SDCC 2016: We Talk With Hope Nicholson About The Secret Loves Of Geek Girls

Credit: Dark Horse

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is an anthology os short essays and comics just talking about…well exactly what you would expect with something with this title: the secret loves of geek girls.

The anthology is full of heartwarming, funny, sometimes sad, beautiful and real stories about a number of different women of all ages who have all experienced so many different things in their lives and it is within these stories where we, as readers, find ourselves thinking ‘oh wow, I can completely related to this or that.’

At San Diego Comic-Con we were lucky enough to talk to the editor and contributor of the anthology, Hope Nicholson – who is also currently working with Margaret Atwood on their graphic novel series Angel Catbird – about the ins and out of The Secret Loves of Geek Girls; the idea behind it, the diversity throughout the anthology, the dilemma in naming it ‘geek girls,’ and what her favourite story was.

Where did you first come up with the idea to gather all these different stories into this collection of essays?

A lot of it came out of just meeting different kinds of females friends at comic book launches, events, and comic cons and things like that. Often we’d get together and we’d whisper stories about people we had crushes on or our inexperience with love and dating and it seemed to be a constant reassurance of ‘is this normal? Is this okay? Is this what other people do?’ This unfamiliarity with what’s going on and as this went on, I had my own personal problems that I was dealing with as well and I felt great comfort in having these stories being told to me and sharing my stories with other people. Eventually I just had an idea to make a reality TV show that totally didn’t actually happen and I changed it into a book instead and it had an amazing response.

For the record I think it would have made a great TV show, really interesting.

I know!

So how long did this process take?

Not long! I think I started talking to people about it loosely about a year before I started going into overdrive on it and, actually, it happened once I was laid off from my job and I was like ‘man, I really do need to get this project going.’ It was in the background and I’m like ‘okay, let’s [turn it] into high gear right now.’ I asked Margaret Atwood if she could license me some comics to help bring attention because we were working together on the Angel Catbird comic project and she said ‘no, I don’t have any appropriate comics but I’ll draw you some.’ And I was like, ‘oh, sure. That’s better, that’s great’ and so I put together some of my friends and some people I just knew through the Internet and they recommended other people and it all worked out really well.

I have to ask, what’s it like working with Margaret Atwood?

She’s very nice. We get along well and she’s a very, I wouldn’t say comforting presence, but she seems like someone who you’ve known for a while.

Do you have a particular story that is your favourite?

Yes, I like Meags Fitzgerald’s Waxing Moon the best because it really captures the anxiety of watching Sailor Moon fan art pages load in the late 90s days of the internet and just being like ‘no! Come on come on! I’m only allowed 10 minutes online right now, I need this picture to load.’ That’s it, just for one picture to load would take all your concentration, all this time just for you to see and be like ‘yes, very nice. I feel good seeing this art.’

How has the reaction been from the ‘fangirl’ community because I know me myself reading it related to so many different aspects from so many different stories?

That’s the thing; there’s no one who is going to relate 100% to one story but I think everyone can relate to something from each story because everyone is their own unique combination of things, of interests. The reaction has been amazing. Every so often I go on Goodreads to check the reviews and some of the people are so moved and touched and they feel so comforted by it and that’s exactly the goal is that it’s women telling stories to each other and realizing that whatever our weirdness is, it’s fine.

One of my favourite things about the collection was how completely diverse it was. How important was it to you to make sure you brought this diversity to the anthology?  

A lot of it happened naturally because there are a lot of diverse people in the comics industry and then, of course, when I started to look at it too I was like oh well I don’t have, for example, stories by transgender women in the anthology at first and I thought I should reach out. I asked Sophie Campbell but she was super busy and unfortunately couldn’t join us but Annie Mok actually, I think she pitched to me, and she had a story she wanted to tell about Casper and that was great and then another friend of mine wanted a friend of hers named Fionna Adams to tell a story about how she relates to love and romance through media and I said that’s fantastic. Some of those cases it was a mixture of looking for people and people coming to me.

What really impressed me about the book was the range of ages. It was very important to me to showcase that our grandmothers and our mothers – people of different ages – have really important stories that we can learn from. Our youngest contributor is 16 and our oldest contributor is 76 year old (Trina Robbins) and Margaret of course was 75 at the time she wrote it and of course she’s a bit older now as things happen. That was important to me and it worked out really well too because both of the stories that Margaret and Trina wrote were very light, fluffy stories about loving comics and being obsessed with guys. It was good.

Was it always in your conscious mind to get a mix of comic and essay format?

No, it originally was just going to be prose. It was going to be a small group of people from Toronto, women that I hang out with, writing a few stories. It was basically just going to be kind of a zine-ish book and as I talked about it online people were oh I want to contribute a comic – Irene Koh had approached me and was like ‘yeah I want to draw a comic.’ Oh okay that’s great and Mariko Tamaki too was like ‘yeah I’m going to do a comic’ and then that’s when I got the idea to approach Margaret and so it just kind of happened and I just rolled with it.

Do you have any plans to do a follow up to SLGG?

Yeah, I do have plans to do a follow up that’s going to focus on – I was hoping originally to do an edition that focused on men and their unique stories because a lot of people forget, with talks of diversity, that men need to talk about diversity in their own gender as well. Feminism is usually held up to the high standard of everything being very inclusive and I’m like well we have to hold men up to the same standard though. So I want to tell stories about old men and young men telling stories about geekiness, about dating. I also want to give a space where both men and women, non-binary people can discuss their experiences as well.

It’s always a problem to call a book The Secret Loves of Geek Girls because that is, just by its very definition dividing people into two very binary structures. I know that gender is a fluid construct and it’s not necessarily good to focus on things that are specifically female in nature because there are a percentage of people that feel outcast because they think it’s specifically for women.

Did you think that would be a problem with naming it that?

I’m still definitely learning more about the gender spectrum as I’m meeting more people who fall along the different lines and they’re telling me about their own experiences, about their own stories so at the time it wasn’t something I was very aware of. I definitely knew that I wanted to include transgender women but for non-binary and genderqueer individuals it was something that I hadn’t had much experience with in my daily life and so as time goes on and I’m learning I can see now how it can also be a problem to focus on that. Feminism has its specific issues but so do people who fall outside the gender binary.

Melissa LoParco
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