BY TREY TAYLOR
You’d be forgiven for not knowing that 2015 is a palindrome in binary (11111011111)—but even those who aren’t thinking in ones and zeroes have probably noticed that geek culture has finally hit peak mainstream saturation this year. Let’s start with the galaxy’s biggest blockbuster, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The J. J. Abrams’s reboot has infiltrated the public’s consciousness, flooded our news feeds, and even found its way onto our grocery store shelves (Star Woranges, anyone?).
These past 12 months have solidified 2015 as year of the geek: an epoch-maker for card-carrying, movie-quoting, cosplay-engaging obsessives. The regeneration of Star Wars provided a platform for other major geeky releases that may otherwise have been shelved. There is arguably a healthy amount of geek culture every year—conventions, meet-ups, and a spate of comic book movies that fill cinema seats each summer. This year’s different: The underdogs have come into their own. The superheroes have landed, and they’re now on TV. Netflix gave us permission to binge-watch action-packed series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones and proved that you could tell comic-based narratives in unconventional—and wildly entertaining—ways.
The dark horse of cable television, the hacker thriller Mr. Robot, accomplished something rather peculiar: The show made headlines because its story lines predicted real-life events. There was an episode where the protagonist, Elliot (Rami Malek), hacks into an extramarital affairs site to get some dirt on a target—and shortly after, Ashley Madison was hacked. Predictions aside, what was most surprising for series creator Sam Esmail was the reception to the geeky thriller. “I think the craziest reaction is that it went way more mainstream than I thought it would,” he said in an interview with Vogue.com. “I always thought that the show’s peak was more ‘cult hit,’ only because it’s such a weird show. Elliot’s such a weird character—I love him dearly, but I just thought there were too many specific, peculiar elements to it that I didn’t ever think it would break out.”
Other shows like Halt and Catch Fire and Silicon Valley took the premise of hacking out of the messy bedroom and into the mainstream. (Fittingly, the seminal geek film Hackers celebrated its 20th anniversary in September.) While bookworms mourned the passing of legendary fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett, the release of his posthumous novel—the final installment in the beloved Discworld series, The Shepherd’s Crown—reignited our imaginations and ensured that we wouldn’t soon forget his endless imagination. Author Ernest Cline followed up his debut novel, Ready Player One, with a thrilling sophomore effort, Armada, which tells the tale of a boy who uses his gaming skills to thwart an alien invasion (and features some of Cline’s signature video game references).
Alien director Ridley Scott returned to the extraterrestrial with The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s science fiction book of the same name. It tells the story of a failed mission to Mars, and a botanist left behind, who was left stranded on the planet with barely any resources. Even more impressive: The Martian pulled in a massive $589 million worldwide, becoming Scott’s highest-grossing film to date.
It’s yet to be seen if NASA will actually send a botanist to Mars, or if Mr. Robot will bring about a spike in enrollment in coding classes, or even if Star Wars–branded fruit will bring anyone back from the dark side of health. Who knows what 2016 will bring—but maybe after combing the galaxy, you will finally find the droids you’re looking for.