In an enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, forty-year-old former D&D addict Ethan Gilsdorf crisscrosses America, the world, and other worlds-from Boston to New Zealand, and Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar.
|Publisher:||Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Ethan Gilsdorf is a Boston-based freelance journalist, poet, critic, editor, and teacher. He is a regular contributor to: The New York Times (Travel, Arts sections); The Boston Globe (Travel, Movies, Living/Arts, Ideas, Sunday Magazine, Books, Op-ed pages); The San Francisco Chronicle (book critic); The Improper Bostonian (travel, lifestyle, dining); National Geographic Traveler (Travel); The Common Review (books, culture; also as their East Coast correspondent); and The Christian Science Monitor (arts/Weekend, op-ed, culture, Backstory analysis).Other publishing credits include The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Fodor’s travel guides (as former Paris hotel correspondent). He has appeared on talk radio programs in Boston, and has earned a reputation as a fantasy and escapism expert. Most recently, he has been instructing classes in freelance journalism (feature, travel, oped, review writing) for Media Bistro and Grub Street, and hosting regular networking events for these organizations. A more detailed CV, published articles, and additional information is available at www.ethangilsdorf.com.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Momster ix
Chapter 1 I Was a Teenage Magic-User 1
Chapter 2 The Quest Begins 17
Chapter 3 On the Tolkien Trail 27
Chapter 4 Into the Dungeon Again 47
Chapter 5 The Fount Whence Fantasy Games Flowed 63
Chapter 6 The Monk Went Down to Georgia 85
Chapter 7 Geeks in Love 109
Chapter 8 To Work Here, You Have to Forget 125
Chapter 9 The Weapon We Have Is Love 137
Chapter 10 In the Beer Line with the King 155
Chapter 11 I'll Only Go to Level 10 179
Chapter 12 An Outlet for Souls Who Could Not Rest 201
Chapter 13 You Have to become the Con 217
Chapter 14 There, or Nowhere, and Back Again 241
Chapter 15 Get Off the Road 263
Chapter 16 Being a Hero Ain't What It Used to Be 269
Afterword: Saving Throws 285
Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations 300
Photo Credits 308
About the Author 320
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved this book. Part of it's a generational thing, I'm sure. Ethan's got a few (not many) years on me, but the cultural backdrop of his childhood - the last years of the Cold War, worries of nuclear war and the Evil Empire, the mind-blowing release of Star Wars - is a familiar one. Even though the book as a whole isn't a coming-of-age recollection, making that connection at the beginning put me in the right frame of mind for the quest which follows. What you get in Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks is a great story about, well, just what the subtitle says: "An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms." And it's not a dry sort of academic journey: Ethan's in full-on geek mode (albeit sometimes reluctantly) as he revisits the books and games and culture that shaped his teenage years and gets back into their modern counterparts. Then he checks out previously-unexplored aspects like Live Action Role-Playing, convention attendance, World of Warcraft and the real-life tourist draws of New Zealand in the wake of "The Lord of the Rings." Ethan tells the story well, both as a geek and as a journalist, letting his fandom drive the journey without dominating it, and connecting with the real-world characters he meets along the way while never fearing to ask tough questions of himself, too. There's a lot of cultural crossover in geekdom anymore, with comics and science fiction and fantasy and gaming all appealing to a pretty broad group of people, and I think maybe that's why someone like me, who's never even played a true game of D&D, can still get so much enjoyment out of a book like this.
Gilsdorf's treatment of his subject - gamer culture - is as unique as it is informative and interesting. As an avid gamer (Dungeons and Dragons mostly) of the early 80s who hadn't played in decades before researching the book, he simultaneously provides both insider and outsider perspectives. Gilsdorf is clearly passionate about gaming and the theme of recapturing the magic from his childhood drives the narrative. Nevertheless, much of the new gaming culture (particularly of the online video variety) is new territory for Gilsdorf and he candidly admits his prejudices and preconceived notions. In the end, his book is a quest of personal discovery of which gamers of all stripes will readily identify. It is also a great read for those who know and love gamers and goes a long way toward explaining the attraction of gaming.
Since I have been a fantasy freak since the time when all you could do was read books and it was passing itself off as science fiction (take a spaceship to a planet where magic works), I was interested in what he had to say. I was glad he rediscovered why he loved immersing himself in fantasy, and the good it can do. When I was LARPing I saw many geeky kids try out many characters, learning how to relate to others, trying out leadership skills, and if they got into a mess, killing off that character and starting over again with a different one. Something you can't do in high school, where one dumb stunt can brand you for years. Plus you get used to saving the world, not somethig available to other kids, ad thatcan give them the feeling they can have a real impact on the world around them and look for ways to do that. If you are a freak or a geek, read this to find out who else is out there. If not, read it to enter into a new world.
Fantasy Freaks is more than one man's discovery of the wide variety of gaming and role-playing options. Gilsdorf's journey across the great geek divide becomes a search of society's need for escapism, and his own need to reconcile the geek war within himself. It is a collection of individual's stories of coping, of celebrating, of living-it is a story of acceptism and growing up. This book deals with the fantasy-based board games like Dungeons & Dragons, building an authentic thirteenth-century castle, weekend role playing, reenactments, and the most current computer based games like WoW. Gilsdorf touches briefly on Dragon*Con, a convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film. Although his journey and experiences rest firmly in the gaming and role-playing genre, geekdom is widespread. All fanatics (whether, Disney, Anime, gaming, movie, comic or even social networking like Facebook or Twittering) can relate to the subject matter of escapism and social snubbing. Like LARPing, Disney freaks dress in their character garb as they stroll through the parks in California, and Florida playing out some fantasy life among the Main Streets of Magic Kingdom. During those magical hours the "real" world disappears. Like Tolkien fans (and gamers), Potter and Twilight fan too plaster their walls, shelves, and floors with paraphernalia, dress as their favorite characters, and line up hours before book releases. Fans fantasize about living the lives of these characters, escaping into another world if only for a chapter or two. Ethan Gilsdorf has a unique chapter style. Each main chapter has numerous sub-chapters (mini-chapters with chapters) which allows him to go off on several adventures within the same forest. Gilsdorf's often funny and candid, journalistic-style of writing is full of easy to understand information for even the non-geeks. The vivid details, capturing all the senses, of his experiences have the reader racing down dark dungeon halls and jumping on the backs of scorpion right along with him. His book is a valuable tool for understanding the "whys" of the gaming/role-playing world to those "gaming widows" and oblivious moms and dads. To further explain terms, his book has footnotes and at the end of the book he includes a glossary to sum up the meaning of terms and abbreviations just in case you missed it the first time. Geekdom comes in many forms in today's society. If one searches deep enough the discovery of escapism can be found in most of us from young to old, rich to poor, educated to drop-out. It is within all of us, it is just a matter of recognizing what particular "geek button" triggers our rockets to launch us into another world. Whether it's for a half-hour a week watching our favorite sitcom, three hours on Sunday wishing we too were on the football field making touchdowns, or a lifetime of weekends building a castle we find comfort in our escape. I highly recommend Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geek: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, who knows you might discover deep down that a geek or a freak lurks within.
I really loved this book and the way it was so well written. There are so many people out there that look negatively at people who like to roleplay, whether it is dressing up or simply playing a video game online. This brought a lot of humor with it too. I would recommend this for anyone to read, even if they're not interested in the world of fantasy and sci-fi. I really loved all the information that this book contained. I am a geek so I could totally relate to everything in this book. I found that all the information in this book is true. I could understand the struggles that the author found during his time writing and researching this book. Overall, I love this book. It is an excellent look into this thriving community of fantasy and sci-fi fans as well as those who are into the constantly evolving gaming lifestyle. Pick it up! You won't regret it.
As a teenager, Ethan Gilsdorf turned to Dungeons & Dragons to escape from the difficulties of life with a mother who'd suffered serious brain damage in the wake of an aneurysm. In later years, he deliberately recoiled from pursuits he regarded as geeky in favor of attempting to be "cool," until, at the age of 41, a building midlife crisis and a sudden uncontrollable obsession with the Lord of the Rings movies sent him back for a second look at games and fantasy and at the people who never gave them up. As an unrepentant geek and sometime gamer myself, I had rather conflicted feelings about the author at first. Part of me cannot help a certain attitude of disdainful pity towards anyone willing to give up things they enjoy in order to fit in, while another part of me simply wanted to pat the guy on the head and say, "There, there, it's all right. Come on over to the Geeky Side. We have snacks!"It quickly became clear, however, that Gilsdorf regards his initial self-conscious discomfort among the fans and gamers as his problem, not theirs, and his description of his sojourns at gaming conventions and SCA events demonstrates a real understanding of and even affection for the people involved. There is absolutely no pointing and laughing here, just the tale of one man on a sincere quest for a way to come to terms with his inner geek.In the process, he does a lot of thinking about the appeal of fantasy and the nature of escapism. Most of it's valid to some degree, I think, and it involves what feels like some very honest personal reflection, but it's not necessarily terribly original or insightful. Neither are his conclusions about the people he encounters, really. Folks who frequent Renaissance fairs or join Tolkien fan clubs are mostly sane, happy people doing things they enjoy? Gosh, really? Sometimes people do play more World of Warcraft than is good for them? You don't say!Not that it isn't nice to see a book that gets it right. I do wonder, though, exactly who the audience for this is. It seems to me that the people mostly likely to pick it up are those of us who are already interested in this stuff, and it's not telling us anything we don't already know. (Indeed, it's actually kind of odd for me to read a book delving into the strange world of things that are in fact perfectly ordinary among people in my social circles.) On the other hand, I like reading about subcultures different from my own, so maybe some people who pick this up will need that explanation of what Dungeons & Dragons is. And if they do, it's nice to think that they'll at least get a decent representation of the kinds of people who play it.
I felt that I had made the journey with him. I was surpised how fast I finished his book. I would recommend the book to everyone.