I don't think there are many call-center workers whose main rave about their new computer is the fact that it can pull up 5 pdfs at once without breaking a sweat. There's probably only a small subset of laypeople who would get so excited about finding a treasure trove of papers on the South China Sea Summer Monsoon that they have to get up from their computers and do a victory dance.
Yeah, I'm that weird.
I get asked at least once a month if I'm in college, because I'm either hauling in a ton of tomes to take notes from or babbling about some aspect of science that just captured my imagination. "Nope," I have to answer. "Just research." Whether for a blog post or a bit of the book I'm writing doesn't really matter. Fact is, I do this shit for fun. And I love it. If I didn't, I could blog about bullshit and I'd just make shit up willy-nilly for the novel. Other authors have done it before, with some measure of success.
People frequently don't believe me when I tell them I don't want to go out because I'm looking forward to delving into something dense, technical, and sometimes containing equations. The only other folks who understand are usually in grad school or headed that way.
We got into a brief conversation about television at work recently. One of my coworkers told me 30 Rock was a great show. I had to admit I didn't know what 30 Rock is. He proceeded to explain, and then told me I should watch all these other sitcoms. "Haven't got the time," I said. He told me I could make the time. Sure, I could. I could get even further behind on my science-blog reading than I already am (too much great stuff!). I could set the novel aside at the height of the winter writing season. I could put the papers down, shelve the books, and sit in front of the boob toob to catch up on pop culture.
Yeah, and I can quit smoking any time I want, too. My cat could stop randomly trying to kill people. And we could have a winter without rain in Seattle. Yup.
We're all odd in our own special ways, but there are moments when I realize how out of step with the general herd I am. It's not easy to notice sometimes. You, my darlings, my dearest online friends, you're usually raving about the same things I do. You start drooling the moment Callan Bentley posts his Friday Fold, you can't wait for Seafloor Sunday, you laugh your arses off at astrology. Data delights you. You wax enthusiastic over various and sundry science papers and you get your geek on. Among you, I don't stand out so much. No, it's more like jogging behind, trying to keep up with your science geek awesomeness. And those of my readers who aren't scientists at least appreciate the beauty of it, enjoy reading up on how the world works, and can spend a few hours lost in more than the latest pop culture phenom.
That's why it's such a rude awakening when I get to work and these conversations are going on wherein I'm reminded that no, not everybody's a geek. In fact, the vast majority of us aren't.
And I'm just not sure how to talk to people like that. So I don't, usually. I have a more nefarious scheme. I'm going to write a novel that's salted through with science-y goodness, and the readers might not even notice it at first because they'll (hopefully) be so caught up in the characters. I'm hoping to hook them. I'm hoping to lure them. And then when they burble something about how realistic this bit was or how did I possibly imagine this other bit, then I'll pounce. A-HA! SCIENCE! Yes, Victoria, there is such a thing on Earth as a solution valley. Yes, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our imaginations, but fortunately, science has discovered quite a lot of them. That's what I hope to get across: the universe is a fascinating place without me having to make up a lot of shit.
(And I just found another pdf that has me drooling while I looked for a good link for solution valleys. ZOMG.)
The corollary is that finding this fascinating shit out is fun. It is rewarding. And it's a far better use of one's short time on Earth than obsessing over Survivor. Although if that's your bliss, fine, follow it. Not all of us can be geeks.
But, y'know, I'm odd, so I think I'll just go curl up with some improving book and get my geek on, thanks ever so much.