Interview: Sam Maggs’ Guide to the Fangirl Galaxy

The Fangirl's Guide to The Galaxy © Quirk Books (Fair Use)
The Fangirl’s Guide to The Galaxy © Quirk Books (Fair Use)

Tomorrow Quirk book releases The Fangirl’s Guide to The Galaxy: a “fun and feminist girl-power guide to the geek galaxy” written by The Mary Sue associate editor Sam Maggs. I spoke to Sam about her experiences growing up as a “fangirl”, learning to approach media critically, and her hopes for the next generation of geek girls.

GeekMom: At what age did you first realise you were a fangirl? Can you describe that moment?
Sam Maggs: My parents both saw the first Star Wars film over twenty times in theaters, so I was pretty much destined to be a fangirl from the start. But my first foray into fandom was my obsession with Stargate SG-1, which I discovered when I was about twelve years old. Seeing a woman like Sam Carter on-screen, someone who could kick ass but was also an astrophysicist, was huge to me.

Sam Maggs © Sam Maggs Website (Used With Permission)
Sam Maggs © Sam Maggs Website (Used With Permission)

GM: What are some of your earliest memories that you look back on and think “only a geeky kid would have done that”?
Sam: The hours upon hours I spent in my basement on my computer reading Stargate and West Wing fanfic instead of making friends, for sure. I was also the head of my elementary school’s Library Club.

GM: How has being a fangirl changed for you as you’ve grown up?
Sam: Fandom has become more and more inclusive for women, so I’ve been able to meet so many ladies online, through social media, that I admire and am now friends with. There’s also so much more merchandise for girls now, so I can express my fandom that way too!

GM: In the book you discuss many different fandoms; do you consider yourself a part of any in particular? If so which ones and are there any fandoms you have left behind?
Sam: I’m definitely a huge fan of Harry Potter, Tamora Pierce novels, Mass Effect, and Marvel comics. The Stargate fandom has died down over the years, but I would still consider myself a part of it. I had a Twilight phase for a while there, but who didn’t?

GM: You also share a great list of female role models from different kinds of geeky media. Who were your role models when you were growing up?
Sam: I mentioned Sam Carter earlier, but Hermione was also big in getting me to accept my nerdy side and realize that it could be an asset, and wasn’t something to be ashamed of. Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness and The Immortals quartet featured Alanna and Daine, two kick-butt heroines I still adore.

Cover of The Fangirl's Guide to The Galaxy © Quirk (Fair Use)
Cover of The Fangirl’s Guide to The Galaxy © Quirk (Fair Use)

GM: Who do you hope is going to pick up this book and read it? What do you hope they get from it?
Sam: I hope that everyone can get something out of this book! For girls new to fandom, it might be a good primer; for veteran fangirls, you might find some new tips and tricks about cons or trolls or a new video game to pick up. I’d even recommend it for allies to see what it’s like to be a girl in fandom.

GM: What geeky events/moments would you like to share with the next generation of fangirls?
Sam: I can’t wait to see more ladies at conventions! They’re so much fun and I just want everyone to be able to go to one!

GM: Do you feel that being a critical consumer is a necessary part of being a fangirl today, or is it possible to just enjoy a fandom without engaging in those debates?
Sam: I think it’s important to remember that you can be a fan of something even if you realize that it’s problematic. But representation for women and minorities will never change unless we speak up about what we take issue with, so it’s definitely important to engage with media on a critical level to realize what you’re taking in and how it influences your views on gender and society.

But you can still like something even if it has issues!

GM: Do you feel that the convention scene has shifted in the last few years, especially for women? Where would you like it to go?
Sam: It definitely has – con attendees are now nearly 50% women across the board. I would love to see more booths and panels catered specifically towards women – ECCC and C2E2 in particular are already doing a great job of this.

GM: Turning the tables from the interviews you did in the book: what does the word “fangirl” mean to you?
Sam: It means loving something passionately and without embarrassment. It means the things you love have changed your life for the better.

GM: How has being a geek positively influenced your life?
Sam: It’s basically given me everything – my career, my friends, my partner. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to make my fangirliness into a career, because I love sharing the things about which I’m passionate with other ladies. Plus, with the advent of social media, I was able to meet so many amazing people through our shared interests that I never would have met otherwise, including my partner! I’m very grateful.

GM: If you could give geek girls advice for their careers or personal lives, what would it be?
Sam: Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to love what you love and to be who you are. If the people around you don’t like it, there are a million other people out there who will.

Many thanks to Sam for her time. Look out for our review of The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy later this week.