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.