Friday, October 19

Q&A: Have You Nerd about Terra Olsen?

In the last five years or so, the media has become fascinated with geeks. From CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” to superhero-movie domination of the box office, Hollywood has decided that geek-oriented products are marketable and worth developing. However, what the media has delivered to the public is a primary-colored and diluted, albeit endearing, version of nerd-dom  – “geek chic,” if you will. Dedication to what sells has meant that many aspects of geeky life have been passed over.

Enter Have You Nerd and its band of blogging “nerdistas.” Noticing that some of the things they held dear about geek culture were being overlooked, these lady geeks created a website dedicated to informing readers about all aspects of nerd life, including gaming, fashion, home, entertainment, science and crafts, just to name a few. The Daily Bruin’s Nick LaRosa spoke with Terra Olsen, site founder and a UCLA alumna from the class of 2008, at last Sunday’s Geekie Awards in Hollywood and throughout the week about her vision for the site and her experience as a nerd at UCLA and beyond.

Daily Bruin: In your own words, how would you describe your website, Have You Nerd, and its purpose?

Terra Olsen: Have You Nerd was developed to show that you can be a nerd for anything in life. I wanted to highlight different self-proclaimed nerdy women and their life experiences in an effort to create a more inclusive nerd community.

DB: What gave you the idea to start the site?

TO: I was inspired to start Have You Nerd from my own experiences. I was tired of reading a million blogs that never expanded beyond their niche. I wanted to highlight traditional nerd things, as well as not-so-traditional things. Again, it is about creating inclusiveness – it’s okay if you like fashion in addition to Star Trek. That does not make you any less of a fan or nerd.

DB: What would you say is the most satisfying part of running Have You Nerd or a site like it?

TO: The most satisfying part of running the site is simply hearing from people who enjoy the site and giving interesting people a place to share their voice.

DB: I assume you don’t use the word geek in its original meaning: a circus performer whose act consists of biting the heads off chickens or live snakes. In your own words, what makes someone a ‘geek?’

TO: I use geek and nerd interchangeably. That being said, being a ‘geek’ can mean to be passionate about something to the point that you want to study it and incorporate it in your daily life. So you can have your traditional ‘comic-book geek’, but I would also apply the term to a huge sports fan, meaning you have your ‘basketball geeks.’ The other way I use the term is to describe people who are fans of traditionally ‘nerdy’ things, so science, gaming, etc.

DB: What kind of comics did you read growing up?

TO: As a kid I mostly read what my dad would buy, so we had a lot of golden and silver age sci-fi comics, and then I read a lot of Marvel. Then, when I got a little older, I started reading Catwoman and more DC and Batman, as well as more independent comics: Valiant, Dark Horse and Vertigo.

DB: Were there any organizations you were involved in on campus during your time at UCLA that allowed you to surround yourself with people that shared your geekier interests?

TO: Yes. It was awesome. I was an active member of Enigma, which is a sci-fi and fantasy gaming club at UCLA, which is still very active. I still get the newsletters and have friends who still participate, and if I stilled lived in LA, I think I’d still be involved too. It’s a really great atmosphere. In high school, none of my friends were really into those kinds of things, so it wasn’t until college that I found peers that I really connected with. I’m still best friends with a lot of the people I met through the club today. Everyone’s just really themselves, and I thought that was refreshing; that you could be whatever kind of nerd you wanted and people would just focus on the strains of nerd-dom you had in common.

DB: Is there any advice you have for college-aged nerds out there?

TO: Just be true to yourself. People get freaked out about others judging them. It took me a while to get that out of my head. Looking back, I wish I could have just been proud of my hobbies, because that’s who I am as a person and what I like. Just be passionate about what you do.

Email LaRosa at [email protected].

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