When I first picked up Sam Maggs’ The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, I wasn’t sure what my expectations of this title should be. A part of me wanted to rebel against the title, asking it, AND WHO ARE YOU, MS. HOST OF CINEPLEX PRE-SHOW AND EDITOR OF THE MARY SUE AND COS-PLAYER EXTRAORDINAIRE AND LADY GAMER, TO TELL ME WHAT IS AND IS NOT GEEKY, HUH? Ok, if there was a sort of professional checklist to what does or doesn’t make a girl-geek, I am sure Maggs would have all them boxes checked. But my problem with this idea, and also with starting this book, is I wondered if we still needed to be asking the question: Am I girl-geeky enough? Would reading this book just make readers who aren’t sure of the places in geeky things feel even more out of sorts? Man, I thought we had trolls for that. Are ladies going to be judging me too now all the time? This?
Written by Sam Maggs
Have you ever wondered if there was a guide to tell you how to be a fangirl? Have you felt constantly questioned to your being a fangirl and now wish you had your own checklist to make for what makes or doesn’t make you geeky? Are you constantly wondering if you’re a brown coat, or a red shirt? Well, allons-y! Maggs breaks down your level of geekdom for you, ladies.
At some point between the illustrated welcome page, and the fan-fic possible ways to write your plot chart, I became enamored with this text. Maggs’ tone is so playful and informative that you can’t help but read this as a friend in your ear, dying to tell you about the things they are into, and asking if you are into them too, and if you aren’t, that is still ok! It is a refreshing and empowering read. It consistently, and at every possible point of instruction, reminds the reader that this book is a guide, not a bible, or set of laws. It is not an instruction on how to be a certain way, thankfully, but a call to arms, an address to ladies to become engaged in more than one craft or show or book and to share that art with friends.
If you start this book expecting an actual checklist of girl-geek levels, you will be disappointed. Although you will find, in its opening pages, a Whovian checklist, even the check-lists are written playfully, and not meant to be taken as a hard and fast rule. If you are reading this to look for some fun, and helpful hints into certain aspects of geekdom that you were uncomfortable to ask aloud, then this is the book for you. Maggs structure is solid. She quantifies and breaks down geekdom into parts, describes how those parts work, and then gives readers places where they can experiment with those parts of geekery, and even (because she is like the “all-star soccer mom” of planning) provides helpful to-do lists for you once you get to a forum, or con, or LARP-ing night. Maggs even breaks down some vocabulary for you, just in case you didn’t know some of the language, like: fridged (Thanks, Gail Simone for that awesome addition to our lexicon) so that in every possible way, she provides you resources.
If GamerGate is a blockade for us, then I think ladies, Maggs has found a hold in their fence, and asking us to come on, and crawl through, and if we are unsure of how, she will tell you what to expect when we do follow her.
Perhaps the most helpful of her breakdowns into geek culture is her section on trolls. Maggs names certain kinds of tolls, and gives a list of ways to interact with the trolls that will cause you less frustration. For ex: a White Knight Troll, will only defend you, if it means he can ask you out on a date, and if you say no, then could possibly flame you too. So, if a troll is saying: Come on, guyz, she’s just a girl. Be wary. Tips like this are comedic, but also relieving to read. It is one more show of Maggs finding places where people are uncomfortable to talk about, and shedding humor onto that rocky terrain, and also a picnic blanket.Continued below
My only critique is the guide’s treatment of interviews. Throughout the guide, dispersed between sections, there are interviews with awesome ladies in the field, like, Kate Leth or Kate Beaton (basically all the awesome Kate’s in the world). And they were a pleasure to read, but seemed to be cut short. Each interview had the same format, asking industry professionals their opinion about being a “fangirl” and what that meant to them, and I wanted a little bit more from the interviews. I wanted to know more about why these super awesome ladies still stay in our geeky world, and what, specifically they do there, and with who, and how. I think that the guide is such a pump-up of spirits, calling on us ladies to connect and to create, that I felt a bit cheated that I didn’t get a little more insight into some ladies’ minds that are already doing that work, and how it feels to be a leader in that field. If the book is all about creating joy in discovering geekdom, then I want to know how these leading ladies sustain the joy.
Final Verdict: 7.0 – A book I want all my children’s children to read, and maybe their cos-playing puppies too? Okay, puppies can cos-play too, don’t be a hater on dog-themed fun! Ok, whatever, cats can dress up too.