Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, by Ethan Gilsdorf (Non fiction)

For anyone who is a Geek or Nerd at heart, this book will ring absolutely true. It’s a nonfiction epic of sorts, following the author-as-unlikely-hero through a personal quest to discover the true roots of his fantasy addiction.

It begins at the beginning, revealing a very sad portrait of the author’s family life when he was a child, and how a brain Aneurism transformed his once lively and vivacious mom into what he and his siblings called “The Momster,” a wholly different and scary entity. It then shows how the game Dungeons and Dragons helped an awkward and unsure adolescent Ethan cope with his “IRL” (in real life) problems and gain social prowess.

Cut to Ethan, middle aged, after supressing his love of D&D for years — trying to convince himself and others that he didn’t need it as a crutch anymore. He finds a blue cooler from his youth that contains a treasure trove of his D&D memories: maps, books, character sheets etc. After some internal hem-hawing, he embarks on a quest of heroic proportions. The book is part interviews, part anecdotes, part nerdgasm, part pilgramage. He explores fantasy realms into which even his D&D engrossed teen-self had not dared enter: Live Action Role Playing (LARP-ing), the addictive charms of World of Warcraft, Gaming conventions, and more.

The saga even includes various treks to Lord of  The Rings meccas, which are definitely my favorite parts. He visists the film sets in New Zealand, JRR Tolkein’s home and other haunts in Oxford, and makes one final journey that is too nerd-a-licious to be spoiled here.

The guy has chops. Any nerd who reads this book will not find him (or her!) self internally quibbling with the author about various facts and trivia  from different fantasy and sci fi books/movies/etc. As a milenium-era nerd, I have never played D&D but after reading this I want to haul out some graph paper and 20 sided die and go to town.

If you are a nerd, if you know a nerd, if you have loved a nerd, I highly recommend this book. It’s just the right amount of self-indulgent in that it waxes like a big in-joke to anyone who has ever uttered the phrase, “fool of a Took!” or, “My precioussss.” It’s funny, self-depricating, curious and a little sad. It also has a lot of pictures the author contributed, which–among many other things–show how important having the ability to laugh at yourself really is.

Author: Ali

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