"Those weird, unsociable guys with horn-rimmed glasses"
Fantasy, science fiction, and comic superheroes: Previously the domain of so-called "nerds", they have since arrived in the mainstream. But does the cliché of the spectacled loner with no friends still apply today? A "Star Trek" fan, a Magic player and a fan fiction writer reply – and tell us about their passion.
Caroline, 24, fan of the series Star Trek ("Trekkie")To be honest, I haven't been a "Trekkie" for very long. It only started with the new Star Trek films by J. J. Abrams. I liked them so much that I kept reading about them online, and everyone said you have to have seen the original series to really understand the film. I was sceptical at first because the series is from the 1960s, but then I absolutely fell in love with it.
What fascinates me most about Star Trek are the sociological aspects and the relationships between the characters. Especially for the main characters – Spock, Captain Kirk and so on – there's often a conflict between logic and emotion, a theme that weaves its way through the whole series. The utopian society in the world of Star Trek, free of problems like discrimination and racism, has many progressive traits, which is fascinating – particularly back then.
However, there are different kinds of Star Trek fans. Some of them are more interested in the technology depicted in the series, for example whether the warp drive is actually realistic and things like that. They also insist that you can't understand the series without the whole technological background, but I don't think that's true.
Most of the contact between Star Trek fans happens on the Internet. The bulk of the discussions used to be on the blogging platform LiveJournal, but now the majority has moved across to Tumblr. Tumblr is a nirvana for nerds! You can enter special hashtags like #spacehusbands or #mirrorverse, and that will lead you to really in-depth Star Trek content quite quickly. These hashtags are like codes – you just have to know them, and then you're a part of the community.
Maximilian, 22, Magic: The Gathering player from TuntenhausenI sometimes call myself a nerd, but I use the expression tongue-in-cheek. To me, nerds are those weird, unsociable guys with horn-rimmed glasses who sit at home all day, never doing anything else. I on the other hand do step outside my door sometimes (laughs). For example, I used to be very active in the punk scene, and I still have many friends there. When I'm with them, we talk about my nerdy hobbies every now and then, but that's about it.
Magic: The Gathering is an incredibly complex strategic trading card game with a fantasy background. Its complexity is what I like best about the game. I've been playing for quite a while now, but I still feel like I've only just scratched the surface. Compared to other card games, that's enormously motivating.
I first encountered the game when I was about seven or eight years old. One of the cards from my first package featured a double-headed dragon; I liked it so much that I was hooked right away. As a teenager, I tended to have other interests, but around 2011, my brother and I started playing again a little. Out of curiosity, I went back to the local shop in Rosenheim; I met some nice people there, and that's how I slowly got back into the Magic tournament scene. My first international tournament was in Malmö in 2012. I didn't do very well, but I had a lot of fun. I've been trying to enjoy the ride as much as I can ever since.
The longer you play, the more you also play the game because of the people. I have a whole circle of friends that has developed around the game. Just like I have my punk friends, I now also have my Magic friends. If I didn't have them and had to go to all the tournaments by myself, I probably would have stopped playing by now.
Alexandra, 32, writer of fan fiction stories from BerlinI don't know if I would call myself a nerd. But I think it's more of a compliment than anything – to me it means that I know something about comics and TV series and that I'm capable of being passionate about something. These days, the term nerd has been watered down anyway, because it's "in" to be a nerd and quite a lot of things fall into this category. However, I'm more likely to call myself a "fan girl". I don't even know when it all started for me; I think I've just always been that way. People like me see a film and think: "Okay, now I want to know everything about it!" For example, one of my favourite books is The Godfather, and after I'd finished the book, I immediately wanted another 500 stories about the Corleone Mafia family. That's also how I started writing fan fiction.
In fan fiction, you take an already established universe – such as that of Batman or Harry Potter – and write your own stories that are set in this world. And if you want to know what happens to this or that character but there's no answer in the original work, you just write your own version.
A method called "shipping" is particularly important in fan fiction; it's when you bring couples together that never became couples in the original story. Harry Potter and Hermione are a popular example. Sometimes these are really erotic stories. I think these stories are so popular because many people start writing fan fiction as teenagers, and romance and eroticism are such important topics at that age. And fan fiction is a good way of exploring them.