The Happening Book Explores the Origins of Geek Culture

When the author of The Happening Book found a notebook he had pinned as a seven-year-old kid, he found himself in a dialogue with his seven-year-old self, 35 years later.

Journals are sort of a written time capsule. Even for people who have been journaling most of their lives, we rarely look back and reflect on the things that happened when we were kids. When the author of The Happening Book found a notebook he had pinned as a seven-year-old, at first he thought it might be an interesting preservation project. Then he found himself in a dialogue with his seven-year-old self, 35 years later.

The entries are follow the 1978-79 school year — a time period he says is just before we entered the future. As he began reading through the journal, he found the musings from his younger self to be quite profound and even relevant to the current technological age — right down to social media.

“They’re sort of like Tweets,” says the author, who requested to remain anonymous. “One of the cliches about social media is that it’s what everybody had for lunch and so much of what I was writing about was that sort of thing but directed at a page no one was reading.”

As he was preparing his entries to go online, he also realized so much of what he’s interested in now is informed by his interests as a seven-year-old boy. Having grown up a kid into Star Wars and science fiction, it seemed apropos to talk back to himself “through the wormhole of time” about how things turned out.

“There’s some trivia or an action figure I can link to on ebay,” he says. “Other times it’s a more existential experience.”

Since launching The Happening Book Tumblr blog, he’s gathered a few hundred followers. It’s the audience on Facebook and Twitter in their mid-30s and early 40s who seem most responsive — which makes sense because they grew up in the small group of Generation X.  At first he was worried his entries would be too specific, but it’s precisely the specificity that sparks the most nostalgia for his readers.

“My generation is is largely considered nostalgia proof,” he says. “But maybe we’re just nostalgia resistant and as we reach middle age, we’re trying to contextualize their lives.”

In fact, he says, this period in his journal is from the time just before we entered the future. While it’s not formally acknowledged, Gen X is responsible for the internet and many of the other things that have become important to geek culture. Still, he says, for the time period from the mid-to-late 70s, Google is like a dead zone.

As any kid would be, the kid from the Happening Book was rather obsessed with Halloween. Now that that’s over, the author says there are certain things coming in the next couple months that had a big impact on geek culture.

“The first week in November is amazing,” he says, trying not to give away too much.

And when it’s over, it’s over. He joked about returning to the entries in another 35 years to have the conversation from the future again. For now, he’s just having fun reflecting on the cultural and technological shift that’s taken place over the last three decades. In the end, he just hopes people can relate.

“I mean…if you’re going to have a midlife crisis, you’d better make it mean something,” he says.

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