04.21.14 // When Did I Realize I Was A Geek?
Written by Tristan Tarwater, author of the Valley of Ten Crescent series and Botanica Blues
When did I first realize I was a geek? The exact moment in time is hard to pin down. While I came to fully embrace the term ‘geek’ as an adult, a look back at myself and my family reveals I was always a geek. It wasn’t a bad thing. It was just how things were! Members of my household loved Star Trek, read comic books, played video games and programmed computers. I have a lot of respect for these people who never told me I read too much, who took me to the Museum of Natural History and the aquarium and the art museum, and who helped me be happy in my own skin.
GEEKY TRISTAN: A BRIEF AND NOT TOO SPECIFIC HISTORY
1983: I am born and named ‘Tristan.’ The clan of women who later raise me picked this name from a comic book, Camelot 3000. In this reimagining of the Arthurian legend, Sir Tristan is reincarnated as a woman and must not only deal with the evil Morgana la Fey returning to wreak havoc on earth but must navigate the tumultuous waters of love, sex and gender as Tristan’s beloved, Isolde, is also reincarnated as a woman. Luckily, I am not relegated to such tasks and mostly eat, sleep and poop. However, with such a name, my fate is sealed. I am a baby geek in a house of geeky women.
The 80s: The 80s are wonderful time for a young geek who is allowed to read whatever they want and who watches a LOT of television. Growing up in the projects of NYC doesn’t mean I am ‘stuck at home’ when amazing movies like Conan the Barbarian, The Lost Boys and The Golden Child are on WPIX. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes on the air and The Legend of Zelda and Mario have their very own cartoons. I also start school where I am not part of the popular crowd but I have friends and am an excellent reader, so I get to read whatever catches my interest. An older cousin upgrades his gaming console and I am allowed to play his abandoned The Legend of Zelda on the original Nintendo. I get to blow into cartridges to keep them working, and love elves. I remember my mother and titi going to see Interview With A Vampire at the Essex Theater. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a big part of my life and I am torn as to whether I am more in love with Donatello or Michaelangelo.
The 90s: I read The Egypt Game which spawns an obsession with mythology, religions and then fantasy. I read The Giver which amazed me. I start reading Crichton books because of Jurassic Park and become a docent at the aquarium because I love marine biology. Animorphs is a thing. And then (*sound of trumpets*) INTERNET. Through a relative I gain access to AOL and the fantasy RPG chatrooms as well as the internet in general. Research! I can do it! I roleplay as JeslaClaw and come up with my first fantasy race (they are elves). I become a regular in a fantasy chatroom where I play as another elf, a fairy with bat wings and a pirate. In the 5th grade I start writing my first novel which was, naturally, never finished. I start writing a scifi novel inspired by DS9 and a vampire story based on my own adolescent sexual frustration. These are written in spiral notebooks with blue, purple and green pen. I learn how to use a word processor and start hammering out tales never to be completed when I should be doing homework.
The 00s: I write a fantasy short story for English class. My teacher actually really likes it and calls me a ‘real writer.’ I graduate high school without any additional drama, which seems miraculous. I start college and intend to go on the writing track but am severely terrified of showing my work to anyone. September 11th happens. I move away from NYC, intending to go to Bible school and come back, but fall in love with Portland, OR, and move there. I continue roleplaying online. I get my first pet, a black cat, and name her Leelu Dallas Multipass. I meet my future husband and promptly fall in love/shack up with him. I read Blankets by Craig Thompson and fall in love with comics again. I become friends with a guy at a comic store, who helps facilitate the forming of our first DnD group. I play DnD for the first time and don’t magically become possessed by demons/go to hell; my first character is a bard/wizard. I learn how to play Magic: The Gathering with the Kamigawa decks and continue to write. I become a mother and my child destroys my free time so I am forced to make the most of it. I start in on my first fantasy series, seemingly as a DnD character background but which diverges and becomes a 200,000-word outline. I started in on A Song of Ice and Fire and the European comic Sky Doll. We move away from Portland for work and away from our gaming group but I continue to write and we start watching a lot more scifi shows. I get super pissed off at Battlestar Gallactica, especially the ending which still fills me with rage when I think about it for too long.
The 10s: We live in the South and California. My daughter grows bigger and bigger and becomes another geek in our household. I finish The Valley of Ten Crescents a bit after Amazon has started making ebooks a feasible method of distribution. We rush to release it, only to later realize holy crap, we could do better. We get an editor and an artist to do a cover. I go to the first ever GeekGirlCon with my daughter and sell my first book. I continue to write fantasy and weird fiction and write my first comic script. I flip out when it is announced Game of Thrones is being turned into a show. I watch Caprica and get so pissed when it’s canceled, I refuse to watch the final episode for a long time. We move back to Portland and reunite with old friends and meet some amazing people I’ve been talking to on Twitter/Facebook. We buy a house and continue to work on fiction and hang out with all the wonderful geeky people here in town.