First, an acknowledgement.
I am overly critical (and skeptical) of people who write about geekdom/fandom/nerd culture.
I suppose because, like so many lifelong geeks, I have been burned before with stories like THE BIG BANG THEORY and just in general life. For forever nerd culture has been the butt of the joke, has been exploited and picked on for years in almost every facet, from almost every angle, so I feel that it’s understandable one might be a wee bit (a lot bit) anxious about the sudden influx of mainstream attention on out little corner of the multiverse.
Us geeks, gee, we’ve become somewhat used to having stories be about us but not made for us.
QUEENS OF GEEK is part of a (thankfully) growing trend of geeks taking the reins and telling their own stories. Exposing the soft underbelly of nerd culture only to give us a bit of a hug, a bit of a pat and tell us we’re doing okay and the things we like and the way we like them are great.
I probably put a lot of pressure on my reading of QUEENS OF GEEK (particularly because I grew up a geek, be a geek, breathe a geek and because my current MS deals in a lot of similar elements) but seriously, my fears and worries were unfounded with this novel.
It is clear QUEENS OF GEEK comes from not only a place of deep love and appreciation for everything nerdy but also from experience. From the first couple of pages I could tell from the references alone (since references are our primary form of communication as nerds) that this story was in knowing, careful, appreciative hands. Wilde correctly and deftly paints for us a scene with our characters not only in the centre of the ‘SupaCon’ *cough SDCC cough* but also undeniably our people.
We kick off with three Aussies attending the northern hemisphere’s biggest convention. Supa Con. Wilde captures the casual convention scene pretty well, whether it’s your first time attending, photo ops and signing lines, the artists lane, it’s a familiar landscape. Our three protags (two main p.o.v characters) are something beautiful about this book. We have Taylor a bookophile who’s heavily into the bookish scene, cosplaying her favourite character and in love with her best mate Jamie and Charlie a famous Youtuber and indie actress but nonetheless nerdy like the rest of us.
There is strength in the portrayal of these characters. In their uniquely #LoveOzYA diversity and intersectionality that goes far past a certain identity and fleshes them into human beings (because they just are).
I’m not on the Aespie spectrum but a lot of Taylor’s experiences of anxiety and dissociation resonated quite strongly with me (and I suspect other people with some form of anxiety disorder). Her experiences as a person on the spectrum were so well realised and so well written that it was incredibly heartening to read about. Charlie also, our other main protag was great bisexual rep on the page, unashamed, untethered by expectation and stereotyping, I really enjoyed that facets (see: most facets) of her character. And the way these two found spaces for themselves in nerd culture is a real staple of what this scene is for many of us. Many geeky fans are marginalised people, albeit it in different ways (race, sexuality, gender, disability or neuro-typically *not a word, now a word*) because we can easy carve out spaces and even whole communities with others who share a powerful and unique passion for the things we love.
I loved seeing this element of real life nerdom on the page. A true reflection of the nerd environment I grew up in.
Wilde crafts all her characters with sensitivity towards their identity experiences. This all came across the page as an honest and truthful portrayal that resonates with like-living readers.
The romantic relationships (understandably if you know anything about me) weren’t my favourite part of the story, I felt that rather the characters shined brighter as individuals, overcoming personal challenges and fears.
Though this is probably not insta-love (I am not a great judge of insta-love) it did feel a bit like it (with both main characters/relationship) then again, I’ve been conditioned by fanfiction to believe that anything under 120,000 words of pining and soulful glancing is insta-love so—again, the love stories were not a highlight for me personally. They didn’t bother me (and they’re not badly written or told at all) just it isn’t/wasn’t my cuppa tea, they didn’t engage my interest as much as the scenes and experiences of the individual characters personal growth and triumph.
There were elements of the story that felt a little too fluffy as well, a little too feel good and perfect (pretty much all of Jamie’s character) but again, not a bad thing! There were a lot of great messages to take away from this work about body positivity, self-appreciation and self-acceptance, but at times they got a little soliloquy-esque, towards the end especially since the audience for this book and most of its readers are either aware of these messages or see similar ideas regularly posted on Tumblr.
In general this was a lighter fluffier look at nerd culture and fandom, touching briefly on some of the scene’s chief issues (online racism, sexism, fetishizing of RP and queer relationships, bullying, appropriation and classism) but not really delving into them. Truly, I didn’t expect for the work to.
The intensity, heaviness and obsession that can be fandom/nerd culture was overlooked for a lighter, more relatable feel and that’s not a bad thing, just something I noticed. Again, this read more as a light celebration of geekery and less so a dive into all facets of the culture.
Overall, this is the book that got me out of my reading slump. A fluffy feel good read and a great outlook on the con scene or geekery for those of us who’ve never really gotten to see that in print before (outside of what we write ourselves).
QUEENS OF GEEK was like reading a book that spoke my language (naming my OTP Destiel? Jen, you stole my heart), with references and name drops that within my world carry a weight and meaning all of their own. Great intersectionality, a peak #LoveOzYA read that reflected back to me a world I not only recognise but also live in.
My mum (OUTLANDERS Druid), brother (Kylo Ren, STARWARS), sister (Kaylee Frye, FIREFLY) and I (Cable, MARVEL) all cosplaying for a convention last year (2016).