Is geek culture mere escapism?

Damien Walter writes on technology, culture and scifi for The Guardian, BBC, Wired, Oxford University Press, IO9, Tor.com and elsewhere. He’s a graduate of the Clarion scifi writers workshop, and teaches Advanced Scifi & Fantasy : writing the 21st century myth

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“The only people who hate escapism are jailers.”

The quote is attributed to both C S Lewis and to J R R Tolkien. Whomever said it first, it captures the spirit that both wrote their fantasy stories in.

A generation later, the fantasy writer Michael Moorcock revised the quip:

“Jailers love escapism — it’s escape they can’t stand.”

Today escapism seems to be everywhere. Back when I wrote about it for Aeon magazine almost a decade ago we were already disappearing into digital realities. Today in 2020 we seem to have completed the disappearing act.

John Vervaeke calls this the Virtual Exodus. The growing preference we show for fantasy realms over the real world. An exodus he believes is powered by our search for meaning.

Is nerd culture mere escapism? A way to forget the jails we live in without ever escaping them? Or can it offer true escape?

I put the question to John in our recent interview. His answers – especially the concept of “bleed” – may surprise you.

Advanced SciFi & Fantasy

Writing the 21st century myth

Damien Walter, writer on sci-fi and geek culture for The Guardian, BBC, WIRED and graduate of the Clarion writers workshop, leads a journey into scifi and fantasy storytelling.

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Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Director of creative writing at UoL, published with OUP and Cambridge. Currently travelling the world and writing a book.

One thought on “Is geek culture mere escapism?

  1. Damien keep doing the work you’re doing! It’s tough to be at the forefront of an epistemology, especially when the field hasn’t yet been established yet, but you’re doing a good job trailblazing.

    Liked by 1 person

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