As a kid, I didn't have a hard time fitting in. I had friends. But even as a young child, I had this sense that I couldn't be myself around my friends. That there was a part of myself that I needed to keep quiet. That part of me was the geeky part.
I wasn't especially adept at this. I remember spending hours reading The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide during quiet moments in class, and Fear Street when others read Goosebumps, and Stephen King when others moved on to Fear Street. But the blank stares and outright mockery I saw when I mentioned movies, books, and TV shows I like, they taught me early that others didn't understand the things I like. And when you're that young, it feels like that means they don't understand you.
And to some extent, I was right. But thanks to what was then the Sci-Fi Channel's Dominion BBoard for my beloved MST3K, I was a loud dial-up connection from finding people who did understand me. People who liked me and liked the things I liked and from whom I didn't have to hide any bit of enthusiasm, with whom I could talk for hours about a single episode or moment or concept. And I learned being a geek wasn't something bad or to be ridiculed, as all '80s and '90s movies had informed me. That being a geek meant I could love something with every bit of my whole heart and that there were others who felt the same way. Being a geek meant community. And that meant everything.
As we continue looking back on our firsts, Team Fangrrls shares the first times we realized we were just that: fangirls. These are the times we first realized we were the girl geeks you see before you today.
Back to the Future is hardly my primary fandom, and it isn’t a franchise I’ve kept around into my adult life, aside from a few jokes and some excitement in 2015 as we approached the date on which Marty traveled to the future. But as a kid born in 1981, the first Back to the Future movie, as well as its eventual sequels and spinoff cartoon series, give me the clearest memories I have at the earliest age of believing in a world more magnificent than our own. Because of Doc Brown, I wanted to be “an inventor” because I believed that if someone could just invent time travel, then they could probably invent just about anything. In a world where the flux capacitor could allow cars and trains to travel through time, surely maybe we could do something even more seemingly fixable, like correcting my gender, perhaps?
It was only as I got just a bit older and realized very clearly that things like “math” and “science” were not my strong suits in school that I came to understand that this whole “inventor” thing probably wasn’t going to happen. But the spark to my imagination that was fueled by Marty and Doc’s adventures, and the belief that it put in me of a universe of infinite creative possibility, is significantly responsible for my love of sci-fi and fantasy now and also one of the big reasons I became a writer. Through fandom and through my own creation, I may never have been able to invent a device that would let me be myself, but I’ve been able to visit worlds where I can. - Riley Silverman
I've always been a geek. Seriously. I grew up in a golden age for sci-fi/fantasy television aimed at children, raised by Power Rangers and Gargoyles and Animorphs and Space Cases. Being a geek was just a fact of life for me. I knew it and so did everyone else in the entire world. I can't say that there was one moment where I realized I was one, or that I was different. Instead, there were several small ones, like realizing the rest of the kids wanted to play tag or kickball or ride bikes in the summer while I read every Nancy Drew book ever published, or recognizing that I was probably the only one of my friends who based their life philosophy on that of one Harriet the Spy. Being the only one, the weird one, wasn't weird. It was just Tuesday. It was realizing that I wasn't alone in my nerdy world that was weird. When I showed up to the midnight release of the fourth Harry Potter book, for example, and met other kids who were just as excited about a book as I was, seeing them dressed up in costumes and debating which characters in the series would survive and who might really be secretly working for the Dark Lord. Being a nerd was still a solo activity (and it would be until I discovered message boards in junior high), but it was a little less empty. - Tricia Ennis
It was 1995 and I was 12 years old. My friends and I were at a gas station to buy soda and snacks, but I was staring at the comics rack at one issue in particular. Generation X #6. On the cover, Emma Frost was perched on top of two villains she had defeated in battle, holding her fist in the air and grinning maniacally. I was well into my love of the X-Men by then, having already incurred harsh teen girl criticism when my friends had seen me reading an issue a few weeks before. This was in the mid-'90s, when superhero comics were considered to be intended explicitly for adult men living in their parents' basements. They especially were not for girls, as I'd been told many times over. While my friends were choosing their snacks, I slipped by and bought the issue as secretively as if I'd been buying pornography, hiding it in my backpack. I had already been teased relentlessly over my esoteric tastes. Reciting Edgar Allan Poe poems from memory, choosing to watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show on movie night, I had a vague suspicion then of what my friends probably already knew: I wasn't exactly normal. Later, I hid on the upstairs balcony and pored over every single page of the comic, so many times that I still remember the dialogue verbatim.
Because of the time it occurred in my life, I associate hiding my interest in nerd stuff with being closeted. For me, being a nerd and being gay were very closely related, because both required a certain level of secrecy and personal denial, even among close friends. Within a few years, I'd found my voice, and was more than happy to rave about queer politics and comic books to anyone that would listen, but that day was the first time I felt genuinely separated from others by my compulsion to deep-read superhero comics. For me, some of the creators behind Emma Frost and myriad other X-Men characters helped the process of reconciling that part of myself along, which I think is a beautiful thing! - Sara Century
I thought everybody was a geek. I read the science fiction that people recommended to me: Herbert and Asimov and Heinlein. I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation because it was prime-time TV—didn't everybody? It wasn't until I saw Trekkies that I realized that some of us love things too hard and give them too much weight in life. It wasn't that I saw myself in the rabid fans of Trekkies; it was that the documentary turned me on to a bunch of things I didn't know were possible yet. Conventions? Filking? Cosplay? Model Enterprises I could build and then stare at for hours? I didn't know I could do those things—until the real geeks opened the door. - Meg Elison
I first realized I was a geek because we were all geeks, in the beginning. Or at least, it felt like every kid was in the late '90s. The mid-'90s anime boom divided us between Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, but Pokémon united us across gender and interests. At least, until Digimon dropped and we began to argue over which was better. And even the kids who weren’t remotely interested in genre were swept up in fannish fervor by Titanic. In third grade, I could happily spend a recess period between listening to girls swoon over Leo and trading Pokémon cards. When I landed in the third of the three schools I attended in elementary school, Pokémon and Nintendo were how I made friends. I met other girls who loved this stuff, girls who came from proud geek stock, whose fathers collected Tolkien and whose mothers took them to Dragon*Con. We spent our recesses writing self-insert fic and drawing manga, swooning over Legolas, and talking a lot about cat people. Like. A lot.
Luckily, so luckily, I slowly realized I was a geek over the course of thousands of moments of joy and connection like that. There’s nothing quite like feeling like you can ask someone what their starter is and that you’ll get an enthusiastic answer back. - Clare McBride
I first realized I was a geek when I came across a little indie film. You may be familiar with it. It's called Star Wars. My parents decided I was old enough to watch the original trilogy when I was 11, and I soon became obsessed with every aspect of the universe. From watching the movies to reading every EU book I could get my hands on to figuring out how to sign up for Yahoo! Groups online and chat with other fans on Star Wars message boards, I was a diehard plain and simple. It didn't take long for me to find out that I was one of the only people in my IRL friend group who nerded out to such a ridiculous degree over Star Wars, which is how I came to rely on those online boards. I'd found my people, and I knew I wasn't going to be judged for loving what I loved. It's why I have such a nostalgic love for the prequels, which came out right around the time I had fully immersed myself in the Star Wars universe. Getting new films right in the midst of my obsessive phase with this franchise was like a dream come true for a preteen me.
Star Wars is my fandom and will always be my fandom, even if it gets a little crazy sometimes. After all, you never forget your first. - Carly Lane