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A Geek Groundswell

Nov 3, 2007
One day when I had nothing to do (well, actually, I had a lot to do, but I didn't want to do any of it), I decided to play the Google game. This is the one where you input your own name or something else into the field in quotes to see how many search results you get. Because my most recent book, Queen Geeks in Love, was coming out soon, I decided to search the term "geek." What I found astounded me.

I got more nearly 70 million hits from the word "geek."

That's million.

So, I figured that most every term would fetch that many results, or close to it. I started with what I would assume is the antithesis of 'geek': the "gossip girl', which yielded 3,560,000. 'Beauty Queen" yielded 1,750.000. Glamour came the closest to geek, with 44,600,000, but as you can plainly see, being glamorous is nothing compared to being geeky, statistically. Even the trendy "fashionista" only turned back 5,590,000 results.

So what does this mean? Is Google a valid measurement of popular culture? I suppose it's not extremely scientific, but it does seem to be in indication of how many sites mention the word, which, by the way, originated as a circus term for a person who bit the heads off live animals. Thankfully, that particular aspect of geekdom seems to have faded out, unless you count Ozzy Osbourne in his former glory days.

If you look to the true measure of what's out there in the zeitgeist, check your local television listings. This fall, every new show seems to be supernatural (which is within the realm of the geek.) We have Moonlight, a vampire tale. We have Journeyman, Supernatural, Ghost Whisperer, and Medium. The biggies--Lost and Heroes--sell DVD collections in droves. Geeks are no longer hiding in their cyberclosets.

As early as 2001, the term "geek chic" began to be used, and in fact, a London clothing company ran a campaign using that very term to market its clothing. Fast forward to last year, when ABC premiered a show called Ugly Betty, with America Ferrera starring as an anti-fashion uber-geek. Well, guess who was on the October 2007 cover of Glamour Magazine? That's right. The geeky girl. Of course, they glammed her up, but still, I couldn't help but feel that someone from my team finally made it to the big leagues.

Gloria Baume, a fan of Ugly Betty and a fashion editor at Teen Vogue, told the New York Times that Betty's "geek-chic look could trickle down." In the New York Times article, she added, ''I'm obsessed with the nerd look right now,'' adding that a number of designers appear to be similarly taken with all things dorky. ''Paul Smith did it in London,'' she said. ''Lacoste did it here in New York. Luella also did the geek look. In her own kind of funny, twisted way, Betty has her own sense of style. It's kooky, but it's totally her.'' (New York Times, October 2006).

USA Today even noted that "Knowledge is power and geek is chic. If you're a cyber whiz who is plugged into the pop-culture world of sci-fi, fantasy, comic books and cult horror, maybe even the master of a Web shrine devoted to such once-arcane matters, you don't just rule. You rock."

Scholars are even on the geek bandwagon. One Danish scholar wrote a dissertation on geek culture and cited it as "the third counterculture" after hippies and yuppies. "The geek culture is changing the norm, transforming mainstream culture," writes Lars Konzack in his thesis, titled "Geek culture, the third counterculture" " Not long ago nobody would have known outside the geek culture what was meant by player character, experience points, level gain, and hit points. Now it seems like everybody knows. The geek culture is transforming mainstream cultures and it's just the beginning of a general cultural change in that direction," Lars Konzack, Aalborg University, Denmark.

In my own novels, Queen Geek Social Club and Queen Geeks in Love, the self-professed geeks of the title are girls who unapologetically are themselves. They like science and science fiction, but they also like fashion and guys. They want to change the world, but they also want to enjoy it. I like to think of them as the geek I never was in high school--confident, comfortable, clever. They know who they are, and although they struggle with self-doubt and anxiety like all teenagers, they use their intelligence and the support of their geek sisters to get through it all. In the end, it's a great message to send to girls (or guys), and it reminds me of something someone once wrote in the margin of my yearbook: "be the way you are and you'll go far." Go geeks.
About the Author
Laura Preble is a journalist, singer, teacher, and writer from San Diego. Her first Queen Geek novel is The Queen Geek Social Club, followed up this fall with Queen Geeks in Love. Learn more at The Queen Geek Social Club
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