Fanboy vs. Fangirl Bullying – It’s NOT A New Phenomenon

An alternate title for this post is Why I Hid My Star Wars Geekery for Over 30 Years.
Shadow LeiaNote: Posting on this topic scares me. I’ve wanted to write about this for months, but I kept putting it off. What if I insult someone who endured terrible bullying, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced? What if I attract trolls? But oh well, I’ve decided to ignore my fears and get on with it. This is the first article in a planned series.

There’s been quite a few articles, online discussions and Twitter campaigns over the past few years about the “recent” proliferation of geek bullies. If you’re not familiar with this situation, then I highly recommend reading We Are The Trouble With Nerds by Rob Kaiju. (Fair warning, it is not easy to read and there’s some profanity.) In a twist that is both sad and hilarious, a nasty troll showed up to spew some hate in the comments, pretty much reinforcing Rob’s article.

Most of the geek vs. geek hatred appears to be directed at female cosplayers. Noah Berlatsky does a great job of discussing this in his article Why Comic-Book Guys Are Afraid of Cosplay for The Atlantic. I’m not a serious cosplayer, but I’ve always envied those folks a wee bit (and I certainly love any excuse for wearing a fun costume). Learning that those girls are subjected to such blatant attacks really ticks me off!

As far as I can tell, the underlying themes of all geek bullying seem to be a toxic brew of misogyny, homophobia and the absolute belief that personal pain + freedom of speech = a divine calling to hurl the worst possible insults at others.

Or, said another way:

Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they.

  • Yoda

While there’s no doubt that the rise of social media has brought this crap to the forefront, I would like to point out that it is not a new thing. Geek and nerd culture has never been this open, warm, welcoming place…at least not in my experience. From my point of view, declaring my love for Star Wars has always been a tricky situation.

Fanboys vs. Fangirls

Way back in 1980, I was a sensitive 9-year-old girl so dazzled by The Empire Strikes Back that I could hardly think about anything else. Other kids in my neighborhood, both boys and girls, were happy to act out new Star Wars adventures with me, but I walked around with this absolute certainty that none of them could possibly love that other world as much as I did. I was obsessed. Day and night, my brain was filled with visions of Jedi, stormtroopers, droids, exotic aliens and…all the possibilities of living in a galaxy far, far away. I tried to describe this dreamy bubble of Star Wars-fueled fantasy through the eyes of my main character in Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away:

Two days have gone by. Nothing seems real to me. My head is in the stars….The chores fly by in a blur. The vacuum cleaner is my own little droid. The handle of our ancient lawn mower is the steering mechanism for a supersonic space cruiser. Even the feather duster becomes an exotic alien pet that carries secret messages between spies. I name it Fizzwicky.”

Back to the real world, circa 1981…when my bubble burst. It wasn’t one dramatic moment. Most kids had moved on to other interests but my obsession with Star Wars was still going strong. Then I had several small skirmishes with fanboys who needed to put me in my place. It wasn’t a gang; they didn’t jump out and attack me with plastic lightsabers on my way to school. Quizzing and ridicule were the main weapons of choice.

I would declare myself a huge Star Wars fan and a boy would narrow his eyes and start quizzing me. Not simple questions pulled from the movie scripts, oh no! Really obscure bits of trivia related to the exact name/model of a certain character’s blaster (I could draw a picture of it) or the chemical biology of Mynocks (um, they like to chew on power cables?). If I failed the test, which I usually did, they would laugh at me &/or tell me to go play with dolls.

Slowly, I started to believe that boys equated fandom with facts, statistics, and a nearly encyclopedic inventory of knowledge. My kind of fandom – fantasies in which I dreamed up totally new characters, planets and stories – were considered silly girlish nonsense. So I stopped telling most people I was a Star Wars fan.

Now let me say right now that there were plenty of young boys who enjoyed the same sort of fandom that I enjoyed…I think one of them may be named J. J. Abrams. And I know for a fact that there are geek girls out there who can answer just about any piece of obscure trivia you can dig up on Wookieepedia. I’m not trying to be sexist. That said, I still think there is a predominantly male tendency to quiz, judge and exclude others from being a “true fan.”

This is not just a sci-fi geek thing. You want to see this same behavior out with the “cool kids?” Watch a pretty girl walk into a bar wearing an LA Dodgers baseball hat. 9 out of 10 times, some dude is going to ask her questions about the baseball team. And if she can’t answer those questions or, (*gulp*) looks him right in the eye and says she just likes the hat? There’s a high probability that he’ll make rude comments about how she should not be “allowed” to wear that hat.

What is that all about? Seriously! Can anyone explain it to me?

(This is a true story/scenario that I’ve witnessed several times. The girl in question thought those interactions were funny, but they always gave me a bad feeling. There was an underlying current of aggression.)

Just last year at the Decatur Book Festival, I was wearing my favorite piece of fangirl couture – this Millennium Falcon a-line dress – and enjoying the day. Some snotty little boy marched up to me and shouted, “Hey, why are you wearing that? You should not be wearing that. You’re a girl!” I mean the little toad was truly outraged and his parents just stood there laughing. At first, I smiled and laughed too. I mean, little toady boys don’t scare me any more. But then I remembered how it felt when I was younger. I thought about how intimidating he would have been to a grade-school girl, especially a child like Katie the Star Wars girl. Then I took the opportunity to give him a little Jedi lesson in manners. When his parents pulled him away, he was still thoroughly disgusted with me.

One more thing…I love The Big Bang Theory and was really looking forward to their May the 4th episode last year, but I was so disappointed. Sure, Bob Newhart was brilliant. But did anyone else notice the not so subtle message of “Star Wars is for boys” in that episode? Amy and Bernadette hide away to bake a Death Star cake for the guys so they won’t be forced to watch the movie marathon…only to discover that they’ll be forced to watch all six movies anyway. Oh the horror!

Et tu, Big Bang Theory?

Anyway, I’ve gotten a little off topic here. Not shocking, but I need to bring this post to a close with a few final thoughts.

Bullying plays an important role in my first novel because it’s such an important topic to me. I never experienced the terrible sort of bullying that’s depicted in the novel. I was a chubby, loud, overly sensitive little girl with low self-esteem and a desperate need to please. Some days I’m still that girl. Growing up, there were a few ugly incidents that still make me cringe and want to curl up in a ball, but they had nothing to do with Star Wars geekery. My bad experiences were very minor compared to some of the other things I’ve seen and read on this topic.

I hope that no one who has experienced bullying will read this and think that I am trying to trivialize the problem. At the same time, I really don’t think this bashing behavior is a new thing. And I think its roots are deeply embedded in our entire culture, not just geek culture.

photo credit: Traitor via photopin (license)

Come to the AJC Decatur Book Festival – It’s the Literary side of the Force

2014-DBFposter-diterlizziIf you’re going to the AJC Decatur Book Festival (and you should go, really), stop by the Deeds Publishing Booth (Booth #101 – looks like it’s on the lawn in front of the courthouse – Click here for the festival map.)

I’ll be there 3:00 – 4:00 on Saturday 8/30/14 with handmade Millennium Falcon soaps (free with purchase of my book.)

Even if you can’t stop by to see me, they are going to be selling all of their books at a reduced price.

According to the festival website, “The festival will feature lectures and signings from more than 600 authors, including award-winners, best-sellers and some just getting started.” Woo hoo! Another article states that festival organizers are expecting 90,000 visitors during the festival…Oh my! Consider riding the MARTA. The Decatur stop is right under the festival.

A few of my personal highlights from the 2014 schedule:

  • The fabulous Tom Angleberger of Origami Yoda fame (and a personal hero of mine) will be there. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll get there early enough to catch the The Jedi Council discussion (10 am, really?) but I will almost certainly be in attendance for A Farewell to Origami Yoda.
  • Pat Conroy!
  • SCBWI Crystal Kite award winner Vicky Alvear Schecter – if you have not read Cleopatra’s Moon, well you should fix that.
  • Cassandra King – Love her novel Moonrise
  • NYT best-selling Joshilyn Jackson (anyone who reads this blog knows I’m a HUGE fan of JJ)
  • There’s going to be a Cooking Stage for the first time this year, not to mention 17 cookbook authors
  • And much, much more!

IMG_0221-0.JPG

Join the #WriteChain Challenge – Get Stuff Done

Click here for the Write Chain App

Click here to learn about the Write Chain App

I’ve been busy plotting and planning and re-plotting that same paranormal mystery/ghost novel I’ve mentioned here…oh, a FEW times. Wow. I never knew how wonderfully creative and energizing it can be to plan out an entire novel from first to final scene. I might even go so far as to call it hypnotic. However, there comes a time in every author’s process when you’ve got to dive in and type your way through that awful first draft. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past week. Then, instead of actually writing, I circle around my MacBook waiting for the keyboard to emit magical, magnetic writerly waves that will attract my lazy fingers to start typing.

Yeah…that’s not working so well. Once again, I find myself in need of motivation with a swift kick of accountability built in. Luckily, I discovered this lovely website called Writerology where someone named Skye recently posted a Write Chain Challenge. I’ve had the Write Chain app on my iPhone for…hmmmm roughly 4 months now. I just have never actually ever used the thing. Well this challenge will get me using the app.

It’s a simple strategy:

  1. Come up with a daily writing goal. My goal is 500 words of fiction or blogging per day. Note: That may not sound terribly ambitious goal but I need a goal I can stick to on a BAD writing day.
  2. Tell the world about your goal on multiple social media platforms. (Check)
  3. Write and meet your goal every single day to earn links in a chain. 1 day at or above goal = 1 link.
  4. Track your daily progress on the Write Chain App if you have an iPhone…or there’s another option for you nutty Android users
  5. Post on Twitter to brag about meeting your goal, how many links you have earned, etc.
  6. Most important part! Miss your goal even one day, your chain goes back to 0 links. All of the links disappear. (On the bright side, all those words you’ve written are still yours to keep, edit, polish & submit).
  7. Start the chain all over again…or give up and find a Book Coach with a loaded gun.

So…in case you have not guessed, I’m posting this here for two reasons:

  1. Any writerly friends out there having trouble meeting your writing goals? Want to join me? Go here and sign up. It’s free…and it could be fun. We could Tweet trash talk to each other. Brag, cheer and heckle each other. Come on, you know you want to just do it. Join me and together we can rule the galaxy…or just finish our projects faster.
  2. This post counts as 450 words toward my daily writing goal. Boom!

On Writing Conferences and Courage

Mondays are hard. But a Monday after a writing conference is especially difficult.

This past weekend I attended my first SCBWI SpringMingle Conference. After a whirlwind weekend of writing tips, trends and inspiration, this is how my brain feels:

Butterfly BrainSeriously, how can I be expected to function as a productive member of society with my little gray cells in this flittery fluttery state? *Sigh*

Anyhoo…there’s something else I want to discuss. Briefly. Before I have to drag myself out of bed and back to the mundane details of my weekday, workday existence.

During a fabulous presentation on her Fairytale Life, Illustrator Ruth Sanderson casually mentioned that she has a fear of public speaking (something you never would have guessed while listening to her). In fact, she wants to throw up every time she has to get up in front of an audience. But she gets up there and speaks anyway.

I think someone somewhere once said that’s the true definition of courage – when you fear something, but you do it anyway.

While I don’t fear public speaking, I have plenty of other fears to keep me awake at night. Most of them are pretty standard, silly little things. Some feel like gargantuan beasts that like to sit on my chest in the wee hours of the morning, sucking away all the oxygen in the bedroom. One of my most horrible, terrible, pressing fears is the next book in my Star Wars Fangirl Trilogy.

To be clear, I’m not saying that I have a certain fear that I’m transforming, by the amazing alchemy of writerly magic, into an inspirational topic for my next book. Nope. That would be healthy and productive. What I mean to say is I’m afraid of writing my next fangirl book.

There. I said it.

Sometimes We Strike Back is a darker story than NSLA. The narrative voice of this novel has some serious anger management issues. There’s suicide. There’s GLBT issues. The bullying gets far, far worse and my main character gives in to the Dark Side.

Oh yes, this story scares me. And yet I have to write it. I do.

What fears are you challenging yourself to overcome this year?

photo credit: zenonline via photopin cc

Weesa Wishing Yousa Merry Christmas

IMG_1327Heh, heh, heh. I’ve been saving this photo since Dragon*Con and I almost forgot to post it. Now don’t throw any rotten tomatoes. No matter how you feel about Jar Jar, the person wearing this costume is a sweet, lovely, selfless person who was doing this to raise money for charity. And the younglings LOVED it.

I loved this:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Jawa!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Jawa handing our candy canes. Too cute!

Home World – We Have a Winner!

And the winner is…(drum roll please)
Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 11.15.18 PMSHERI!!!

Woo hoo! Apparently, the odds favor bubbly and vivacious blondes from Southern California. Sheri, please message me on Facebook so I can work out the “prize patrol” logistics. And thanks to everyone who commented.

In just a few hours, I’m going to be hosting yet another WOW! Blog Tour stop. This one is all about Peace, Love and Girl Empowerment! Stay tuned to feel the grooviness.

In Memorium: My Darling Hyundai

My 2002 Hyundai Elantra is dying. Sigh.

She’s the first new car I ever purchased and she has faithfully supported all of my ground transportation needs for over 187,000 miles with very little maintenance and absolutely no breakdown drama.

The only time poor Hyundai looks shiny is when it rains.

The only time poor Hyundai looks shiny is when it rains.

That said, Hyundai been showing her age for a while now. Her headlights burn out about every 60-90 days. She squeals miserably when I start her on chilly mornings, hesitates when I start her on hot days and clicks noisily when we take sharp turns. Her body is dinged, dented and generally lackluster. Her interior is spotty, worn and downright ragged in places. Her visor mirrors fall out occasionally and have to be Super Glued back in place. When we go over small bumps in the road, the radio switches to CD causing a miserable and frustrating listening experience. On occasion, her driver’s side window gets stuck partially open.

Back in 2009, her alarm system was permanently disabled when it malfunctioned and the cost of repair was almost as much as her Blue Book value.

Certified Hyundai Repair Guy: Ma’am, we really do not recommend disabling a car’s alarm system.

Me: Seriously? Who is going to steal this car?

Certified Hyundai Repair Guy: You’d be surprised.

Me: I’m going to invent my own alarm system for old Hyundais. My alarm system will laugh at anyone who breaks in. It will say things like, “Dude, are you stealing a 2002 Hyundai? Seriously? How pathetic are you?”

Certified Hyundai Repair Guy: (Turns away and tries to hide the fact that he’s laughing.)

In weird and not-so-complimentary ways, this raggedy old Hyundai has started to reflect my crappy self-image. For months now, I’ve been telling myself that I really should invest in a new car. Better Feng Shui and I’m worth it and all that crap. But then I would remember how much I hate, loathe and despise car shopping…and how much I LOVE budgeting $0 for car payments each month. So I’d crank up my ABBA Greatest Hits CD to bypass the radio issue and drown out all of her aging car noises and keep on driving.

A few weeks ago, after taking us for a lovely drive up to the Appalachian Trail, Hyundai pulled into the garage and just gave up. Fluids suddenly gushed out of her. She reeked of burned chemicals. I half expected to see all four tires deflate. The message was clear. She was DONE.

We’ve been together 11 years and I love her. I really do. But it’s time to let her go.

Yes, I could invest in costly repairs and force her to continue to limp along. Yes, the costly repairs would still be cheaper than getting a new car. Yes, there are plenty of cars on the road over 200,000 miles and still going strong. Yes, I still hate, loathe and despise car shopping. But I have made up my mind to do this thing.

And now that I find myself deep in the trenches of car shopping, I realize that a person’s relationship with their vehicle – what we drive now, what we’ve driven in the past, our first car, our first new car, how we go about choosing a vehicle, and how we deal with this whole modern necessity of vehicle ownership – it really does say quite a bit about a person’s character. We all know this even if we pretend it isn’t true. And we judge. We do!

Think about it.

Scene 1: A slim brunette in old Levis steps out of a green convertible Beatle, slings a backpack over one shoulder and checks her iPhone as she bumps the car door shut with one hip. Nose still glued to her phone, she hurries away.

Scene 2: A slim brunette in old Levis steps out of a 1958 Chevy pickup, slings a backpack over her shoulder and turns to kick the driver’s side door closed, giving it a second kick to make sure it’s really shut. Then she turns and hurries away.

Scene 3: A slim brunette in old Levis steps out of a white Lexis SUV, slings a backpack over one shoulder and looks around as she eases the car door shut. She spots someone, waves and hurries away to meet the other person.

What assumptions have you just made about these three women?

Coming Soon: On Car Shopping & Character Building