Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Learning to Swim by Being Tossed into the Pool: A Review of The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy

I’ll admit it, getting into what some call “nerd culture” can be quite intimidating. There’s just so much out there, and it’s hard to step back and take a look at what really interests you. Combine that with decades of movie and comic history to learn, gatekeepers, sexism, and the rising cost of collecting, it can seem overwhelming and like it isn’t worth the hassle. There’s a comic by Lumberjanes' Noelle Stevenson that I feel is a good representation of how it can feel.

It was because of all of this, that I was excited to hear about The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy:A Handbook for Geek Girls by Sam Maggs; a book for fangirls, by fangirls, a book to help guide newcomers through the crazy world of geek culture. It seemed like the perfect book to get girls to dip their toes into geek culture.

But my excitement for the book was crushed about 10 pages in. After defining what it means to be a fangirl, Maggs does little to ease newcomers into the wide world of fandoms, or fan subcultures. Instead she throws readers headfirst into some of the most overzealous and niche fandoms on the internet, using fandom specific terminology. Not exactly what I would call welcoming to people looking to learn more about geek culture.

The book seems somewhat self-congratulatory and doesn’t seem to know its audience. It is caught in between wanting to be an introduction to new geek girls and a handbook for established geek girls, and it lost me along the way.

The book is not without its merit. I found the chapter on convention attendance and etiquette to be incredibly helpful for first time and seasoned convention goers. Conventions can be intimidating and confusing, and Maggs gave a good overview of what to expect and how to prepare. There were also plenty of helpful links throughout the book on everything from cosplay to tech blogs to nerdy recipes. And the audiobook continues with the celebration of all things geek. It is narrated by audiobook veteran Jessica Almsay as well as cosplay queen Holly Conrad, which is a special treat for fangirls like me.

I can’t say that gained much from reading this book, and I don’t know too many geek girls who would have either.


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