Geek is chic, according author Alex Langley in his debut book, The Geek Handbook: Practical Skills and Advice for the Likeable Modern Geek, and quite frankly, in some way it’s true. Over the past years the so-called geek culture has flourished in recent times. People aren’t afraid to brand themselves as geeks anymore (not that they ever should have been afraid), and as Alex himself points out, there are several top-rated shows based on this lifestyle! Need an example? How about The Big Bang Theory. It’s cool to be a geek. Mr. Langley’s book presents itself as the know-all of geekdom, a guide to understanding and recognizing the geek culture. It also provides a few tips on how to be a ‘cool’ modern geek. However, it misses one very important detail: you can’t strive to be a geek, you just are. Attempting to be ‘geek-chic’ is like trying to morph yourself into a Twi’lek. Sure you could paint your skin, attach some lekku tails and even speak the language, but is that really who you are? Perhaps I’m taking this far too seriously. The book after all is rich with satire and sarcasm (at least I’m hoping it’s satire), but one thing it does manage to do is make fun of old geeks by feeding negative interpretations we all faced in high school.
The first few chapters are all about what a geek is, with stereotypical interpretations of various geeks such as the tabletop geek, or the less known history geek. I feel this must be satirical because each description is as if they were written by the Alpha Betas from Revenge of the Nerds with some slight editing by Gilbert’s mom so they don’t look so bad. Tabletop gamers apparently walk around all day with bags full of dice, the anime geek wears a ponytail and socks with sandals while gripping the full body pillow of their favorite anime sweetheart, and gamers have glazed over expressions and wear nothing but sweatpants. Following this detailed guide is the “How to Dress Geek” chapter. It mainly focuses on what not to wear, such as the anime geek’s socks with sandals, or clothes that don’t fit. It also provides some tips on how to improve your wardrobe, for instance by wearing more blazers, because blazers are cool. It doesn’t just end with clothes, the handbook also reminds geeks to brush their teeth, wear deodorant, and to shave any unwanted hair. This is a good thing because as a geek I totally forgot to do all three prior to be reminded by this handbook. From this point on, the book starts to pick up on its serious advice, but does so assuming most geeks are neurotic boys with bouts of social anxiety, but succeeds in bringing up a few key issues such as how to take the Bill Murray approach when making friends (basically don’t let things bother you). It’s very good advice, but one you could get practically anywhere. Another great excerpt is the handbook’s discussion on body language. This is something that anyone can prosper from, not just geeks, as it is rooted in actual social science.
Once you think the Japanese voice acting is superior to the English voice acting, or have purchased a body pillow/mousepad with boobs of an anime character, or have tried to cosplay as your favorite anime character, you can rest assured that you are now an Anime Geek. – Alex Langley.
Following this section on social behavior is a collection of geek references for those who have only scratched the surface of their geeky potential and want advice on what to read, play, or do next. A list of books, TV shows, games, and movies are suggested by Alex, along with input by the geekiest of the geeky, such as IHOGeek’s lovely geek connoisseur, Kimmie Britt. However, for the experienced geek it’ll just be a reminder of what they’ve already done, read, played or watched. The chapters on exercising, technology and the internet provide anecdotal explanations on what to do to make exercise geeky, which machines will kill you when artificial intelligence goes rampant, and who is who on the internet. Probably the most entertaining chapter was how to fortify your house against zombies and which type of house is best for the inevitable apocalypse. In the same section, it also talks about how to deal with roommates, something that does provide real information, having recently lived with four others in a home and I would have loved to have provided them with these few simple rules. Of course this really has nothing to do with geeks as much as it does with people in general. This is followed by more stereotyping before an adorable bit about dressing up your pet in geeky paraphernalia, but no how-to-guide provided, simply the mention that if you wanted to, you totally could dress your dog up.
A chapter on Geek Girls which at first I thought this would be another stereotypical description, but gave me hope as Alex’s opinions on how to treat a geeky girl are spot on. You don’t call for their credentials just because they happen to lack a penis, and you shouldn’t objectify them as nothing more than physical eye candy you run into at conventions. I’ve seen it happen, too much in fact, where male geeks will snicker (or drool) at the ‘wannabe’ geek girl. Same goes for when another girl geek decides the new girl isn’t ‘real’. Keep in mind I’ve also seen the opposite: friendly geeks who understand that liking Star Wars is not bound by gender, or who came first. It also focuses on the obvious, like don’t stare, but the focus doesn’t just stay on what male geeks can do wrong, and how to fix it, but also what is a common issue among female geeks these days. You see there are a few girls out there that enjoy being the lone geek girl surrounded by guys, and as a result tend to be hostile to new females.
“This is a trend that must stop. This makes it hard for new girls to want to enter the geeky fold and it makes everyone look petty and mean.”
In his section titled ‘Discounting Physically Attractive Geek Girls’ Langley expresses no matter the age or how you look, geekdom knows no physical bounds. A perfect message, until I realized he contradicted himself earlier when describing cosplay. He states how you have to plan your cosplay around your body type, stating essentially that only the physically attractive people should cosplay certain characters to avoid ‘muffin tops’ from being exposed. It’s a bit counteractive as everyone regardless of their appearance should be able to flaunt their geek pride.
This is what the biggest issue for the book is for me. It jumps between snarky remarks and genuine advice with no real boundary to differentiate the two. The result is that it comes off as a harsh judgement of the geek culture, with only a guide on how to avoid being one of those lame geeks, and how to be geek chic. When you first pick up this book you expect a “Zombie Survival Guide” but for the geek culture. Instead, a third of the time you’re reading a diminishing view on the geek world, followed by random geek jokes and then some genuine advice to the geek community. The book has no grounded target. For the already established geek, this book will simply be a satire of their life with lists they already know about, and social skills they already possess (for the most part). For the newcomer geek this book will be a counter intuitive representation of the culture that might only push them away, or give some great recommendations on what to read and watch. Too much of this book is just a reaffirming of what makes us geeky, and too little is a handbook on explaining geeky things in a positive light. The book states what geeky things you can do, when it should show the reader how to do those geeky things. Take the directions for Jabba Waffles as an example: “Buy frozen waffles. Toast them. Add green food coloring” . When it comes down to it this handbook just didn’t do what it intended to. It was supposed to be a celebration of all things geeky, but what we get is a book that actually makes fun of geeks while providing a new ‘modern’ approach to be ‘liked’ by others.
To sum it all up, the book took aim to celebrate geek culture; but only managed to shoot it in the face. If you want to buy The Geek Handbook, it’s available on amazon.com for $9.58. Although I do feel obligated to tell you most of the information in the book can be found online. Even though this was a miss for me there are people who will no doubt enjoy this book, so happy reading!