Growing Up Geeky - Part II: The Early Years

[This is the second part of my autobiographical "Growing Up Geeky" series - click to read "Part I: Prehistory."]

I don't know if I could really have been called a geek in the mid-70's. (Technically, we didn't even know what a "geek" was back then - the standard term was "nerd.")

I was definitely an outsider, though. I'm sure there are plenty of "Nature vs. Nurture" reasons for this, and it's really beyond the scope of this blog to explore the myriad causes that resulted in my status on the fringe of elementary school society. Suffice to say I was an awkward, shy, ectomorph.

And until I met Brian Z, I firmly believed that I was alone in this unenviable position. I don't think I realized it back then, but I was probably predisposed to befriend Brian partially because I saw in him a kindred spirit. (Again, the psychology of this is beyond the scope of this blog.) At the time, all I knew was he liked the same "nerdy" things I did; although I had not yet come into the full realization of my love for science fiction, fantasy, and (much later) the macabre. (I don't think Brian would have been as into that latter field of interest as I was and have remained.)

I think the appropriate term is: "fast friends."

For the remainder of the school year, we hung out pretty much constantly during our free time at school. I can't at this point in time single out any of the interests we shared. I know we both liked drawing, and playing with the relatively limited variety of toys available to young boys in the mid-to-late 70's. Most of the pop culture icons that are so ubiquitous to today's sensibilities had not yet hit the scene. But that was soon about to change.

As the school year drew to an end, and summer seemed imminent, Brian started raving to me about a movie he'd seen. I'd seen the commercials for it on TV, but hadn't paid much attention. It was a science fiction movie, and my experience with those had come entirely from watching the dry, adult-targeted sci fi of the 70's (on TV, where all the best bits had been censored) or the often-campy sci fi films of the 50's and 60's. Anybody who grew up on such fare knows exactly what that means...

But Brian was adamant that this movie was a must-see. So, arrangements were made between the parental units of our respective households for me to go with Brian and his parents (and possibly one or more of his younger brothers, I don't recall) to see this must-see sci fi film.

It was called: Star Wars.

I don't think there's any way to properly explain to someone who doesn't understand it the effect that this movie had on children like Brian and I. Given the exposure sci fi and fantasy receive in today's popular culture, it's really hard to put this film into context for anyone who was not there back in the day. I can explain the dryness, the utter lack of the fantastic that we had been weaned on in terms of science fiction films. But this explanation could never convey the overwhelming "a-ha!" effect that Star Wars had on us. It was like someone had suddenly revealed to us a universe where all things were possible; where evil was Evil (the 70's, from our perspective, was very gray); and where a misfit farm-boy who lived in the middle of nowhere could become the heroic savior of the galaxy.

Oh, yeah - that movie hit all the right buttons for a pre-teen boy growing up in rural America...

Later: Growing Up Geeky - Part II: The Early Years (cont'd)

. . . . .


  1. Oh, yes. I remember very clearly Before Star Wars, and Post Star Wars. It was very transformational.

    These young whippersnappers don't -- cannot understand. What an effect it had on so many areas of our culture. How SW made Star Trek cool enough to become several hit series, and the subsequent movies and TV shows; books; comics -- all spawned from the changed consciousness (as well as the apparent financial benefits) of Post SW.

    I feel ya'

  2. Yeah - Star Wars transformed culture. I clearly remember the moment when the Star Destroyer came on screen overhead...and kept, my 9 year old brain rewired itself there and then...

  3. @Timeshadows: Yeah, I have to thank Star Wars - as indirectly as it may be - for the rebirth of Star Trek. I grew up with two TV heroes, and one of them was James Tiberius Kirk.

    Sometimes, though, I think that we'd almost be better off if Star Wars as a cultural phenomenon had never happened. Well, maybe "better off" is over doing it - but I think the effect it had on our culture made the younger generations less appreciative of fantasy and sci fi than we were. (Not that this is solely Star Wars' fault - but it was a big contributing factor to the (over)exposure of fantasy and sci fi in our popular culture.)

    (IMHO, FWIW)

  4. @Pastor Bill: Tell me about it! Up to that point, my idea of good sci fi was Logan's Run or Planet of the Apes. I was so overwhelmed by Star Wars the first time I saw it, I had trouble taking it all in. It took another two or three viewings before I was able to wrap my pre-teen mind around it all.

    Try explaining that experience to your teenage kids; they just don't - or, as Timeshadows so correctly says, cannot - get it. :P


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