It’s a Geek’s Life… (Part One)

Here’s the first part (of three) in the story of my rise to geekhood.

Early Days in the Sixties – Genesis of a Geek

I’m a card-carrying geek. I’ve always been a geek. I’ve been one all my life, right from when I was a very young child, and I simply can’t conceive of being any other way. It’s as natural for me as breathing.

I’m also not one of those shy, retiring types who tries to hide the fact that I’m a geek out of view, for fear of ridicule. I’ve always been very proud of my geek status. I don’t give a damn who knows it or who doesn’t like it. They can all take a great running leap off the top of a high building, as far as I’m concerned.

My early childhood was not a particularly happy one, what little of it I can recall. My family was poor, very poor, and we never had much in the line of material goods. For much of the time it was a struggle for our parents to even feed and clothe us. We also lived on a council estate in Northern Ireland during that infamous period in Irish history known as “The Troubles”, which began in 1968 (I was only seven years old at the time), and was to last right up into my thirties. It overshadowed my entire earlier life, and for everyone of my generation who lived through it, it was a dark time, full of tensions, fear, and unhappiness.

Any kind of an escape from the dreary and depressing reality of life in a poverty-stricken, 1960’s Northern Ireland council estate was a welcome one, and so I took every chance I could to escape from “real life” into the realms of my incredibly active imagination. But WHEN did I actually become a geek, and, more importantly, HOW and WHY? Why did I choose that path, rather than follow the more mundane hobbies that the vast majority of other kids my age indulged in?

I suppose it all began at a very early age, before I’d even started school, back when I started to read my first “proper” books (books with lots of words, rather than mere “picture books”). By the time I first went to school (aged four and a half years), I was already a voracious reader, very advanced for my age, and my parents and other relatives encouraged me as much as possible by continually giving me new books to read. My uncle started buying me books on a regular basis, and these were invariably based around science, nature and technology. They were full of dinosaurs, spaceships, and stories of other worlds and solar systems, all of which captivated my fertile young imagination. My preferences were already being shaped around science-oriented themes even at that early age.

Even this early in life, I showed a very strong preference for the fantastic rather than the mundane, for wild adventures into space and through time, dinosaurs, aliens, indeed anything “out of this world”. I took every chance I could to escape from boring “real life” into the realms of my incredibly active imagination. So all the influences and obsessions of a future geek had already been laid down right from the start. It was almost like I was pre-ordained to become a geek, although we all know that couldn’t be true, could it?

Soon afterwards, at about four or five years old, I started reading comics and quickly developed a strong preference for the more SF-oriented strips over the less fantasy-oriented stories, particularly the war and sport strips which were more dominant in British comics at that time. And around the same time, I also started paying attention to sci-fi and fantasy films and sci-fi television series on UK TV.

Doctor Who, on UK television, started having its first really strong influence on me about 1966-67, when I was about six years old, and at about roughly the same time, my life was changed forever when I saw the classic George Pal movie adaption of The Time Machine (1960) for the first time on Irish television (RTE). I became totally obsessed with the concept of time travel, which remains my favourite SF theme even now. At the young age of six or seven, I was already a confirmed SF nut, at least as far as comics, films and television were concerned.

As a direct result of this obsession with The Time Machine (1960) movie and Doctor Who, I was also to start reading SF. About a year or two after I’d seen the movie, I found the original H. G. Wells’ novel The Time Machine in a local library, and I just had to read it. I was hooked, despite the drastic differences between the novel and the film, and moved from there on to reading anything else I could find by Wells, then on to Verne, Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein and the greater world of SF authors at large. I’ve never looked back, and remain a hardcore SF literature fan to this day.

As I got older, I immersed myself ever further into the fascinating world of comics, watching sci-fi TV and films, reading great SF books, and also drawing and writing, almost always something connected with the aforementioned comics, books, TV series and films.

I drove my poor parents mad. They just didn’t “get” sci-fi at all, but humoured their crazy kid. My father really hated all of this “silly sci-fi nonsense”, and Doctor Who in particular, but tolerated it when I was very young. He hoped desperately that I’d “grow out of it” as I got older, but there was absolutely no chance of that happening! Here I am, more than forty years later, and still a hardcore SF fan.

Poor Dad! He must be turning in his grave!

To Be Continued…

Welcome to SF Universe!

I‘d like to welcome anyone who is reading this to SF Universe. The SF Universe blog is, as the name would suggest, a geek blog, and very heavily oriented towards all things science fiction, although there are also many other things that I’m interested in. Here are some of the things which will be featuring in the blog:

SF in books, the Real Deal, proper science fiction in literary form, from the Scientific Romances of the Nineteenth Century to the most modern SF novels and short fiction.

Sci-fi on television, otherwise known as telefantasy. The best in television sci-fi series from the end of the 1940s (Captain Video and His Video Rangers) to the newest TV sci-fi of the Twenty-First Century.

Sci-fi at the cinema, the best SF, fantasy and horror films on the Big Screen and DVD, spanning more than a century from the very first sci-fi film (Georges Méliès’ Le Voyage dans la Lune) in 1902 to the present.

Comics and Graphic Novels, another big interest of mine. Sci-fi comics, superhero comics, manga and more, original comics, hardback/trade paperback collections and OGNs (original graphic novels), I’ll be discussing all of those in upcoming posts.

Science, particularly Palaeontology, Geology, Evolution, Biology, and Bioengineering, Physics, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space Exploration and Cosmology. I’ve always been fascinated by science, particularly those branches mentioned here.

History of all kinds, both modern and ancient. It doesn’t matter to me how far we go back, as I’ve never paid any attention to the history/prehistory division. It’s all “the past” to me. I’ll also lump anything to do with Archaeology and Anthropology in this section, as they are closely related topics. Take things right back to the beginnings of civilization and beyond, right back to the earliest developments of the human race, our first appearance as a species on Planet Earth.

Computers, desktop publishing, computer graphics, computer animation, the internet, blogging and web design, all of these are (relatively, compared to those above, all of which I’ve followed since childhood) more recent interests of mine, computers since the mid-1980’s and the internet since 1995. But they still manage to eat up about 90% of my leisure time these days.

The bulk of the posts will obviously be on the subjects of SF literature, sci-fi television and cinema, and comics, but there’ll be occasional posts on the other topics mentioned above as well. All the above, and much more, are fair game for various posts and articles, and most of these topics have categories of their own. Indeed virtually anything that tickles my fancy is ripe for discussion, and anything that doesn’t fit into the regular categories can be found under General.