Speak Out with Your Geek Out: Sense of Community

It’s Speak Out with Your Geek Out week, during which self-described geeks blog about various positive aspects of geek culture.

As an unabashed geek, I’m all over that.

One of the most important aspects of geek culture is the fact that geeks have each other’s backs, as illustrated by the very idea of SOwYGO; Monica Valentinelli came up with the idea after witnessing the development of a geek-bashing thread on a pay-per-click website.  It’s also illustrated by the outpouring of support for one of geekdom’s most brilliant lights: sf/f/h writer, critic, and mentor Edward W. Bryant.

Ed has been a fixture in the speculative fiction world since the early 1970s, when he first began publishing short fiction.  Not long after that, he founded the Northern Colorado Writers Workshop, from which many of the most successful writers in speculative fiction and mystery have graduated, including Connie Willis, Dan Simmons, Melanie Tem, Steve Rasnic Tem, and John Dunning.

Although Ed has published hundreds of stories, essays, and reviews, perhaps his greatest legacy will be his longstanding mentoring in the sf/f/h community.  He is an unabashedly kind man, and has patiently helped hundreds of fledgling writers and pro writers alike improve their writing and critiquing skills.  He is well-spoken, with a resonant, commanding-yet-gentle baritone voice, and he has irresistable charisma and charm.  If we were to apply old-school D&D stats to him, I think his charisma would be a natural 18, and his intelligence would have to be up there, as well.

Ed has been a Type I diabetic since 1968, the same year he attended the Clarion writer’s workshop and launched his writing career.  As he has progressed in years, the diabetes has become a frequent issue due to nerve degeneration.  He recently finished a ten day stay in a Denver-area hospital with a bout of gastroparesis, his fourth in the last three years.  In addition, doctors discovered that his esophagus has slowly been turning to scar tissue over that time, a result of the repeated bouts of gastroparesis.  He also had open heart surgery a few years ago.  The health problems have taken a toll on his writing, and his output has dropped dramatically since the heart surgery.  Unfortunately, this also means his income has dropped accordingly.

Here’s where the geek community shines.  Ed’s friends, students, and neighbors banded together in late 2008 to form the loosely-knit Friends of Ed Bryant organization.  The Friends of Ed Bryant website and Facebook group formed shortly thereafter.  The purpose was to get the word out to all the people who love and respect Ed that his health and finances were in jeopardy; it was time for the geek community to step up and pay back some of what Ed had given to us over the last four decades.  And pay back we did!  Within a couple of weeks, we had enough donations of money, labor, and medical supplies to dig Ed out of the financial bind he was in at the time.

Folks, it’s time to pitch in again.  Ed is currently facing the very real possibility of losing his home due to unpaid property taxes.  Eventually, he will likely sell that house and move into some form of assisted living arrangement, but right now, he needs to get the taxes paid so he can buy time to sell the house.  The Friends of Ed have mobilized again to solicit donations on his behalf, as well as brainstorming ideas to help him out over the long term.  Donations have started rolling in, some as little as $5, others in the hundreds, but we’re still far short of the amount he needs in order to pay the tax bill.  If you can afford anything — even $5 — please consider visiting the Friends of Ed website and giving what you can.  The donations are processed by Paypal and go directly into an account managed by the Colorado Fund for People with Disabilities.  Unfortunately, this is not a tax-deductable donation, but it does go to support one of the kindest, most influential writers in the geek community.  Ed has stood with us for nearly 40 years; it’s time for us to stand in support of one of our own.  Visit the Friends of Ed Bryant website, make a donation, and join the Facebook group to stay in the loop about Ed’s status.

Make me proud, fellow geeks.

R.I.P. Gary Gygax

Please forgive this minor interruption, but a shadow passed over my heart today. I read on CNN that Gary Gygax, co-creator of the Dungeons and Dragons game, died today at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

For those who are D&D detractors, it may not be news at all. But for me, this is very sad news, because I’ve been a gamer since about 1978, and D&D was an essential part of my formative years. I grew up in a world where I was constantly worried about nuclear destruction due to the Cold War, and for me, D&D not only offered an escape from grim reality, but it also encouraged my creativity in ways that school did not. Playing D&D taught me group dynamics, and I think that’s part of the reason I fit in successfully in whatever job I work. D&D taught me how to work cooperatively with others to solve problems, and it gave me more than a little humor over the years.

Although I am not currently active in a D&D game per se, I am still gaming, using the same skills, dice, and imagination that Gygax’s product first awakened in me.

R.I.P., Mr. Gygax. May your ride to Valhalla be pleasant.

What D&D Character Am I?

I’d have to say this survey is pretty close, and I’m a sucker for D&D stuff. I found it through bluejack’s site.

I Am A: Chaotic Good Elf Bard Ranger

Chaotic Good characters are independent types with a strong belief in the value of goodness. They have little use for governments and other forces of order, and will generally do their own things, without heed to such groups.

Elves are the eldest of all races, although they are generally a bit smaller than humans. They are generally well-cultured, artistic, easy-going, and because of their long lives, unconcerned with day-to-day activities that other races frequently concern themselves with. Elves are, effectively, immortal, although they can be killed. After a thousand years or so, they simply pass on to the next plane of existance.

Primary Class:
Bards are the entertainers. They sing, dance, and play instruments to make other people happy, and, frequently, make money. They also tend to dabble in magic a bit.

Secondary Class:
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.

Hanali Cenanil is the Chaotic Good elven goddess of love, beauty, and art. She is also known as the Heart of Gold and Lady Goldheart. Her followers delight in creation and youth, and work to spread happiness, love, and beauty. Their preferred weapon is the dagger.

Find out: What D&D Character Are You?

Tired & WotC

I am beat tonight. I will definitely be going to bed early. I won’t get any writing done tonight, but I will get some done tomorrow at lunch an also after Stories for All Seasons tomorrow night.

I did a little creative work tonight, though it was primarily tedious. If you look to your right, you should see that the scroll bar for this (and every page of this site) has turned an interesting shade of bluish-gray. I just figured the site could use a balancing effect for the spiral down the left side of the page. Whatever.

There is one more thing I want to cover before turning in. Today, my son got a letter from Wizards of the Coast, with his Magic: The Gathering DCI tournament card in it. He also claimed that a hand-written letter accompanied it. In this day of custom-printed mail merges, I figured he had just gotten a well done form letter written in some kind of cursive font. I asked to see the letter.

To my surprise, he actually got a hand written letter from someone named Dee Bleifield (sorry if I’m mutilating your name, Dee), a DCI tournament director that he had met while visiting his Mom in Texas. Dee took the time to hand write his letter, complete with her direct phone number and an offer to call her if he needed help finding local tournaments.

That’s pretty damn cool. Evidently WotC hasn’t lost all the small company feel that TSR used to have in its early days. I remember sending a query letter to Kim Mohan, who was then editing Dragon magazine, asking if he would be interested in an article submission about D & D druids and listing different specs for some possible animal forms that high-level druids could assume. I was only a couple of years older than my son is now. Kim responded to me with a personal letter, saying that he would be interested in seeing the article, though I’m sure he knew that the person behind the query letter was still very wet behind the ears. I’ve always remembered that, though I never got up the guts to send in the article.

It seems that Dee has tapped into that same importance in the youth market. Keith, my son, will always remember getting a personal letter from a Wizards of the Coast staff member, just as I remember getting the letter from Kim Mohan. If WotC ever revives Amazing Stories (please please please) I will definitely submit something to him this time.

(Update, 12/9/2014: Amazing Stories has indeed been revived, but not by WotC. It’s now being run by Steve Davidson.)