Today’s guest is urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror author Seanan McGuire! (You may also know her as Mira Grant.) Her debut novel, Rosemary and Rue, was released in 2009. Since then, she’s won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, become a New York Times bestselling author, and set some records for Hugo Award nominations, including but not limited to becoming the first person to appear as a finalist 5 times in one year. She’s also won a Hugo for Best Fancast, and she’s released numerous novels and stories (if I’m counting correctly the two novels she has coming out later this year will be her twelfth and thirteenth). Basically, I am in awe of all that she has accomplished, and I am a huge fan of her books—especially her October Daye series, which is dark and humorous and just keeps getting better and better. Since I also love her blog, especially anything she writes about girl geek culture, I’m thrilled she’s here today to discuss the hurdles faced by geek girls!
Like many members of our strange and far-flung community, I wear my geeky heart upon my sleeve. Half my wardrobe is geeky T-shirts of one type or another (the other half is Old Navy tank tops in eye-burning colors). Looking at my backpack, right now, I find two buttons about Doctor Who, one button making a joke about zombies, a women’s flat track roller derby button, and pins advertising my love of Fringe, Ursula Vernon, jackalopes, Tesla Industries, and the Umbrella Corporation. The seal of the University of Gallifrey hangs on a chain around my neck. I am geek girl, hear me expound endlessly on my theories about the X-Men.
Less than a month ago, I was standing on the train platform, reading my book, wearing my Raccoon City Track Team T-shirt, when a man stepped up next to me. He gave fewer outward signs of helpless geekhood than I did; in fact, he had none. Yet he still looked me up and down, stopped at my franchise-branded breasts, and asked, “Do you even know what Resident Evil is?”
I stared at him blankly. I didn’t know what else to do. Because the first time someone asked me that question, or a cousin of that question (do you know what Doctor Who is can you name any X-Men can you name any X-Men who weren’t in the cartoon in the nineties can you prove yourself to me don’t you understand that you have to prove yourself to me when I command you to), I got angry. The second time, I got defensive. And by this point, I’m just…tired.
I’m tired of being told that being a woman means I can’t love the things I’ve loved for my entire life. I’m tired of being told that being a girl makes my opinions somehow less. I’m tired of receiving email asking me to prove that I did my own research for the books I write under the name “Mira Grant,” which involve a lot of science and ickiness. And I’m tired of feeling defensive. Even as I type this, I find myself searching for dates, for lists, for quantities that will somehow prove my right to love this genre and these worlds. Is starting Doctor Who at three enough? How about writing an essay demanding that my mother let me read Stephen King when I was nine? Or being on a first-name basis with everyone who’s worked at my preferred comic book store in the last fifteen years? When is it enough? When do I get my full citizenship in the Land of Geek, instead of being treated like a suspicious tourist?
The fake geek girl response terrifies and upsets me—and if “terrifies” seems a little strong, remember that “us vs. them” is a real thing that really happens. If every girl who says she likes the X-Men is lying, there’s no reason to listen to her, or let her be on your panels, or let her have a say in your franchise. If girls ruin everything, why let them into your genre? And if every time I try to engage with the wider fandom I get told “ew, you’re a girl, you can’t really like this stuff,” how long am I going to keep trying?
The answer, for me at least, is forever. I’m going to keep trying forever. And that’s where we need to have each other’s backs. If you hear someone saying “oh, she’s a fake geek girl, she’s wearing that costume for the attention,” call them on it. Good cosplay is an art form in and of itself. Those costumes can represent hundreds of hours of research and fabrication and effort, and that deserves our respect. Also, why should a girl being conventionally pretty mean she can’t be a geek? Remember that many of us fall in love with these genres during our awkward tween years, where no one is a contestant on America’s Next Top Hot Chick. Reading science fiction doesn’t change your DNA. Sadly. If you hear someone saying “girls don’t like zombies” or “girls hate superhero comics” or “girls don’t like horror movies,” tell them that they’re wrong. The internet is full of girls who love all those things. So is the real world.
Girls read and write science fiction and fantasy and horror and splatterpunk and cyberpunk and steampunk and everything else in the universe. Girls dream just as big as boys do. Dreams have no gender. Dreams are for everybody.
Don’t let anybody tell you different.
Seanan writes things. Sometimes those things are science fiction or even horror, despite her having been a girl for as long as anyone remembers. Since she has regularly been reminded that girls don’t get to like science fiction or horror, she has thus determined that she must actually be the vanguard of an invading race of alien plant people. Prepare for conquest, meat creatures, and follow www.seananmcguire.com for invasion updates.