In Praise of the Nerd Mom

Written by: Mike McCafferty (Slice of SciFi Guest Contributor)

Mother’s Day is here and so it’s time for me to give a shout out to my mom. Now even though it is Mother’s Day and it is a nice gesture, it would be a little off topic if I didn’t justify why I’m posting this on Slice of SciFi (And when did we lose the hyphen in “Sci-fi”? Are we all fans of ScienceFiction now, with no space but the one 62 miles above us?) and not But fear not, for the reason, gentle reader is just: My mom is a nerd.

Yep, I said it, and by the four arms of the Kraken, I stand by it! My mom is a total sci-fi geek/nerd and I’m posting it for millions to see.

Of course, you don’t have a nerd mom, right? Are you sure?

To be honest, I don’t know how any mother could love anything Scifi or fantasy as it seems like the mother roles are the worst ones. Sure there’s father-son relations everywhere in Sci-fi (oops, hyphen) and if there’s not one, just wait for the older villain and the younger hero to square off. Within 15 seconds, you KNOW the bad guy is gonna play the “I am your father” card, whether real or not. We so want that Field of Dreams moment we find our dads any way we can get them: clones, alternate universe, robots, shapeshifters or time-travel stories where it’s revealed we fathered ourselves. Ugh.

But mom roles? Few and far between. The best you can usually hope for is some alien insect queen that descends from a mucous lined web strand and promises the hero that her children will consume him slowly. It’s either that or she becomes a part of the over used “Move out of your Mom’s basement, nerd” joke — you know the joke told by all the cool people years ago who now happen to work for computer companies founded by said basement dwellers. In short, the list of Mom’s in Scifi is short. Too short.

Of course, part of the reason is that most guys are remiss to even mention their mom as far as influences in Scifi, let alone include them in their writing. Hell, we can’t even call and say “I love you Mom” so how could we credit them with anything as formative as our love of Scifi/fantasy worlds. It’s hard enough being cool with your 8th level elf/paladin character in a world of fighter/mages without having to credit your mom for color-coordinating his armor and tunic on your character drawings. To the Scifi guy, moms are sadly nonexistent.

I’m a great example of this fault. For most of my teen and adult life, I was convinced that my love of Science fiction was self-created, a spontaneously generated interest designed to be counter-culture against jocks and cool people. Science Fiction was my goth/emo time that was totally my own and allowed me to establish an identity and self-worth. It was all me because I was just that special, damnit!

And then something funny happened: I had kids of my own.

I sat there with my four year old recently, trying desperately showing him the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars, and more importantly which one was better. It was a difficult go, and in between explaining midi-chlorians and tribbles, I wondered if he’d even remember that I took the time to be there for him on this stuff. I desperately hoped the answer was yes, and quickly wondered if my mom had ever influenced me in anything…

And that’s when it hit me. It was the “Sixth Sense” moment, the moment where suddenly everything that was always right in front of my face was suddenly revealed to me for the first time:

  • Mom watched Star Trek with me, and liked it.
  • Mom took me to see Star Wars 5 times.
  • Mom took me to see Clash of the Titans
  • Mom let me excitedly explain EVERY moment of Wrath of Khan, thus ruining it for her.
  • Mom read Dune with me, then we both saw the movie. Then we read Dune again trying to figure out what David Lynch was doing.
  • Mom read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series with me and then talked about it.
  • Mom pulled me out of school to see the first screening of The Empire Strikes Back
  • Mom scraped pennies together to buy me X-Men #141 when I didn’t know we were broke.
  • Mom was my biggest fan when I was on The Invisible Man TV series.
  • She watched every episode and loved every moment of my screen time, even when I didn’t.

    Like Bruce Willis, I almost fell to the floor as each moment of my past flashed in my present. I was stunned that I had willfully forgotten all of that to bolster my own self-perception but more importantly that my mom ROCKED! All those years of being there, being my Scifi Yoda, answering my questions and patiently watching me grow, and then leave without thanking her. The moment that this hit me like Thor’s hammer and the mix of surprise and embarrassment was too much not to write about.

    So I throw the gauntlet to you, Scifi commando, on this holiest of maternal days. You could send flowers, a card or take her to dinner today, but I dare you to do more. I challenge you to think back and remember those moments when your passion for different worlds was at it’s lowest, when the real world threatened to crush your visions. Look around in that fuzzy memory of yours and see if you can find your mom somewhere nearby, rooting you on. She may not be the Scifi badass my mom turned out to be, but I bet you that she loved you for being passionate about something and always had a kind word or glass of Tang when you needed it. When you find that moment, I’ll bet you find more, as I did. String enough together and you too might have enough evidence of having a nerd/nerd sympathizing mom too.

    And now, here’s the tough part: acknowledge her for it. Cards and cakes are fine gestures, but the real gold-pressed latinum for her heart is to tell her how she helped you become the full fledged, well rounded, scifi-lovin’ nerd that you always wanted to be. It’s the best payment for the years of selfless effort to bring you up and out into the world. Tell her how she was there at the critical times to help you along and how you’re now thanking her for it. I know it’s hard — hell, I’m hiding it in a Slice of SciFi post — but trust me, it is worth it.

    Because she is.

    Thanks Mom,


    1. says

      My mom is a total nerd! She read LoTR out loud and took us to an all-night Planet of the Apes marathon at the local drive-in. She made sure there was always a book in my hand, and more often than not it was an sf/f title she recommended. Then she started writing the stuff and getting published. Now we edit Aeon Speculative Fiction together when we’re not playing World of Warcraft.

      And I’m proud to say that I grew up to be a nerd mom, too.

      Go us!

    2. podakayne says

      i can so heartly agree with you on that point…however being a woman myself it was something i was already well aware of. i was the special child staying up late watching the horror movies with mom til the early morn. though she didn’t read the same genre, she supported me in my ever growing library of mystery, horror then scifi (yeah what happened to the hyphen? frell me!) readings.

      and i inturn have two offspring and my son has drifted into the scifi and my daughter has gone the horror (slasher movie) route…she calls me a nerd and he just calls me mom!

      happy mother’s day to all the nerdy moms in the ‘verse. and to you mike…you’ra good egg to say so.

      So say we all!

    3. Lesley says

      You’re the BEST, Mike. It’s my honor and it’s been absolute FUN to be your Mom. Gosh, I’m blushing!
      Love you forever, Momma

    4. Magess says

      My mom has always been a sci-fi fan. Every new show that comes on, she watches, and she always has. If I was like my dad, I’d channel surf and watch The History Channel all the time. My geekiness is, I think, at least half my mom’s doing (the other half being mine).

    5. cynthia(from Florida) says

      Wow I’m glad I’m not the only mom to keep their son out of school to see Star Wars(Phantom Menace)! Although, in my defense my son was too young to stay up for the midnight show.

    6. Susie the Geek says

      My mom took me to see Star Wars, and Return of the Jedi. She watched Babylon 5 before I was able to get it on cable, and now she thinks it is very cool I have a podcast on being a geek parent. Thanks Mom, I learned it from you! I hope my daughter follows in our footsteps!

    7. SteveInSingapore says

      I come from a single parent family. When my mom went to my dad to try to get him to co-fund a set of Time Life encyclopedia set for my sister and I, he wasn’t willing to do it, so she dug in and foot the bill entirely herself. PLUS, when Babylon 5 was showing in our country at all the odd hours, she’d watch it with me (sometimes), but she’d always discuss the themes with me.

      THAT, to me, is a sci-fi mom, through and through. Despite the adversity.

      PS – She’s got me ripping all the B5 DVDs to avis so she can take it with her back to Australia, where she’s based now, so she can relive glory of JMS storytelling…knowing her, she’s interspersing BSG (Ron Moore’s version) in between. My hat off to her. A geek mom after my own heart.

    8. Joseph says

      “Mom read Dune with me, then we both saw the movie. Then we read Dune again trying to figure out what David Lynch was doing.”

      That was just way too funny! And way too true. My Mom’s the one who got me into Star Trek and took me to the The Hobbitt (the Rankin and Bass animated one) when I was a kid, thus dooming me to a life of reading that kind of stuff :)

    9. says

      Nice post, Mike. One strong sci-fi mom that comes to mind in literature is Maureen, the mother of one Lazarus Long. She was independent and strong in “To Sail Beyond The Sunset”. But you’re right, for the most part, mom’s are painted to be clucking, often embarrassing, and always not understanding women.

      My mom was not a geek herself, but always took interest in what I had to say about it, and was willing to humour me on it way more than a human should have to. She’s now one of my best friends.

    10. says

      My Mom got me started on scifi when I was a kid. She watched the original series when she was young. Even long after we stopped watching TV together, I would hear the sound of DS9 and Voyager reruns coming from her room. She still wears a TNG shirt sometimes when I come to visit. Go Mom!

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