As it happens, the Geek Creation Shows are in part fund-raising opportunities, and Jeff told me that was one of his primary motives for getting started. He wanted a creative way to support the Tesla Museum. I had an idea why the Geek community might want to support such a museum, but I was interested in Jeff’s thoughts on the subject. While he admits he is no scholar of Tesla, Jeff feels that he was a great example of modern tech and far ahead of his time. Tesla was never acknowledged in a manner proportionate to his work. In a parallel metaphor, Geeks are not acknowledged for the full extent of their contributions to modern life either. Backing the museum was a practical use of the funds raised. It was a tangible cause to endorse as well as a way of fostering the creative endeavors of those working to get the museum going. Jeff feels strongly that the museum itself is such a creative endeavor.
You may have noticed the title of the festival includes the word “creation”. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant initially. (Were they going to be teaching ordinary folks how to come across as geeks? That seemed even more odd than the world of folk who are different in a different sort of way.)
“Creative” is a very important word in Jeff’s vocabulary. Aside from backing the Tesla Museum, Jeff told me that another of his important goals was to give a home to creators of all sorts. This doesn’t mean just sophisticated costumers and role players who devote enormous resources and talent to honing their craft. Those folks are Makers, and their level is too advanced for many. There are some aspects to these outlets at Sci-Fi events, but they are, as he puts it, “too 101”. Left with no other good show for Creators and Creative types, Jeff was motivated to… well… create one of his own. His goal with the project was “to create happier, healthier, more joyful geeks.”
Some of this was pretty new territory for me. I knew of gamers, in the ilk of Dungeons and Dragons or Magic: The Gathering. I knew there were dedicated Sci-Fi fans who went all out for Trekkie conventions and the like. I wanted to know just exactly how one defined “geek” relative to those communities, which I admit I had always viewed as generally separate from one another.
With that, I asked him what his definition of Geek might be. After all, there are plenty of guy-on-the-street types for whom the word “geek” brings to mind pocket protectors, scotch-taped glasses, and images of skinny, socially awkward guys building Frankenstein computers in their rooms at four in the morning.
At that, Jeff snorted. “Seriously,” he asked, “when was the last time you even saw a pocket protector? I think last time I saw one was some time in the 1980’s when the band Wheezer was big. That is such an outdated idea of Geek!”
What then, exactly was Geek? For Jeff, the answer is somewhat indirect. Jeff feels that Geek culture is at a crossroads brought about by the commercial successes of films like “The Avengers” and “The Lord of the Rings”. Such success made the domain previously relegated to Geekdom into a place of more mainstream acceptance. Today, he says, the definition of Geek has become increasingly broad. Additionally, non-intellectual types have taken up characters like the Avengers reducing the social stigma of being a Geek. Geek culture, he says, has evolved since it began around the 1980’s. For Geeks now, the future has come to life. (Think the Star Trek series of the 1960’s. We may not be beaming up just yet, but the computer known as the smartphone in your pocket is awfully close to the show’s technology!) Geeks, while beginning as a group of outsiders, have evolved into a very inclusive culture. If you think you might be a Geek, well welcome aboard. You probably are and however you choose to express it is perfectly fine.
For people used to living on the fringe, the idea of bullying is never far away, and I asked Jeff if this was an influence for creating the show. While it is part of his motivations, it’s not a defining point. He says that being an outsider can be the cause of a great deal of self-doubt. So while bullying isn’t a theme, the show is a place of support. It’s all about building a place for people to understand each other and create something amazing.
Of course, I wondered if Jeff himself has a favorite part of the show. His first reaction was, “I like bacon a lot, so we have a bacon bar. It’s hard not to like bacon.” And what if you’re vegetarian? Jeff says that the vegetarian bacon is excellent. (Methinks I will have to give that a try.) He emphasizes that at its core, these shows are about being adults and deciding for ourselves what we want to do differently.
I pressed him to tell me his favorite part of the show, prompting him to ask if I could choose a favorite among my children. (Good point. Not so much.) There will be a lot happening, he promises. Something for everyone to enjoy. Jeff’s joy in participating is doing his best to make sure that everyone is happy and has a great time. He loves keeping it all on track, gremlin negotiation, and un-haywiring anything that happens to go sideways. Above all creativity is key, as is expressing that creative spirit in every direction from making to simply soaking it all in, whether you’re a pro or a newbie. If you’re a creative type, Jeff is sure the show will “blow your mind.”
The Geek Creation Show happens November 15–17 2013 at the Piscataway Radisson Hotel, where even the staff are in the spirit of things. Jeff says they’ve had a great relationship with the management since 2001 at another location, and since 2006 at this one. I’ll be looking forward to it, and to coming back with a few great stories of my own to share with you here. Stay tuned!