Sunday, September 13, 2009

FoG-PoP Revisited: April 2009: Pop on Pop Episode 4: Playdate Interview With Peter V. Brett

Previously, in Pop on Pop: Baby ran with the geeks in their natural habitat, met the Flash, and cuddled some stormtroopers.

I’ve decided to mix things up this month. Instead of focusing on my own adventures in baby-raising, I’m turning the focus on another geek dad, in what I hope will be the first of many playdate interviews.

It’s been a wild year for fantasy author Peter V. Brett. His debut novel, The Painted Man, has already been published in three markets, including the United Kingdom, where HarperCollins's Voyager imprint is already planning a third printing, and the United States, where it was released in March 2009—as The Warded Man—by Del Rey Books.

One of the most prolific writers you may not have heard of yet, his debut novel was actually the fourth book he’d written, and he just wrapped up the first draft of his follow-up, The Desert Spear. He’s also been musing almost daily about his life and his work on his always engaging and enlightening personal blog, His literary debut has earned him kudos from Terry Brooks and Charlaine Harris, not to mention scores of instant fans from around the world and across the Web.

His writing is equal parts complex characterization and kick-ass ultraviolence, all set in a harsh, decimated future ravaged by brutal elemental demons. He’s been nominated for the first-ever David Gemmel Legend Award, and he was the only father on a LunaCon 2009 panel called “Geeks With Kids.” That’s right—not only did he publish his first book, he created his first person. A wild year, indeed!

Of course, all that Mr. Fancy Pants stuff might work on the ladies, but to me, he’s just Peat, and he’s 110% geek. Some of those previous unpublished novels I mentioned star his old D&D character. The “library” in his apartment is about 75% comic books stacked floor to ceiling. The last time I checked, his list of all-time favorite movies included two animated Batman films. He has a diorama of Lord of the Rings action figures displayed prominently beneath his collection of replica fantasy weapons. He even owns one of those frilly shirts that people wear at Renaissance Festivals--and he has.

In short, we could rename this website Forces of Peat!

A few months back, I invited Peat, his wife Dani, and their baby girl, Cassandra Hope, to spend an afternoon with me and my fam, so the kids could play while Peat answered some questions about geek parenting.

Alexa Sky and her new BFF Cassie decorate the interview that follows with expected cuteness.

PoP: Just looking at the breadth of content on FoG, you can see that “geek” has become a broad, ambiguous (sometimes even vague) term – so, let’s narrow things down for the readers. What kind of geek are you?

PVB: I guess at my core I’m a fantasy and comic book geek, but there’s plenty of room in there for toys, science fiction, gadgetry, and the like. I’m not really a video game geek, but that is more a matter of self-preservation than anything else, because I am afraid that if I let that monster out, it will never go back in the cave and I’ll squander my whole life on the couch.

PoP: Geeks love lists, and we love getting meta. What have been the Top 5 geek moments in your life (eg, first trip to Comic Con, camping out for the first showing of the first Tim Burton Batman, scoring an original Jabba’s Palace playset on E-bay, whatever tweaks your geek)?

PVB: In chronological order:

1. Seeing Star Wars at the Central Avenue Movieland Cinemas when I was 4 years old. I still remember it vividly.

2. The day I was finally able to acquire the Holy Grail of my comic book collecting childhood, my own copy of X-Men #137 (where Phoenix dies). Before the advent of eBay, it took a lot of pavement pounding and convention bin mining to find a copy within my most limited allowance budget.

3. Getting scolded by Robert Jordan at San Diego ComicCon in front of about 500 people.

4. Going to the NYC premiere of Frank Miller’s Sin City movie, and attending the afterparty with just about every comic book idol of my childhood.

5. Meeting Terry Brooks at NY ComicCon 2008 and having him write an endorsement for my first novel.

PoP: Is the Force strong with your child? In other words, has the kid begun to take to any of your geeky ways or shown any interest in your own geek pursuits?

PVB: At 6 months, I think it’s too soon to tell, though she does have an affinity for grabbing action figures off my shelves and sticking them in her mouth. It’s a start.

PoP: What conscious steps have you taken or do you plan to take to indoctrinate your child into geek society?

PVB: I have strongly stacked the deck against her in that regard. I read Tolkien and Lewis Carroll to her in the womb, and already there are many photos of her in her “Bib +1” or her Star Wars Princess onesie. A complete set of female Marvel Superhero Squad figures awaits her second birthday, and there’s a Skull the Troll doll in her crib. It will only get worse, I assure you, even when she rebels and starts obsessing over designer labels and reading Candace Bushnell. I will not give up the fight.

PoP: What is the geekiest thing you’ve done with your child?

PVB: I think recording myself reading Tolkien and playing it on those little speakers you press against the womb (wombphones?) qualifies as both the height of geeky and perhaps borderline child abuse.

PoP: Obviously, the kid will have some say in the matter, but what do YOU want her to be when she grows up?

PVB: Happy and creative.

PoP: Are there any geek icons, real of fictional, that you’ve presented or plan to present to your child as role models?

PVB: Eowyn of Rohan. She did what no living man could do. She could also do worse than to look up to Princess Leia, though I don’t know if I want her dating any scruffy-looking nerf-herders. I’m sad to say there aren’t as many female role models as I would like, but I will find them wherever they hide.

PoP: “Geek” hasn’t always been a nice word. That cool kid rocking the vintage superhero gear and owning the video game top score can quickly become a social outcast as an adult without the right guidance. As parents of possible “bad geeks,” what steps can we take to keep our kids on the road to awesome … rather than the express train to Dorksville?

PVB: Encourage regular hygiene? If baby pix and genetics are anything to go by, both our daughters are going to be beautiful, so as long as they shower regularly, I think they’re pretty safe, even when they embarrass their boyfriends by fixing their computers and earning more money than them.

PoP: How does your significant other feel about a) your geek ways and b) your geek ways possibly being passed on to the next generation? How about the grandparents, in-laws, or other extended family?

PVB: My wife is as much a geek as I am. It’s the extended family I am worried about. Too many trips with her aunt to the nail salon or her grandmother to Tiffany’s and all my years of hard work might be undone.

PoP: While we’re trying to teach them about the things we love and obsess over, our kids are experiencing the world from a completely fresh and different angle. We probably don’t even realize what it is our kids will be geeking out about in 10, 20, or 30 years. But can you hazard a guess?

PVB: I think it will probably be much the same stuff that we do, they will just have much cooler tech-based medium. Once the contact-lens computer screen is perfected, reading will take on a new level, and a few years after that, they will be able to play their video games inside the Matrix.

And if they’re lucky, George RR Martin will have finished A Song of Ice and Fire by then.

PoP: You're a work-at-home dad, so do you have some tips for other productive geek parents trying to juggle their life's work and the hard work of living?

PVB: Accept that sleep as you know it is gone and never coming back. Make your peace with it, and try to make any time not focused on your kids as productive as possible. You can rest when they're in college, or you're a millionaire, whichever comes first.

PoP: And finally, what are you currently geeking out about?

PVB: Just finished the latest Powers TPB by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. Fantastic as always. I'm currently reading Squadron Supreme, The Pre-War Years TPB by Straczynski & Frank, and The Wings of Wrath, a fantasy novel by one of my writing idols, CS Friedman. For TV geekiness I am watching LOST, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Dollhouse. Last but not least, I am FINALLY getting out to see Watchmen before it goes out of theaters. VERY psyched for that.

NEXT TIME: What’s baby watching?

FoG-PoP runs on the first Thursday of the month, but you can follow me on Twitter the rest of the time at @D18Matt. And don’t forget that I’m always looking for more of the best of the comic blogosphere at

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