Friday, June 1, 2012

The less offensive one

I just got back from lunch with my buddy Clutch, during which we spent a sizable amount of time (as we are wont to do) talking about The Kingkiller Chronicles series. I’ve touched on those books before, but just to recap, they are high fantasy set in an invented medievalesque world where magic and mythological creatures are real, grounded somewhat by very nuanced characterization of the human beings and various concessions to real world science, sociology, &c. But within that semi-plausible fictional world is another through-the-looking-glass world that is even more fantastical: the Fae, which is where fairies come from, and that’s somewhat crucial to the plot of the series. Clutch and I expended a great deal of energy talking about fairies with no small amount of enthusiasm. On reflection, this amuses me for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I didn’t really give much thought in the moment about what other people would think about two grown men discussing fairies. By which I mean I did think for about five seconds about how it might seem strange to any inadvertent eavesdroppers that we were talking – urgently and stridently, as if these things matter very much – about fairies, their lifespans and mating habits, their inherent superiority or inferiority to regular human folk, and so on. Such intensely nerdy speculation about imaginary things is, pretty much, the main thing that separates unrepentant geeks from both regular people and geeks who know how to pass as regular in public; there is an unspoken social compact that declares that if you are going to carry on and hold forth with any chance of infringing on the consciousness of others, you should have the decorum to stick to mainstream topics most other people will be able to process on the fly without disrupting their own train of thought with extraneous weirdness.

For the longest time, I was a repentant geek, and would be mortified at the thought of complete strangers assuming I was a stunted deviant with zero social skills who couldn’t quite grasp that you don’t talk in public about how many hit dice a dragon-basilisk crossbreed would have. I was in fact sufficiently self-loathing to throw my friends under the bus without qualm if they tried to bring up such esoteric with me in public. Apparently I am over that now? I can only assume this is a combination of reaching an age and stage in life where I’ve realized that the opinions of complete strangers really have no bearing on my existence whatsoever, along with the kind of geek-ascendant pop culture milieu we live in now, where even the regular squares are likely to be highly conversant in dragons thanks to Game of Thrones, or vampires thanks to True Blood, or wizards thanks to Harry Potter. So today, my five seconds of contemplation on the outsider’s perception was quickly followed with a mental “Eh, whatever.” There are these books my buddy and I have both read, they are exceptionally good books, and they have an intricately fascinating race of fairies in them. That’s my joint.

Secondly, and belatedly, I had the semi-horrifying thought that maybe complete strangers would think not that my buddy and I were sad little dorks who wore homemade green cloaks to the Lord of the Rings movies and had never known the touch of a woman, but rather that my buddy and I were total homophobes bonding over how dead set against gay marriage we are, because “there’s so much about fairies we don’t know.” (Ominous!) I guess it’s a good thing that such a line of thought is so far from who I am and how my brain works that it didn’t come close to my consciousness until I was walking back from lunch. But at the same time it’s a little sad to think we live in a world where it’s not an impossibly outlandish possibility that someone else would assume that subtext.

For the record: I am 100% pro-equal rights, no matter who you love or what you love or how many hit dice they have. Just so we’re clear.

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