Out writer Sam Maggs on “The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy,” comic book love and more

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Sam Maggs is the kind of person you want to be friends with. Incredibly smart, funny, and a little adorkable, the Associate Editor of the excellent The Mary Sue (“an entertainment news site for geek women, by geek women”) has written a book all about navigating the wonderful world of fandom. We spoke with Sam about The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, which comes out on May 12th, empowering queer fandom, and what it was like growing up as a fangirl.

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AfterEllen: My first ever article for AfterEllen was called “Fangirl 101,” so this is a subject close to my heart. But for people who aren’t familiar with what it means to be a fangirl, how would you describe it?

Sam Maggs: To me, a fangirl is anyone who loves something and loves it really passionately—that’s how I would describe it. You can kind of be a fangirl of anything. Obviously the things that I fangirl over are nerd culture related items, but anything that you love, and love hard and are not embarrassed about, and has changed your life for the better, that’s what I consider being a fangirl.

 

AE: When did you first realize you were a fangirl?

SM: Well, my parents saw the first Star Wars film 24 times in theatres, so I pretty much didn’t stand a chance.

 

AE: So it’s genetic!

SM: Yeah, instead of rebelling, I guess I just sort of went with it. But the first thing I was ever like a huge fangirl of was Stargate SG1, which I know is super hilarious, but it’s true. I got into it when I was 12 years old and I became super obsessed with it. This was in kind of the early days of the internet and fanfics and forums were like a thing at the time, so I got really involved in the Gateworld forums, writing my own fanfics that were just terrible, but whatever, we’ve all been there. [laughs] And that was my first big fandom.

 

AE: What was it about that show that really pulled you in?

SM: For me it was all about Sam Carter. That was one of the first shows that I had ever seen on television where there was woman—and she had my name, which helped I’m sure—but it was one of the first times I had ever seen where a woman was as awesome as her dude counterparts in the show. I was into all this space stuff and seeing this awesome, kick ass military chick who is also really smart. She wasn’t just kick ass, she was also an astrophysicist, which was really cool for me as like a nerdy kid, going across the galaxy doing all these things I usually saw dudes doing. That was huge for me. It was definitely a gateway to things like Star Trek Voyager and other shows with awesome female characters  in space. So I think that’s why it was so influential on me.

 

AE: You are an editor at The Mary Sue which we love over here. Was your work there what inspired you to write your new book, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy?

SM: I actually started writing the book before I started working at The Mary Sue. So I finished the book last June and I started for them as weekend editor around the same time, and I became a full time writer last August. It was kind of like a concurrent thing, but this is always been what I loved to talk about, and write about. It’s always been my passion. I’ve always kind of been in this world, but I was afraid for so long to talk about it because geek culture was not always as accessible as it is now.

When I was growing up, I was really sort of a closeted nerd, you could say. I never told anybody—I kept it to myself and I was really miserable because I didn’t have any friends who liked the same things that I liked. When I graduated college and moved away, I was like, “man, there’s so many other people out there who would like the same sorts of things that I like, that I’m going to get rid of all the people in my life who don’t like these things actually.”

 

AE: [laughs] You culled everyone who wasn’t a fanperson?!

SM: Yeah, exactly. I was like, “You all suck.” [laughs] And social media really helped with that because I was on Twitter and Tumblr and realizing that there were these whole communities of awesome women who into the same stuff that I was into. It’s an important topic to me because I wanted other girls to feel like there are other women out there who are looking out for them, or into the same stuff they are into, and they don’t have to feel scared to be like “I want to read a comic but I’m scared to go into a comic book store. How do I do that?” I wanted to be there to help other ladies like that.

 

AE: That’s so great, because I remember going into comic book stores when I was a kid and and being the only girl. It was almost like they didn’t even know what to say or do about me. No one ever wanted to help me. I wasn’t sure if they were afraid of offending me, or just didn’t care, but I never felt like I was a part of that world.

SM: Yeah, it’s really intimidating! I mean, I still feel intimidated sometimes going into comic book stores. I mean, I have local places now that know me and are great, but it can be a really daunting thing because we’ve been told for so long that this is a “boys club,” it’s a male dominated world, you are not welcome, we don’t want you. We are still told that all the time, but it’s not true. Kate Leth‘s group The Valkyries who are a collective of women who work in comic book stores. They are doing so much to make women feel welcome when they come in. I always say, if you go into a comic book store, and they treat you like crap, go somewhere else. You don’t need to be there, and you don’t need to give them your money. I say that in the book, too. I firmly believe that. There are tons of places that will be accepting of you and it’s getting better all the time.

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AE: Is the book a good step for someone who might be new to the world of fandom, and is it something that someone who is a veteran of fangirling can also read? Is there something for everyone?

SM: I hope it is, that’s kind of how I wanted to write it. I wanted to write a guide that would be great for people who are just coming into this word for the first time, and had never picked up a video game before, and were scared of all the boobs and the butts and were like, “I don’t know if this is for me.” I wanted to find something that worked for them. And I also wanted to write the book for women like me who have been in the industry for a while and have been to bunch of conventions, but maybe want to know how to do a convention a little bit better. How to do it so your feet don’t hurt on the third day, what to do before your photo op with your favorite star or whatever.

I tried to include something for everyone and there have been some reviews saying that even if you have been in the industry, in the [fandom] world for a while that you can still find new little tips and tricks in it, so that’s really encouraging for me. That’s kind of what I was aiming for. But it’s also great for newbies too who have never been on Tumblr and are intimidated by terms like “shipping” and “OTP” and are like, what is this? I can be very daunting sometimes.

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