Review: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam MaggsThe Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Published by Quirk Books on May 12th 2015
Genres: General, Humor, Personal & Practical Guides, Popular Culture, Reference, Social Science
Pages: 208
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes, including:• How to make nerdy friends• How to rock awesome cosplay• How to write fanfic with feels• How to defeat Internet trolls• How to attend your first conAnd more! Plus, insightful interviews with fangirl faves, like Jane Espenson, Erin Morgenstern, Kate Beaton, Ashley Eckstein, Laura Vandervoort, Beth Revis, Kate Leth, and many others.

Geekdom has been both horrible and wonderful for geek girls lately, as the culture shifts from the white, cis, het, male norm to something a lot more inclusive. We’re not there yet, but with the help of the internet, fandom is becoming a far more inclusive place than it was fifty, twenty, or even ten years ago. This nonfiction volume would be a great guide for teens, parents of teens, and other fans who are new to fanfic, conventions, cosplay, or other aspects of geek hood. You can absorb most of this information by osmosis by just being on Tumblr for a year or so, but in the absence of that kind of time, this is a wonderful introduction to all things geek.

If you’re a super seasoned pro, you may not need this guide, but you might love it anyway for it’s feminist essays, gorgeous illustrations, and lists of definitions and recommendations. The author’s love for all things geek definitely shines through, so check it out for her boundless enthusiasm if for nothing else.

four-stars

Two Conversations About Prejudice

I present to you two conversations I’ve had recently, for the most part without comment. Conversations have been paraphrased to the best of my ability to protect the innocent and/or guilty.

The first was with a co-worker, while we were contemplating potential “some day” career moves (in location, not position). Note that the co-worker (designated as CW) and I are both white.

Me: “I couldn’t possibly convince my husband to move to [southern state known for racial tension]! There’s no way.”

CW: “Why not?”

Me: “You want me to move with my black husband to [state]? Are you crazy? I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but I can’t even get him to go into central Kentucky without being paranoid.”

CW, giving me disbelieving look: “But stuff like that doesn’t really happen does it?”

Me, with my own disbelieving look. “You’re kidding, right? My husband and I have gotten odd looks driving through central Ohio and Pennsylvania. There’s no telling what we’d get [there], and honestly I don’t think I would feel comfortable either.”

CW: “Really?! I can’t believe you’ve had that happen to you.”

Me: “I’ve even gotten comments from a couple of people here in [city]. One woman gave me a clear attitude of  ‘How dare you have married a black man?’ The second was [mutual acquaintance] who lectured me on how interracial couples shouldn’t have children because it makes it too hard on the kids.”

CW, still stunned: “I just can’t believe it.”

I wasn’t upset that my co-worker didn’t realize that these things are a lot closer to home than she might think. How would she know, having never been in the position to experience them? It just made me sad that it probably wasn’t something she would ever advocate for, despite having no ill intentions, because she didn’t even realize it was needful.

The second conversation happened today, in the car with my husband. He had made a reference to one of his favorite old Mad TV skits wherein they praise the “Nice White Lady”.

DH: “Thank you, Nice White Lady.”

Me, jokingly: “But I’m not the ‘nice white lady’. You don’t see me going around saving people.”

DH: “But you are a nice white lady.”

Me: “Yeah, but I don’t have the nice white lady magic. At the end of the day, I’m still poor. Nobody’s giving me a bunch of stuff.”

DH: “Look at it this way. Have you ever been pulled over by the cops?”

Me, laughing: “Yeah, lots of times, you know that.”

(Note: It hasn’t really been “lots of times”, but I’ve had my share of speeding tickets.)

DH: “Have you ever been jerked out of the car?”

Me, thinking: “Oh… *pause* You have a point.”

At that moment, I knew how my co-worker had felt because I had my own little knee-jerk “but that wouldn’t really happen!” moment. Even though I know it happens. Even though I know it happens frequently. And then I felt really, really lucky that it’s never happened to me.

[Note: I have not relayed the first story here as a request for sympathy, as I know that I’m incredibly lucky and privileged just by virtue of having been born who and what I am. This is here as a teachable moment for myself, and hopefully, others. Thanks for reading.]

An Interlude: I Was An Accidental Goth

Hi, folks! It’s “not even remotely related to books” Wednesday! We could also call it, “It’s my blog so if you don’t like it, leave” day, but that’s a little rude so we’ll stick to the former.

So I’m a recent Birchbox* subscriber, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my fashion sense has evolved since high school. Or, I guess I should say “developed” since high school.

You see, about a decade (or so *cough*) ago, I was a wee lass of about eighteen or twenty who would have been termed “goth”. I wore a lot of black back in the day. A lot of black. Black tops, black jeans, black shoes, black eyeliner (LOTS of eyeliner). But I didn’t set out to be a goth girl, you see. My goth persona happened pretty gradually. In fact, I have a confession to make.

The real reason I turned to goth-dom is that fashion is hard.

You see, it’s much easier to coordinate clothes and shoes and jewelry if they’re all the same color. And what color was I supposed to choose? Pink? I’m no Reese Witherspoon. (Also: blech! Pink!)

Black matches everything. That’s just the truth. So everything I bought was black. I used to joke that it made getting dressed in the dark that much easier, because I didn’t need to see to make everything match. (It’s true, by the way. Although you have to watch for getting things inside out. Don’t ask me how I know this.)

To further embarrass myself, I can tell you that I never looked like this:

Creative Commons Attribution Copyright Credit to Flickr user dunikowski.

As a matter of fact, I probably looked more like this:


(Click the picture to be taken to the photographer’s photo stream. It’s quite good.)

Yes, that’s definitely more what I looked like. *sigh*

I’ve gotten a bit more adventurous in my older (not old!) age. I actually have color in my wardrobe now, but there’s still a lot of my staple: black! I didn’t have many fashion role models growing up. I still don’t really. So tell me, please. Who is your fashion role model?

*FTC Disclosure: The Birchbox link is an affiliate link. I am compensated (in points, not cash) only if you purchase something. 

Open Your Mind, Clenching is Bad For You

Maurice Sendak, the guy who wrote the iconic WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE died recently. It was reported today, but I’m not sure when it happened, and for the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he was an author that was beloved by a very great many people.

I liked the book. I didn’t love it the way that it is obvious that many people did, but I liked it. Ever since it was read to us in school, way back in the days of story time and laboriously hand-printing individual letters out on broad-lined paper, I’ve liked the book.

So when I mentioned briefly, over the lunch table today, I expected to hear things like, “Oh, wow. I used to really like that book.” Or, “I still love that book.” I’d have even been happy with, “I’ve never heard of him, but that sucks.” For the most part, those are the reactions I received. Except one.

This is that exchange.

“Oh, I’ve never seen that.”

“… They made a movie out of it. But it’s a book. I’m talking about the guy who wrote it. It’s a kid’s book.”

“No, I don’t read that stuff.”

“It’s a really popular kid’s picture book. They read it in school’s all the time.”

“No, really, I don’t read things like that.”

Each time, the words were said with a sneer. It was very nearly a hateful sneer, and this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten it. When I mentioned wanting to go see The Hunger Games, to see if it matched the book, I got the sneer. Whenever I mention a book I may be reading, I get the sneer. The Handmaid’s Tale? Sneer. The Avengers movie? Sneer.

The most messed up part of this is: this girl watched Twilight. But she didn’t watch it because she was a fan. She didn’t watch it because she was passionate about it. It’s obvious she watched it because it was popular and she’s a follower.

There are certain people who are so sheltered and so prejudiced in their opinions (and I’m not mentioning names here specifically because I’m not fond of libel suits and this paragraph does not necessarily relate at all to the person mentioned above, just to be perfectly clear) that they can’t see anything else. It’s such a narrow scope.

Like the girl who doesn’t read fiction because she “doesn’t believe in make believe” and only wants to hear about things that happen “in real life”. Well, good luck with all those serial killer biographies then. I’d much rather read about fantasy monsters than real ones. Like the guy who doesn’t read about vampires or zombies because “they’re stupid”, not realizing and not willing to hear that these creatures are metaphors for humanity’s own darkness. Not wanting to believe that genre fiction can say anything true or real.

Well, genre fiction is true. It’s more real most of the time then any crappy Nicholas Sparks book you could pick up. The Belgariad taught me values. The Rowan showed me that women can be more than baby-making machines — though there’s no harm in being that *and* saving the world while you’re at it. I Am Legend taught me that there’s two sides to every story. The Dark is Rising and A Wrinkle in Time taught me that science and truth and good can triumph over evil. The Wheel of Time brought me out of one of the darkest times in my life.

I could name dozens more. I bet you could too.

So all I’m saying is… If you’re one of those people who maybe wouldn’t read this or see that or enjoy whatever? Just unclench. Open your mind. Be willing to see value where maybe you didn’t expect it before. And if you want to be friends? Don’t fucking sneer at me.

Why I Read Urban Fantasy

I’ve always enjoyed the supernatural, in both movies and in books. I love watching stuff like Shaun of the Dead (zombies), Idle Hands (demons), or Cursed (werewolves). But stuff like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday the 13th was never for me. It’s not that I find the latter scary, exactly. I just never preferred them.You may have noticed that the former are all horror-comedies. Cursed has the funniest werewolf scene ever. Idle Hands has Devon Sawa and Seth Green. I don’t think you need to be told anything further. And Shaun of the Dead cracks me up all the way through. But I especially love the singing-zombie scene:

(You’re welcome. No, really. You are. And that’s probably the only time you’ll ever see me link to YouTube, unless it’s a book trailer.)

I always joked that I didn’t watch slasher flicks because they were too real. Except I wasn’t really joking.

Sure, I’ll watch every episode of NCIS ever filmed, but I don’t watch true crime stories. They don’t hold my interest. Why? Because they ARE too real. We’re reminded every day in the news of the sorts of things one person can do to another. I don’t really need to seek it out.

What’s the difference then? Honestly, I think it’s the humor. Even morbid humor is better than the stiff seriousness they use on Unsolved Mysteries and the like. I believe in tempering the worst of human nature (murder & death) with the best that life has to offer (humor, laughter, human resilience).

So what’s the point of this post?

I realized yesterday that this is the one point that makes or breaks an urban fantasy read for me. The murder, kill, death has to be alleviated with some laughter or I just end up depressed. I’ve been reading a lot of depressing urban fantasy lately: Brenna Yovanoff’s The Replacement (review forthcoming), Carrie Vaughn’s Discord’s Apple. While it’s not exactly UF in genre, I’ve also been listening to the audio of Justin Cronin’s The Passage. All three are excellent reads in their own way – I find the sociological aspect of the cultural changes in The Passage particularly fascinating – but none of them are happy books.

And I didn’t fall in love with any of them the way I have some others. Others like: Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series; Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series; Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom series; or Kim Harrison’s The Hollows. The common thread? Humor. Laughter. Even sarcasm. Especially in the face of disaster, death, and the end of the world.

The kind of books you enjoy can tell you a lot about yourself. What does your choice of book say about you? Share your suggestions and thoughts in the comments.

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