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LightlyFrosted said on December 30th, 2012 at 1:38 am

Guards, Guards.

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I think trying to form a geek canon is a silly idea. Self-important fans saying you have to see this big list of things offend me.

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LightlyFrosted said on December 30th, 2012 at 1:54 am

I’d say it’s less ‘Geek Canon’, and more ‘what’s a good place to start’. There’s nothing you could read to say ‘you must read this in order to be a geek’ – more, ‘you’re likely to enjoy this, and it may give you a notion as to where else to go in order to find enjoyable materials’.

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I think anyone who creates a list of ‘geek canon’ like this ends up saying more about themselves than about geeks.

For example, what about the Japanophile subculture? Should someone becoming a geek be expected to know enough about anime, manga, and the history of the fandoms? And video games. Should they be expected to play each classic game from each gen?

The only rule for becoming a geek is pursuing your own interests and being open to new interests to pursue. There is no required reading list.

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Geekdom has become so large and blended into the mainstream that the idea of a canon seems impossible to measure at this point, as I’m consciously aware that as opposed to, say, back in 1980 where a self-identified geek would be able to very quickly see and read the established canon of the time, things have become so much more fluid. Do fans of Marvel movies really need to read old 60s Marvel Essentials? (I’d want them to, but they really don’t NEED to.) Or, does LOTR fans really need to be also familiar with Terry Brooks & David Eddings?

The idea of a single Geek Primer is tempting, but seriously, it seems to be an idea beloved of grumpy old fans hoping the new blood coming in will like the same stuff as they did growing up, yet I somehow feel that most of the people most interested in the idea won’t be that interested in finding out the best Anime/Manga for canon, or much interest in the games beloved by game/geek culture.

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This is pointless. In the first place, no one sets out to become a geek. They get into something, then they get really into it, and if they take pride in being a geek for it, it’s after the fact.

Example: I started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation because my family watched it, and it was on a lot, and it was good. By 1994 I could identify any episode within one minute. I wasn’t like “Well, I’d certainly like to become a geek today, I’d better do some research to find out what the prerequisites are for that.”

This is why I get sick of “nerd cred” and the whole attitude of geek heirarchy and “posers” and “fake geeks”. It all hinges on this dumb idea that geek culture is like some sort of army, and the more experienced you are the higher your rank. Well no, it’s watching a bunch of schlocky TV. Being able to quote it from memory doesn’t really impress anyone that much.

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These days, I don’t think there really is a singular geek canon – there’s bits of ‘regular’ culture that are geeky (Star Wars, Star Trek, being able to rattle off a list of Pokemon) but ‘geekdom’ has several largely distinct subsets. Stuff that’s common knowledge to an anime fan is going to be completely unknown to an old-school SF/F reader, someone that’s a master of sci-fi TV shows and movies might not know anything about computer games or internet culture.

As an anime fan, this is an interesting discussion at cons – the ‘old guard’ will typically have a lot of shows in common, back from the days where it was mostly possible to watch or be aware of most every translated show, as well as have some common background in RPGs, sci-fi and fantasy. These days, there can be entire anime sub-genres you’re not aware of, and this is speaking as an anime fan, and there’s no default assumption that people will know anything much about RPGs, American TV shows or whatever. The most common denominator seems to be ‘Internet culture and memes’, and that’s because for anyone connected, they’re mostly inescapable!

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Compiling a reading list for a “True Geek” is like putting together a list of required reading for a “True American Patriot”. And if the second one makes you roll your eyes, then… you know.

Also, I have to say that I dislike the “geek” denomination. Yeah, I play board games and I enjoy comics and science-fiction, but I don’t let anyone call me a “geek” – for the simple reason that I don’t like simplifying people into labels and stereotypes. If you try to define what a geek is, that definition will always be imprecise and unfair to some people – so why bother?

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Peztopiary said on December 30th, 2012 at 4:57 am

I don’t think a geek canon is possible or desirable. If someone wants to seek more of something we have the internet.

You mention the Universal monster films. How many people under thirty do you think have watched those? I don’t mean all of them, I mean any of them.

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I reject your premise. The idea that some particular knowledge makes a geek a geek is insidious and behind the “fake geek girl” concept. My friends are as geeky as they come, and some of the geekiest have vast blind spots: “B” deliberately ignores star wars and DC, but can explicate the events around each Secret War and reconcile the Xena and Hercules timelines. We have someone who can explain the Summers family tree (!!!) but won’t tabletop outside of Apples. I tune out SoIaF and Dresden chat, but I’ll explain to anyone who will sit still why I think Pandemia (Man of His Word/Handful of Men) has the most elegant and interesting magic system of any fantasy system I’ve read, and actually addresses the Strong Magic Problem.

You show me a geek (not a proto-geek, there’s no such thing) who wants to know what I like that I think they’ll like, I’ll tell them. I’m actually good at that. Some kind of canon of geekery is a stupid idea, though.

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I think a lot of folks are reading into this a meaning unintended. John isn’t seeking to create a “you must be this geeky to pass” bar exam.

Instead, imagine you have a friend who just moved to Canada/America/UK from a developing country. They are falling in love with pop culture, sci-fi and fantasy, but simply aren’t steeped in it the way most people are growing up here. What do you tell them to watch/read/etc to get them up to speed on the vernacular?

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What do you tell them to watch/read/etc to get them up to speed on the vernacular?

I see what you mean, but then the original question has even less sense – if I had a friend like that, I would just tell him/her about the stuff *I* personally know and enjoy. But then it is not really a *geek* recommendation, but *my* recommendation – a friend to a friend, just that.

So coming back to one of the original questions, Do you think it’s doable? – not really, unless it’s a lot more specific. I think you can compile a list of worthwhile Spider-Man stories, for instance, and guide a new reader towards them – but a simple *geek* is so general that it becomes a non-category.

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ImperatorMJ said on December 30th, 2012 at 9:14 am

The way he put it, I’m not thinking about a snobbish canon, I’m thinking more like taxonomy. What shows, movies, etc. would I expect a “classical” geek to be at least familiar with? That said, Python.

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Maybe, and no.

One of the things that commentators often decry in various geek genres and fandoms is a slavish imitation of prior works. Presenting a list of “must read, must watch, must play” things to someone young seems like a way to either turn them away from these interests, or make another person who wants everything to stay the same.

A low-key approach seems best to me. I would not show my kids the Star Wars prequels if I could avoid it, but I wouldn’t rant at them about it. I’d just go “hey, you might like this one. Let’s watch it” and see how they react.

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I am calling Child Protection Services right now.

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Forgot to note: said kids are purely theoretical at this point.

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I had this idea of “For a given fandom, if you know X characters here’s who they should be” (so for example, the first Transformer you should know is Optimus Prime, the second is Megatron, and the third is Starscream, with the fourth and later ones being much more ambiguous.)

I’m not actually sure how helpful this is.

Part of the fun of geekery is picking out your own subject to geek out on.

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There are those who would recommend reading Bimbos of the Death Sun before going to any fan conference:

http://www.amazon.ca/Bimbos-Death-Sun-ebook/dp/B003XRELCK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356879273&sr=8-1

I’m not sure if I’m one of them, but it does seem to fit the definition of what you’re looking for. It might make a proto-geek scream and run the other way, though…

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“..a “proto-geek”, if you will, with an interest in cult fiction…”

I’m pretty sure at that point most people would consider that person a geek. Even if we assume that there is such a thing as a “proto-geek”, there is no set route to full geek-hood given the innumerable subcultures.

As already stated above, most of my interests came from family, recommendations from friends, and my own explorations into my interests. What I’m getting at is that “becoming” a geek is a largely personal journey, and it doesn’t depend (or even help) on knowing all the Star Wars movies or reading Crisis on Infinite Earths or learning any other piece of “essential” geek fiction.

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One interesting thing about this exercise is where it points out “holes” in one’s own geek knowledge. I saw the old “Buffy” movie, and then part of one episode that happened to be the musical episode, so I kind of subconsciously assume it’s a show about kicking vampires and singing. (I know there’s something about a hellmouth, and then this spin off Angel series, and then they did a final season as a comic, but that’s about it…also that I shouldn’t mix up Sarah Jessica Parker with Sarah Michelle Gellar)

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Personally if I had to explain Star Wars to someone who wanted to hang out with the Star Wars geeks, the Zahn trilogy would not be brought up outside “there’s some novels and a thing called the expanded universe that you can probably ignore.”

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A simple, non-judgemental breakdown of sub-genres, based on possible areas of interest.
For example: if they’re interested in horror films, just mention the broad basics (30s and 40s old-school, 50s sci-fi, 60s retro-gothic, 70s grindhouse, 80s slasher/splatter, etc). If any of those spark their interest, recommend one or two representative films from that group, and see how they respond before offering more suggestions.
DON’T cram too much at them at once, or suggest they’re “wrong” if they don’t like a beloved classic. PEOPLE LIKE WHAT THEY LIKE, let them enjoy it. Just give them a map, and let them follow their own trail.
If, however, they seem to like really derivative, second rate stuff- just casually, non-judgementally point them to the stuff it’s ripping off and suggest that “if you like that, you’ll probably like this”.

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One clarification: This would not be, hypothetically, a curriculum to assign them. This would be a summary that they could read of these things, to help them follow along in conversations that might reference things they’re not familiar with. Anime is actually a really good example of this, because I have no interest in anime, but don’t want to be totally lost when my friends get on the subject. So I read a “Here’s what anime is about” book or two, and now when they reference Cowboy Bebop I at least know they’re not talking about a new jazz/country fusion. :)

A sample entry might read, “Blade Runner: This was a 1982 movie directed by Ridley Scott (see ‘Alien’) and starring Harrison Ford (see ‘Indiana Jones’, ‘Star Wars’.) Set in a near-future where artificial human beings called “replicants” have become the disposable slave labor of the human race, the film follows a “blade runner” named Deckard as he attempts to hunt down a group of homicidal escaped replicants and comes to question, in the process, the morality of his actions. It’s primarily known for its art direction, which presents a unique view of a post-industrial future, and for the ambiguous subtext which presents the possibility that Deckard, himself, may be a replicant and not know it.”

Anything on the list would be something they’d want to see, but nothing would be something they would have to.

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I think it depends upon where you think that the whole “geek” thing is in its evolution.

From one point of view, it is something that already happened in the late ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. It is about an occasionally overlapping group of cult fandoms who slowly converged into a broader movement that pushed its stuff into the mainstream through years of dedication. The key influencers are movies, comics and books from the first half of the 20th century (e.g. -the Universal horror cycle).

From another point of view, it is a mainstream thing that is going on right now. Those cult franchises are source material to be adapted into properties that work for a wide audience. The older stuff is enjoyed ironically, if at all. It is something that can be jumped on by anyone at anytime, because it pervades the culture.

The answer, of course, is that both sides are right.

The geek thing was something that happened, had its Woodstock moment and got taken mainstream by giant corporations. It is over and, therefore, has a canon. It is also something that is happening, but in a different way. It is like “Alternative Rock” in the ’90s. It used to be an underground, subcultural thing. Now, it is a subset of the mainstream. Wait a few years and it will be retro.

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So, (based on my previous comment) I would suggest that the geek essentials are anything that had a descendant that made the mainstream. You can pretty well ignore anything that was an evolutionary dead-end. That is why you can ignore the Zahn novels. STAR WARS is huge. Star Wars fandom is huge. However, there has never been a ‘next’ Star Wars. It is an endpoint. Nothing needs to change to pull additional people in because everyone is already in.

The same is likely true of the paranormal romance genre and the Marvel superhero films.

What matters from a “geek canon” perspective are the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents of those mainstream franchises. Buffy, Angel and the Anne Rice vampire novels begat the ‘Twilight’ franchise. Buffy was the child of the Hammer horror cycle, Kung Fu movies, Marvel horror comics and bunch of other things. The Hammer horror cycle was the child of the Universal horror cycle. All of that stuff is, therefore, essential.

You can trace the Star Wars films back through samurai movies, westerns, Flash Gordon serials and the rest. The Avengers film cycle is the child of Lee-Kirby, Dr. Who (via “The Authority” and “The Ultimates”) and the ’80s sci-fi/action franchises (i.e. Predator, Terminator). Those influencers each had their own influences.

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(I have not read any comments yet)There’s no set formula and shouldn’t be. I find Star wars and Star Trek terribly boring and would never inflict them on anyone interested in genre. I’d simply look at what their interested in, what made them a proto-geek in the first place, and recommend things along a similar line.

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To clarify my Star Wars and Star Trek aversion, it’s due to over saturation. If my friend started out interested in, say, Battlestar Galactica I would certainly recommend them to him/her.

Thing is, the vast majority of non-geeks have already seen enough of both ST and SW to have a familiarity. They’ve been part of the main stream so long that you’d pretty much have to meet someone from off planet to find someone who knew nothing about them. Same thing about many other pockets of genre fandom.

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@ Peyton:

I agree with you on Star Wars. It was born mainstream with a hugely popular movie. It has been a family-franchise for over thirty years. You cannot reasonably expect to grow the Star Wars fanbase by showing someone new product. All the new product (e.g. the EU novels, the prequel trilogy) is less appealing than the original. Star Wars consumes the whole space opera niche so utterly that nothing else can live there for long. It is like the NFL for pro football.

Star Trek, on the other hand, has always lived just to the left of the mainstream dial. It came out of a cult TV series and has never lost that association. Lots of things can and do co-exist within its sub-genre, notably Battlestar Galactica. You can make new Star Trek content that grows the base.

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I honestly wonder what how valuable these geek conversations are that anyone would be “missing out on them” if they didn’t have a Cliffs Notes for the cultural references. It kind of smacks of self-importance to assume that proto-geeks have a hunger to know what Battlestar Galactica is not because they want to know if they should track it down, but because they want to listen to geeks talk about it.

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One of the many bad aspects of geek culture is the obsession with obscurity and how some geeks turn it into a pissing contest over who knows the most obscure references. I know people who do this, and I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past, I’m sure. Eventually after watching a bunch of Doctor Who/Joss Whedon shows/Voyager that I didn’t enjoy or care about, I realized that a lot of the geek canon is just not worth my time. Basically, recommend people things they would actually like, don’t expect people to be familiar with everything that could be considered geeky, destroy geek culture, allahu akbar.

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This whole thing falls apart for me very early, based on three things: 1. My only exposure to Episodes II & III comes from the Red Letter Media reviews; and 2. I have only the vaguest knowledge of Timothy Zahn, and have literally no idea which books comprise the “Zahn Trilogy” and yet 3. I’ve never been in a conversation where this has been a hindrance, despite being a regular reader of blogs like this one and a poster on many geek forums for many years now.

Further, as people have already pointed out, Wikipedia exists now. If I were to hypothetically run into a conversation I was interested in but was confused by the references, I could just look them up.

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Great blog, intriguing and amusing comments. John, you provide an excellent snapshot of what such a guide would look like with your Blade Runner example, but I would suggest the original source, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick, himself a sci-fi author with his own Geek following, would need to be included.
I offer this as part of the point that most delights me about this topic; each geek geeks out in his/her own way to his/her geek interest. This, if nothing else, is a vivid example of how alive we all are in culture and how alive this culture remains. All of it, whether it is embraced, rejected, criticized, or worshipped, helps to define both each if us and the strengthening fabric of culture.

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Oh, good lord, Seavey. As some have said above, there are so many different flavors of geek, I think this is a basically impossible task. Which is to say, there can be the “Great Books curriculum” for any topic, but not for geekdom as a whole. If I were in this position, I’d probably ask the person what they were interested in, generally speaking, and try to give them my thoughts from there. I also think that if a newbie spends enough time around geeks who are decent people, they can pick a lot up both by asking different people about their personal “must know” topics and by osmosis.

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I would have thought that part of becoming a geek is self-driven discovery. I’ve always believed no two geeks are geeks in the same ways, and that’s what makes being a geek interesting. There’s also some self-identification: I’d say I’m a Star Wars geek, but I don’t think I’d ever heard of Zahn before now.

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Doctor Who? Babylon 5? BSG? Buffy/Angel/Firefly? X-Files? Farscape? Hercules and Xena?

It’s a good thing I started watching Doctor Who a few months ago, or I wouldn’t have had anything on this list except Firefly. I mean, I know plenty of this flavor of geek, but apart from the two dudes who would literally spend their entire lunch break talking about how awesome the Doctor was, I’ve never felt like my geekness was hindered by not being familiar with these properties.

It’s weird to reflect how easily Doctor Who slips into such U.S.-centric lists. Why not replace that whole list with Blake’s 7, Red Dwarf, The Prisoner, The Avengers, Misfits, Sapphire & Steel, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? It’s like there’s this whole other geek culture that doesn’t even exist. And that’s just stuff that’s definitely sci-fi, without getting into the question of whether someone who’s totally focused on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Danger Man, and Ian Fleming is a “geek.”

Hey, next can we compile a list of what bands you have to listen to before you’re a punk?

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Yeah, I’d have to go with the people saying that geekdom is too broad a topic to possibly encapsulate the whole of. A “Cliff’s Notes” version like you mention would still be both several volumes long and incomplete. Even looking at the example you give about wanting to know more about anime–Cowboy Bebop was about the last big series that all anime fans likely know about, and the topic “anime” is now simply too big for even a dedicated anime fan to know more than a couple of subgenres particularly well. There is no knowing what geeky memes and shibboleths a given fan will come across in any part of modern geek culture until you get there–at which point you can just ask, and anyone who isn’t an asshole will gladly explain or link you to a summary (not that assholes aren’t pretty common in geek culture).

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Tell them to learn Klingon. That will suffice in all situations.

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For Star Wars, I’d say the six movies and at the least the Zahn trilogy

It’s pretty funny that your refute your own premise with your very first example. There’s plenty of us Star Wars geeks who don’t consider the 3 prequels a genuine part of the canon, much less that Zahn stuff.

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The Geek Canon is three books:

Lord of the Rings

Dune

The Stand

Everything else is bollocks only fake geeks indulge in to kid themselves that the hour of their pointless and insignificant deaths does not approach ever closer with every second they waste watching those weirdly racist early black and white episodes of The Avengers /tame, moderate and entirely reasonable response to this post

At least some of Gerry Anderson’s shows are kinda obligatory, except joe 90 because fuck that specky little knowitall bastard.

(Oh god, if Stephen King ever dies they’re going to make some sort of godawful prequal/sequal series of The Stand aren’t they?)

AND NOBODY SAYS A BAD THING ABOUT THE ZAHN TRILOGY! It had Leia lightsaber fighting in combat camo on the fucking cover AND THRAWN, who was the blue Omar of geekdom back before we had an non-blue Omar. He was the Omar we deserved, not what we needed. He’s the bess.

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When I was in between high school and university, I found out about TV Tropes, and spent about a month just reading it. I can now speak with a degree of fluency about almost every genre and medium. In a best-case scenario, it acts as a self-directed primer, as you find the thematic constructs that interest you, and see how they are applied across a broad spectrum of media. Worst case, I guess, would be that you get bogged down in the vile pits of fanfiction, but I found it kept that subject at arms length while not discounting it, at least when I was there.

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I cannot argue with Fred Davis’ choices. After thinking about it for ten minutes, I realised that I don’t know *any* non-geeks who have read all three series. At all. Some people have read Dune. Post-movies, a lot of people have a working knowledge of LOTR. Stephen King is an institution. But, those books are serious gateway books.

LOTR leads to fantasy, from Martin and Mallory to Pratchett and Anthony and Saberhagen…

The Stand leads to the rest of King’s books which leads to Lovecraft and Sturgeon and Campbell and Silverburg and Gaiman…

Dune, well, you’re all-but mandated to read some Asimov and some Heinlein and some Dick and some Clarke…

They’re bad, bad books and they’ll warp your fragile little mind of you read them.

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What’s that? You want to be a real Geek? Of course you do. It’s what all the hot girls are doing these days. But it’s going to take work. You aren’t going to enjoy it.

So, you think you’ve seen Star Trek? No, you haven’t. You need to watch episodes from each series: TOS (the old one on a space ship), TNG (the new one on a space ship), DS9 (the one on a space station), Voyager (the one on a space ship that’s in another galaxy) and Enterprise (the new one that’s meant to be older than the old one). You need to get to the point where you can identify the series by the crew photos.

Star Wars. Episodes 1 – 6. And then watch the commentaries. THERE WILL BE A TEST.

D&D Rule Books, 3rd Edition. You must understand what hit points are and why 4th Edition is a violation of natural law. You then have a choice of reading either a White Wolf book or a GURPS book and then preparing an essay on why it is better than D&D of any edition.

You need to pick one old geek TV series that you know well enough to fool others around you when you make comments that boil down to “I like the old stuff better than the new stuff”. A good one is “The Prisoner”, which is short, full of self-important quotes and appropriately elitist. Plus it has a remake, which you can roll your eyes at like any True Fan.

You will have to watch the LOTR films AND read the books AND have a list of reasons why Peter Jackson should be arrested by the Hague for lore crimes.

Video games: you must play through all BioWare’s output from the year 2000 onwards as a gay female character. Unless you yourself are a gay female, in which case you must play those titles as a gay male. And also BioShock so that you can talk about Objectivism without every having to understand Objectivism.

You have to watch The Matrix films so that you can forget about them.

Also you are expected to watch series 1 through 15 of “The Simpsons” and all of “Futurama” and learn all the quotes. ALL OF THEM.

That’s week 1. Week 2 we’ll start on anime (subbed only, you heathen), Doctor Who from William Hartnell onwards, miniature painting for Warhammer and W40K, the “Robocop” series, the sci-fi works of Michael Biehn and the selected works of 2000AD.

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I don’t know which is more sad: that I understood every reference you made or that you pretty much summed up my entire personality in two paragraphs.

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I was just recently discussing Michael Dirda’s list of “patterning works” from his superb collection of musings, Book by Book.
These works are, he says, not necessarily obvious classics, but books later authors regularly build on. “Know these well, and nearly all of world literature will be an open book to you.”
(See end of comment for the actual list)

Anyway, if I may, I suggest that what John is seeking here, as evinced by his later clarification, is a list of “Geek patterning works” – the works that are referenced and built upon time and time again in geekdom.
The problem is, as others have rightly pointed out, the great variety of geeks (and the arguments about what is and is not geek) make a definitive version of such a list a quite possibly unattainable goal. Further, even if one could set some boundaries on what is suitable for inclusion, it would be a much larger list than Dirda’s. I could rattle off twenty or so works that I’d consider necessary entries without a problem, and I’m sure (with all due respect to Fred Davis) that most others could do likewise, and at least half of the listed works would be different to mine. Any list, even one created by taking the top twenty items from everyone’s combined lists, would no doubt elicit howls of “How could you include this, but not that?!”

Nonetheless, John did ask for a list, so here (in no particular order) are some of what I’d consider geek patterning works of one sort or another. I’d say proto-geek would benefit from a knowledge of, and almost certainly enjoy a good percentage of these:
Given John’s clarification, I’ve been inclusive rather than exclusive, so it’s rather longer and more eclectic than it might otherwise be.
Also, I’ve not really touched on anything from this millennium, as I figure that it’s all still recent enough to be fairly easily referenced.

Books:
Dune
Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit
– The Foundation trilogy
I, Robot
Snowcrash
– All of Douglas Adams’ stuff
– Pratchett’s Discworld series
– Some Neil Gaiman short stories for a sense of his work, although his comic work is more important (in a geekdom sense)
– Heinlein’s juveniles (esp. Starship Troopers) and Stranger in a Strange Land.
– Harry Harrison’s Deathworld and Stainless Steel Rat series
– McCaffrey’s Pern books – the early ones, anyway.
The Left Hand Of Darkness
Neuromancer
– Anything by Iain M. Banks
– Some of ER Burrough’s stuff, esp. Tarzan & Princess of Mars
– Feist’s Magician trilogy
– Brin’s Postman, Earth, and Startide Rising
– Niven’s Known Space books, esp. Ringworld (of course).
– Some collections of best SF short stories including e.g. I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.
– Lieber’s Lankhmar series
– Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga
– The Illuminatus trilogy
– KSR’s Mars trilogy

Movies:
Star Wars IV-VI
Bladerunner
2001
Alien, Aliens
Terminator 1 & 2
Highlander
Predator 1 & 2
Akira
The Princess Bride
Spinal Tap
Buckaroo Banzai
Big Trouble In Little China
The Crow
Total Recall
The Thing
– Some Hammer Horror stuff
– Burton’s Batman films
The Lost Boys
Stand By Me
The Matrix
– Anything by Miyazaki

TV:
Star Trek – some TOS, some TNG, at least films 1,2 and 4.
Dr Who – a story or two from each doctor, maybe with a couple more Tom Baker ones just because.
Robotech & friends
Red Dwarf
– Some Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and at least Life of Brian, Holy Grail, & Meaning of Life
The Goodies
Thundercats, He-Man, GI Joe and the like
Animaniacs & ilk
Buffy & Angel, & Firefly

Comics:
– Stan Lee’s early stuff (origins for Spiderman, The Hulk, Fantastic Four, Daredevil and The X-Men).
– Some 70s, 80s & 90s DC and Marvel collections, esp. Batman, Superman, and above mentioned Marvels.
The Dark Knight Returns
Watchmen
V For Vendetta
– Gaiman’s Sandman
– Some 2000AD best-ofs, inc. Skizz, Halo Jones, and the standards – Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, Slaine, ABC Warriors, etc…
– All of Calvin & Hobbes

… and, while I’m sure I could go on adding piecemeal to this list indefinitely, I’ll stop there. And I’ve not even touched on games, music, or the internet.

Dirda’s list, for those interested, is as follows.
- The Bible (Old and New Testament – King James Version)
- Bulfinch’s Mythology (or any other accounts of the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths)
- Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey
- Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans
- Dante, Inferno
- The Arabian Nights
- Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur (tales of King Arthur and his knights)
- Shakespeare’s major plays, especially Hamlet, Henry IV, Part One, King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream,The Tempest
- Cervantes, Don Quixote
- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
- Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
- The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen
- Any substantial collection of the world’s major folktales
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
- Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

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Moses Moore said on January 1st, 2013 at 6:07 pm

LET ME TELL YOU

ABOUT HOMESTUCK

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A pretty young female like yourself is interested in geek culture? Well, I recommend that you start with an excellent series of books about a world called Gor. I’ll just run home and get my copies for you to borrow. Don’t go anywhere, okay?

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Things I am surprised that no one has mentioned yet:
- The Eye of Argon
- Blackadder
- RHPS
- Order of the Stick

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Scavenger said on January 3rd, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Judging from my 13 yo niece and her friends, The Marvel films are the current gateway to geekdom.

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Walter Kovacs said on January 6th, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I’d suggest the youtube/blip series Geek Crash Course. They are relatively short and do a good job summarizing a ton of different geeky topics, including not just a primer, but suggestions of what to watch and what to avoid. It can be useful for someone that wants to bone up on a specific subject. For example, checking out the Doctor Who episode they did, watch the recommended stuff, and if you like it, Netflix more (at least catch up with the latest Doctor enough that you feel comfortable watching more).

In general, the more you know the more you are able to catch in terms of in jokes and the like. However, not knowing it can often be just as good, as often the reaction to not getting a joke is often “you should read/watch/play that … here, borrow my copy” or something to that effect. Geeks (should) want to expand the cult, share the interesting stuff they’ve seen.

Still, with so much stuff, it’s probably a good idea of what is better to start with, and what is more of a “leave it up to them to go check it out if they are into it”.

For example: There are obviously episodes of MST3K that stand out as great for introducing people (and the shorts are a great way to have a compact amount). While Star Wars isn’t too complicated (you pretty much would want to do the movies before getting into extended universe stuff), Star Trek, you have the various TV shows and movies that don’t exactly have a fixed starting point. Doctor Who isn’t really something you’d start someone off by showing them An Unearthly Child. More likely you’d start them off with 10 or 11, and go back to show them from 9′s start, and go back and cherry pick some classic stories eventually. BSG is probably easier, you can show the mini, and if they are into it, they can go through the series, leaving stuff like Caprica, Blood and Chrome, the Plan, etc as ‘extras’ if they really want to check it out.

So while a wiki entry type cheat sheet to understand references (i.e. what does frak mean? what’s a Cylon? What’s Shiny? What’s a Red Shirt? What’s the Force …) is useful, the better thing would probably be a recommended list of easy to get into content that is a good indication of the whole, which can help someone make a judgement about whether they want to go deeper or not.

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