I am a fangirl. (This likely shocks no one.) I totally geek out over Star Wars, Harry Potter, all things Marvel, Sherlock, Doctor Who, Supernatural, The Princess Bride, Firefly, YA literature, and way too many other things to name. I make no apologies for my preference for fictional worlds over reality. It’s just how I roll.
So, when I got the chance to read something titled The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks, I jumped on it. (Thanks once again to NetGalley!) In this book, Sam Maggs gives her fellow fangirls a bit of a guide to navigating geek culture, often seen as somewhat male-dominated. She presents information on various different fandoms (sometimes oversimplified, but whatever), being a fangirl online, surviving and thriving at conventions, and what it may mean to be a fangirl feminist. Between each chapter are interviews with famous fangirls, each talking about what the term means to them and advice for their fellow geek girls.
In the very first chapter of this book, Maggs talks about some of the major fandoms: Harry Potter, SuperWhoLock (Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock), Lord of the Rings, Otaku (anime and manga), Star Trek, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Marvel, DC, YA literature, Whedonites, and gaming. (You may have noticed that I fangirl over many these.) Now, Maggs is the first to admit that she’s left out/glossed over quite a few fandoms, and that’s okay. What’s not okay, then? Well, in my personal opinion (for whatever that’s worth), as much as I love the idea of a potential meeting between Sam, Dean, Castiel, the Doctor, Sherlock, and Watson, each of these fandoms should be given their own space. They’re all great in their own right.
The Fangirl’s Guide also introduces noobs to “fangirl-speak.” I’m not going to go into all of that here, but it is a nice primer if you’re confused about the difference between canon and headcanon, wonder why “feelings” has become “feels,” or have no idea what someone is talking about when they go crazy over their OTP or ship.
Maggs wraps up the first chapter with advice on how to get involved in geek culture IRL (in real life). She goes into how to meet up with like-minded nerds, how to convert friends into fangirls, and how you can “let your geek flag fly.” All of her suggestions are great…unless you suffer from near-crippling social anxiety. Then, you’re better served by connecting online…which leads me to the next chapter.
Chapter two, Geek Girls Online, discusses the various platforms for connecting with other fangirls (or fanboys), writing fanfiction (or creating any other type of fan art), and what to do about the loathsome Internet trolls. While I didn’t get a ton of new information out of this chapter, I do think it has loads of great advice for those somewhat new to being a fangirl. What’s important is to find the right platform for you and interact respectfully with your fellow geeks.
The third chapter, How to Survive Conventions, filled me with so much anxiety that I can’t even. Just the thought of so many people in one place gives me hives. That being said, Maggs gives a quick run-down of the major cons and their associated fandoms, what to expect at a con, planning and packing advice, choosing the perfect cosplay for you, and coming down from your time at a con. A great resource for someone looking for the ideal con for their interests.
I was pleasantly surprised to see one on the list that I actually do attend–YALLFest, a free YA book festival in Charleston each November. There’s just one problem, though. This festival is in SOUTH CAROLINA, not North Carolina. Hopefully, the author, editor, or someone else caught this pretty major error before this book went to print.
Chapter four is all about Geek Girl Feminism, something that’s been getting a lot more traction lately. With things like GamerGate in the news, it’s no wonder. (Look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) As a longtime feminist, I truly appreciate this chapter and its message of equality for all. Geek culture is something that’s supposed to be all-inclusive. After all, we know what it’s like to be excluded, ridiculed, bullied, and the like. Do any of us really want to have a part in making others feel that way? In this chapter, Maggs talks a bit about some fangirl feminist terminology that people should be familiar with (privilege, mansplaining, objectification, male gaze, etc.), myths about modern feminism, and kick-butt female characters in comics, books, TV, movies, and gaming. She also encourages her fellow fangirl feminists to call our fandoms out when they show misogynistic tendencies.
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy wraps up with some resources for further exploration. Most of these are blogs, shops, or YouTube channels that lead fangirls to new ideas in all sorts of geek culture: math, coding, science, fashion, cosplay, and much, much more.
All in all, I think this guide is great for fangirls who may be new to geek culture…or those who just want to know what in the heck the fangirls around them are talking about. If you’ve been a girl geek for a while, some of this info may be old news, but it never hurts to have a refresher. Even I–a fangirl for more than 30 years–learned something new in this book. I’m guessing you will, too.
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy drops in stores and online on May 12th. I think this book would be an especially great addition to high school libraries. In fact, any library that serves a large YA population should add this book to its collection. Your patrons will thank you.
Have fun out there!