Peter Jackson. The nerd that set it all in motion for me.
A nerd friend of mine, my best friend as a matter of fact, tend to tell me once in a while that she was 110% destined to become a nerd. She never had another option really, being surrounded by comic book nerd uncles and an older brother crazy about Star Wars. With me it was an entirely different story because I had to discover the lovely world of nerdiness all on my own. Don't get me wrong, my family has its fair share of book worms but their reading material tended to be rooted in reality and not in far off fictional worlds or alternate universes.
When I say books were my gateway into fantasy and scifi I'm not being entirely honest to myself because when I really get to dig into it, it was movies. Specifically those my mum didn't want me watching. I was about seven when I watched Jurassic Park (and had nightmares for a week), about ten-ish when I saw Aliens, and Tim Burton's Batman movies (with better results dream-wise). Then came the news that Peter Jackson was adapting The Lord of the Rings for the big screen and I was obsessed. By then my mum couldn't possibly ignore the fact that I was way more into fiction than her history nerd ass had ever been and that it was probably a better idea to introduce me to more age appropriate media than forbidding me to watch that which wasn't age appropriate. She gifted me the LotR books, for Xmas 2000 I believe, and those motherfuckers are heavy to get through when you're twelve years old, I can tell ya! but she wished to be proactive and I, in return, was thrilled. However, though I love the story I never really took to the books (sorry J.R.R.) and although I finished The Fellowship of the Ring it took me well over a year to do so (the Two Towers and the Return of the King didn't take as long). Turned out there was a trick to it; after only a few heavy pages I decided to make a list of every single name mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring and thus made reading into both a hunt for new names as well as the completion of the story. It helped getting me through the book. But it also made loving the movies significantly easier; they were heavenly in comparison (because FYI, there are well over 200 different character names in The Fellowship of the Ring only). However, reading Tolkien and then experiencing Jackson's adaption launched me like a exuberant rocket into the fantasy genre and made me choosy as it comes to universe construction. Say what you will about J.R.R. (prolix, racist, sexist etc) but he started something unique with Middle Earth that has grown, branched out and blossomed.
As a part of the Ringer
The importance of this can't be lost on anyone.
Peter Jackson didn't just drop my very first real fandom in my lap but also gave me adult nerds to look up to - the cast of the LotR trilogy is littered with different kinds of nerds that influenced what kind of nerd I myself was going to become one day. Unapologetic (thank you Elijah Wood), enthusiastic (thank you Dominic Monaghan), happily and lovingly sarcastic (thank you Billy Boyd), fiercely queer (thank you so much Ian McKellen) and childishly passionate (thank you Peter Jackson). I can only ever aspire to be as nerdily refined, curious and awe-inspiring as the great LotR nerd Christopher Lee (as the only one of the production to actually have met J.R.R. Tolkien, Lee was the ultimate LotR fanboy).
The Lord of the Rings holds a very special place in my heart and always will.
My best friend and I are at the time of writing this planning our journey to New Zealand. It's nerve wracking and exhilarating and absolutely wonderful to somehow be able to complete the circle by travelling to the place where my love for hobbits began and in many ways my inner nerd awoke.
Thank you Peter Jackson, I look forward to Going There, and Back Again.
"The Road goed ever on and on,
down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
and I must follow if I can.
Pursuing it with eager feet,
until it joins some larger way
where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."