An Anthology for Us: GEEKTASTIC: STORIES FROM THE NERD HERD

An Anthology for Us: GEEKTASTIC

Cecil Castellucci and Holly Black are two authors well-known to young adult audiences – and also to comics fans, for such graphic novels as The P.L.A.I.N. Janes and The Good Neighbors.  Now, they’re co-editors of a new anthology from Little, Brown entitled Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd.  It features tales of fanboys and girls from some of today’s top writers for teens – plus original comics by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Hope Larson.  Here’s the scoop on this ultra-geeky new book.

Newsarama: Holly, Cecil --  Give us the low-down on Geektastic, and the kind of stories we can expect to find inside.

Cecil Castellucci:  Geektastic is full of stories about geeks and the geek observed.  We tried to make sure to have a wide spectrum of geekery, but I think we probably just touched the tip of the iceberg.  To name a very few there are stories in the book about LARPing, online gamers, astronomers, academic decathaletes, popular girls trying to learn nerd, star crossed Jedi / Klingon love, Buffy fans. 

Holly Black:  The authors are a really diverse bunch, too.  We have some people who've already written about geek culture, like Barry Lyga, and we have people like Garth Nix and Scott Westerfeld, who write speculative fiction, and while speculative fiction is part of geek culture, their writing realistic fiction is still a surprise.  I still can't quite believe Garth Nix knows what a boffer sword is!

NRAMA: What made you want to do this anthology?

CASTELLUCCI: We were at Comic Con a few years back, waiting on line for the "best burrito" and we were talking about all the magnificent things we were seeing. 

We'd noticed a Klingon lifestyle panel and also a breakfast table full of Jedi and naturally we wondered what would happen if a Jedi and Klingon had a drunken hookup.  Would it be like the Jets and the Sharks?  Romeo and Juliet?  

It made us wonder and it made us want to write that story.  Holly smartly pointed out that no one would publish that story unless we made an anthology of other geeky stories.

BLACK:  And then we reached out to some of the most fabulous and geeky writers we knew for

Geektastic.  Luckily for us, they loved the idea too.

NRAMA:  What did you learn from the stories you received -- did they give you any new perspective on what it means to be a geek?

CASTELLUCCI: I learned that it is true that every single person that I know is a geek.  And that there are so many types of geekery as to rival the number of stars in the sky.  It solidified my knowledge that everyone is pretty much a geek about something.

BLACK: I think I learned how much I really wanted and needed to hear those stories.  I feel like I knew many of the writers in our anthology, but I knew them better once I'd read their stories.  I think because geekery is so much about a real obsessive love for something, the book felt really personal.

NRAMA: Any personal favorites among the stories?

CASTELLUCCI:  I loved them all.  They all hit me like a comet on some core level.  But some of the stories that made my nerdy heart sing a little louder are  "One of Us" by Tracy Lynn,  "The King of Pellinesse" by MT Anderson, "Quiz Bowl Antichrist" by David Levithan, "The Quiet Knight" by Garth Nix, and "The Stars at the Finish Line" by Wendy Mass.

BLACK:  I, too, loved all our stories like crazy.  If I had to pick out a few to highlight, though, I think I'd pick Kelly Link's "Secret Identity," Scott Westerfeld's noirish "Definitional Chaos," and Libba Bray's "It's Just a Jump to the Left," and David Levithan's "Quiz Bowl Antichrist" because they spoke so clearly to my own experience of being a geek.

NRAMA: Why did you bring Bryan and Hope on board, and what do they bring to the book, aside from basic awesomeness?

CASTELLUCCI:  We knew that we couldn't hit every single kind of geekery and so we thought we could balance some of that with the little interstitials.  Also, comics are a big part of some geeks lives (this is where I raise my hand) and we thought it would be cool if we added cartoons in the book.  

Also, I am a HUGE fan of both Bryan and Hope and this was a way to get to work with them.   One quick read of any of their books and it's pretty clear that they are of the geek tribe.    So, Holly and I wrote the interstitials and then they split them up between them to draw them.  Also, you said it.  They brought a basic awesomeness.  

BLACK: Each of Hope and Bryan's comics has a relationship to the story it follows and the story it precedes.  I feel like that relationship creates a resonance and a reflection on geekery as well as providing a short break between the stories.  Plus awesomeness.  They definitely add an extra heaping of awesome.

NRAMA:  John Hughes defined a geek as someone who has everything going for them, but doesn't know how to use it.  Do you agree or disagree with this definition, and do you feel it has evolved since the 1980s?

CASTELLUCCI:  I do agree with that definition, but that does feel very ‘80s.  I think in the 21st century, geeks have really come into their own.  (I mean we.  We are all geeks here, right?)  

Look at comic books, comic con, Sci Fi, fantasy.  All of that stuff is really mainstream now.  I say HURRAH to that!  I think now geeks have everything going for them, and some don't know how to use it.  But the point is, all the building blocks are there.  So if you are a cool geek or an awkward one, you are basically have the make up of being someone fantastically interesting to be around.

BLACK: For the anthology, we had to come up with our own definition of what it meant to be a geek and we defined it as an obsessive interest in anything - so that there are baseball card geeks and model train geeks as well as computer geeks and comic book geeks.  

I think that geeks have a huge thing going for them (and like Cecil said, some know it and some don't) because they have a passion.  

NRAMA: Describe your geekiest experience as a teenager...and as an adult.

CASTELLUCCI: As a teenager it would probably be dressing up as Jessica 6 from Logan’s Run at the Creation Convention.   As an adult it would be living on Hollywood Blvd next to Mann's Chinese Theater to wait for Star Wars: Episode I, tickets.   

But actually, in retrospect I think that both of those things are hella cool.  Let's just say, I pretty much geek out all the time, and every day there is a 85% chance I will do something geeky.  Like today, I ran lines with a pal who was going on an audition for Caprica.  And I nearly peed my pants.

BLACK: My geeky claim to fame is that I met my husband when we were rival Dungeon Masters.  The geekiest thing I did when I was a kid: joined the chess team to meet boys.

NRAMA: Do you feel it's easier to be a geek these days, particularly if you're female?

CASTELLUCCI: Probably.  I think when I was growing up, I had to hide my geekiness a little bit.  Like, I kept a lot of my Sci Fi books (like my Star Trek Technical Manual) in my brother’s room so that my cool girlfriends wouldn't think I was too geeky.  They didn't mind that I was their space / Sci Fi / comic book / fantasy loving friend, but they didn't want me to be too wacky.  So I hid my nerdiness a little bit.  

Then again, they helped me make my homemade Raiders of the Lost Ark t-shirts and came with me to see Sci Fi movies all the time, so they were pretty open to the fact that my tastes were a bit different then theirs. I wonder if I would do that now?  Probably not.  I think that it might be harder to not be geeky these days.    Geeky is so chic!  

BLACK: Back when I was a teenager, every girl geek I know had the uncomfortable experience of being the lone girl in geeky situation.  Lots of us have gotten treated oddly in comic shops or at conventions.  Now, there are lots more girls declaring their love of geeky stuff.  I think that having more of us, both actually and just being represented in books and movies, makes it easier to be a girl geek.  

NRAMA: Tell us of your upcoming projects, comic and non-comic.

CASTELLUCCI: Upcoming for me in 2010 is a new young adult novel, Rose Sees Red (Scholastic) and a picture book, Grandma's Gloves (Candlewick Press). 

And then I have like a million secret awesome  projects that I will share as soon as I can.

BLACK: I have the second book, Kith, in the Good Neighbors graphic novel series (with Ted Naifeh) coming in October from Scholastic. 

And in September, I have the last book, The Wyrm King in the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, Poison Eaters and Other Stories, coming from Small Beer Press in February of 2010.  And then I have a noirish fantasy caper novel coming out in May of 2010, called White Cat.

Zack Smith (zack.zacharymsmith@gmail.com) is a regular contributor to Newsarama.

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd is in stores now.

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