How Do I Love Geeks? Let Me Enumerate the Ways.

MIT Great Dome

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Steve Altes, who is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for his graphic novel.

I love geeks! So much that I’ve always wanted to set the record straight about them. Real-life geeks are way more interesting to me than their fictional portrayals in movies and pop culture. The cinematic geek will hotwire a cell phone to hack into NORAD’s computers and deorbit a satellite. I’ve never met anyone who could do that.

MIT Great Dome

However I have known a pissed off engineering student to take a dead rat he found in the alley behind our fraternity, dip it in liquid nitrogen until it was frozen and brittle, march into my room, and wallop it with a baseball bat, shattering it like a frozen Charleston Chew from hell and creating a noxious spray of decomposing rat particles, thus giving me the mother of all clean-up jobs.

That’ll teach me to oversleep on the morning I was supposed to help clean the fraternity.

Besides their creative approach to pranks, I love how geeks just don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of their clothes or hobbies. This was made very clear to me as a college student at MIT, which is, of course, Geek Central. MIT attracts a lot of eccentric, talented, and very non-conformist people – people that fall on the pointy end of the bell-shaped curve. As a result, strange things happen there all the time. You can be walking across campus and suddenly be passed by a student who is simultaneously riding a unicycle, juggling three tennis balls, yodeling and wearing a Superman cape and a jester’s cap. MIT people are random with a capital R. I loved that about the place. I wish there was more of that spontaneity in the regular world.

Author John Green has a wonderful quote which highlights the third thing I love about geeks: their excitement, their zeal. Green writes, “…nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

Yes! I’ll take sloppy, blubbery passion over detached, unimpressed “coolness” any day.

The fourth thing that I love about geeks is their relentless problem-solving nature. Geeks are hardwired to see multiple avenues to solving a problem and if the first ten approaches don’t work, no biggie, here’s another twenty things to try. Truly all progress in the world depends on geeks.

geeks

This affection I have for geekkind is having a very public debut on the Interwebz currently. I’ve written a graphic novel about my geeky adventures at MIT. Geeks and Greeks is inspired by actual events and centers around the high-tech pranks that MIT students are world famous for.

One question I get asked a lot is “Is anybody other than MIT students going to be interested in this story?” To me that’s like saying “will anyone other than Vermont prep school students want to watch Dead Poets Society?”

geeks-and-greeks-sample

I wrote Geeks and Greeks to have broad appeal and share my love of geeks. The trick was making jokes out of things like Schubert’s last symphony, Archimedes Principle, supernovas, cryogenics, kinematic viscosity, Shakespearean characters, and Einstein’s theory of relativity and still keeping things fully accessible to general public. Bottom line: You don’t need to be a genius to understand Geeks and Greeks, but you’ll feel like a genius after you read it!

Here’s a video to give you a peek.

View the Kickstarter campaign here, or  help out using the widget below.

More geek love:

Minimalist Posters of Six Kick-ass Female Scientists

The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists

Comments

  1. RHT says

    Noemi, please actually read the description of the novel on his kickstarter page and then read some entries on his blog. The only named female character is a _humanities_ major despite the MIT setting. He likes to make jokes about how MIT women aren’t worth dating because he views them as unattractive. This guy is a misogynistic pig.

    Also related to the book’s content, the things he talks about doing, a real MIT hacker would be /embarrassed/ to be associated with. The only illegal thing they do is go on rooves. They’re not disruptive. The famous police car hack was a painted frame, not grand theft auto. I wouldn’t be surprised if the crew race being disrupted was a real thing, but /that is not a hack/, it is just a bunch of misogynistic frat boys doing idiotic shit that they think is funny.

    Please, take this article down. This douchebag doesn’t need to get funded.

  2. Steve Altes says

    >> Noemi, please actually read the description of the novel on his kickstarter page and then read some entries on his blog.

    Steve responds:
    Here’s the link if anyone wants to read my blog, which is primarily a repository of my published magazine essays.

    http://stevealtes.com/blog/

    >> The only named female character is a _humanities_ major despite the MIT setting.

    Steve responds:
    Female characters are in short supply in this story despite MIT’s male/female ratio being close to 50/50 today. Inescapable conclusion: I am a sexist pig.

    Fun fact: not true. I couldn’t be a bigger supporter of female engineers, female hackers, female you-name-its.

    When I started at MIT it was still 80% male and there were no sororities. The events in this graphic novel largely reflect my actual experiences living in an MIT fraternity, dealing with a large group of guys with a penchant for pranks. In truth, the few women I did know at MIT were far too levelheaded to be involved in many of the absurd events that are recounted in Geeks & Greeks.

    >> He likes to make jokes about how MIT women aren’t worth dating because he views them as unattractive. This guy is a misogynistic pig.

    Steve responds:
    I know I shouldn’t feed the trolls, but this is just a ridiculous and blatant lie. MIT women are total hotties. I dated an MIT woman for three years in college. Misogynist? That’s a good one. All my friends are women. Literally… all my friends. If you want to accuse me of something, misandry is a better bet.

    >> Also related to the book’s content, the things he talks about doing, a real MIT hacker would be /embarrassed/ to be associated with. The only illegal thing they do is go on rooves. They’re not disruptive. The famous police car hack was a painted frame, not grand theft auto.

    Steve responds:
    This story began as a screenplay and over the course of the script’s development and myriad rewrites the story began to stray from real life in several areas, the ersatz police car on the dome hack being one of them. When it came time to tell the story in graphic novel form, I went back and fact-checked all the hacks and recalibrated events to be much more in line with how things actually occurred. The illustration in question was created by the illustrator from an early draft of the script before all the hacks got re-aligned with actual events.

    If anyone is interested, here’s an interesting article where the actual hackers behind the cop car on the dome hack reveal some of their secrets:
    http://www.technologyreview.com/article/404726/a-hackers-reunion/

    >> I wouldn’t be surprised if the crew race being disrupted was a real thing, but /that is not a hack/, it is just a bunch of misogynistic frat boys doing idiotic shit that they think is funny.

    Steve responds:
    Certain events in this graphic novel are more akin to hazing and frat antics than pure hacking. That was the reality of my experience at MIT and that’s how it is portrayed in the story. It’s a whole spectrum of collegiate behavior, from the inspired to the idiotic.

    As with hacks, hazing at MIT often involved a technical element, intricate planning, and a substantial degree of difficulty. Unlike hacks, the hazing did not have a benign intent.

    However, at the risk of sounding like a hazing apologist, I will say that my fraternity rarely engaged in degrading or dangerous forms of hazing (coerced binge drinking, eating goat entrails) or indiscriminate hazing (“because you are a freshman”), but rather it was predominantly hazing with a message (“because you did something the brotherhood would like to see less of”).

    >> Please, take this article down. This douchebag doesn’t need to get funded.

    Steve responds:
    Too late, my anonymous hater. The Internet resoundingly disagrees with you. This graphic novel project funded to the tune of $43,000 with overwhelming support coming from the MIT community.

    Who’s the feminine hygiene product now?

    ~ drops mic ~

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