An interview with Meghan Bell, editor of Room's upcoming 37.3 issue Geek Girls

Interview by 
Taryn Hubbard

Room's upcoming 37.3 issue will be devoted entirely to exploring geek culture. Submissions are still being accepted, but only until Jan. 31, 2014 (read the call here).

Making her editorial debut with the issue, Meghan Bell, a self-proclaimed geek girl herself, answered a few questions about geeks, favourite comics, and what she's looking for in a submission. Co-assisant editors working with Meghan on 37.3 are Taryn Hubbard and Carrie Schmidt.

What is a "geek"?

I personally define a “geek” as a person who is unabashedly keen about something that falls under the umbrella of “geek culture” - comics, video games, science or speculative fiction, fantasy, superheroes, science, technology, math, etcetera. However, I think the definition is nebulous. There's been a fair amount of bullying in geek culture as to what makes a person a “real” geek and most of it is ridiculously sexist (e.g. the idiot nerd girl meme and the online violence directed towards Anita Sarkeesian). There's been some great responses to gatekeeping and sexism in geek culture floating around the Internet, and these were largely the inspiration for both the theme and exact title of the issue – Geek Girls.

Room published a speculative themed issue in 1981 and again in 2009 (32.2), why do you think the Room collective comes back to this theme? How do you think 37.3 will add to the discussion on women writing in these genres in 2014?

It's not really the same theme – Speculations (32.2) and the 1981 issue (which I don't have on hand) both were focussed just on science fiction and fantasy. Geek Girls will hopefully contain work that touches on all aspects of geek culture. It will also (hopefully, depending on submissions!) be the first issue of Room to publish comics and graphic literature. We're also bringing back critical essays in this issue, which can be submitted as creative non-fiction through our website – just say it's for Geek Girls in your cover letter.

Have you noticed any interesting trends in the way female geeks or nerds are portrayed in media?

I don't think I've watched enough television shows or movies with characters who are geeks – as opposed to shows and movies that are considered geeky – to answer properly. I've noticed that the media likes to treat physical beauty and geekiness / nerdiness as mutually exclusive traits (which they aren't), and that a lot of the idiocy directed towards “fake geek girls” implies that attractive women act likes geeks for attention (yeah, no, they act like geeks because they're goddamn geeks). For a good laugh, check out this Fake Nerd Guys tumblr.

We received feedback from someone who was concerned that this issue would reinforce geek girl stereotypes portrayed in shows such as The Big Bang Theory, which was not our intention at all. I've only seen a handful of Big Bang episodes and didn't particularly like the show, so instead of commenting, I'm going to link to couple take downs of The Big Bang Theory from writers who presumably know what they're talking about.

Who can submit? What genres?

Room only accepts work by female and genderqueer writers and artists, and we're accepting submissions of fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, critical essays, art, comics and graphic literature (must be black and white) for this issue.

What are you looking for in a submission?

A unique story, a compelling voice – the usual. In terms of content, I'd like submissions that fall into a geeky category (poetry inspired by technology, speculative fiction, graphic literature and comics, even if the subject matter itself isn't “geeky”), as well as submissions about geek culture or an aspect of it. I have a huge comic book collection (think Bloom County, Hark! A Vagrant, Non Sequitur, Krazy Kat, and graphic memoirs such as Fun House) and I've worked as an illustrator, so I'm particularly looking forward to great comic and graphic literature submissions

Heads up for those submitting work inspired by math, science, or technology – I'm a pretty big math geek with access to a university library and I can and will check your work for scientific accuracy.

Are you reading anything particularly geeky right now?

I just finished Blankets by Craig Thompson, and it was amazing.

Last question: what would you say your geekiest quirk is?

Oh geez. That's hard. I guess it's that when I like something, I get really obsessed. For example, when I was a kid, I loved the Animorphs series, and I once dared myself to reread the entire series to date in a week. And by “once”, I mean I did it three times and all three times there were 30+ books. My mother used to bribe me with Animorphs books to score goals in sports (no joke). Or that time I attempted an homage to Don Hertzfeldt for a university film class. I also genuinely enjoy taking math tests.

“It's Canadian, feminist, and one of my favourite things ever.”

—bucketofrhymes, "29 Amazing Literary Magazines You Need To Be Reading", Buzzfeed Books

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