Joseph Campbell and Beyond

I smile when I hear someone say, “That movie sounded just like that other one” or “That author stole that idea!” These words usually come to mind: “Well, all stories are derived from one. There are no new ideas, so there must be some similarities between these stories.”

At least, that’s what I was taught in English class. Some authors do take other people’s ideas – that’s called plagiarism. However, I firmly believe that there are no new ideas. It all depends on the way that authors spin these ideas to create their own stories. I haven’t been able to gain enough scholarly know-how to form an air-tight argument to support this theory, but there is one fascinating literary topic that I have been able to study…archetypes.

The literal definition of an archetype is “a typical example of certain person of thing; a prototype.” The idea of a psychological archetype has been traced as far back as Socrates.  However, I am more interested in the modern idea of literary archetypes that have been  refined by great thinkers like the philosopher Carl Jung and the mythologist Joseph Campbell. These men translated the idea of psychological archetypes, or “a collective unconscious,” and applied them to books.

Literary archetypes are models or reoccurring patterns found throughout all literature. These archetypes move through time and place. They are universally understood ideas. I don’t want to write a term paper on this subject, but I’m going to share some ideas of common literary archetypes. I’m sure that you’ve discovered these for yourself, even if you didn’t know what they were at the time. They come in many shapes, forms, and sizes, but I’ll just touch on a few here:

Archetypal Characters:

  1. The Hero: This character is usually considered the protagonist (simple check: the protagonist is the character that undergoes the most amount of change or growth throughout the story). This character possesses all of the necessary skills to solve whatever problem he faces and he will, eventually, step up to save the day.
  2. The Innocent: This character is also known as the Dreamer. In classic fairy tales, this character is the spotless and naïve princess who needs to be saved by a dashing young hero. The Innocent character is not tempted towards darkness and can’t understand it, which can make her seem more desirable towards both heros and villains.
  3. The Villain: The Villain character can take different forms depending on how he is perceived, or interacts with, the hero. This is the character who wants the hero to fail in his quest and wreaks the most amount of havoc on the hero and the innocents in the hero’s world.
  4. The Mentor: This character can also take multiple forms. The mentor is the character that the hero runs to for help. Whether he is a father figure or an old wizard, the mentor’s aid is indispensable.
  5. The Trickster: This character is a prime example of a group of characters called “challengers.” While the trickster isn’t always evil, he is most often portrayed as a character who stands in the way of the hero reaching his goal.
  6. The Rebel:  The rebel is a character who is alienated from society or from the cultural norms of the time. He can take many forms (i.e. the hermit vs. the leader of the revolution) and can serve either side, good or evil.

Archetypal Themes:

  1. *Light vs. Dark: This is perhaps the most universally understood, and oldest, theme found in literature. This theme represents the struggle against good and evil. It can be shown either literally or figuratively.
  2. Old vs. New: This is another classic theme found throughout literature. Think of all the stories where revolutionaries fight about an old government, the environment clashes with civilization, youths rebel against adults – these stories all fall under this theme.
  3. Rags to Riches: This is the classic pauper to prince story line. This theme does not have to involve the hero or refer to monetary gain. It refers to a sudden and intense reversal of fate. As such, Riches to Rags can also be used.
  4. Isolation or Alienation: Here is where the Rebel and the Hero are often used to refer to the same person. This theme can be used at the beginning or end of story, or throughout the whole thing. It can represent both good and evil. It is an often used, but complex, theme.

Archetypal Events:**

  1. Call to Adventure: Something bad happens and the hero is called to action. This involves him leaving his normal life or “the ordinary world” in some way. The hero refers to the main protagonist. He will not always be alone, but he will make the next decision.
  2. Refusal of the Call: Often, but not always, the hero will refuse the call at first. After all, not many people have the drive or the ability to run straight into danger. Something or someone will have to drive him towards the Unknown World.
  3. (Supernatural) Aid: This is where the Mentor enters the scene. His aide is not always supernatural, but it will help the hero decide what road to take.
  4. Crossing the Threshold: This refers to the first step that the hero takes on his journey. It may involve something as big as stepping through a portal into another world or something as small as leaving the town limits.
  5. The Road of Trials: This event encompasses the majority of the book. The hero and his allies meet friends, enemies, and challenges along the way. There has to be multiple setbacks and triumphs involved in this event. The hero cannot reach his goal without enduring some hardship.
  6. The Ultimate Ordeal: The hero always has one main goal in mind. There is one challenge that his journey has been leading up to. Here is where he makes his final stand with his allies.
  7. The Reward: After the ordeal is over and the hero claims victory, he receives his reward. The reward isn’t always what he expected, but whatever it is – an object, an idea, whatever – it will be worth the journey in some way.
  8. The Road Back: This is the book’s denouement. Here the hero has to decide if he wants to return to his old life and then begin the journey if he wishes to.
  9. The Ressurection: Often, the hero will have to go through one more personal challenge before he can return home. This may involve an unforeseen complication or a change of heart.
  10. Back to the Ordinary World: The hero and his allies return home with the prize that will fix everything!

**Together, these events make up what Joseph Campbell called the monomyth. Today, we call it “The Hero’s Journey.” **

You see, Joseph Campbell believed that the monomyth wasn’t a magical template. Steps can be removed, moved around, and tweaked. However, it does includes the archetypal events that can be considered the building blocks for virtually any piece of fictional literature. Take a minute and think of your favorite book.

Do you see the elements of Campbell’s monomyth in it? Also, can you think of one classic Disney animated movie that doesn’t follow “The Hero’s Journey”?

Why is this so familiar? As I mentioned earlier, archetypes are images and ideas that are universal. Everyone can understand the hero figure, the struggle of light vs. dark, and the entire hero’s journey. These reoccurring themes are easy to understand, because they are tied to our very existence. Whether authors write what they know people will recognize or whether readers are the ones who pick up a book and make the connection themselves, is question that we will likely never be able to satisfactorily answer. I would say yes to both.

You might still be saying, “I see the connections you’re talking about, but why would you want to label all literature with something as simple as ‘The Hero’s Journey’?” I see what you’re saying. There are millions of variations that authors can make to Campbell’s monomyth, but the connections cannot be denied. I’m going to take this even one step further and say that I like to label all literature with one theme – Good vs. Evil *(see Light vs. Dark from earlier.)  That can be even harder to comprehend. Again, why would someone want to ignore all of the differences between various works of literature in order to put them in the same basket?

Why? It’s because it allows me to say what I said earlier: “All stories are derived from one.” I don’t think “The Hero’s Journey” is the smallest building block of literature. The smallest block is good vs. evil. Isn’t that the daily struggle everyone faces in their consciousness and unconsciousness? Isn’t that the simplest concept that is universally understood?

Yes!

That is why there are common threads between every single piece of fiction. If you can recognize that common ground, then you can step back and understand the archetypes used in literature, and then, I believe, you can fully appreciate the twists and turns that authors incorporate into their own stories.  The struggle between good and evil is at the center of every book. It’s the way that an author chooses to show that struggle that makes spending a whole afternoon reading worthwhile.

I’m going to wrap up with some examples of archetypes in literature. And because I am who I am, I’m not going to use traditional examples (Star Wars, The Hobbit, etc.) Instead, I’ve chosen two uniquely different YA books: Eragon by Christopher Paolini and Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Two very different stories, right? We’ll see!

And I hope that you’ll be able to notice the archetypes in your favorite books now and, perhaps, even use them when you write. Share your thoughts below. Did you find this helpful? Did you learn something new? Or is this information “old hat” for you? What familiar archetypes have you picked up on in books and movies? Have you seen another version of “The Hero’s Journey” in your favorite stories? Would you use Campbell’s template to write a movie-worthy book or would you rather let your readers discover the universal truths in your story on their own?

***Caution: Major Spoilers

Eragon

  1. The hero, Eragon, is called out of his normal life when he finds a dragon egg.
  2. Eragon doesn’t want to leave his Uncle’s farm. Even when the dragon hatches, he hides it in the forest so that he can stay. It is another outside action, the death of this uncle, which pushes him to accept the call.
  3. The mysterious Brom, who knows quite a bit about dragons and dragon riders, becomes Dragon’s mentor.
  4. Oddly enough, Brom also acts as the Threshold Guarden as he shepherds Eragon on his journey into the unknown world outside of Palancar Valley.
  5. Eragon faces many dangers as he journeys towards his goal: the Varden. Along the way, he has to battle storms, environmental hardships, monsters, and the King’s henchmen. He also comes in contact with more allies. He is changed by the knowledge that he can perform magic and the death of his mentor and closest ally, Brom.
  6. The hero manages to get through every obstacle until he reaches the Varden. The ultimate ordeal is a battle that takes place between Eragon and the Varden fighters and the King’s henchmen. Eragon is forced to go head-to-head with his most dangerous adversary yet, a Shade. He is able to defeat his enemy in the end and ensures victory for the Varden.
  7. Eragon does not receive riches as a reward. He gains the knowledge that he helped his allies win the battle. On top of that, he wins the personal reward of finding a powerful teacher.
  8. Since this is the first book in an epic series, Eragon does not make a physical journey back to his home. This physical step of “The Hero’s Journey” is cut out.
  9. Eragon’s resurrection moment comes when his new teacher revives him from the brink of death. Eragon receives a new purpose in life: to journey into the Elves’ forest to find his teacher . He has become a new person: confident, selfless, a true hero.
  10. The hero has now fully accepted his role as a Dragon Rider. He sets off to find his teacher with the knowledge he has gained and the hope that he will be able to use it to destroy the Evil King someday.

Twilight

  1. Bella is called out of her normal life when she has to leave her mother and move to Forks to live with her father.
  2. Although she has to move, Bella is reluctant to accept the change. She is also hesitant to make contact with the unknown world, Edward’s world.
  3. Jacob acts as Bella’s mentor when he informs her about the myth concerning his tribe. This leads Bella to learn the truth about the Cullens.
  4. Bella steps over the threshold when she makes the decision to trust Edward, even though he is a vampire.
  5. Bella’s journey involves a series of ups and downs that includes gaining the respect of his family, dealing with jealousy from other guys, and trying to balance her relationships with Edward and Jacob. She does gain real allies along the way in the form of Edward and most of his family.
  6. The true villain of the book doesn’t arrive until another group of vampires discovers the relationship between Edward and Bella. The ultimate ordeal occurs when Bella and her allies have to destroy a vampire that tries to kill Bella. Bella doesn’t destroy the villain herself, but she does have to face him in an act of selfless bravery and she suffers the most throughout the ordeal.
  7. Bella’s reward is, quite literally, her life.
  8. Bella’s journey back to the “ordinary world” beings when she wakes up in the hospital.
  9. While there, she is physically resurrected. She also undergoes another type of resurrection when she reaffirms her love for Edward. She has become a different person and she will fight for what she wants.
  10. Bella returns to Forks with Edward by her side for prom. She has not returned to “normal,” but she has managed to combine her world and the unknown world. She has returned with her prizes: her life and her love.

 

 

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What’s the Latest YA Trend?

I noticed a change in the YA trends a few years ago when I worked in the Nacogdoches Public Library. Trends take time to grow and this one is still gaining ground, but I believe it has become more popular since I left Nacogdoches. I can now say  with certainty that the latest trend in YA literature is sci-fi! That’s right: space ships and aliens rule!

But wait a minute, that’s not anything new!  Sci-Fi has been a popular YA sub-genre for a long time.

I know that sci-fi YA books have always been on the shelves, but you have to admit that whatever was popular before Twilight hit the shelves took a backseat to stories about vampires, werewolves, and other half species (Perhaps the most fascinating was half-angels. I mean, come on!) These books will still remain on YA library shelves along with the other subgenres, and authors will continue to write them.

However, I think it’s pretty hard to deny right now that the “wheel of popular trends” has come back around to rest on sci-fi. If you love sci-fi, then rejocie! This is your time to own the YA section! If, however, sci-fi isn’t your most favorite thing in the world, then rest assured in the knowledge that trends change over time. Once authors get tired of writing sci-fi, they’ll move to something else and the publishing market will move with them (or vice versa.)

The time of the Vampires is over! The time of the Spaceships is now! The time of the Dragons might be just around the corner!

That’s One Quirky Obsession!

Okay, I think it’s honesty time. Hi, my name is Melody and I’m obsessed with…sticky notes!

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be a child of the technology era. I love making lists, so of course I have computer lists and phone lists and journal lists, etc. But there is nothing more satisfying to me than making a list on a sticky note. I’ve been known to use them for everything from to-do and shopping lists to novel notes. It’s not the most organized system, but it works for me.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my husband knew what he was getting into until he saw my stash of sticky notes.  I think my sticky note drawer is beautiful! All of those colors and shapes and sizes! And, of course, I have to keep at least one package of sticky notes in each room at all times for those emergency note taking moments :). Poor, Kevin…

So what do y’all think? How much does that rate on the quirky meter? I’m going to give myself a nice 5. Do you think you can top that?

Books vs. Movies

So about this whole books versus movies debate…

It always seems to come up when someone in Hollywood decides they’re going to make a movie based on a popular book. If you haven’t heard this before, there are two radical camps of people. There are those who walk around saying, “Don’t be so stupid! Of course the movie can’t be just like the book. Why are you so upset?”

Then there are those people who say, “Why did I go see that movie? They changed everything! The author must be furious!”

I’m not going to choose sides. What I’m about to say is all-encompassing, but I think very few people are going to disagree with me: If you are a book lover and you really really like a book that has been turned into a movie, you can’t not care. You just can’t. It doesn’t matter if the movie is good or bad. However, you can choose to have different opinions about the book and the movie. You don’t have to let a horrible movie ruin your entire night.

You have a choice.

I am a book lover, and I love to see my favorite books turned into movies. While there have been times that screenwriters just don’t do books justice and I wish I could re-write their scripts myself (yes, I’m talking about Inkheart), that’s my personal opinion. The majority of movie adaptations are not that bad.

I had to face this recently after being told by several people that I shouldn’t go see the new Divergent movie. “It’s not worth it! They’re changing everything. They’re changing the entire ending of the series…” and on and on. Yes, I know that’s alarming, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I actually enjoyed the movie. I would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn’t spent the entire car ride there thinking about Roth’s book series and if the movie would live up to that. My husband, Kevin, was in the car with me. He has never read the Divergent book series, so he simply couldn’t understand the turmoil that was going through my mind. He had an innocent mind.

It is impossible to avoid this struggle if you let yourself become attached to movie-worthy books. If you would allow me to give you one piece of advice, however, it’s that you have to try to detach yourself from the book for a short period of time. I know, I know, you think that’s impossible. But it is possible.

It’s actually crucial to your movie viewing experience.

You have to quiet that little voice in the back of your head that says, “That’s not how it happened in the book,” and you have to do it before you enter the movie theater.

Here is how I usually handle this. I set aside time to think about a book in the weeks, days, or hours before I go to see the movie based on it. If there are previous movies in the series, I reserve a day to catch up on them. Before that, though, I allow myself to become re-immersed in the world of the book, because it’s a wonderful piece of fiction in its own right. If I really love a book, I love to think about it, discuss it, go back and read my favorite chapters, and even re-write certain parts of it. I love to spend time in that author’s world.

I let my mind wander through the familiar pages of the book…but only if I can work up the determination of mind to open that world inside of a “room.” Before I enter the movie theatre, I have to step outside of the room, shut the door behind me, and lock it. Why? The two worlds cannot exist within the same room. The movie belongs in the adjacent room. The two rooms are connected, but the door remains shut. That’s true whether the movie follows the events of the book or not.

This allows me to enjoy the movie as a separate piece of fiction. As long as the door to the book’s world remains locked, I can say, “Oh, wow, that was a great scene!” or “Why did they do that?” But my opinion of the movie is not based solely on its relationship to the parent book. Then, I give that night, or even better, the whole next day, to just think about the movie. I know if something is banging on the door in that room, just begging to be let out, but I keep it locked up tight for a few days.

Then, only after I’ve thought about the movie from every angle, do I open the door and allow the thoughts about what the director did or did not change to enter my mind. Thoughts could go racing through my head for days. “I loved that scene. I can’t believe they didn’t put it in! Why did he change that?! Well, at least he didn’t get rid of my favorite supporting character. He just changed her last name, her physical attributes, and her entire backstory…” and so on and so forth.

Sound familiar?

It may be difficult  to remember sometimes, but, in the end, it’s important to remember that the book hasn’t changed, even if the movie was a huge disappointment. The book hasn’t been harmed. The movie is a separate thing. And just because you have multiple copies of the book on your shelf doesn’t meant that you have to keep a copy of the dvd right next to them, or even in your house if you’re that upset about it (again, Inkheart 😛 .)

That’s just the way I see it. Yes, it’s okay to be upset, but you don’t have to let it ruin your whole movie-watching experience. And please, PLEASE, don’t let a movie ruin a book for you.

That’s how I handle these situations. If you have a different approach or opinion, please fell free to comment. I’d love to start a discussion about this. If you have any book-turned-movies that you just love to death or love to hate, please share those as well. Just remember to keep in mind: the book is always better than the movie, and that’s a fact!

Book Reviews :)

I want this blog to be a place where book lovers can talk about, recommend, and review books. I don’t mean formal reviews. I don’t expect anything you post to be formal. However, as the main contributor, I think I have the right to post actual reviews. My reading time has decreased considerably over the last few months (  😦  ), but I might have a few reviews up my sleeve.

Before I get into that, I’d like to share a secret I’ve learned since joining the freelance community. You need some kind of a writing portfolio, but your profile pieces don’t always have to match the job description. I have gotten quite a few writing/editing jobs by having a portfolio filled with short articles about the one thing I know: YA literature.

I started applying for freelance writing jobs by sending out three reviews. Well…two reviews and a short article about a literary technique. These reviews had nothing to do with the subject matter described in the proposals. I believe that I got the jobs simply because I proved that I could write casual content for websites and I could write passionately.

That’s the real key. If you can be passionate about a topic, or make the reader believe that you are, you can write about it.

Okay, so that’s the only secret I’m giving away for now. Does anyone want to see one of the book reviews that helped me get started with my freelance career? Pick a number and include it in your comment below. Also, let me know what you think: Do you agree with my reviews? Are you reading a review worthy book right now? Do you have a review you’d like to share? Are you not a fan of book reviews? Or my reviews? Or my personal library? Don’t be afraid to start a discussion if you disagree with anyone. Just share your thoughts. I’m always eager to explain my opinions. Maybe I’ll read and review your favorite book next! 😉

  1. It’s Not a Love Triangle!, The Host by Stephanie Meyer
  2. A Fresh Perspective on Dragons, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  3. From Adult Literature to YA Fiction, Court of Fives by Kate Elliot

 

 

Do You Pre-Soak New Books?

soaking dishes for blog

Did your mother teach you to pre-soak dishes before putting them into the dishwasher? If you’re like me, you probably forgot to soak the dishes once or twice. I bet you learned your lesson! Dried on food is hard to wipe off. My mother will be happy to know that I pre-soak all of my dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. I might leave them soaking for 24 hours, but that’s another issue. 🙂

This raises an interesting question: Is it okay to pre-soak books? What I mean is, do you like to read a little bit before you decide to commit to a book? Or, are you a daredevil who likes to know how a book ends before you begin reading it?

I started pre-soaking books in school when I had to start juggling my academic and leisure reading schedules. My free time was very limited. It might sound harsh, but I had to make sure that a book was going to be worth my time before I checked it out from the library.

This was how I ultimately fell in love with one of my favorite books, Eragon. I don’t usually buy books on impulse. I prefer to check books out from the library first. However, I came across an advertisement for Eragon in the school Scholastic magazine (back when they had scholastic sales), and I knew I just had to have it.

The prologue was good. It was filled with action and mystery and elves..I loved it! But it didn’t have anything to do with the summary. I started panicking a little. This wasn’t what I had bought. And so I just started reading. I read the first chapter, then I skipped ahead and read a random page…and I kept doing this until I came to the last chapter. Yes, I read the final chapter of Eragon before I finished the book. I had no idea what I’d just read, but I knew that I had to finish the story! I don’t feel bad about what I did, because I might not have given the story a chance to pick up its pace if I hadn’t already pre-soaked it.

I’m not always that thorough. Usually I just read the first chapter and maybe a couple of pages at the end of the book to make sure that it’s interesting. (Interesting is a subjective term, of course.) I have a natural need to not buy or read books that could possibly mean nothing to me. How many of you have made the mistake of getting halfway through a new find and realizing that you don’t really care if the protagonist survives or not? Who really wants a boring (again subjective) book on their shelf?

This ties in nicely with the old saying: You can’t judge a book by its cover.

I want to know if a book starts off a little slow but picks up later or if the ending is so compelling that I just have to find out who, what, where, when, why, and how. I also want to know right off the bat if the ending is meaningless, if an author’s style is too repetitive, or if I think the main character is annoying.

Even as book lovers, we may not be able to tell these things right from the beginning. But I think we should give it a good try before we commit to a new book, especially if it’s longer than 300 pages.

That’s my long-winded answer to the question I just asked you. Now I want to know your thoughts. So what do you think? Do you think pre-soaking books is okay? Is it necessary? Is it blasphemous? How far is too far? Has it saved you from reading a boring book? Has it ruined an ending for you?

The Dragon’s Library

 

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I created this blog so that I could have a place to share my nerdy thoughts and opinions, and provide a place for my nerdy friends to discuss books and writing.

If you know me, you know that I have a very small personal library. I recognize the importance of literature as a whole and I will certainly not turn down a discussion on anything literature related. However, my own glittering horde of books is mostly comprised of YA dystopians and fantasy.

I have comprised some lists of my favorite book titles to help you get to know me and my personal literacy style. I challenge you to challenge me. Ask me who, what, where, when and why about my library! And please share information about your library as well! It’s okay if we don’t share the same tastes in books. Let’s just enjoy being book lovers together.

 

1. My All-Time Favorite Books:

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

 

2. My All-Time Favorite Series:

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Inheritance cycle by Christopher Paolini

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

 

3. My Favorite YA Books Based On Classic Fairy Tales:

East by Edith Pattou

Goose Girl series by Shannon Hale

Enchanted collection from Gail Carson Levine

 

4. YA Recommendations For Girls:

The Selection series by Kiera Cass

Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld

Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce

 

5. YA Recommendations For Boys:

Monster Blood Tattoo series by D.M. Cornish

Maze Runner series by James Dashner

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

 

6. My Classic Dystopian Favorites:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

 

7. My Modern YA Dystopian Favorites:

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

Divergent series by Veronica Roth

 

8. My High Fantasy Favorites:

Pern series by Anne McCaffrey

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Oz series by L. Frank Baum

 

9. My Low Fantasy Favorites:

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

 

10. My YA Sci-Fi Favorites:

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

 

11. YA Recommendations for Dragon Lovers:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

Eon/a by Alison Goodman

 

12. My Favorite Fantasy Anthologies:

Half-Human edited by Bruce Coville

Firebird anthologies edited by Sharyn November

The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann and Gardner R. Dozois

 

13. My Favorite Shakespearean Works:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Romeo and Juliet

Taming of the Shrew

 

14. Movies Based On My Favorite Books That You Should See:

The Harry Potter series (2001-11)

The Host (2013)

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

 

15. Movies Based On My Favorite Books That You Should Never See:

Inkheart (2008)

Eragon (2006)

Ender’s Game (2013)

 

You can also follow me on Goodreads. I don’t have a lot of time to spend on there updating. My online “to read” list is really one of five…but you should join Goodreads anyway. It’s awesome! You can find all of the above titles online as well.

Alright, I want to know what your library looks like. Get your nerd on…