Today marks the one-year anniversary of FANgirl Blog. When the idea for this blog was originally conceived over the course of a series of conversations at Celebration V, I never envisioned it rising this quickly in readership or recognition. Looking back, I think that the blog’s specific message had been so underrepresented that it immediately found and captivated an audience. So what was that message? And how well have I done at staying true to my original intentions?
[I]n this age of spreadsheets, market share indicators, and instant feedback, do the captains of the scifi and fantasy franchises not realize the infinite possibilities of exploring new quadrants of this universe-sized genre? The biggest untapped quadrant by far is the ever-growing base of female fans. Wander through the stacks of a bookstore, peruse online message boards, go to a con, and it’s quite evident that women aren’t just tagging along with the men in their lives. Women are fans too. Here was my profound moment from Star Wars Celebration V: I am not the only person who feels the heroines aren’t getting a fair opportunity to carry the title of protagonist.
My mission – and I have chosen to accept it – is to seek out those gems of scifi and fantasy that shine like a glorious prize for one seemingly forgotten group: the fangirls. And hopefully make some new friends along the way.
A lot has happened over the past twelve months, and as the anniversary date approached I realized it would be impossible to discuss within the confines of just one blog post the tremendous change I’m noticing as a fangirl. So for today I just want to focus on some of the big-picture elements.
In September 2010, the term “fanboy” was prevalent in discussions about Star Wars, as well as science fiction and fantasy more generally. In the mindset of many, including corporate bigwigs who make decisions about who to write stories for, girls didn’t really factor much into the equation. “Fangirl” hadn’t even been defined.
So it was natural for me to search the dictionary for “fangirl.” And guess what? It isn’t there.
“Fanboy,” on the other hand, can be found, identified and defined in a neat dictionary summary. From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
fanboy: a boy who is an enthusiastic devotee
From the start, I felt part of my blog’s mission should be to help establish legitimacy for the subset of fans who were women by establishing the word “fangirl” as equally recognizable alongside “fanboy.” When Kyle Newman is ready to take my 1980’s fangirl comedy adventure plot bunny and make it into the next movie in his Fanboys franchise, that’s when I’ll truly feel I’ve succeeded.
There were a few other things I had hoped to accomplish with FANgirl Blog. Coming from a goal-oriented corporate background, I wrote them down – and I’m glad I did. It’s very easy to get sucked into trying to be too many things in the online world, and my list provided my Stay On Target reminder as my online presence blossomed.
FANgirl Blog’s Objectives:
1) To redirect the tone of the conversation among the fandom aimed at fangirls, which at times had been hostile.
2) To encourage storytellers – of movies, television, novels and comics – to create more strong female characters.
3) To create an audience for my own adventure into storytelling.
In retrospect, it’s interesting how Goals 1 and 2 actually were made easier by the fact that I was delving into crafting my own novel in Goal 3. Unlike a publishing house or an established author, I knew I was going to have to teach myself about the business, to observe what worked and what didn’t, to listen to what fans did and didn’t want, and then to apply that knowledge. In other words, I had no one but myself to credit or blame for my success or failure. My novel had been in the early outline stage when I began to recognize a few things in my observations of publishing. For one, female scifi fans were undoubtedly an underserved market. I noticed this from comic book fans, from movie and television fans, and also of course from those who read books. The success of Ashley Eckstein’s Her Universe, SyFy channel’s notable changes in lineup to cater to a female audience, and the “next Harry Potter” buzz surrounding the Hunger Games series were positive indicators that the geek girl phenomenon was gaining steam.
In the blog’s early stages I discovered that not only did women want characters who appealed to their likes, but many fanboys also were tired of the status quo – especially in Star Wars books. I was initially surprised to have nearly equal numbers in male readers of the blog as I do female readers, and my accompanying message boards has gained equally in male and female members over the past year. While I talk particularly about strong female characters in my blog, what I’ve learned is that fans – men and women – want strong characters, period. The female characters, quite honestly, have farther to go. That is my passion, and therefore that is what I feel needs to be driven home as a fan providing constructive criticism to the industry to which I have handed over quite a bit of my hard-earned dollars. Eventually, I hope that the Power That Be – for Star Wars Books, or Dark Horse or DC Comics, or really anyone who is creating stories for this genre – come to the realization that empowering their female characters will lead to better stories, happier fans, buzzworthiness, and ultimately bolster their bottom line. Ultimately, establishing strong female characters is a win-win for fans and franchises.
A lot of things seem to be changing for the better lately for fangirls, and for all fans, really. The tone of the dialogue has shifted; women have found places where they do feel comfortable as fans. Sites where the entrenched boys’ club mentality still remains dominant have dwindled to shadows of their former selves. By stepping out on a limb, especially to criticize a product beloved by many, I always understood I was risking taking some heat for speaking out. I accept that some people will disagree with me, and I respect their right to do so. What has been remarkable to me, though, and what gives me hope as a fangirl, is how many individuals from within the companies I have directly criticized have taken time to approach me personally, to interact with me as a fan and a businesswoman with her own unique insight, and to just take the opportunity to listen.
To everyone involved in the fandoms that have brought much joy to my life, thank you. To those reading, much gratitude for your time and feedback.
I’ll leave you with FANgirl Blog, by the numbers. Here’s to one good year hopefully followed by another.
68 – Most users online in the Cantina (September 4, 2011)
175 – Followers on the TFN message boards since ‘02
202 – Unique visitors in October 2010
205 – Followers on Twitter in 12 months
481 – Comments posted on the blog
1179 – Hits on Luke Skywalker Must Die
4419 – Unique visitors in August 2011
Most viewed blog posts:
1) Luke Skywalker Must Die
2) Fangirl Speaks Up: Star Wars Books and Me – Caught in a Bad Romance
3) Ben Skywalker’s Ascension into Domestic Violence: Why Fate of the Jedi Hurts So Much
4) Does Slave Leia Weaken or Empower Women?
5) The Clone Wars Theatrical Screening – Atlanta
Top searches (combining related search parameters):
2) luke skywalker must die
3) tangled characters
4) fate of the jedi ascension review
5) oh you sexy geek
Funny searches that led to FANgirl Blog:
• will luke skywalker die in apocalypse
• corny pick up lines for girls to use
• jaina solo is a vampire fanfiction
• jaina solo conference room fanfic
• luke skywalke[r] can take wonder woman in a fight
• tickle torture
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Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.
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