the person doing it.

As a gay man I can tell you that it's been quite a rare occasion that I've brought up Sandman at a party to get a girl into bed: It's not my "we" either.

From comment 37:

I am not comfortable speaking on behalf of others, or telling others what to think and say.

What I can do is write from my own experience, and I can explain my choices.

Okay, first "we" and "you" means "we" and "you" (and explicitly and offensively excludes at least one half of humanity, and presumably, your readership.)

Then you 'splain to us in the comments, oh no you silly wimmenz, "we" means "THEM" (except when "you" means "them") and "me" means "US" 'cause solidarity and oppression and stuff, I'm not like THEM, but how can "we" help "THEM" without sympathizin' with THEIR poor fragile feelings, they're so excluded and hurt, the dears, but "I" will show "you" what I imagine is happening in THEIR poor tender heads, and if "you" just put away your angry faces and pretend along with "me", "we" will fix THEM!

And *then* it turns out, no, "I" never talk about anyone's thoughts or feelings, but "mine", "I" never appropriate anybody else's experience, and "I" certainly would NEVER tell anybody what to think or do?

So shut up, silly wimmenz! How DARE you feel insulted and excluded when I'm CLEARLY on your side!

(And if lots of women all feel the same way about reading this, I'll bet that's just because they got together in the bathroom to talk about me. You know how girls are...)
Jacob Clifton
41. JAClifton
...Wow, that's really unkind. And untrue. But thank you for your take.
Nicholas Winter
42. Hester
I think I understood the article very differently than the objectors here... I'm also a woman who has read SF her whole life, who has grappled with various levels of in- and exclusion in the geek community, and has been on the unpopular (read: welcoming) side of the mainstreaming argument.

What I see here is the objectors blending two very distinct conversations into one conversation.

The first has to do with the otherness of lady geeks. I'm older, so I guess there may be some women out there who haven't had to deal with the fetishization Jacob's talking about here, but it was extremely prevalent when I was coming of geek-age. And it still exists, both as fetishization and contempt. Even among grown men who consider themselves very reasonable and egalitarian, I frequently find myself victim of dismissal/diversion - maybe my opinion is ignored or maybe it's shoved over into the dog-playing-a-piano place, but either way it doesn't get addressed. Anyway, that's a big part of the objections here, if I understand correctly - that women already deal with enough Otherness, and this article appears to some people to be fuel on that fire?

Another subset of the otherized is newcomers. This is a whole other subculture, but women are often categorized in it automatically, because it makes it easier for the demographic most frequently obsessed with their own elite uniqueness in their exclusion efforts if they can dismiss people not on one but on two fronts. What the article is pointing out here is that a) status-jockeys will dismiss women as being Twilight legion or fakers or... well you know how gross it can get, and b) that is a dick move because c) it evidences a desperation to further exclude one demographic d) at the expense of a whole other demographic by implying e) that ladies, exclusively because of their lady-ness, can't be serious and must therefore belong to the mainstream f) which is trivial and horrible and meaningless and not worth being co-humans with, exclusively because of its mainstreamness.

I read a thoughtful piece on why and how the need to create class is based on such obvious demographic lines, and how those desperate to preserve their own sense of gargoyleness are growing increasingly frantic enough to exclude whole fascinating geek subcultures and metacultures (which are reaching the critical mass where they stop needing to be silent to exist in a gargoyle's story) into one big lump of Otherness, and how that's gross.
Nicholas Winter
43. MJ Johnson
@Ursula? Did you actually read the entire article? As a female sci-fi and fantasy fan of many, many years, my take on this piece is that is represents deeply intelligent, nuanced, sensitive and entertaining set of insights.

The fact that you found a way to feel somehow attacked by reading it leaves me dumbfounded.
Nicholas Winter
44. heather hogan
You wrote something quite a while ago in a recap that has stuck with me as much as anything I've ever read. You talked about how everyone's icberg is always halfway underwater, and so if you flip it over to try to keep from crashing ships, you're just going to end up crashing ships with the other side of who you are. So the only thing to do is hoist the whole iceberg up out of the water and examine the thing -- the unblemished stuff, and the horrific stuff, the stuff written in invisinle ink -- as a whole.

I feel like this post is a perfect illustration of that metaphor: lifting geek culture up out of the ocean and examining the whole shebang and the hows and whys of its ship-sinking ways. It was illuminating. And, like someone mentioned above, these same principals can be applied to any team or group or club or fandom or whatever.

I'm really looking forward to reading more of your columns here!
Nicholas Winter
45. hapax
@JAClifton --

I do feel sorry that you find my comment hurtful. But to be honest, I'm not particularly interested in being "kind" on this topic.

I was not particularly angered or insulted by the original post, just wearied and vaguely bemused by a discussion of the bad behavior that occurs in "geek culture" that once again invokes a fundamentally flawed premise -- that this is a tragic but understandable reaction of a group that has experienced isolation, exclusion, indeed oppression based upon their preferred interests, which now feels the pain of appropriation, invasion, dare I say colonization by "mainstream culture."

You have suggested that you do not entirely agree with this viewpoint, but feel it necessary to empathize with it, to "actually hear and understand what they're doing and why ", and thus to approach the misogyny (and racism, and homophobia, and classism, etc., etc.) that a certain segment of geek culture supports and encourages with "sympathy and compassion".

Well, I call shenanigans.

Mainstream culture has been invading geek culture since long before anyone reading this was born, long before there were even the concepts (let alone the words) for "mainstream" and "geeks." My grandparents listened to the Superman radio show during the Great Depression. My parents used to watch Star Trek and had Asimov and Heinlein next to Roth and Wouk. The kids at my high school in the D&D and Computer Clubs were considered no more (and no less) weird and "geeky" than those in the debate and 4-H clubs. I was LARPing in the '70s before there was a word for it. I personally own volumes of academic essays on Tolkien and Doctor Who that date back to the '80s.

For heaven's sake, Star Wars came out almost FORTY YEARS AGO.

So no, I have no patience to spare on those who invoke fragile psyches damaged by exclusion to justify the viciousness and spite of tribalistic bigots, resentful at any threat to their privilege, who appeal to "persecution" to spew their venom.

And I have no respect for those who enable and support this vile behavior by uncritically and "sympathetically" adopting their false narrative.
Jacob Clifton
46. JAClifton
You've made that very clear, trust me. Redundantly so, even. And I hope in turn I've been able to adequately explain why I find that particular viewpoint hateful, childish, self-absorbed and counterproductive.

I can certainly identify with and appreciate how stressful that particular approach to the world must be. I hope you're able to find your way to peace, in a way that doesn't cause too much pain to those around you. In any case, thanks for reading!
Alan Brown
47. AlanBrown
Mr. Clifton,

I think the problem with the article lies with the fact that your use of 'us' and 'we' seemed so inclusive at the start, and then 'bang,' it become apparent that by 'us,' you meant 'us guys,' which was very jarring. To use an SF example, kind of like when Heinlein had the protagonist of Starship Troopers look in a mirror at the end of the book, and you realized that he was a Filipino. Which was a delightful nod by Heinlein to a people who in his time served in the Navy only as cooks and stewards, not as line officers. But jarring nonetheless to those who had identified with the character, and whose imagination had pictured something else during the entire reading of the book. And unfortunately, the use of voice reinforced just what so many female fans are dismayed by, that when male fans say, 'we,' it means 'we guys.'

And hapax, I was there when Star Wars came out almost FOURTY YEARS AGO. Are you being ageist with your all caps, and trying to make people like me feel old? ;-)
Nicholas Winter
48. Mea
hapax at 40 and 45 - thank you for taking the time to articulate so clearly what MY reaction to the article and ensuing discussion has been.

I grew up watching Star Trek (and pigs in space!! Shout out to Miss Piggy as a rolemodel to other girls in the 70's) and reading Andre Norton and Ann McCaffry and Tolkien and Heinlein and susan cooper, and that trilogy about invaders who are basically midwestern water towers and Analog work I crack jokes about living in Robert Heinlein's utopia but finding it a distopia. Yes, my co-workers look at me with the sideways "Baroo?" look of a confused cute puppy.

and my friends, of all sexes and genders, post happy blurbs on Facebook about Doctor Who and comics and other things that are lumped into a shorthand that seems to be called "geek culture" in articles like this one.

except here is the thing: no. im talking about my mainstream media and literary world. I'm not a twilight fan (but I read VC Andrews at the tween age of many Twilight fans, so I am more interested in talking about Morman influences on Twilight and nodded in agreement to -was it Jo Walton who wrote that interesting essay on Twilight and VC Andrews and the cross currents of being a teenage girl in our culture? THAT was an awesome post, here at TOR)...So, I am not a geek for being a SF fan and reading Scalzi and being able to talk at length about the transracial/transpecies adoption trajectory in Worf's storyline. And these articles about "geek culture" always seem to muddle up the waters by blurring the distinction between being an active reader/watcher/part of a SF/comic/fantasy/etc. community and being a jerk. I am a lifelong, active participant in many things sometimes called "geek culture" but I don't identify as a "geek" because articles like this tell me that geeks are the subset of (mostly) men within our larger community who are assholes.

to the author: I dont want to pile on you. I appreciate you are attempting to reach out and build bridges to people who have a different view of community than i do, and who may need encouragement to change. But they need to do the work themselves. Instead of writing from trying to see the perspective of an insecure straight guy, why don't you simply tell us about YOUR experiences next time? Because we build community by standing in our truth (oy, ive been watching too much Suze Orman), and aside from the evident desire to build bridges - and feeling hurt that your article is receiving such high levels of pushback - I don't have a clue what your truth is from the main article.
Jacob Clifton
49. JAClifton
Hurt? I've been doing this for ten years, I don't get "hurt." I don't think calling out personal attacks -- that have nothing to do with the text -- for what they are has much to do with "feeling hurt," anymore than I think that three or four people out of thousands demonstrates "high levels" of anything in particular.

But as patronizing as that is: Not being able to discern my entire character from one 2000-word article? I'm not sure how that's a failure on either of our parts, or anything that could reasonably be asked of you. Or of me.

My "truth" is that I know the difference between misogyny and male privilege, and wrote about my particular point of view in that scenario, because that is the avenue available to me: My truth and no one else's.

My "truth" is that I don't have a stake in the feminist conversation, because I have no place there, nor do I have a particular interest in earning one. I am not seeking to join that conversation. But I sure as hell have an opinion about straight male privilege, because that is a reality that I deal with every single day, which I why I wrote about it. And when you say my perspective on that reality isn't valid, as your sisters in arms have done -- accusing me of playing the gay card, for example -- that's very much worth talking about.

Writing from a feminist perspective would be disingenuous at best, "mansplaining" at worst, so I wrote from "my own truth": That of a person who has been relegated to the gender sidelines from birth, and offers a perspective that doesn't pretend to speak for either side. Only mine. Which apparently is invalidated thanks to all the articles you could have been reading instead of this one. So you'll forgive me if I find your rhetoric just a little presumptuous, given that you are -- in the final analysis -- saying that I don't exist.

For someone that doesn't want to "pile on," I think you've done a great job of synthesizing and expressing those earlier sentiments in a more streamlined, more eloquent -- and altogether more dismissive -- erasure of my "truth." The one that you, and all your straight-privileged buddies upstream, claim doesn't matter, and therefore doesn't exist.
Nicholas Winter
50. Mea
Wow. We are clearly talking past eachother. So I'm going to read your original post and your replies again, to see if I can understand better.

just... Wow.
Jacob Clifton
51. JAClifton
Really? It seems to me we've understood each other perfectly well.
Nicholas Winter
52. Quiddity
Well this has been fascinating, if only as an exercise of how humans process language to fit their own little sphere.

As a girl, I loved this piece, and here's my sphere: I was born in 1969 to a couple of middle class white kids, one of whom went on to be a journalist/publisher, the other to be an attorney. Books abounded in our house, and I gravitated towards sci-fi. As a youngster, I knew that I read more than most of my friends did, but I also "knew" that I did not want to hang out with the boys who also read those books - oh, here might be a good place to mention that we moved quite a bit, so I was the "new kid" label a lot as well, and a swimmer with weird straw hair (sometimes green), and the highest grades - because it was hard enough for me to fit in as it was. So I kept my reading to myself and never got involved in any kind of "geek culture," if there really even was such a thing that could be well defined for tweens in 1980.

In college, I found the early internets - relay chat in a college computer lab - and very quickly learned that I was a curiosity, listened to mostly for hopeful romantic encounters but dismissed as "can't possibly know her shit." I stuck around and learned a lot about people, and still talk to friends from those days regularly. One thing I learned was to choose usernames that aren't easily gender identifiable...

But here's the thing - part of the reason that it didn't bother me that much is that it wasn't anything new. Geeks don't own that behavior, so really, get over it. Girls also didn't get to love and know football, or financial markets, or power tools, or any number of boy clubs. And it's no better the other way around, she says as a shout out to her 13 year old Brony son (which, I totally don't get the Brony thing but I think that's part of the reason he likes it so much). Women are still surprised when a man likes to cook, it's quaint if a woman is the breadwinner and the man stays home to raise the kids, etc.

Maybe I missed the point of the essay but what I saw was this, which is nothing new (hello, God): Humans need social inclusion. Humans form groups. Groups get too big. Subgroups are formed. Subgroups find ways to be unique - and better - than other subgroups. Subroups get too big. Sub sub groups are formed. Lather, rinse, repeat, and add, "you can't try to be like us, we have to ALLOW you into the group, and we don't know if we want to do this because at some point you didn't allow us into your group and that hurt our feelings."
Nicholas Winter
53. neroden
My reaction is actually much the same as hapax here. And I'm male.

There was something seriously off about this essay and it's worth going back and looking at it less defensively. I think you didn't say what you were trying to say, and you haven't realized it.

It's a pity this essay is so problematic in terms of tone and form of address -- it's not clear who it's targeted at and it jumps around while making some really bad assumptions. It's a pity because you're groping around in interesting topics. But I suggest you do some reading in what people who have spent some serious time looking into the social history of various fandoms have written, as well as doing your Feminism 101 research, and then try rewriting the essay from scratch, more carefully.

I suspect part of what's going on is that your internalized sexism -- which you have clearly strived to overcome -- is still bleeding through in the way the text is written. Those of us who grew up with less pervasive sexism can spot it. Those who have become more sensitized to it can spot it too.

Another part is that you haven't done your research on the history and internal sociology of fandom, which is pretty obvious. I also have the academic works on Tolkein and Doctor Who from the 1980s. You perhaps don't understand the degree to which fandom rifts are organized around different interpretations of the source text. An influx of people with the same interpretation is frequently welcomed, but an influx of people with a fundamentally incompatible interpretation of the source text is simply *not your fandom* even if they watch the same show.

Doctor Who fans have an entire meta-literature and running discussion about fandom history which is quite sophisticated; it can be annoying to start running through it all fresh when we hashed out the patterns back in the 90s. Among other things, UK Doctor Who fandom was for whatever reason dominated by gay men, but US Doctor Who fandom was for whatever reason dominated by women; they developed entirely different cultures. The people coming in in 2005 were something else entirely, or several something elses, but actually integrated more easily than the old fans from different subcultures... There have been some major splits in fandoms over later output due to creative shifts in the official material. For quite a while many Doctor Who fans would classify themselves as "only a fan up to the ___th
Doctor". Torchwood was much worse for breaking fandom, as it revealed
that some people who seemed quite nice had really and truly creepy

"All you’re asked to do, in return for these infinite new possibilities of connection, is to take advantage."
All very well when the people coming in are bright and interested -- the sort of people you want to meet. When they're creepy -- and Torchwood: Children Of Earth attracted some people with very unhealthy and disturbing attitudes -- maybe I don't WANT to connect with these people. Ever thought about that?

"Depending on your definition of Us."
"But wasn’t the endgame supposed to be that the geeks would inherit?"

Maybe my comment is, first and foremost, that in some of the more, well, I guess I have to call it "mature", fandoms, we already recognized that we weren't really all on the same page, back in the early 90s. Or earlier. There was no "geeks". It was clear that there was no magical geek solidarity. In fact, sometimes it was more comfortable being with outsiders -- people who were neutral to your fandom -- than with people who were intensely interested *but had a completely contrary interpretation*. I am told the same discovery happened frequently in Star Trek fandom as early as The Motion Picture, and in book fandom during the 1960s and 1970s.

(God only knows why this level of awareness doesn't seem to have happened as much in comics fandom; I would have expected it.)

You wrote your essay addressing some very specific group of people who thought that there was some form of magical unified geek solidarity. I'm actually not sure where that illusion arose, but we didn't all have it. I've met people who had the illusion, now that you mention it, but I thought it was really odd.
Alan Brown
54. AlanBrown
@53 Neroden. If people are so wrapped up in whatever source material they are obsessed with that they have to form schisms and factions and whatnot, I would suggest that they are taking things far too seriously.
For example, I would interested in finding out what it was about Torchwood fans that caused you to use them twice as examples of "creepy" "unhealthy" and "disturbing" tastes.
Nicholas Winter
55. neroden
It would take an entire essay to explain, and I may write it sometime, but basically, a startling number of people are melodrama junkies.

But it's slightly worse than that. Many are absolutely insistent that really, really bad melodrama -- of the "writer will now murder someone for no reason, and other characters will then moan and scream and beat their breasts and tear their hair, repeat next week" -- is not merely what they like, but also *deep* and *valuable*.

It's not. It's cheap emotional thrills. That's OK, but people who insist that cheap emotional thrills are deep and valuable -- well, they tend to insert cheap emotional thrills into real life where they don't belong. Such people are a pain in the neck to be around.
Nicholas Winter
56. neroden
Also, I'm not saying it's all Torchwood fans. Just some of them. This became clear and divisive only after Children of Earth, which is just plain bad writing for multiple reasons which I haven't mentioned (most notably, *people who are used to being in power simply do not behave like the government officials in this show*, something which the writers, never having known any powerful people firsthand, probably didn't realize).

Lots of people thought Children of Earth was wonderful *solely* because it was LOADED with drama-junkie drugs, but wouldn't admit it. Those people are creepy. But it wasn't obvious before -- they were feeding their addiction with stuff which had other qualities.

Similarly, there are a lot of vampire fiction fans who are looking for a very particular kick out of their vampire novels. The ones who recognize and admit this -- fine. It's a fetish. Whatever. The ones who think that they love even the *worst* vampire books because there is something really deep and important about them.... well, people who are turning their fetish into a philosophy can be really creepy.
Nicholas Winter
57. neroden
And to get back to the topic of this post, I believe the idea that geek society was some sort of unified utopia of solidarity which should take over.... was another form of "turning your fetish into a philosophy".
Risha Jorgensen
58. RishaBree
Catching up 40 comments on - all I can say is, if a signicant portion of your readers finds an article problematic, regardless of your intentions, it's worth examining if what you wrote is actually problematic, regardless of what you thought you said. Especially on a site like, which isn't exactly a hotbed of controversy, trolling, and strident conversations.
Nicholas Winter
59. proudlyfreckled
Preface: 25 years old, female geek. Have been my whole life, etc. I enjoyed the article.

Am I right in understanding that the issue here for some of the other commenters is that this article about gatekeeping was written directed at men? While I understand the frustration of most geek-related things being "for" men, I think it's possible to read something and connect to it without being the intended audience. Perhaps the scope could have been widened, but it didn’t bother me too much.

There is this kind of gatekeeping happening among female geeks as well. I’d be interested in seeing a discussion on the separation between male and female geek cultures, because to me the divide seems to be widening. Sometimes I think that the “geek girl” was excluded, but instead of standing outside the club house hoping to get in she went and threw her own party.

While I participate in geekiness with men, it’s mainly surface level. “You love that book? I love that book! Let’s talk about it.” And it’s lovely conversation, but this isn’t where geek culture happens for me. I celebrate my own geekiness with other women (mainly online, although sometimes at conventions or with real life friends), in the form of creating and discussing meta, fanart, fanfiction, and all those other things that women are doing together online. Men may be doing it too, but if so, they’re doing it somewhere else. I find that interesting.

I also find it interesting that many of the things women are doing tend to get labelled (as Jacob mentioned in his article) as doing the geek thing incorrectly. Shipping? Immature. Fanfiction? Pathetic. Fanart of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark doing nasty things to one another? Depraved! This stuff isn't new, but it seems like some people are just noticing it; I imagine because of mainstreaming, and it becoming more accessible. I’ve seen (mainly male, but sometimes female) geeks claim that these things are ruining whatever thing they’re interested in (I would love to hear a reasoned explanation as to how, but I haven’t found it yet). Women do it too–I’ve seen women try to distance themselves from these activities, as if they’re somehow wrong. I’m guilty of it at times, when I try desperately to make sure people understand that I don’t participate in whatever embarrassing element of my fandom is getting attention that day. I do get it–there is immaturity coming from some of these communities. But there are also women making connections, and enjoying something together. And that’s pretty cool.

I just wonder if women have chosen to separate themselves, or was the decision made for them? And if we chose it, is it because women and men enjoy things differently and it works better this way, or is just that we felt unwelcome in the boys' club? I'd like to see more spaces where both men and women could feel comfortable to enjoy these things together. And... that didn't really have to do with anything in particular. Sorry for all of the rambling. Thanks for writing this article, it got me thinking.
Nicholas Winter
60. Vercingetorix
Very nice piece, Jacob. I was gearing up to argue with this point or that point until I hit the conclusion, which mostly blew me away.

One tangengential point - I agree with you on Snow Crash, but one of the impressive things about it, IMHO, is that Stephenson's chilly sense of alienation from his protagonists allows him to slip perspectives really subtly. My favorite part of the book is the scene on the airstrip where Uncle Enzo opens his mouth to listen for the ambush. He's been a plot point or an NPC up to this point, but all of the sudden, we're just in this guy's head, 100%.

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