The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks
by Sam Maggs
Expected Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Quirk Books
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
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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.
Okay, first of all, how awesome is it that there’s now a book that totally revolves around celebrating girls and their geeky/fangirling interest? Answer: so completely awesome. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is a fun, if introductory, exploration of all things fangirl. This book is unabashedly proud in geek girls, and it makes me love it so.
That being said, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is definitely a sort of introductory, geekiness 101 sort of book. Even though it’s not marketed as YA, I think the people who will get the most out of this book are teenage girls who feel alone in their interests. Fifteen-year-old Stormy, who was more interested in secretly reading fanfiction and writing stories than the more stereotypically Texas activities(football, hunting, etc) that were popular in her hometown on 5,000 people would have LOVED this book. It would have felt like a lifeline and a reminder that she wasn’t the only one interested in these things.
At twenty-three, I don’t have the same need for this book. I’ve been in fan culture so long that for the most part, I wouldn’t really categorize this book as “useful” to me personally, though there were a few good references I bookmarked for later. I think women who have been in fan culture for a long time might not be the right audience for this book, unless they want to read it just for fun. I understand why this book isn’t marketed as YA, since quite a bit of it is about connecting to other fans in real life, things like conventions, etc. which teens wouldn’t be able to attend without parental permission, but I do think the people who are going to get the most out of it are teens and people who are just joining in geek culture for the first time.
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is written in a very informal, conversational style–the kind I would very much describe as a “blog” voice, and while I do think that modern non-fiction books sometime rely on this type of voice too much, it absolutely works here. That sort of casual style really just cements that “not alone in this” feeling and makes the entire fan culture seem less intimidating to someone who might be new–and let’s be real, it’s definitely its own culture, with its own terms and conventions and “rules” that can be difficult to navigate if you don’t already know them.
Probably the highlight of The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy was how non-judgmental–and indeed affirming–everything was. Even when Maggs approached more sensitive topics(like how to think critically about something you love, for example), the book still felt empowering more than anything. There was a great chapter at the end on feminism in fan culture that worked really well since this book is aimed at female fans, which was by far my favorite. There was also this thread that ran through the book, even though it was only outright stated once, how there’s no real “wrong” way to be a fan. You don’t have to like X, Y, and Z to be considered a geek, nerd, or fangirl. You can only like Z and like it SO much that you write fanfiction, make fanart, AND spend money to go to conventions. OR you can like A, X, Y, and Z and be less intense about it. It’s all good, and I loved that.
Some other smaller aspects I loved about The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: the definition of terms & explanations of some of the larger internet fandoms, the pros & cons of certain social media sites, the useful information about conventions, the recommendations of media with awesome female characters(which I pretty much added all of them to a to-read or to-watch list immediately except the comics, since those aren’t my thing), and the exploration of how to critical examine media you love. I also loved the addition of interviews with women whose fangirl identifies have become a part of their career, though I think I might have found those slightly more interesting if they had been asked more specific questions rather than the same three broad ones.
As a final note, I will definitely say that were I to pick up a finished copy of this book, I’d definitely go for the physical over the ebook edition. While a good chunk of this book is pretty broad enough to appeal to fangirls of all types who get invested in fandom in multiple different ways, there are some parts that are incredibly specific to certain hobbies. There’s a part about writing fanfiction that gets pretty in-depth, which I figure would probably be boring to anyone not into that, and also one about cosplay that I skimmed because as cool as it is, it’s not something I’m personally interested in. It’s definitely a book that has sections you might want to skim/skip depending on your interest.
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is an unabashed celebration of girls with geeky interests, and for the most part it’s a truly fun & worthwhile read. However, I definitely think this is a book that is more useful to young fans and people who are just getting into fandoms, though veteran fangirls will probably appreciate it for the solidarity factor. 4/5 cupcakes.