The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks
Sam Maggs, Author Kelly Bastow, Illustrator
So this is going to be a slightly different review than I normally write, because…well I read some of the other reviews of this book and it just made me sad to look at them. Not because people didn’t like the book, but because it seems like some purposefully went out of their way to bash a book, because…well…they just seem to be full of anger and hate. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem if people don’t like a particular book. Especially if they have well thought out arguments for why they don’t like it. Or even if they just say “You know, I just didn’t like this book. I couldn’t get into it.” and leave it at that. But the level of angst and hate hurled at this book? I just…well I don’t get it. Even after reading their reviews I honestly wonder if they read the book or even realized what the book is really supposed to be about.
So I’m going to try to address some of the criticism’s that I saw hurled at this book. Also, I’m going to be a bit more ranty than I normally allow myself to be with a review.
1st: Everything in it is obvious:
…it is? Really? OK I get it, if you’ve been in fandom or a geek for a while then sure you might know these things. But what if you’re just starting out? What if you’re 8 years old and for the first time discovering “holy cow! Girls can read comics too??” Or “holy cow! there are other people that think like me?!?” And you might think I’m being over the top with this…but I’m not. We were all newbies once. We all needed a guide to figure things out and to learn how to do things. How to go to conventions, how to find and meet people online or IRL, or just how to be involved in fandom. And that’s what Sam and this book provide. A how to get started or to get more in depth in the fan culture around you.
Also stop and think for a moment, it’s only in the last couple of generations that women were able to make inroads into the geek kingdom and let their geekiness be free! So…who do they look to for mentors? I mean sure, some people had dads that were glad to show them the way. But all far too often, I’m guessing they had to figure it out themselves. So this guide is a way of helping be a guide for the next generation. Of shouting out to all the young women (and maybe some older ones) “Hey! HEY! Over here. You belong.”
And some people are saying “Well why is it just for girls then, huh? What about young geek boys?” Please. I’m not saying that geek boys don’t need a guide as well, but seriously? Girls still have to deal with the bullshit crap of “Well, you can’t really like this comic because you’re a girl. And it’s violent.” or “Well you must just read Donald Duck and Smurf comics and everyone knows those aren’t real comics.” So, hence the reason for the guide.
Sam does an excellent job of breaking things down, of saying “OK here are some things that you can be a part of. Maybe you know some of them. Maybe you don’t. But here’s how to get started.” And even offering some pointers of where to go for more information. And this is a great starting place for a fangirl of figuring out how to tell which community they belong to or even just how many communities there are to be geeking out about! Also, one thing I really, REALLY, loved in this book was that while Sam does use the term “fangirl” she makes it clear, that all are welcome to read this book and that everyone can get something from it.
Number 1a: “Why is a guy writing this book?”…Sam is short for Samantha. Please, don’t make assumptions without actually looking for answers first.
Number two: EVERYTHING COSTS TOO MUCH MONEY!!!
I..the…wha…did you read the book?!?!? I mean seriously? Throughout the book Sam talks about how you don’t need money to be a fan. In fact she goes out of her way in the introduction to say “Hey, ignore those people that tell you that you have to read every Ms. Marvel comic ever to be a fan. Pfff pish tosh. You’re a fan no matter what.” Seriously. She says that. Well, ok maybe not quit the pish tosh part, but the rest of it. Yeah. And she doesn’t backtrack on it at all! In fact she continues to point out that if you can’t go to conventions, you can meet people online. You can know them just that way! You find your community and you make yourself a part of it whatever way that you can.
And I saw people pointing out she says things like “if you’re in this group your key accessories are: tattoos, talking animals, brown boots!, etc, etc.” and saying “SEE! She’s saying spend money on this stuff and that’s the only way you’ll be a fan!” I…the…what? No, just, no. She’s saying “Hey, here are some things that help identify your group! You have them, great! No? Also great!” The only way you can get she’s saying you need this stuff is you read someone else’s book instead of this one and conflated the two.
Yes, the book talks about ways to do things that cost money, like going to conventions. And Sam does an excellent job of providing advice of what to do when you’re at one, what to bring, what not to do, and for the love of all fandom how to act around the people you’re getting autographs from! And this also falls into the complaint of “this is obvious” and again, I cry foul. A huge foul on that. Because I’d really love to copy some of these pages and give them to some of the people I meet at conventions. Heck, I would have loved to have this list the first time I went to a convention just a few short years ago!
Three: FOCUS! Where’s the focus!!
OK this one I do get a bit, because when you read this like a book, then it does wander a bit, it jumps around, it offers different advice to different age groups and blah, blah. It lacks focus. Now you’ll notice I say “when you read this like a book” and that’s an important distinction here. And yes some of you are going “well duh! It is a book!” Yes, yes, yes it is. It’s a GUIDEbook. It guides you along different paths and you don’t have to read it in straight order for it to make sense. If you’re reading this book expecting a history of geek girls or it to tell the tale of an adventurous geek girl going out into the world!…don’t. The book isn’t meant to have a plot or be a cohesive thread or have focus on one topic. It’s meant to be a guide to help young ones find their way.
I could probably keep going, but I won’t. Sam does an excellent job of creating a GUIDE for geek girls new to being a geek. Or just figuring out what type of geek they can be. Or heck just looking at all of the things a geek CAN BE. Also, Kelly’s illustrations (which I didn’t even really touch on) are super amazingly awesome and fit really well with the book. Gentle watercolor illustrations with just the right amount of umph to them to really sell what Sam’s talking about. Also, also, the font. That’s right the font. Jon Chad and Luke Howard, two of my teachers at CCS, would kick my butts if I didn’t talk about these things. I’m guessing that Kelly created the watercolor light blue font used as subject headings and emphasis points throughout the book because it matches her art style really well and it just helps tie the entire book together.
Also I can’t forget there are some awesome short interviews with Jane Espenson, Erin Morgenstern, Kate Beaton, Ashley Eckstein, Laura Vandervoort, Beth Revis, Kate Leth, and many others.
So, if you’re new to being a geek girl or just want to increase your geekdom presence check out this book. And if you know young geek girls just starting out, give them this book. And then help guide them through the awesomeness of being a geek.
ARC provided by LibraryThing Early Reviews Program