Kit's Reviews > Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf
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's review
Dec 14, 2009

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Read in December, 2009

I didn't realize when I picked up this book that it would be, like Julie and Julia or The Year of Living Biblically, one of those "I gave myself a quest and wrote about it so that I could get a book published" books. In Gilsdorf's case, his quest is a mid-life-crisis fueled desire to find out if it's possible to go back to his geeky roots without being a geek. Or something like that. Unfortunately, although his story of growing up with a disabled mother could be very powerful if followed to its conclusion, (a) he never does, probably because (b) if he did, he would have no room in the book for its ostensible purpose, an analysis of modern geek culture.

Although the book says it's about "fantasy" and "gaming" in general, Gilsdorf's beat is the fake medieval, whether it's Dungeons and Dragons, Middle Earth, or the Society for Creative Anachronism. You won't find discussions of Star Trek or Halo here. The mostly self-contained chapters explore different manifestations, with one devoted to a particular live-action role-play, another to the SCA, and another to Gilsdorf's Lord-of-the-Rings tour of New Zealand. I found some new possibilities for geeking out myself, but I could definitely have done without Gilsdorf's fear, expressed in every chapter, that the people involved in these pastimes are probably not normal, or at least total losers, and therefore he can't get too involved. It's painful to picture him sitting silently by while a bunch of people at a LARP or an SCA event are having a great time, when you know that he would have fun too if he would just stop worrying about his coolness quotient.
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