I try to be the opposite of a gatekeeper when it comes to fandom and pop-culture knowledge.

I mean – I haven’t always tried to. I used to be the asshole who would gasp when people said they hadn’t seen some movie I considered to be classic or who, even if I wouldn’t quiz other people on their depth of knowledge on my favorite subjects, would still get into back-and-forths about it, playing right into the hands of whoever wanted to define the limits on who was and was not a “true fan”.

Anyone who has been in fandom long enough has encountered these people. They’re combative, confrontational and unbearably tedious. They may be coming from a place of defensiveness, but sometimes I don’t think even they know what they’re trying to achieve with quizzes and nerdsplaining and scorn.

The longer I live, the less time I want to spend around people like that. And I know no one else wants to either. The older I get the more I take it as a true gift when I meet someone who is interested in something I’m nerdy about and who wants to talk to me about it. If someone comes to me with questions about movies, comic books, video games, etc. it is a sheer pleasure to talk about them unreservedly.

There no greater fun you can have with your pants on than to have a nice, meaty discussion with someone about something you love. And if they start to love it too, then bonus. If not, well, their time and attention are a gift. And if I want folks to thoughtfully discuss these things with me, the best I can do is to try to make my enthusiasm infectious.

I know a lot about movies. I know a lot about video games. I could probably teach a 300-level course in the history and politics of the Marvel universe. There is no valor in these areas of knowledge. There is no utility in them. If they’re not fun then they are nothing. Or – worse than nothing – they could be a millstone or a stick with which I could try to beat people.

I try to subscribe to the philosophy outlined so succinctly in this XKCD. Instead of saying, “Oh my god. How have you not seen/read/played that?” it is always more interesting to say “Oh man, come hang out. Have I got a treat for you.”