by Stephanie Malek
This is going to come as a huge surprise based on how cool I probably come across (hahahahaha) but I am, and always have been, a huge nerd. I also am, and always will be, not shy about showing my excitement and obsession for things. I have been blessed to be surrounded by the type of people who have always supported me and my passions, something I know can often be missing for a lot of people who grew up nerdy. I went to computer camp, I appeared on Video and Arcade Top 10, I cosplayed, I had internet friends from a Sailor Moon chat room and yet I don't remember ever being made to feel bad about it. I've always been lucky to have had mostly positive associations with being a nerd!
My first exposure to a Toronto nerd community was probably CN Anime 2000. I had mentioned in a previous post that I used to be really into anime and Japanede culture. My friend Carly and I decided we wanted to try cosplaying as one of our favourite anime characters, Lime from Saber Marionette J (both of us wanted to be Lime so both of us were Lime). Carly has always been awesome at making costumes and has only gotten better over the years. We donned our costumes and within just a few minutes of being at the con we started talking to like-minded people who loved the same things we did. Everyone was in their element, taking tons of photos and eager to talk and share the things they were passionate about.
Wouldn't you know it, we became HOOKED. We started planning our costumes for Anime North, 2001. We convinced our chat room friends to come and the anime convention community welcomed them too! We started to make friends with other cosplay groups and even worked on group costumes together. Carly and I continued to do our own cosplays as well and also recruited our chat room friends into the fold! We spoke on panels and won several awards. At this point I finally started contributing with skits for our masquerade performances, such as this award winning one! We had a good three year run with some amazing photos and memories but, like all good things, this time came to an end.
After our cosplay run ended, I spent a few years out of the community and focusing on other things. I didn't really have a community of any kind and just floated around doing my own things.
Fast forward to probably the late 2000's when I started getting back in touch with my nerdier side. I started watching more shows about video games, and nerd culture was coming into its own. Comic conventions were cool all of a sudden, and celebrities I loved started going to them, but I still wasn't engaged in the community of it - I was just a background observer.
Fast forward again to the last couple of years. I ended a long term relationship and was trying to find where I fit. I started taking improv classes and started going out a lot more. One of the events I ended up going to was a Geek Trivia night at the Tranzac. Carly and I went with my friends Nug and Richard and it was so much fun to finally put years of random facts into play at something. Later I started producing shows with Bad Dog that were focused on things like Star Trek and Video Games so I tried to find out where I could engage with fans of those things. Bad Dog was sharing a booth with Illusionoid at Fan Expo, so I volunteered to work the booth and started to get that old convention excitement! I discovered things like Nerd Mafia Pub Night and started meeting a bunch of people who were all into the same things as I was and they were as eager to share their passion and love as I was to hear about it!
Starting to perform comedy has also been an amazing opportunity to tap into the nerd culture in the city. Shows like Fan Fiction and Bad Dog's Final Frontier/The Video Game/D&D Live shows were designed to create a space for us to laugh with nerd culture as opposed to laughing AT it, and made another place where fans could get together and celebrate the things they love!
There are also a lot of neat people who really stand out in this community for me that I want to shout out to. One of them is actor/improviser/all around cool dude Nug Nahrgang. Nug has had this amazing life so far that is driven by his passion for nerdy things! He's one of the creators of the Sci-Fi podcast Illusionoid, he was in Evil Dead the Musical (and is currently in rehearsals for Cannibal the Musical!), and I am lucky to count him as a friend! Any time I find out about anything cool and nerdy, Nug knows about it already! Nug doesn't just consume content, he creates it which is so damn cool!
Another person that I want to specifically point out is Sam Maggs. Sam is this incredible lady who has her hands in so many different parts of the community. She's a writer who recently published her own book, The Fan Girl's Guide to the Galaxy, she appears in the Cineplex pre-show, is on 102.1 the Edge talking about nerd culture and basically is every single place I look. Now it could be easy to be hella jealous of this lady because she is basically living my dream life, but she's so likeable that it's impossible! We've never met but based on the many twitter exchanges about Dragon Age, I'm pretty sure we'd get along famously!
One of the amazing things about living in Toronto right now is that if there is something you are passionate about, there is probably a group in the city who is also into it and will welcome you! Toronto has a reputation of being cold, but I've felt nothing but warmth from these communities and there is a fun, nerdy activity happening almost every night of the week! Places are opening up constantly, like the new archery tag place, numerous escape rooms, board game cafes, and the like. Sites like BlogTO and Geekpr0n are a good resource to find out about them, and if you do a search for your nerdy thing + Toronto, you are bound to find something!
What are you nerdy about? Know any great groups that deserve a shout out?