The "loves" part of this title is represented in all its vast diversity. Friendships, romances, heterosexuality, homosexuality, asexuality - the list of descriptions and labels goes on and on. In addition to my own niche, I came across new labels and descriptions that were entirely new to me. It’s a “safe-space” conversation, in which every participant has agreed to bare their souls and risk sharing the most intimate of secrets.
On the self-help front, Secret Loves is an exploration of the ways being a geek helps arm individuals with the coping and living skills they need to survive relationships (and non-relationships). It is a dating and loving guide for geeks of all descriptions, with heavy emphasis on themes surrounding fan-fiction and internet dating (influence of technology). It is also an acknowledgement of the ways being a geek does NOT help with building successful relationships. It doesn’t shy away from showing the downside of escapism into fictional world, and the shortcomings of reality in the face of obsessions with imaginary worlds.
If there is the potential for weakness in this anthology, it may be found in the sheer volume of stories and the inevitable repetition of subject matter in such a crowd. There was a point, somewhere before the midpoint of the book, that I feared I was going to reach an overload of “dating in this social-media-driven-world” and “everything I know about love came from fan-fiction” anecdotes. These are frequent topics, to be sure, but ultimately presented with a diverse-enough lens that they didn’t bore.
I will call out a handful of chapters in Secret Loves that stood out for me. “Minas Tirith” by Marguerite Bennett is both beautifully lyrical and painfully honest. “Cherry” by Cherelle Higgins, Rachael Wells, and Meaghan Carter is a tense tale of racial violence made more terrifying through a framework of Tolkien-fandom complete with scary orcs and heroic hobbits. “Ghost” by Marjorie Liu is a powerful account of trauma and survival that pulls the reader in and doesn’t let go.
These are just a few highlights in an anthology that has something for every individual reader. There are simply too many amazing creators in this anthology to mention. My rough count through the table of contents resulted in more than 75 contributors, many of whom are new to me. It’s like getting a Hall H VIP front row pass to an entire weekend of presenters personally selected to speak straight to you.
If you put all of these authors and artists and illustrators and geeks in a room, you could easily conclude that every single one is a kick-ass chick with all her stuff in order. When you listen to their voices, really hear what they have to say, you understand that each and every one of them is insecure, uncertain, and searching for themselves just like we we all are. It doesn’t matter what age we are, what label we identify with, what measure of success or failure we have attained. We are all working on this thing that is OUR UNIQUE EXPERIENCE. We are figuring out what it means to connect to, share, and learn from others’ experiences. We are learning to be our own best fans. That’s exactly what you find when you open The Secret Loves of Geek Girls.
**PS: Go and check out the 99u presentation mentioned by Kelly Sue DeConnick in her introduction, titled “How to Make People Uncomfortable (And Still Make a Living)." You’ll be glad you did.