Welcome to The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, a non-fiction anthology about a geek’s love life. Well, a fangirl’s love life.
Kelly Sue DeConnick (Bitch Planet) provides the foreword, the cover is by Noelle Stevenson (Nimona) and stories are told by Margaret Atwood (Angel Catbird), Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer), and Margaruitte Bennet (A-Force). It’s like an all-star roster for women creators and writers.
What started as a small passion project by editor Hope Nicholson resonated with creators in the industry. The mediums range from comics to illustrated stories to prose, with stories told by not only the all-stars, but also new creators from Canada.
The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is available now online and will be available in print Wednesday. Beyond October, Nicholson, a Toronto native, is hoping to start a men’s and gender-inclusive anthology.
Nicholson isn’t a household name, but she’s used Kickstarter to fund multiple projects about Canada’s history of superheroes and is a staunch supporter of fangirls and local projects. Think your local urban-farm activist but for comic books.
Starting out as a documentary filmmaker, Nicholson became a researcher of Canadian superhero history and eventually started crowd-funding her own projects. This includes Nelvana of the Northern Lights, a comprehensive collection of Canada’s own superheroine from the 1940s. She’s also partnered with Atwood to be a consulting editor on Angel Catbird.
It is in fact a very Canadian project, with more than half of the talent hailing from “America’s Top Hat.” Once again, the under-appreciated northern neighbor is showing its nerd pride.
Dark Horse picked up the project after the Kickstarter generated so much support and attached bigger names to the project (hence Stevenson and DeConnick,) which turned out to be a bit of a story in itself:
“After having Margaret Atwood attached I don’t think I was surprised at much anymore, and Kelly Sue is a public fan of hers, so it wasn’t too surprising, but Kelly Sue actually said no when she read the book,” Nicholson says in an email. “She discusses it frankly in her foreword.
“I think a lot of us fight against the idea of talking candidly about romance, and for a lot of the writers it was a very vulnerable experience to put themselves out there, especially fearing that it might get dismissed as a ‘chick lit’ book. So that an accomplished writer can struggle against the same type of vulnerabilities and internal misogyny a lot of us do every day, it was good to see. And of course she triumphed against it and wrote the foreword in the end with no convincing on my part!”
It was important to Nicholson to tell the stories of women she knew and reveal the actual stories of geeky love lives. Fangirls aren’t all in love with the same geeky stuff, and fangirls don’t always love the same kind of people.
“A lot of my friends are queer, and it’s important to me to showcase their stories,” she says. “Non-fiction was very important to me for this project because I wanted people to read real accounts by real people, to know that our lives outside of the worlds we create and live in are complex and varied.”
J.M. Frey is an established sci-fi writer (her last name is pronounced ‘Fry’, ergo her twitter handle, @sciFrey) who started in academics and tumbled into fan-fiction. Her personal prose piece, “How Fanfiction Made Me Gay” explores how she learned to express her own sexuality and be represented through fanfic.
Frey’s first fandom in a long list was Star Trek. And with Star Trek came cosplay, and with cosplay came the online cosplay called fan fiction. However, she didn’t start writing her own original fiction until she was hit by a car and forced to rest as her knee healed. And that novel, Triptych, was later picked up and won a few awards itself.
“And I said, ‘I guess I don’t suck,'” Frey says, “and that’s how I became a writer.”
Frey met Nicholson through the family, with a capital F. Canada, it turns out, used to have a so-called Nerd Mafia. There were meetings and monthly get-togethers — seriously. Canadian geeks are hardcore. The group eventually disbanded, but Nicholson and Frey made a lasting friendship through their mutual Family ties.
Frey agreed without knowing the details when Nicholson mentioned a book in the works.
“I’ll say yes to anything with Hope in it,” Frey says. “I respect her that much as a creator and as a nerd and as a feminist. Anything she asks me to do, it’s an automatic yes; I don’t care what it is. And of course, Margaret Atwood (was involved).”
“How Fanfiction Made Me Gay” is, as Frey put it, a personal essay “with a little bit of TMI.” It explains in part how Frey used fan fiction and the labels she found there to explain and help explore her bisexuality.
“So fan fiction didn’t make me gay,” she says. “It just made me realize I’m gay.”
Megan Kearney, author of “Yes, No, Maybe” and “Dibs on the Goblin King,” got in touch with Nicholson through a defunct workshop. Kearney is a long-time illustrator and fangirl with a “dark, dark, Pokémon-tinged past,” as she puts it.
“Ever since I was little, I was very interested in the medium of comics, while there wasn’t a lot that piqued my interest story-wise,” Kearney says. “So as a small, small kid, I was really frustrated that there was this great medium but no good stories, which sounds terrible, but when you’re a 7-year-old girl in the early 90s, there really wasn’t a whole lot that was aimed at me.”
“Dibs on the Goblin King” is a think-piece on how geeky girls tend to love the “gothic bad-boys” (and I mean, we can’t deny this) while “Yes, No, Maybe” discusses overcoming an aversion to romance. Kearney started her creator career in animation, but it was quickly apparent to her that this was not the best fit. So she rented an office. She got friends to buy in, too. And so a small band of creators had their own studio.
She met Nicholson through a High Tea held by other creators, and when Nicholson started to talk about a book she was putting together Kearney passed along her email.
“The next thing we knew, she’d announced it with our names attached, so I guess we’re in that book,” Kearney says. “I’m super thrilled we’re going to be getting a printing by Dark Horse now. It’s like, OK, we’re running with the big dogs now. Put that on my resume now!”
J.M Frey is at www.jmfrey.net and on Twitter at @scifrey
Megan Kearney is on Patreon and online at thequietly.com.