Author Ethan Gilsdorf introduces his book "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms," a narrative non-fiction book that's a humorous, lively, and provocative blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir about fantasy subcultures. The book is coming out September 1 from Globe Pequot/The Lyons Press.
Fantasy. Science fiction. Role-playing games.
Tens of millions of people around the globe turn away from the "real" world to inhabit others. Movie fan-freaks design costumes and collect Lord of the Rings action figures. Some attend comic book conventions and Renaissance fairs, others play live-action role-playing games (LARPs). The online game World of Warcraft (WoW) alone has lured twelve million users worldwide. Even old-school, "pencil-and-paper" role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) are still wildly popular.
Who are these gamers and fantasy fans? What explains the irresistible appeal of such "escapist" adventures? And what could one man find if he embarked on a journey through fantasy world after fantasy world?
In an enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, forty-year-old former D&D addict Ethan Gilsdorf crisscrosses America, the world, and other worlds—from Boston to Wisconsin, France to New Zealand, and Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar. On a quest that begins in his own geeky teenage past and ends in our online gaming future, he asks gaming and fantasy geeks how they balance their escapist urges with the kingdom of adulthood. He questions Tolkien scholars and medievalists. He speaks to grown men who build hobbit holes and speak Elvish, and to grown women who play massively multiplayer online games late into the night. He seeks out those who dream of elves, long swords, and heroic deeds, and mentally inhabit far-away magical lands. Gilsdorf records what lures them—old, young, male, female, able-bodied and disabled—into fantasy worlds, and for what reasons, whether healthy, unhealthy, or in between.
Delving deeper and deeper into geekdom, our noble hero plays WoW for weeks on end. He travels to pilgrimage sites: Tolkiens hometown, movie locations, castles, and archives. He hangs out with Harry Potter tribute bands. At a LARP, he dresses as a pacifist monk for a weekend. He goes to fan conventions and gaming tournaments. He battles online goblins, trolls, and sorcerers. He camps with medieval reenactors—12,000 of them. He becomes Ethor, Ethorian, and Ethor-An3. He sews his own tunic. He even plays D&D. What he discovers is funny, poignant, and enlightening.