I was given a chance by Quirk Publishing to review a copy of Sam Magg’s book “The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy” recently, and I am really excited that it lived up to my expectations. Billed as a “compendium of all aspects of female geek culture and a celebration of all fandoms,” the book covers topics that my quickly-becoming-a-tween geek bonus daughter is starting to encounter, and that I have been dealing with for years as a female writing in a nerd world.
Sam Maggs is the associate editor of TheMarySue.com, and she does great work. I’m a fan of her writing, her fangirling, and her unabashed celebration of feminism and how it intersects with geek culture.
Overall, the book is definitely aimed for a YA age group — girls that are just starting to get into geeky things and wondering, “Is it okay to feel this way over Nathan Fillion?” (Answer: Yes). Or, “All my friends think that David Tennant’s doctor is the best, but I’ve got to with Eccleston, is that alright?” (Answer: Also yes, and your friends are wrong).
When I got the internet in our home when I was 12, it was still dial-up, using Windows 95’s “Dial-Up Networking”. We’re talking BBS-style connections and trying to decipher Freetown Chat on a text-based connection. Then, we got AOL and my whole life changed because my internet now had pictures. My internet consisted of carefully crafted AIM away messages that subtly told the boy that I liked that I really didn’t like him and A/S/L checks. When I graduated high school and started freelancing, my internet also changed again. While I was insulated from a lot of the challenges of being a nerd girl in high school and real life because the guys I hung out with were super nerds themselves (band geeks and D&D freaks represent!), the internet was a whole new ball of wax. Suddenly it didn’t matter that I loved video games, and felt that Final Fantasy VII was the best one, or could tell you in detail which edition I felt was superior for D+D, or had been playing MtG since 1999 — I was a girl in a boy’s world.
Every female that does freelancing work or has a blog can tell you the story about how she had gotten rape threats, death threats, or multiple forms of harassment throughout their career. There’s a reason I write under a gender-neutral name now. My husband and I had a discussion recently and decided to have our daughter watch the John Oliver segment about revenge porn — profanity aside, because she has heard me as I’m driving, coming down I-40 through Tennessee and North Carolina, so she has been exposed all manners of cursing. And there’s a reason why my husband said, “Sassypants, the internet is different for you than it will be for your brother.” That’s the reason Maggs’ book is so important and needed.
Maggs has taken years of personal experience navigating the murky waters of fandoms and trolls, summarized the information, and wrapped it up in a Feminism 101 primer for girls who don’t know what fandoms, trolls or feminism really is. Between that, countless resources for different fandoms, where to find other women to connect with, heroines in video, TV, movies, and the interviews with industry pioneers such as Ashley Eckstein, Kate Beaton, Jane Espenson, and more, this book is fantastic.
I enjoyed the sections about surviving conventions, and “Aim To Misbehave” which is all about modern feminism in a tech and global world, and really don’t have a lot of negative things to say about it overall. It’s not something I’d give to Sassypants when she is 12, but rather wait until she’s about 14 or 15 because some of the advice given, the language used, and some references that are for the older end of YA. One example sticks out in my mind (and be mindful — this is ONE thing): the advocation of loosening up with alcohol before writing fanfiction.
This occurs when Maggs is discussing writing about sex in fanfiction — an extremely positive guide, I might add (cause sex isn’t bad) — and seeing the author speak plainly about the fact that sex is normal and sex happens in fanfiction, combined with the line, “If it helps, lock your bedroom door, put on your sexiest steampunk corset, get a little tipsy — whatever works!” really just bothers me.
I guess what bothers me is if we’re trying to normalize sexuality, then why advocate getting buzzed in order to talk about it? Especially when the book’s language and style is NOT written for girls of legal drinking age. I totally get that Sassypants isn’t going to be a sweet and innocent flower her whole life and that at age 16, she’s going to know what drinking is. However, I don’t want her thinking that women get half-lit when they have to write about difficult stuff.
Like I said, that’s the one thing I had an issue with – and the book shouldn’t be dismissed because of that. That would be doing this amazing guidebook a disservice.
Sure, it doesn’t come with the words “Don’t Panic” inscribed on it in large, friendly letters, but this guide to the galaxy of being a woman in a nerd world is required reading for anyone who’s ever felt lost when reading about OTP’s, gotten hate mail from some guy in a Live Lobby, or wants to know the best way to enjoy a convention.
REQUIRED FTC DISCLOSURE:
theFLOUNCE.com was given a review copy of the aforementioned book from Quirk Publishing in exchange for our honest and unbiased review.