Message From The Author
Romancing the Nerd
Often overshadowed by the alpha male, the beta man
wins hearts for Vicki Lewis Thompson
It started with a billboard. Like all of us with a craving for the printed word, I read everything from cereal boxes to wanted posters. This particular billboard advertised an Internet provider that promised geeks in shining armor.
Whamo, I had a story idea, except that I substituted "nerd" for "geek" because it's closer to "knight." I loved the idea of a computer nerd who rescues a fair damsel
in distress, aka Nerd in Shining Armor. Fortunately, Bantam also loved the concept, and so did TV's Kelly Ripa, who chose the book for her Reading With Ripa book club last summer. After 20 years and 70 books, I was an overnight success. With a beta hero.
Then Jennifer Enderlin from St. Martin's Press suggested I write a whole string of books with "nerd" in the title.
I was all over that plan. I already had another beta-hero book in the pipeline, which became my August release, The Nerd Who Loved Me. This time the hero's an accountant who comes to the aid of a gorgeous showgirl. Another beta guy.
But, the heroes in both books are betas with a twist. Sure, they're all warm and fuzzy and you want to hug them and squeeze them. But these beta guys don't get to hang around solving intellectual puzzles and looking cute in their black-framed glasses and pocket protectors for the entire book. Eventually they have to fight the bad guys.
When faced with guarding the heroine, they're required to discover their inner alpha. They transform into the heroic figure who will slay whatever dragon shows up. The transformation isn't complete or permanent, but it lasts long enough for us to get a glimpse of the Superman logo under those Clark Kent duds. Then they return to being those lovable nerds who make such great husbands and fathers.
And are they sexy? You betcha. We all know the most powerful sexual organ is the brain, and these guys have an embarrassment of riches in that department. Nerds know how to concentrate, and what could be more thrilling than to have all that mental firepower aimed at you?
Besides, they don't take female attention for granted. When it comes their way, they're grateful and eager to please. Raise your hand if that's what you're looking for.
I thought so.
It's no wonder that nerds are in. If only I could claim that I analyzed the situation and with brilliant foresight took advantage of the phenomenon to write a bestseller. Afraid not. It was due to dumb luck and a billboard.
I didn't know I was part of a trend until USA Today told me so. They published an article last fall on Geek Chic, identifying Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Frodo from The Lord of the Rings and Neo from The Matrix as the holy trinity of geekdom.
After that article appeared, I started paying attention. I
figured out that geek chic might have something to do with the immense popularity of Harry Potter, who even wears
the requisite glasses. I noticed that Clay Aiken from American Idol claimed to be a nerd. It's not just about
Bill Gates anymore.
Maybe it never was. Because my website is now all nerds, all the time. I've asked readers to name their favorites from movies and TV. The top vote-getters might not be your basic sex symbols: Jaleel White (Steve Urkel) of Family Matters, Dustin Diamond (Samuel "Screech" Powers) of Saved by the Bell and Anthony Michael Hall (Gary Wallace) and Ilan Mitchell Smith (Wyatt Donnelly) of Weird Science.
But then we get to Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, and Brad Pitt as Rusty
in Ocean's Eleven. Would you consider Sean Connery's James Bond character a nerd? Some did. And if those three guys
are all nerd heroes, sign me up for a
Apparently we've always had the hots for nerds, both fictional and real. Also on my website I've asked readers to describe nerds they've known personally, and the outpouring is incredible. And touching.
Alpha males may make us swoon, but nerds pluck at our heartstrings. I'm hearing things like, "He truly cares about the people he loves," and, "He never made me feel uncomfortable." Or, said with obvious love, "He still combs his hair the same way he did in eighth grade."
Lovable nerds. Smart. Sexy. Resourceful. And most of all, standing right there beside you when the chips are down. One reader described a nerd she'd known and added, "He did help me through a number of sticky situations, so I will be forever grateful to him."
Which brings me back to the ultimate fantasy, the one on which I've built my stories—Clark Kent (nerd) becomes Superman. That is not to say he turns into an alpha male. Even Superman fits my image of a beta guy. There's nothing
arrogant and macho about Superman. His superpowers might be fully deployed, his gorgeous muscles on display in that delectable suit, but he's still shy, sweet and modest as he saves the planet, not
to mention the damsel in distress.
What woman wouldn't want the best
of both worlds—a caring man who'll give you a massage when you're overworked and a sexy champion who'll take on the bad guys when your life hangs in the balance? Is that a fantasy? I don't think so.
Here's how a reader described a nerd she knows personally: "To look at him you wouldn't know that he's a black belt." Is that Superman or what? He's a geek on the outside, but underneath that pocket protector beats the heart of a man who will fight to defend those he loves. Now that's sexy. That's my hero.
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