Category Archives: The Book

This category contains all posts about the forthcoming book Geek Culture.

Geek Culture on Twin Cities Geek… and upcoming signing party at CONvergence.

I was thrilled to read this review of my book on the Twin Cities Geek site today.

Also, there will be a book signing party at CONvergence in the Bag End party room, Friday, July 1, 3 -5 p.m. I do not have a table in the Dealers Room at CONvergence, and sales are not allowed in party rooms. You can buy the book ahead of time and bring it to the party (check Source Comics & Games in Roseville or Common Good Books in St. Paul, or order from You can also buy it on my Square store and pick it up at the signing party.

Book Release Party at Marscon 2016!

Special effects makeup artist Bill Hedrick works his magic during “Creating the Dryad,” one of the panels in the Marscon 2015 costume track. The costume track has featured a “Creating the…” panel for several years. Subjects have included Voldemort, a Klingon and a Minbari.

Marscon may not be the subject of Geek Culture, but it is near and dear to my heart. I will be hosting a book release party at this year’s Marscon in the Egyptian Antiquities of Mystery party room on Friday, March 4, from 8 to 10 p.m. There will be refreshments and, of course, books. You will have to register for the con to attend, but it will be well worth it. While much smaller than CONvergence, Marscon has the advantage of being more intimate. It has some excellent panels, including a robust costume track and a well-known  dementia track (think Dr. Demento).

Interested? Marscon will be held March 4-6, 2016, at the Hilton Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport/Mall of America, 3800 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, Minnesota. The party is only on March 4; on Saturday, March 5, the Egyptian Antiquities of Mystery room (room 1121) will be used for tea duelling during the afternoon and an Egyptian-themed party starting at 9 p.m.

Geek Culture is finally available!

Photo of the cover of Geek Culture, a coffee-table book
Geek Culture has been published!

It took me more than two years from the time I interviewed folks at CONvergence for Geek Culture, but I recently released the book on CreateSpace.

You can find sample pages from Geek Culture on

I’ve learned a lot from this process. I learned how not to conduct a Kickstarter campaign, how to lay out a book on Microsoft Publisher, how to set up an imprint, how to improve my social media presence (though I’m still growing there)… the list goes on and on. I have a master’s degree, and I’ve taken some excellent classes over the years, but there is nothing quite like the school of experience!

Would I do it again? I’m already working on another book, though this one won’t be a coffee-table book. I’d definitely go about things differently, but that’s a good thing. If I handled the book I’m working on in exactly the same way that I managed Geek Culture, I wouldn’t be growing.

Aspiring writers: I cannot recommend highly enough that you set aside the time to chase your dream. You may not be able to write full-time, but take a little time most days of the week to write, submit and promote your work.

Fellow geeks or people who are interested in geeks: Check out Geek Culture and enjoy reading about the folks who cosplay, present, party, sell their wares, and otherwise have a blast at the sci-fi and fantasy con known as CONvergence!


What’s next for Geek Culture

With three hours left to the Geek Culture Kickstarter campaign, I think it is safe to say that the campaign failed. I very much appreciate the backers who believed in this project, as well as the people who spread the word to others.

Of course it is disappointing not to reach my goal, and I cannot self-publish without the cash. The plus side is that I learned a lot. I started a blog. I ran a Facebook page for the book, and I boosted posts. I learned how to put a Kickstarter campaign together.

I learned that some things don’t generate the response I had hoped they would. If I ever launch a Kickstarter campaign again, I have some ideas about how to go about it differently. I’ve learned what enormous amounts of time and energy need to go into something like this — something that isn’t easy when you are working full-time and have family responsibilities.

I haven’t given up on the book. I plan to keep trying publishers for a while. As the next CONvergence approaches, if it looks like I will not have a book to sell at the con, I will probably decide to stop trying to get it published at that time. Any further out, and I think the interviews and photos will be too far in the past to be marketable.

I plan to continue blogging here while I look for a publisher. I have been blogging a lot less than when I started this site, and I may continue to do so for a while. Between trying to find other ways to promote the Kickstarter campaign and then, toward the end of the campaign, getting sick, blogging was low on my priority list. Now I need to take some time to rest.

Again, thank you to all those who supported this campaign in some way. Your approach means a lot to me.

YogaQuest and a Bat’leth Tournament


Photo of a YogaQuest session
Justine “Justini Yogini” Mastin leads a YogaQuest session at CONvergence. Photo by Emmerlee Sherman.

I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of information about Geek Culture on this blog. One chapter, “You Can’t Find This Anyplace Else,” covers two special events at CONvergence: YogaQuest and the 13th annual IKV WarHammer Invitational Bat’leth Tournament. I also include a sidebar on “Geek Physique,” which is part of the Twin Cities’ Geek Partnership Society, and another sidebar explaining “boffing.”

Here are two tidbits about each of the special events featured in the chapter.

On YogaQuest:

“We call YogaQuest classes ‘a geek’s gateway drug,’ because people come, and they try it, and they say, ‘You know what? I really like hanging out with these people, and I really like this movement that my body’s doing, and I feel good,’ and so some geeks that I never thought would start coming to the traditional classes are becoming members of the studio.” — Justine “Justini Yogini” Mastin

On fighting with a bat’leth (made of foam wrapped with duct tape):

“A lot of it is ‘Hey, let’s get together with padded weapons and see what works.’ I did bo staff and tae kwon do many years ago. Some people extrapolated from sword and other things they already know. Just kind of playing with it, you can learn it in about five minutes. Now you won’t be good at in five minutes, but you can get a general idea of how it works.” — Laura Thurston

If you are interested in Geek Culture, please go to my Kickstarter campaign and contribute. You can get a photo from the book, the book itself, even a tour of CONvergence!




Geek Culture’s Chapter on Dealers

Julie Bowman looks at a stuffed dragon
Julie Bowman, founder of Mythical Creations, and one of her stuffed dragons. Photo by Emmerlee Sherman.

Among the chapters I include in Geek Culture is one on the vendors in the Dealers Room.

I interviewed four people for the chapter, but one of them was rather taciturn, so I didn’t include that interview. This left me with three vendors, and I just realized last night that all of them are women! So be it. In Geek Culture, you will meet:

Heather Luca, founder of Scoundrelle’s Keep: Heather specializes in corsetry.

Amy Roth, founder of Surly-Ramics: Amy creates jewelry designed to spark dialogue and encourage people to think critically.

Julie Bowman, founder of Mythical Creations: Julie’s current work includes stuffed dragons and winged cat puppets, among other things.

How Do You Define “Geek”?

I’ve had a lot of conversations with people during which they asked me to define “geek,” so I’ll attempt to do so here. There’s been plenty of discussion about the definition of “geek” and the differences between “geeks” and “nerds,” including this oft-cited post by Burr Settles, where he analyzed the words that typically occur in tweets that include either term. His conclusion?

Both are dedicated to their subjects, and sometimes socially awkward. The distinction is that geeks are fans of their subjects, and nerds are practitioners of them. A computer geek might read Wired and tap the Silicon Valley rumor-mill for leads on the next hot-new-thing, while a computer nerd might read CLRS and keep an eye out for clever new ways of applying Dijkstra’s algorithm. Note that, while not synonyms, they are not necessarily distinct either: many geeks are also nerds (and vice versa).

Since the focus of Geek Culture is on the people who attend the sci-fi and fantasy convention CONvergence, I think it is fair to say that I spoke with plenty of geeks and nerds, using Burr’s definitions. I was very impressed with some of the people I think could be called “nerds” — people like Laura Thurston, who helped translate a play into Klingon, and Ted Henderson, who looks for new ways to use Legos to create costumes — but in the end, CONvergence is for fans of science fiction and fantasy, so it seems proper to use the word “geek” when I refer to the folks who attend the con.

That said, I already had a name for the book I wanted to write before Burr blogged about geeks and nerds. When I was thinking of a title, Geek Culture seemed right. Despite fandom sites like Nerdist, Nerd Culture just doesn’t ring true.

When I’m talking about geeks, am I only talking about fans of science-fiction or fantasy? Despite the fact that the CONvergence is defined as a sci-fi and fantasy convention, I’d say that almost everyone who visits the con would agree that there are several areas of interest outside of these specific realms that attract the sort of people who attend CONvergence. For example:

  • Many geeks are interested in science. There will typically be several panels specifically on science during CONvergence (in 2013, this included “The War on Science” and “Science Resources for Children”).
  • Geeks love cosplay and costumes. On the whole, the costumes you see at a convention like CONvergence are related to characters in movies, comics, video games, and other media, but I’ve also seen historical costumes (such as some men dressed as Revolutionary War soldiers) and references to other areas of pop culture (such as the BBC TV series Sherlock).
  • Speaking of Sherlock, geeks often love pop culture that falls outside the realm of sci-fi and fantasy. The 2013 CONvergence had a panel on Downton Abbey (the theme of the convention was “British Invasion,” so the panel was related to the convention’s theme).
  • Many geeks attend the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Outside of specific conventions, the Renaissance Festival was the most popular event that came up in my conversations with people.
  • Geeks often love making things — costumes, elaborate party rooms that resemble the interior of an airship, a portable air-conditioning unit, replicas of television and movie props, you name it! I’ve seen some amazing creativity and workmanship at the conventions I attend.

This is a partial list of possible geeky areas of interest, and of course none of them refer to all geeks. The folks at CONvergence are a pretty diverse bunch, united in our obsessive and somewhat eccentric interests. I think the word “geek” suits us well.

CONvergence Party Rooms in Geek Culture

A picture of the outside decor for the Twin Cities Ghostbusters party room
Outside the Twin Cities Ghostbusters party room. Photo by Emmerlee Sherman.

Party rooms are a big part of CONvergence for many attendees. Several of the 2013 rooms are featured in Geek Culture. Some were still going strong in 2014, while others had closed their doors – temporarily or for good. Here’s what you’ll find:


“We have a lot of people who stay and form friendships with new people, or they come in with their friends and are able to talk. It isn’t a lot of screaming and trying to hear each other over stuff.” – Amaya Goldsmith

Still active in 2014, Ochaya offers tea in a restful atmosphere. I’m an introvert who sometimes needs a peaceful retreat,  so this is one of my favorite rooms.

House of Toast

“Lots of people try to shock you when you’re working in the topping line. They’ll say, ‘Can I have pickled cactus with Nutella?’ And I’ll say, ‘Yeah, sure, that’s not the grossest thing I’ve put together tonight.’” – Nancy Sims

If you’re new to CONvergence, you might wonder about the line you’ll find leading up to House of Toast. A part of the con for several years, this room offers party-goers the opportunity to eat a slice of toast with a mind-boggling selection of toppings.

Worship the Goddesses

“I think one of the most interesting things is that our room actually has an activity, something you’re supposed to do.” – Will

Worship the Goddesses, which ran from 2008 through 2013, featured women dressed as mythological goddesses. The room’s goddesses or female party-goers were “worshipped” by men with a love poem or serenade. In 2014 one of the room’s hosts, Sarah Richard, co-hosted a Rocky Horror-themed party room in its place.

The Brass Falcon Airship

“Instead of going home from work and drinking beer and watching sports, I [make things].”—Samuel McClelland

The Brass Falcon Airship was a steampunk-themed room made to look like the interior of an airship. During my visit with host Samuel McClelland, the room was very busy with people exploring the elaborate instrument panels and other features of the room. The party room was not at CONvergence in 2014.

IKV Rakehell

“The best thing about being a Klingon is that you get to be surly.” — Kris Spiesz

Another long-running party room, the IKV Rakehell was not around in 2014. Members of IKV Rakehell usually host a room at Marscon and one at CONvergence. The set-up is basically the same, but the decor changes from year to year to match each con’s theme.

USS Nokomis

“When movie premieres come out, we work with theaters to bring out sets.” – Captain Mary

Another Star Trek-inspired room, this one has a Federation theme from the original series. The party room, still going strong in 2014, features impressive props built by some of the group’s members, including a three-person transporter pad and a control panel.

Twin Cities Ghostbusters

“Jason owned a white Chevy Caprice wagon, and he thought, ‘For Halloween, I should make that into a Ghostbuster car.’” – Ryan

This room has been at CONvergence for four years, including in 2014. Members of Twin Cities Ghostbusters produce fan-films called Ghostbustin’ 911. You can often find their Chevy Caprice or classic Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance outside the main hotel for CONvergence.

What Is Sweding?

In 2013, CONvergence’s programming included a “Movie Sweding and You” panel. Curious, Emmerlee and I showed up to cover the panel.

The simplest definition of a swede is a fan film. The term comes from the 2008 film Be Kind Rewind, but people were sweding long before that movie came out. Swedes can range from silly, low-budget versions of movie trailers to Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, a shot-for-shot remake by teenagers — although some would argue that the latter film is not a swede due to its length and serious approach.

The easiest way to grasp the meaning of a swede? Watch sweded films and trailers, of course! It might help to start with the trailer of Be Kind Rewind. (Of course there is a sweded trailer of that film, but in this case, it would be better to see the real trailer.)

You can find more sweded trailers on YouTube than any sane person would want to watch. Here’s a gem from 2013:

I’ll leave you with this swede of Die Hard, shot by the panelists on the first day of CONvergence 2012: