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    >My new video "A HARD DAY'S KNIGHT," in which I don chain mail to find glory, donuts and spare change for my quest. BIGGER SCREEN ON YOU TUBE

    CLASSIC BOOK trailer! [bigger screen on YouTube]

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    Entries in Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks (20)


    A kind review

    Erik Schmidt, over at the fantastic site Learn Tabletop RPGs, was kind enough to review Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, and had these kind words to say about my book. Thank you, Erik.



    Huff Post "14 Holiday Gifts For Any Middle-earth Lover's Library" includes Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks

    Great news today! Huffington Post named Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks one of "14 Holiday Gifts For Any Middle-earth Lover's Library."
    I am honored to be in the company of these other fine books. The post says Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks is "a moving and funny look at the saving grace and inspirational power of fantasy."

    Click to read more ...


    A Slide Lecture Adventure

    Thursday Dec 5 I'll be reading / presenting/ geeking out at Tufts University, thanks to an invitation from the Tufts student Science Fiction Fantasy Society.

    Click to read more ...


    Viggo sees through the eyes of an outsider

    [this originally appeared in the Boston Globe]

    He’s best known for inhabiting a haunted and reluctant hero-king. But he’s also been a trailblazing thinker, a vigilante family man with a dark past, a Russian mobster, a swoon-worthy traveling salesman, and one of the last men alive on earth, determined to make sure he and a boy survive.

    Click to read more ...


    Geek love

    Geek love

    Can a gaming and fantasy fanatic find romance outside his realm?

    By Ethan Gilsdorf

    [originally published in the Boston Globe Magazine]

    In a famous scene in the 1982 movie Diner, Eddie (played by Steve Guttenberg) makes his wife-to-be pass a football trivia quiz before he’ll agree to marry her. Me, I’m a fantasy and gaming geek, not a sports freak. I may not know how many yards Tom Brady has passed for this season, or the Red Sox bullpen’s average ERA last season, but I can name all nine members of the Fellowship in The Lord of the Rings, and I can tell you that the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

    This has caused some problems in my dating life. Not that I’ve pulled a litmus-test stunt on prospective mates, like: Do you prefer DC Comics or Marvel? Can you name the houses at Hogwarts? Rather, it’s me who’s felt tested. Should I admit I once played Dungeons & Dragons religiously? That I was president of my high school AV Club? Revealing my dweebishness hasn’t always produced the best results. “Huh . . . interesting,” more than one lady has said on a first date during my epic quest for damsels, one that has taken me from Star Wars cantina-like dive bars to the heartless land of, er, “I never knew Chewbacca was from the planet Kah . . . how do you say it?”

    “Kashyyyk,” I muttered, sipping my ale and deciding I’d not sing my hobbit drinking song – not until at least the third date.

    Because these utterances have at times been deal breakers, I’ve often mulled whether couples can bridge the differences. Can partners hail from opposite ends of the hipster-to-geek continuum or the nerd-jock divide? Need they share the same geekery to make love work? As a decorated veteran of the Dating Wars, I’m here to report the answer is mixed.

    One woman I was obsessed with seemed cool with the idea of watching The Fellowship of the Ring with me. In bed. We barely made it out of the Shire. When I proposed a marathon, 12-disc extended edition viewing of the trilogy (including the “making of” videos), with Middle-earth themed food, she de-friended me. I went out with another woman whose online profile declared, “I’m a sci-fi geek.” We met up at a sports bar, where my “Han shot first” reference met a blank stare and my Monty Python jokes fell flat. It seemed her professed geekiness was only skin deep.

    I once met a couple who found a solution, though. Both through-and-through geeks, they resided, surprisingly, in opposing Dorklands. He collected Star Trek action figures and built reproduction props from movies and TV shows likeBattlestar Galactica. She baked medieval period bread, wore bodices, and kept a pseudo-Middle English blog. Still, the marriage worked. Maybe the solution to a successful relationship is not so much mutual participation in tunic-sewing and wizard rock as it is mutual respect for each other’s kooky infatuations. Yes, even that Captain Kirk command chair that dominates the den.

    At least geeks today aren’t as ostracized as I was back in the Reagan administration. Boys and girls of all ages get down with Wii. Plus, as it turns out, hipsters, sports nuts, and fashionistas are really geeks in disguise. Dwarf-bearded men smitten with fixed-gear bicycles have appropriated nerdy glasses. Ex-jocks play fantasy baseball. In fact, a collection of action figures has a lot in common with a shoe fetish – the main difference being it’s OK to take your Manolo Blahniks out of the box. Whereas Voltron stays in his plastic bubble, forever. Plus, D&D players, adept at role-playing, make great lovers. Wizard, barbarian, or naughty secretary – what’s the difference?

    As for the woman I’m currently seeing, she didn’t have to pass an Elvish exam. She’s no geek. She’s a former jock who set a couple of track records back in the day. Her passion is art and graphic design, not graphic battles with orcs or zombies. But she’s cool with my playing Risk with the boys. And she’s seen me in my tunic. Recently, she agreed to accompany me on a journey to my geek-friendly ancestral home. Before I had a chance to ask, she offered, “Hey, I’d love to watch the trilogy with your family. What can I bring?”

    Before I could suggest “Boba Fett feta dip” or “a nice hobbity ale,” I realized she hadn’t specified which trilogy, Star Warsor Lord of the Rings. But I figured she’d be game for both.

    Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of the award-winning, travel memoir/pop culture investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms (now in paperback). Follow his adventures at


    Geek poetry contest winners!

    The results are in!

    We sponsored a geek poetry contest with  and here are the winning poems.

    Readers of Geek Mom were asked to submit a poem in any form of their choosing (haiku, rap, free verse, Klingon sonnet) on any geeky topic: Tolkien, Star Wars, Star Trek, gelatinous cubes, World of Warcraft war chants, hobbit drinking songs, odes to Harry Potter, ballads to honor Gary Gygax. 


    Sample winning haiku:

    Samwise and Frodo:

    You think they’re about to kiss,

    But they never do.

          --Natalie Jones


    Poems that somehow managed to work in the name "Ethan Gilsdorf" (which, according to legend, is either Elvish or Elvis) were hard to resist. Winners got autographed copies of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms.

    Hope you enjoy! The rest of the bards' fabulous winning works can be read here. 

    You can also read the other non-winning but nonetheless worthy entries here


    Geek pride comes to Providence

    (WRNI) - For role players, gamers and sci-fi fans alike, the term geek doesn't have the same sting it used to. In fact, many are now embracing that very term. You can include authors Ethan Gilsdorf and Tony Pacitti on that list. They'll both be panelists tonight in Providence for R2-D20, and Evening of Sci-Fi Fandom and Fantasy Gaming Geekery. WRNI's Elisabeth Harrison spoke to the two authors about the event.


    Violent Video Games Are Good for You

    [upcoming events with Ethan Gilsdorf: NYC/Brooklyn 11/22 (panel "Of Wizards and Wookiees" with Tony Pacitti, author of My Best Friend is a Wookiee); Providence, RI: 12/2 (also with Pacitti); and Boston (Newtonville 11/21 and Burlington 12/11) More info ...]


    Violent Video Games Are Good for You

    Rock and roll music? Bad for you. Comic books? They promote deviant behavior. Rap music? Dangerous.

    Ditto for the Internet, heavy metal and role-playing games. All were feared when they first arrived. Each in its own way was supposed to corrupt the youth of America.

    It’s hard to believe today, but way back in the late 19th century, even the widespread use of the telephone was deemed a social threat. The telephone would encourage unhealthy gossip, critics said. It would disrupt and distract us. In one of the more inventive fears, the telephone would burst our private bubbles of happiness by bringing bad news.

    Suffice it to say, a cloud of mistrust tends to hang over any new and misunderstood cultural phenomena. We often demonize that which the younger generation embraces, especially if it’s gory or sexual, or seems to glorify violence.

    The cycle has repeated again with video games. A five-year legal battle over whether violent video games are protected as “free speech” reached the Supreme Court earlier this month, when the justices heard arguments in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants.

    Back in 2005, the state of California passed a law that forbade the sale of violent video games to those younger than 18. In particular, the law objected to games “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a “patently offensive way” — as opposed to games that depict death or violence more abstractly.

    But that law was deemed unconstitutional, and now arguments pro and con have made their way to the biggest, baddest court in the land.

    In addition to the First Amendment free speech question, the justices are considering whether the state must prove “a direct causal link between violent video games and physical and psychological harm to minors” before it prohibits their sale to those under 18.

    So now we get the amusing scene of Justice Samuel Alito wondering “what James Madison [would have] thought about video games,” and Chief Justice John Roberts describing the nitty-gritty of Postal 2, one of the more extreme first-person shooter games. Among other depravities, Postal 2 allows the player to “go postal” and kill and humiliate in-game characters in a variety of creative ways: by setting them on fire, by urinating on them once they’ve been immobilized by a stun gun, or by using their heads to play “fetch” with dogs. You get the idea.

    This is undoubtedly a gross-out experience. The game is offensive to many. I’m not particularly inclined to play it. But it is, after all, only a game.

    Like with comic books, like with rap music, 99.9 percent of kids — and adults, for that matter — understand what is real violence and what is a representation of violence. According to a report issued by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services in Canada, by the time kids reach elementary school they can recognize motivations and consequences of characters’ actions. Kids aren’t going around chucking pitchforks at babies just because we see this in a realistic game.

    And a strong argument can be made that watching, playing and participating in activities that depict cruelty or bloodshed are therapeutic. We see the violence on the page or screen and this helps us understand death. We can face what it might mean to do evil deeds. But we don’t become evil ourselves. As Gerard Jones, author of “Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence,” writes, “Through immersion in imaginary combat and identification with a violent protagonist, children engage the rage they’ve stifled . . . and become more capable of utilizing it against life’s challenges.”

    Sadly, this doesn’t prevent lazy journalists from often including in their news reports the detail that suspected killers played a game like Grand Theft Auto. Because the graphic violence of some games is objectionable to many, it’s easy to imagine a cause and effect. As it turns out, a U.S. Secret Service study found that only one in eight of Columbine/Virginia Tech-type school shooters showed any interest in violent video games. And a U.S. surgeon general’s report found that mental stability and the quality of home life — not media exposure — were the relevant factors in violent acts committed by kids.

    Besides, so-called dangerous influences have always been with us. As Justice Antonin Scalia rightly noted during the debate, Grimm’s Fairy Tales are extremely graphic in their depiction of brutality. How many huntsmen cut out the hearts of boars or princes, which were then eaten by wicked queens? How many children were nearly burned alive? Disney whitewashed Grimm, but take a read of the original, nastier stories. They pulled no punches.

    Because gamers take an active role in the carnage — they hold the gun, so to speak —some might argue that video games might be more affecting or disturbing than literature (or music or television). Yet, told around the fire, gruesome folk tales probably had the same imaginative impact on the minds of innocent 18th century German kiddies as today’s youth playing gore-fests like “Left 4 Dead.” Which is to say, stories were exciting, scary and got the adrenaline flowing.

    Another reason to doubt the gaming industry’s power to corrupt: More than one generation, mine included, has now been raised on violent video games. But there’s no credible proof that a higher proportion of sociopaths or snipers roams the streets than at any previous time in modern history. In fact, according to Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson, founders of the Center for Mental Health and Media (a division of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry), and members of the psychiatry faculty at Harvard Medical School, as video game usage has skyrocketed in the past two decades, the rate of juvenile crime has actually fallen.

    Children have always been drawn to the disgusting. Even if the ban on violent games is eventually deemed lawful and enforced in California, the games will still find their way into the hot little hands of minors. So do online porn, and cigarettes and beer. But these vices haven’t toppled Western civilization.

    Not yet, anyway — although a zombie invasion or hurtling meteor might. Luckily, if you’re a good enough gamer, you’ll probably save the day.


    Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, now in paperback.



    win free copies of FF&GG!

    Two cool ways to win a copy of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks


    Write a poem for

    How do you win this coveted book, you ask? Give us a verse or two. Be it a free verse, a limerick, a sonnet, ahaiku, or a villanelle, on the geeky subject of your choosing (think “An Ode to Harry Potter” or the “Ballad of Gary Gygax”). Just put your entries in the comments webform here and we’ll choose the best five entries by Friday 11/19/10!Good luck, and geek on!


    Sign up at Fiction Writers Review Facebook Page

    Each week The Fiction Writers Review gives away several free copies of a book. All you have to do to be eligible for the weekly drawing is be a fan of their Facebook page. No catch, no gimmicks. Just a way to help promote books we love. Go here.




    read the Sept 2010 newsletter!