I am a member of a select group. There are few if any benefits to membership. Indeed, being a member can expose one to considerable difficulty and persecution. And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am a member of the group of people that author Sarah A. Hoyt calls “odds”. We’re people that don’t quite fit in, that look at the world differently from others. It includes “geeks” and “nerds” but is not limited to them. It includes folk on the Autism spectrum but, again, is not limited to them. It can include people in various “subcultures” but once again is not limited to them.
So how do you tell an odd? It’s actually relatively simple: he or she (or however you want to count it) in a gathering of people that’s not a gathering of odds (like, say a Science Fiction convention) will be the one off by himself, or with a small gathering of like-minded odds. If there’s something “everybody’s doing”, the odd will be doing something else. Oh, sometimes the odd’s interests will become fashionable for a time. Some will complain about this. Some won’t. Odds are very much individuals only united in not fitting in with the “mainstream”.
How an I odd? Let me count the ways.
- Geek/nerd. What’s the difference? Damned if I know. I’ve seen several definitions attempting to define the distinction. Several mutually exclusive and contradictory definitions. In any case the first book I remember reading was “You will go to the moon” by Ira M. Freeman and Mae Blacker Freeman, the first edition with illustrations base on Von Braun’s Collier’s series, not the later edition with illustrations based on Project Apollo. The first TV series I remember watching was Lost in Space in its first run, followed by Star Trek, The Outer Limits, and UFO. I lived science fiction and–once a friend introduced me to The Hobbit while I was in High School–fantasy.
- Physical late bloomer. Oh, this was a source of misery growing up. I was always the physically weak/slow one in school (many years later I figured out that I was basically running one years behind my peers). Late start to puberty. As a result the one always picked on.
- Conservative/libertarian philosophy. Even as a child I tended to favor a more libertarian approach although it was only later that I learned the words to describe what I believed. Of course Heinlein books like Red Planet and Have Space Suit, Will Travel (my favorite book to this day) pushed me in that direction. It’s the “libertarian” part that pushes me into “odd”. Both conservatives and liberals tend to look questionably at us. But it’s especially the case when combined with some of the other things on this list.
- Writer. I don’t just read/watch this science fiction and fantasy stuff. I write it.
- Goth (ish–or maybe “Goth lite”). As I have mentioned here and there I discovered my “inner Goth” rather late in life after years spent attempting to be something I’m not in an effort to be attractive to the opposite sex (yes, I’m unreservedly heterosexual but that’s not an “odd” characteristic so not part of the list).
- Physicist. It’s not physicist itself that makes me an “odd” but how I got here. I did math and science problems for fun. Sports? Fashion? Never mind those, give me a good physical theory to explore every time.
Any one of those would be enough to make me “not fit”. Together? The intersection of those sets is very small indeed, let me tell you. I have yet to meet one other.
But those are really just symptoms. Being “an odd” is something else. Folk can generally spot the odd from an early age. I was identified as “something different” from a very early age indeed–first grade (I never attended Kindergarten) so pretty much from the first time I was put in a significant social environment.
Because that’s one of the things about odds. We tend to be bull-in-a-china shop when it comes to social situations. That leads to bad experiences, which often leads to retreating from social situations. That’s certainly how it worked for me. Oh, I can be “on” when I’m doing a panel at a science fiction convention or on stage in other contexts, but otherwise? I’m that guy in the corner at the party playing with the dog (or the cat–I’m easy to get along with that way). And if you approach me? Well, expect either short, rather abrupt answers because I don’t know what to say, or long diatribes on some subject also because I don’t know what to say.
I’m The Writer in Black. And I’m an odd. It has been 37 days since my last in-person social interaction not involving employment or my immediate family.
And on that note, a musical interlude: