Non-Fiction Book Review – The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • Title: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geek Girls
  • Author: Sam Maggs
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/10/2015

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and some aspects of it are very well-researched. The resources pages at the back are definitely going to be worth checking out. Sam, by the way, is short for Samantha.

This book is half guidebook how-to manual and half feminist celebration of fangirls. In many ways, it could have been sub-titled, “The Fangirl’s Guide to Tumblr”, though it does venture beyond that, especially in the areas of Anime, Comics, and Gaming.

What I found, um, intriguing is that it seems to really reflect a completely different generation. The fangirls celebrated in this book have grown up with Tumblr, Twitter, youTube, and really big conventions like San Diego Comic Con and DragonCon – yet no mention is made of the the traditional media cons, especially ones that were originally run by women (some still are) and which catered to female fans. Yes, I’m talking about MediawestCon, Chicago TARDIS, and the traditional Star Trek and other conventions. It just seems that smaller, local, fan-run conventions aren’t even on the author’s radar. (Even Toronto Trek/Polaris/whatever-they’re-calling-it this year isn’t mentioned in the conventions section or the resources – and the author is from Toronto.) It just seemed strange. And if your advising 18-14 year old women to “yes, SDCC, just go” – it seemed to me that maybe she should have at least suggested checking out your local Comics/Gaming/SF/Media con. For one thing, it’s easier to get your feet wet at a convention with a few hundred people or even 1000, rather than one of the biggest conventions in the US.

But on the other hand, part of the message of the book is “Be Fearless”. OK, be safe but be fearless. And that is a really good message – and it’s a great message for young, enthusiastic girls. For once, at least this book isn’t full of scare-mongering about the Internet.

Her section on Cosplay is brilliant. Her discussion of “Cosplay is not consent” explains exactly what that means, what to do if you are harassed (talk to con security and/or volunteers). It’s not complicated. And her explanation of the whats, whys, hows, and even whos of Cosplay was also very instructive. I loved learning about how women and men who Costume make, fabricate, put together, and even buy or commission costumes. (It’s not as hard as I always assumed!)

She’s also without restraint teaching about respect for creativity, respect for the creators of art (be it written, drawn, crafted, sewn, or any other form of fan art). No whiny, “but that’s illegal” arguments here. And Sam never says some types of art, such as Cosplay, are more valid than others, such as fan fiction, or blogging about your OTP. She’s pretty even handed about every fangirl’s opinion is OK. She constantly reminds the reader to respect other girl’s opinions and likes – “even if their OTP is your NOTP”. If that confuses you, it’s updated IDIC, or a celebration of diversity – all diversity. OTP is One True Pairing or the romantic pair from a book, TV show, movie, video game, comic, or magna that you really love – write fan fiction about, blog about on Tumblr, and just see as your perfect romantic pairing that must get together. For fangirls, that pairing can be male/female, male/male, female/female, whatever. It can be a pair that actually is canon to TV show, film, comic, etc. – or not so much. A NOTP is Never or Not OTP, basically the couple you can never see together, the couple that does not rock your boat even if it’s canon. Stories that bring romance to a couple, whether canon to the show or not, “ship” characters, as in “relationship”. Canon, though sometimes complicated – ask someone to explain Star Wars canon sometime, is generally the actual work. Episodes of a TV series; the film as it was released; the actual book(s). Etc. IDIC is the Star Trek philosophy of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”, or basically – respect for people in all their diverse wonderfulness. Sam Maggs makes it very clear, that being rude to people who you disagree with, especially over your favorite and not-favorite geek things, is not cool.

The books includes descriptions and advice for dealing with Internet Trolls as well (up to and including how to contact moderators, block another account, contact law enforcement, etc.) And she stresses safety for in-person meetings such as conventions.

The book also includes a enlightening, well-written, intelligent explanation of feminism. I found myself nodding and fist-pumping the air (figuratively) over that chapter, because yes. The Myths of Feminism was especially well written.

Highly recommended to any fan, older fans who might want to try learning about their younger cohort, younger fans who have mastered Tumblr and want to branch out into modern fandom, media studies students (try not to let the informal language put you off), and the reporter scratching their head and saying, huh? It’s a fun, short, highly recommended read.

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Non-Fiction Book Review – Oh Myyy!

  • Title: Oh Myyy! There Goes the Internet
  • Author: George Takei
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/30/2013

Computers and Social Media is one of the few areas where experience can often be a better claim to expert status than “traditional” education. Takei rightfully claims to be an expert on Social Media, because he is extremely successful. The back of the book describes Takei as “a social media juggernaut with nearly four million fans on Facebook”. His posts not only gain thousands of likes and shares, but due to the exponential nature of social media sharing sites often “go viral”, a media term meaning, “to spread very quickly”, not as is sometimes reported, “to be filled with viruses”.

Yet Takei’s book is not a dry marketing manual aimed at companies who want to sell stuff using social media. Yes, there’s good advice for business people here, and the book would make an excellent textbook, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring.

Takei’s writing is crisp and funny. Despite his background (he and his family were held in American prison camps during World War II – despite being loyal American citizens) – Takei manages to see the humorous side first. This may be why his posts (which often take full advantage of the visual nature of today’s Internet) often spread so far and so fast. Everyone likes to laugh and nearly everyone enjoys a good joke or pun.

Oh Myyy! There Goes the Internet is half advice manual and half memoir – recounting how Takei discovered and “conquered” Social Media. The book is filled with copies of great “meme’s” – those pictural sayings that pop-up over and over on Facebook and are still amusing (for example, Grumpy Cat, various versions of the “Keep Calm…” poster, various updates to the line from the film Fellowship of the Ring, ‘One simply does not walk into Mordor.’) So it’s a quick, and again, funny read. But it’s also full of excellent advice – for example, emphasizing the importance of “engagement” over lecturing the audience.

However, the book also does a simply brilliant job of explaining how Social Media works, especially how Facebook’s experimental “algorithms” work. This makes the book useful as well as amusing to read.

I highly recommend this book!

Non-Fiction Book Review – Twitter Who vol. 3: The Third Doctor

  • Title: Twitter Who vol. 3: The Third Doctor
  • Author: Hannah J. Rothman
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/18/2016

Hannah J. Rothman’s Twitter Who series is a joy to read. I read volume 3 last weekend, but unfortunately this week was so busy this is the first time I’ve had to sit down and review it.

Hannah’s project is to watch all of Classic Who and “live-Tweet” her reactions. The “live-Tweets” are then collected for each story, similar to a log of live-Tweeting session. In volume three, although the stories are presented in order, it’s evident from the dates for each collection of Tweets that the stories were not watched in order. However, that isn’t a negative. This book is even more fun and amusing, well-crafted and insightful than the previous two volumes. I enjoyed it very much.

I also found myself in complete agreement over Hannah’s opinions of Pertwee’s companions – all of whom she liked for different reasons, including one of my personal favorite companions: Jo Grant. I’ve always liked Jo, and for years Doctor Who fandom as a whole has been dismissive of her character – writing her off as a ditz and a screamer. However, Jo is quite capable, and she’s fiercely loyal to the Doctor. Jo grows during her time as a companion – something I always appreciate in any television character, where there’s time for a character to grow. But then, the first story I saw with Jo was “Frontier in Space” and she basically kicks butt in that, resisting the Master’s hypotism, rescuing the Doctor, even caring for an injured Doctor (which carries over to the next story, “Planet of the Daleks” where she leaves the safety of the TARDIS on an alien, hostile planet to find help for the Doctor). Anyway, Jo has inner strength. It was nice to read another Whovian who appreciates Ms. Grant. And the author, Hannah Rothman, also doesn’t fall in the trap of insulting or putting down Pertwee’s other companions. She rightly points out just how liberated and special Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw is – and that it was the production team at fault for not knowing what to do with a character as clever as the Doctor. And then there’s Sarah Jane, whom everyone loves.

The Pertwee Era, for all it’s “UNIT Boys” and James Bond-like emphasis on action, vehicle chases, gadgets, and even fancy dress costumes – had great female companions.

Twitter Who is a fast read, but it is well worth it. I recommend it and look forward to future volumes in the series.

Non-Fiction Book Review – Twitter Who vol. 2: The Second Doctor

  • Title: Twitter Who vol. 2: The Second Doctor
  • Author: Hannah J. Rothman
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/06/2014

Rothman’s second volume follows the same format as the first, each Patrick Troughton Doctor Who story, including reconstructions of the missing ones is reviewed in Twitter posts, with several posts per story gathered together into a single blog post. So, again, it’s like reading a transcript of a live tweeting event. In this volume, the discussions of the individual stories are longer. However, it’s still a very fun, enjoyable, light, funny, and a quick read. I enjoyed it very much and I look forward to the rest of the series.

Twitter Who, Vol. 2 – The Second Doctor is highly recommended, especially to fans of the world’s longest-running Science Fiction television series, Doctor Who. The format is also unique to the deluge of non-fiction books about Doctor Who especially since the 50th anniversary last year.

Non-Fiction Book Review – Twitter Who vol. 1: The First Doctor

  • Title: Twitter Who vol. 1: The First Doctor
  • Author: Hannah J. Rothman
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/02/2014

Another “Why didn’t I think of that?” Doctor Who book, but in this case I absolutely loved it. This is not a “summarize every story in only 140 characters” book. Rather, each story is reacted to in a series of 140-character posts that together form a single blog post. So, in effect, it’s like reading a transcript of a live-tweeting event. The book is fun, witty, and full of squeee – but that’s a good thing. Occasionally, I had trouble deciphering some of the slang and abbreviations – but I still really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it.

The author, Hannah J. Rothman, was both after the original series left our screens in 1989, liked New Who, and then started watching Classic Who and loved it. As a Classic Who fan – I just think that’s so cool! And it flies in the face of conventional “wisdom” that New Who fans can’t watch the original series, or that they won’t enjoy it. Hah! Hannah’s reviews are enthusiastic, bright, funny, and darn it but I now really want to re-watch all of my William Hartnell (the First Doctor) DVDs.

I had just a couple of quick comments: a dictionary in the back of slang and Twitter terms would have helped. It took me a while to get used to the author’s use of “One” to refer to The First Doctor – but considering this book was originally a Twitter account feed it makes sense – 3 characters verses 16 is quite a savings. And, yes, I did note the dates of the original blog posts, so I realise that the DVDs with animated reconstructions probably weren’t available in 2010, but it bothered me some that rather than reviewing the DVDs for episodes such as “The Reign of Terror” and “The Tenth Planet” which were released with the missing episode(s) reconstructed completely with animation and the original soundtrack, the author relied on telesnap reconstructions instead. On the other hand, though I’ve read several different summaries and reviews of missing stories – it was fun to read such a fresh, amusing, and at times deep, reaction to stories that I haven’t seen because they don’t exist and aren’t on DVD. I mean, the comments in Twitter Who just really give an idea of what the episodes were like, even the ones that aren’t available on DVD.

Agile Update Week 52

I have now been using the Agile project management system for a year. In that time I have learned new things, met new people, accomplished much, written regular blog entries – usually two or three per week, reviewed several books, and even worked to exercise and to try to get in better shape. I have also found and started a new job for 2016, which is a good thing. All of this through a positive program that stresses progress and accomplishments, rather than missed opportunities or goals not met. Agile is also a program that can be used cooperatively and in a true team environment – it’s never competitive. When using it for myself, I was only comparing my own weekly reflections to my weekly vision or goals, with the focus on continual improvement, not “beating myself up” over items not accomplished.

The last week of 2015 went well. I wrote two blog entries, and reviewed two books (a book and a graphic novel) on GoodReads. So that’s four total writing days, which is very good. I did not get the opportunity to do any physical exercise. My Yoga class was off for Christmas and New Year’s weeks, and I really miss it. I won’t be able to go to that particular class, at least in January because of my new work schedule. However, I did buy myself a new Yoga DVD with my Christmas Gift Cards (among other goodies) so I’m hoping to be able to fit in time to exercise at home. I really need it.

I also did well working on my professional development, as I work on completing my A+ Computer Certification.  I read and took notes for chapter 27, and 28 in the A+ book and did the homework review sheets. I only had class on Tuesday (Thursday class was on New Year’s Eve so we didn’t have class) and yet again I bombed a quiz because people were talking during it. I really wish the instructor would stop that. Anyway, I re-took the quiz at home (it’s open book) and received a 90% which was passing. I also did two of the on-line chapter review quizzes which are slightly harder than the chapter reviews that I need to turn in as homework. I always do those quizzes as close book, more to see what I know and/or remember (or can figure out, since they often quiz concepts beyond the text book). Finally, I started reading and taking notes on the next chapter (29), covering computer security. As a study and test prep I managed to finish doing the vocab review for chapter 26 laptops. My plan is to finish reading the book as soon as possible, then study, and the goal is to pass both A+ tests by the end of January and become A+ certified. This will help me with the new job I already have as you need that certification in place to become permanent, with benefits, in an promotion-track position. The position I was hired in for, which I think I will really enjoy is temporary/project based, so it won’t be considered permanent and it is not eligible for benefits. I think that’s too bad, and things may change, but that’s the most recent information that I have.