The Secret Loves of Geeks is a follow-up to the previous anthology The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, which I admittedly need to read as well. I’ve been seeing this one pop up on my Twitter feed for the last couple weeks as its release date came and went. Ultimately, the cover, with its multitude of meme-themed cats and the big-name contributors really convinced me to pick this one up as I was browsing through a comic store. Anthologies have always been a draw for me, as they give me a way to discover new artists while reading a diverse collection of stories. So far I’ve reviewed two anthologies focusing on romance and sex, and I’m glad to be able to add this one to the list as it definitely doesn’t disappoint in its content.
If the name hasn’t given it away, this anthology features prose stories and comics from a diverse cast of creators, artists, writers of geek culture about their most heartbreaking or uplifting tales of love, sex, and dating. It includes contributions from such professionals as: Patrick Rothfuss (Name of the Wind), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale), Hope Larson (Batgirl), Chris Roberson (iZombie), and Jamie McKelvie (The Wicked + The Divine). The anthology is edited by Hope Nicholson and is currently published by Dark Horse.
The stories featured range from weekend-long relationships at conventions to the sentimentality of certain shows and media to learning about one’s sexuality through media. All of these stories have a few key themes in common though like the relationships that develop with the media we watch and how people relate to and learn from the characters they read about and watch in movies or TV shows. This then comes back to the issue of representation in comics and geek media, an issue that’s become more and more talked about as big blockbusters come out in theaters like Black Panther and Wonder Woman. As we see through many of these stories, people need characters to relate to in media, especially kids who may be questioning their sexuality or identity. It not only helps them come to terms with what they’re feeling but makes them better able to feel confident about themselves.
In more ways than one, the media we consume can affect our lives in huge ways. Below, I’d like to highlight four stories from this anthology that I thought were particularly good or telling about our relationship with media:
- “Being the Slayer” by Gwen Benaway – This prose essay was one of the first to hook me in this anthology. It tells the story of Benaway’s relationship to the TV character Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how she helped Benaway come to terms with being trans. This was the first time I’ve thought of Buffy in a trans lens, but the more I read, the more it made sense. Both Benaway and Buffy struggled with the dissonance between what they felt they wanted and who they really were. For Buffy, she just wants to be a normal teenage girl who goes to parties and has normal relationship, but her destiny as a Slayer keeps interrupting. It’s a very interesting take and honestly makes me want to rewatch the show through the trans lens.
- “Cosplay” by Hope Larson – This prose essay tells the story of Larson’s convention weekend love. It’s a charming story overall between two people, one who just wants a romantic fling for the weekend and one who may want a bit more. What’s really interesting about the story though is how Larson incorporates the idea of cosplay or costumes into her story by using them as metaphors for the fronts we all put up when dating. She talks about the personas she has to wear when working at conventions and talking to publishers compared to the “costume” she put on to meet someone for a date. By donning the costume, she can escape the convention/geeky lifestyle for a moment or even fool herself into thinking of this weekend as a self-contained, one-time fling. It’s interesting to think of the fronts we all put up when interacting with people in different situations or the ways in which we act out a certain role, fooling ourselves into thinking something is true.
- “Women love Jerks” written by Cara Ellison and Illustrated by Maddison Chaffer – This short comic not only displays a lot of great artwork but also presents another way to look at some major male figures in pop culture. From Han Solo to James Bond, Ellison examines why these characters are presented as highly desirable love interests by their male writers. She also takes a look at female created love interests like Edward Cullen from Twilight and how agency plays a role in the desirability of men in women-centered media. Ellison makes the point that by taking control of the toxic masculine characters in fiction, women writers can regain agency through flipping the narrative and having their characters control who they attract. It’s an interesting idea, one that’s probably going to keep me thinking for a while, especially in terms of Twilight, where I guess we can see Edward as an inverse of a Femme Fatale, a Hommes Fatale.
- “So Say We All” by Levi Hastings – This short comic probably had the most emotional impact for me. It tells the story of one man’s relationship with Battlestar Galactica and how his love for it grew out of sentimental feelings for a past relationship. He chronicles the days he spent watching the show with his boyfriend, coming to see it as almost part of their relationship. But when the relationship ends and he comes to find out his ex is terminally ill, Battlestar Galactica becomes the media he returns to for comfort. We all have media we can associate with different parts of our lives or people, shows or books we fall back on when we’re feeling depressed. It just so happens that Hastings’ show is Battlestar Galactica.
These are just four out of the many stories and comics that appear in this anthology. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy and check it out if you found this review interesting. And when you do, be sure and come back to tell me what you thought! I’m hoping to also pick up the volume before this one at some point as well, but you can also be sure there will be plenty more anthology reviews in the future.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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