Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review of Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, a handbook for Girl Geeks

This is the book I didn’t know I needed. Thanks to Sam Maggs, an Associate Editor at the geek website The Mary Sue, there is now a comprehensive reference on being a fangirl. Behold, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is a positive, encouraging and thorough guide on girl geekery.

For starters, in the helpful fangirl-speak glossary, you’ll find many terms you might have wondered about like “feels,” “shipping,” or “squee.” There’s social media tips and suggestions on when to use Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Tumblr vs. Pinterest to best convey or share something. There’s sage advice about “bumping” in a forum and being extra scrutinizing of the stuff you see on Reddit.  Maggs even warns about “egg people” on Twitter (love that term) and “trolls,” who are the scourge of the Internet. There’s also tips on writing fan fiction and mini-interviews with notable and famous ‘fangirls’ sprinkled between chapters.  But the centerpiece of this tome is a battle-tested, 40-page primer on attending conventions or “Cons” with insightful advice about cosplay. Having just attended my first Con in 2013, I envy today’s geeks who have ample access to them now, especially in my hometown of Seattle, like GeekGirlCon, PAX and Emerald City ComicCon.

Maggs earnestly maintains an almost unwavering camp counselor-ish tone and tempo in this guide. She deftly uses the geek-speak lingo used on fan webpages, forums, tweets and statuses. She’s also very encouraging to let your geek flag fly. It’s now much more culturally hip to be a geek than when I was growing up, but there are still subgroups of male geeks who want to undercut and delegitimize female geeks. That’s a shame because geekery, at it’s heart, celebrates everyone’s interests without judgement. But as this book shows, girl geeks/fangirls are a force to be reckoned with and will not be marginalized, derided, slandered or ignored. Here’s to hoping we can all live together in true peace--and not like the one between the humans and Cylons on New Caprica either.

All in all, Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is a great addition to the geek collective and a wonderful primer for new (and not so new) fangirls everywhere. Thank you Sam!

This book releases in May 2015 from Quirk Books. Pre-order it from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Now for some “critical distance” aka constructive feedback: 
There are a few areas where I thought this book might improve in future versions:
  • I found the section on trolling informative but I didn’t care for how it was organized. In the attempt to categorize the trolls, there are (seemingly) arbitrary names and it prevented me from really absorbing all of the information as I kept wondering what the significance of the names were.  
  • The Con section is rock solid and really gives someone a very strong start for a successful event. One thing I might add, because I’m also a mom and it’s super topical right now, is how important health and hygiene is. There is a mention to carrying hand sanitizer, but with all of that humanity around you and the tendency for much of that humanity to be less [how do you say--clean?] really focus on hand washing/sanitizing, fist bumps instead of handshakes, being up-to-date on vaccinations (including your flu shot) before you go, and please don’t go if you’re sick. I know it SUCKS to think about bailing at the last minute due to an illness but think about how that could infect others. On a Nerdist podcast, Wil Wheaton mentioned how at one PAX, he and many attendees ended up getting horribly sick afterwards. Certainly this is the ‘exclusive souvenir’ you don’t want to bring home.
  • I was quite surprised not to see mention of a certain Geek Girl who is taking daily mortar attacks from trolls while fighting the good fight. I speak of Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian. I thought at least she might be mentioned in the YouTuber section since she has solid analysis and insight on gaming and the state of girl geekdom.

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