I am excited to welcome Michael R. Underwood, who is celebrating the release of his third Ree Reyes novel, Hexomancy.
Fan-favorite urban fantasista Ree Reyes and her crew of Geekomancers—humans that derive supernatural powers from pop culture—take on their biggest foes yet in this fourth book of the Geekomancy series.
When Ree’s long time nemesis Lucretia is finally brought to trial and found guilty for the deadly attack on Grognard’s, the Geekomancer community breathes a collective sigh of relief. But Ree and her crew soon discover that Lucretia has three very angry, very dangerous sisters who won’t rest until Eastwood—a fellow Geekomancer—is killed.
What follows is an adventure packed with epic battles, a bit of romance, and enough geeky W00t moments to fill your monthly quota of adventure and fun.
Three Years of Geekomancy
Geekomancy came out in 2012, the same summer as the first Avengers movie. Since then, we’ve seen some big waves in geek culture as it continues to dominate the pop culture landscape (in the USA at least). Comic-Cons have continued to grow, and not just the big two of SDCC and NYCC. Sony, and Fox, have all announced crossover franchise cinematic universes to match those of Marvel and DC, we’ve seen a whole second wave of Marvel movies, and we’ve seen diversity and representation become a major topic of discussion across the world of popular culture, with backlash, sub-discussions, and hashtags galore.
Here’s an overview of the biggest changes in geek culture from a Geekomancy perspective.
The Rise of Supers
Superheroes were already big business before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but have taken a huge leap forward since then. The proliferation of franchises and the continuing international box-office dominate means that any geekomancer drawing on supers properties has a far larger pool of passion to draw upon. But it also means a proliferation of props and merch, which makes that love more diffuse. As more people enter the fandom, older or more high-end relics become all the more important. Imagine the bidding wars over props used in the Marvel films, or heists into Marvel Studios warehouses to make off with a choice hero prop (in fact, a Geekomancy story along these lines is on my to-do list).
A widening fandom also means we’ve seen more and more complaints from established fans about ‘Fake Geek Girls,’ about cosplayers not being real fans, and other ridiculous gatekeeping BS. Trying to assert dominance or ownership over a fandom or property serves no useful purpose, especially since the real world doesn’t actually involve specialized knowledge of pop-culture properties creating magical power. And even if it did, the more people love and celebrate something, the more love, the more energy there is around it.
Another big topic of conversation in fandom and American culture at larger right now is one of representation – representation for women, for LGBTQ persons, and people of color (and far more – though the previous three get the most attention. Campaigns like We Need Diverse Books are a part of this, as are the increased attention for representation-oriented (esp. feminist) criticism in video games (including but not limited to Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series), film & TV, and beyond.
And there’s been pushback, oh how there’s been pushback. Look no further than GamerGate, Meninists/Men’s Right’s Activists, the pushback against Marriage Equality, and the attacks against groups like racial justice groups like Black Lives Matter. The question of who gets to have a seat at the table, who gets to have a voice in culture, is a HUGE argument and fight playing out on a hundred levels, and SF/F is one of them – see Sad/Rabid Puppies and the controversy over the Hugo Awards this year, which is really just the latest flare up in the SF/F prose publishing world.
As a cisgender straight white guy from the USA, I’ve been pandered to my whole life by popular culture. People who are very much like me in many ways are ubiquitous in film, TV, comics, and more. So when I was designing Geekomancy and figuring out what I wanted to say about geeks and fandom in the first book, I didn’t want to just perpetuate the narrow representation that was so common in popular culture depictions of geeks and fandom. Instead, I chose to make Ree a bisexual woman of color. I’ve stumbled along the way in how I handle representation, and have been trying to do a better job each book, bit by bit, as I learn more of the nuance of the diversity already in the world.
The Mainstreaming of Geekdom
Beyond the rise of supers and the discussions of representation and diversity in popular culture, the other major trend I’ve noticed in the three years since Geekomancy debuted is that geek culture continues to be more and more inextricably linked to mainstream popular culture, especially in the United States of America (that’s the only place I’m comfortable discussing at this level, as it’s where I live and work and write).
More and more of the highest-grossing Hollywood films are speculative fiction. TV is proliferating across new media and scripted dramas are popping up more and more on cable channels and channels one would never expect to have scripted dramas (and admit it). And many of them are fantasy, science fiction, both, or a related genre (horror, slipstream, etc.).
So what happens when a formerly-niche culture gets absorbed into the mainstream, mass-commoditized, served up to a much wider audience? Well, this is far from the first time that a marginal group has had this happen. In fact, this process I described was my proposed doctoral thesis back when I wanted to go to PhD Programs. But instead of that, I went into publishing and got Geekomancy published. My answer, in brief, is this – the pie has gotten enormously bigger, so not only is there more than enough room for all of the new people enjoying these things that used to be very niche, now more and more things are being made for that ‘niche,’ which means that I have more merch, more shows, more games, more books, and so on, than I could ever have imagined as a kid. And that’s a straight-up win. There are some nasty parts of this change, as well, but that’s for another essay at another time.
A lot has changed in geekdom since July 2012, and a lot has stayed the same. Geekdom, and Geekomancy, is still about passion and love for stories and characters, for worlds strange and familiar, believable and totally out of this world. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Meet Michael R. Underwood!
Michael R. Underwood grew up devouring stories in all forms, from comics to video games, tabletop RPGs, movies, and books. Always books. He holds a B.A. in Creative Mythology and in East Asian Studies from Indiana University and a M.A. in Folklore Studies from the University of Oregon. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiance, an ever-growing library, and a super-team of dinosaur figurines & stuffed animals. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he studies historical martial arts and makes pizzas from scratch. He is also a co-host on the Skiffy and Fanty Show.
Want to purchase Michael’s novels?