Andrea Bottlinger and Christian Humberg’s tongue-in-cheek book Geek Pray Love (2014, Cross Cult) is a nonfiction geek’s guide that sets out to explain the world to geeks and geeks to the world. While I am not sure that a non-geek would pick it up and get far enough to start learning something, it is an adorable, funny, and sometimes moving account of geek culture that combines the fictional coming-of-geek story of a teenager named Lukas with an amusing guide to geek culture, Germany specific.
“Today geeks are the kings of pop culture.” (5)
The novel inside the guide tells a stereotypical teenage geek story. Lukas gets beat up and made fun of at school. Lukas sees Star Wars for the first time and it changes his life, not only because he loves it and finds strength in the story, but because it leads him to a group of geeks who accept him for who he is and praise him for his science fictional drawings. He attends his first convention and his mind is not only blown, he experiences that warm blanket of tribal belonging present in places where geek numbers are high and with his new friends’ help, manages to get a handle on the bullying situation at school and get the geek girl. Though it is a stereotypical story, it will resonate with many geeks, and it is more than a little heart-wrenching to watch this kind and sweet human be bullied at school and then, more gently, by his father at home.
Geek Pray Love‘s informal, energetic prose is easy to read (it is written in German, and as it is Germany-specific, I doubt it will ever be translated), fun, and good for more than a few chuckles. Being a geek myself, I didn’t need anyone to explain to me about Lord of the Rings or butterbeer or conventions, but Geek Pray Love is a must read for any geek newly transplanted to Germany. It will make it easier for you to find your people in a new town for example, by explaining concepts like Stammtisch, a monthly meeting at a restaurant or bar common to all kinds of German clubs, but particularly helpful in finding the geek culture in your neighborhood. And guess what? Because many German geeks read in English—not wanting to wait for a German publisher to bring out a translation when their internet friends are all already talking about a book or movie that came out in America—you should never worry about not being able to keep up with the language. People will be happy to practice their English on you.
Most interesting for someone already baptized in the waters of geek culture was the insight into German-specific geek culture it gave. I began hoping to find a few more recommendations for German-languages science fiction and fantasy authors, and left with the realization that even in Germany the sun rises and sets on American SFF. While there is an abundance of German SFF, all anyone ever talks about is Perry Rhodan (the longest pulp SF serial of all time), Wolfgang Hohlbein (one of those fantasy authors who writes mediocre books faster than you can read them), and Andreas Eschbach and Wolfgang Jeschke, if you’re lucky. All the geeky food and drink ideas for your geeky meetings are from English-language SFF, as well as all of the quotes that Bottlinger and Humberg used throughout. I was a little disappointed by this because I am desperate for recommendations, but it paints a useful and accurate picture of the German SFF scene.
Illustrations by Martin Frei punctuate the book and add another layer of humor, which helped to maintain the light tone, but didn’t do much for me visually. In fact, a few of them had me worried that Geek Pray Love was going to be another dude-centered take on geekdom, despite having a female co-author on board. But the text never enters sexism land, and a chapter called The Female Geek, The Unknown Creature (German: Die Geek, das unbekannte Wesen) directly addresses the issues of sexism and dudeliness so often present in the scene and with biting satire dispel the myth of the Fake Geek Girl.
Bottlinger and Humberg have also written a Star Trek-centric self help book called Sorge nicht, Beame. Not being an obsessive Trekkie myself, I wasn’t initially interested in reading it, but I enjoyed Geek Pray Love enough that I might give it a chance afterall.
Six out of seven light sabers.
Where I got it: Send to me by the publisher for review