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)

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2015 Haunted Dahlonega Ghost Tour…We’re Baaaaaaaaack

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2015 Haunted Dahlonega Walking Tour

Book Review: Fling! by Lily Iona MacKenzie

A wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, and travel…

Fling_Frontcover_Low_4-13-15 copyWhen ninety-year-old Bubbles receives a letter from Mexico City asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, lost there seventy years earlier and only now surfacing, she hatches a plan. A woman with a mission, Bubbles convinces her hippie daughter Feather to accompany her on the quest. Both women have recently shed husbands and have a secondary agenda: they’d like a little action. And they get it.

Alternating narratives weave together Feather and Bubbles’ odyssey. The two women travel south from Canada to Mexico where Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, enlivening the narrative with their hilarious antics.

Amazon Buy Link: Fling! by Lily Iona MacKenzie

My Review:

When I first read the description of Fling! by Lily Iona MacKenzie, I was eager to start reading. I’m a sucker for complicated mother-daughter relationships and, at its heart, this is the story of sixty-year-old Feather and her ninety-year-old mother, Bubbles. Struggling under the weight of past disappointments and betrayals, their relationship is loving, but strained. When Bubbles pressures her daughter into a quest to recover her mother’s missing ashes in Mexico City, the duo sets out on an adventure that seems ill-fated. Then a few dead ancestors join the party, highlighting the rampant misunderstandings, missed opportunities, lost loves, betrayals and petty jealousies of the past. In this story, the sins of the parents continue to echo through the generations in fascinating patterns.

This book is a giddy, breathless, dizzy journey through space and time – pinballing from Isle of Skye in Scotland in the early twentieth century, Canada in the 1950’s and Mexico in 1996. The point of view bounces around quite a bit, and at times I was rather seasick from the view inside Bubbles’ head. That said, Bubbles’ swings in thought, focus, mood and personality were authentic, reminding me of listening to my own grandmother during the middle stages of dementia. It is obvious that the author is familiar with the idiosyncrasies of a free-spirited woman entering her nineties; unwilling to go gently into anyone’s version of “that dark night.”

This is a poetic, unconventional, farcical journey through the enigmatic terrain of family relationships, shifting perceptions and lost loves.

About The Author:

Fling_LilyMacA Canadian by birth, a high school dropout, and a mother at 17, in her early years, Lily Iona MacKenzie supported herself as a stock girl in the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored her into the States). She also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (and almost got her legs broken), founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County, and eventually earned two Master’s degrees (one in Creative writing and one in the Humanities). She has published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 140 American and Canadian venues. Fling was published in July 2015 by Pen-L Publishing. Bone Songs, another novel, will be published in 2016. Her poetry collection All This was published in 2011. She also teaches writing at the University of San Francisco, is vice-president of USF’s part-time faculty union, paints, and travels widely with her husband.

Book Review: Steps by Eric Trant

Follow the Peacemaker family through their battle for survival while society crumbles under the onslaught of a ravaging virus…
Steps Cover

Sounds pretty terrifying, huh? It is! Trant’s descriptions of the effects of the virus – told from both the observer’s and infected person’s perspectives – are so harrowing…I actually had nightmares as I was reading this book. But I kept reading because I had to know what was going to happen next

This is where I need to make a confession. I may be one of the very few human beings on the planet who does not have a voracious appetite for zombie apocalyptic science fiction. Apocalypse of any sort scares me. Martial law terrifies me. Infectious virus that attacks the core of humanity horrifies me. I have never seen a single episode of the Walking Dead. In fact, I am so squeemish about deadly viral outbreaks that I have to leave the room when the news features stories on Ebola virus!

So, when I was asked to participate in this blog tour, I was a little cautious and reluctant. Then I checked out the free sample pages of the book, and I was hooked. I had to know what happened next…and that’s really all that matters when it comes to my choices in reading material. It’s that just-one-more-page-turning feeling that grabs me by the gut and drags me through the alternate reality of a fictional world.

My Review:

I enjoyed this book very much, even with the nightmares. It is a true science fiction thriller that offers a roller coaster ride through an apocalyptic nightmare version of our world – strewn with dead bodies, burned landscapes and riddled with bullets.  The book opens from a tiny, almost claustrophobic perspective. Edwin Peacemaker struggles to keep his small family (wife, son and young daughter) from starving to death while they are forced to wait out torrential rains that have stranded them in a remote mountain cabin located in the Alabama mountains. After weeks of isolation, their food supply is gone. Forced to tightly ration their only power resource, they check the television every day only to find a blue screen with a recurring declaration of martial law. It’s a familiar scenario, but the author does an excellent job of drawing the reader into the family’s struggle to survive…without ripping each other apart.

Everything changes when another family arrives and asks for sanctuary in the Peacemaker’s cabin. Edwin and his son, Perry, are forced to make a terrible choice.

As the situation in the Arkansas mountains disintegrates into violent chaos, the Peacemaker family joins forces with a group of renegade soldiers who abandoned their military post rather than face certain death in the “Q-zone” (Quarantine Zone). Gunfights, wild escapes from missiles and even a few encounters with a Bigfoot-type creature ensue. It’s a tension-filled, escapist read that never bores.

Paperback: 218 Pages
Genre: Sci Fi
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (May 21, 2015)
ASIN: B00Y3A9AZE
Twitter hashtag: #StepsTrant
Steps is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon.

Eric Trant Additional Author Picture-1About the Author:

Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Wink and Steps from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric’s work at:

June is Writember

Hands to keyboardHere’s a dirty little confession…I don’t actually enjoy writing. There I’ve said it.

Now please don’t misunderstand. I’m a writer to the core. My brain is constantly bubbling with story ideas – more stories than I could possibly type out in a month of Sundays. I love plotting and playing with fiction in my head. I certainly enjoy talking about writing, participating in writing conferences/seminars/classes, planning to write and pinning pithy quotes about the writing life over on Pinterest. And there is nothing quite so glorious as that supernaturally awesome moment when I can sit back from the keyboard knowing I have finished writing for the day. [Cue angels singing]

But the actual act of writing? Very painful. No joy there.

And yet, here’s the great paradox of my life:  I’m even MORE miserable when I DON’T write! Now you might think that means I write every day…but I don’t. I just allow myself to wallow in misery and shame for days and even weeks at a time.

So, yeah. I’m always in search of new ways to inject inspiration and productivity into my writing life. Last year, I discovered the WriteChain Challenge (and App) but quickly lost interest after killing my first writing chain by accident (not because I failed to write, but because I forgot to log in my word count for one day). That said, I still love the concept. And I really, really need a healthy dose of accountability to get my hands back to the keyboard after a full month of wallowing in misery.

So June is my Writember. I’ve got my plan and I’m ready to roll! the initial goal is to write 500 words per day. If that proves too difficult, I’ll lower the goal. All that matters is that I do this for 30 days. In a row. No excuses.

(If this doesn’t work, I might have to go back to that gun-to-my-head scenario that worked so well back in January 2013.)

Writember-Workshop-cover

photo credit: Annette + Powerbook + Teh Interwebz via photopin (license)

Book Review: Maggie’s Story (Intergalactic Matchmaking Services Book 1) by Ava Louise

Women Wanted: Must have a sense of adventure and be open to new experiences. Must also be willing to relocate. Please contact…Intergalactic Matchmaking Services.
Maggie's Story

One of the best things about being an author is being asked to read and review books by other authors. That said, I am VERY picky about which books I’ll agree to feature here on the blog. As soon as I heard about this series by Ava Louise, I could hardly wait to start reading. Single women willing to look for love in unusual places? Peaceful aliens searching for soul mates? And a Meezer (a.k.a. Siamese cat) in space? This is Maggie’s Story (Book 1 of the  Intergalactic Matchmaking Series).

My Review:

After she identifies a gang member as the shooter in a local murder, Maggie Cline is trapped in a terrible situation. While the police investigators are unable to resolve the murder case, they are also unable to adequately protect Maggie from the ruthless, daily intimidation campaign waged by other members of the shooter’s gang. Alone in the world and facing a daily dose of terror outside her apartment door, is it any wonder Maggie answers an ad for a dating service that requires relocation? Her only concern is whether or not the service will allow her to relocate with her beloved cat Mamzell.

(To be honest, there were a few times during my singleton dating days when I would have answered that ad. But that is another story.)

This is a fun, light, sweet, purely escapist read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story reminded me of a Hallmark romance movie with a touch of Starman mixed in.

If you are looking for hot, lusty human-alien erotica, this is NOT your book. Instead of explicit content, the author leads you toward the bedroom door then fades to afterglow. (I did not have a problem with that, but I also enjoy Hallmark romance movies) My one criticism is that Maggie’s Story is a bit too short with the main story problem resolved too easily. However, since Maggie’s romance continues as a secondary storyline in Books 2 and 3, I would suggest you keep reading if you are unhappy with the ending of Book 1. (I’ve read and enjoyed all 3.)
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Publisher:
Amazon Digital Services (January 27, 2014)
ASIN:
B00I44AGA8

The Intergalactic Matchmaking Service series continues…

Shirley’s Story (Book 2) Just as Shirley decides to try opening herself up to a chance at love, a stalker from her past returns. How does she move forward when her past comes knocking? What’s going on with her young student, Hannah? Will her dog, Oreo, be okay with Shirley looking for love?

Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Publisher:
Amazon Digital Services (March 4, 2014)
ASIN:
B00ISU9RE4

Penny’s Story (Book 3) Penny was supposed to be dead. At least that is what Claire has believed for ten years. Find out what happens when Claire’s sister comes out of the Witness Protection Program. Penny is fighting a losing battle with cancer and needs Claire to raise Sunny, Penny’s newborn daughter, once the cancer takes its final toll.
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher:
Amazon Digital Services (November 30, 2014)
ASIN:
B00OV8QBXC

All of the Intergalactic Matchmaking Services books are available as an e-book on Amazon 

Ava LouiseAbout the Author:

Ava Louise was born a U.S. Army brat overseas, in France. She is the proud mom of two wonderful young men. It’s taken her a while to figure out what she wanted to be “when she grows up,” but Ava has finally found her niche in the writing world. Since writing came to her later in life, she likes to think she is living proof that it’s never too late to reach for a dream or to achieve it. Before writing her own stories, she usually reads from a wide array of genres. She loves Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mysteries, Thrillers, and Young Adult.

Ava Louise can be found online at:
Email: AvaLouise@AvaLouise.net
Website: http://avalouise.net/
Blog: The Road to a Dream: http://avalouise.net/theroadtoadream/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ava.louise.35
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@avalouiseauthor

Merry Cursedmas

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Anyone out there know how to break a Christmas curse? Not sure if we need a witch doctor, a voodoo priestess, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, or an exorcist (OK, probably not that last one).

Normally, I love, love, LOVE this time of year – Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, we celebrate them all! And I’m a twelfth day of Christmas baby. Holidays good!

But a bad luck trend appears to be developing around our household on December 25. Last year, I took a spectacularly embarrassing fall and wrecked my knee, requiring surgery and many months or rehab. My right leg still doesn’t function quite right. This year we opted for a nice, safe walk on paved country roads around a local winery. What could possibly go wrong?

Then I noticed my darling, exuberant, sweet-tempered Vizsla (Remember, Ashton?) standing in a pool of blood. Wait, BLOOD?!?!

Her tail was wagging non-stop and her furry face looked to joyful. I thought, Oh no! Something must have died and Ashton stepped on it.

Alas, no. What Ashton had managed to step on was some hidden wicked thing that pierced through her paw…we never located the vicious object and Ashton didn’t even seem to notice anything had happened. It took us quite a while to convince her that she was injured, but the pain finally caught up with her during the horrid examination and cleaning process at home. In the picture above, she is wearing my inept field bandaging (a.k.a. a creative new use for orphaned socks) and waiting patiently for her vet appointment.

The humans of the household spent a jolly Christmas night cleaning up what looked like a crime scene around the house.

Bah humbug. Seriously.