Geek girls unite!

I am something of a fangirl about a variety of things but my main obsessions at this point in time are Star Wars and anything Joss Whedon has ever done, said, or breathed on.

Some people will never understand the levels of devotion and excitement I experience when trawling the action figures aisle at K-Mart, or researching Star Wars cosplay on the Internet…and that’s perfectly okay. I cannot for the life of me understand the appeal of motorsport, and scrapbooking leaves me cold. Each to their own.

Cover of The fangirls' guide to the galaxyThis idea of respecting each others fandoms is a big one in Sam Maggs’ brilliant how-to The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geek Girls. This book is the self-affirming “I’m okay, you’re okay” tome that geek ladies everywhere have been waiting for. I wasn’t very far into the book before I found myself wondering why on earth noone had written it before. It very obviously needed to exist and Sam Maggs’, fangirl extraodinaire (her cosplay game is on point) and associate editor of geek girl culture site The Mary Sue, is just the woman for the job.

The book celebrates the variety of fandoms that we lady-folk enjoy and it’s actually quite educational. There’s some fangirl terminology explained, (I have an additional use for the word “shipping” now), as well as providing the basics on a range of fandoms, some of which I’m not personally that familiar with, like gaming and anime. The book includes short interviews with some successful fangirl actors, writers, and artists, a rundown on the best “cons” aka fan conventions (sadly all North American though SDCC is on my bucket list) and con etiquette, and a really useful primer on feminism. What exactly is “intersectional feminism” and where do I sign up? This book has got you sorted.

Cover of Ms Marvel 3My favourite chapter is “Your new faves: Kick-ass female characters you need to know” as it’s basically a recommended reading (and watching) list. It’s what turned me on to Ms Marvel, has me adding the movie Haywire to my For Later shelf, and casting my gaze towards Tamora Pierce’s Immortal series. Yes sirree, we librarians like a good book recommendation more than most.

Speaking of which, I’d also highly recommend Felicia Day’s You’re never weird on the Internet (almost). Day swims in much the same sea that The Fangirl’s Guide does. She’s well known as an actor in genre shows like Supernatural, Eureka, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has always been a nerd and fangirl herself, particularly in the area of MMORPG.

Cover of You're never weird on the internet (almost)Just to give you a notion of Felicia Day’s cultural caché – Joss Whedon wrote the foreword to the book and the back cover features a glowing endorsement from… George R. R. Martin.

So yeah, lady is connected.

But it wasn’t always so. The funniest parts in the book are where Day documents her offbeat childhood of being homeschooled and rather isolated from her peers. In such conditions her weirdness was able to fully ripen (to the benefit of us all). As an awkward oddball, she sought out belonging and community via the only means available to her… the Internet. And she’s been hanging out there, making awesome things happen ever since.

The book is heavy on self-deprecating humour and tells the tale of an awkward child who turned into… an awkward woman. But one who has learned to back herself, make stuff she loves and push on through the bad (addiction, anxiety issues, gamer-gate etc) with humour and whatever the dork equivalent of “grace” is.

Do you have any recommendations for great geek girl reads (or viewing for that matter)?

Like a virgin

I am not at all a technophobe. I need wifi to live. I live a reasonable proportion of my life online. I feel naked without my phone being within arm’s reach.

And yet, until recently I had never read an ebook or listened to an downloadable audiobook.

Yes, I was a library digital download virgin.

Why?

Cover of Magpie HallI guess I just really like the heft and feel of a book in my hands. But, realising that it was actually a ridiculous thing for a web librarian to not have even tried digital library titles, and spurred on by our Community Read, I decided to give it a go and read New Zealand novel Magpie Hall on my phone.

And it wasn’t bad, actually. I thought I’d perhaps find the text too small, but I was pleasantly surprised. I chose to read in browser rather than download it. The  interface was uncluttered and the text smooth and screen-friendly. And though it was odd not to be able to see my progress via the turning of accumulated pages, Wheelers had thoughtfully included a percentage figure at the top right of my screen so I could tell when I was nearly halfway or approaching the end of the book. Nice.

Cover of The Fangirl's Guide to the GalaxyNext up, I downloaded an OverDrive audiobook (and detangled my long neglected earbuds). This format was also pretty easy to use if you get yourself the free app. Having never tried an audiobook before I found myself enjoying how the reader interpreted the prose. Because I was reading, sorry, listening to something that was quite humorous and lighthearted in tone (namely, The Fangirl’s Guide to The Galaxy – expect to see a review on this blog in the near future) it was nice to have that echoed in the delivery. It wasn’t all that different to the voice I hear in my head when I’m reading something myself, albeit with an American accent.

Cover of As You WishI’ve since discovered that some audiobooks are actually read by the author, like As You Wish, about the making of the movie The Princess Bride, a book that I read on paper when I COULD HAVE BEEN LETTING WESTLEY READ IT TO ME WITH HIS LOVELY POSH VOWELS, OMG! There are also audio cameos in As You Wish, including Rob Reiner and Billy Crystal. I’d be willing to wager that Billy Crystal does a better version of his voice than the version of it I did in my head.

Similarly, I would happily listen to Carrie Fisher read one of her books because, someone once described her voice as “sonorous” and I’d have to agree that it’s very listenable. I love hearing writers read their own work. You never have to worry that they’re misinterpreting it.

From talking to other people who have more experience with audiobooks, it seems that a lot of the enjoyment of a book in this format can come down to whether or not the voice of the person reading it to you is a good fit. Timbre, accent, speed and intonation, if they’re wrong or jarring to your ear, can have a distracting effect. So it’s pretty handy that our downloadable audiobooks have a short excerpt available, right there in the catalogue. Just click and listen to see if the voice of the reader suits you or not. Easy.

So on the whole, I’d have to say my first fumbling forays into downloadable library content have gone pretty well. I still do like the feeling of a physical book, but I’ll certainly not look down my nose at an eBook every now and again (especially when travelling).

Feel like being brave and giving digital downloads a go? Then you may be interested in the following info –

Updated:I totally forgot to mention that when I accidentally wiped all the data off my phone (don’t ask) and had to set it up from new, when I reloaded the OverDrive app it knew exactly where I’d got up to and asked if I’d like to start listening again from that point. Bloody clever!