Nerds at a Table Episode 1 Is Here!

Recently I blogged about a new project my friends and I have been working on with Shaw TV- a show called Nerds at a Table. Well, the first episode is now out online! In this episode we try out the card game Superfight and are joined by our first special guest, Zachary. Watch as we struggle to fight and maintain glory with Spartan Belieber, Misty Lincoln, Robo-clones and other such shenanigans.

 

Fun fact: Zach is a performer, role-play master, and co-founder of Twisted Gears Studios. He is also a kind friend and funny dude, and stars in another local nerdy labour of love, Nerdvana the Webseries!

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If you’d like to keep up with all of our dorkiness at Nerds At A Table, please follow us on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram! I hope you enjoy our series as much as we’ve enjoyed filming it!

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Nerds At A Table

My friend Jake volunteers at Shaw TV and they were looking for a fun new local program to pick up. He pitched an idea and they liked it! And so, he enlisted myself and a few other geeks to come together for a show called Nerds At A Table (where we, some nerds, play tabletop games- get this- at a table!)

Local business Tactical Magic Games is letting us film on location in their store. We’ve filmed 3 episodes with Shaw so far, and I can’t wait until they air (they’ll also be available online!)- for now, here is our intro teaser!

Somehow I was bestowed the title “Punny Mastermind” (ok yeah, I love puns and use them liberally, but I wouldn’t say i’m a mastermind of any sort XD)

Each episode we will have a guest player from the local nerd community joining us.

No matter what ultimately happens with our show (local legend? public access cringe compilation?) I’ve really enjoyed filming it so far!

 

Bad Romance: A Defense of Reprehensible Love Interests in Otome and Beyond

My prince charming is your worst nightmare.

From the age that I can first remember feeling the pangs of infatuation and lust in my mid-teens, I found I had a taste for rogues, tricksters, baddies, and miscreants. In books, movies, manga, anime, and otome games, I rarely go for the hero of the story- my affections are generally reserved for the evil adversary, mysterious secondary character, or perhaps the dangerously playful womanizing side-kick. These characters are often sexy but would ultimately make terrible romantic partners in real life.

Recently I’ve been noticing in comment sections all over the internet well-intentioned people decrying these very sorts of characters that I am drawn to. Fans and non-fans alike are calling out reprehensible actions of characters as they see them. I think this is a positive reflection of wider discussions and movements that are happening worldwide right now regarding healthy relationships, love, affection, sex, and consent. These honest reflections on characters, from Sabrina’s Father Blackwood to the Sakamaki family of Diabolik Lovers, are valuable and worth noting. The relationships you see on TV or other media are often not good examples for real-life relationships to follow- sometimes these sorts of characters stray into cruel or even verbally and/or physically abusive behavior.

However, I do not believe that the answer is to eliminate such characters from the stories we tell and worlds we create.

One area that gets a lot of heat for these sorts of characters is otome games- perhaps because they are simulating a relationship with the player. Games like these feel more intimate than watching a movie or reading a book: usually a player uses their real first name in-game to enhance the immersion, voice-actors use dummy-head mics to record sound like they are right beside your ear whispering sweet nothings through your headphones, and choices in the game lead to consequences for the character you play as well as other characters in the game.

The first true otome game I played was Code: Realize, Guardian of Rebirth. It’s an interactive visual novel with a Victorian steampunk aesthetic, excellent Japanese voice acting, and odes to famous historical figures throughout.

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Code: Realize

A common strategy for playing otome games is play the main route with the main love interest first (often he’s featured on the cover, as with this example featuring Arsene Lupin) and then branch out to other romantic partners in subsequent play-throughs.

However, I always gravitate immediately towards the character that (you guessed it) is strange, aloof, mean, temperamental, and/or seemingly sinister. In Code: Realize, I went for Saint-Germain, an intriguing and mysterious white-haired gentleman voiced by my favorite voice actor, Daisuke Hirakawa.

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Saint Germain still image from Code:Realize, Guardian of Rebirth

*Warning:  spoilers ahead!*

My interest in Saint only grew as his complex and tragic story slowly unwound, with seemingly no means of a happy end. Still, I was caught completely off-guard when my first play-through ended abruptly with that is probably considered the worst possible ending you can get in the game: he murdered me.

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Scene from Code Realize, Guardian of Rebirth

I was shocked, bemused, and strangely thrilled by this sudden turn of events. Retracing my steps and choosing different directions on my second play-through, I discovered that he had some solid legitimate reasons for killing my character (really!) and in the less tragic story-lines he is actually a gentle, devoted, caring partner, despite a crushingly brutal past that haunts his every step.

Aside from his bad-ending (murder…) route, Saint is actually not particularly problematic, so I’d like to present a more blatant example of the “reprehensible love interest”…

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Diabolik Lovers, by Rejet

Diabolik Lovers began as an otome visual novel game franchise, but has since been turned into manga, anime, a stage musical, and tons of drama cds and merchandise in Japan. I stumbled upon the subbed anime on Crunchyroll a few years ago, starting a personal infatuation with this vampire series- a series featuring characters that are unabashedly terrible in their treatment of the female protagonist, Yui.

Yui is a Mary-Sue type character often seen in otome series-  aside from some rare moments of tenacity, she is presented as an unremarkable, quiet, polite young lady. She’s a sort of vanilla stand-in for the viewer or player, one which they can easily replace with themselves.

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Her potential suitors, on the other hand, are some very strong personalities. Their dispositions differ widely, ranging from hysterical and possessive to dismissive and toying. What unites all of the Sakamaki boys, though, is the way they all cruelly use and abuse Yui to sate their thirsts for blood and amusement.

Some hardcore fans will argue that by the end of the plotline their favorite boy truly loves Yui and is deeply devoted to her, but let’s be real here: that doesn’t excuse the abuse, and nobody is compelled to watch the Dialover anime or play the Dialover games because of the romance. The average viewer would be repelled by the sadistic, narcissistic, misogynistic and psychopathic actions of the Sakamaki family (some of my friends certainly are). The Sakamaki brothers each in turn physically restrain Yui, attack her verbally and physically (mainly through biting and taking her blood against her will) and deceive her naive and trusting nature unendingly. Each boy has a different demeaning nickname for Yui (Pancake, Sow, Bitch-chan, and so on…). So why are some people, like myself, drawn to these characters who are obviously toxic?

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This scene from Watamote is literally me T-T

This conundrum has fascinated me for some time. Why am I attracted to characters in fantasy that would make me miserable in real life? Is this predilection linked to the dark triad of features that supposedly signal a capable mate, triggering some biological response in me? Am I simply bored by predictable good guys and their chivalry? Is it pure masochism on my part? While not everyone falls for the charms of the bad boy, i’m certainly not unique in this regard, and there are lots of potential reasons someone might be willingly pulled over to the dark side.

Whatever the reason, the truth is that I and many others enjoy these sorts of flawed, dangerous, cruel characters, even when they are at their worst. While I understand the criticisms of series like Diabolik Lovers,  I believe we mustn’t equate a portrayal of an abusive or problematic fictional character with the actions of a person in real life or an endorsement of these kinds of relationships.

It’s okay to enjoy a romantic fantasy, even a dark and twisted one.

I am an advocate for the freedom to read, write, and create without restrictions. No work will be pleasing to everyone, and some may find certain works distasteful, but we must remember that these stories are fictional. When I immerse myself in an otome game, it is my choice, and I can withdraw my consent from the experience at any time by pressing the “power off” button on my Vita. I don’t confuse the tangled relationships in the fictional stories I enjoy with my real life relationships, which are thankfully much less dramatic than the ones I read, watch, and play.


 

Abuse is wrong. Verbal, physical, and sexual abuse have no place in a healthy relationship. Consent is vital. I don’t condone abuse in real life.

The fantasy world of books, movies, and video games are a space where the dangerous sides of love and lust can be explored safely- the cat and mouse game, which is exciting in theory but potentially devastating in real life, can be enjoyed in a make-believe format in which the consumer controls (while enjoying being “controlled” artificially).

We can and should continue to reflect on characters, and each person can determine for themselves what they enjoy or do not enjoy reading, watching, or playing, but there should be no shame for enjoying reprehensible love interests in fiction!

 

My Hogwarts House Identity Crisis and Embracing Hufflepuff House

Do you remember the early days of fanmade Harry Potter quizzes and the sorting games on the old promo websites for the movies? As a tween and teen I frequented sites like these and I always seemed to be sorted into the same house- Gryffindor. Yet, it never felt like a correct fit for me to be in the noble house of the lion.

I often wondered if, because the main trio from the books and movies were brave Gryffindor students, those early quizzes and/or my own personal bias towards Gryffindor would skew the results towards that house.

I never did accept being a Gryffindor, as it just felt off for me. Sorting is a complex business after all- Hermione would seem a clear fit for Ravenclaw, and yet she’s a Gryffindor. Was it at her own insistence that the sorting hat made its decision? Neville has certainly proved himself to be courageous by the end of the series, but wouldn’t most of his core traits be more in line with Hufflepuff? Fans have pondered these sorts of questions for years, and the only consensus might be that sorting is more of an art than a science. Add that to the multifaceted personalities and traits of witches and wizards, and the sorting hat has a difficult job indeed.

Some people will surely scoff at the seriousness we Potterheads have with regards to Hogwarts houses, but let me tell you it’s SIRIUS BUSINESS!

Anyway, when the first rendition of Pottermore was unleashed, I did the sorting quiz and – as usual- was placed in Gryffindor. Yet again, it didn’t feel right to me. Something in the back of my head was saying “you’re a Hufflepuff and YOU KNOW IT.”

When Pottermore was revamped and re-released, I did the new sorting quiz, and the result? Hufflepuff.

I think that most people might have a bit of all the houses in them- I certainly identify with Ravenclaw in a lot of ways, and I feel that Gryffindor does represent a part of me too. Slytherin has always felt the farthest from my personality, but my proclivity to adore the types of characters that Slytherin House attracts might speak to a darker side of my nature.

However, in the end each student is sorted into one house, and Hufflepuff is mine. It feels right.

Even though at first I felt torn (what? I’ve been trying to accept that I’m a Gryffindor all this time, and now here you are confirming my Hufflepuffdom!?) my friends convinced me- one comment: “Dude. You’re so totally a Hufflepuff.” Ok, so she has a point. The Wizardmore Extended Sorting Hat Quiz, which gives you the option of answering every possible quiz question from Pottermore, further confirms my place in Hufflepuff.

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When I look at the main traits of Hufflepuff House, I feel proud to be a part of it. We don’t like personal drama, we work hard, we are inclusive and fair. We are perhaps the least glamorous or remarkable of the houses, but that’s in line with what I want in my life- to simply do good and enjoy a good life with the time i’ve got.

The Hufflepuff common room is the sort of sanctuary that I could imagine myself relaxing in at Hogwarts- it’s closest to the kitchens. It’s a cosy, hobbity sort of dwelling that is warm and full of plants. The trick to entering it involves a bit of a rhythm game, which is totally up my alley.

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I officiated my Hufflepuff identity when I visited the Wizarding World area of Japan’s Universal Studios park in Osaka last year. 

When I picked out my house robes, pet puffskein Pinku, and accompanying willow wand (I always get willow for wand quizzes and such) the young woman who assisted me exclaimed excitedly “You’re Hufflepuff? Me too!”

Japan Memories Day 13: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Osaka BL Cafe, and Being Lost (Without a Care!)

This is day 13 of revisiting my journal from our trip to Japan last year! If you’d like to start at the beginning, here is day 1.

So, day 13, here we go!

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 13, October 13th, 2017

Dusty wanted to visit the Handicraft Centre in Kyoto (which I had already visited) so I set out on a solo adventure today.

I decided to walk to the Fushimi Inari Shrine first. It was raining, so I took a hotel umbrella. Walking the narrow streets of Kyoto with a bulky umbrella is not an easy task. I bumped a car, a boy on a bike, and a building before I got the hang of it. 

It was nearly an hour walk.  The quiet residential streets suddenly gave way to touristy shops and street vendors selling snacks and sweets. After partaking in some of these, I headed to the shrine.

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Fushimi Inari is definitely an impressive place, so I can see why it comes recommended so highly by travel books. Huge red tori gates layered along a winding path create the iconic look that tourists flock to. Wise looking fox statues stand guard.

Yet, a lot of the magic of the place was stunted for me by the masses of people blocking walkers by attempting to get the perfect selfie amidst the shuffle. I understand, it’s a special opportunity, but the result was that it was crowded to the extreme. I should have gotten up earlier and left the inn sooner if I wanted to beat the rush of people. However,  I really enjoyed going off the main path onto smaller, quieter trails that were MUCH quieter and just as lovely.

After Fushimi Inari I felt that I didn’t have it in me to go to Arashiyama, Nara, and the Golden Pavillion (the places I had originally planned) because I figured they would also be packed with people. So, I decided to go back to Osaka and explore. I visited a Loft store and I love their style philosophy of simple and basic yet good quality and chic items. I picked up a couple pairs of cute, affordable shoes. 

I visited a Super Potato and found a Diabolik Lovers game second-hand! By this point I was hungry and headed into the thick of Otaku Osaka, where I decided to be brave and visit… Theme Cafe #7 of the trip, the Osaka branch of Ikegaku BL Cafe!

The cafe was a bit hard to find (had to take an elevator to a 3rd floor of a nondescript building) and I lingered in the hallway for a moment looking up a restaurant phrase in my phrasebook. When I knocked and entered I think they had heard me in the hall because the staff were all sitting in perfectly arranged compositionally pleasing poses in the room! It was like I walked into a reverse-harem scene in an anime or something.

It became rather awkward because I was the only customer and, unlike the Ikebukuro branch, the staff barely spoke any English. I was the only visitor in the place for over an hour, so they were trying their best to entertain me as I anxiously picked at my curry rice which was shaped into a Mickey Mouse head. 

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Some conversation:

Me: “This (taxidermied) rabbit- I don’t know if it’s kawaii (cute) or kowai (scary)”

Staff: “The rabbit’s name is Christine”. 

Me: “Hi Christine! She’s beautiful.”

Staff “Christine is boy. Beautiful boy.”

One of the staff, who the others teased and called “big girly boy” had gorgeously manicured nails. They were impressive… I’ve never even had a manicure before ^-^’ 

We drew pictures on the napkins together. I drew Christine. They showed me some various ways to make hearts with your hands (thumbs and pointer fingers together, all fingers together, pointer and middle fingers together, 2 people’s hands together, over-head heart) and I invented a “Canada Style” heart with elbows together to form the bottom of the heart… (I made this up, but they liked it, and maybe it will spread? XD)

I got a Coupling Pocky before I left, which involved a scenario where the staff enacted out trying to read out the menu in English and arguing about the translations (I think!?) and of course ending in a tense Pocky battle of nosebleed proportions…

Before saying goodbye to Osaka, I checked out an arcade, Lashinbang, Animate, etc. I love how all of the Animate and Lashinbang stores have totally different inventory on different themes- it’s worth it to visit each one that you can, because you will find very unique types of selection at each one.

Then, heading back to Kyoto, I got TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY lost in the Osaka station. I finally found my train after getting help from several kind security staff… I got confused on the train as well, missing my stop and having to backtrack. Then I got off the train and unknowingly walked in the complete OPPOSITE direction that I intended for a bit!

Well, I made it back eventually, and getting lost is part of the fun of traveling 🙂 I feel very safe in Japan too, so I wasn’t worried (though my feet were killing me by the end of the night!)

Tomorrow is Day 14: Goodbye Kyoto, Hello Beautiful Kinosaki Onsen Town!

 

Why Cosplay?

Yesturday I came across this post by TheGamersJourney which is a response to a challenge by TheCosplayingBrooke and it inspired me to share my own thoughts on cosplay and why I enjoy it!

Cosplay is a total mystery to some people- why do we dress up as these characters, painstakingly crafting elaborate costumes, weapons and accessories? It’s expensive, it’s a lot of work, and some people look down upon it as being childish or cringey.

What’s with cosplay?

A little on my cosplay history…

My first time cosplaying was at Edmonton Expo in 2015. It was my first con ever, and I went as InuYasha. While my costume was designed by the amazing SkyCreation on Etsy, everything else was of my own making- the Tetsusaiga sword was my first weapon build, and it got tons of stares and photos- it was almost too long to fit in our truck!


A lot of my blood and sweat went into that Tetsusaiga… cutting glued industrial foam with an xacto knife is a dangerous business o.o

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InuYasha’s long haired wig was a pain in the butt, but luckily the ears I made worked well when sewn into it. I tried creating my own Beads of Subjugation with clay but they ended up being ridiculously heavy, so strung together some store-bought beads instead. I learned the trick of making realistic fangs out of acrylic nails and I’ve never looked back!


After cosplaying as InuYasha I was hooked, and I have since cosplayed Rin Matsuoka, Laito Sakamaki, Tsukimi Kurashita, and soon Krul Tepes (in progress)!


What inspires you to cosplay?

Usually I choose a cosplay project because I absolutely love the character- whether that’s a character that I am attracted to (my initial cross-plays of InuYasha, Rin, Laito) or a character that I admire or feel an affinity towards, like Tsukimi from Princess Jellyfish.


I have also started looking more at the aesthetics and style of a character- it’s especially fun to portray a character that has a unique and eye-grabbing style. For example, I cosplayed as Laito because he is my favorite character from Diabolik Lovers, but I almost chose to cosplay Kanato because he has awesome purple hair, his plushie Teddy, dark facial features that would be fun to replicate with makeup, and a really cool outfit.

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On the flipside of this, after having lots of struggles with long wigs, I might reconsider any future cosplay choices if they have crazy long hair!

I also consider the feasability of creating the costume- i’m still a beginner at sewing and crafting, and although in the beginning I purchased some of my pieces from online sellers, my goal is to create all of my costumes and accessories myself going forward.

What got you interested in cosplay?

Cosplay was on my radar ever since I was a young kid, I think. I’m sure I didn’t know “cosplay” was a word back then, but I used to dream about dressing up as the blue Power Ranger or Sailor Mercury. I used to pretend to be these characters when I was playing with my friends, but there was always this yearning to wear the costumes and take on the role of someone else.

Halloween was thrilling for me, and I’ve loved getting into costume for school plays and things like that- cosplay was a natural progression, I guess.


What does cosplay mean to you and what does it bring to your life?

Cosplay does lots of things for me. It gives me a new way to be creative and learn new skills- I’ve designed my own accessories and weapons, learned how to use a sewing machine, dabbled with costume and sfx makeup, and improvised materials and costume fixes.


It also gives me an immediate sense of community. As soon as I stepped into the expo hall as InuYasha, strangers began approaching and complimenting my handicraft, expressing their love of the series, and so on. I call conventions “being with my people” because it’s so fun to feel completely free to dork out and celebrate that dorkiness with others.


I love seeing diverse people of all different backgrounds and abilities, from all walks of life, young and old, coming together in celebration and shenanigans because of their shared geekiness. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of!


Who do you cosplay for?

I cosplay for myself, because I truly enjoy it, and also for the geeky community that I meet at things like conventions. Just as I feel excitement approaching someone who is playing one of my favorite characters, I love it when I see and hear excitement from others about my cosplay. When people ask to get a picture with me, it makes my day. There is something so special and magical about being tapped on the back by Miroku when I am browsing anime dvds at a giant nerdy tradeshow, and getting a picture together!

Is cosplaying freeing for you, either to be more yourself or explore different parts of yourself?

Being around like-minded people certainly does make me feel freer to be my squeeful fangirl self without restraint. Since starting my cosplay journey I feel more confident being bold and sharing my individuality even when i’m not surrounded by other geeks. It’s empowering!

Cosplay also allows me to bring a bit of the theatrical into my life. On the one hand, I get a chance to play with my own look and take on aspects of characters I find similar to myself. On the other hand, cosplaying a character like Laito, who has a personality much stronger than mine, is a lot of fun.


Participating in cosplay competitions is very rewarding even when you don’t win anything, and I am planning to continue signing up for them in the future! It’s not often I get to be on stage with hundreds of people watching me. It’s a crazy experience.

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^Awkward Tsukimi shuffle off the staaaggeeee! (Picture rights belong to Edmonton Expo)

Nerd Out With Your Bookmark Out: Geeky Non-Fiction For Everyone!

I was compiling a list of nerdy titles for a library display today and thought I should share some of them here!

They are listed alphabetically by last name of author. Enjoy!

 

Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st Century Families by Natania Barron et al. (2012)

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Geek Knits: Over 30 Projects for Fantasy Fanatics, Science Fiction Friends, and Knitting Nerds by Toni Carr (2015)

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Fandom: Fic writers, Vidders, Gamers, Artists, and Cosplayers By Francesca Davis DiPiazza (2018)

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Superfandom: How Our Obsessions are Changing What We Buy by Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron Glazer (2017)

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Epic Cosplay Costumes: a Step-By-Step Guide to Making and Sewing Your Own Costume Designs by Kristie Good (2016)

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1000 Incredible Costume & Cosplay Ideas: a Showcase of Creative Characters from Anime, Manga, Video Games, Movies, Comics, and More! By Yaya Han et al. (2013)

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The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (2016)

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I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture by A.D. Jameson (2018)

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Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison et al. (2013)

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And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth by Carljoe Javier (2011)

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100 First Words for Little Geeks by Kyle Kershner (2018)

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The Geek’s Cookbook by Lecomte (2018)

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The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: a Handbook for Geek Girls by Sam Maggs (2015)

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Geek Tattoo: Pop Culture in the Flesh by Issa Maoihibou (2017)

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The Secret Loves of Geek Girls edited by Hope Nicholson (Anthology, 2015)

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Nerdy Nummies Cookbook: Sweet Treats for the Geek in All of Us by Rosanna Pansino (2015)

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The Geeky Chef Cookbook: Real-Life Recipes for Your Favorite Fantasy Foods by Cassandra Reeder (2015)

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Comic-con and the Business of Pop Culture: What the World’s Wildest Trade Show Can Tell Us About the Future of Entertainment… by Rob Salkowitz (2012)

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Geek Parenting: What Joffrey, Jor-El, Maleficent, and the McFlys Teach Us About Raising a Family by Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudyca Lypescu (2016)…- 649.1 SEG

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Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture by Stephen H. Segal et al. (2011)

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Tokyo Geek’s Guide: Manga, Anime, Gaming, Cosplay, Toys, Idols More- The Ultimate Guide to Japan’s Otaku Culture by Gianni Simone (2017)

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Cosplay Basics: A Beginner’s Guide to the Art of Costume Play by Yuki Takasou (2015)

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A Geek in ___ series by Tuttle Publishing (Various Authors)

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Getting a Life: The Social Worlds of Geek Culture by Benjamin Woo (2018)

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