Theories of Nerddom and the Horrors of Fandom

This is a pretty interesting conversation — Lev Grossman and Adam Sternbergh discuss theories of nerddom, sub-categories and all:

Grossman: I like to think of myself as a three or even a four-quadrant nerd: SF, fantasy, comics, and video games. Though, granted, my obsessiveness about them isn’t very equally distributed. Especially since becoming a dad, I have nowhere near enough time to keep up with games or, really, with comics either. I might suggest a refinement along the lines of, one’s nerdiness is a fixed quantity, a non-expanding pie, which can only be allocated to one genre/medium at the expense of another?

It’s nice the way these guys embrace nerd identity, and they seem pretty self-aware about the whole thing. But really I find nerddom, or more specifically its manifestation as fandom, verrrrry sketchy as an overall rubric. I don’t think it leads to anything worthwhile and I think as a mindset it’s responsible for producing a lot of pap. Fandom — by which I mean the state of fandom and fan service, rather than “fans” themselves — is the direct cause of The Phantom Menace and the grindingly demoralizing Dune prequels of Herbert and Anderson. It feeds the mentality that says, “You liked your Boba Fett hors d’oeuvre? Really? Well how about a full Boba Fett banquet then? You’d like that, right? And we’ll fill your fridge with Boba Fett so you can have it with every meal from now on, forever.”

I do enjoy reading interviews with Grossman, though — he’s very candid and articulate, and not at all shy about admitting his own self-doubt. I enjoyed The Magicians well enough, but I wouldn’t re-read it, whereas I’ve read his AV Club interview several times.

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