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Opinion

Geek girls gain voice through text, comic anthology

Canadian literary icon Atwood among the contributors

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/6/2015 (1235 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On Wednesday, Toronto-based, Winnipeg-raised comic-book publisher Hope Nicholson launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, the all-female text/comic anthology about love, romance and sex she'd been dreaming about publishing for the past few years.

By Sunday evening, she had raised more than $50,000.

That so many people are so enthusiastic about a book such as The Secret Loves of Geek Girls underscores the need for such a project. Nicholson, 28, originally conceived the anthology as response to the dearth of information out there for geek girls trying to navigate crushes, sexual encounters, relationships, breakups, unwanted advances and rejection.

"In all the forms of media we consume, especially in movies and TV shows, there's a fair bit of geek representation -- and it's usually guys who are trying to get the girl," Nicholson says. "And I would always roll my eyes. As someone who identifies as a really geeky girl, I can't relate to that."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/6/2015 (1235 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls: more than 50 contributors.

KICKSTARTER

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls: more than 50 contributors.

On Wednesday, Toronto-based, Winnipeg-raised comic-book publisher Hope Nicholson launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, the all-female text/comic anthology about love, romance and sex she'd been dreaming about publishing for the past few years.

By Sunday evening, she had raised more than $50,000.

That so many people are so enthusiastic about a book such as The Secret Loves of Geek Girls underscores the need for such a project. Nicholson, 28, originally conceived the anthology as response to the dearth of information out there for geek girls trying to navigate crushes, sexual encounters, relationships, breakups, unwanted advances and rejection.

"In all the forms of media we consume, especially in movies and TV shows, there's a fair bit of geek representation — and it's usually guys who are trying to get the girl," Nicholson says. "And I would always roll my eyes. As someone who identifies as a really geeky girl, I can't relate to that."

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

To that end, The Secret Loves of Geek Girls will feature the welcome perspectives of a diverse cross-section of geek girls and women, ranging in age from 16 to 77. One of those women is none other than CanLit grande dame Margaret Atwood, who will contribute original cartoons based on her experiences as a young woman to the project. (Nicholson and Atwood met via Twitter and then talked comic books over sausages and vodka one night.) Some of the women have never been published.

The contributions are geeky, to be sure. Meags Fitzgerald's "Composition Studies" is a comic about "how her pre-teen love of Sailor Moon intersected with her new curiosity about the mechanics of sex," while Jen Vaughn's comic "Pining Over Puzzled Pints" wonders who gets to go to trivia night after a breakup. Adrienne Kress's essay "I'm Your Biggest Fan," meanwhile, examines the intersection between crushes and fandom.

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls isn't meant to be a prescriptive advice book. Rather, it's meant to offer something even more important: community. Too often, geek girls are dismissed as interlopers or impostors by deeply insecure guys who subscribe to a No Girls Allowed in Our Clubhouse mentality — see: the incredibly sexist "Fake Geek Girl" and "Idiot Nerd Girl" Internet memes of a few years ago.

Nicholson's project is about creating a safe space for girls and women to geek out. "It's hostile when you go into a man's space, even if there's only a few of them. You feel shut down, you feel like they're going to question you — and they do. Or they want to talk for you."

Geek gatekeeping doesn't just occur on the Internet. It also happens in comic-book stores. Nicholson — who has published two other comic collections, Brok Windsor and Nelvana of the Northern Lights, and was a producer on Lost Heroes, a documentary on Canadian superheroes — has a distinct childhood memory of walking into the little comic-book shop that was across the street from Maples Collegiate. "I remember walking in, and all these guys were playing some sort of miniature role-playing game," she says. "They all just stared at me. I felt like the biggest outcast even though I had a huge stack of comics at home." She never went back there.

High school was also isolating for Nicholson. In fact, she says she didn't meet a fellow geek gal until she was in her early 20s (they bonded over Doctor Who). Since then, she's made it a priority to publicize and connect geek girls in a variety of ways, whether it's through the regular ladies' nights she hosts at various Toronto comic-book stores or The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, which will feature more than 50 women.

"I'm so happy with all the support and encouragement and enthusiasm that's coming from everyone on this project," she says. "All the participants are so happy to be involved. No one's reluctant. It's amazing."

Although Nicholson has met her fundraising goal, you can still help fund the project. Surplus funds raised will go toward compensating the writers and artists. Visit: kickstarter.com/projects/hopelnicholson/the-secret-loves-of-geek-girls/.

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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History

Updated on Monday, June 29, 2015 at 7:23 AM CDT: Replaces image, adds links

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