Monday, October 31, 2011

Featured Author in the Madhouse: Irene L. Pynn

What About Shakespeare?, guest blog by Big Time Nerd Irene L. Pynn

It’s cool to say you’re a nerd these days.

Quick nerd test!

Do you love…

·         Comic books?
·         Video games?
·         Anime?
·         __InsertNerdyTopicHere__ conventions?
·         Doctor Who?
·         Anything Joss Whedon has ever touched?

If you answered YES to any of those, or if you scowled because I left something out, then you can go ahead and wear your Nerd badge with pride.

Maybe once people kept their love of all things cool a secret, but today being a nerd is almost a form of street-cred, like knowing the titles of all early albums of the band-before-they-were-popular. If you know why Cloud Strife is sad and how a Dalek sounds when it talks, then you can most likely enjoy nerdiness and all of its perks.

I can throw down with the nerdiest of nerds in most situations and come out looking fairly cool. There’s little question that I belong with this crowd. Most of my obsessions fall into the category of Satisfactorily Nerdy.

But then there’s Shakespeare.

Yes, one of my biggest nerd-fascinations is the Bard. If you want to talk about Hamlet with me until the sun comes up, go right ahead. Need a new perspective on Romeo and Juliet? You’ve come to the right place. I have always been, and will always be, an uncontrollable Shakespeare Nerd.

For some reason, though, this doesn’t seem to count toward my Nerdy street-cred in most situations. It comes across as dryly academic and gives people horrific flashbacks to ninth grade English class, when 900-year-old Miss Moleface had each student read the lines aloud, without explanation, for an hour every day. (disclaimer: my ninth-grade English teacher was neither 900 years old, nor did she have moles on her face that I recall).

But why can’t Shakespeare be cool, too? He’s shown up in countless comic books and acceptably nerdy franchise titles – even the Doctor has hung out with the Bard. And yet, staying up late with a bunch of nerds, the conversation might cover the intricacies of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and the best possible strategies for surviving the coming zombie apocalypse. I rarely go to nerd parties expecting to discuss whether Hamlet was truly insane. It just smacks too much of homework.

One of my first short stories, “God Corp.,” features a Shakespeare-obsessed teen. She wins a trip back in time to meet her hero, and her choice perplexes most people. Why Shakespeare? What’s cool about him? And anyway, what if he didn’t even write those plays himself? Wouldn’t it be a waste to time-travel back to meet a fraud?  Maybe William Shakespeare was just a random, illiterate guy whose name was stolen for purposes of anonymity.

The new film Anonymous poses the authorship question in what people are saying is the Hollywood-ization of this debate. Shakespeare scholars are up in arms about inaccuracies and misleading conspiracy theories that they say are destined to give current students a totally backward idea about the best playwright of all time.

Like the protagonist in “God Corp.,” I don’t care much about the authorship question. My nerdiness only extends far enough to love what was written – regardless of who actually wrote it. It’s the stories that really get me, not so much the mystery behind the author.

Perhaps Anonymous will mislead scores of young students into a confusing haze of inaccurate details about the person who penned the greatest plays in the English language. That’s possible. But I’m hoping for something else, something that doesn’t feel like homework at all.

Maybe, instead, Anonymous will develop increased interest in Shakespeare as a nerdy topic.  We’ll see more questions about his true identity in pop-culture. Goodbye, homework. Hello, nerds. Shakespeare the zombie slayer. Shakespeare the time-traveler. Shakespeare the enormous robot with laser-beam eyes. A turn-based JRPG on the PS3 with an international voice track: Fortune’s Fool. Now, that’s cool. 

Irene L. Pynn is the author of From Light to Dark, a young adult fantasy based on a Romeo and Juliet theme. Visit her at and get your copy of her book at


  1. That's what I'm hoping will be the net effect of "Anonymous," too! Just so much more fun to think of him as a real person, who might have a story of his own, than to think of him as some marble bust or a bunch of dusty pages. I love the Romeo and Juliet undertones of your book, too! So excited to see it being released on Kindle! Congratulations!

  2. Oh, I completely agree, Kalupy. It's amazing the difference it makes when you realize these wonderful writers were actually real people with real problems and dreams!

  3. Alrighty Irene. I'm a proud nerd and have always been, and I believe that liking Shakespeare is just another part of what I call "nerdlore". I have owned the complete works of Shakespeare since I was 17 and I will always have it to read the sonnets or whatever play I fancy at the time. What non-nerd would be willing to make that fact known?

    I agree that it doesn't really matter who wrote Shakespeare. Realistically the intention of the producers is to hope that the controversy of the subject will lead to ticket sales instead of being accurate in any way. I don't think any kids or anyone studying Shakespeare will judge the authorship based on a ridiculous Hollywood film. At least, I hope not :)

  4. Way to go, Sirpoins! I say we should declare our Shakespeare love with confidence. B-) Out of curiosity, which is your favorite play or sonnet?

    I also hope newcomers to the Bard won't judge the validity of his stories by the information in the film. There sure are a lot of people out there worrying about it, though! Have you seen the New York Times article on this topic? It's pretty interesting.