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What being a geek is all about

July 13 is National Embrace Your Geekness Day. Fitting, as we live in an era when comic books and fantasy realms are mainstream culture, when a fan fiction novel (Fifty Shades of Grey began life as Twilight fan fiction) can become an international bestseller, and when grammar geeks rule the Internet with an iron pen.

Being a geek is cool now, so go ahead and let your fandom flag fly. And if you’ve only just begun to dip your toe into geek culture, here are four gateways to geekdom.

Comic Books. Contrary to what you may have heard, comics aren’t just about men in Spandex. Graphic novels are a legitimate art form, and there are many amazing stories to explore. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is a good starting point, as is Alan Moore’s Watchmen. If you’d rather try out a series that’s currently running, check out Lumberjanes, a quirky all-girl comic that’s been getting a lot of attention since its premiere earlier this year. If that’s not your cup of tea, swing by your local comic book shop and ask for recommendations. Trust me, they’ll be happy to help you find a book you’ll love.

Superhero Movies. Chances are you’ve seen at least one of Marvel Studio’s movies; there was a little indie film called The Avengers that you might have heard of. There’s more to comic book movies than Marvel, however. The Crow (1994), in addition to being the tragic last film of star Brandon Lee, is a dark and gorgeous adaptation of James O’Barr’s graphic novel. If you’re looking for lighter fare, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010) is a good choice. Ghost World (2001), starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson, is a murky coming-of-age-tale that happens to be based on an award-winning graphic novel.

Young Adult Literature. With the sweeping success of Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, there’s no shame in adults reading books meant for kids and teens. Young adult literature is more than just vampires and wizards, though. The realistic tear-jerkers of John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Sarah Dessen (Just Listen) are worth reading no matter your age. Rainbow Rowell is a rising star in the YA firmament with Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. You could also go old-school and revisit Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time or old-old-school with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which she wrote when she was only 18 years old.

Cartoons. Ever since Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1937, cartoons have unofficially been the domain of kids. Nowadays, animated shows like the bizarre Adventure Time and the lighthearted My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (the latter of which has inspired a largely male fandom known as Bronies) are embraced by as many grown-up fans as children. There are also adults-only programs like Rick and Morty (from Community showrunner Dan Harmon) on the channel Adult Swim. And although he has retired from filmmaking, Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki’s catalog of films is well worth viewing. Start with Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, but don’t neglect his final film, The Wind Rises.

Even if popular geek culture doesn’t appeal to you, you can still embrace your inner geek. After all, the only real requirement is to enjoy the things you love without apology. Whether you love comic books, opera, Medieval history, or correcting other people’s grammar, do so with your whole heart. That’s what being a geek is all about.

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