Let’s all get real and try to face up to the plain, geeky facts: Geeks are sizzling red hot today. They’re all the cool, nerdy rage. Geeks seem to define - or perhaps elegantly redefine - much of everything these days. High tech gadgets, cool, game changing business startups and much of global pop culture all are now heavily influenced by a decidedly geeky kinda vibe. If you're a Geek, you're in exceptionally good company. You are also an appreciator of classic literature - whether you know it or not.
Hey, wait a minute! Hold the smartphone! I’m a geek! Classic literature!? I don’t do Shakespeare! I dig The Avengers, Deadpool and Justice League!
Is that what you’re thinking? Please. Breathe deeply. Bear with me, as I make a persuasive case for geeks and a classic literature connection.
We can turn our ears to listen to pop music geekery. Are musical geeks just passionate and really skilled at what they love to do in life? Is Beyonce a Geek? Wild and wacky gal Lady Gaga? British crooner Adele? We wouldn’t be quick to put them in such a category, but maybe we should. Geeky good things can be sung about their wildly successful pop music that's for sure.
If comic book movies are a mark of geek cred, then celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) are essentially iconic Hollywood Geeks. It’s all geek good. However, before all that comic book, pulp fiction goodness, there were the bigger books. These books are often leather bound and first editions often command major scratch. Classic Literature.
Is Harry Potter classic literature? Well, for some, the boy wizard’s exploits are definitely classic goodness, but author JK Rowling’s magic romp is still a wee bit new to call an out and out classic. Still, one could argue that with the amount of fans, profit and pop culture influence, Mister Potter must be included in the literary brilliance of the greats and he's on par with Merlin now or The Wicked Witch Of The West. Speaking of author Frank Baum’s The Wizard of OZ, that’s one classic lit that’s beyond geek cred. It's a global icon, yet it can still be embraced with fond geekiness by geeks of all stripes everywhere.
Today’s zombie craze with hit TV shows such as AMC’s The Walking Dead and Netflix’s Z-Nation owe a great debt to the dear, dead daddy who first thrilled humanity into believing the dead could walk again; literature’s most popular reanimated corpse - Frankenstein.
British author Mary Shelley crafted her legendary tale of nightmare science fiction as a kind of entry for an informal writing competition with her friends and her lover, and eventual future husband, the writer and poet Percy Shelley. Shelly gave the world her spark of passionate literary creativity, just as she gave her tortured creation the spark of life through its creator, Dr. Frankenstein.
The original Frankenstein creation - creature or monster - isn’t a shambling zombified mass of a ghoul. This isn’t a monster lacking smarts. Instead, writer Shelly imbued him with elegance and high intelligence - something sorely lacking from the majority of the dead heads being showcased in movies and TV shows these days. Compared with the dim witted bulbs called 'walking dead' we see milling around pop culture today, Frankenstein’s corpse creation was a real genius.
Before the romantic rascals vamping it up in the Twilight feature film series, before the flashy, sex appeal of TV’s The Vampire Diaries - there came unto the world the royal bloodsucker and fang sporting bad ass himself, Count Dracula. A nightmarish hybrid of fact and fiction from Irish author Bram Stoker, Dracula gave the world a monster to fear, love and even one to root for on more than one occasion.
After the landmark film in 1931, starring Bela Lugosi, Dracula’s potent incarnation spawned many an imitator and outright clone. Dozens of films and TV shows have produced with him as supernatural star. The bloodline is still being felt today. It has crossed into the geek domain - appearing in animation or anime and even many video games, such as the Castlevania franchise.
There are so many examples of geeks and vampires co-existing and living happily ever after, but one of the most popular is movie turned TV show, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Buffy and her 'Scooby Gang' fought the undead - and every other manner of thing - on television, after a lukewarm response to a feature film starring Luke Perry of TV's megahit show Beverly Hills, 90210.Angel, starring actor David Boreanaz, a Buffy spin-off, featuring a handsome vampire with a restored soul joined the fright fun. The two shows have all sorts of geek tie-ins - including video games and comic books based upon creator Joss Whedon’s (TheAvengers) wonderfully geeky characters.
Dr. Jekyll & Mister Hyde (1886)
Robert Louis Stevenson gave the world the dual personality of Jekyll and Hyde. With his compelling creation, he also inspired one of comic book’s most beloved and famous characters - The Incredible Hulk.
Hyde is a manifestation of the proper Jekyll’s other side - his dark, gluttonous and even wicked nature. It’s this intrinsic duality which fascinates fans so much about the classic character, and has caused so many comic book geeks to embrace the similar predicament of Marvel Comics' Bruce Banner and his super powered and brutish alter ego.
The untapped rage which resides in some amount in all of humanity is the trigger and fiery fuel when Banner unleashes his jade skinned behemoth. Like a monster from myth - fellow Avenger Thor calls the Hulk Banner’s Troll - the Hulk bursts forth to level the playing field and mete out justice through his awesome brute force.
War of The Worlds & The Invisible Man (1897)
H.G. Wells didn’t invent one of the most geeky of literary genres - science fiction - but he certainly added to its visionary reputation and intellectual heft.
Wells explored the frightening concept of a highly advanced alien race (from neighbor Mars) invading Earth and brutally attacking humanity, in his classic story War of The Worlds. With, The Invisible Man, the British writer speculated on what would happen if a scientist stumbled on a potion to make himself invisible - and what the dire consequences would be once he realized he couldn’t return to the land of the visible.
Today, geeks love their space opera epics, such as Star Wars, Star Trek and StarGate. Wells craftily brought the whole ‘space wars’ into our collective consciousness way back in the late 1800’s. As for a cloak of invisibility, Sue Storm (Invisible Girl) of Marvel’s Fantastic Four is an invisible woman who isn’t mentally plagued by her fantastic power, but uses it for the good of all humankind. She's a powerful super heroine and her classic literature connection is all too visible.
Stephen King - Pretty Much All He Writes
His literary output and popularity is that of an American Charles Dickens - gifting us with spine tinglers drizzled over with biting social commentary and keen observation. He’s a best selling author, screenwriter and sometime actor. He’s a respected household name. He’s the King.
His work isn’t as old as Hemingway’s or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, and some may charge that he’s not as important a literary voice, but with simply counting his first novel Carrie and ghost story The Shining among his repertoire of work, we can appreciate the classic feel of Stephen King’s hefty contributions in literature.
We can even rightly point to King’s horror cred as being geeky in and of itself - a kind of fan of King’s work as a ‘King Geek’ - devoted to reading his books and awaiting them to come to production in blockbuster movie adaptations. What’s probably most fun about King’s resume is his writing and acting in a pulp fiction film - Creepshow.
Released in 1982, and directed by George Romero, Creepshow is a brilliantly realized tribute to the dread fun of horror comic books and pulp fiction. King stars in the segment, The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill, and it’s a funny, though ultimately sad sci-fi horror romp about a man who’s taken over by a meteorite’s alien vegetation. Part science fiction, part horror tale, and all geeky fun, the film marries comic book fun and pulp fiction folklore into a real joyride.
It’s clear our classic literature has had a huge impact on geek lit and geek culture. From the thriller and horror genre - with pulp fiction like Tales From The Crypt and Creepshow - to the super hero powered comic book tales of Jekyll and Hyde like characters ala Hulk or crime fighting invisible women such as Fantastic Four's Sue Storm (Invisible Girl), classic literature influences hip pop culture. It has been a dependable, solid foundation for so many geek preoccupations in our modern times.