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On the 50th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons (1974) -- A dark turn in the pop-culture? (Part Fifteen)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted April 22, 2024

"Geeks" in North America

It could be argued that much of the games and other products discussed above are really varieties of "geek subgenres." The person who is stereotypically a geek in high school faces the question if he can ever transcend his geekiness/geekhood, to hopefully go on to something better, higher, and richer in terms of personality and achievements.

There are a variety of terms for the geek – dweeb, nerd, loser, computer-geek, arts-geek, female geek. There are many socio-sexual aspects of the late modern crisis in North America that are wrapped up in the typical geek-predicaments.

There has been a precipitous shift of emphasis in the various geek subgenres. Collectible card games (or trading card games) which are based on the combination of gambling and collecting impulses, could be seen as a highly brazen exploitation of socially awkward young men in a cultural vacuum. In science-fiction fandom, a small core of super-enthusiasts, practically defines the genre. For example, the total membership of the Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) (which also includes Canadian and other foreign writers), is only about a thousand persons. The minimum criteria for full membership are professional publication of a novel, or of three short stories in recognized publications, with payment of at least 3 cents US (raised some years ago to 5 cents) a word. The criteria for recognized publication are set so tightly that there are little more than three magazines (i.e., Analog, Asimov's, and Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), that qualify as such. It has been estimated that little more than a 100 science fiction and fantasy authors are making a reasonable living through the genre (in the U.S. and Canada).

Also, the current-day push towards promotion of women and minorities in science fiction and fantasy is obviously at the expense of the white male geek, for which this may remain one of his few areas of triumph in late modernity. Historical boardgaming or wargaming, which was once a major subgenre, is now fading fast. Numerous pop-cultural factors seem to be working against it. The direction of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) has been towards increasing ugliness as well as political correctness. The obsession by some persons (usually of high intelligence) with roleplaying games is arguably possible only in an almost entirely historyless milieu.

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.


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