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Literature / Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd

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Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd is an anthology edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci, full of nerdy stories. According to the introduction, the anthology was conceived when Black and Castellucci thought of an idea for a story about a Klingon cosplayer and a Jedi cosplayer sleeping with each other. They wanted to publish it, but they realized no place was nerdy enough to accept it.

So they decided to create one.

This was the result: fifteen stories, including the one that Black and Castellucci conceived, about nerdiness in general. All kinds of geeks are featured here - sci-fi geeks, theater geeks, astronomy geeks, archaeology geeks, baton geeks, fantasy geeks, MMORPG geeks, comic book geeks, quiz bowl geeks, and just geeks in general. In between the stories were cartoons drawn by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, further exploring the geekiness of the anthology.


Each story uses an a specific aspect of geek culture to address a broader aspect of life, as follows:

  • "Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All The Way" by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci - Rivalry between the Star Wars and Star Trek fandoms at a convention, reaching out to an "outsider"
  • "One of Us" by Tracy Lynn - A crash course in the most pop-geek subjects (Star Wars, Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, influential or otherwise "important" comics and manga) being the outsider looking in
  • "Definitional Chaos" by Scott Westerfeld - The Dungeons and Dragons alignment system, the balance between predictability and unpredictability in social interactions
  • "I Never" by Cassandra Clare - Online free-form roleplaying forums, being catfished
  • "The King Of Pelinesse" by Matthew Tobin Anderson - fantasy literature, a combination of "never meet your heroes" and the dangers of allowing yourself to retreat from the real world into a fantasy
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  • "The Wrath of Dawn" by Cynthia Leitcich Smith and Greg Leitcich Smith Dawn Summers, Wesley Crusher and other annoying kids, Being The UnFavorite
  • "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist" by David Levithan - trivia competitions, seeing life in proportion and not taking yourself too seriously
  • "The Quiet Knight" by Garth Nix - LARPing, being social even when it's difficult
  • "Everyone but You" by Lisa Yee - School Spirit fanatics, plain-old social ostracism
  • "Secret Identity" by Kelly Link - An alternate universe where superheroes are real, catfishing someone
  • "Freak the Geek" by John Green - people who weren't actually into a geeky hobby but were just unpopular, traditions that enforce plain-old social ostracism
  • "The Truth About Dino Girl" by Barry Lyga - Dinosaurs, not getting what you want out of life and possibly Asperger's Syndrome
  • "This is My Audition Monologue" by Sara Zarr - Theater, wanting to be remembered for something and not settling for being on the sidelines
  • "The Stars at the Finish Line" by Wendy Mass - Astronomy, personal (if one-sided) rivalries
  • "It's Just a Jump To the Left" by Libba Bray - Rocky Horror Picture Show, growing up (for multiple values of the phrase)

Tropes used by the different stories in this anthology include:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Mr. P from "This is My Audition Monologue" apparently called Rachel 'Rochelle', 'Ruthie', and 'Melissa' on different occasions.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Katya's crush on Jamie in "The Truth About Dino Girl", and Alec's crush on Damien in "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist".
  • Attention Whore: Discussed in "This is My Audition Monologue":
    "One time I was at Adam Gunderson's house looking through the sophomore yearbook, and next to my picture someone wrote and I quote: Look up ATTENTION WHORE in the dictionary and you'll see this pic, and added like fifteen exclamation points. But I'm not. One, I'm obviously not memorable. Two, a performer does not an attention whore make. Not that I'm a performer."
  • Badass Bookworm: Lexia from "Definitional Chaos".
  • Barbaric Bully: Averted in both "Everyone but You" and "The Truth About Dino Girl"; the bullies are assholes, but not physically violent ones. Played straight with the bullies in "Freak the Geek".
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Lexia and the protagonist of "Definitional Chaos". Also, between Peter and Tabitha in "The Stars at the Finish Line".
  • Bland-Name Product: The convention in "Definitional Chaos" is called ConCom; probably parodying ComicCon
  • Blended Family Drama: In "The Wrath Of Dawn", Dawn constantly comes into conflict with her stepsister Megan, who’s an athlete and doesn’t really get Dawn’s interests. But it’s heavily implied that she’s trying to build a bond, and by the end they may start getting along.
  • Chaotic Good: invoked Lexia from "Definitional Chaos" considers herself this, although the protagonist disputes this, claiming she's actually Chaotic Neutral. Based on what she does to the protagonist towards the end of the story, she's probably Chaotic Neutral, if not Chaotic Evil.
  • Child Prodigy: Tabitha from "The Stars at the Finish Line".
  • Class Trip: The quiz bowl goes to another city in "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist".
  • Cute Bookworm: Again, Tabitha.
  • Closet Geek: Montgomery from "One of Us" soon becomes one.
  • Cool Loser: Lexia.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In "The Truth About Dino Girl", Katya gets revenge on Andi by taking naked pictures of her and posting them all over the school as a prostitution add, thereby ruining her life.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Peter and Tabitha from "The Stars at the Finish Line" are incredibly distracted by each other, when they're supposed to be engaging in a stargazing challenge. Needless to say, they fail the challenge.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Katya in "The Truth About Dino Girl".
  • The Dog Bites Back: Katya in "The Truth About Dino Girl"; see Disproportionate Retribution above.
  • Double Standard: Subverted in one of the cartoons, called "What Your Instrument Says About You".
    "Flute: If you're a girl, the boys find it hot. If you're a boy, the boys still find it hot."
  • Draco in Leather Pants: invoked An in-universe example occurs in "I Never", and it actually features Draco; someone plays him in an MMORPG, and he isn't evil.
  • Drama Club: Sarah from "This is My Audition Monologue" is trying to get into the drama club play.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "This is My Audition Monologue" consists entirely of Rachel delivering an audition monologue for a play.
  • Extracurricular Enthusiast: Alec (and everyone else in the story) from "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist" and Felicity of "Everyone But You". Rachel from "This is My Audition Monologue" wants to be one, but she can't quite make it.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Debatably what Katya from "The Truth About Dino Girl" did to Andi; ruining her entire life might've been taking it a bit far.
  • Fanboy/Fangirl: Many, many, many.
    • Everyone from "Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way" is either a fanboy/girl of Star Wars or Star Trek.
    • All of the nerds to something from "One of Us". One of them in particular seems to worship Star Wars.
    • Both of the main characters from "It's Just a Jump to the Left" towards The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
    • Jim from "The King of Pelinesse" is a fanboy of a particular cartoonist, who he met after he (the cartoonist) had an affair with his mother.
    • Everyone from "The Wrath of Dawn" is a fanboy/girl of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Fan Convention: "Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way" takes place at one. And both main characters of "Definitional Chaos" are delivering money for one.
  • For the Lulz: Lexia pretends to steal a large sum of money from the protagonist of "Definitional Chaos" for this very purpose. Also, the bullies in Freak the Geek ruin Lauren's car for no freaking reason, other than a stupid tradition.
  • Gang of Bullies: "Freak the Geek" features one.
  • Geek: Everything and everyone.
  • Geek Reference Pool: The anthology made a humongous amount of references to Star Wars and Star Trek.
  • Geeky Analogy: All the time.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Tabitha and Peter from "The Stars at the Finish Line" both seem to be turned on by astronomy.
  • Harmless Electrocution: Averted in "This is My Audition Monologue"; Scotty was killed by electrocution.
  • Horny Scientist: Peter and Tabitha "The Stars at the Finish Line", although they're not really scientists; they're just doing astronomy.
  • Incompatible Orientation: "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist" is about this - Alec has a crush on Damien, who's straight.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Deconstructed in "The Stars at the Finish Line", averted in "One of Us", (mostly) played straight in "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist" and "The Truth About Dino Girl", and discussed in "Freak the Geek".
  • Jerkass: The Gang of Bullies from "Freak the Geek", Andi and Katya from "The Truth About Dino Girl", Ben from "I Never", and Kai from "Everyone but You".
  • Jerk Jock: Again, Kai from "Everyone but You".
  • Left Hanging: We never do find out if Rachel from "This is My Audition Monologue" gets into the play or not.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Montgomery "One of Us". (At first, anyway.)
  • Lovable Nerd: The entire anthology seems to be built entirely on this trope. Special note goes to Felicity of "Everyone but You", Kayley and Lauren from "Freak the Geek", and Alec of "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist".
  • Male Gaze: "The Stars at the Finish Line" has one - Peter mentions seeing the outline of Tabitha's bra through her shirt. Justified, since it's narrated by Peter, a male.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Lexia from "Definitional Chaos".
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Here's how "The Truth About Dino Girl" opens:
    "Okay, follow me for a second: Guys are like dinosaurs.
    We don't know much about dinosaurs. We know a lot, but not nearly enough. Just like with guys.
    Of the twelve hundred or so genera suspected to exist, we've only discovered around three hundred and fifty. There are huge gaps in our knowledge.
    When you go to a museum or watch a movie and you see a dinosaur with a certain color pattern on its hide, that's just someone's speculation. It's informed speculation, sure, but it's still just guesswork. Because we don't know.
    We're guessing what they looked like based on patterns imprinted on petrified mud. We conjure their motions from the interrelationships of their bones, figuring that if they fit together this way, then they must have moved this way.
    We're guessing what they sounded like. Roar.
    It's the closest we can come to the sound. Maybe Grawr.
    But there's not much difference between the two, and still that's as close as we can come. We know so much and we know nothing, absolutely nothing, nothing at all.
    Again, like with guys."
  • Meaningful Name: The protagonist of "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist" isn't the only character named Alec to have a crush on a straight boy. Also, Dawn's name is pretty significant in a story about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Tabitha "The Stars at the Finish Line", and Damien "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist".
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Alec. Although to be fair, he's also a closeted homosexual, so he hasn't exactly gotten many opportunities for sex.
  • No Name Given: We never learn the real name of the protagonist of "Definitional Chaos"; Lexia just refers to him by his screen name, Temptress Moon, throughout the story.
  • Pair the Smart Ones: This is how "The Stars at the Finish Line" ends.
  • Popular Is Dumb: Averted in "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist" - Alec is popular, and he's in the quiz bowl team. Played straight in "Freak the Geek" and "The Truth About Dino Girl".
  • Proud to Be a Geek: The nerds from "One of Us".
  • Relationship Upgrade: Peter and Tabitha from "The Stars at the Finish Line" get one, as well as Jane and Noah from "I Never".
  • Romance Ensues: In The Stars at the Finish Line, when Peter and Tabitha team up to do an astronomy challenge.
    • Subverted in "Definitional Chaos". It looks like romance is going to ensue, until Lexia drugs the protagonist. That put a bit of a wrench in things.
  • Saw "Star Wars" 27 Times: Ezra from "One of Us" seems to worship the franchise. Also, Thomas and the other Star Wars cosplayers from "Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way".
  • School Club Stories: "This is My Audition Monologue" and "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist".
  • School Play: Rachel from "This is My Audition Monologue" is trying to get into one.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The nerds from "One of Us".
  • Shout-Out: Hoo, boy. Virtually every story has at least one.
  • Shrinking Violet: Rachel from "This is My Audition Monologue", Alec from "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist", and Felicity from "Everyone but You" all play it straight. Subverted in "The Truth About Dino Girl"; the protagonist appears to be a Shrinking Violet, until she posts naked pictures of a bully throughout the school painting the bully up as a prostitute.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Averted in "The Stars at the Finish Line"; Tabitha and Peter have a very competitive relationship, but without physical violence. Also averted in "Definitional Chaos" - Lexia and the protagonist have some Belligerent Sexual Tension, and their relationship is definitely abusive, but they're not really romantically involved.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Lexia does this to the protagonist of "Definitional Chaos".
  • Straight Gay: Alec from "The Quiz Bowl Antichrist".
  • Take That!: Rachel from "This is My Audition Monologue" thinks that Our Town was the worst play that the school has ever done, and hopes that the school won't try to do it again.
    • "The Wrath of Dawn" is about why Dawn's Hate Dom should love the character.
  • Trekkie: The nerds from "One of Us", as well as Chung Ae and the other Star Trek cosplayers from "Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All the Way".
  • Troperiffic: The anthology seems to have been written for the specific purpose of appealing to Tropers.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Tabitha and Peter from "The Stars at the Finish Line" for each other.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The different references to nerd culture and literature are often unexplained, leaving the reader to guess exactly what they mean.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Happens in a few stories.
    • "Once You're a Jedi, You're a Jedi All The Way" - They don't onscreen, but it's implied that they will later.
    • "One of Us" - They do not.
    • "Definitional Chaos" - They do not. Dear lord, do they ever not.
    • "The Stars at the Finish Line" - They do.
  • Wrong Guy First: Subverted in "I Never"; It looks at first Ben, who Jane met online, was a Jerkass in person, and that she'd have to move on from him. Turned out, she had the wrong guy - Noah, the one that she actually met online, was very nice.