Forget Frodo-Ethan 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 worlds-from 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 them-old, young, male, female, able-bodied, and disabled-into 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 reenactors-12,000 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.
"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
"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
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