Cubicle at the End of the Universe: Balestrino Edition


There was a time when I felt a need to contain the intensity of my geekdom at work. Not because I felt uncomfortable expressing it, but because I worked at a publisher of business and nonfiction books with folks who, more often than not, had no idea what I was talking about when I babbled giddily at them about the latest Doctor Who episode or how amazingly amazing Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is. But since joining the team at Del Rey Spectra a year ago, well, let’s just say my nerd-babble cup floweth over. It floweth so far over that even the nerdiest of my friends are beginning to notice.

So, here’s my contribution to the overstuffed cubicle at the end of this corner of the publishing universe: Nerd-babble in Social Situations, or It’s Only Awkward if You Make It Awkward, Guys.

Everyone has topics they can’t shut up about—these are some of mine.

As you may know, I’m the one behind Unbound Worlds’s Tolkien Re-read, a project I imposed upon myself for no other reason than I love The Lord of the Rings and needed an excuse to re-read the books in order to pacify the irrational and jealous gods of my to-be-read shelf.

A good example of my inability to keep my Tolkien nerdiness to myself, despite all social cues to do so, happened at home quite recently. I’m sitting in the book-filled living room of my apartment with my roommate—she’s editing, I’m working on my re-read.

Before I go any further, let me preface this story with the fact that my roommate—let’s call her P—is not a fan of Tolkien. Not even a little bit. She’s read all the books, but ask her if she likes Tolkien and she’ll just look at you and say, “I respect what he did for the genre.” Ask her if she likes the movies and she’ll say “I like the parts where there’s action.”

Okay, moving on. So, I’m reading Fellowship of the Ring when I come upon a scene that makes me look up sheepishly from the page and say in a tiny voice, “I love these books so much!” P is awesome, so she bites and asks why.

Me: This thing Gandalf says when Frodo wishes Sauron hadn’t returned in his lifetime: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” He says it in the movie too, but later on. It chokes me up every time.
P: Wow. I’m not sure you could have more of a [bleep]* for Tolkien.
Me: I just love his books. It can’t be helped.

It took everything in my power not to answer with shouganai** by the way. But that’s another story. The long and short of this story is that doing the Tolkien Re-read has re-awakened my obsession with The Lord of the Rings. It’s almost as if I’m in high school again and doodling my name in Elvish in the margins of my AP Psychology notebook. Almost.

*CENSORED for explicit content. My roommate works on romance novels.
**SHOUGANAI: Japanese phrase meaning “it can’t be helped” or “nothing can be done about it.”

As the Del Rey Spectra publishing assistant, I am the keeper of the George R.R. Martin shelves in the office. And, yes, I regularly refer to myself as such. These shelves are exactly what they sound like—an entire bookcase filled with the books in the Song of Ice and Fire series. I keep them stocked and organized, which amounts to me fondling a whole lot of hardcovers.

I talk about these books all the time, and have been talking about them—incessantly—since I first read A Game of Thrones back in 2006. So, it’s probably no surprise (at least to my co-workers) that the moment I hear people discussing GRRM-related things in the office, I roll my chair out of my cube and grin stupidly before adding my unsolicited opinion. Or that, when a pile of promo posters for HBO’s Game of Thrones appeared at one of our weekly meetings, I pounced on it like a starving raptor and snatched up Jaime Lannister for my cube.

cubicle pic

Speaking of HBO, how happy am I that they’ve successfully adapted the books for television, thus making my nerd-babble more widely relatable? So happy, is the answer. Because, now, when I tell people they have to read the books, they believe me. I guess you could say I’m just your average super-mega-fan working at her fandom’s ground zero. Be still, my heart!

Another one of my tasks as publishing assistant is to go through our backlist and assign BISAC subject codes to books that either don’t have enough codes (each book should have three) or have been placed in a “general” category (a publishing no-no these days because it makes the book less likely to show up in searches). In this age of publishing, little details go a long way toward getting a book to the right readers. BISACs determine whether a book is shelved in biography or fantasy, and whether or not it will show up in a search for “memoir” or “epic fantasy.”

Still, one way or another, books sometimes end up with a BISAC that is unspecific or just incorrect. You’d be surprised how many volumes of manga I’ve come across that have been categorized as “fiction—general” even though there is a perfectly good selection of BISACs beginning with “comics & graphic novels—manga.”

You’re probably wondering (a bit skeptically, I’m sure), “is this her segue into anime?” Well…yes. Yes it is. Manga and anime are inherently related, so it works. Kind of. Maybe. Shut up, it’s happening.

A couple years ago I fortuitously met my anime bestie—we’ll call her K—when she had an interview with my old boss. Before meeting K, I was what you could call “anime curious”—I watched what aired on American television and loved all the Miyazaki films, but didn’t get much more into the genre than that.

Then K and I began our weekly Anime Friday marathons. As it turns out, those are an impossibly slippery slope that leads directly to recognizing seiyuu (Japanese voice actors) by voice or character design, compiling an all-Japanese commute playlist, religiously watching the latest season lineups airing in Japan, and inexplicably giggling over baffling things like “ERU-ERUFU!!” [Did you watch that video? Good. Here’s a fun fact.]

I know, it’s horrible. Believe me when I say any one of those things is an instant conversation killer nearly 90% of the time. Lucky for me, my nerd-babble on this topic is most frequently unleashed via my twitter feed. My usual publishing/Doctor Who/Game of Thrones/Legend of Zelda tweets are now interrupted by anime nonsense that, as my previously introduced roomie recently pointed out, is only comprehensible to 3 of my followers.

Exhibit A: Welp, new fav antag just used a book as a weapon then tore a cyborg apart WITH HIS BARE HANDS before leaping out of a helicopter #psychopass

[Don’t lie, you wanna know what that’s about.]

Exhibit B: K: Sorachi is a weird kind of genius who can parody battle shounen hilariously & also write actually the best battle shounen ever #Gintama


Exhibit C: K: Gai was all I’m Lelouch! I’m your bff! I hated Mana! But actually I loved her! You’re her destined partner! No I am! I hate you! Maybe! #GC

[Don’t worry, that one doesn’t make sense to anybody. Guilty Crown was a train wreck.]

Sure, there’s a part of me (K calls it the “I hope some people in this world take me seriously, please god, don’t let me eff it up” part) that tries to filter out the anime vomit, but it usually fails miserably.

What was the point of this story? Oh, yeah. Shouganai. It can’t be helped. That’s the thing about nerd-babble—you get so excited to be talking about something you love that you forget that maybe the person you’re talking to has no idea what you’re talking about.

Have your own moments of uncontrollable nerd-babble to share? (Don’t lie, I know you do.) Babble away in the comments! And remember, it’s only awkward if you make it awkward.