This past week, I had the incredible pleasure of interviewing Sam Maggs (*fangirl squee*), author of The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks, associate editor of The Mary Sue (http://www.themarysue.com/ ) , and host of the Cineplex Pre-Show (http://cineplex.com/). I bought The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy in early June, I think it was, and I basically realized it was the book of the century for fangirls everywhere. Not only that, but it is also a fabulous book for feminists, as well. From fangirl slang to feminist lingo, this book has it all. This book even has the winning sentence, “If someone doesn’t think that Steve Rogers is clearly bisexual, you can still bond over your shared love of Captain America,” (page 96). I’m telling you, you need this book on your shelf.
Let the interview begin! Here we go:
Your book was phenomenal; the perfect combination of feminism and fandoms.
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you liked it!
How was Comic-Con, was that enjoyable?
It was super fun, it was my first San Diego Comic Con. I’ve been to a lot of Cons around North America…like New York and Toronto and Calgary, a whole bunch. But there was something so different about this one. But I just found that there was sort of a frenetic energy that was just so wild about this Con. And there was stuff going on everywhere; like, normally it’s just you have to pick between what’s going on at the Con but this was, like, the whole city was taken over…Yeah, I was really glad I was there working because I think I would have had really bad phomo otherwise, (laughs) like, “What am I supposed to be doing, how can I see this?” It was really great though, yeah.
On your website, you mention that your parents influenced your “geekdom” by keeping you home to watch television. I know my own journey into becoming a fangirl has been largely influenced by growing up in a house where the Star Trek (Original, Next Gen., and Voyager) series have been the reigning television programs, along with anything sci-fi, and, of course, Doctor Who. Yeah, I’m a huge nerd. You are also a feminist- did your parents have any influence on this aspect of you?
Well, I like to think so, I mean, my dad has always been a huge- I’m an only child, so it’s just my dad, me, and my mom (laughs). So he’s always been a huge supporter of my mom running her own business; he’s always been hugely supportive of me, you know, doing whatever I want to do. And my mom is the same kind of woman, you know, running her own business, being an entrepreneur. I think I have really good role-models for that. I mean, yeah, maybe not, like, they were never, like, overt, like, “we’re feminists!”, but it was more of an example kind of thing. And I was really lucky to have that.
Being apart of fandoms (which I love dearly), often leads to this kind of, constant headbanging over sexism- you talked quite a bit about how to recognize sexism/misogyny in the geekworld along with plenty of tips on being a fangirl in your book (The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy). How has the blatant sexism/misogyny of geek culture/fandoms impacted your personal experiences as a fangirl?
Yeah, well, I mean, well, it’s always tough because I think as long as there have been girls on the Internet, girls have had a hard time on the Internet, you know what I mean (laughs)? So I definitely had some push-backs to the kind of stuff I like to talk about, which is equality and representation in media. But at the same time, I think that this book came out at a really good time because those things should be conversations that lot of people are having right now, which is really cool, you know? We’re talking so much about, like, Black Widow, and Age of Ultron, and you know, real representation at E3, and stuff like that, so I think it’s cool. Obviously I’ve had moments where my geek cred is questioned or where, you know, it can be tough. But you just kind of have to- it took me a really long time to realize this, but, like, those people don’t matter (laughs). There are so many amazing people in fandom, and the people who are jerks, there are so few of them that it can feel really overwhelming or shitty sometimes, but the good so far outweighs the bad. And there are so many amazing people and communities online and in the real world that it’s, you know, it’s so worth it to be involved in this world, I think.
What are your OTPs of the MCU and your NOTPs of the MCU?
Oh my gosh, my OTPs…I’m, like, on the Steve/Bucky train really hard, because I’m on Tumblr all the time (laughs). But before that, I was, like, a really big WinterWidow fan…Natasha and Bucky are such a good combo too, so if maybe the three of them could just all get together all the time, that would be great for me (laughs). And…hmm…my NOTPs of the MCU…Um, I’m not down with, like, any of the Loki/Thor business. Like, that’s a little too far for me (laughs).
Kind of like the Wincest situation for me in Supernatural
Yeah! Totally, I’m, like, way more into Destiel than that (laughs)…and, like, I know I just said- I want all three of them to hang out, but I really like Nat and Steve as, like, best bros, you know?
The other day, I actually asked myself “What would Buffy do?”, because I was in a tough situation and like Xander, she’s definitely a role-model of mine. I think every fangirl must have, like, this entire myriad of fictional female role-models, and an altar to each of them (or is that just me?). Who are your top three strong, fabulous, fictional female role-models, and why?
Number one has to be Sam Carter from Stargate SG-1, that was, like, my first fandom when I was growing up. She’s amazing because she was the first time that I saw, like, a military badass who was also an astrophysicist; I was like, “Oh my god, you can be a woman and you can be really tough, and you can be really smart, and you can go into space?” That was mind-blowing to me because so often they’re just so one-dimensional, you know? So, she’s just, like, so tough, and smart, and awesome; I love her. I love- um, I talk about her in my book, but I really love Tamora Pierce’s book, so I really love Alanna from her first series because she’s, like, she trains to be a knight, and she’s super tough, and I’m just kind of, like, at the gym and I just, like, can’t do another sit-up, I’m like, “Alanna would do it! Like, go for it!” (laughs) Then my last one is Peggy Carter…she’s so amazing.
She’s incredible; phenomenal character. And she’s kind of multi-dimensional, so she’s not restricted to playing one specific role.
Yeah! It’s so true!
Most, if not all, geek girls have experienced the painful sexism and misogyny that comes along with being a female fan. What do you think men can do in geek culture to help rectify this?
Oh yeah! I think the number one thing is just listen to women and believe them. Those are like the two things I think are really helpful because you know, they don’t realize maybe sometimes because, like, not all dudes are horrible people, dudes are- I’ve met so many awesome supportive dudes in fandom, you know? And sometimes they can be really oblivious to the stuff that goes on, so if a woman tells you, you know, like, “This stuff has happened to me”, it’s just really important to listen to their stories and to believe them. And to, like, help signal dudes within the community, or to support their (the women) work; or just, you know, if you see something, say something. Like, if you see a guy being a douchebag to a girl, just be like, “That’s not okay”. Sometimes we can’t speak up because it’s dangerous for us, but it might not be dangerous for them, you know?
What is the fandom you’ve joined most recently, and how is the representation of minorities in it?
Oh! Um, that’s a really good question. The fandom I most recently joined- I read a book called, it’s a book series by Rachel Bach called The Paradox Trilogy. Um, and it’s about, like, it’s basically Firefly meets Mass Effect. And so there’s a female space mercenary who is super tough and joins, like, this ragtag crew on a space ship and finds herself in the middle of this, like, galactic conspiracy that could end the Universe, and it’s so good! I think there was a lot of good diversity in those books because there were people of all different- you know, it was space in the far future; so people spoke all different languages, or (there were) people of all different races and species, and, you know, all different sexualities. I thought that was really cool. So, I’m like preaching those books like they’re the gospel; I love them.
How can the sexual objectification of women in sci-fi shows and movies be most efficiently combated by the audience, in your opinion?
I think that just, you know, as easy as it is to say, “Well just make your own”, like, that’s not really super feasible because it’s really hard to make your own TV show (laughs). For me, I think you can’t underestimate the power of social media. I think that the ability to go on Twitter, go on Tumblr, to write a blog post, to be able to write a tweet directly to these people who make the things that you love, you know? They see it, they hear it, and they kind of have to listen or else it makes them look really bad. I mean, you saw how the crowd, the Supernatural crowd reacted like, at San Diego when that girl asked about Charlie? And the whole crowd, like, booed. You know what I mean? The stuff gets out there, people know, and so just like, make your voice heard and keep speaking up about the things that are important to you. And, you know, in a polite and constructive way; don’t harass people, but just, like, keep talking about it, because it makes a difference.
And what bothered me about Age of Ultron was, and just kind of, most of the Marvel movies that have been coming out lately, is the sexual objectification of women in (them), specifically Nat; she’s a really powerful, cool lady, and I love her, but she’s kind of, I mean they’re (the writers) playing on The Smurfette Principal in this situation. And then she’s (Nat) wearing that skin-tight suit and she’s using sex appeal to get ahead, and it’s just, “ugh” to me.
Yeah, I mean it’s tough because I think that’s, like, really intrinsic to Black Widow’s character which is why I think when people-that’s what people didn’t really get about the Supergirl trailer…Supergirl isn’t Black Widow, like, Black Widow is really sexy and does use that kind of stuff to her advantage because she’s an assassin. But Supergirl likes pink and is kind of silly and, like, that’s okay! But like you say- it is that sort of “token woman” thing where one woman has to represent all women, but it’s like, nope! (laughs) We’re all super different, and like, that’s okay; we should be allowed to be all different.
I’m actually really, really psyched for the Supergirl show.
Me too! I talked to some of the creative team at San Diego, and they were, like, so on board with, like, empowering women and making it a positive influence for girls, and it made me so happy (laughs). That was really nice!
What is your least favorite fandom and why?
Oh my gosh; that’s a tough call because I feel like all of the ones that I would list as, like, my least favorite fandoms are just because I haven’t been able to get into that yet. Like, I’m woefully uneducated about anime. Like, I’ve only ever watched a couple of anime in my life, so I would probably list that as my least favorite fandom, but that’s just because I, like, don’t really know that much about it. But it’s the kind of thing that I really want to get into, but I just haven’t had the time to dedicate to it. I’m, like, halfway through Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood right now and it’s incredible.
I have a bunch of friends who are totally obsessed with anime and they’ve been trying to get me into it for a while, and I’ve just kind of not been able to; I’m just not really too interested, but it looks good!
Yeah! And the ones that I have watched, like, I’ve watched all of Sailor Moon, I watched all of Cowboy Bebop, and Trigun, which were both great, and now I’m like watching Fullmetal. And, like, I love all of the ones that I watch, I just, like, I feel like there’s so much of it, that it’s really overwhelming to try and get into. Especially when so many anime have, like, 7 billion episodes; like one piece has, like, 700 episodes or something, and I’m just like, “I can’t do it, I can’t do it, it’s too intimidating” (laughs).
Well Supernatural was so intimidating to me when I first-like, I’m on season five. And I’ve been, like, binge-watching that and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lately, and it’s just- there were so many episodes, I was like, “I’m never going to get through it!”
Same way about X-Files! I want to do all, like, ten seasons of The X-Files, but I’m, like, really scared of that too because it’s so much TV (laughs).
Yeah! I kind of feel bad for the people who are just now joining the Doctor Who fandom, ‘coz, like, it looks, like, hugely intimidating…the fandom is so active!
Oh my god, I know! And there’s so much of it! Yeah, it’s true! (laughs)
Who are your real-life nerd girl role-models?
Felicia Day is, like, and incredible entrepreneur, and I think she’s amazing…Amanda Tapping, who I mentioned earlier, played Sam Carter in Stargate SG-1, but now she’s a director; she fights really hard for women’s rights in, like, film and television, which is really, really cool. And Hayley Atwell who is, like, the biggest fangirl ever, and she won the hearts of every person everywhere; she’s like, is genuinely, like, one of the nicest humans I’ve ever met in my entire life. Like, I don’t know, she’s incredible. So, for sure.
One fictional character you wish you could be?
Oh my god! This is, like, the hardest question you’ve ever asked me! I wish I could be Commander Sheperd from Mass Effect, because I, it’s like, my dream to have my own spaceship with, like, a ragtag crew, and to travel the galaxy, and have sex with aliens, and be super badass…and, oh god, yeah, I want to be her so badly! (laughs) That’s totally the answer!
When I was, like, seven, I had this-well I always have had this fixation around Captain Janeway, but like, I so desperately wanted to be her, like, I got her haircut and I had her picture up, and it was just this…obsession…Not healthy (laughs)!
Exactly. I feel that!
If you all want to check out her book trailer (check it out!!!), you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7gsjZmGF3M.
And if you’d like to visit her website, click this link: http://sammaggs.com/.
Can’t contain your feels (same) and wanna find out where to buy her book, right here, right now? Go here: http://www.quirkbooks.com/fangirl.