Watch Out! Mind Leeches! #1 – Why?

In his first column for us Keith Cunningham ask Why we love what we do?

“Why Sci-Fi?”

Three unrelated facts . . .

1) In the United States we just had the Super Bowl. For the non-Americans out there, that’s the biggest football game of the year. American football, of course, otherwise the biggest game would be the World Cup.

2) Famous astronomer Carl Sagan once hosted a popular television program called Cosmos. In this series, our turtle necked hero would take us with him on an amazing journey through the universe, teaching us about science, using the best special effects that late seventies public television had to offer. Man, that was some kind of turtle neck that man wore, wasn’t it?

3) The great philosopher Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Of course, they made him drink hemlock, so maybe he examined himself to death.

These things are completely unrelated facts. Only, they aren’t.

They’re related in that the knowledge of them takes me back to an incident that took place when I was in junior high school. It was in science class, surrounded by a score of other bored students. Our teacher decided to show us Cosmos, which I quite enjoyed, as I’m into astronomy and had been for a long time.

I was really getting into the show. What can I say? I was doomed to a life of geekery even then. This was noticed by a fellow student which brought about the inevitable question.

“Why sci-fi?” More precisely, why science fiction and fantasy instead of football (the American kind – now you see how they relate!) or baseball.

It was an innocent question. It wasn’t asked with any malice behind it, and it certainly wasn’t an attempt to make fun of what I choose to embrace. It was just a question from one kid to another, trying to understand something that most non-geeks will never wrap their thoughts around. Why are we into this stuff? Why do we care what red kryptonite can do to Superman? What the Kessel Run was? If there’s life on other planets? Who would win in a fight, a gamma-irradiated Paul Stanley or Paula Abdul after having read the Necronomicon and gained the power of eldritch Outer Beings?

Uh, where was I?

Oh, right . . . Why? A simple question, but a damn near impossible one to answer. In a display of wonderful interpersonal maturity I deflected the question with another question.

“Why football?” I asked, the cocky smirk of a bright teenager on my face. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to smack cocky young Keith in the face!

It’s a question that I wasn’t willing to give much thought to at the time, because I was a teenager, so OF COURSE I was right about everything and anyone who dared to doubt was an idiot. I still have my megalomaniacal days, but the medication is helping.

It was an important question, which I should have thought about, and I’m glad to say I have been thinking about recently. We need to examine what we love to determine if it’s worth loving.

Am I on the wrong team? Should I have been more concerned about the Super Bowl all along?

I don’t think so. I think I’m right to like the things I do, not because one is superior to another, but because they’re just the right interests for me.Neither is inherently right, nor wrong. And it’s certainly no weirder to wear a shirt bearing the emblem of your favorite football team than your favorite superhero. It’s just what you prefer, and good for you if you can say so with surety.

For me, I think it comes down to bigger stakes. I love adventure, drama, and excitement. I want to live in a world where I can cross swords with dark knights. Or storm a ship burning over Jupiter, a ray gun in either hand. I want to walk with heroes, court princesses, punch villains, and save the world.

What do you want to do?

Why do you love all these glorious things that make you a geek?


Keith W. Cunningham is a writer, filmmaker, and podcaster based in Milwaukee. You can follow his adventures on the Cine-Rama Podcast, The Trip Podcast, or on his website at

He doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he hopes it involves any combination of ninjas, robots, dinosaurs, and explosions. . .

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One comment

  1. Well put.

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