A few weeks ago, I suggested the idea of a Geek Guide to Everything, a sort of A-Z of geek interests that a young and inexperienced fan of cult fiction could use to pick up information on the things they were likely to hear about from folks with similar interests. The idea was not fondly received, judging by the comments. Most people seemed to feel that it was a bit didactic; telling a new fan what they “should” be into instead of letting them discover things for themselves.
This sort of surprised me, because that’s exactly what I used “episode guide” books for. On subjects where I don’t really see myself as likely to get into a topic (like, for example, anime or the Stargate series) but don’t want to feel completely left out every time there’s a conversation that references the topic, I pick up a guide to it, read that, and at least gain a cursory knowledge of the situation. Sometimes, like with Buffy or Babylon 5, I wind up interested enough that I later get into the topic, but at least this way I’m not completely in the dark. To me, a “Guide to Everything” would just be an expansion of the basic concept.
But again, judging by the response, this isn’t how most people use these guides. So I thought I’d ask what most people do buy an episode guide for. Because they’re certainly popular; there are whole publishers out there who make their living doing pop culture non-fiction media guides. But if people don’t buy guides to things they’re unfamiliar with, what do they read them for? Is it to get another perspective on a show they already like? Is it simply to reminisce about their favorite series? I can understand both of those views; after all, I do think I’m on my tenth or eleventh guide to Doctor Who, and I may even be up into the teens. Then again, even in those cases I’m reading them to learn, because Doctor Who is one of those series that’s difficult and expensive and time-consuming to watch in its entirety and I am learning what happened in stories I haven’t had the chance to watch.
So the question is out to the blog-reading audience: Why do you read episode guides? What do you get out of them? (I don’t know that people who find episode guides pointless will get much out of these comments, really, but if you feel that you have something to contribute besides the basic fact that you find them pointless and you want your voice heard, feel free to chime in too. I promise next week you’ll have the chance to talk about comics or science fiction or zombie apocalypses or something.)