After finishing a mad dash through Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series — seven books in about a month and a half — I decided to go back to some classics and re-read Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Which in turn got me thinking about the BBC TV series that first got me hooked on it in the first place, and, well, one thing led to another I ended up whiling away a Monday night with three hours of Vogon poetry and Babel fish and nice hot baths.
The first time I saw the show, it was on a gloriously lazy Saturday afternoon in the early ’80s. Our local PBS station — the one that had introduced me to Monty Python and Fawlty Towers — marathoned all six episodes, and it felt like every single one of my friends had been glued to a TV that weekend, because come Monday, the endless Holy Grail quotes gave way to the words of Ford and Zaphod and Marvin. We had our new passwords to the secret club of geekery.
And while today there are still those wonderful surprising geek discoveries, it doesn’t feel quite the same. Things are more hyped, for one. My knowledge of Hitchhiker going in to my first viewing was a few black and white images and a paragraph or two in Starlog magazine. Which made watching it unfold before my eyes a thrill. Now? We’d have preview articles and primers and Twitter feeds and Reddit AMAs. We’d have to tiptoe around spoilers. It feels a lot harder to just stumble on to something. To feel like you’re keeper of some secret lore, and get that charge of excitement when you meet someone else who knows.
Then again, we don’t have to wonder who else knows; we can get on Twitter and Facebook and find hundreds of them seconds after the thing is seen. Today’s geeks will never be as lonely as we were. Which, oddly, I find both good and bad. Nobody needs the awkwardness of feeling like there’s no one else who thinks the way you do. But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t something special about feeling like a lone point of geek light, the solitary sage storing our secret lore. Our hidden source of comfort and joy that was ours and ours alone.
That’s never coming back though. We’re too connected. And too catered to. The geeks have won. But it would be nice if we remembered when we were the underdogs. When we were a club, not a demographic. When our stuff was few and far between, and cherished all the more strongly for it.