A Kickstarter anthology book featuring prose, comics and more from Hope Nicholson and an assembled selection of female creators, called The Secret Loves of Geek Girls has been successively backed with 25 days to spare.
“It’s been very nice to see all of the support of the comics and geek communities rally behind the book, and I’ve been touched by all the positive words,” said Nicholson, a comic book editor and publisher, via email interview.
The book is a collection of mostly-original text and comic stories, along with some essays, about the romantic and sexual lives of women in the geek community. Some of these stories are from familiar names like Margaret Atwood, an award-winning Canadian writer of fiction and essays, and Marguerite Bennett, a writer on recent DC Comics and Marvel Comics releases like A-Force and Lois Lane.
Investing money nets one a tiered selection of rewards, like copies of the book at the bottom end of the selection and exclusive bits of original artwork at the top.
This Canada-based project had a goal of raising $37,000 in Canadian currency, which converts to $30,160 in United States currency, according to the Kickstarter page. As of the writing of this piece on the afternoon June 29th, 2015, it’s at around $50,000 Canadian, or around $43,000 American.
250 (CORRECTION: 1,500) copies are to be printed as a part of the Kickstarter campaign, but distribution to backers isn’t the end of this book’s release. “Any extra books will be available through my website, some local comic and book stores, and at conventions,” she said. Digital copies will also be sold on her website and through Comixology, she said.
The Kickstarter page can be accessed by clicking here.
The book’s premise rests on a notion that, “[t]here is a desert of [dating] information geared towards the women in fandom,” the Kickstarter page reads. Nicholson hopes this book can help fill the gap and aide troubled female geeks.
“I think that [our dating/sex life] is always something that’s kept very close to us, for the reasonable fear that if it’s public our discussions will be labelled as gossip or drama,” she said.
Particularly afflictive subject matter has been avoided in this collection, in order to maintain a more comfortable atmosphere, she explained. “[S]ome [stories] are analytical, others are very funny, others are very sensitive and touching.”
One story included is called “Firsts” and is a comic from Gillian G, a woman known for her webcomic “Jerkface A-Hole,” available here. This story is about, as the Kickstarter page details, “the legacy of a woman with absolutely no game.”
When asked how much of the story is autobiographical, she wrote, “All of it. Unfortunately.” in an email interview.
The character she created for her webcomic drew on parts of her own personality, which meant there were some similarities between this new story and that.
“The main character [of “Jerkface A-Hole”], although quite different from me, faces a lot of the challenges I face: being outside of the norm, being very small and runty for her age, and not being focused on dating,” she said.
Gillian is feeling the pressure of working within a small piece of a larger collaboration.“It’s hard to pare down the stories of shame, humiliation, and ridiculousness to make just one 5 page comic. That’s my primary challenge,” she explained.
Another contribution to the anthology, this one untitled, is from Roberta Gregory. The Kickstarter description reads, “Roberta Gregory illustrates the downside of five decades worth of drawing adult comics.”
“… I have been mostly out of the publishing and media loop for the last several years, due to having a very demanding day job (that I just retired from),” Gregory said via email interview. “I was beginning to feel that I was a bit of a has-been but apparently folks still remember me.”
Gregory feels she will be bringing something different to the anthology.
“I am probably one of the oldest and less ‘techie’ of the women in the book. But I am looking forward to providing a different point of view based on my own perspective,” she said.
She has a long public history with comics that began when she was inspired by California-based underground comics from the 70s, many very adult in nature, she explained.
“Especially back in the day, the response I got to my comics (particularly from some men) was often kind of disturbing, but it was certainly in tune with the era,” she said.
Her comic strips and other work can be viewed on her website.
Another story is “Both Sides of the Table and Between the Sheets,” from Janet Hetherington. It follows her young experiences at conventions, which represents her passion for fandom, she explained via email interview.
“I have never lost my passion for fandom… from a teenager reading science fiction and drawing early comics, to university journalism student helping organize early conventions like Maplecon and writing articles for Amazing Heroes magazine, to a self-published writer/artist (Eternal Romance) and comics writer (Elvira, Mistress of the Dark; Honey West/Kolchak the Night Stalker,” she said.
Most of the story will be text, with some illustrations, posing as a detour from her recent focus on screenplays, she explained.
Another contribution is an essay tentatively entitled “How Fan Fiction Made Me Gay,” from writer JM Frey.
“I’m going to try to find a more poetic title for the essay,” she said with a laugh via Skype interview.
The essay is a full-frontal defense of fan-fiction as an art form and its ability to give women and minorities stories that represent them more, as opposed to the mainstream of narratives in geek culture focused on characters that are straight, white, male, etc. Without fan-fiction, she may have never realized the complexities of her sexual identity, lost in the “homogenous,” small-town culture she grew up in, she said.
The best she has gotten with labels is identifying as a demisexual, panromantic grey ace. Demisexuality is a term used to describe people who are only sexually-attracted to someone once a strong emotional bond is formed. Being panromantic means she is romantically interested in people regardless of gender. Grey ace, she explained to me, is a more specific descriptor that falls under the spectrum between sexual and asexual. Asexuality describes someone more or less personally uninterested in sex; grey ace essentially means someone somewhere in the middle: partially asexual.
“Fan-fiction taught me to see unresolved romantic tension not just through male and female characters,” she said.
Fan-fiction has received criticism from big voices, such as George R.R. Martin, creator of Game of Thrones, who has described the practice before as lazy. Frey defended fan-fiction with an unapologetic bluntness, deeply taking issue with the notions that it wastes talent that could be put towards building original properties and that it is legally problematic.
“Fan-fiction is what gave me the tools and the understanding to realize who I was,” Frey said.She feels that the notion that fan-fiction is less valuable because it isn’t based on original properties is steeped in capitalist ideas that aren’t very artful. She doesn’t like the idea that some art is lesser because it isn’t financially profitable, she explained.
“This idea that fan-fiction isn’t really art is capitalist bullshit,” she said.
Another story is a comic called “Better than Fiction,” from Sarah Winifred Searle. It is about the relationship between fiction-writing as escapism and real-life happiness.
“… it’s about my journey from relying too much on that escapism to finding fulfillment in reality,” Searle said via email interview.
This entirely autobiographical work is much more personal than her past work.
“I’m getting braver with my autobiographical work and it feels good, even cathartic,” she said.
Her website can be viewed here.
Many of these women were brought on board the project through social media or convention friendships with Nicholson, or because of kind words about their work through word of mouth, Nicholson said. Everyone I interviewed expressed excitement to be involved in this project.
“Considering how frightening, alienating, and dangerous a place the nerd sphere can be for women, this project is an oasis,” said Gillian.