common themes and geekery

I watched Doctor Who with some friends last night. I’d never seen the show before. I talked over a scene to offer an opinion on something happening (I’m sure my comment was something like, “So… it’s always the Daleks, isn’t it?”) and one of my friends said, “You are now a geek.” To which I said, “Uh, have we met before?” I feel like I’m already pretty secure in my geekhood.

Everyone’s a little nerdy about something. The things that I’m nerdy about, that I obsess over, tend to find their way into my fiction.

Ebbets FieldI realized recently that baseball is mentioned in many of my works in progress. I was a casual fan as a kid, probably because I grew up in the NYC suburbs and the Mets were doing well at the time. My brother and I collected and traded baseball cards for no other reason I can think of besides that I liked collecting things and that’s what the boys his age were doing. Then, when I was twelve, my parents brought us to my first Yankees game. I loved the whole experience: talking stats with my dad, eating hot dogs and Cracker Jack, being able to see the action in person with thousands of other fans. The Yankees didn’t even win the game, but I was sold. I have since become what you might call a hard-core fan. I especially like surprising the hell out of men who assume women are antipathetic towards baseball. But I also love the history of it, the math behind it, the debates over who the best short stop was, who the best slugger was, what to do about steroids, all of it.

I was at a party once where the Brooklyn Brewery’s Pennant Ale was being served. There was a cute guy hanging around the fridge when I went to get a new round, and when he fished a bottle out for me, I said (because I am a nerd) “These say ’55’ on them because that’s the year the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series.” (Yes, that bit of knowledge just lives in my brain. I’m hoping to one day get picked up by the Cash Cab because I always win when I play at home.) The guy was impressed and told me he hadn’t known that. I apologized for nerding all over him, and he pointed out that he was wearing a Starfleet Academy tee-shirt. So, see, everyone is nerdy about something.

It’s tricky to insert nerdery into a novel yet. I mention baseball in almost every one of my novels, but I rarely write about baseball players, usually just fans. Likewise, I play the violin and have played for years, but I rarely write violinist characters. (Until I did. I wrote a long descriptive passage about a violinist practicing that I thought was quite nice, but my writer’s group found all the minutiae boring. All things in moderation, I suppose.)

Still, I always thought it was kind of fun to catch recurring themes in the works of the writers I like. Sometimes you can tell what a writer obsesses over, just in the interests they give their characters. Or it’s a write-what-you-know thing. I know what it’s like to be a baseball fan. I follow the game and like to quote stats and even played in a fantasy league last summer. It seems pretty reasonable to me that a thirty-something New Yorker (such as Noah in my upcoming In Hot Pursuit) would be at least a casual fan. Maybe that’ll be my novels’ Easter egg. Spot the baseball reference!

Speaking of other things I’m obsessed with, if you want a music rec, I’ve been listening to the Decemberist’s “The Hazards of Love” on a repeating loop all day. If you are a fan of indie rock or rock opera, I heartily recommend it. Some of the themes are a little icky, but the music is wonderful.