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Fake geeks

On tumblr, author Neil Gaiman was asked: What’s your opinion on there being “fake” and “real” fans/nerds?

Neil Gaiman goes on to not really answer the question. He says, “I think all people, not to mention fans, nerds, geeks and suchlike are real.” OK… but that wasn’t the question. The question was about fake fans/nerds. Not fake people. He goes on to say that he tells people at his book signings that he’s glad they read his book, no matter their self-proclaimed level of fandom. I think any author with any business sense would do the same. But, again, that really wasn’t the question.

So I think the Internet needs my opinion on the subject, because I am a blogger, and this is what bloggers do: write opinions nobody asked for.

(On a side note, if you Google the term fake geek, you seem to get a lot of stuff about a meme called Fake Geek Girls. I had never heard of that, and don’t really know what it is. This post is only about the idea of “fake geeks” in general, or “wannabes nerds.” As franchises long considered geeky have become mainstream in the last ten or fifteen years or so, and as media companies cash in on the popularity shift, there seems to be a bit of a culture war regarding who’s turf these geeky franchises belong to. This post doesn’t really address that either, though certainly this shift has given rise to a modern epidemic of “fake geeks.”)

Yes, there are “fake geeks.” These are people who claim to love something, but really only want other people to think they love it. It’s nothing new; vanity of this sort has existed since the first caveman lied about how many wooly mammoths he’d slain. (He was a fake wooly mammoth geek.)

The true geek is like Donkey from Shrek; he might be really annoying, but he’s happy with himself. The fake geek is like Shrek, at least the Shrek at the beginning of the first Shrek movie. He puts on a tough-guy act, pretending he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him, but he’s actually very insecure. (That is why a “fake geek” cares about the label at all.)

Fake geeks care too much about their reputation. You can spot these sorts of people because they care more about showing other people how geeky they are than actually geeking out on the subjects they claim to geek about.

For example, you cannot claim to be a chess geek if you don’t know what en passant is. If you truly love chess as much as you claim, you’d know the rules. That said, it’s OK to be a chess beginner. As Gaiman says, everybody starts somewhere. It’s not snobbery that’s keeping chess geeks from accepting anyone among their chess geek ranks. But the geekdom has to be earned; you don’t get to bestow it on yourself after your third chess game.

And, again, that’s OK. True geeks are out there and ready to help you rise to true geekdom. True geeks love being paid their geeky dues. But you have humble yourself before your geeky interest, and you have to be honest about wanting that true geekdom, because you’re going to have to work for it. If you want to be a chess geek, but don’t actually want to put in the long hours staring at a chess board, reviewing Bobby Fischer’s games, and reading Vladimir Vukovic, no geekdom for you.

If you truly love it, that shouldn’t be hard. True love leads to true geekdom.

But if you’re just in it for the perceived social glory, forget it. You are a fake geek.

“Fake geeks” can be a problem for real geeks because fake geeks are incapable of geeking out about their supposed topic of geekery. When you claim to be a geek just to impress people, but then can’t engage in a geeky conversation with a true geek, you’ve just wasted that geek’s time. That true geek spent a lot of time earning his geekdom, and he’s starving for some deep geek conversations and geeky social bonding. When you claim to be a geek but then can’t actually geek out, it’s tantamount to slapping that geek in the face! How could you be so mean to a geek?

A “geek” is like a “genius”; it’s a subjective label we give to others based on our own impressions of them. Sorry, but you can’t come up to me, proclaim to be a genius, and expect me to be instantly impressed (even if you truly are a genius, which you’re probably not if you feel the need to tell me about it). Similarly, if I am not impressed by your apparent shallow knowledge of a subject, I’m not going to consider you a geek. You don’t get to decide for me how impressed I’m supposed to be by your fandom. But, as I said, it’s subjective. If you claim to be a quilting geek, I’ll probably take your word for it, as I know very little about quilting. But if you claim to be a SpongeBob geek and can’t recite the FUN song, I’m seriously going to doubt that you truly love SpongeBob.

(Even worse is when people claim to be geeks about what you love, but then claim to be offended about what they don’t like about it, as though you too are obligated to be offended with them by virtue of your shared interest. True geeks know what I’m talking about.)

As I’ve said before on this blog, when you truly love something, you don’t care about what other people think anyway. So anyone who’s truly concerned about being labeled a “fake geek” is most likely that very thing.

Now, all that said, this isn’t the perspective from which Neil Gaiman is speaking about the topic. If you’re selling something, the last thing you’re going to care about is a customer’s level of geekery. A dollar is worth the same amount from anyone. Probably 95% to 99% of his sales come from non-Gaiman-geeks, including myself, and he’s savvy enough to not upset us. I’m not saying his views aren’t genuine. I’m saying they come from the perspective of someone who’s selling a product, not a true geek who’s been blatantly lied to by a fake geek.

Hypnopompic hallucinations

I woke up this morning staring at the ceiling, and on the ceiling was the clear image of a young woman’s green eye staring back at me.  I blinked my eyes, made sure I was awake, but the image lingered.  After a moment, it faded away, but I thought the incident was rather bizarre and somewhat creepy.  It was as though a random dream image had been burned into my retina so that I could see it even in waking life.  I’ve had minor sleep-deprivation hallucinations before, but this was more vivid than those.  It looked a bit like a fragment of a Vermeer painting:

greeneye2

Some internet searching confirmed that I’m far from the only one to experience this sort of phenomenon.  According to Wikipedia’s article on the hypnopompic state (the state of consciousness leading out of sleep):

When the awakening occurs out of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, in which most dreams occur, the hypnopompic state is sometimes accompanied by lingering vivid imagery.

So, assuming the vision was not actually a dream-seer from another dimension spying into my waking life, or a mystical prophecy that I am to meet and wed a green-eyed beauty (although I’ll leave those possibilities open), I’m guessing a “hypnopompic hallucination” is what it was.

And, come to think of it, I’ve had these sort of hallucinations before — with music.  It’s not uncommon to wake up to beautiful music that isn’t there.  I’ve just never had it with such vivid imagery before.

Oh, and the dream that preceded the hallucination was quite nice.  I was exploring a university campus, but it was in some royal futuristic steampunk world.  The university buildings were like gilded palaces, curved like the sides of pirate ships.  In one room, I witnessed a number of gamers playing a grand war game involving a bunch of little toy soldiers that were moved about a wire mesh grid.  When soldiers from opposing armies clashed and fought, mini-games involving dice and cards were played to determine which piece would defeat the other.  It looked like a lot of fun; I need to design the game for the real world now.

With new headphones, new album in the works

Last month, I was finally able to get my hands on a new set of headphones:

headphones

The Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones.  They’re an older model, but still of a professional caliber, and right within my budget.  And they’re rather wonderful; I’m really pleased with them.

So, while procrastinating on fiction writing, I’ve been rediscovering the magic the music composing, and have already composed two tracks, roughly ten minutes together, for my next album.

This album will basically be a collection of short musical pieces that each go along with a fairy tale I’m writing; I’m aiming for about ten to twelve tales in all.  The tales themselves will be released for free online (though I might put together a CreateSpace paperback, mostly for my own guilty pleasure).  The album itself will likely be released through my bandcamp page, with some corresponding YouTube videos.

Speaking of YouTube, I’ll probably "monetize" my channel sometime soon.  While I really hate subjecting viewers to ads, monetizing your account is the only way to get custom thumbnails on your videos, and I really hate the automatic default thumbnails on my videos at the moment; they look abstract and bizarre, and they’re not doing me any favors.  I’d like to have titles on there, and some recognizable "style" to them.  I still like using the Music Animation Machine in the actual videos, though, rather the fantasy art like some YouTube composers use; I find the Music Animation Machine’s visuals are just a lot more captivating and engaging.

Anyway, of the two tracks I’ve written at the moment, one is orchestral, while the other is a sort of bitter-sweet lullaby for harp and two whistles (tin whistle and low whistle).  Of course, they both feature my typical song-ish melody-driven style.  They still need some tweaking, but I’m very pleased with them so far.

The new headphones are simply excellent for composing work.  Looking forward to continuing the work.  Of course, this is only delaying my work on that book on melody writing, on which I’ve hardly made any progress since my last post, but becoming obsessed with the joy of melody writing again doesn’t hurt, I guess.

I’m also spending this week trying to get my internal clock back on a normal schedule.  Since college, my internal clock refuses to stay on a 24-hour schedule; it seems to be slightly longer, so it tends to slowly shift out of whack, until it’s almost completely backwards, and I have to force it back into some sort of normalcy, which neither my mind nor body appreciate as they fight against it, making me randomly tired in the afternoons, wide awake in the middle of the night, hungry and not hungry at random intervals, random headaches (which I get anyway, really), etc… lots of fun.

My tweet is in print!

novelcover

As tough as it is to write a novel and getting it published, how many published authors can lay honest claim to having a tweet published?

Working On My Novel is a short experimental book that collects a little over a hundred tweets of writers on Twitter who tweeted the phrase “working on my novel.”  One of my tweets was selected, so I received a contributor copy and am obviously I bit biased in the book’s favor.  Still, it’s interesting to see the various contexts in which people work on their novels, from the writers who are able to watch random TV shows while they write, to those excusing themselves from writing because they’re too busy or tired, to those who claim in one way or another that they will surely find success, though one can’t tell whether their tweets are written with honest hope or sarcastic despair.  But by the end of book, I actually found myself inspired to get working on my novel again.  (Not the same novel that my tweet in the book refers to, of course; I finished that one.)

There’s too much stuff I want to do…

I recently finished a few weeks of freelance programming, creating some custom software that allows the client to quickly format / generate bid documents for a demolition company.  It’s nice to finish something that’s actually productive, something I haven’t done much of this year…

Anyway, I’m now back to having a bunch of free time and a continuing burning desire to not have to get a real job that will steal it all away again (even though I’m really broke). I have a lot of projects I’d like work on, including:

  • Finish writing that book on melodies that I’ve been planning for years
  • Write a fantasy series and indie-publish it on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, etc.
  • Write more music and put together another album
  • Write and draw a web comic based on that cartoon series I created back in 2012
  • Write fairy tales — I’ve been wanting to write short weekly fairy tales, just for fun
  • Do something with computer game programming — I have a short mystery game I planned out a year ago that I still haven’t done anything with.  I’d like to learn how to use Unity or something, create some pixel art, and actually try to make it

Of course, the problem is that making any sustainable revenue from any of these areas of interest takes time… too much time. So much time that a sane person would get a real job in the mean time.

But I really don’t want to have to be sane.

The other problem is that it’s hard to have focus when there’s so much you want to do, but lack of focus is the bane of progress.

But I do want to be more disciplined, which includes setting and following deadlines, something I’ve never been very good at, especially with more creative-oriented projects like writing.  But… I have to.

I’m not sure how this is going to work out, but here’s my current plan: My book on my theory of melody will be my top priority.  I’m setting the deadline of having an eBook version of it available on Amazon Kindle by November 25th (my birthday).  Meanwhile, I’ll set smaller piecemeal deadlines and goals for the other projects each week.  I’ll see if that will help me accomplish anything, or if I’ll need even more focus than that to make progress.

I’ll probably also try to blog more, because I think blathering about updates on my progress helps me actually make some progress because it gives me something to blog about.  Weird circular psychology, but it works, like making a to-do list and crossing things off…

Oh, and I’ve still got some co-authoring projects going on, which are exciting, so they will be stealing away time as well.

Anyway, for the remainder of this week, my goals will be to:

  • Plan the “book on melody”, breaking down the project into smaller chunks that can be given deadlines of their own
  • Finish plotting that fantasy book I’m working on called “Stormground”
  • Co-authoring stuff

I’d also like to try to use some of the money I made from that freelance programming gig to buy a new set of headphones.  I haven’t had a good pair of headphones to compose music with for over a year now (maybe even two years… or three… it’s been a while).  I usually use wireless headphones, but they’re not very good for composing because they make automatic volume adjustments, keeping things from being too soft or too loud.  Which is great when you’re watching a movie or just listening to music, but it’s terrible when you’re actually trying to compose it.  Plus, wireless headphones always have that faint white noise in the background, which is very annoying when you’re trying to hyper-focus on sound.  And my other headphones have pretty much worn out, or were cheap and terrible to begin with.  So: must buy new headphones.  Especially since composing some new music will be necessary to help advertise the melody book, and I want to start building interest for it as soon as possible.

Presidential cousin… or not

So I was exploring the tree of my 13 x great grandfather, Sir Thomas Adams, Lord Mayor of London, trying to see if there was a connection between his tree and the tree of that other famous Adams man, John Adams, the second president of the United States. Just browsing through several trees online like this one, a connection emerges easily enough: Sir Thomas Adams’s grandfather, Randall Adams, was brother to a Henry Adams, the 4 x great grandfather of John Adams the president. That would make distant cousins of us.

But wait.

Something doesn’t look right in this tree.

Randall Adams was born and died in Wem, Shropshire, while his father and brothers were born and died in Barton St David, Somerset?

Hmmm. I’m not so sure Randall Adams actually belongs in this family. Although the dates are believable, I couldn’t find any evidence that Randall’s father made a brief visit to Wem and left a son there. And these trees have no resources to back up the connection other than private emails.

I haven’t been able to find any trace of Randall’s true parentage, so they may be lost to the mysteries of time.

But we’ll never be royals

I’ve been exploring my family tree a bit more and found some interesting things.  Full disclaimer: I went pretty far back, like to the 1500’s and beyond, so I don’t have census data or birth certificates for a lot of this stuff.  But I’m not making any new claims.  I mostly just explored large family trees that I am far from the first to study. I still need to do some more digging, but when lineages trail off into English nobility, it makes sense there would be records of this stuff despite its age; keeping track of family relations was very important to the way these ancestors lived and did business with each other.  Still, I’m far from a genealogy expert, so don’t go sourcing this in your scholarly works.

In the interest of not being too boring, I’m not going to give the names of all spouses here.  As I said, I’m not making any new claims, so all that info is out there somewhere with a bit of Googling or Ancestry.com searching.

So here we go: my great great grandmother Katherine Burns (1878-1963) of Tennessee was daughter of Edmond Burns (1854-1904), son of Levin Burns (1828-1863), son of Wilson Burns (1782-1843).  His paternal grandfather, Adam Burns (1736-1799), came to colonial America in the 1750’s from Scotland and fought in the American Revolution.  Wilson’s mother was Mary Wilson (1762-?), daughter of Wadsworth Wilson (1725-?), son of Thomas Wilson (1691-1744).  Interestingly, Thomas’s maternal grandfather married Eleanor Sprigg, who was related to philosopher Francis Bacon.  This would make Bacon a distant cousin, if not for the fact that Sprigg was in fact Thomas’s grandfather’s second wife, while we are descended from his first.  So, no Bacon for us.  At least not through Sprigg.

Thomas Wilson married Priscella Kent (1701-1744).  On her father’s side, Priscella was descended from Benois Brasseur (1620-1663?), a Huguenot from France.  She was the daughter of Mary Wadsworth (1680-1718), daughter of Elizabeth Claggett (1662-1711), daughter of Captain Thomas Claggett (1644-1703).  Thomas Claggett journeyed to colonial Maryland in 1670 from England, so from here on, we’re exploring English ancestry.  Thomas Claggett’s maternal grandfather was Sir Thomas Adams (1586-1667), who was elected the Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1645:

thomasadams

Sir Thomas Adams
13 x great grandfather

Thomas Claggett’s descendants also include historical figure Thomas John Claggett, the first bishop of the American Episcopal Church.  Thomas Claggett’s father was Edward Claggett (1606?-1673), son of George Claggett (1563-1638), son of Margaret Godden (1529-1574), daughter of Joyce Lovelace (1500-?).  The Lovelace family seems to have been quite a prominent one, so there’s more to explore there.  It is very likely Joyce was somehow related to the poet Richard Lovelace, though I have not yet sought the connection.  Joyce was the daughter John Lovelace (1478-1546).  Some resources say that John was a member of the Grand Jury that indicted Anne Boleyn.  John’s mother was Laura (or Lora?) Peckham (1436?-1482).  The Peckham family also seems to have been a prominent one.  Laura’s father was James Reynolds Peckham (1410?-1454), son of Reginald Peckham (1386-1407), son of James Peckham (1340-1400), son of John de Peckham (dates start to get fuzzy around here, 1320?-1363?), son of Margery Aldham or Audham (?-?), daughter of Sir Thomas de Audham and Isabel Montacute.  (Disclaimer: While there’s a definite connection between Margery Audham and Sir Thomas de Audham, it’s hard to be exact about the relation, because resources never seem to mention the family as a whole; only a piece of the family here and another piece there.  So I think it’s possible that Margery could have in fact been a granddaughter of Thomas de Audham and Isabel Montacute, but until I do some more digging, I’m just listing her as a daughter, as resources suggest.)

What makes Isabel Montacute interesting is that she was part of a Montacute / Montague / Monte Acuto family, a huge family that includes some highly prominent descendants.  According to this book, Isabel’s father was a William de Montacute, son of Drue de Montacute, son of Drue de Monte Acuto, son of Richard de Monte Acuto, only son of William de Monte Acuto, only son of Drogo de Monte Acuto (1040-1125), my 29 x great grandfather.  Resources say that Drogo de Monte Acuto’s name means “Dragon from the Mountain Peak” and that he came to England from France with William the Conqueror and fought with him in the Battle of Hastings.

The Montague family has many interesting branches to explore, but of particular interest is a Philippa (or Philippe) Montagu, a 6 x great granddaughter of the aforementioned Drue de Monte Acuto, my 26 x great grandfather.  Philippa married Sir Roger de Mortimer, whose descendants include a lot of British royalty.

Which means cousins!  So there you go.

kinghenry

King Henry VIII
14th cousin, 13 times removed

bloodymary

elizabeth1

Bloody Mary and Queen Elizabeth I
15th cousins, 12 times removed

queenofscots

Mary, Queen of Scots
16th cousin, 11 times removed

victoria

Queen Victoria
25th cousin, twice removed

diana

Princess Diana
27th cousin, twice removed

elizabeth2

Queen Elizabeth II
27th cousin, twice removed

Projects for June 2014

I haven’t blogged in a while, so here’s a little update of what I’m working on.

Writing fiction

I’m still working on co-authoring two short stories. We’re almost done with one. It’s taken us a lot longer than expected, but I always find interesting the seemingly random issues we find we have different perspectives on and end up discussing for hours. Maybe that’s not very productive writing-wise, but I actually really enjoy it; even if I don’t necessarily change my mind all the time, it forces me to think about things differently.

I’m still querying agents for my novel, Son of a Dark Wizard. I have yet to start another solo writing project, though I have a few stories in various phases of plotting. What I’m hoping to do with my next novel, whenever I start writing it, is to put it online for free, a bit like I did with The Game of Gynwig years ago, and then self-publish it. I even spent a week creating a custom WordPress theme and website to host the project at Morrowgrand, which will hopefully host other future projects as well so they’ll all cross-advertise each other. (Speaking of WordPress themes, the theme for this blog really needs to be updated at some point, doesn’t it?) In addition to posting the blog online, I actually think it would be interesting to record (with screen-capture software) my entire writing process of the novel. I know I’m not the first to try that, but it seems like a fun idea. (Although I guess if I do that, I won’t be able to write long-hand, as I do roughly half the time.)

On top of writing and releasing the novel, I also hope to write a musical soundtrack for it.

That said, any solo-writing projects may take a back seat to my other projects:

Melody project stuff

I’m finally returning to my book on composing melodies that I’ve been trying to write on and off for years. I think I’ve finally found an interesting angle to take with the book. I was struggling because my attempts were coming off as really academic and bland. Finally I thought: why not treat it like Johann Fux’s Study of Counterpoint? His book features two characters, a teacher and a student, talking about the subject. So, rather than a straight-forward non-fiction here’s-a-bunch-of-information sort of book, I can wrap the instructional material in a sort of two-character story arc. At the very least, it would be much more interesting for me to write. So that’s one project.

The other project is the real Parnassus: the symphony generator. A piece of software that uses the algorithms of my melody generators to help automate the entire composition process. The idea is that the symphony generator would be able to compose entire symphonies on its own, automatically, with the composer providing as much or as little creative input as he wishes. My two main goals for it, that I’ve been daydreaming about for over a decade: 1) I want it to be able to compose a Mozartean symphony at the touch of a button (or maybe a few buttons, if I must compromise), and 2) I want to be able to give it only a melody, and have it flesh it out into a full piece with little or no input from me. Obviously I want it to be able to do more than that, but those are my main two objectives.

I’d like to get them both out by December, in time for the holiday season (and before I go completely bankrupt), but almost everything I do takes me longer than I expect (except for going bankrupt).

Updates

I never did write that screenplay last month. I just found I was more interested in whatever else I was working on at the time. Maybe next year.

And that Nickelodeon cartoon pitch a few months back never went anywhere, unfortunately. That is, Nickelodeon wasn’t interested. I still want to do something with my pitch material at some point (though probably no time soon), but I’m not sure what.

A movie I’d like to make someday

3dviewer

If you Google around, you can see their are quite a few "personal 3D viewers" available.  They look a bit like a virtual reality set, except they’re for watching movies or playing video games; that is, moving your head around doesn’t do anything.  Personally, I’d love to try watching a 3D film with one of these.  (Not sure I’d use one in public though; I’d rather be aware of my surroundings in public.)  They’re expensive, close to a $1,000, which is a bit out of my price range.

Anyway, wouldn’t it be cool to produce a 3D first-person perspective film to be viewed in one of these 3D viewers?

I know I’m probably not the first to have the idea, but I don’t know of any films produced that are 3D, completely first-person, and designed to be watched with a personal 3D viewer.

I’d also use binaural recording for the sound to really immerse the viewer.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?  Imagine a horror movie produced that way.  Or a newscast.

So… something I’d like to do someday.

Projects for April 2014

Last month, I did successfully submit some material to Nickelodeon’s animated shorts program. I didn’t have the time (or the skill, for that matter) to draw complete storyboards, but I did submit a written script along with some additional pitch material (e.g., character drawings, etc.). I don’t know how long they’ll take to respond, but since they probably received hundreds if not a thousand submissions, I guess I can’t really hold my breath. I’ll do something with the characters at some point, regardless, whether it’s making a short animated film on my own, or a comic book. But no time soon.

So here’s what I’m working on this month:

Querying agents

I finished my second draft of my middle grade fantasy novel, and have started the process of querying agents. Although I know the process can take a notoriously long time (several months to perhaps even an entire year, if not longer), I really believe strongly in my novel, so I don’t plan on giving up as easily as I did when I was querying agents for my previous novel. Actually, I don’t plan on giving up at all. If I come to exhaust my list of all possible agents, I will seriously consider self-publishing it. I don’t really want to do that; a middle grade fantasy will probably be insanely difficult to market on an e-reader. Middle grade readers usually don’t buy their own books, after all. But I refuse to trunk this novel; I’ll get it out there somehow. “And the world will know that this ain’t no game,” as someone once said.

Anyway, before I consider self-publishing, I’ll try as hard as I can to get an agent, which I’m sure will force me to find a new meaning of patience. I may be querying for a good while.

Short fiction

Since querying really doesn’t take much effort on my part, besides waiting and waiting for responses without going insane, I’ll be focusing my efforts on short fiction. I still have those two co-authored pieces I’m working on, which we’ll probably finish this month, and I also have a number of other stories I’ll write on my own. I probably won’t start another novel-length project for a while, though I’ll probably plot out some possibilities. But I’m excited to turn most of my writing attention to short works.

Maybe a screenplay?

I was thinking of writing a screenplay as well. (Not nearly as much work as a novel, in my limited experience.) Ideally, I’d like to write myself a little library of small-budget projects so that whenever I get into film-making (one of those some-day things), I’ll have some possible small-budget projects ready to go.

I saw that the Virginia Film Office has a screenwriting competition, with a deadline of May 23rd, so I may enter that. They don’t charge a entrance fee, which is awesome; I refuse to submit to screenwriting competitions that charge entrance fees, as most do. (I think many competitions take advantage of new screenwriters’ starry-eyed ambitions; if you lose, there’s no pay off, and you’re out $20 to $50. The opportunity just isn’t worth it.)

OK, I think that’s it for this month. The only thing that may impede my progress is my recent addiction to the 2048 game, for which my current high score is 71216* (which includes achieving the 4096 block).

———-
* Make that 76708. Ha ha.