Being a 'nerd' has never been cooler, writes Ed Power
Once it was the love that dared not utter its name. But now it's perfectly acceptable to admit to a fondness for comic books, gadgetry and fat novels.
Geek chic has gone mainstream. From Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to quirky movie stars such as Johnny Depp, the misfits have taken over.
"The biggest movies and TV shows are properties that are squarely part of geekdom," says Elizabeth Giorgi, founder of Beinggeekchic.com. "The Avengers, Game of Thrones, Sherlock -- all these were narrowly defined as things that nerds read or consumed. When adapted to the screen, the new exposure to these stories gave the public a view into the quality and depth in the things nerds already love."
Geeks aren't entering mainstream culture. They are colonising it.
Apple was created by two proto-geeks, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The hottest show on television? It's Game Of Thrones, essentially Tolkien's Lord of the Rings as re-imagined by a seventies porn producer. What is the Twilight franchise but a geeky vampires and werewolves parable tailored for Generation Beiber?
"There has been a cultural shift in which the internet played a huge role," says Liam Geraghty, host of Comic Cast podcast. "Years ago you would have felt alienated for liking comic books; now the web is creating communities of like-minded people so kids don't feel isolated in their geekish hobbies.
"The boom in comic book movies has certainly helped. The general movie-going audience is being exposed to material that had its origins in the comic book format and probably don't even realise it."
Nothing underscores the mainstreaming of geek culture like the cult of Apple. In the '80s and '90s, anyone who knew their way around a computer was assumed to have zero social skills.
Two decades on, technology is unimpeachably cool. Casually mention you were up all night wrestling with Angry Birds and, rather than dismissive scoffs, you will receive understanding nods. Today everyone's a geek, even if they don't know it.
"I would guess that technology has become more attractive, both in physical design and user interface, and appeals to more people," says Jeannette Vollmer of Ireland Girl Geek Dinners, which organises meet-ups for the technologically inclined.
"I remember I used to read comic books on my commute and you'd be getting looks from people thinking: 'What in God's name is he doing?'," reflects Liam Geraghty.
"It's not uncommon now to see several people on the train reading a comic. Critics have come to realise they are as culturally valid as any creative medium. People are being encouraged to be themselves and be proud of who they are and what their interests are."