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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-29-15

Sunday Post

There has been some interesting bookish news this week – Jane Litte of the blog Dear Author revealed herself to also be the successful New Adult Romance author Jen Frederick. There has been a great deal of consternation all over the romance book portions of the interwebs. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to see both sides. If you are curious, Jane’s original post is here, and there is an interesting discussion at The Passive Voice here. The meat of the discussion (also the veg and dessert) is in the comments on the posts. Another thoughtful perspective is here on Olivia Waite’s blog. And finally, Sarah Wendell’s post on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books sheds further light (while the comments add some heat) to this mess.

I would say “enjoy” but I don’t think there’s a whole lot of that going around. See for yourself.

In bookish news around here, it was a darn good week. A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark was one of the most interesting and novel urban fantasies I’ve read in a long time. Shadow Ritual is an edge of your seat thriller with oodles of fascinating historical twists. This coming week is the Fool for Books Giveaway Hop, and on April 6 I’ll be doing a giveaway for my 4th Blogo-Birthday.

I’ve been blogging for four years as of April 4. As the saying goes, ” Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”

Current Giveaways:

The book of the winner’s choice (up to $10 value) in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop (ends TONIGHT!)

Blog Recap:

key an egg an unfortunate remark by harry connollyA- Review: A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett
A Review: Shadow Ritual by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne
Q&A with Authors Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne
B+ Review: Unchained Memory by Donna S. Frelick
A+ Review: A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark by Harry Connolly
B+ Review: The Kill List by Nichole Christoff
Stacking the Shelves (128)



fool for love giveaway hopComing Next Week:

Behind Closed Doors by Elizabeth Haynes (blog tour review)
Never Too Late by Robyn Carr (blog tour review)
Fool for Books Giveaway Hop
Unbreakable by W.C. Bauers (review)
The Kill Shot by Nichole Christoff (blog tour review)

Review: A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett

blink of the screen US cover by terry pratchettFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: fantasy, science fiction, short story collection
Series: Discworld
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Doubleday
Date Released: March 17, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A collection of short fiction from Terry Pratchett, spanning the whole of his writing career from schooldays to Discworld and the present day.

In the four decades since his first book appeared in print, Terry Pratchett has become one of the world’s best-selling and best-loved authors. Here for the first time are his short stories and other short-form fiction collected into one volume. A Blink of the Screen charts the course of Pratchett’s long writing career: from his schooldays through to his first writing job on the Bucks Free Press, and the origins of his debut novel, The Carpet People; and on again to the dizzy mastery of the phenomenally successful Discworld series.

Here are characters both familiar and yet to be discovered; abandoned worlds and others still expanding; adventure, chickens, death, disco and, actually, some quite disturbing ideas about Christmas, all of it shot through with Terry’s inimitable brand of humour. With an introduction by Booker Prize-winning author A.S. Byatt, illustrations by the late Josh Kirby and drawings by the author himself, this is a book to treasure.

My Review:

going postal by terry pratchettIn Going Postal, Terry Pratchett wrote, among many other marvelous things, that, “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.” If that maxim is true, it will be a very long time before his legacy is finished. This review of A Blink of the Screen is just one of many millions of ways that his spirit is being kept alive.

This collection, finished before the author’s death, contains all of Sir Terry’s published shorter works, including his first published short story, written at the age of 13.

Not many writers would willingly dust off their juvenalia and put it out there again to be commented on and laughed at. The Discworld generally produces laughter, but that is more in the line of “laughing with”. Anything that most of us wrote at 13 would expect to get a great deal of “laughing at”.

While I would not say that The Hades Business is the best thing I have ever read, by Pratchett or anyone else, it hangs together surprisingly well for a story that the author wrote just barely into his teens. It shows the beginning of Pratchett’s trademark sideways humor, and has a darn good payoff at the end.

The two non-Discworld stories I enjoyed the most are The High Meggas and Turntables of the Night. Also Once and Future, as an interesting twist on the Arthurian Tales.

long earth by terry pratchett and stephen baxterThe High Meggas is one of the stories that became the seed of The Long Earth series. It’s a story about survival and cunning in an era where the theory of parallel universes has been proven, and is being used to visit and/or exploit all the survivable parallel Earths in the wake of a catastrophe. The main character is a paranoid survivalist, who is utterly correct in his paranoia – they really are out to get him – unless he gets them first. The way that the parallel Earths are traveled to reminds me of both S.M. Stirling’s Conquistador and Charlie Stross’ Merchant Princes series, both of which very much post-date The High Meggas.

Turntables of the Night is a DEATH story, but it may be the DEATH in Good Omens rather than the one in the Discworld. Or possibly all the various DEATHs speak in ALL CAPS. The part of this story that haunts me is the way that the narrator describes the seduction of DEATH. Not in the physical sense, but in the emotional and psychological sense. Also the poor narrator is unreliable, because she can’t believe what she saw, but can’t quite convince herself that she didn’t see it.

Once and Future is fun because it turns the tables on the classic Arthur stories, but not until the very sharp twist at the end, which really gets you. I expected something to be different, but not this way. This way was better.

Hollywood Chickens has the answer to the age-old question, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” but the method the chickens use is awesome. And only figured out by inference and observation, in a way that was both cool and funny.

Wyrd-Sisters by Terry Pratchett new coverOf the Discworld stories, well, if you have loved any of the Witches stories (start with either Equal Rites or Wyrd Sisters) then The Sea and Little Fishes should not be missed. Nor the deleted extract from the story at the end of the book.

The Sea and Little Fishes showcases the relationship between Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, and shows just how fearsome “good” can be, especially as embodied by Granny Weatherwax. She is the kind of witch who has become very, very sharply good at being good, because if she went bad she would (and certainly could) probably destroy the world. The problem with being very good is that you often expect other people to follow your example, and are quite obviously cross with them if they don’t. Also Granny not only doesn’t suffer fools gladly, she doesn’t suffer fools at all – to the point where they usually know to stay out of her way. The Sea and Little Fishes is a story about what happens when they don’t.

The deleted extract from this story is equally interesting but different. I can see why it got deleted – it doesn’t further the plot of The Sea and Little Fishes at all. At the same time, it shows just how close Weatherwax and Ogg are, and how well they understand each other, even though they are completely different, both as witches and as people. Nanny Ogg takes care of Granny Weatherwax a lot more than one might expect, and it’s terrific.

The short expositions on (and in) the Discworld are not truly stories, but they are absolutely laugh out loud, chuckle, snort funny.

Escape Rating A-: The usual thing about short story collections is that they are uneven – some stories are bound to be better than others. In this particular case, the chronological order of the stories helps that a bit. We expect the stories from the 1980s and 1990s to be better than the bits that Pratchett wrote during his teens. That the stories from the 1960s are in fact not bad is kind of amazing.

And they definitely show the author’s signature humor. For a fan, they are worth reading, but they’re not a good place to introduce people to Pratchett’s work.

The Discworld stories are also more for the fans than for people unfamiliar with the author or Discworld. Many of the short expositions owe at least some of their humor to the fact that we already know these people and this place. The Minutes of the Meeting to Form the Proposed Ankh-Morpork Federation of Scouts is definitely of this type. As is A Few Words from Lord Havelock Vetinari.

But for those of us who are fans, this collection is a treat – including Pratchett’s introduction to each story. We shall not see his like again, and he will be sorely missed.

If you have not yet had a chance to discover the wit, wisdom and wonder that is the Discworld, I envy you. There is a marvelous journey waiting for you.

Get to it!

***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.