LANCASTER, Mass. (AP) — The nerds have inherited the earth, says local geek-culture enthusiast Emmanuel Ortiz, and he is hoping his online magazine can help push nerdom in a positive direction.
Ortiz, 37, is the founder and editor of NerdCaliber.com, a website that features articles on aspects of nerd culture, such as Japanese animation, video games and ‘‘cosplay,’’ where participants create detailed costumes of fictional characters.
The website features lifestyle spins on many of those topics, such as videos asking cosplay performers for dating advice or articles that confront social issues like sexism within nerdy circles.
While he spoke to the Sentinel & Enterprise recently, the R2-D2 sound effect from the Star Wars franchise emanated from his pocket. He pulls out an Android smartphone with a textured R2-D2 case. He calls it a ‘‘droid-droid.’’
Nerds are people who get obsessed with things, according to Ortiz, be it comic books, role-playing games or anime, and his website documents how the communities that spring around different groups of nerds are maturing.
For example, a recent piece Ortiz wrote argues that black cosplayers are often criticized for portraying a character of a different race in a way that white, Latino and Asian cosplayers are not.
He said the Internet started as a friendly playground for nerds but as it has become more popular and mainstream, cyberspace has come under siege by trolls, online bullies who mock others for fun. Mocking nerds has become common on the Internet, even from other nerds.
Ortiz, who grew up a nerd in the Bronx in the 1980s, said he hates bullies and hopes to wield Nerd Caliber to hold off the advancing horde of trolls that have taken over the Internet.
‘‘I defend people’s right to be creative,’’ said Ortiz. ‘‘We try not make fun of someone for what they love.’’
He said in one video a Nerd Caliber interviewer was seen poking fun at costumed fans of the Homestuck web comic. He had that interviewer apologize to a group of Homestuck fans at a New York City conference and posted the video.
Most of the writers for Nerd Caliber are paid with in-kind services like promotion or a free copy of the material they are reviewing. Ortiz’s wife, Maura Gerrans-Ortiz, 34, is the lead copywriter for the site, and Ortiz occasionally bounces ideas off her.
‘‘I think I'm the family-friendly censor,’’ said Gerrans-Ortiz. She said the page goes for a PG-13 rating. For example, the cosplay photos they share focus on the craft of the costume, not the flesh of the performer.
‘‘There’s a place for more skin and we’re not it,’’ she said.
She is also in charge of a spin-off website, Pages of Note, which focuses on nerd literature like fantasy novels and comics.
They have a third website, Big Blue Die, that focuses on role-playing games.
Their roommate Paul Stewart, 24, does a lot of odd jobs for Nerd Caliber. When they started 2 1/2 years ago he was in charge of the sci-fi section and landed an interview with Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy.
‘‘That was a crowning achievement for us,’’ said Stewart.
The group travels to at least two conventions each month, oftentimes more, to interact with nerds, land interviews and soak in the nerd scene. Those expenses can add up, and Ortiz keeps the sight running by doing freelance graphic design work and occasional manufacturing shifts.
Advertising revenue has been increasing. When Nerd Caliber was launched they received a trivial amount of advertising revenue but it now takes in about $80 a month. Ortiz said he'd like to build it up to the point where they can print a physical edition. He said he doesn’t want to charge website subscriptions and feels that print still has a future when it meets certain niches.
‘‘It’s like raising a kid,’’ said Ortiz. ‘‘You want them to be able to grow and move out of the house.’’