When I was in seventh grade, I won second place in Congressman Lipinski's All-American Boy and Girl Awards. Finalists were interviewed by a panel of judges, and I'm convinced that the answer that got me into the top three was my response to the question, "If you could meet anyone in history, living or dead, who would you pick and why?"
I picked Gene Roddenberry.
I feel like that says a lot about how much Star Trek, and science
fiction, has influenced my
life. I was a Trekkie before the Next Gen fans demanded to be called
Trekkers, and then I was that, and a member of various other fandoms
since (Browncoats, Whovians, and so on). I could list my geek cred
resume, but that's not why I'm posting today. Instead, I'm here to say
thank you to my parents.
My parents are former athletes. I generally suck at sports,
but that didn't stop them from encouraging me to play. They are of the
opinion (especially my mother, who was a beneficiary of Title IX), that
everyone has a right to play, and that everyone should play fair. The
idea that "girls don't play sports" never existed in my house. Just as
the idea that "girls don't read comics" never existed, because my mom
read Superman, Spiderman, Batman, The Hulk, Avengers, and more. At the
time, I never noticed that I was the only girl in the comic shop.
My dad taught me to love sci-fi, starting with re-runs of
classic Star Trek. Our father-daughter bonding time was spent watching
Star Wars, Aliens, and the X-Files. It never occurred to me that "girls
don't read sci-fi" until I was informed of it in high school. By a guy
who loved sci-fi. Because, as I have learned since then, it's not some
mysterious "other" who makes up these rules. It's members of the fandom.
How weird is that?
Maybe I'm dating myself in
that I remember the "us versus them" as being geeks against people who
didn't identify as geeks. Not geeks against other geeks deemed not good
enough to qualify as geeks by some arcane system of "if you don't know
this, then you're fake." It was interacting with other members of this
community that taught me that I was somehow "less" in the eyes of "real"
geeks. During my years as a LARPer there were times where I was made
deeply uncomfortable by men at our game, and times where I felt not just
unwelcome but unsafe. I've been harassed in online games by male
gamers. I've deleted characters and quit games entirely due to
harassment. I've come to expect this treatment as the price of
admission, and that's just sad.
So it's not surprising when I see articles where men
complain that women are tainting their sci-fi with our icky estrogen
cooties. Or that romance writers just ruin everything with their girly
feels. In fact, I once had a former member of my critique group post an
early manuscript of Blood, Smoke and Mirrors on his blog, and
used it as part of a series on why men don't like romance novels. It was not a
But harassment hasn't stopped me from playing
other online games, just as negative reviews and angry articles haven't
stopped me from writing. I think of my mom, who as a physical education
major once endured a basketball class where she was the only woman. (The
men put her on the "skins" team in shirts versus skins. So she made
T-shirt that read "skins.") I think of my dad, who is always eager to watch a
sci-fi movie with his daughter. Our family motto is "walk it off" (also
known as "there's no crying in baseball"), and I believe that one day we
can all geek out together, regardless of age, gender, race, allergies,
level of Klingon spoken, total xp, or phattest loot.
In the meantime, you can't take the sky from me, and if you try, I swear by my pretty floral bonnet that I will end you.