Guest Blogger: Shannon Stewart
The world has been kind to geeks recently. These days, with our childhood comics being revamped into blockbusters, Star Trek and Star Wars getting J. J. Abrams, and ThinkGeek delivering our once-impossible-to-find fandom paraphernalia to our doors, we’re living in a geek’s paradise.
But I remember a time it wasn’t so trendy to be a geek. Call me a geek hipster, if you will, but I (and I am sure anyone who is into spec fic enough to write it) was a geek long before it was cool to go to ComiCon.
It was somewhat uncomfortable, growing up a geek. I played pretend in my room long after I knew not to ask my friends to join me. I read Sonic the Hedgehog comics in the grocery store until I was old enough to consider hiding them in Seventeen magazines to deflect the questioning gazes of passersby. Then, when my fascination with fantasy worlds morphed into the story God placed on my heart to write, I felt even more ashamed. (When people ask what you want to do and you answer, “Write a fantasy novel!” their eyes glaze over pleasantly and they don’t know what to say anymore. Does anyone else have this experience?)
For almost my whole adolescent and adult life, I felt something must be wrong with me. That I was refusing healthy entry into adulthood. But I just couldn’t shake the fantasy worlds I loved. Nor, when it came down to it, did I want to. A car ride alone was a golden world of adventure. An empty dorm room was a conversation with my characters, an exploration of creating souls. Vacuuming became mental free-falls through scenes and settings, battles and breakthroughs. How could I trade all that richness for just car rides, just dorm rooms, just vacuuming?
Even now, I’m a little embarrassed to confess all that. Now when I tell my friends I just vacuumed, they’ll imagine me swashbuckling with the hose extension (and they won’t be entirely wrong).
But I am not the only adult who has refused to let go of something less “dignified.” C. S. Lewis had a whole group of friends who felt the same way, and the Inklings’ works have given joy and awe to people in and out of geekdom for decades now. They certainly awaken wonder in me.
Among other implications, my appreciation for C. S. Lewis means that I read The Screwtape Letters annually. Though written from the perspective of a demon giving advice to a junior tempter, the book’s insight into the human heart is incisive. Within it is a quote that speaks to my uneasy relationship with my own interests:
The deepest likings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the starting-point, with which the Enemy [God] has furnished him. To get him away from those is therefore always a point gained; even in things indifferent it is always desirable to substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or fashion, for a human’s own real likings and dislikings.… The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest mode of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the ‘best’ people, the ‘right’ food, the ‘important’ books.
In context, Screwtape is berating the junior devil Wormwood for allowing his human “patient” to have “two real positive Pleasures.” In pursuing the interests that were uniquely his, without reference to his trendy friends or what society told him was the best way to spend his time, he reconnected with his true self. In doing so, he experienced the way God made him to be, and thus (in the text) came to experience a connection with God Himself.
This is the redemptive truth behind all my struggles to fit in to the real world while keeping one foot firmly planted in Callia (or Hyrule, or Mobius, depending on my age). How many times did mild embarrassment at my pure enjoyment of YA “fluff” save me from the arrogance that can run rampant in academia? How many empty pursuits for teenage popularity did I end up bypassing because I inherently knew that popularity and talking to my characters in my bedroom wouldn’t mix well? And how often has God taken pleasure in His child forgetting the world’s demands even for twenty minutes, being exactly who He made her to be without worrying about the social consequences?
My relationship with geekiness is still uneasy sometimes. But praise God for those moments of reckless joy when I embrace it, when I draw closer to who I really am and thus to the One who made me. So let’s pursue our positive Pleasures, geeky or not, looking through them to take pleasure in the glorious and glad God who gave them to us.
Shannon Stewart is a high school English teacher with an MA in English Literature still curled in its mail tube in her closet. The real prize, her love for British fiction, is on exuberant display in her classes each week. So far, she’s completed several of her life goals: naming her two children after fictional characters, getting her husband to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and completing her first WIP, the fantasy Callia-Born, this year.