About Ethan Gilsdorf
Ethan Gilsdorf is a journalist, memoirist, essayist, critic, poet, teacher, performer and nerd.
He is the author of the travel memoir investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, named a Must-Read Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards. His work has been cited in the Best American Essays 2016 anthology.
Trained as a Dungeon Master, dork and poet, Gilsdorf got his start in journalism as a Paris-based travel writer and food and film critic for Fodor's, Time Out, Boston Globe and the Washington Post.
Now based in Providence, Rhode Island, Gilsdorf primarily covers arts (with a focus on books and film); pop, gaming and geek culture; and media and technology, for the New York Times, Boston Globe, Boston Globe Magazine, Boston Magazine, Wired, Salon, Psychology Today, and WBUR's The Artery. His commentaries have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, WBUR's Cognoscenti, Newsday, Boston Globe, and elsewhere.
He reviews movies for the Boston Globe and Art New England magazine, and reviews books for the New York Times Book Review and Boston Globe.
He has also published hundreds of feature stories, essays, op-eds and reviews in dozens of other magazines, newspapers, literary magazines, websites, guidebooks, anthologies, textbooks and other publications worldwide, including Esquire, CNN.com, io9.com, Playboy, National Geographic Traveler, San Francisco Chronicle, Australian Financial Review, Toronto Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, Glasgow Sunday Post, Emirates Inflight Magazine, Johannesburg Sunday Times, Reykjavík Grapevine Magazine and elsewhere.
In pursuit of his stories, Gilsorf has acted as a Hollywood extra, walked across Scotland, quested for the perfect French fry, spent a day as a pilgrim at Plimoth Plantation, and worn a tunic for two weeks while camping with 12,000 medieval reenactors.
He has interviewed notable cultural figures such as Sir Ben Kingsley, John Cleese, Amy Poehler, Viggo Mortensen, William Shatner, Jason Segel, Stan Lee, Guillermo del Toro, George Romero, Jon Favreau, Cheryl Strayed, Junot Diaz, Steve Carell, Wil Wheaton, Nick Hornby, Andy Serkis, Seth Rogen, and Sister Helen Prejean, among others.
He is a lover of ELO and a hater of littering. He enjoys stamp collecting, long walks on the beach, pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain. He is not into yoga. Sometimes he wears a tunic and chainmail, or these grampy pants.
Gilsdorf frequently appears on NPR stations such as WGBH, WBUR, Wisconsin Public Radio, and has appeared on The Discovery Channel, PBS, CBC, BBC, the Learning Channel, the French TV network Arte, in documentary films, on podcasts, and has been interviewed by publications in Canada, Argentina, Brazil, France and other countries.
He lectures at schools, universities, festivals, conventions, and conferences worldwide, including at this TEDx event, where he nerded out about D&D.
Gilsdorf is also a regular presenter, performer, moderator and host for Mortified, Four Stories, PAX East, the Harvard Book Store, and has given hundreds of readings throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Middle-earth.
His fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, The Quarterly, Exquisite Corpse, The North American Review, The Massachusetts Review, New York Quarterly and dozens of other literary magazines and in several anthologies. He is the winner of the Hobblestock Peace Poetry Competition and the Esme Bradberry Contemporary Poets Prize; has been awarded residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center; and grants from the Somerville Arts Council and Vermont Arts Council.
Gilsdorf is co-founder of GrubStreet's Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP), and teaches creative writing at GrubStreet, where he serves on the Board of Directors. He also serves on the Boston Book Festival Program Committee and is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics.
He received his BA from Hampshire College, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Louisiana State University.
Nice stuff people said:
"The hardest-working geek we know, Ethan Gilsdorf."—The Boston Phoenix
"Ethan Gilsdorf ... brings a bit of international cachet as well as a lively, engaging reading style ... he is known for an eloquent yet accessible fusion of the natural world and urban culture."—The Boston Globe
"Boston nerdlord writer Ethan Gilsdorf"—The Quad
"Somerville’s resident d20 dorkwad"—The Weekly Dig
"Adorably amusing"—The Bostonist.com
"[Gilsdorf] captivated the audience with his passionate, inflective reading"—The Somerville News
"Ethan Gilsdorf strikes me as a poetic Henry James for the 21st century, the cosmopolitan American in Europe, casting a cold eye on the old and new worlds, and delivering an elegant retort to any suggestion that lyricism and wit cannot lie in the same bed. He is one of the best of a new generation of poets emerging now, and should be read."—Todd Swift, poet, author of Cafe Alibi, and editor of Short Fuse: The Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry
Ethan Gilsdorf was born and raised in rural New Hampshire. After playing Dungeons & Dragons religiously in the 1970s and 1980s (he still plays the game), Ethan Gilsdorf eventually worked as a freelance correspondent, guidebook writer, travel writer and film, book and restaurant reviewer. He lived in Paris for five years before moving to the Boston area. He received his BA from Hampshire College, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Lousiana State University.
Now based in Somerville, Massachusetts, he publishes travel, arts, and pop culture stories and essays regularly in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Boston Globe Magazine, Boston Magazine, Washington Post, Salon, BoingBoing and Wired. He is a book and film critic for the Boston Globe, the film columnist for Art New England, and a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics.
Over the past 15 years, he has published hundreds of articles in dozens of other magazines, newspapers, websites and guidebooks worldwide, including Esquire, New York Times Book Review, Post Road, The Chronicle of Higher Education, CNN.com, io9.com, Playboy, National Geographic Traveler, Psychology Today, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Australian Financial Review, Adbusters, The Walrus (Toronto), The Globe and Mail (Toronto), The Citizen (Ottawa), The Sunday Post (Glasgow), Emirates Inflight Magazine, Sunday Times (Johannesburg) and elsewhere.
In addition to being the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, Gilsdorf has contributed to the several books, including the writing craft books Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss; Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author; the textbook Reading Culture: Contexts for Critical Reading and Writing (8th edition); the guidebooks New York Times 36 Hours: 150 Weekends in the U.S.A. and Canada; Fodor's Paris; Fodor's France; Time Out Paris Eating and Drinking; and several poetry anthologies, including Outsiders: Poems about Rebels, Exiles, and Renegades; Radio Waves: Poems Celebrating the Wireless; Short Fuse: The Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry; 100 Poets Against the War; In the Criminal's Cabinet: An Anthology of Poetry and Fiction; and Future Welcome: The Moosehead Anthology 10.
Gilsdorf is the former bicycling culture columnist for the Boston Globe. He was a Paris hotel correspondent for Fodor's travel guides and a food and restaurant critic for Time Out. He also has contributed to Boston.com, Tor.com; TheOneRing.net and Forces of Geek.
He and author Noble Smith geek out and wax nostalgic about D&D and other nerdy pop culture relics at Dungeons & Dorkwards.
To research various writing projects, Gilsdorf has interviewed Sir Ben Kingsley, John Cleese, Jason Segel, Cheryl Strayed, Junot Diaz, Stephin Merritt, William Shatner, Stan Lee, Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson, Steve Carell, Oscar Issac, James Gunn, Viggo Mortensen, Nick Hornby, Jon Favreau, Andy Serkis, Sister Helen Prejean, Wil Wheaton, Seth Rogen, Guillermo del Toro, David Carradine, George Romero, Chris Cooper, Luc Besson, Eliza Dushku, Amy Poehler, Richard Taylor, Bobby and Peter Farrelly, Ralph Bakshi, and Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, among other cultural figures. He has taste-tested caffeinated beer; acted as an Hollywood extra; and embarked on a quest for the perfect French fry. He has walked across Scotland, mountain biked the French Pyrenees, explored caves in New York State and backpacked through India, and consumed champagne with Kate Hudson.
Gilsdorf has been a guest as a fantasy, gaming, geek culture and travel expert on radio and television programs, including: PBS Off Book; BBC radio; The Discovery Channel; the French TV channel Arte's documentary "La Revanche des Geeks" ("Revenge of the Geeks"); CBC's' "Definitely Not the Opera"; Public Radio International's "To the Best of Our Knowledge"; Air America's "Inside Story"; WGBH TV's Greater Boston; several nationally-syndicated National Public Radio programs including "Around And About," Wisconsin Public Radio, WAMC (NY)'s "Roundtable"; WBUR's "Morning Edition," "Radio Boston" and "All Things Considered," WGBH radio's Calley Crossley Show and Boston Public Radio; and Boston.com, as a travel video correspondent. He has also appeared on numerous podcasts and web radio programs and has been interviewed for various documentary films. As a featured guest and speaker, he has appeared at events such as Switzerland's Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, and at conventions such as AWP, PAX East, Gen Con, DragonCon, Boskone, Arisia, Boston Festival of Independent Games, TotalCon, and SnowCon.
He has performed his poetry, fiction, nonfiction and comedy at several reading series and venues such as Mortified, Nerd Nite, Four Stories, Funny as a Crutch, and Harvard Book Store. A frequent commentator on Boston’s NPR affiliate WBUR, he has given hundreds of readings and performances in bookstores, bars, libraries and cafes throughout the U.S., Canada, as well as in Paris, London, Puerto Rico and Middle-earth.
Gilsdorf has given lectures at universities such as Harvard, MIT, Notre Dame, Louisiana State University, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Southern California, and read at book festivals and libraries nationwide including the Boston Public Library, Fayetteville (AR) Public Library, the Boston Book Festival, Decatur Book Festival (Atlanta), Brooklyn Book Festival and the Twin Cities Book Festival (Minneapolis).
He has received fellowships and residencies from the Somerville Arts Council (twice), Vermont Studio Center, Millay Colony for the Arts and the Hall Farm Arts Center. He was named Somervile Artist of the Month for January 2014.
As a poet, he is the winner of the Hobblestock Peace Poetry Competition and the Esme Bradberry Contemporary Poets Prize, and has published poems in Poetry, The Southern Review, The North American Review, Exquisite Corpse and several anthologies.
He is co-founder of Grub Street's Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP), volunteers as a guest speaker in the Boston Public Schools and leads memoir, narrative non-fiction, journalism, travel writing and creative writing workshops at Grub Street, Emerson College, Media Bistro and, for younger students, in schools and community centers, including the Somerville Public Library.
He serves on the Board of Directors of Grub Street, a non-profit creative writing center dedicated to nurturing writers and connecting readers with the wealth of writing talent in the Boston area. He has also served in the Boston Book Festival Program Committee, the Literature Panel of the Somerville Arts Council, The Arts Council of Windham County (VT), and was a founding member of Poets for Peace (Paris).
Over his working life, he's been employed as a dump truck driver, a movie projectionist, a landscaper, an A/V nerd, a bookseller and a landfill manager.
About Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks
The Huffington Post calls his book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks “part personal odyssey, part medieval mid-life crisis, and part wide-ranging survey of all things freaky and geeky." National Public Radio described the book as "Lord of the Rings meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road" and Wired.com proclaimed, “For anyone who has ever spent time within imaginary realms, the book will speak volumes.” It was named a Must-Read Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards.
To research Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, Gilsdorf traveled from Boston to England, France to New Zealand, Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar. He hung out with Harry Potter tribute bands, attended fan conventions and gaming tournaments, camped with 12,000 medieval reenactors for a week, sewed his own tunic, learned to sword fight (badly), battled online goblins and trolls, and played Dungeons & Dragons again for the first time in 25 years. He does not own elf ears, but he has kept all his old D&D gear, and has been known to host a Lord of the Rings party or two.