After forty years of being King Nerd, I wonder where I fit in. After all, can anyone be more of a nerd than a comic shop operator?
Thing is, I don't remember the term "nerd" from when I was a kid (which was probably when I was at my nerdiest.) I remember my constant reading of books and my black framed glasses as marking me as different. I remember that I was always aware that I could be singled out for bullying. Each school year, I would spend the first few weeks trying not to fall into that category. Most of the time, I succeeded.
In hindsight, what was different about me was that I was a true loner. Usually, I had a "best" friend and probably a "backup" friend, but I was rarely part of a group outside of organized activities. My mother constantly encouraged me to join in organized groups, but really I was most happy just frittering about by myself or with a friend or two.
I spent a huge amount of time daydreaming. I think I always wanted to be a writer, and as I got older, owning a bookstore seemed like the best job a person could have.
The turning point into "nerd" probably happened when I read Lord of the Rings. Or rather, when I read LOTRs too many times to count. Followed by Robert E. Howard's Conan, and then any other fantasy I could find, and most science fiction I could find.
I finally wrote a book, Star Axe, which reflected my love of fantasy. I went to my first and last science fiction convention. From the moment I walked into that convention I realized that I was not like other nerds. These nerds tended to delight in joining with other nerds, while I wandered the hall alone.
When I bought the store, I had the same experience. It seemed to me that most nerds loved to mingle, whereas I could barely stand to be in the same room for too long. Nothing against nerds, just that I was a loner and it wore me out. I had to actually try to be as nerdy as my customers, though it wasn't hard. In other words, I sort of envied their ability to fit in. I still felt like the odd man out.
I also started to notice that while I loved nerd material, my actual interests seemed to be all over the place. This has remained true to this day. Currently, I'm reading Camera Man, by Dana Stevens, a book about Buster Keaton and his milieu. What possible good does it do me to read about Buster Keaton? No reason. I just wanted to. I am always reading a mix of things, fiction, non-fiction, nerdy or otherwise
My appetite for fantasy waned, and I started reading more mystery books. But then, I always read a lot of mystery books...and everything else. Whereas most nerds seemed find a single subject most interesting, and don't stray far away.
To me, a nerd is someone who has odd interests, gets totally into those odd interests for a time without regard to whether anyone else is doing so.
Maybe I'm a nerd among nerds, I don't know.
I'm constantly asked at the store, "How do you keep up?"
"What makes you think I keep up?"
They think I'm joking, but as time as gone on and nerd culture has more or less conquered the world, I've fallen steadily behind.
Then again, my inclinations haven't changed. I'm still a nerd among nerds.