The Week that Was
Underground Reading: 32 Caliber by Donald McGibeny

10 Tips for Being a Geek in London (for Free)

It dawned on us that a lot of the fun we have as geeks doesn't actually have a price tag. Scary, huh?

Here are ten(ish) different ways to entertain yourself as a genre loyalist without reaching into your carefully-horded Book Budget. Most of these only help London-based geeks, but there's a plea for your local list at the bottom... hopefully this will inspire you!

  • Orbital Gallery (& Others). Orbital maintain a constantly-changing display of great artwork in their own gallery. Although it isn't a huge space, the owners do their best to promote UK and indie artists, and it has a way of opening your eyes to exotic new work. The nearby Cartoon Museum has an entrance fee (which is reduced if you're a student and free if you're under 18), but hosts an amazing collection of illustrated art - new and old. Pollock's Toy Museum also has a ticket price, but will keep you entertained for hours with their collections of action figures, board games and other wonderful toys.
  • Hunt for ghosts. London's a very old city and not all its dead stay buried. At least, that's what this website would have us believe. Put together your own ghost tour - explore your own neighborhood or chase down a few classics (we recommend the Black Dog of Newgate - Amen Corner, EC4).
  • The Hunterian Museum. Anne likes, (though I'm too squeamish for), this museum of physiological curiousities, which boasts a distinctly Lovecraftian aspect. Check out the many examples of "monsters in spirits" and other creepy specimens. 
  • The National Collector's Marketplace at Russell Square. The temptation, of course, is to buy everything in sight - but this eclectic convention is also a great way to spend the day browsing. There's more original art here on display here than in the National Gallery - and all of it is comic book and pulp related.
  • Search for Space Invaders. London's got a thriving graffitti scene, but our favorite (and easily the geekiest) artist is Invader, a bonkers Frenchman who has bedecked the city with pixelated foes. Invader gives himself "points" for hanging them in especially complicated or hard-to-reach places. He's still winning, but, sadly, the little critters are rapidly disappearing. Find a map and get exploring - much of the fun is all the other incredible street art you'll find while hunting down your new alien overlords. 
  • Geeky Stuff at the V&A. The V&A is kind of like that brilliant cupboard under the stairs where your gran crams all that weird stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else.  As well as kimonos, forgeries and vodka bottles, the V&A has a lot of explicitly geek materials on display - including an amazing collection of prints and books and a selection of lethal Japanese weaponry that'll convert you into a manga fan on sight. (Try and seek out the legendary squid-blade, a sword with an octopodical scabbard and a lobster for a hilt).
  • Find a gaming group. Hey, you know what's still free, fun and immensely time-consuming? RPGs. The Orc's Nest maintains a list of clubs looking for players, but check out the Finchley Games Club (RPG), Games Club (CCG) and the Central London Wargames Club (Minis) for starters. Any Games Workshop or other game-supply shop will invariably have a few recommendations for you as well. 
  • The British Library. You need a pass to get books out of the (closed) stacks, but the British Library always has a gallery or six filled with some of amazing, leer-worthy books. Starting in May, this will include a six month stint showing some of the best in Science Fiction.
  • The Barbican Library. A different sort of library from the above, the Barbican has an enormous selection of music and a lot of squashy-seated listening booths. Symphonies are very nice, but why not get comfy and geek out to their extensive Hawkwind collection instead?
  • Project Gutenberg. Or, since this is London, it is probably gray and raining outside. Why not stay home? Project Gutenberg boasts a billionty-twelve free books that you can download without feeling guilty. E-reader not required - all books are available in normal formats and many even come with audio recordings
  • The Prince Charles Cinema. It isn't free (which is why we're listing it as a bonus tip), but the Prince Charles Cinema is the sole central London cinema that doesn't require selling a kidney to see a film. Membership is cheap to the point where it generally pays for itself within a viewing or two, and the PCC is a great place to watch SF and Horror classics on the big screen. Often for as little as £1.50.

[Editor's note: Apologies for the London bias, but that's where we live. If you put together a list for your hometown, let us know! And, for other Londoners, let us know what we forgot in the comments...]