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Geek Tragedies and Geek Triumphs collects works written in the span of seven years, three books written while I was studying in the MA in Creative Writing program. This essay serves as an introduction to those works which comprise the main body of this thesis, while effectively also laying out my own perspectives on writing. I stress that this essay will introduce and discuss not only the creative works and the poetics that drive them, but also aspects of book publishing that include marketing, branding, and distribution concerns. I include the business aspects of writing because I became largely concerned with how they worked as I continued writing and began publishing my work.
Geeks are cool now, havenʼt you heard? ! ! It is still unusual for me to wake up in a world where geeks are considered cool.
When I was in grade school, ﬁrst discovering my geekiness, ﬁrst indulging in the wonders of Star Wars, dreaming of wielding a whip and a doctorate like Indiana Jones, obsessing over time paradoxes in Back to the Future, and spending way too much time with my Nintendo, the geek was the antithesis of cool. The way that the geek is perceived has changed since the early 80s, but then it is also possible that the deﬁnitions and the concepts we employ to describe someone as a geek have similarly changed. According to Katie Lambert (n.d.) in her essay “How Geek Chic Works,”
The kids who spent their high school years outside the popular crowd have come into their own, with a deﬁant, open-armed embrace of what makes one a geek: love of books, computers, video games, comic books, horror ﬁlms, technology. It's cool to be smart. It's cool to do what you love -- bonus points if what you love requires exhaustive knowledge of obscure things. !
When I was in grade school the deﬁnition was synonymous to “weirdo” or “freak,”
an outsider who was “uncool,” someone who could not talk to girls (bear in mind that at the time geeks were always male). The geek was susceptible not only to verbal ridicule but also to physical attacks on his person or property, which is to say that bullies pushed geeks around and they messed with geeksʼ stuff. If this sounds like it is taken from hackneyed portrayals and high school ﬂicks that rely on over-stereotyping characters, it is because these are common and true occurrences. ! An internet search I conducted for another paper yielded a minimum of sixteen
different deﬁnitions for the term “geek.” These have a varying range of deﬁnitions that will, at one end of the spectrum, describe the geek through the wordʼs etymology, like in dictionary.com and refer to him as a circus performer who would bite the heads off chickens and other animals and do other bizarre acts (as an aside, one must wonder how the term fared when Ozzy Osbourne, who is a cool musician, went around and as part of his show, bit the heads off animals; Iʼve never heard anyone call Ozzy a geek-- crazy, yes, messed up, deﬁnitely, but geek, never) and on the other end of the spectrum championing the geek as a specialist who possesses knowledge and understanding of concepts beyond normal human beings. For example the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary deﬁnes the geek as “an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological ﬁeld or activity.” ! In The Free Dictionary , we get a number of varying deﬁnitions, among them: “A
person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy;” “A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientiﬁc or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept; “a boring and unattractive social misﬁt;” and possibly the funniest deﬁnition because it runs so powerfully against what we refer to as geeks now, “a degenerate.” I ﬁnd these deﬁnitions funny because they illustrate just how far the term has come from describing social outsiders decades ago, to how they are seen in the 21st global society and culture .
The deﬁnition which I prefer, and which I will use henceforth comes from a ﬂowchart
which can be found in Flowtown (Martell, 2010). It states, “In the past being described as a geek was considered an insult, for it reﬂected a certain manner of social skills or status. Today, it is used to describe someone impassioned or obsessed by a particular area of interest.” ! In addition to that deﬁnition is something taken from Wikipedia1 (updated 2010).
One of the deﬁnitions states that a geek is:
A person with a devotion to something in a way that places him or her outside the mainstream. This could be due to the intensity, depth, or subject of their interest. This deﬁnition is very broad but because many of these interests have mainstream endorsement and acceptance, the inclusion of some genres as "geeky" is heavily debated on. Persons have been labeled as or chosen to identify as physics geeks, mathematics geeks, engineering geeks, scif-ﬁ geeks, computer geeks, various science geeks, movie and ﬁlm geeks, comic book geeks, theater geeks, history geeks, music geeks, sports geeks, art geeks, philosophy geeks, literature geeks, historical reenactment geeks, 2012 geeks, video game geeks, and roleplay geeks.
Similar to the explanation above is the deﬁnition in the website howstuffworks.com
(Lambert, n.d.) which states, “A geek has obsessive, esoteric knowledge about mass media, pop culture and technology. Geeks are generally smart, they're passionate about things most people don't care about, and most of them tend to be early adopters when it comes to the latest gadgets.” ! One key aspect of geekery that needs to be integrated in my own deﬁnition of the
geek is social ineptitude or awkwardness. This trait of the geek comes from the classic or early deﬁnitions of the geek as someone who did not ﬁt in, someone who is an outsider. Itʼs essential, at least from my perspective and from my experience, to point out that the outsider status is what allows for the devotion and passion for decidedly non-mainstream things. Geeks needed something to huddle over and discuss, something that was their
While Wikipedia is usually not acknowledged as an academic reference, it serves as a good place to check for deﬁnitions on the geek because of its being constantly updated. Also, Wikipedia illustrates a number of points about geek culture, such as collaboration, crowdsourcing, and the idea of collective knowledge.
own and would not be touched by the cool kids, whether it was the continuity of comic book universes or lightsaber ﬁghting styles, or other geek referents. ! With these various elements put into play, I will deﬁne the geek as a person who is
socially awkward and has an impassioned devotion to non-mainstream interests. These interests and how mainstream they are can sometimes be subject to question (e.g. Film is mainstream. So is music, and there are times that people have contested my being a geek because I played guitar in a band. But the kinds of ﬁlms and music and in particular the level of devotion help to separate the geek from the mainstream.) but the overall deﬁnition of the geek demeanor, decidedly “uncool,” outside of the popular clique, and engaging in information and culture at a higher degree than most, holds true.
The Filipino Geek? ! I have carved a niche for myself as the voice of the Filipino geek. And I think it is
important that I problematize the bringing together of those two terms, as the latter is an inherently Western concept. Itʼs not just people in the West who are geeks, though there are probably more of them there because of the access to media and content which would inspire geekery. ! There is a geek community here. It has not reached a critical mass to the level that
it can inﬂuence local pop culture, but geeks do organize and congregate. Seeing geeks gather though, it becomes clear that the composition is mostly middle to upper class, with most of its members being afﬂuent, which explains not only their ability to engage this type of culture, but their access to media, content, collectibles, and the other physical manifestations of geekery. Which is to say that geeks make up an extremely small part of the population.
Also, the things which geeks get geeky about are rarely Filipino. Filipino content at
present is developed for the masa, and it largely excludes the geek from its considerations when TV shows, movies, music, or other forms of entertainment media are designed. ! This means that the Filipino-ness of a geek will be at question, because while
Filipino in nationality, the geek will inhabit a consciousness that is not Filipino. It is arguable that the consciousness is largely Western- or Japanese- inﬂuenced as most of the content that fuels geekery is either from the West or Japan. While this might lead us to assumptions that this is just the spreading of Western cultural hegemony, we can also point out that the content that geeks get geeky about isnʼt pop or mainstream either, but constitutes fringe culture and interests. Itʼs more likely that the values geeks ascribe to are inﬂuenced not by the hegemony of the West, but rather the teachings of The Jedi Council and The Force, The Federation and The Prime Directive, or other fantastical worlds. The cultural consciousness to which the geek ascribes is something not fully Filipino, if Filipino at all. ! Most geeks would point to the lack of Filipino content to get geeky about. After all,
local TV has no such mythos-building equivalents, local literature has no sweeping LoTR or Song of Ice and Fire epics, no local movie has the irresistible allure of Star Wars. But there is content. I canʼt speak for TV, but I think that our local epics do have mythic qualities and classic Filipino ﬁlms as well as old Pinoy comedies inspire their own brand of geekiness. But again all of this has yet to catch on, and itʼs going to take a lot more before there is a brand of true Filipino geekiness. ! Where does that leave me, as a person who attempts to document his own
geekiness in this world, with an eye on the movements of pop culture? It presents on my end a substantial problem, as it shows limitations in the way that I can engage Filipino content, Filipino consciousness.
The true Filipino geek does not exist. Knowing this it becomes apparent that the
way is clear to create an identity which has never been explored in our literature before, an identity that engages both global interests and hopefully local concerns.
So a Rogue, a Dark Elf, and a Paladin walk into a bar…
The coolness of being a geek is a new thing. It probably coincides with the fact that
never before have geek references been so easily accessible. We see then a maturation of a number of factors such as geek humor, cultural engagement of content, and ease of access to content, which lead to the new opportunities for the popularity of geek literature. This is to say that with the proliferation of content (which in this case refers to all media products and artifacts including ﬁlm, television, music, literature and extending on to new media like youtube videos, viral campaigns, Facebook memes, etc.) and everyone having access to all of this culture brought about by technology, geek culture and geek consciousness are deﬁning the mainstream. As Patton Oswalt (2010) explains in his essay “Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die”: !
Everyone considers themselves otaku about something— whether itʼs the mythology of Lost or the minor intrigues of Top Chef. American Idol inspires—if not in depth, at least in length and passion—the same number of conversations as does The Wire. There are no more hidden thought-palaces—theyʼre easily accessed websites, or Facebook pages with thousands of fans.
Because geekiness has thrived as a sub-culture (and within the subculture, in
various subcultures, as evidenced in the previous ﬂowchart) there are lots of jokes that have developed around the content with which geeks get geeky about. There is incessant referencing. As Ken Denmead explains in the Geekdad Column of Wired, “One thing that every geek can do is quote their favorite geek-culture media, whether itʼs movies, books, television, theater or music” (2010). Geeks take pride in their mastery of the various realms of knowledge which they devote themselves to, and a way to prove and show that
mastery is by saying just the right quote at the right time. For example, if someone gets a cut or some other kind of wound in the presence of a group of geeks, it is very likely that one will say, “Itʼs just a ﬂesh wound!” and then the rest of the group would join in, begin to start sporting British accents, and follow up with their own favorite quips from the Monty Python ﬁlms. As Oswalt shares, “When our coworkers nodded along to Springsteen and Madonna songs at the local Benniganʼs, my select friends and I would quietly trade out-ofcontext lines from Monty Python sketches—a thievesʼ cant, a code language used for identiﬁcation” (2010). ! This kind of behavior would cause great amusement among geeks, and referencing
the right things at the right times would serve as badges of membership in this culturally elite, smart-ass group. Talk about classic weaknesses of Green Lantern (wood, the color yellow), inconsistencies in the continuity of various multiverses, RetConned episodes of Star Trek: TNG, or other quick and fun references and you would ﬁt in with the group of geeks. But try cracking jokes about these things in normal company and you would be greeted with blank stares. ! Now though, with the proliferation of technology, geek gateways, and google and
wikipedia, as well as wikis for various geekdowns (for example wookieepedia for Star Wars) there is quick access to explanations. Further, with the internet, ﬁnding the content being referenced is a few clicks and keystrokes away. Thus what was once conﬁned to a subculture is now available to everyone. And the in-jokes of that subculture are now larger cultural touchstones. ! The referencing, which extends to mainstream ﬁlm and television (witness
Tarantinoʼs ﬁlms or popular television shows like 30 Rock and most notably Community that make the nonstop intertexualtiy and referencing a staple of their content) is now considered a cool smart thing to do. Even if you cannot go quoting Yoda, at least you know that it is Yoda being quoted and you can laugh along to it. For some reason, the old uncool
is in this paradigm the new cool. As Lars Konzack (2006) explains in his essay “Geek Culture: The 3rd Counter-Culture,” “Not long ago nobody would have known outside the geek culture what was meant by player character, experience points, level gain, and hit points. Now it seems everybody knows. The geek culture is transforming mainstream culture and itʼs just the beginning of a general cultural change in that direction.” ! What this means for humor is that the intertextuality inherent in geek humor is now
embedded in contemporary popular culture (at least Western-inﬂuenced modes of culture, this aspect to be discussed later). When a geek cracks a joke, people get it, whether they are geeks or not. This becomes key in my own writing as I take a stance that is rooted in being a geek outsider, and yet the observations, issues engaged, and references made are still understandable and relatable to the non-geek reader.
Geek as Life and Persona
The the geek persona which I appropriate in my writing, the geeks and geekiness
that I feature in my short stories, and the actual lifestyle that I hold have large overlaps. If these were drawn up as a Venn diagram, it would be three circles almost perfectly on top of each other. One of the things that I take care to do is never to pretend, to attempt to appropriate a consciousness or identity which I do not actually have, because that would seem a betrayal of trust between the reader, who trusts and believes me to be a geek, and myself. ! The appropriation of this personality comes naturally, and yet it is so because of the
years of cultivation and development not of the persona per se, but of the lifestyle, of living as a geek. As such, it becomes important to discuss how this identity was formed and how it is deployed in the writing of the books in the main section of the thesis.
I have always believed that a level of “other-ing” or “other-ness” is essential for
someone to come up with different ideas and perspectives. In my undergraduate thesis I discuss aspects of this other-ing while simultaneously making light of it by referencing a line from the ﬁlm Orange County. In the ﬁlm, a father (played by John Lithgow) asks his son (played by Colin Hanks) who is an aspiring writer, “Youʼre not oppressed and youʼre not gay. What are you going to write about?” From that reference I discuss my own issues when I was an undergraduate— coming to grips with family dynamics, an abusive father, and the struggle to write despite all these different obstacles faced in my youth. ! I do not revisit any of that content in my newer writing. But having progressed from
that point, it is important to illustrate the new perspective and persona to be found in the new collections of work presented in this thesis. ! I still am neither oppressed, nor gay. And thatʼs where the geek persona makes
space for observation and commentary. The sense of being made “other” or apart which is created by the geek experience is similar in that it grants the person outsider status and allows him to see the world differently. I have a number of layers to this outsider status which I employ, and I pile one on top of the other because of the conﬂicted nature of my identity. ! When I was young, I was just a real nerd. I loved dinosaurs, robots, aliens, and all
manner of science ﬁction and fantasy. I loved being transported to these different worlds. In the fourth grade, while my other classmates were making ant farms and volcanoes for the school fair, I convinced a rich classmate to buy the materials needed for us to make a laser. While other classmates were out on the streets playing basketball or joining gangs, I was at home repairing an old VCR that kept breaking down and watching Star Wars on it, memorizing lines and enthralled by every single moment of it. Friends snuck into an Rrated ﬁlm because they heard there were gratuitous sex scenes. While they were in that theater I was in the theater beside it, watching Johnny Mnemonic because it was a sciﬁ
ﬂick about a dude who had a hard drive in his brain. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say astrophysicist (Space!), paleontologist (Dinosaurs!), or archaeologist (Indiana Jones!). ! This is a crucial layer then to the way I perceive the world. It is seen through the
ﬁlter of popular culture and geekery because I was plugged into these things so early as a child. The interest in these non-mainstream pursuits set me apart from other people. And though it is cliché, my physical limitations also played a role in setting me apart and making me choose to develop my knowledge and avid love for non-mainstream things. I was a scrawny, awkward kid as a youth. Iʼd always get hit in the face when playing kickball or softball, was terrible at catching. In elementary school Iʼd hang out at the jungle gym (because even if any balls came ﬂying in our direction, the jungle gym bars would deﬂect their impact) with a few friends and we would talk about the latest episodes of Transformers or the new toys that we wanted. Eventually, the talk went to documentaries weʼd watched on PBS or things like that. We were the kids who thought it was cool to get together during the weekends and ﬂy water-propelled rockets or build scale models of the Enterprise, while the other kids were at Little League. Later in life I became a fat awkward kid, uncomfortable with his body still and still more interested in talking about nerdy things than engaging in jock activities. ! The next layer of identity built was to come from not only having been an immigrant
in a foreign country, but also from being an immigrant in my own country. This sounds unusual, but the kind of nationalism and identity confusion that was created by my personal history is problematic, and helps to inform the literature, as well as potentially enlightening post-colonial readings. Itʼs inevitable that a post-colonial reading could be place on my writing because there is a consistent engagement with Western culture, the diaspora, and my own experiences as an immigrant, or for sci-ﬁ referencingʼs sake, a stranger in a strange land.
I was three years old when my mother and I left the Philippines to live with my
father in America. This means that I was subject to the quintessential American immigrant experience, the idea that the future was brighter and better in the land of the free. And though I would grow up there and identify myself as coming from the home of the brave, I would forever be an immigrant. My identity though was formed in America, and my conception of the Philippines was taken from stories told by my parents, books and pictures, and what I saw in the Tagalog movies we rented from the Filipino groceries. So I had no real idea of the place that I had migrated from. ! My cultural consciousness is deﬁned by a lot of television I watched as a kid. There
were the mid-day reruns of old sitcoms like Gilliganʼs Island, I Dream of Jeanie, and I Love Lucy. At night my parents would think I was asleep but Iʼd be watching Nick at Nite for classics like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Get Smart, and Welcome Back, Kotter. I became a disciple of Saturday Night Live even though I would rarely ﬁnish it because, being a kid, I wasnʼt used to staying up past midnight. ! I would discover Star Wars and Star Trek and they would provide me with hours of
entertainment and what has now become a lifelong devotion to both franchises. At nine or ten I attended my ﬁrst convention. I spent lots of hours at the comic book store either picking new comics or trading basketball cards. And feeding my love for sci-ﬁ and fantasy was my membership at the book club of the neighborhood library. ! Down the block from our apartment was a video store. The Armenian dude who ran
it always recommended indie ﬁlms to me, and he let me borrow R-rated movies even when I was only twelve. Just a few blocks down, with the help of rollerblades, I could get to the multiplex and catch a bunch of movies. ! ! I was a suburban kid who was fully attuned to American consumer pop culture. And then when I was fourteen my parents decided to move back to the Philippines.
This created a kind of double-immigrant consciousness. I was raised with an American
consciousness, but knew that I was Filipino. It wasnʼt merely heritage, it was land of birth and blood that made me Filipino, and yet there was very little sense of what it meant to be Filipino. Beyond the token gestures and stereotypes carried over from the old country to California, and a vacation taken when I was nine years old, I had no real idea what it meant, had no sense of nation or nationalism. I suppose these thoughts were beyond a fourteen year old, but in retrospect it is important to bring these issues out, as they inform the subject position of the persona in the essays that I write. ! A return to the Philippines created a new identity, that of the Fil-Am balikbayan. I
was coming home, that was the idea. But I was coming to a home that did not feel like home for me. I was told that this was my country and I was to love it, but I had no sense of the country. This became key to my own development as a writer and a commitment to learning and understanding my culture. This rarely reﬂects directly in the writing, as I do not mention issues of nation, country, and identity, but in my time spent in the political science program (I spent one year as a student but continued to take classes and sat in, and actively participated in a political science organization and other activities throughout my time as an undergraduate) these became major concerns. Furthering the concern were the regular objections to my writing as being “too Western” or “not Filipino enough.” These comments bring to question what is Filipino, and what is Filipino enough? ! These are things that were at ﬁrst grappled with and things that I considered a
weakness of my writing. But then, as I developed and explored my own fractured identity I realized that this aspect of my consciousness could provide a crucial perception ﬁlter that could help deﬁne my writing and differentiate it from othersʼ. ! My consciousness was inevitably rooted in Western popular culture. And yet there
was a constant struggle to engage the local, the Filipino. And the kind of Fil-Am that I am helped to further deﬁne the consciousness. The usual image of the Fil-Am is the mestizo who cannot speak Tagalog, is tall and handsome and could probably star in a telenovela or
a reality show at least. I on the other hand, being a pure-blooded Filipino (though we know that this term is problematic in itself, but let us just use it for now since both my parents are of Filipino descent), have kayumanggi skin and generally have the classic indio build of short, squat, and a little chunky. Aside from not ﬁtting the Fil-Am label physically, the kind of culture that I was embedded in, geek culture, created even more separation from the mainstream. ! So from the onset, with the geek background, my consciousness was in some way
separate from the mainstream. And then going through the immigrant experience twice over set up more separation between me and the mainstream. This allowed me to perceive situations as a geek and as a Fil-Am. One of the crucial things that must be noted about my Fil-Am stance though is that I love the country and I do not look down on the country or take the negative stance of always comparing the Philippines to other countries and ﬁnding it wanting. Rather there is a conscious effort to embed myself in local life and local culture, which helps to prevent my writing from being condescending. ! I do not want to be perceived as a writer who puts down his own culture and
heritage because of his growing up in another country. The threat of sounding condescending arises because I will regularly glorify geek content (say, Star Wars) but I ﬁnd it difﬁcult to get geeky about local content. This is not to say that I have not attempted to engage Filipino pop culture. ! My own ﬁndings and observations of the local content that Iʼve tried watching is that
it does not necessarily lend itself to geek devotion. Geeks become devoted to content that is rich, that attempts to mythologize. But with the kind of content produced locally, under strict budgets, chasing after the lowest common denominator or viewership, there is yet to be local content which I can get geek about. Again this is not to say that I think Western or Japanese content is better, but to say that there is no local content, as yet, that has been developed and targeted towards geeks which I have experienced.
Still I keep trying to engage local content, just as much as I engage local culture. I approach this culture from the outsider geek stance. Itʼs a good point of
intersection because geeks know that they are different but they want to be liked and do make attempts to ﬁt in. This is precisely what happens in a lot of the writing, I am trying to understand people, trying to ﬁt in. I have problems ﬁtting in because I am a geek. And I am constantly ﬁguring things out which would come easily and naturally to people who grew up in the Philippines. ! All of this awkwardness, the attempts at trying to ﬁt in, make for comedy, because
comedy is when logic breaks down and we can do nothing but laugh.
Comedy and Insecurity
The other-ing that was mentioned in the previous section helped to separate my consciousness and thus my personae from the mainstream providing for situations that made for good writing material. I chose to always portray those situations with humor. This other-ness, this consciousness of being different, of not being cool, of being an outsider, is an important element that runs through much of the writing. This is the element of insecurity. Whether it is insecurity for not ﬁtting in, not knowing the right thing to do or say, or just the inherent insecurities that we all have, this element helps to deﬁne the way that many things are approached and handled in my essays and stories. Much of the humor then is a sublimation of insecurity, a taking of the various insecurities and casting them in a funny light rather than a sad, depressing, or disappointing one. This decision to employ humor comes from my own fascination with humor and my desire to make people laugh. The desire to make people laugh stems, I believe, from a belief I have that once you get someone to smile, and then laugh, then youʼve made the world a little bit brighter than
it was a few moments ago. That sounds undoubtedly like a touchy-feely sentiment, but it holds true and it is something that drives my desire to write humorous literature. Another reason, tied to my own insecurities, is my desire to get a response from people. There is no easy way to measure sympathy or understanding or even just attention from people when writing in certain modes, for example modern minimalist, social realist, or contemporary fantasy. People might nod, people might look attentive, but you cannot really be sure of what they are thinking. This is different when you are writing or performing comedy. When doing comedy, the response is immediate and you know right away if your material is working or not. People laugh, and if they laugh where you hope or expect them to, then you are doing a good job. This does not sound like something that is testable in literary writing, and sounds like it is more applicable to stand-up comedy. But I am fascinated by stand-up comedy; I used to write routines for a friend, and I have always wanted to do it but I have been crippled by a fear of performing. Hence I resort to writing essays that try to emulate standup comedy in its rhythm and delivery. I do test my essays by attending readings and reading my essays according to the rhythm I imagined in my head, to see if people get the jokes. At this point it seems like I do this for very technical reasons. And while it may be true that I take a technical approach to the creation of jokes and humor, there is that deeper personal need for approval, manifested in the form of laughs. As Simon Pegg (2010) observes in his book Nerd Do Well:
You could argue that the comic is the most impatient and neurotic among the ranks of the insecure. Not only do they require approval, they require it immediately, that evident and tangible assurance, asserted by an unquestionable reﬂex of conﬁrmation: laughter. “You love me! YOU LOVE ME!” internalises the mad clown, whilst looking conﬁdent and smug.
There is that level of personal fulﬁllment, that afﬁrmation that what I wrote has had the desired effect. When you have someone read your short story, you cannot test if they understood your epiphany by watching them as they read, but you can have what Pegg calls the evident and tangible assurance while observing for smiles and laughs. ! I also found that while much of my undergraduate ﬁction was marked by dark
themes and stories with sad or depressing endings, I had made a commitment as I transitioned from the undergraduate to the MA program to have happier endings, to have more optimistic stories. And in the MA program when I began to specialize in Creative Nonﬁction, I made a conscious effort to write funny material. I saw this as a need that was not being addressed in literary writing. ! Most of the essays that I had read were concerned with being artistic, being
intelligent, or just acting like they meant something deeper and more important. This kind of content and tone of course appeals to judges of literary contests. However, I found that readers wanted essays that told stories, that were funny, and that were memorable for their ability to make readers laugh and have a good time. I would point to American writer David Sedarisʼs essays as the kind of writing that appealed to a large number of Filipino readers. ! I was a fan of Sedaris by the time that I watched him at a reading and observed
how well he worked the crowd, how effectively he won readers over with his humor, and how he employed humor in his essays for just as much depth and meaning as the essays that take themselves seriously. As such, Sedaris serves as a major inﬂuence on my essays, if only because he seemed to be beating a path that the young writer could follow. ! Humor also became crucial because of the demands that it made on the writer.
According to Alan Moore, people laugh when we establish logic systems and then break the established logic so as to illicit unintentional laughter. For example, asking “Why did the chicken cross the road?” causes one to think that there was a reason for the chicken
crossing the road, causing the listener of the joke to try to come up with a logical answer, a meaning behind the crossing. This logic is destroyed when the answer is so simple, “To get to the other side,” that it breaks the expectations of the listener. ! The simple formula of established logic/destroy logic is at the heart of all humor
and yet it is extremely difﬁcult to pull off successfully. As the reader becomes more intelligent and savvier with content, then the reader comes to predict how the logic will turn out. This means that itʼs more difﬁcult to make jokes, because savvy readers who can perceive the way that humor operates and can anticipate the breaks in logic are not so easily surprised and thus cannot be made to laugh. ! The challenge of getting people to laugh would help me improve as a writer.
Knowing how to keep the laughs coming would keep people reading. As long as people were laughing and having fun, they would keep reading. ! My interest and respect for comedy can best be expressed by quoting from an
interview with head writer of the television series Doctor Who, Steven Moffat, who says:
… .if you can write comedy, you can pretty much write anything, because itʼs the hardest. Itʼs the most technically demanding, the most precisely evaluated form of writing. People know if it works or not. Thereʼs a big button marked “fail,” and thatʼs when nobody laughs. I think training in comedy, as it were, a history writing comedy, is a powerful tool for anyone. (2010)
Giving Geeks a Voice
So I was a geek, I had come to grips and embraced my geekiness. No more artsy-
cool posturing, no more dark brooding. More importantly, I was seemingly taking it upon myself to write for and about a subculture that had unusually limited representation in local literature. A lot of local writers are geeks for sure. Butch Dalisay deﬁnitely, and from a younger generation Sarge Lacuesta, Luis Katigbak, Dean Alfar, Emil Flores, and many
others. And yet no one has written about those particularly geeky experiences in nonﬁction. ! More than writing about what geeks do or things like that, what I am trying to show
is a particular perspective, again that perception ﬁlter that was placed on the world, that forced the geek to see the world differently. ! As a result, the ﬁrst essay collection, And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth is a
mishmash of various topics culled from personal experiences. The social awkwardness, the obsessions with science ﬁction and fantasy, all serve to create humor in seemingly everyday things and occurrences. ! And even when I am doing something extraordinary, like in the ﬁnal essay of the
collection where I write about joining a reality TV show, I still come out as a geek, unathletic, uncool, unused to dealing with people, and ultimately too smart for my own good. ! I discovered after having written And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth which I
thought mostly geeks would read, that among its readers are wives and girlfriends of geeks, who found themselves understanding their signiﬁcant others better by reading about my experiences. I would often get the reaction, “My husband/boyfriend is just like you.” Then a story follows about that person that was similar to what I wrote. This means that there was something that people could connect to. And the fact that they could laugh about it and have fun with it meant that there was some success to the approach. People were laughing and I was encouraged.
Trek Speaks to the Heart
After the relative success of And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth my life went into a
tailspin where I lost my girlfriend and quit my job. Iʼd gotten other people laughing but I
could not ﬁnd much to laugh about myself. And yet, when I turned to writing I found that it was the ideal outlet for all that confusion. ! In the throes of sadness over being dumped, and still with the geeky perception
ﬁlter ﬁrmly ﬁtted on, it came to me that I was stuck in a Kobayashi Maru situation. The Kobayashi Maru was a test in Star Trek given to Starﬂeet candidates to determine how they would respond to failure. In barest terms, and what it has come to mean in pop culture, is that a Kobayashi Maru is a no-win situation. No matter what one does, one is destined to lose. This felt apt for me, because after the break-up I felt that no matter what I did as a geek, I would always fail at relationships. ! I am not alone in my inability to understand women and relationships. I have always
found science ﬁction, the laws of physics, and the continuity of the Marvel Universe much easier to track than, say, the ideal conversation with someone from the opposite sex. Simon Pegg (2010) puts it thusly, referencing a beloved cornerstone of geek youth, “Although I was thrilled and fascinated by girls, I was far more inclined to run across a building site, making the noise of a TIE ﬁghter” ! To essay is to attempt, and the book that I wrote, The Kobayashi Maru of Love was
a number of attempts. It attempted to understand what it was about me that caused me to be left (in the spirit of Nick Hornbyʼs High Fidelity). It was my attempt to accept what had happened and to try and move forward. And it was my attempt to beat the Kobayashi Maru. It is an unbeatable test, but there is a way to win, and that is to cheat. Captain Kirk cheated; he thought out of the box and beat the unbeatable test. Perhaps through the writing I could ﬁnd the cheat code that would unlock whatever it was I needed. ! It turned out that the Kobayashi Maru of Love paved the way for two things, though
neither of them had to do with my romantic life. The ﬁrst was that it allowed me to expand the narrative capabilities of my creative nonﬁction. The second was that it led to my becoming an independent publisher.
Where And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth is a collection of essays covering a
range of topics whose binding thread is their writer and his geek perspective, The Kobayahshi Maru of Love has a clear narrative line. It did not start out that way. Like the essays in And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth, some of the essays in The Kobayashi Maru of Love had been featured and appeared elsewhere. But when I started bringing those published essays together and connecting them to new ones I was writing, the narrative arc began to emerge. ! Ultimately, it seemed like an ambitious project. Going from stand-alone essays I
was trying to write a book that moved in terms of theme and narrative. It attempts to be a uniﬁed and focused piece of work. Further, it is an attempt to write about loss and heartbreak, two things that led me into the mineﬁeld of cliche, in the wasteland of overused ideas. They are universal and eternal themes for sure, and that created the great challenge of how to write about these things in a new way. Also, I considered that within the context of Philippine literature no male writer, as far as I knew, had written a book of essays about love, heartbreak, and dating. This was stereotypically womenʼs territory. I had to write bigger, and I had to take something that so many great writers had written about and make it new. ! I turn to the geek perspective, that perception ﬁlter that caused me not just to see
the sadness of the situation, but also to identify the thing as a Kobayashi Maru. How many local authors would look at their break-up and think that they were in a Kobayashi Maru? And yet how many people have been through break-ups? This allows for a number of new angles that I am able to explore. The ﬁrst is that the geek perspective allows me to write what was old in a new, fresh way. Given the new context, how dating has changed because of social media, technology, and other realities of the new millennium, there is the age old problem of geeks being unable to get on with real life women (I illustrate in one of the essays that we get on fantastically with digital women; then again those digital women
are designed and brought to life mostly by geeks, so thereʼs that) that made for interesting content. ! Add to that the idea that because I am a geek but writing about love, I unlocked an
audience that would not have been accessible had I just been a geek writing about his geekiness. Writing about love, and just even having the word love in the title of the collection, expands the possible readership, appealing to people that would not normally read geeky literature, let alone read literature at all. Through the title I was able to wrangle geeks who bought it on the Star Trek reference alone, and also people who wanted to read about love and relationships. ! The peopleʼs responses to the essays as they were published, as I posted bits and
pieces of the book on Facebook, and as I read them at events, were positive and I got the sense that the book could really sell. It might not have had the potential to bowl the world over with through-the-roof, next-Bob Ong sales numbers, but it deﬁnitely had legs as a product. Emboldened by this, I considered publishing independently. And after a rejection from a publisher because my submission did not ﬁt in their publishing schedule (I felt that I had to get the work out immediately, while it was all fresh) I decided to go “indie.” ! As a result The Kobayashi Maru of Love represents a very signiﬁcant point in my
writing career, both aesthetically and publishing-wise. Starting with heartbreak and leaning on references in Star Trek, the X-Men, and all other kinds of geekiness, the result is a book that did many new things in terms of local CNF.
The geek persona of the CNF of the ﬁrst two books discussed appears not just as
an “I” persona, but as a character in the short story collection Geek Tragedies. It is not surprising, and makes perfect sense that the ﬁction I produced is the way that it is.
Heavily inﬂuenced by all of the science ﬁction, fantasy, and other modes of
speculative ﬁction, it is no surprise that when I tried my hand at ﬁction I would be writing similar stories. Entering the writing program as an undergraduate, I wanted to write stories like Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Neil Gaiman. ! In the writing program as an undergraduate though, I was discouraged from writing
speculative ﬁction. The focus was on the modern short story, heavily inﬂuenced by the American short story with its largely mundane and domestic concerns driving towards epiphanies. At a workshop I was even told, “You write well, but no one will take you seriously as long as you write about ghosts.” I thus focused on realist ﬁction for a lot of time in my undergrad ! This did help in the sense that I was able to receive a strong literary training. I ﬁnd
now that I use this training to my advantage. I developed a strong knowledge of form, a good control of the elements of ﬁction, and a sensibility for how a story should develop and resolve. Often I ﬁnd that what separates me from a lot of other genre writers is this training in the fundamentals of the short story, and though this training sidetracked me from writing speculative ﬁction for a long time, I can now appreciate its value. ! Still, there is an obvious discrimination against speculative ﬁction. Or there was
anyway. The discrimination still occurs when it comes to winning awards, but it is easier now to publish speculative ﬁction than it was when I started writing it. This is due in large part to the efforts of a number of writers and independent publishers who were willing to express their commitment to genre writing by providing writers with venues to publish their stories. ! When asked about his reasons for becoming an independent publisher, Paolo
Chikiamco (e-mail correspondence January 27, 2011), better known as “Rocket Kapre” and for his site rocketkapre.com explains:
There was not much of an alternative: On the “artistic” side, none of the major local publishers were regularly publishing the type of plot-centric, novel and series-length speculative ﬁction that I wanted to see (and still want to see) from Filipino authors. On the “marketing” side, I didnʼt see a lot of local publishers making the most out of the promotional opportunities available for their books and authors. As I didnʼt think that any mainstream publisher would take it kindly if I walked into their ofﬁces and asked them to give me a genre line to run as I saw ﬁt, independent was the only way to go.
Also, Kenneth Yu (e-mail correspondence January 21, 20100), publisher of explains that “With the goal of developing more readers,
Philippine Genre Stories,
especially younger ones, I wanted to provide a venue for Pinoys to read genre ﬁc written by fellow Pinoys.” Though his reasoning is slightly different from Chikiamcoʼs, Yuʼs push is similar in that they both wanted to make more Filipino genre writing available. ! Through their efforts and those of others, speculative ﬁction was able to reach a
larger audience, and more interestingly an audience that had been left untapped by traditional literary publishing. People who would not normally buy ﬁction written by Filipinos in the literary mode were buying the genre magazines. These readers became a niche market that was suddenly a viable reading market. ! My own writing, which as far as literary writing was concerned, and in the context of
the literary community that I was writing in, was itself a kind of niche or fringe writing. I was incorporating the literary techniques that I had learned, and was employing them to write speculative ﬁction. I was also incorporating the geek perspective that I had developed, featuring characters who were geeks. And even in stories where there were no geeks, there was content that was decidedly geeky. I proceeded also to build humor into the majority of my stories, because I felt that there were not enough funny stories being written. ! Dean Alfar, the editor and publisher of the Philippine Speculative Fiction series, and
arguably the biggest force behind the rise of local speculative ﬁction, commissioned a funny short story from me. He had read some of my speculative ﬁction that employed
humor. Sufﬁciently challenged, I submitted to him. Joseph Nacino, ﬁrst winner of the Neil Gaiman-sponsored literary contest and publisher of Estranghero books and his co-editor Karlos R. De Mesa likewise commissioned a funny story from me for an anthology that they were putting together. ! The majority of the stories in the collection are written in the speculative ﬁction
mode, and they all attempt to incorporate humor in various ways. These kinds of stories show inclinations that push my stories to the fringes of what we normally see published in literary books or publications, which still usually follow the American 20th Century Modern Short Story mode. ! The stories employ science ﬁction, and sometimes science fact. Some introduce
elements of the fantastic. Then they add on a dose of humor. And as their base they all use forms that were learned in a formal writing program. To top it off, the referencing and intertextuality that I employed in my CNF are all also utilized in the ﬁction stories. Only this time, the intertextuality not only helps to enrich the text, but at times informs the form, structure, and content of the stories. ! For example, my love for stories and how certain stories were told is used to remix
or mash-up some of my stories. “The Snifﬂes” takes the mundane stuffy nose, brings in a nerdy undergrad, and then mixes it up with a play on Faust. “Demon Gaga” brings together Lady Gaga, aspects of the breakfast club, and demon Lovecraftian mythos. “Dinoʼs Awesome Adventure” brings together my love for Back to the Future and an attempt to reach younger readers by appealing to a High School Musical vibe. And in perhaps my biggest and craziest mash-up, “The Day the Sexbomb Dancers Came,” I bring together a generation starship, zombies, a nerd, kung-fu movies, and scenes and elements cribbed from Star Trek, Star Wars, Alien, and Thereʼs Something About Mary. ! Along with this love for the remix and the mash-up that was applied to literature I
was doing other experiments in my ﬁction. Included in the collection are a number of short
shorts or ﬂash ﬁction. I was drawn to these kinds of stories because they demand all the elements of a short story, but delivered in a much briefer frame. I also added an extra challenge by writing genre short stories, so I would have to establish the genre elements and tell the story all in that short frame. For example, the short short horror employs a number of techniques. It references staples of the slasher horror ﬁlm, taking scenes that are commonly used in such ﬁlms, and attempts to reimagine the slasher ﬁlm as a selfaware text. ! Furthering the demands of brevity is the section of Geek Tragedies that features
six-word stories. The attempt, as the name implies, is to tell a complete story in only six words. There are also some experimental pieces where the six-word stories are illustrated. ! In looking at the collection Geek Tragedies we can see common threads running
through the ﬁction and the CNF of the two other collections. There are the geekiness, the humor, and the attempts to play with something old and turn it new. Also noticeable are how all of these are what could be called fringe or niche literature.
At the Fringes Riding the Long Tail
The three collections presented in this thesis, And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth,
The Kobayashi Maru of Love and Geek Tragedies all occupy fringe/niche culture, and yet have popular appeal. This sounds paradoxical because how can they be in the fringe and yet be popular. But when one observes the existence of different local markets, then this paradox becomes resolved. ! My writing occupies the fringes because I am, by training and by association, part of
the Philippine literary community which has speciﬁc standards. This community, made up of people trained in Creative Writing programs and accustomed to mainstream publishing, holds as its mainstream literature poetry, literary ﬁction (the aforementioned modern short
story and the realist novel), and literary criticism. It has slowly accepted Creative Nonﬁction as a formal genre, though many still contest the position that CNF will hold visa-vis formal essay, New Journalism, and the personal essay. ! The paradox is, that the writing is fringe and at the same time popular. It is fringe in
the context of the Philippine literary community to which I belong. This is also the main market for literary readership. Yet this main market is small in number, despite its being the mainstream. The popularity appears in the form of alternative readership, such as those found online, through blogs, and other non-traditional media. While my writing occupies the niche in traditional publishing and the literary community, it ﬁnds other markets in which it can be popular. This will be explained further as we discuss “The Long Tail.” ! So within the context of the literary community, my writing is deﬁnitely fringe. The
ﬁction I write is largely genre, and while it displays the elements of the modern short story, it is decidedly different in its content and approach as it puts a premium on remixing and mashing up ideas. ! When I re-evaluate my possible markets though, I ﬁnd that there is a large
readership, not a part of the literary community, that would be interested in the things that I write. As Yu explained in our interview, “My instincts told me there was a market of readers who liked genre ﬁc the way I did. I found the notion that I was alone in liking to read genre ﬁc impossible. Surely other Pinoys were into reading genre. Therefore, I saw it as ﬁlling a niche. But I don't discount that such material also helped grow the market” (e-mail correspondence January 21, 2011). ! Chikiamco states further from our interview:
! ! While I did see a market for local speculative ﬁction when I decided to begin publishing, I also felt that it was much smaller than it could be. You see the kind of crowd Neli Gaiman pulls whenever heʼs in town, and then look at the authors we have who write similar stories, and you wonder: why isnʼt there a crossover?
The goal in putting out new content, new not just in terms of speciﬁc titles but in the type of spec ﬁc that I intend to publish, will not so much create a market, but make inroads in the existing local market for speculative ﬁction
in general, in particular the market for novels and young adult oriented books. But thatʼs just on the local front. Itʼs also important to keep in mind that with the advent of digital distribution, international readers--those who are simply looking for good spec ﬁc--are more accessible than ever before. Iʼd like our authors to have a piece of that market as well, and again, I donʼt see any mainstream publisher making that push in the realm of spec ﬁc. (email correspondence January 21, 20100),
And therein one can ﬁnd a new community of readers, tech savvy and familiar with
the geek references and genre writing. In the economy of the new millennium, ﬁnding and identifying such a readership can lead to a bookʼs ability to reach more readers. ! Tech writer and Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson developed the theory of “The
Long Tail,” and it is in the context of “long tail economics” that fringe/niche literature can ﬂourish. The “Long Tail” posits that in the new web-based economy all things that are online will be downloaded at least once. So instead of just one market made up of big hits and misses, you get multiple markets serving niche interests.
As Anderson explains:
This shattering of the mainstream into a zillion different cultural shards is something that upsets traditional media and entertainment no end...The audience is shifting to something else, a muddy and indistinct proliferation of... .Well, we donʼt have a good term for such non-hits. Theyʼre certainly not ʻmisses,ʼ because most werenʼt aimed at world domination in the ﬁrst place. Theyʼre “everything else.”
He then continues:
Itʼs odd this should be an overlooked category. We are, after all, talking about the vast majority of everything. Most movies arenʼt hits, most music recordings donʼt make the top 100, most books arenʼt best-sellers, and most video programs donʼt even get measure by the Nielsen, much less clean up in prime time. Many of them nonetheless record audiences in the millions worldwide. They donʼt just count as hits, and are therefore not counted. But theyʼre where the formerly compliant mass market is scattering to. The simple picture of the few hits that mattered and the everything else that didnʼt is now becoming a confused mosaic of a million mini-markets and micro-stars. Increasingly the mass market is turning into a mass of niches. The mass of niches has always existed, but as the cost of reaching it falls— consumers ﬁnding niche products, and niche products ﬁnding consumers— itʼs suddenly becoming a cultural and economic force to be reckoned with.
Thus, while in the context of the literary community my geek literature is niche, this
niche serves a larger market that is newly accessible to a much larger readership that did not used to have access to my writing. With the internet and the emergence of “Long Tail economics” I have an opportunity to reach a much larger market, and this much larger market can now ﬁnd my writing.
Dropping Production Costs and Digital Access
One of the crucial factors that has led to the opportunity to publish independently
has been the advancement of technology. In accordance with Mooreʼs Law which states that every two years processing power will double while processing costs will be reduced by half, the costs of production in publishing have dropped dramatically as technologies for printing have developed over the years. Along with the considerable drop in production costs is the access to marketing and distribution that is afforded by technology in the form of the internet, particularly blogs and social networking sites. ! Before, authors had to go through publishers who could cover the costs of the print
run, as well as provide the infrastructure for publishing. An author would submit his manuscript and it would be up to publishers to assess the manuscriptʼs worth and then put it through the publication process if it was found worth publishing. This process of assessment would be based on pre-set factors such as sale-ability and the workʼs contribution to the larger body of published work (if the publisher was an academic publisher, as literary publishers often are). In essence, what Anderson describes as “hits” became the ﬁlters, the barriers and expectations of a text, were the kind of traits that were
looked for in a manuscript. The manuscript would be subject to a publisherʼs assessment of quality and sale-ability. ! With the advent of digital printing though, the costs of publishing dropped, and
authors could afford to bypass publishers by becoming publishers themselves, have books printed with digital printers, and then releasing the books to their market. ! If publishers offered infrastructure—the copyeditors, proofreaders, artists, and
designers who would work on the book— the indie author found ways to subvert the need for these in two ways. One way was to publish digitally, which meant that the copies were always easily editable, so typos and the like could be corrected as people read and downloaded. The other way was to crowdsource these tasks. ! The term “crowdsourcing” comes from author Jeff Howeʼs (2006) Crowdsourcing. It
means to use the crowd to accomplish tasks that an individual could not do alone. Crowdsourcing is driven by a sense of community and sharing. I utilized crowdsourcing when I self-published The Kobayashi Maru of Love. I had my friend and collaborator Adam David do the book design, rather than hire a designer. Then I farmed out digital copies of the book to friends for reading, and they would send me back their copyediting and proofreading comments. ! The geeky background, love for technology, and operating at the fringes which are
integral to my writing clearly played an inﬂuence in the way that I approached publishing. I did it myself, studied by asking friends and people on the net and even posting chapters for input and assessment. Instead of a publisher assessing the work, it was the crowd, people giving comments and saying whether they liked the work and what the book was becoming as it was being written. This is obviously not the traditional way to write and publish a book, but then the traditional modes were not adapting to the needs and capabilities that were being shown by both me as a publisher and by the base of readers that I was building through non-traditional means. As Standard Law professor, Copyleft
proponent and tech visionary Lawrence Lessig explains, “Because disruptive technologies rarely make sense during the years when investing in them is most important, conventional managerial wisdom at established ﬁrms constitutes an entry and mobility barrier that entrepreneurs and investors can bank on. It is powerful and pervasive.” (2008)
Marketing and Distribution
Book production is only one aspect of book publishing. The other aspects are
marketing and distribution, which are just as important in the whole process. If people do not know about the book and where they can buy it, then it will be a failure. It is ironic then that authors who care so much about their writing and being read, focus so much only on writing and take very little interest in marketing and distribution. ! The discussion of “Long Tail Economics” illustrated how the new economics allow
for niche markets to proliferate and succeed in the information age. We once again refer to Andersonʼs “Long Tail” in the context of reaching an audience. Lessig explains that, “The Long Tail dynamic beneﬁts those whose work lives in the niche. A wider diversity of ﬁlms and books is available now than ever before in the history of culture. The low cost of inventory means wider choice. Wider choice is a great beneﬁt for those whose tastes are different” (2008). ! This means that without the limitations of shelf space, the costs of distribution
dropping with the increasing access to the internet, and the many ways which we can get books to people, then more people can have access to more work. We can now offer wider choices to people with different tastes. Our potential market is no longer limited to physical constraints, to what books we can put in the major local bookstores. Through the “Long Tail” we now have access to an international market through digital and online publishing and distribution.
Once again we see how the different, the niche are viable markets, as long as they
are cultivated. The geek market being aggressive in ﬁnding and supporting content that it ﬁnds interesting constitutes a community of believers who will lend their loyalty to creators. As Yu explains of communities, “The fan communities that push genres and stories in other countries have helped them succeed, surely” (e-mail correspondence January 21, 20100). ! Chikiamco feels even more fervently about the importance of communities:
I believe the creation of a community is essential not just to the success of a ﬁeld of art, but to its future development as well. Especially in the realm of science ﬁction and fantasy, you can see that it is the zeal of fandom which has made genre franchises (in all media) the commercial and, in fortunate cases, artistic powerhouses they now are. A community ensures that there will always be a group of people who are dedicated to the advancement of the work or genre purely out of their love for it, and that will keep any medium from growing stagnant--because if the fans donʼt get what they want, then from their own ranks will emerge the creators who will push the genre forward. Even the most beautiful work of art, if bereft of a community that appreciates it, might as well not exist. Without a community, there is no excitement, no debate, no criticism, no afﬁrmation. Without a community, why even bother? (e-mail correspondence January 21, 2011),
Taking these ideas in mind, it was essential that the geek literature I was writing be
marketed properly and reach the right readers. To do this I utilized “branding.” ! Often, when we think of brands we think of major companies whose identities we
are aware of because of their branding presence. For example, there are Apple and Nike, businesses which are instantly recognizable by their logos, and when we see these logos we also associate them with the companiesʼ values. We connect feelings and experiences to these brands, we form expectations based on them. And it is important that companies maintain their brand identity, because these serve as a kind of badge that people know them by. When someone sees the Apple logo, they know what they are getting, know that they are paying for a quality product. ! My attempt, as a writer, was to establish a similar kind of branding. Previous
discussions of the geek moniker, the geek content, the humor, all of this built into the
brand of writing that I do. This might sound like something that could constrain oneʼs writing, limit the things that one could do. But it is clear that these are the parameters within which I write anyway. This means that these branding decisions were made after the literary texts were produced. ! Like large companies I strive for a consistency in my output. No one can accuse
Apple of coming up with the same thing every year. Sure, every year they release computers and digital media players. But every year there is development and innovation. I aimed for the same in my writing. I was regularly producing geek literature, but it had to be different each time. ! The content was in place, and my branding as an author was clear. The next phase
was reaching out to the market, to the community. And this was facilitated by Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media. I created Facebook pages and events, maintained regular presence in various social networking sites, and engaged bloggers and readersʼ groups. ! Unlike traditional advertising and marketing that blast their messages to the largest
number of people possible through traditional media (TV, radio, print) niche markets and thus, niche marketing, employs much more targeted tools, reaching a more limited audience, but attracting an audience that is genuinely interested in the product, in this case, the book. ! These are books by a geek, for geeks and lovers of geeks. As Danielle Arbuckle
explains in her essay “Targeting the Geek Market” (2010), as the geek market continues to grow, businesses big and small are targeting their products to geeks.” With the new popularity, and with most geeks and their ilk online, the online medium is ideal. Posting essays online, participating in forums, speaking at blogger meet-ups, and other similar activities which tap the geek community became powerful marketing and distribution
venues. I could market and sell at the same time, give a talk and then pull books out of my bag. ! In addition to the product itself, Adam and I employed marketing techniques that
were familiar to geeks but were not employed to mainstream literary releases. ! First was the design decision to employ variant covers. Though books may change
covers with succeeding print runs, there is usually one cover that is set initially for the ﬁrst edition. Comic books, on the other hand, regularly release variant covers of the same issue, turning each of these issues into collectorsʼ items. I should know — as a youth, I bought all six covers of the ﬁrst issue when the X-Men was relaunched. Knowing this penchant for being “completionists,” we released two different covers for The Kobayashi Maru of Love. A succeeding print run led to another cover. And as part of the marketing scheme, when a group ordered a sufﬁcient number of copies to warrant a print run, we offered to customize that print run, incorporating their logo or other elements into the cover. ! Along with the design, we developed merchandising to accompany the book. Adam
designed T-Shirts and bags based on the artwork in the book. Then we pre-sold these online, posting the designs on our Facebook proﬁles and taking orders so that by the time that we launched the book, we had broken even with the merchandise. ! After the launch and the other marketing drives, the geekiness allowed for the
placement of books in Sputnik, a comic book store in Cubao X. But it is also much more than that. Cubao X at present is an artistsʼ hangout, and the comic book storeʼs location means a lot of walk-in business of speciﬁcally the kind of readers that would be interested in the literature that I produce. ! This, in small business terms makes more sense than national distribution. If I were
to distribute through the major bookstore chains, I would have books in branches nationwide, but then most people who walk into those branches probably would not bother
with my book anyway. Placing the books in a store where the target market regularly goes, in a store that makes initiatives to promote the authors of the books that they sell, was a smarter decision. It has also led to substantial sales.
Keeping it Pop ! From the previous sections, it is clear that there has been an informing
consciousness to all the initiatives, whether they be aesthetic or business decisions. It has been geekiness. The geek has driven the kind of sensibility, has manifested itself in insecurity and humor, has provided a perspective for writing. And it is this consciousness that has also allowed for the utilization of new technologies and new techniques in marketing and distribution. ! The awareness of a market, a new, large market of readers that could be reached
with the right kind of literature and through the right kind of packaging, branding, marketing, and distribution, has driven my efforts for the past few years. Perhaps it is the need for afﬁrmation, the need to hear the laughter and the responses of people, which make me prioritize readership over possible aesthetic concerns, as well as push me to be more aggressive in reaching an audience. ! Geek literature is rooted in pop culture and the pop sensibility. We keep in mind for
academic purposes that pop is a term whose meaning is terribly elusive. Pop for one is elitist for another, and Filipiino masa pop is drastically different from, say, geek deﬁnitions of pop. In our case I refer to the term in the way it is used by geeks, to mean the pop culture ephemera in ﬁlm, TV, books, video games, and comics. I also use it in the sense of musicʼs pop sensibility which means that you can be making rock or hip-hop or any other genre, but the music is infused with enough pop sense to attempt to attract a larger audience.
In any case thatʼs what it all comes back to. All of these different techniques
discussed play into that pop sensibility. Once it is in the hands of the reader, it is still this pop sensibility, this hope that people laugh and have fun, that comes through. Working from the fringes to create something popular and that has the potential to cross over, not necessarily into the literary cultureʼs mainstream but instead into the pop culture mainstream, is the greater attempt. It is hoped that the work that follows has that potential, or at least paves the way for literature that will do that. ! ! ! !
References Anderson, Chris. 2008. The Longer Tail. New York: Hyperion. Arbuckle, Danielle. 2010. “Targeting the Geek Market.” Walletpop Canada. Retrieved from! http://www.walletpop.ca/blog/2010/06/04/targeting-the-geek-market/ Denmead, Ken. 2010. “100 Quotes Every Geek Should Know.” Geekdad. Wired online. ! Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2010/01/100-quotes-every-geek! should-know/ “Geek.” n.d. In Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com “Geek.” n.d. In Merriam Webster Online. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster ! .com/dictionary/geek “Geek.” n.d. In The Free Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.thefreedictionary.com. “Geek.” 2010. In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geek Green Tech Media. 2010. Graph of Mooreʼs Law Retrieved from ! http://www.greentechmedia.com/artickes/read/varian-looks-to-enforce-mooreslaw-in-solar/ Howe, Jeff. 2008. Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business. United States: Crown Publishing Group Konzack, Lars. “Geek Culture: The 3rd Counter-Culture.” Retrieved from ! h t t p : / / www.scribd.com/doc/270364/Geek-Culture-The-3rd-CounterCulture Lambert, Katie. n.d. “How Geek Chic Works.” howstuffworks. Retrieved from ! http://people.howstuffworks.com/geek-chic.htm/printable. Lessig, Lawrence. 2008. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid " Economy. United States: The Penguin Press. Martell, Dan. 2010. “The Evolution of the Geek.” Flowtown. Retrieved from http://www.ﬂowtown.com/blog/the-evolution-of-the-geek?display=wide Pegg, Simon. 2010. Nerd Do Well. Retrieved from www.randomhouse.co.uk. Phipps, Keith. “The New Doctor Who: Steven Moffat and Matt Smith.” The AV Club. ! Retrieved from http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-new-doctor-who-steven-!m o f f a t and-matt-smith,40184
Wolverhamption City Learning Center 2007. Graph of The Long Tail. Retrieved from ! http://www.wolverhamptonclc.co.uk/2007/10/16/the-long-tail-in-education/
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