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Ernest Cline Is Proof Geeks Will Inherit The Earth

The Art of Nerding Out

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There’s never been a better time in history to be alive if you’re a geek. Comic books are getting serious big-budget movie adaptations. Video games are getting more realistic and more compelling all the time. Pop culture conventions are popping up all over the country, giving geeks huge events where they can congregate.

Heck, Wal-Mart is even selling nerd shirts nowadays.

There are so many folks out there that nerds like me can look to for inspiration about how to live life and do well. I’d like to gush a little about one of my favorites — writer Ernest Cline.

My love for Cline’s work stems from the fact that we’re both about the same age and we both love a lot of the same things. He has found a way to turn the things he loves into his career, and that inspires me to not give up in my quest to do the same. Plus, we have enough common interests that if we knew each other, we would be buddies and hang out. It makes we wanna pull for the guy to be successful.

Cline was born in the early 1970s in Ohio. Nothing too spectacular about that, right? Then he got his first video game console in 1978, an event that had the impact of a 3-mile-wide asteroid on the course of his life. He fell in love with video games, “Star Wars”, and 1980s culture. And that love stuck with him.

After a stint as the Poetry Slam Champion of Austin, Texas in 1998 and 2001, Cline began to heat up as a screenwriter. The Weinstein Company purchased his screenplay, “Fansboys”, with the movie seeing release in 2009. Later, Cline found success as a novelist. His book, “Ready Player One”, achieved status as a bestseller. He followed that up with “Armada”, which came out in July of this year. Check out Cline’s amusing biography here.

All that historical stuff is all well and good, but the reason why Ernie Cline is an inspiration to me is what the guy writes about. Consider “Fanboys”. In “Fanboys”, a group of “Star Wars” fans who break into George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch so their terminally ill buddy can see “The Phantom Menace”.

”Fanboys” is stuffed to the gills with references that tickle the funny bones of “Star Wars” fans like myself. That includes the sight of Kristen “Veronica Mars” Bell wearing Princess Leia’s metal slave girl bikini. The only problem with “Fanboys” is that it feels like it’s laughing at “Star Wars” fans instead of laughing with them. But it’s a good start.

Cline’s novels are what really get me excited, in particular “Ready Player One”. This book tells a story about a kid engaged in a search for an Easter egg in a virtual reality video game. It’s crammed with references to TV shows, movies, songs and comic books that I grew up loving.

”Ready Player One” had a huge impact on my writing because it reminded me of something I might write myself. It made me realize that I could grow up, have a career and not lose that connection I have to my childhood self. That was important because I was told most of my life that to a healthy member of society, I would have to “grow up” into a miserable adult who couldn’t enjoy anything that I loved. But Ernie Cline found a way to avoid that fate, and maybe I could, too.

That same spirit of youthful glee and love of pop culture carries over into Cline’s latest book, “Armada”. This tale of a high school kid who gets recruited to fight off an alien invasion based on his skill at playing video games. The whole story is a pretty ingenious mish-mash of “Independence Day” and “The Last Starfight”. As events unfolds, the protagonist, Zack Lightman, is constantly listening to his favorite playlist, filled with 80s-era rock songs like The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and Queen’s “One Vision”.

Both “Ready Player One” and “Armada” have been picked up to be adapted into movies. Steven Spielberg is even getting in the director’s chair for “Ready Player One”. I see all this, and it inspires me to keep coming up with ideas and telling stories. It inspires me to keep working on my craft. It inspires me to not give up.

Look, I know that I’m not likely to write a best-selling novel. I’m not likely to be able to turn my love for “Tom and Jerry” or Spider-Man into a lucrative career. But geeks are inheriting the Earth and Ernest Cline, a regular dude who used to work in IT and did slam poetry, found a way to do it. If he can, just maybe I can, too.