“No one else gets to decide whether I do or do not belong.” -Sam Maggs, The Geek Girl’s Litany for Feminism, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy

There’s something about seeing a statement in print that makes it real. If you identify as a woman or girl in geek culture, you know that sometimes it can be a challenge to find inclusion when it comes to joining a fandom or discussing it.

I’ve had so many negative experiences walking into comic book stores and gaming spaces that I still find myself on guard when I visit the friendly places. “You belong here” is an internal mantra, and I have to be vigilant about repeating it.

And then there are all those things we’re supposed to hide, especially for those of us old enough to remember when being a geek wasn’t cool or trendy. I mean, I’m supposed to be a ‘real‘ writer, so I usually don’t broadcast my RP blog (whoops, now you know). I feel a bit more comfortable talking about that fanfic aspect of my fangirlishness now in thanks to “The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks” by Sam Maggs.

For All Levels of Fangirling

My only hesitation in acquiring this awesome book was that I’ve been pretty active and outspoken in many fandoms since before the Internet (I’m old). I was afraid this would be a fangirl 101 book – but it’s not! While there is some welcoming introductory information, Maggs provides information to educate even the most experienced geek.

In particular, I found her convention tips especially helpful. I always end up buying Thor shirts at conventions (because let’s be real, Thor is amazing). Maggs points out that you might want to skip stuff like that because you can buy it online at any time, usually for a lower price.

The overviews of various fandoms was also pretty helpful. I’m on tumblr, so I’m obviously aware of “Supernatural” and “Doctor Who,” but the overviews in the book gave me some solid introductory information without being totally overloaded by more seasons of material than I could binge watch in a lifetime. Now I feel like I understand the enthusiasm of those particular fans a bit more.

Layout and Design

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy

The Geek Girl’s Litany for Feminism (click image to purchase poster)

As the book is published by Quirk, it’s no surprise that the book design itself is fantastic. The hardcover version features lipstick, laptops, and even an NES controller on the cover. The jacket has a realistic looking fangirl superhero on her cover. She actually kind of looks like me, so it’s no surprise that I want to go to a superhero LARP every time I look at it.

The back of the jacket displays an empowering and unapologetic message from “The Geek Girl’s Litany for Feminism,” also found on page 154. It ends with “I’m a fangirl, a feminist, and a force to be reckoned with.”

“You’re Such a Fangirl; Why Are You So Obsessed?”

I heard this stuff from my peers and family since I was young. I heard it when I enthused dramatically about sitting in the front row when Chris Hemsworth appeared at the 2012 Wizard World Philly Comic Con. I heard it from coworkers when I would use my break time to craft message board replies for my favorite LARP’s forum.

And now when I look at my pictures with Hayley Atwell and Jonathan Frakes, LARP props I’ve spent hours creating, and my press and fan passes to conventions casually dangling from the handle of Mjolnir, I feel a bit like the old lady in “Titanic,” attached to all her pictures as proof of having lived passionately.

No matter how many other ladygeeks I know, though, sometimes I still feel like I’m on a bit of an island.

This book is continual proof that I’m not, which earns it a permanent place on my desk. It’s got value, just like a style guide or a “Thor” variant cover…or me.

Geek Girl Feminism Is Unapologetic Passion For What You Love

Feminism shouldn’t be such a controversial word. When I say I’m a feminist, I mean, ‘hey, I’m a person, too!’ but that gets complicated fast on the Internet. Social warfare is no joke.

Maggs handles this in several ways:

  • She absolutely acknowledges the presence of trolls (and looks at each type, providing information on how to deal with them).
  • She takes a positive approach, encouraging us to support media that represents women fairly as well as media created by awesome ladies.
  • She provides a digestible but firm final chapter called “Aim to Misbehave: Geek Girl Feminism.”
  • Maggs demonstrates how to be critical, constructive, and positive at the same time. Any woman who’s existed on the Internet can vouch for how easy it is to become jaded, but this book is a refreshing reminder that we’re a community.

Overall, what reached me most about the book (and meeting Maggs at a book signing) is that she is forever unapologetic about her interests and her life. That’s huge. And that’s why I wish I’d had this book when I was 16.

Getting Personal

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy – Click Image to Buy

“I’m a fangirl. More often than not, people hit me with that word in a derogatory way” is the first sentence in the book. But two seconds later, Maggs declares that “being a fangirl is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” This type of consistent, empathy-to-empowerment style is what really separates “The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy” from other publications.

At the end of the day, readers connect because Maggs knows that the struggle is real – and so are the rewards of fangirling.

Interviews

Maggs also includes brief interviews with popular women in geek culture, including Lorraine Cink (Marvel’s ‘The Watcher’ and one of my favorite ladygeeks), Jane Espenson, and Tara Platt. By showcasing these examples of successful geeks, Maggs is doing what she encourages us to do: support excellent female talent and creators.

Recommendation

In addition, I have to also say that I’m thrilled Maggs included a bit about LARP, an oft-stigmatized hobby with a growing number of female participants. The author advises those interested to head over to LARPing.org, which is definitely a great starting point.

At first glance, this looks like a clever coffee table book (mostly because the design is cute and it’s guide-sized). I’ve had it for about a week and I feel like I’ll use it more like I use Paulo Coelho’s “Warriors of the Light;” I read it cover to cover once every few years, but it holds value because I can always reference it to remind myself of why I happen to be pretty damn awesome when I’m feeling like I’m not.

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