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

fangirls guide to the galaxy by sam maggsFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: nonfiction, humor
Length: 208 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Date Released: May 12, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

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 for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild.

My Review:

I wish this book had been around when I first started going to science fiction conventions, a long time ago (and in a galaxy far, far away). Not so much because of the information as the affirmation – that it is more than ok, in fact it is downright marvelous, to be a geek girl.

And I’m here to tell you that you can be a geek girl forever. Your tastes may change a bit, and more new neat things come along every day (and at a faster rate than ever) but being proud to love what you love is a joy that lasts a lifetime.

There is a lot of joy and enthusiasm in this book, along with a ton of information and some important and serious reality checks. All in the spirit of fun and to help fangirls enjoy their fannishness in safety as well as happily.

The book includes lots of “shout outs” to women who have and are continuing to make important contributions to geek culture in all kinds of ways, from video games to geek clothes to maker communities to mass entertainment.

One of the things I loved most was the affirmation that being a feminist is important for geek girls. Being a feminist means that you believe in and act on the concept that women are equal and should be treated equally, along with the acknowledgement that there are still some nasty corners of the internet in general and geek spaces in particular where that isn’t happening and that there are still battles to be won.

The description of online trolls, their various types and how to deal with them (sitting back and being quiet is NOT the answer) while still participating in online communities had the appropriate doses of humor while still making the point that there are things you can do, and ways that you can expose the trolls to the light.

As all fangirls know, trolls hate light.

One of the fun things in the book was the descriptions of the various big fandoms, what they love and what they fight among themselves about. I found myself more than a few times.

What can I say? This is my tribe.

Reality Rating B: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is light and fun, and is pitched at a young adult/new adult audience that is curious about fan culture, especially fangirl or geek girl culture. The thing that it does best is that it affirms, enthusiastically and often, that being a girl geek is not merely acceptable, but downright awesome.

Those of us who are a bit older remember being laughed at much too often, by mainstream culture because we were geeks, and by fan culture because we were female. As a refreshing change of pace, this book celebrates that intersection.

While I appreciated the descriptions of the big geek gatherings, like San Diego Comic Con and SXSW, the part of geek culture that was almost completely left out are the fan-run local conventions and WorldCon (WorldCon 2015 is in Spokane, WA).

It’s not just that this is the part of fandom with which I am most familiar, but that it is also one of the easiest ways to get in on the ground floor. If you read SF or Fantasy, this is a place to find a lot of like-minded people who are also into SF media and anime. And the entry fee is usually much, much cheaper than SDCC and there are probably one or two (or more) local cons within driving distance multiple times per year, wherever you live in the U.S.

For those of us who are introverts, and there are a lot of us in fandom, it is a much lower pressure environment in which to meet up with your friends and meet some of your favorite authors.

The emphasis in the book is on the big media cons of various types, and for those geek girls whose entry into fandom is through books, it is easy to feel left out. While some of the huge cons, DragonCon in my own Atlanta being an example, do have tracks for book authors and readers, not all of the media cons like Emerald City Comic Con (in Seattle) cover that particular waterfront.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is a book for young women who are looking for ways to share what they love, and the ways that they love it, with like-minded people. The tips and tricks on surviving at cons and how to handle yourself during autograph sessions and photo ops with your favorite stars are spot on.

There is a lot of fascinating stuff about cosplay. Not just how to get into it, but how much fun it can be and a million other reasons why people have so much fun dressing up as their favorite characters. Refreshingly, for a book aimed at young women, this section is also full of body-positivity. The author encourages anyone and everyone to be who they want to be because they want to be it.

For my personal taste there was a bit too much about cosplay in general. Other people’s interests may vary. The important thing about the cosplay section for me was the emphasis on “cosplay is NOT consent” and tips and how to handle (and report) when someone steps over that line.

I also occasionally found the language of the book just a bit precious, but I fully recognize that I am not the intended audience.

In addition to the cosplay info, there’s also a piece of this book pie for every different type of fan and fandom. Just the explanations of what means what and who ships who (and why) are loads of fun. I’m a big fan fiction reader, and there were still plenty of terms that I had been skipping over and finally learned the meaning of.

In short, this is a book that celebrates geek culture, and especially female participation in geek culture. We are fans, we love what we love enthusiastically and want to share.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Real person fiction

Real person fiction, otherwise known as RPF, is a term used in fanfiction to describe a story that uses the actors playing the characters in a TV show or movie rather than the characters themselves. And what is fanfiction, you ask? Fanfiction is when someone writes an alternative version of something they watch, read, or play and posts it somewhere that is fanfiction friendly like or There are also sites dedicated to specific interests. The number of sites devoted to Harry Potter is positively legion. Fanfiction is very definitely a violation of copyright, but, since no one makes any money off of it, most writers allow it.

But RPF is a breed all its own, and a lot of sites won’t touch it. There is a very big difference between imagining any kind of behavior one cares to between fictional characters, and applying that same imagination to real people–the tabloid papers at the grocery counter notwithstanding.

However, there is a growing trend in mystery writing of using real people as amateur sleuths. An amazing number of historic figures have been pressed into service in recent years, solving a surprising variety of dastardly deeds that history did not record.

One of my favorite books is The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey. It is a police procedural and a historic mystery, wrapped in a single package. In the police procedural framing story, Tey has her police detective laid up in hospital with a compound fracture. While he is unable to investigate real murders, and is bored out of his mind, he is forced by inactivity to find another occupation. Because the story was written in the 1930’s, her detective does not have the option of surfing the net, or even TV as mind candy, even if he were inclined to mind candy. A book someone brings him causes him to latch onto the idea of investigating the historic mystery of the Princes in the Tower–Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, who disappeared sometime after 1483.  Shakespeare’s play, Richard III, has pinned the crime of the Princes’ murder on their uncle and successor, Richard. Tey’s detective makes a different case.

Reading The Daughter of Time in my early teens gave me a lifelong interest in British history. The title is based on an old adage, “Truth is the daughter of time”. Whether Tey’s conclusion is the truth, no one knows. The topic is one that has been debated for over five centuries now, and Richard as the murderer has been fixed in the popular imagination. Although bodies purported to be the Princes were found in 1674 and possibly 1789, forensic testing has not been performed to date.

Imagine my surprise to discover that Tey herself had been “borrowed” as a fictional detective! Nicola Upson has begun a series of mystery novels using Josephine Tey as the center of a series of murders based in Tey’s real life as playwright Gordon Daviot. Ironically, both Tey and Daviot were pseudonyms, her real name was Elizabeth Mackintosh.

The first novel in the series, An Expert in Murder, revolves around the end of production of the play Richard of Bordeux in 1934. The play was Tey/Daviot’s most popular work, and was the theatrical event of its time. Many of the real participants left detailed memoirs of the period and their friendship with Tey (Sir John Gielgud, for example) and Upson’s portrait of the theatrical world in the 1930’s is fascinating. One does hope that not quite so many dead bodies turned up as in this mystery.

There are two more books in this series so far, Angel with Two Faces and Two for Sorrow. I plan to read both ASAP. But as much as I’m enjoying this series, there is something very ironic in this. Tey was, by all accounts, including Upson’s own, an extremely private individual. Making Tey the leading character in a mystery series is probably something she would have shied away from or made one of the suitably biting comments for which she was apparently famous. Too bad she can’t write this play, or novel, herself.