Geektastic, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown and Company, 2009)

My name is Michael, and, to no one’s surprise, I am a geek. While the manner in which I express my geekitude has changed over the years, from theatre, to writing, to gaming, I’ve always embraced my geekdom. And so I have to say, this is the book I wish I’d had in high school. I really, really wish this anthology had existed back then. Because this book is full of pure whimsical awesomeness, and is a celebration of all things geek. Black and Castellucci have assembled an all-star cast, and encouraged each and every one of them to let their passions and their freak flags fly proudly.

While it’s easy to point at almost any story here and say it’s an excellent piece of work, there are a few which really stand out. First and foremost is Black and Castellucci’s own “Once You’re A Jedi, You’re A Jedi All The Way,” in which a Klingon and a Jedi meet at a convention, have a little too much to drink, and well … the Jets and the Sharks have nothing on Trekkies and Star Wars fans. Can a cross-universe affair work out, or will someone go to the Dark Side? I love the characters, and the situation is both absurd and believable.

Tracy Lynn’s “One Of Us,” about a cheerleader who pays the AV Club to teach her to speak geek in order to impress a guy, is somewhat more predictable in how it turns out, but it’s the good kind of predictable, where you totally root for the characters anyway, and want to see a happy ending. (Hmmm, seems to me this would make a great movie.) It’s a story that really speaks to the importance of owning your passion, whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, or classic romance flicks.

Cassandra Clare’s “I Never” explores the potential for trouble that arises when members of an online roleplaying community meet up in real life … and not everyone lives up to their electronic persona.

Devid Levithan’s “Quiz Bowl Antichrist” shows that just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you have all the answers, while some situations don’t have any answers at all.

Lisa Yee demonstrates that geekery comes in every form, such as baton twirling, in “Everyone But You.” I guess it shows my own geek bias that until now, I’d have sniffed at baton twirling, but here, we see that it’s all a matter of perspective.

Sadly, one story which stands out, does so not because it’s good, but because it’s kind of disturbing. Barry Lyga (an author I love to read, by the way), turns in a strange tale of revenge in “The Truth About Dino Girl.” It’s a cautionary tale: don’t mess with the geeks or bully the outcasts, because you never know when one of them will snap and find a way to ruin your life, but it’s still a fairly ugly piece when you think about actions and consequences. Compared to the other stories, it’s a disharmonious note.

Back to something a bit more reassuring, Wendy Mass’ “The Stars At The Finish Line” is a quirky tale of competition, romance, and astronomy. Here’s another story with sympathetic, believable characters, great chemistry, and a feel-good ending.

Naturally, no collection of geekery would be complete without a Rocky Horror story, and Libba Bray’s “It’s Just A Jump To The Left” satisfies that need, and more.

Scattered between the stories are a number of comic strips, further exploring various aspects of geekdom, written by Black and Castellucci, and alternately drawn by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley. These add just that much more flavor to the overall excellent feel of the anthology, and make it truly worth the price of admission. Whether you’re into art, cheerleading, science, theater, science fiction, fantasy, or trivia contests, the message remains the same: embrace that which makes you happy and interesting, stand tall in the face of those who’d mock you, and have fun.

Man, I really could have used this book back then, but I’m damned glad it exists now.

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