“The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy” Wants You to Find Your Grail!
First off, apologies for the Monty Python joke. I couldn’t resist. Second, and more importantly, it’s extremely necessary to have works sent out into the world where “fangirl” is not considered a dirty word, and in that respect, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs is excellent. It’s an upbeat, positive celebration of geek culture — and particularly a woman’s place in it. In a society where most traditionally female concepts are easily dismissed or looked down on, a book focused on empowering women to take their rightful place in geek and popular culture is vital.
But The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is less a handbook than an introduction to being a fangirl. It gives a brief overview of various fandoms, websites, and conventions but doesn’t get into too much detail. For example, the convention section talks about the most famous ones — such as San Diego Comic Con — but fails to mention the niche cons that pop up devoted to one particular show or series (like Days of the Wolf!).
There is some great advice for people who are just starting out, or even people who have been in fandom for a while but haven’t taken full advantage of everything it has to offer, but long-time fans may not get anything new out of this book. Many may find most of the instructions in this book to be common sense, especially those who have been in fandom for years. A seasoned convention-goer will find little use for the tips section, but those who are still newbies will likely find them extremely helpful, especially if they aren’t sure where to go or who to ask for advice. And “don’t feed the trolls” is advice that virtually everyone who has lived through significant fandom conflict spouts off on a regular basis.
There are also a lot of assumptions being made about the availability of certain things. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania in a town of less than 1200 people. We didn’t have a comic book store (we didn’t have stoplights!), let alone a “barcade,” and going to a convention would have been out of the question due to finances and distance. It’s too late for me, but girls in small towns may feel left out because there is little that they could conceivably do. Perhaps a section suggesting various ways that people can start their own clubs would have been a good addition. (Form a Quidditch team! Start a fanfic writing group! Book club! The possibilities are endless.)
However, I absolutely loved the near-constant emphasis on positivity. As someone who has been the recipient of fandom drama (more than once), I’m much happier staying on the fringe. But for people who like to be active and involved in fandom, it’s important to tell those just getting into it that it’s perfectly acceptable for people to disagree, just don’t be a jerk about it. This is a message that oft gets repeated but sadly isn’t always taken to heart. Unfortunately, the people who need to take this advice are generally the people who will ignore it. Still, do as Unikitty suggests and, “Stay positive!” (But feel free to rage out when you’re being attacked by Micro-Managers.)
The interviews peppered throughout the book are a great touch, taking women from various aspects of geekdom and showing how varied geeks can be. Each woman is asked the same questions about what the term “fangirl” means to her and how being one has affected her life. It was really interesting to see how many different takes there are on a single word. (It is also encouraging to realize just how many possibilities there are that allow you to essentially become a “professional” fangirl!)
This would be a great gift for young girls, or even older girls (or women) who are just discovering that there can be more to being a fan than just watching the show or reading the book. (Not that there is anything wrong with just doing that, of course!) For more established fangirls, though, they would probably want something that goes into a little more detail.
Overall, I did enjoy The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was an uplifting read for this completely unashamed, 33-year-old fangirl. I’d actually never heard of a barcade, but you can believe I will now be seeking out every single one in New York City!
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from THE Ohio State University. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, and conventions in the NYC area.
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