Nerd Cred: The Reckoning


Mary, don't panic.
Mary, I was once just where you are - the goddam planet thing convinced me to put off reading it - what, some sort of Keep On Truckin' hippy bullshit intruding on geekdom?

Don't worry about not liking it. It's impossible.
Jesus, please get over yourself, lady.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is NOT science fiction. It's just a pun machine. A very funny pun machine, but that's it. Neuromancer is your real lack. I insist still!
There is no god to help you, Mary. The babelfish killed him.

& again, you should really try to listen to it on audiobook as read by Adams. His inflections are priceless. You'll get more out of it, I promise thee.
The wacky thing is, most of the humor in Hitchhiker isn't wacky, it's very smart and sarcastic and subtle and sublime (I'm on the S section of my encyclopedia collection). It's not a bunch of gross out humor or dick-and-fart jokes or Steve-Martin-with-the-arrow-through-the-head stuff.

I think you'll like it.
There's a reason HITCHHIKER's catchphrases became iconic. I'm sure it's funnier in memory than it actually is, but it's good solidly written fluffy humor that doesn't try to take itself too seriously.
LOtR, do yourself a favor and listen to the audiobook first, but do read it.
Its funny, but Chicago Fan is correct. HGTTG is not science fiction, it is something funny that nerds like.

If you were a real nerd, you would be on the #jococruisecrazy right now with Wil Wheaton, Jonathon Coulton, John Hodgeman and a cast of other wacky nerds.

I wish I were there, damn work schedule and lack of a wife who refuses to go to another Coulton concert since teenage nerd boys do not bathe regularly.
I tried to explain that teenage boys all smell that way, it is not jus the nerds, but she didnt buy it.
Authors almost never have input into the cover of their books. Thus the saying.

And I know you tried once and failed, but it's pretty much mandatory to read The Hobbit before tackling LOTR.
Are you supposed to be a resident nerd? I like to think I read slog pretty regularly-did I miss something?
You'll like it :)
@8 I would freaking LOVE to be on that cruise. I'm sad they all stopped tweeting while they're at sea... I have loved John Hodgman since his first essay on This American Life. None of those dudes qualify as "wacky"... they are all smart and truly funny.

@9 I was in third grade or something when I attempted it, I was most certainly too young.
It's not just the general "don't judge a book by its cover" thing. SF covers are notoriously bad. Books are written by authors, a profession which generally requires a brain. Covers are often selected by people who are a hideous crossbreed of advertising rep and PR hack, often without actually reading the book. I bet Paul Constant could tell you some horror stories.
If your glasses are not held together by tape and you don't have a pocket protector, you need more work. And do not pop those pimples. They add to the general character.
FYI: Douglas Adams wrote the Radio Drama a year before he wrote the first the book. There are story lines in the Radio Drama that are simply not in the book. The Bird People of Brontitall is basically a short sentance in the book, but they spend hours on that subjetc in the radio drama.

Radio Series is incredibly easy to find in MP3 format.
You may be too late already. Hitchhiker's is best read when you're in highschool. Anytime thereafter, it's a risky read at best.
I actually wrote a large portion of my dissertation on how book covers mis-categorize texts, influencing the reputations of authors. J.D. Salinger very famously HATED the Signet edition cover of Cather in the Rye and actually used its breach of contract (his contract said no illustration) to move to another publisher.

We do judge books by their covers, primarily in terms of genre and canonicity. Wouldn't need a rule against it if we didn't do it.
Listening to the radio series is a much better experience than reading the books.
what is up with everyone talking about how sooooo nerdy they are?? you need to read that Patton Oswalt article in wired.…

when I think of nerds, I think of my dorm room freshman year of college. The two kids that were roommates next door to me hardly ever left their room. they each had separate computers on either side of their tiny dorm room and they would stay up all night back to back with headphones on playing each other in online computer games.
ALSO they played that damn magic game and had a bunch of those little metal figurines that look like wizards and dragons that they would hand paint and then do battle with. And their pants were all highwaters. And they tucked in their t shirts. They were nice enough kids but THOSE guys were f'ing nerds.
Why do you want to be known as a nerd if you don't like to do the things nerds do?
Actually, if there's anything I've learned from four years of working at a bookstore, it's that you can and often SHOULD judge a book by its cover.
Ray Bradbury... Isaac Asimov... Douglas Adams...

Perhaps someday you'll read scientifiction from the current millennium?

(Yes, I know Ray Bradbury is still alive and writing.)
How is Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy not science fiction?
1: If HGTTG doesn't meet your definition of SF, you have a very narrow definition of SF.
2: Mary: If you're new to Tolkien, I'd recommend starting off with The Hobbit, which reads much more smoothly and predates LOTR anyways. I'm a huge fan of Tolkien, but he's a tough read if you haven't trained for it.
@19 Wow, you basically described my apartment. I don't have a roommate at the moment, but a few of my friends and I are big into Minecraft at the moment so we have "LAN" parties on a regular basis.
My lack of style followed me until a few years after college- you should have seen the oversized clothes filling my closet.
So yeah, I'm a nerd. Kinda a geek, outgrew the dork.
Most science fiction actually occupies multiple genres. With spaceships etc. HGG fulfills one of the genre requirements of SF; but there's no particular science to it--I side with Asimov etc. who define SF as having some actual, you know, science.

Neuromancer, for instance, is as much a Crime Novel, subgenre Heist plot, as it is SF. As I, Robot is a police procedural, set in the future, with robots. Because the SF generic features are the farthest removed from "realism," any text with SF features gets categorized as SF (with some rare exceptions, like 1984, which was predicated on then-nonexistent science/technology, so is SF, but is primarily dystopian political fiction).

HGG, for me, the SF elements are just a pretext for good jokes, puns, humor. I'd categorize it as primarily a comic novel, with some SF elements.
I hate that little green guy too. He isn't in the book though. I hope my post in your last thread didn't come off as angry. I thought it was a given that 'nerd' is so loosely defined that it practically has no meaning. You're a nerd if you call yourself one, and you're a nerd to other people if they call you one. That's about it.
@16 is correct. You've missed your window. The only thing you're going to get from THGTTG now is being able to catch the in-jokes. You're already there to some extent; being able to say "42" is maybe 75% of it.

With LOTR too; it's a high-school book, a college book if you're a little behind. Third grade is only slightly early for "The Hobbit", actually; I would peg it at the sixth grade level. The problem is that the language is rather more advanced (in grade level, not quality) than the storytelling.
There's a Hitchhikers Guide audiobook read by Stephen Fry that is awesome. The only sad thing is he doesn't read the rest of the books in the series...
Chicago fan, I would like to read your dissertation. John Scalzi talks about how the cover art for his books and how he has no choice in who does what.
I also had a lovely email conversation with Jacquiline Carey, author of 'Kushiel's Dart' about the cover art and how she was terrified when she looked up the artist's other work. But the cover for her books TOTALLY works in tandem with the book themes.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is indeed Science Fiction.

Parallel Dimensions.
Hyper Dimensions.
Particle Physics.
Alien Planets.
Alien Planet Building.
Artificial Intelligence.

All hallmarks of scifi. In fact, to find discussions about how HHGTTG isnt scifi is to find links to this very thread because only morons or internet trolls will claim it isnt.
You should do a post next asking each person to name one book you should read in the sci-fi realm (and only one book to keep it reasonable), and then do a poll of the ones that get the most nods, and you are forced to read and review the winner. I'd suggest this, even if you don't do that loony idea:… -- probably my favorite modern sci-fi book.
@19 my friends and I left our dorm rooms, but it was to go play D&D...

@26 are you forgetting the dichotomy of "hard" vs. "soft" sci-fi, or are you actually suggesting that H2G2 is *fantasy*?
The poll wasn't clear on whether Mary is legally bound to read all 5 books in the trilogy, or just the first - both the first book and the trilogy are named HGTTG. Even if you only consider yourself committed to the first book, please consider reading the first 3 at least; I'd say the 2nd and 3rd are the funniest.

Also, I disagree with the comments above saying that you have to read the Hobbit before LOTR. LOTR has an introduction, and numerous allusions through the trilogy, that will tell you all the background you need to know from the Hobbit. Also, the tone is different: as Fnarf points out, the Hobbit is a children's book, and LOTR is not.

Personally, I don't care for children's books; if I had read the Hobbit first, and had assumed that LOTR was a thousand more pages of the same, I probably would never have read LOTR. Reading LOTR first made me curious to go back a few times and try the Hobbit - but so far I haven't been able to get through it.
I still have the paperback edition I got for my birthday 29 years ago. It's tattered, yellowed, and beat to shit. It's also autographed. It's the second oldest possession I have.

It also contains my favorite everyday retort for people who say stupid things: "Very deep, You should send that in to the Reader's Digest. They've got a page for people like you."

Also, the Total Perspective Vortex from the 2nd book... I'm still waiting for someone to build it.
That's funny, Joe, because I've had that book sitting here since . . . well, since it first came out. I've never been able to make it beyond a hundred pages or so.
Well, you seem to be making great strides towards mastery of the great nerd pastime wherein you explain to somebody who likes something that you don't exactly why they're wrong to like it, driving this point home with a painstaking series of cogent arguments that prove definitively that their preference is the result of inferior intelligence.

Watch how Fnarf does it sometime if you want to see a true master in action.
It's not wacky, it's British.
Mary, you're not going to accomplish anything here but wind up being a poseur. You don't even have your terms right; the word you're thinking of is "geek". Nerds are much more academic and generally a lot smarter than geeks, but will never actually get laid at Dragoncon.

Odds are you probably love something enough to qualify as being a geek about it, though. There are cooking geeks and NASCAR geeks and even dope geeks (check out the MM forums). And nerds. None of this is somehow limited to a genre.

And if your thing is needlepoint or collecting colostomy bags, you shouldn't have any trouble at all relating to someone whose thing happens to be something different because what you're really talking about is a level of interest and enthusiasm.

You won't get that from a bunch of mainstream touchstones.
5280, the opening of the book is the roughest, since you're hit with really off the wall imagery and the introduction of the Tines species, which is mostly alien to what we think of as most alien races in fiction. Telling parts of the story from the POV of non-humanoid alien intelligences and from the POV of alien creatures that are composite life forms made up of other individual sapient life is pretty hard to get into at first, but once he lays out the basics of those, and pulls in more of the human characters finally (circa pg 80-110 or 120 I think it was?) it really takes off in a more accessible fashion.
@4- You're trolling, right?
Hey Joe @40. I'm a big fan too. both of Fire upon the Deep and Deepness in the Sky by Vinge. Sorry he didn't write more. Very creative, fun but leaving you a lot of powerful images on a macro scale along with a lot of interesting ruminations on the nature of thought and biology. Now I want to read them again!

And Hitchhiker's is really a bit short for a serious reader. You should do the whole series. Although personally I never fell in love with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, for some reason.

I do have to agree that the series is probably best read in high school. I think the blatant bizarreness gets less amusing as you age, even though it is quite cleverly written.
Mary: Don't read the last book! No!
@44- Why not? It really was a bit of genius.
I have to agree with you about the cover art too, Mary. I hate that green guy, and the silly cover put me off it for years. Everyone said I had to read it, but I looked at that goofy cover and just couldn't make myself buy it. I really only purchased it under duress. If not for that lame cover, I probably would have bought it years earlier than I did.
The UK edition had a different cover:…
Problem solved?
Don't just watch the movie; we will be able to tell.
@28. Hitchhiker's still can still enjoyable for adults. So can Lord of the Rings. Both were written by intelligent literate authors well into their later lives, and not for children specifically.

Maybe I'm missing out on some developmental milestone to adulthood, but books that were funny and exciting when I was younger, are still fun now.
and in fact this is the ORIGINAL Cover from the initial printing:…

Only the US had the smiling dickhead green orb.
Yeah, FWA. The book hadn't even been written yet when I was a teenager, and I managed to enjoy it just fine.
HHGTTG is something you probably won't like. The humor is definitely dated. As the books become less funny, they become much better. The HHGTTG series becomes a lot more interesting as sci-fi in books 3 and 5, because a lot more scientific concepts come into play. 1 and 2 are basically comedic, with a couple of sci-fi elements, and 4 is the most unlike any of the other books. They're all short, though, so you should read the lot.

LOTR is completely unlike The Hobbit, but I agree that you should read it first - because even though it's a children's book, it did predate LOTR, and its radically different tone is well-suited to the way the story unfolds between the two books. As a side geek note, you should know that Tolkien actually devised complete languages which some of the characters in the book speak, complete with verb conjugations, etc. Also: the poetry in LOTR pretty much sucks balls, but there's a fair bit of it.
I have trouble with wacky, too, but Hitchhiker's Guide was read to me as a bedtime/long roadtrip story as a kid and I can't help but love it. It's silly, but mostly tolerable.

If your wacky-aversion doesn't extend to everything ever made by the BBC, their miniseries is pretty true to the book, too.

Also @24: really? The Hobbit is what turned me off of Tolkein in 5th grade -- never made it through the rest of the books because of it. My Tolkein fan friends let me know that trying to start with the Hobbit was apparently a terrible choice because it is way slower.
I..uh...painted the green planet guy on a little cabinet for my bedroom when my parents let me redecorate when I was in high school.

Of course, I also had hot pink walls and gray carpeting, and I painted all my furniture black. So I suppose my taste was rather suspect anyhow...
Give me The Silmarillion over Hobbit/LoTR any day. Mythmaking at its very finest.
If you dislike the little green guy, you're in good company, given that the author stated he hated it too. The picture (the Cosmic Cutie) was added on the American versions based on the theory that Americans were too stupid to figure out which books were part of the same series without something connecting them.

The Hobbit is also the reason I did not read Tolkien. I wish I had not tried to start with The Hobbit, but I did so when I was young, got partway through, and became disgusted with the inability to tell the dwarves apart.
Leave LOTR out of this. LOTR is not, repeat NOT nerd material. Tolkien is geek material. There is NO connection between the writings of Tolkien and nerd cornerstones like D&D or WOW, despite the uneducated insistence of the general public that "well, they all have goblins". The literature of Tolkien is consumed in greater quantity by socially "normal" people than by the basement-bound sci-fi-lovin monty-python-memorizing hacker "nerd" culture Mary is attempting to tap into.
@30 No one's wanted to read my dissertation in years, but if you've got some university library connection someplace, you can probably get it on interlibrary loan from Northwestern's library. Email me and I'll send you the call # info. Email findable on Northwestern's English Dept. website.
@58- No connection between Tolkien and D&D? You mean aside from THE ENTIRE BASIC SETTING OF D&D BEING RIPPED OFF OF TOLKIEN.

Jesus, nerds trying to be all like "My kind of nerd is better than that kind of nerd." is just pathetic. You're a fucking nerd, you're not better than any other nerd.
@57- You tell them apart by their hood colors.

Seriously, J.R.R. would have been better served by about half as many dwarves. All he really needed were Thorin (the boss), Balin (2nd in command), Fili and Kili (interchangeable but useful youths) and Bofur (the fat one. Hah, he's FAT! Watch him try to climb a tree or run fast. Hahahahahahaha!).
Why not get an e-reader and read the book electronically? Then you won't have to look at the cover all the time.