I wanted to go to this panel because Jamala Henderson was the moderator, and I love her voice and her presence. She and I met for the first time at the premiere of Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year, and now I’m part of a group of Marvel enthusiasts that shares awesome upcoming Marvel things with each other.
I also wanted to go to this panel because I am a little bit of a history geek. Not about every aspect of history, but the history of fandom is definitely something that sparked an interest. I know MY history with fandom, and I love hearing other people’s histories as well–and this panel was the ultimate history of women in fandom.
Linda Deneroff, Tish Wells, Susan Matthews, Jamala Henderson, Maggie Nowakowska
The speakers in the panel were four women with various connections to the beginnings of fandom: Linda Deneroff, Susan Matthews, Maggie Nowakowska, and Tish Wells. Each of these women was involved in the beginnings of media and print fandom in the 60s and 70s, primarily around Star Trek and Star Wars. They each spoke about the first books they read that got them into science fiction–everything from Freddie and the Space Shipto Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot to the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Jamala asked the panelists what they loved about those early science fiction books they read. Susan said, “It was a new world where anything could happen, but there wasn’t any magic!” Linda was struck by the commonalities between what she was learning to read and the advent of the United States space program. Maggie read all the kids’ science fiction books available in her local library, and then moved onto the adult books (which is just what I did!). Tish spoke briefly about an author named Hugh Walters and how she read every book he wrote.
The conversation moved from books to fandom, and how the women got started in media fandom, specifically. All four of them had the same response: Star Trek. They saw the show, then worked on Star Trek fanzines, attended Star Trek conventions, joined Star Trek discussion groups, and cosplayed the characters they liked, whether they were men or women. There wasn’t anything special about a woman dressed as Han Solo or Luke Skywalker; they wore what they wanted to wear.
Having fandom in their lives inspired all four of the panelists in different ways. Susan began writing her own fiction in about 1978, but often kept it to herself. She published her first novel in 1997. Linda was inspired to take up photography, as well as publishing and traveling. Maggie started helping to publish fanzines–most of which were written, typed, mimeographed, and compiled (all by hand) to be sent around the country. Tish said fandom became part of her life as a journalist as she wrote her first published piece on a WorldCon; that piece got her a job, which sent her to Los Angeles for a Star Wars costume exhibit, at which she met and interviewed George Lucas!
All of them said they “found their ‘selves’” in fandom; there was a huge community linked to fandoms and conventions. They encouraged each other to do what they loved, it was powerful enough to keep them doing it. They told stories of women whose husbands wouldn’t allow them to attend science fiction conventions because their husbands “needed them home to cook their meals”. One woman apparently put together fanzines in her car, because her husband wouldn’t allow them in the house. There was even a woman they knew who was institutionalized! Her husband thought that the things she was doing and wanted to do around fandom were literally insane. This sounds like something out of the nineteenth century, or maybe even the early twentieth century; but these happened in the 1970s and 1980s, here in the United States.
Each of these four women have learned very powerful things in their lives through fandom.
Community is powerful.
Sisterhood is powerful.
Whatever it is, you can do it.
I left this “Geek Elders Speak” panel with tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat, and the determination to learn more about the history of women in fandom. I know my history, and I knew about some of the early fanzines; I was even part of a correspondence fiction club called The Third Fleet out of California where we made our own characters, took Starfleet ranks, and were placed on “ships” (groups of other writers) to write stories with our characters and fellow “shipmates”. But nothing I did when I got into fandom prepared me to hear Maggie, Susan, Linda, and Tish speak about their experiences. I’m proud to be part of their ranks, years later, and thinking of ways to do some of the kinds of things they did: building and fostering community, mentoring each other (both in life and fandom), and making sure that what they did–how they built and fostered the communities we have today–continues to grow.
The info sheet for The Third Fleet Academy
If you were at the “Geek Elders Speak” panel at GeekGirlCon ‘14, what impressed you the most about the panelists? How did YOU come to fandom? And if there was one thing you could do to help others in our community and build their fandom experiences, what would that be?
And guess what: you can already get your tickets for GeekGirlCon ‘15! We’ve sold out entirely two years in a row, and next year is our fifth anniversary. Don’t miss it!
Below is a bibliography of some of the books and publications mentioned and discussed by the panelists; Maggie Nowakowska forwarded it to GeekGirlCon so we could share it with anyone who wants the information, and to learn more about early media fandom.
Space Cat, Ruthven Todd (orig. 1952) For the young girls in your life. This was the very first book I took out of the library when I was in 1st grade.
Star Trek Lives!, Jacqueline Lichtenberg (1975) A classic, written by a media fan, that allowed many women to discover Star Trek fandom. If you’ve ever wondered how Trek fandom came to be an grew so powerful, this is a good book to read.
Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth, Camille Bacon-Smith (1992) A frank discussion of how fandom developed socially in the 1980s. The author participated in fandom herself and describes the ways a fandom supported and challenged women in the 1980s. IMO, Bacon-Smith nails the problems that often arise between those who made up the “first fandom” of a favorite series and the “second fandom,” made up of those who join later, bringing different, often conflicting interpretations to the mix.
Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History, 1967-1987. Joan Marie Verba (1996) A year-by-year review of Star Trek fandom by someone who was there. If you want to travel the years of fandom vicariously, this is the book for you. All the people who paved the way for media fandom, all the social and fanzine developments, are here.
Fan Phenomena series: Star Trek, Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman, Twin Peaks, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austin, The Hunger Games, Various editors (2013) England brings us a series of books about many of the world-wide media fandoms that have developed over the years.
“Fangirls Flying High,” Tricia Barr, article on women in SW fandom, Star Wars Insider Issue 151 (Aug/Sept 2014)
How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, Chris Taylor (2014) An excellent history about how Star Wars, and Star Wars fandom took media fandom mainstream and made Star Wars the phenomenon that it is. Deeply researched, this book will take you into the heart of the Star Wars experience.
**Also, you can help make the paperback version better. The Star Wars fandom that Taylor describes is made up of boys and men. Taylor wants to know more about the women of Star Wars fandom. Read the book and when you review it, ask for more coverage of all the girls and women who love Star Wars! Tell Taylor about all of us who love Star Wars now and have for years.**
Spring has officially sprung, dear blog readers! And that means flowers popping up, bursts of sun to up those depleted vitamin D levels, and, most importantly, plenty of amazing events coming up! Here’s a look at what’s happening this month. Get ready to mark your calendars for movies, meetups, and talks galore!
Image Description: A gif of Alice from the animated movie “Alice in Wonderland” lying in a field of grass as daisies blow in the breeze above her. Source: Giphy.
Join us on March 31st for an inspiring afternoon with students from Shanti Bhavan and Director of Operations, Ajit George. Shanti Bhavan, a school in Southern India, caters exclusively to children from India’s lowest socioeconomic class and is the subject of the recent documentary Daughters of Destiny. The event kicks off at 12:00 p.m. with a light lunch. Shree and Visali, Glamour Woman of the Year in 2014, will share their stories and the impact that Shanti Bhavan has had on their lives. Guests are invited to stay for a special screening of Daughters of Destiny, which tells how the unique educational model of Shanti Bhavan equips its students to break out of the cycle of poverty. The only educational program of its kind, Shanti Bhavan offers 17 years of rigorous academics, leadership development and professional guidance completely free of charge. The school’s graduates have a 100% university acceptance rate, work at Fortune 500 companies and contribute 20-50% of their salaries to their families and communities – helping end the poverty that has trapped India’s poorest communities for generations. This is a free event but donations are welcome. Visit shantibhavanchildren.org to learn more about the school and ways you can get involved.
(*Note: okay, so this is obviously not quite April, but WHAT a great event!)
This is the first of our series of live blogs from GeekGirlCon ‘14–and let me tell you, we are excited! The doors are open, lines are forming outside panel rooms, merch and art are already flying off the tables…it’s pretty amazing.
So far this morning I’ve seen a cosplayer Baby Groot (a child with each foot in half flower pots as shoes, so adorable!), Adventure Time people, someone wandering around under a cloud with various colored LED lights, Captain Marvel, Doctor Horrible, some Starfleet officers, and more geeky t-shirts than I can possibly describe. The photo booth on the second floor, across from Artist Alley, is already in full swing–flashes galore! I’m very excited to see those photos on our Flickr page in a few weeks.
I’m really, really looking forward to a bunch of panels and events today. How to Be a Nerd for a Living is on at 11 a.m. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do that for years, and I think this is going to be a very, very good panel for me! Feminist Community Building 101 is at 12 p.m., and I’m discovering more and more about what feminism IS and ISN’T in my life these days.
John and Lily Williamson
A Life of Creation, Not Consumption with John and Lily Williamson, a father/daughter team, will be documenting the things they’ve made together in the past couple of years at 1 p.m.Curious About Comics? We’ve Got You Covered! at 2 p.m. is right up my alley. I’m coming to the comics game a lot later than some of my geeky friends, and this is going to be a great place for me to get in on the ground floor–where to start, what to read next, and specific stuff to concentrate on.
Sabrina Taylor, Jamie Broadnax, Kara O’Connor, Charles “Zan” Christensen, Adrienne Fox, and part of Susie Rantz!
Sammus, one of our performers at tonight’s GeekGirlCONcert, is doing a signing in our Media Signing area at 4 p.m., and I’m planning to swing by to hopefully get my program book signed. That’s the same time as Foam-Fight Like a Girl, though, so I’m going to have to figure out which one I want to do more. It always becomes a problem–trying to do All The Things!
At 5 p.m. in room 303, our Costume Contest is getting into swing. I missed last year’s contest, and there’s a panel called The Heroine’s Journey: Moving Beyond Campbell’s Monomyth at the same time, so again, hard choices! Outdoor Trek is putting on “Mirror, Mirror” at 7 p.m., and then the GeekGirlCONcert starts at 8 p.m., so I definitely have my night fully planned!
Tomorrow is going to be just as amazing: Diversity in Young Adult Fiction (even though I’m not technically a young anymore), Geek Elders Speak: How Media Fandom Empowered Women in the 60s, 70s, and 80s (even though I’m not quite in the “elders” category yet, either!), Fandom and Black Twitter, Women in Words, Careers You Never Knew You Wanted, Fatness & Fandom, Women in Nerd Music, and so many others–and our closing celebration, headlined by former NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence! I always wanted to be an astronaut, and I’m so excited to hear her speak–and hopefully ask her a question or two as well!
Seriously, folks–there is so much AWESOME here. And we’re just getting started!
In a piece here last year, I shared how community building is an effective way to deter bullying and gatekeeping. One of the reasons I am so passionate about supporting GeekGirlCon is the sense of inclusiveness and welcome that is evident the moment you enter the venue. In the three years I have attended, I have made important connections with members of the geek community. Sometimes I have gained a new geek friend or ally; GeekGirlCon gave me the opportunity to meet Ashley Eckstein, who invited me to be a contributor in her own fangirl community-building venture, Her Universe’s Fangirl of the Day. Last year’s connections started me down a wonderful journey that resulted in a feature article in Star Wars Insider Issue #151, where I had chance to mention GeekGirlCon.
Panelists from the 2013 Star Wars panel: Linda Hansen-Raj, Amy Ratcliffe, Meg Humphrey, Lisa Granshaw and Tricia Barr, plus panel attendees. Photo by Joanne Perrault/FANgirl Blog
As an advocate for female fans of Star Wars, I have always known women loved the franchise and have sought ways to highlight their contributions. Greg Kubie, who markets Star Wars Books for Random House, had sent along an introduction to journalist Tish Wells. She and I spent over an hour in a corner of the convention hall chatting about Star Wars, the dynamics of the fandom, and her experience interviewing George Lucas. Later that day Tish introduced me to a few more longtime fans, including Maggie Nowakowska, who has been a fan academic, fanfic writer, and fanzine contributor since the late 1970s. Maggie and I exchanged contact information after she recollected an old fanzine piece that wondered where all the men were in Star Wars fandom. Considering the common perception of the state of today’s fandom, it was a piece of Star Wars history that definitely interested me.
Corresponding with Maggie – each email was marked with fantastic looks back at fandom before the internet – was like reading a history of fandom. I decided to ask Maggie to share her memories as part of an oral history project. Shortly after the recording was made, I was solicited to write a piece on fangirls for Star Wars Insider magazine. The Force seemed to be guiding me in a direction, and Maggie’s journey as a Star Wars fangirl became the focal point of that piece. Star Wars Insider Issue #151 included several pieces featuring the contribution of women to the franchise, including Lisa Granshaw’s article on geek couture. Lisa will be joining me on the panel “Fangirls Find the Force: Star Wars, from Episode VII and Beyond” at GeekGirlCon this year, where we will talk about the franchise and how we can participate in shaping its future.
You can listen to Maggie Nowakowska’s oral history on my podcast Fangirl Chat. She will also be participating in the GeekGirlCon panel “Geek Elders Speak: How Media Fandom Empowered Women in the 60s, 70s, and 80s” where I am sure she share some more wonderful stories.
Tricia Barr discusses Star Wars, fandom, and strong female characters at FANgirl Blog. Her novel WYNDEwon the Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/ Fantasy/Horror Ebook in the 2014 Independent Publisher Awards. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com. For updates on all things FANgirl, follow @FANgirlcantina on Twitter.
With the start of the new year, it is time to look at the fresh calendar and fill it up with the events of our lives and of our interests. I asked GeekGirlCon staffers what things and events of geeky origin they are looking forward to in 2014. Here’s what they had to say.
Copy Writer SG-1 responded off the bat with an event all of us at GeekGirlCon can agree upon. “I’m definitely looking forward to GeekGirlCon ’14. As a Copy Writer, the vast majority of my work is completed before the convention doors open, so going to the convention, meeting other convention-goers, seeing friends I’ve made from past conventions and other geeky events over the years, and attending the panels I’ve been writing about for the program book is really what it’s all about for me. Meeting people I’ve admired for years–like GeekGirlCon ’13 guest Denise Crosby–is the icing on the biggest cake I can imagine. I can’t wait to see what we put together for this year!!”
Richard Dean Anderson during his MacGyver years. Image Source.
Copy Writer AJ Dent gave us another event many staffers attend (including me!). “Other than GeekGirlCon ’14 (!!), in 2014 I’m most looking forward to the Emerald City Comicon at the end of March. I missed it last year, and can’t make that mistake again! Having grown up watching The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men In Tights almost religiously, I’m mega-excited that actor Cary Elwes will be attending. I also recently learned that Richard Dean Anderson, aka MacGyver, briefly went to the same college I did, St. Cloud State University! I’ll probably awkwardly blurt this out if I get the chance to meet him, then ask him if we can be friends. Because I’m smooth like that.
UX Designer Kathryn Storm is into games and gadgets and gave me a few she is looking forward to this year. “Elder Scrolls Onlineand Below, both for Xbox One. Particularly, what I’ve seen as far as gameplay from Below looks so beautiful and captivating. I’m also looking forward to some biometric and virtual reality releases for gaming this year. And considering an Airo (probably the most interesting health monitor I’ve seen) even though I just bought a FitBit Flex. So many lovely gadgets!”
Elder Scrolls Online
Customer Service Manager Brittany Edwards continues with expected games in 2014. “Most of my geek origin story is rooted in PC gaming, so it’s only natural that what I’m most looking forward to is in that vein. The first PC release I’m looking forward to is Shadowrun: Dragonfall, new content for Shadowrun Returns, an amazing turn-based RPG I backed on Kickstarter situated in the Shadowrun universe, an intricately crafted cyberpunk/urban fantasy world. New content for Diablo III, titled Reaper of Souls, is something I’ve been eagerly awaiting since the original game’s release for PC in 2012. Both are scheduled to be released the beginning of this year.
“In addition to those, an MMO addition to the Elder Scrolls series (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, etc.), aptly titled Elder Scrolls Online, is slated for an as-yet-undetermined release date sometime in 2014. I discovered Elder Scrolls late in the series, but I found the universe interesting and engaging in prior single-player iterations- and MMOs are one of my favourite PC game genres. I have been desperately seeking something to fill the hole World of Warcraft left in my heart, and I have high hopes for Elder Scrolls Online in this regard. Time will tell!”
Concept art from Elder Scrolls Online: Valenwood. Image Source.
President of the Board and Twitter Administrator Kristine Hassell will be spending a good portion of her time in the movie theater. (Believe me, I will be too!) “It would be daft not to say I was excited about our fourth convention but I’m also looking forward to the roster of geeky films hitting the local cinemas throughout 2014. There are almost too many films for me to name-check but here is my short list:
“On March 14th, Veronica Mars returns to Neptune for her ten year reunion. Let the snark begin! April 4th brings Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I can’t wait to see Black Widow again and meet Falcon for the first time. X-Men: Days of Future Past opens on May 23rd. Singer returns to the X-Men franchise and I have high hopes to see what they do with the Uncanny X-Men story lines.
“August is a busy month for comic book fans. On the 1st, we get Guardians of the Galaxy. Remember Benicio Del Toro’s cameo at the end of the last Thor? The Collector is back and we get Vin Diesel as Groot! On the 22nd, one of my favourite Texans, Robert Rodriguez returns us to Sin City for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
“Katniss and co return on November 21st in another Mockingjay and rounding out the year’s geektastic film offerings? The final installation in The Hobbit trilogy on December 17th!”
What are you looking forward to this year?
Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services