Book Review: The Secret Loves of Geek Girls: Expanded Edition, edited by Hope Nicholson (2016)

April 4th, 2017 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

A Love Letter to Geek Girls, Young and Old

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss. Trigger warning for allusions to rape.)

You know where God lives and God is in paint and ink and pencil and the page: you fell in love and became that love. Transformed, like in a fairy tale. A girl who became a wolf, focused and hungry for only one thing: story.

You never stopped hunting stories. Little wolf, persistent but timid, prowling shelves and stacks; anywhere there were books, that was the forest you claimed. You found a frontier in your school library, rushing inside every morning with exquisite relief because books were home, books were where you were most alive, books were places you could pretend you were brave. Books were walls against everything that frightened you.

– “Ghost,” Marjorie Liu

The Brontë sisters had such lady boners for the Duke of Wellington that they wrote hundreds of pages of fanfiction about the guy.

– “How Fanfiction Made Me Gay,” J. M. Frey

Any project with Margaret Atwood’s name attached is an instabuy for me, so there was no doubt that I’d preorder a copy of the new and expanded edition of The Secret Loves of Geek Girls. (My only question is, where the heck was I when the Kickstarter was open?)

While Atwood’s quartet of four-panel comics is cute and super-relatable, it’s actually not the highlight of the anthology (surprise!). Nope, that honor would have to go to Marjorie Liu’s essay “Ghost,” which is simply breathtaking, threatening to unspool your soul till its innermost bits are laid bare – and then stitch and crimp you back together, stronger and bolder than before. (And all in the space of four and a half pages, at that.) Of course, being a sucker for pop culture criticism, Laura Neubert’s “They Bury You in White” and Megan Kearney’s “Regards to the Golbin King” are close ties for second place.

A mix of short nonfiction and comics (“They Bury You in White” and “Regards to the Golbin King” both fall into this category), the many and varied contributions to The Secret Loves of Geek Girls tackle a wide range of topics, from falling in love with fictional characters to navigating the perils and pitfalls of dating, both on- and offline; exploring and defining one’s sexuality in the pre- and post-digital age; surviving and thriving after a divorce; bonding over shared passions; and the perks of platonic relationships and girly gossip.

Much like Kelly Sue DeConnick (a phrase I never imagined myself writing, because holy girl crush), I mistook the theme of the anthology as more along the lines of “geek girls reveal their guilty pleasures!” vs. the run of the mill ruminations on sex and love and dating. (Picture me, doing my very best Fred Savage à la The Princess Bride here. “Kissing? Yuck!”) While it certainly isn’t what I expected, I mostly loved The Secret Loves all the same.

I say “mostly” because, as with most anthologies, not all of the pieces resonated with me; and that’s okay! I’m not really in a place where I need help crafting a kickass dating profile, and current circumstances left me beating back my green-eyed monster at all the happy coupling in these pages. (You know things are bad when you’re jealous of the divorcee or woman whose husband had a mini-stroke, but lived to tell the tale.) The collection reflects a diverse spectrum of life experiences, which I love. That said, I expected greater depth and introspection from some of the pieces. (I don’t want to name names, but I was really hoping for more of an ah-hah! moment in “Shipping.” Down with girl hate!)

On this note, “Heard it Through the Grapevine” deserves a special mention. Brandy Dawley calls out the “douche in feminist clothing” who infests fan communities, searching for women to prey on. (We all know one or two or a dozen.) Luckily, ladies, we have a superpower: each other. Talk, gossip, and gab about that toxic “ally” until every woman from Westeros to Dantooine knows his name and game.

In conclusion, The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is a must read for geek girls of all ages: those struggling through the soul-crushing morass of high school, and those who have tunneled through to the the other side, scarred but still here and present. Straight girls and bi girls and poly queeer intersex trans girls, and everyone in between. Geek girls of all colors, ethnicities, nationalities, and fandoms. This is a love letter to you – to us.

Read with: Lightspeed‘s special “Women Destroy Science Fiction!” issue, because why the heck not?

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

BREATHER – Sanya Anwar * 1
GEEK GIRLS BONDING – Gisèle Lagacé, Shouri * 3
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR – Hope Nicholson * 7
FOREWORD – Kelly Sue DeConnick * 9
INTRODUCTIONS – Colleen Doran, Trina Robbins * 11
COMICS – Margaret Atwood * 14
MINAS TIRITH – Marguerite Bennett * 18
SETTINGS – ALB * 24
THE CONTROL SYSTEMS OF DESIRE – Cara Ellison * 30
LUNGERELLA – Stephanie Cooke, Deena Pagliarello * 34
ANNE OF LINUX PINE – Erin Cossar, Kristen Gudsnuk * 41
WAXING MOON – Meags Fitzgerald * 48
HOW FANFICTION MADE ME GAY – J. M. Frey * 53
A DIVORCÉE’S GUIDE TO THE APOCALYPSE – Katie West, Kristen Gudsnuk * 61
CHERRY – Cherelle Higgins, Rachael Wells, Meaghan Carter * 68
BEMUSED – Roberta Gregory, Linda Medley * 78
BOTH SIDES OF THE TABLE AND BETWEEN THE SHEETS – Janet Hetherington * 83
BABES ON A BIKE – Jen Bartel * 91
FANFICTION, F/F, ANGST – Tini Howard * 92
COSPLAY LOVE – Renee Nault * 98
URL > IRL – Gita Jackson * 99
SHIPPING – Jenn Woodall * 103
LEVELING UP YOUR DATING PROFILE – Loretta Jean * 109
READ: 1:19 A.M. – Jen Aprahamian * 114
MASHING OUR BUTTONS – Soha Kareem * 119
MECHANISM – Meaghan Carter * 124
I’M YOUR BIGGEST FAN – Adrienne Kress, Deena Pagliarello * 129
YES, NO, MAYBE – Megan Kearney * 135
HOW FANFIC FROM AN AMERICAN GIRL CAPTURED AN ENGLISH BOY – Megan Lavey-Heaton, Isabelle Melançon * 140
THEY BURY YOU IN WHITE – Laura Neubert * 145
A DIFFERENT KIND OF FANTASY ROLE-PLAY – Brandy Dawley, Leslie Doyle * 151
NERD LOVE – Irene Koh * 155
GIANT-SIZED REGRETS – Jess Oliver-Proulx * 160
PUZZLED OVER PINTS – Jen Vaughn, Jordyn Bochon * 164
FOUR FICTIONAL HAPPY ENDINGS – Diana McCallum * 167
MÉNAGE À 3/STICKY DILLY BUNS – Gisèle Lagacé, David Lumsdon, Shouri * 172
GHOST STORIES – Annie Mok * 182
THERE’S NOTHING WRONG, IT MUST BE LOVE – Diana McCallum * 187
WE WEREN’T EVEN DATING YET – Carla Speed McNeil * 191
GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS – Danielle Corsetto * 192
RISE OF THE LATE BLOOMER – Hope Nicholson, Kristen Gudsnuk * 197
NONE THE WISER – Diana Nock * 201
HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE – Brandy Dawley * 207
REGARDS TO THE GOBLIN KING – Megan Kearney, Jordie Bellaire * 210
NEVER KISS A WRITER – Alicia Contestabile * 215
WHY I KNOW MY PARTNER IS REALLY A SUPERHERO – Trina Robbins, Jessica Paoli * 220
ARMOR – Paulina Ganucheau * 223
GHOST – Marjorie Liu * 224
POP CULTURE METAPHOR – Fionna Adams, Jen Vaughn * 229
A GEEK GIRL ROOM OF YOUR OWN – Crystal Skillman * 233
KIDS THESE DAYS – Natalie Smith * 239
MAY I ADMIRE YOU AGAIN TODAY? – Twiggy Tallant * 242
MONTREAL, 1993 – Mariko Tamaki, Fiona Smyth * 247
LOVE IN THE TIME OF ETHERNET: GEEKS & LDR – Natalie Zina Walschots * 253
A FIRST – Gillian G. * 258
THE VULCAN IN ME – Emma Woolley * 263
BETTER THAN FICTION – Sarah Winifred Searle * 269
POPPING THE HEAT SINK – Sam Maggs, Selena Goulding * 274
GEEK GIRLS – Genevieve FT * 279

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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