Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Epic quest: Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks landed on my “I-should-check-this-out” list when fellow GeekDad writer Michael Harrison reviewed it last year. I never got around to it, though – not even after a subsequent GeekDad interview in January brought it back into the “Oh Yeah, I Really Meant to Read That” zone.

Image: EthanGilsdorf.com

Of course, I forgot all about it again until Friday night at PAX East, when Fantasy Freaks author Ethan Gilsdorf joined the GeekDad panelists to hang out for a couple hours. I enjoyed talking with him so much that I ordered a copy as soon as I got back from the convention. It arrived Thursday, April 1, and for the next two days was my “Two free minutes? Gotta read!” go-to book.

I have mentioned before that while I had a huge interest in Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games when I was in middle and high school, I never managed to find enough like-minded kids to support a gaming group. Still, I’ve always liked reading RPG reference books and gaming modules and playing with polyhedral dice, even without the Experience Points to back me up.

So as soon as I saw the graph-paper dungeon on the end-papers and Ethan’s hand-drawn fantasy map opposite the Table of Contents, I knew I was in for a good read.

And I loved this book. Part of it’s a generational thing, I’m sure. Ethan’s got a few (not many) years on me, but the cultural backdrop of his childhood – the last years of the Cold War, worries of nuclear war and the Evil Empire, the mind-blowing release of Star Wars – is a familiar one. Even though the book as a whole isn’t a coming-of-age recollection, making that connection at the beginning put me in the right frame of mind for the quest which follows. (For me, this was a bonus, but I want to note that it’s definitely not a book geared solely to the children of the 1980s, so don’t let my nostalgia for that era oversell that angle.)

What you get in Fantasy Freaks is a great story about, well, just what the subtitle says: “An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms.” And it’s not a dry sort of academic journey: Ethan’s in full-on geek mode (albeit sometimes reluctantly) as he revisits the books and games and culture that shaped his teenage years and gets back into their modern counterparts. Then he checks out previously-unexplored aspects like Live Action Role-Playing, convention attendance, World of Warcraft and the real-life tourist draws of New Zealand in the wake of The Lord of the Rings.

Ethan tells the story well, both as a geek and as a journalist, letting his fandom drive the journey without dominating it, and connecting with the real-world characters he meets along the way while never fearing to ask tough questions of himself, too.

There’s a lot of cultural crossover in geekdom anymore, with comics and science fiction and fantasy and gaming all appealing to a pretty broad group of people, and I think maybe that’s why someone like me, who’s never even played a true game of D&D, can still get so much enjoyment out of a book like this.

A couple weeks back, I started reading the D&D Fourth Edition rules at the invitation of some friends who run a semi-regular game and tell me it’s casual enough that I’m welcome to join in for a session and see how it goes. And when we were at PAX, I will admit that I looked maybe a little too long at some of the dice tables…

Advertisements

April 9, 2010 - Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, geek, Travel, writing | , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. […] again has been growing over the past year, and my recent trip to PAX East and subsequent reading of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks fanned the flames. So when my friend Kato extended the invitation to take part in a small […]

    Pingback by Character building « Cornfield Meet | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. […] Back in May, still buzzing from the gaming high I got at PAX East and in the wake of reading Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, I took my first steps back into the world of Dungeons & Dragons, a place I hadn’t […]

    Pingback by Dungeons and Dragons and Family and Friends « Cornfield Meet | July 29, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] mean – WOW. If you haven’t read Ethan’s book (and here are my reasons why you should), the new paperback edition comes out Sept. 1, so why not go order […]

    Pingback by Star Wars Celebration V: Collect All 21! Connections « Cornfield Meet | August 20, 2010 | Reply

  4. […] Freaks & Gaming Geeks – Ethan Gilsdorf. Couldn’t put this one down: gaming and nostalgia and adventures and explorations […]

    Pingback by 2010 in Books « Cornfield Meet | December 22, 2010 | Reply

  5. […] part of the first-ever GeekDad convention panel. Met Wil Wheaton and Scott Kurtz and Bill Amend and Ethan Gilsdorf, and the whole weekend sparked my return to Dungeons & Dragons, this time with Kelsey and Jenn […]

    Pingback by Where We Were, Where I Am, What’s Ahead « Cornfield Meet | January 2, 2011 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: