There is a difference between intellectually knowing that you are rarely represented in your favorite kind of media and truly feeling it. The feeling of it only comes when you the absence is filled, when you watch, read, or play a story featuring a main character who shares some major identities with you. It’s why women cried during Wonder Woman, and it’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t put the first five “episodes” of Geek Actually down.
Geek Actually is a serialized fiction released weekly via Serial Box Publishing. The story of five female nerd friends and their various lives, it’s pitched as a story for anyone who loves both Sex and the City and Star Wars, and it features five totally nerdy characters: Michelle, a sci-fi book editor; Taneesha, a video game programmer; Christina, a production assistant; Aditi, a first-time fantasy author; and Elli, a cosplayer who lives with her parents.
The five women met at a con and have been friends ever since, staying in frequent touch through their #RebelScum Slack chat group, which opens up each episode of the series.
While I get the Sex and the City reference (after all, there is a fair amount of delicious sex in this story), for me, the reading experience reminded me more of when I ravenously devoured the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books as a teen. Both the Traveling Pants books and Geek Actuallydo an incredible job of making us believe in the bond between a group of female friends, while rarely showing them in the same physical place.
Rather than letters and pants, Geek Actually‘s bonding threads come in the form of some of the best tools of the modern internet age. These women call, text, chat, and see one another at cons. Fandom has brought them together and, as someone who has crafted groups of friends through this method, I can attest that internet friends are real friends. If you’ve ever made a friend at a con or online because of a shared interest in a thing you love and obssess over, then I don’t have to tell you that. You know how it feels. Geek Actually is one of the rare stories out there right now that knows how it feels, too.
It also knows what it’s like to be a female geek, which also tends to be somewhat rare in a pop culture still struggling to understand that women don’t read comics because their boyfriends asked them to; they read them because they are their own person with their own interests and passions.
These female characters not only demonstrate that point in their own geeky passions, but actively talk about a lot of the issues female nerds and female nerds of color have to deal with online and in real life. This makes sense, given that the story was written by a diverse group of four talented women — Cathy Yardley, Melissa Blue, Cecilia Tan, and Rachel Stuhler — who are no doubt no strangers to the off-base, offensive assumptions made about female nerds.
While Geek Actually features characters who are obsessed with everything from superheroes to Star Wars, this is not a genre story. It has its foundation firmly in the land of character-driven drama with a healthy dash of romance. It operates under the assumption that female nerds can like hard science fiction and also like “chick flicks.” Liking the two is not mutually exclusive. We female nerds who also like romance novels are not pretending to like comic book stories, too.
It is here that I suspect the Wonder Woman example I used in my introductory paragraph might need some clarification because this isn’t about seeing more fully-drawn female characters in speculative fiction (for that, I highly recommend The Refrigerator Monologues). It’s about seeing female nerd characters in more grounded fiction. These women aren’t going to suddenly develop the superhuman ability to fly, but they would think that was really cool — and it wouldn’t be because their boyfriend thought it was cool first.
Geek Actually is set up like your favorite TV show, with each weekly “episode” taking roughly 40 minutes to read. The installments tend to end on a juicy, character-driven cliffhanger that will leave you eager to read the next episode. There will be 13 episodes in total over the course of the first season, with the next installment — the sixth in the series — set to come out on July 12th.
You can subscribe to Season 1 of Geek Actually for $1.59 per episode, or you can buy individual episodes for $1.99 a pop. For $19.99, you can get the whole season in both text and audio form. If you’re on the fence, check out a free preview of Season 1 here. And, if you’re looking to learn more about the world of online serialized fiction, head over to our guide.