A question was recently posed to me: what are the key ingredients in your own story of nerd nostalgia (aka nerdstalgia)? Full disclosure: the question was posed by a company called Man Crates, a company that ships gifts for guys in custom wooden crates (they include a crowbar for you to open them with, which can then be part of your Gordon Freeman costume later). But this isn’t a paid advertisement (although, hey world, I will write for money). Instead, I’m going to use this post to really think the question through.
What made me the nerd I am today? So many things contributed. Video games and comic books, action figures and Choose Your Own Adventure books, role-playing games and Star Wars and Transformers and Spider-Man and the Flash and and and :head explodes:
Okay, so as a kid I was always more inclined to be playing a video game than a sport, or to be covering a room in a complex G.I. Joe battle than, you know, learning how to talk to girls. But this is all mere surface nerdiness, really, so I’m going to try to dig deeper to get to what solidified my lifelong nerdiness. (I won’t even get into the social pressures that forged me. That’s a less fun topic for another time.)
When I really think about it, I have to single out Star Wars action figures as being a major factor in making me the nerd I am today. In fact, I recently saw an online friend’s picture of his collection, which he still has, in the Vader case, and I felt a pang of jealousy and regret, but also one of overwhelming nostalgia.
You see, I used to* have a lot of those same figures (although I think I had the C-3PO carrying case). I would play out the scenes in the movie with the figures, sometimes while watching the movie at home, but other times from memory. Or I would make up new stories, like that time Han and Luke moved into Castle Greyskull. (There were a lot of crossover stories like that.) The amount of figures helped in this. It was like having a roster of actors who would do act out whatever scene I wanted them to.
It was no suprise, then, when I began to recount their stories, first on wide-ruled paper, with every other word misspelled, and then on typewriter, click-clacking one-page adventures one letter at a time. But when I left those action figures behind, for G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in turn, the need to write down their stories stayed.
And when I stopped writing what was basically action figure fan fiction, I switched to homages of my favorite writers. When I couldn’t get enough of Slippery Jim DiGriz from the Stainless Steel Rat books, lo and behold, all my stories were about a suave spy named Doug Corbett, who always had the perfect sci-fi gadgets to get him out of any scrape. And when I devoured new comic books each week, especially X-Men, X-Factor, and New Mutants, well, it was no surprise that I had a roster of misunderstood super-powered heroes going off on adventures, too. (And thanks to Chris Claremont, they all came from different parts of the world and had different accents, too.)
That’s my story of nerd nostalgia, then. Loving nerdy things so much that I wanted to make them my own by writing my own stories. I’m still doing that to this day, blending the stories and characters I love into my own characters and tales.
Star Wars action figures, X-Men comics, science-fiction/fantasy paperbacks, and a typewriter. Those are the ingredients that made me the nerd I am today. What about you? What radioactive nerd spider bit you and transformed you into the supernerd you now are?
*If you’re wondering what happened to my Star Wars figures, well… To my eternal regret, when I was about eight years old I directed them through a climactic battle scene in which everyone shot everyone else. Not content to imagine the effects, I bent their heads back and forth until the plastic tore and their heads broke off. I think once the battle was over, I came down from my berserker frenzy and realized what a terrible thing I had done, but it was too late. (G.I. Joe you could repair, at least. Star Wars figures not so much.) If I still had those toys, un-beheaded, they’d be worth so much, and I wouldn’t sell them for anything.