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Only a geek would know dorks from goobers (joss whedon & serenity mention)

Saturday 24 June 2006, by Webmaster

Brent Jans makes no apology for the rich fantasy life he’s carved for himself

Scott McKeen

You can call him a geek. You can call him a goober. You can call him a dork.

Just don’t call him late for Star Trek.

Brent Jans is OK with any of those labels. Why not? Geeks rule. Dorks are cool. Goobers boldly go where no goober has gone before — even raising money for charity.

"Goober is a popular term in the U.S.," explains Jans. "My friends and I take geek as a positive. Dork used to have negative connotations, but is gaining acceptance."

Jans, 36, lives in a basement with his action figures and computer. As we descend to his dungeon of dorkness, I’m conflicted.

What I really want to do is toss away my notebook and just talk sci-fi with him. Did he, for example, like the Serenity movie or the Firefly TV series as much as I did? Did he buy them on DVD, like I did? Ahem. I flip out my notebook instead.

As a lad of 10, living in Fort McMurray, Jans walked into the public library one day and saw a poster for a Dungeons and Dragons night.

"That sealed my fate," he says. "From that point on, I was a dedicated geek."

Some parents get freaked out when their kids plunge into the world of gnomes and warlocks and halflings. They see it as devilish stuff.

But Jans says his parents were cool. Even if he was not.

"Yes, there was the usual junior high and high school stuff of being picked on and made fun of," he says. "We were never the most popular group — and easy targets."

But Jans would like to make a point about Dungeons and Dragons. You know how players are billed as anti-social losers? Jans says the role-playing game is all about social interaction. So there. And Jans went from role playing to a theatre degree and a job here with Image Theatre. So there.

When he’s not stage managing, he dabbles in freelance writing and steeps himself in his passion. He calls himself one of the last of the generalist geeks. Meaning he isn’t obsessive about just fantasy, or just science fiction, or just comic books, or just role-playing games, or just board games, or just one TV series or another.

He has attended geek conventions in the U.S. — dressing up as a Centauri ambassador from Babylon 5 — and organized one in Edmonton last year. Good times, he says. No drunks or brawls. Good thing, with all the delegates packing swords and phasers.

His latest venture is a charity event. He and a few other local goobers, like Lisa Rattai — she pestered me for months — are part of an international movement to support the favourite charity of a geek god, Joss Whedon, the mind behind television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Whedon is also revered — by me, too — for his short-lived sci-fi western Firefly and its big-screen followup, Serenity. Both starred Edmonton’s own Nathan Fillion.

Serenity is being screened again this week in 47 cities in five countries on three continents to raise money for Equality Now, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women. Here, the movie will be shown Saturday morning at 9:45 at South Edmonton Common cinema. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance at Happy Harbour Comics.

If you go, you’ll likely see a few dorks in geek getup. Or just dorks like me, who are thrilled with the opportunity to see Serenity on the big screen again. How good is Serenity? If you haven’t seen it, dear reader, you are dead to me.

Jans, meanwhile, rejects the idea that all fantasy and sci-fi is crap. Some of the writing is literary, important even, as it involves big philosophical questions.

"It’s a positive influence and it is ultimately good," he says.

And while he might be a fantasy-and-sci-fi geek, there are many other kinds, he says. Consider golfers who watch endless instructional videos, pore over golf-gear magazines, watch all the tour events on TV.

What about hockey fans who erect oil derricks on lawns or do their cars up in copper and blue? Or fans who get Oilers tattoos, fly Oilers flags, wear Oilers jerseys to work?

"Ultimately, it’s a good thing if people have that much passion in their lives," says Jans. "Everybody has something they’re a geek about."

Live and let live, says Jans. Go swing a golf club and enjoy. Let Jans read his fantasy books and collect his action figures.

"I think this has made me more accepting of other people’s passions, whether it’s collecting porcelain dolls, golf or hockey."

Collecting porcelain dolls? Now those are dweebs.