Named a Must-Read Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards
“For anyone who has ever spent time within imaginary realms, the book will speak volumes. For those who have not, it will educate and enlighten.” —Wired.com
“Gandalf’s got nothing on Ethan Gilsdorf, except for maybe the monster white beard. In his new book, Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks
, Gilsdorf . . . offers an epic quest for reality within a realm of magic.” —Boston Globe
“Master geek theater.”—The Times of Trenton
“A breathless adventure/quest/memoir that is uniquely contemporary.”—
Andrei Codrescu, NPR commentator
“Imagine this: Lord of the Rings
meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
….”—National Public Radio’s “Around and About"
“What does it mean to be a geek? . . . Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks
tackles that question with strength and dexterity. . . . part personal odyssey, part medieval mid-life crisis, and part wide-ranging survey of all things freaky and geeky ... playful ... funny and poignant ... It's a fun ride and it poses a question that goes to the very heart of fantasy, namely: What does the urge to become someone else tell us about ourselves?” —Huffington Post
“More fun than being a Dungeon Master to a group of high-level mages and thieves.”—A. J. Jacobs, author of The Know-It-All
and The Year of Living Biblically
“Gilsdorf is an engaging and personable guide. Like many who will pick up his book, he’s got one foot squarely in the real world, the other in the fantasy one. This is a journey well worth taking.” —Booklist
“Journalist and ‘avowed, out-of-the-closet geek’ Ethan Gilsdorf embraces his love of J.R.R. Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons and all things fantasy, embarking on a quest to discover what motivates those who devote significant portions of their lives to what many others dismiss as escapist fantasies. The book is also a journey of self-discovery.... engaging, occasionally poignant and emotional.” —Boston Globe
“Witty, downright funny, poignant, honest and ... well, wistful.”
—R. A. Salvatore, New York Times
bestselling author of The Dark Elf Trilogy
“Gilsdorf rekindled his childhood fascination with Dungeons & Dragons as a launch point, and then proceeded to wander the country exploring MMOs, LARPs, and other non-acronym endeavors in order write his fascinating memoir/travel/geek-world exploration.” —The Onion A.V. Club
"Where there is a story to be found, Gilsdorf found it, talking to fantasy enthusiasts from all walks of life… [A]nyone with even a passing interest in fantasy games should pick this up. Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks
provides a unique and affectionate overview of fantasy gaming from the trenches.” —Realms of Fantasy
“Considering that we are fantasy freaks, [Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks
] feels right up our alley.” —Wizards of the Coast’s D&D Insider
"As much a personal quest for the author as an investigation in to the fantasy culture, Gilsdorf not only brings the readers along for the ride, but also makes gets them emotionally invested…. Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks
,” shines a whole new light on the fantasy culture and explores it as only an insider can. … a great read. Funny and charming, he avoids all the negative stereotypes of gamers and instead paints a more realistic picture of the gaming community." —examiner.com
“This guy knows his fantasy and gaming cultures. Why? Because he has lived it. In Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks
rather than mocking the world of the nerd he celebrates it. Bravo.” —City Pages
Forget FrodoEthan Gilsdorf guides readers through fantasy lands far more enchanting than anything you’ll find in Tolkien’s books.
Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Notable author
Fantasy. Science fiction. Role-playing games.
Tens of millions of people around the globe turn away from the real” world to inhabit others. Movie fan-freaks design costumes and collect Lord of the Rings action figures. Some attend comic book conventions and Renaissance fairs, others play live-action role-playing games (LARPs). The online game World of Warcraft (WoW) has alone lured twelve million users worldwide. Even old-school role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) are still wildly popular.
Who are these gamers and fantasy fans? What explains the irresistible appeal of such escapist” adventures? And what could one man find if he embarked on a journey through fantasy world after fantasy world?
In an enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, forty-year-old former D&D addict Ethan Gilsdorf crisscrosses America, the world, and other worldsfrom Boston to Wisconsin, New Zealand to France, and Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar. On a quest that begins in his own geeky teenage past and ends in our online gaming future, he asks gaming and fantasy geeks how they balance their escapist urges with the kingdom of adulthood. He questions Tolkien scholars and medievalists. He speaks to grown men who build hobbit holes and speak Elvish, and to grown women who play massively multiplayer online games. He seeks out those who dream of elves, long swords, and heroic deeds, and mentally inhabit faraway magical lands. Gilsdorf records what lures themold, young, male, female, able-bodied, and disabledinto fantasy worlds, and for what reasons, whether healthy, unhealthy, or in between.
Delving deeper and deeper into geekdom, our noble hero plays WoW for weeks on end. He travels to pilgrimage sites: Tolkien’s hometown, movie locations, castles, and archives. He hangs out with Harry Potter tribute bands. At a LARP, he dresses as a pacifist monk for a weekend. He goes to fan conventions and gaming tournaments. He battles online goblins, trolls, and sorcerers. He camps with medieval reenactors12,000 of them. He becomes Ethor, Ethorian, and Ethor-An3. He sews his own tunic. He even plays D&D. What he discovers is funny, poignant, and enlightening.