The Nerd List

Every time I hear someone say, “I was a nerd before it was cool,” I don’t think to myself, When was being a nerd not cool? My thoughts tend to flow more along the line of I’ve never been cool.

I’ve pretty much always been a nerd, though.

Being the child of a computer programmer, it was probably inevitable. I have a clear memory from when I was about ten, of my father arriving home with a huge wrapped box, and all I wanted to be inside that box was a dollhouse. The streets of Kellyville, my Lego town, paved my bedroom floor. I had houses and supermarkets and schools. My collection of Matchbox cars served to drive my Lego people and dolls around the place, and my stuffed animals formed a line of hills from the end of the bed to the door.

In Kellyville, I played the games other kids usually played with other kids. I was in the transition between Legos and Barbies, though, and I wanted a larger house for more complicated games.

As distinctly as I remember wanting (needing) a dollhouse, I also recall the way all of my hopes and dreams sank deep into my middle as I unwrapped the box and stared uncomprehendingly at the Atari logo on the outside.

Fast forward four years and playtime with my Barbie dolls mostly consists of weird rituals where they’re all naked and floating in buckets of water, and the only way my parents can get my attention is to pull the plug of the Atari from the wall outlet.

Asteroids was my jam. I freaking loved that game. When not raining spinning death across my enemies (or drowning Barbie dolls), I was writing my own games on a Compaq personal computer you had to boot with a floppy. It had a fold-down keyboard and a tiny little green screen. I had a book full of code and lots of IDEAS.

I also had no friends, but whatever. If my socks matched my shirt, it was a good day, and I was living my best life.

Yes, I took AP classes in high school, including Latin, where our class functioned as just another meeting of the Latin club. We sat around reading Astrix comics. In Latin. I played piano, which meant I got up early to practice, gave up Atari time to practice, and took all sorts of exams. It wasn’t fun. It was supposed to be fun?

I studied four languages.

I worked on props in the theatre department because I was way too shy to venture out onto the stage (though I did, on a couple of memorable occasions – once as a rabbit and again as a tree).

I had a friend who wore glasses thicker than mine and I secretly loved that she was geekier than me (my wardrobe of matching socks and polo shirts aside).

Rather than recount all the nerdly years between then and now, I’ll pull a few highlights.

  • I’ve been to see Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions and I loved it. (I sang. Dear God, I sang.)
  • My first boyfriend captured my heart by drawing Catwoman on the back of my English notebook. (I also own a really nice copy of Catwoman #1, 1993 edition.)
  • I read books about science, even ones I don’t understand, and then make people listen to me as I talk about them. (This part helps me understand them.)
  • For our first Valentine’s Day together my (now) husband gave me a copy of The Sims. I played it all day and through the night. It was, quite literally, the best gift ever.
  • Science Fiction will always be my first and best love, and it all started with a chance encounter with Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World.
  • My home library of nonfiction titles is sorted using the Dewey Decimal System.
  • I love bullet points. And spreadsheets. And charts. And statistics.
  • The characters in my books are almost always nerds.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I have surpassed my own nerdiness in compiling a list of the nerdiest characters in my books, starting, of course, with a chart.

NameBook/SeriesAvatarNerd PointsScore
MalThis Time ForeverHistory Teacher, Gamer,
Language Geek, Miniaturist, Culture Geek
CharlieThis Time ForeverSF Novelist, Technical Writer,
Gamer, Culture Geek
SimonThis Time ForeverArchitecture Nerd, Pianist, Historical Society3
HenryCountingAccountant, Counts Everything, Boy Scout3
NickSundays with OliverMiniaturist, Counts Everything, Timekeeper3
DanLet’s ConnectBookstore Owner, Gamer, Literature Nerd3
FrankThis Time ForeverWriter, Literature Nerd2
LangAliens in New YorkTechnology Nerd, Kitchen Nerd2
AlvaroWrong DirectionLabel Nerd, Boy Scout2
BramTo See the SunCarver, Poet2
OliverSundays with OliverGamer, Cosplay2
RobinLet’s ConnectProgrammer, Gamer2
FelixChaos StationComic Book Nerd, Mr. Fixit2
TomThis Time ForeverScience Fiction Nerd1
Dillon Aliens in New YorkArtist1
DanielWrong DirectionTechnology Nerd1
JaredOut in the BlueAccountant1
FinOut in the BlueTeacher1
MaxBlock and StrikeScience Fiction Nerd1
JakeBlock and StrikeGamer1
PaulWhen Was the Last TimeArt History1
JulianBest in ShowWriter1
BrianThis Time Forever
GaelTo See the Sun
EvanWhen Was the Last Time
MacBest in Show

I graded my characters using a fairly simple scale. I listed their nerdly pursuits but didn’t get too detailed with it as I didn’t want to get into value judgments (or fall into the trap of compiling lists of nerdly attributes and pastimes – I do have books to write, after all).

(Also, whoa, check out all those accountants. ACCOUNTANTS ARE SEXY.)

To graph the results, I created my own tier list. I love tier lists (of course I do), and honestly, the most fun part of this whole exercise was sourcing the images I used as avatars for each of my characters. And downloading the completed list to share.

Mal, of course, is in a class all his own. He’s my nerdiest nerd. If I listed every nerdy thing they’ve ever done, Charlie and Mal would probably end up together. As it is, I like that Mal and Charlie have a tier each to themselves, with everyone else stacking up underneath them.

Is this the nerdiest thing I will ever do? Gosh, I hope not! I love being a nerd. I love being completely uncool. I regularly spend hours thinking up new ways to embarrass my daughter with my lack of cool. I also have endless ideas for nerdy characters that I want to write, including an upcoming book I have already signed a contract for where one of the main characters is a secret nerd!

I know, it’s all too ridiculous. I probably still need more friends. At least I’m not drowning Barbie dolls in buckets anymore.

Published by Kelly Jensen

Writer of love stories. Bibliophile. Gamer. Hiker. Cat herder. Waiting for the aliens. 👽 🏳️‍🌈

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