Humorist writes graphic novel about high-tech pranksters and hazing at MIT

066536_69de7f03dcfb4d968338a7ae225004e2LOS ANGELES, CA, August 25, 2016 – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for brilliant students and life-altering inventions – the internet, email, and video games were all born there – but it’s also famous for its epic pranks. These pranks (or “hacks” as they’re called at MIT) are creative, challenging, entertaining feats of engineering orchestrated by anonymous groups of students to offset the rigors of studying at one of the world’s most prestigious technical universities.

A new graphic novel called Geeks & Greeks brings to life many of these notorious hacks, such as an MIT campus police car mysteriously appearing atop MIT’s iconic 150-foot-high dome and fraternity denizens commandeering the Sheraton hotel’s massive rooftop sign in downtown Boston to make it spell “ATO,” their fraternity’s initials.

This loosely-autobiographical book written by humorist Steve Altes and illustrated by Andy Fish also shines a spotlight on the hazing culture that existed at MIT fraternities in the 1980s when Altes was a student. “Fortunately, hazing is a relic of the past at MIT,” says Altes. “Nowadays students are more interested in inventing the Next Big Thing, than engaging in the shenanigans recounted in Geeks.”

Altes says the raucous incidents in his book are so over-the-top by today’s standards that he understands if contemporary students doubt their authenticity. “That’s why I included 120 endnotes that explain the real-life origins of nearly every event in the book,” he says.

Judging from the hazing incidents in Geeks & Greeks, it was risky to antagonize an MIT student in Altes’ day. You didn’t want to be on the receiving end of a ratsicle (cryogenically frozen dead rats used for batting practice in a victim’s bedroom). And beware if they gathered watermelons, a bicycle pump, and surgical tubing (the makings of a highly-pressurized watermelon slingshot). According to Altes, “The only thing scarier than John Belushi from Animal Houseis John Belushi from Animal House with a 160 IQ.”

Altes hopes Geeks & Greeks will appeal to techies of all stripes and anyone with a fondness for Boston. “Geeks & Greeks is really a love letter to my adopted home of Boston,” he says.

When asked whether he had participated in any of the hacks or hazing episodes featured in Geeks & Greeks, Altes quipped, “Let me check the statute of limitations and get back to you.”

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Humorist writes graphic novel about high-tech pranksters and hazing at MIT LOS ANGELES, CA, August 25, 2016 – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for brilliant students and life-altering inventions – the internet, email, and video games were all born there – but it's also famous for its...