If you’ve been looking at Tor.com or anywhere around the general geekosphere in the last couple of months then you’ve probably caught sight of The Geek’s Guide to Dating, a new how-to book by Eric Smith, coming out on December 3 from Quirk Books.
We’ve gotten a chance to read the book and absorb the lessons it imparts, and while those same lessons are straightforward and admirably presented without shaming, or pigeonholing, we couldn’t help but wonder…how do they work in the field?
To find out, our production manager Chris Lough went on a date with the author himself! Read on to see what advice he followed, what advice he didn’t, and how it all ended up.
Search Optimization: Where to Meet Geeks
Finding someone to date shouldn’t be like trying to party up in an MMORPG: running around, repeatedly spamming chat channels for a group, and anxiously seeking a random encounter. (Random casual encounters are for Craigslist. This isn’t that kind of book.) No, seeking out Player Two is more like an old-school RPG: a gradual progression that, with the right walkthrough, becomes much, much easier.
Comic Con, video game expos, anime conventions… these are tricky places to navigate. Maybe that good-looking cosplayer just wants to hang out with her friends and be left alone. That lady rummaging like mad through the dollar comics? Maybe she could use a tip on where to find vintage issues of Astro City—but if she’s on a quest, you might just be another annoying NPC. Plot your course carefully, and follow this flight path:
Make a plan of attack. Good news: If you’re looking to meet someone at a convention, the epicenter of geekery, the con schedule may include events centered around doing just that. From geek speed dating to networking events, many conventions offer a plethora of opportunities for single fanboys and fangirls to socialize with one another.
Get some one-on-one time. Whatever your context for match-making, try to talk with a girl without anyone else leaning in to offer his opinions (or to distract both of you). Speed dating events make this easy. In less structured situations, try to position yourself so your back is towards any potential interrupters, blocking their field of vision. (Don’t do anything that invades her space or makes her feel trapped, though. You’re not Kraven the Hunter.)
Don’t lurk or linger. Sure, asking for a picture of the girl in the handmade Cardcaptor Sakura outfit is an easy way to start a conversation, but chances are guys have been hitting on her all day. So if she doesn’t ask for further contact, don’t push it. Cosplayers are there to dress up, take pictures, and hang out with their like-minded friends—not humor pallid fanboys who try to get all stalkerish on them. Don’t be that “that guy” (and definitely no hover hand!).
Use a strong offense. She’s at a convention. You’re at a convention. In other words, both of you are geeks. So don’t feel shy about asking her what she’s into, and be prepared for a long discussion—or even argument. Just keep it friendly. When it seems like the conversation is coming to a conclusion, drop a hint about where you’ll be later if she wants to pick up the thread.
Never, ever talk down to a girl or accuse her of “faking” geekiness to get attention from guys. If she’s put down the cash for a con (and a costume), she’s legit. Don’t ruin your chances by insisting on some kind of pedigree. Plenty of (cute!) girls love the same geeky stuff as you, but they don’t love getting harassed about it.
To Boldly Go…Where?
As I’ve said, Player One, before you ask her out, it’s a good idea to have a destination in mind. True, it’s unlikely you and your new companion will immediately hop into a TARDIS and head off to dinner on Gallifrey (before it was destroyed). But you don’t want to get stuck faltering at the other end of the “what did you have in mind?” question. Consider some of these surefire first destinations:
Museums: Show that you’re cultured and intelligent. Big, open spaces like art museums give you the opportunity to walk around in a beautiful setting while getting to know each other.
Long walks: Plan a nice relaxed stroll through the city or a local park and get to know each other. Take in the nice weather and enjoy the day together. Bring along a picnic if you think you’ll get hungry. This is a great option if you feel the need to keep things informal at first. But don’t take long walks in the winter. This isn’t Game of Thrones.
Used books or music store: These joints provide plenty of opportunity to get to know a person. Old records, used paperbacks, discounted CDs, and quarter-bin comic books are all instant conversation fodder to get you chatting about shared musical interests, authors you like or dislike, etc. Choose a place with a coffee shop or restaurant nearby so you can keep things going afterwards.
The Kobayashi Maru: Social Preparation
Starfleet may think it’s okay to screw with their cadets by putting them in unwinnable situations. But I wouldn’t Kobayashi Maru you like that, Player One. In my version, we’re going to review a scenario that seemed hopeless, and see what we can learn from it. We’ll have to leave Federation Space to do it, though.
In The 13th Warrior, the film adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, an Arab poet named Ahmed ibn Fadlan is exiled to the far north and forced to live with the barbarians known as Norsemen.
Despite the film’s shortcomings, The 13th Warrior is one of our favorite action-packed popcorn movies. Because of the Vikings. Also, the Beowulf references. And, most relevant to our purposes, the material on which it is based (Beowulf and the notes from the real Ahmed ibn Fadlan) can teach you a lot about developing social skills.
Think about it: a man is thrown into a place where he knows no one, doesn’t speak the language, and has to fend for himself. It’s very much like going on a first date: you don’t really know the person you’re with, and while you probably do speak her language, you don’t know a whole lot about what she’s into and what she wants to talk about. And, for the most part, you’re on your own.
As you prepare for an exciting excursion into the unknown, let’s absorb these lessons, and prime your social skills in one seriously bad-ass way. The 13th Warrior way.
Poor Ahmed. He initially has a hard time interacting with the Vikings. But then comes an important imoment: One of the Vikings, having insulted the poet’s mother, is shocked when the poet returns the insult with an equally brutal quip. Ahmed then explains that he mastered the Viking’s entire language—one drastically different from his own—simply by listening to it being spoke. Which would take an amazing, and perhaps implausible, ability to focus and pay attention. Remember to marshal your own listening skills and pay attention to what your Player Two has to say. Nobody doesn’t like a good listener.
Don’t Be Shy
Throughout his journey, Ahmed is quiet. Closed off. But eventually, he breaks his silence, quits his shyness, and jumps into a conversation when he has something worthwhile to say. This is a valuable lesson, Player One. It’s natural to be nervous when conversing with someone new. But you have to push yourself through it. Be prepared to start by asking simple questions, which will show you’re engaged in the conversation while still inviting her to do most of the talking.
Make Eye Contact
In The 13th Warrior, Ahmed tends to look the wild Norsemen right in the eye when he speaks—particularly at the intense moment when he reveals he can understand them. Making eye contact shows someone that you’re interested in what they are saying and that you’re part of the conversation. Don’t stare your date down, but do be sure you can make eye contact in a natural, comfortable way.
Be Prepared To Try New Things
One of the biggest issues Ahmed faces in the film is the challenge of embracing a culture that isn’t his own.
When the Norsemen’s oracle deems that Ahmed needs to accompany the Vikings on their journey, the poet has serious doubts. But they do in fact depend on him, and he becomes a critical part of their team. When he’s wounded in the first big battle, a woman tends to his wounds using a treatment he deems filthy. She scoffs and tells him he’ll be ill if he doesn’t use it. Sure enough, it works.
It’s important to be ready to experience something new when meeting a new person. As Ahmed was quick to learn, the world is a big place, and people are different everywhere you go. If he had judged harshly and left, as was his preference, he would have missed out on a journey that, as he admits ultimately, enriches his life. So approach your date with an open mind, Player One. You may not learn how to communicate with Vikings, but you’ll undoubtedly learn something new about her.
Red Five Standing By: How to Deploy Your Wingman
Finding it necessary to party up to complete your quest? Don’t feel bad. The geek cannon is full of legendary wingmen who helped their partners level up, and for good reason: whether you’re dogfighting with MiGs, trench-diving in your X-wing, or making a controlled approach towards an attractive redhead, wingmen rock.
So review your friend list for potential wingmen, Player One, because when it’s time for your attack run, you need Wedge Antilles, not Biggs Darklighter. Look at these stats, and while you’re at it, brush up on them yourself—the best way to recruit a great wingman is to be willing to return the favor.
Positive Wingman Attributes
Has Your Back
Bonus Stats: +100 to Defense
So you’re talking to your dream geekette. Chances are, if you’re at a convention or a party, a lot of other NPCs have noticed her too, and will circle back like vultures after they finish rummaging through the $1 comic bins or wrapping up that game of Mario Party. A great wingman will carry with him his Epic Shield of Blocking and prevent those moochers from interrupting your conversation with the lady.
Epic Loot/Bag of Holding
Bonus Stats: +500 Gold, +25 to Defense
If you’re out at a bar or a restaurant, a wingman has your back when the Mana Potions run dry. He is ready, willing, and able to run out and grab you and that possible future significant other a beverage when you’re tapped—allowing you to maintain contact with the gal and keep the conversation going. A good wingman also carries other useful items you might forget: a smartphone, pen and paper (so you can jot down your number), coins for the parking meter, breath-freshening gum or mints.
Sharp Eye for Style
Bonus Stats: +250 to Armor
A quality wingman’s work doesn’t start at an event or when you’re out on the town. It begins earlier, when you’re out shopping or getting ready to hit the street. He should know enough about basic grooming and current men’s fashion to give you honest feedback about your appearance, letting you know if you look less like Tony Stark and a little more like The Thing.
Negative Wingman Attributes
Better Looking Than You
Bonus Stats: -250 to Your Physical Appearance
Through no fault of his (or your) own, a significantly better-looking wingman might pull interest away from you, or even make you look downright crummy in comparison. I know you’re not into evaluating the attractiveness of dudes, Player One, but try to choose wingmen whose looks are on par with your own.
Has No Idea He’s the Wingman
Bonus Stats: -100 to All Character Attributes
Don’t take chances: make sure your wingman knows he is playing this role, Player One. He could be the most extroverted, loot-dropping-est wingman in the history of wingmen, but without the knowledge that he is there to help you out, chances are he will be off on his own quest. Make sure he is properly recruited to your party before starting off, and don’t neglect to return the favor if he asks.
A First Date Simulation
You and your date have met up at last, and you’re getting settled into whatever awesome activity you’ve picked: checking out animatronic dinosaurs, strapping on laser-tag vests, settling in for cocktails before you both experience molecular gastronomy for the first time.
She turns to you expectantly, and you realize it’s time to talk. You open your mouth and…
- Start talking about yourself right away.
- Talk about something easy, like the weather.
- Ask questions about where she’s traveled, what she does with her friends, what she studied in school, or what she does for a living.
1.) She smiles politely while she listens, but her eyes look a little glazed-over. When you finally stop talking, she takes up the conversation after a long pause, like she didn’t realize it was even her turn to talk.
Of course you should talk about yourself…just not too much. Don’t be the kind of tiresome windbag who never lets his date get a word in edgewise.
2.) Your date stares at you for a minute and then mutters something to the effect of “Yeah…I guess I like sunshine.”
Weather chitchat is where conversation goes to die. Are you in an elevator or something? Don’t do small talk. Go big or go home. Which means only talk about meteorology if you’re in The Day After Tomorrow-like conditions.
3.) She instantly perks up and launches into a hilarious anecdote about getting lost with her friends—in Japan. Wait a minute, this girl is awesome.
People love to talk about themselves, and most people have great travel tales or stories from their school days. Talk about favorite places, classes, books, hobbies. Women, more than men, form social bonds over similarities, so don’t hesitate to point out all the stuff you’ve got in common with your date.
ADVANCE TO LEVEL 2
As you can see, despite gifts of dinosaurs, picturesque strolls by the famous Jersey Kirby, and Batman, Chris talked about himself a little bit too much and ended up striking out. He hopes Eric is happier with the Nazgûl…*sniffle*…and he means that with all sincerity!
The above excerpts are really just a small bit of what awaits readers in The Geek’s Guide to Dating! The advice is extensive, and the book is very, very pretty. (Don’t worry, these pictures aren’t in there, but there’s tons of awesome 8-bit art!) And who knows, maybe it will help you better than it helped Chris….
Chris Lough is the production manager of Tor.com and resident Whatever. Thanks to Natalie Zutter for the photos and to author Eric Smith for playing along with the general madcappery!