As of the time I am writing this, it is the season of Fan X here in Utah. To be honest I was not even really sure when it was coming. I am not a huge fan. The biggest clue was when I was heading into work and huge crowds of people were downtown on my way going into work. I do admire lots of the people that go to Fan X, some of them are dressed amazingly to represent the best of nerd culture.
Don't Call the IRS
One of the biggest reasons I am not a fan of Fan X is that it feels like much of what they do is have things to sell you just because you are a nerd. I affectionately call this a nerd tax. A good example is to try and sell me a water bottle with words like “One bottle to rule them all.” Just because you wrote something vaguely Lord of the Rings that does not make it a good water bottle.
This does not mean that some things that they sell at Fan X are not super neat and very well done. One of the times I went they had a key maker who would stylize your house key to resemble a fantasy sword. I was very tempted by the great item. Get me in a place like that after working some overtime and I will find some good things out of the chaff. But I also know myself, and I don’t need stuff with no purpose.
Another place that is full of nerd tax is Kickstarter. I am a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson and his books. A place that he often (more often than I like) finds himself is on the Kickstarter site. I almost feel like I need to back some of these kickstarters because the quality is so good. This year his first kickstarter of the year was four books he wrote in secret. I was like much of the internet, soundly excited. He raised around 30 million dollars becoming the highest funded kickstarter of all time.
I had to have a long talk with myself about what level I would be willing to back Sanderson and his work. I had to look at what I wanted which was those books, and what was nerd tax. Part of the kickstarter was for a new box of Sanderson swag each month. It was almost as if they could have substituted the word swag for tax in my mind. When I backed the leather bound Way of Kings it came with lots of things I didn’t need. Albeit they were fantastic quality, but I did not need a deck of playing cards that were Stormlight themed. Ultimately I decided to cut back to the audio only level. I am sure my friend Nathan Tenney will make me jealous I did not get the full thing.
I Still Pay My Share of Nerd Tax
Spend time with me at SaltCon after working some overtime and I will show you what I pay in nerd tax. I do try to limit myself to things that have purpose even if it is very limited, like a dice tower with a mini set of dice for when we play Pathfinder. I subscribe to an online miniature service that I have already more files that I would probably ever use. But I love having new choices every month.
I am also looking forward to our trip to Board Game Geek Con (BBG Con) this November, with my dumb work schedule I am ready to have almost a week to play games. To me that is one of the big differences from Fan X and lets say a board game convention. Going to BBG Con or a SaltCon is where I get something from going. I get time to spend with friends and play games, eat good food, and overall have a great time.
Game cons are so much better than waiting in line to see the girl who was an actor in Harry Potter and hear how she was covered in blood and it didn’t get into the movie. Or, an actor in Lord of the Rings who said over and over that he was not friends with the actors that were much younger than he was when making the movies. These were interesting things that I learned on trips to Fan X, but they did not change how I feel when I consume the content.
Memories are the best things to gain for me when it comes to paying nerd tax. Making friends at SaltCon or playing Shadows of Brimstone at BGG Con is so much better use of my tax offerings to nerdom. Unlike my taxes to the US government, with my chosen nerd tax I have a choice about where to spend my money and to see what grows with the support of my tax dollars. No matter where you spend your nerd tax even if it is at Fan X I hope you make great memories.