Welcome back to another Fake Geek Girls Like Us interview. I got to talk to a pretty cool person this month about a ton of nerdy things.
Recently, I supported a Kickstarter called The Secret Loves of Geek Girls. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out here. I went to the panel discussion, which is where I saw J.M Frey (you can find her on Twitter here) talk about her part in the book and other awesome geeky things. I am happy to say that since then, she and I are currently working together on a project happening in the near future. I am really excited to introduce you all to her! Without future delay, here is my interview with J.M Frey:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is J.M. Frey and I am an author, voice actor, and fanthropologist. I like Doctor Who, Sherlock, Stargate: Atlantis and non-fiction books about fandom! I got my MA in Communications and Culture, where I focused on Online Tribes and wrote my thesis on Mary Sues. I began writing fanfiction in 1991, and I still read it, even though I don’t have time to write it any more around the novels that I have due.
What are you currently reading?
I literally just finished reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which was the last of her six published books I had on the list. I’ve read Lady Susan, and part of the fragment of Sanditon that exists, and I still want to read her complete collected letters and the Juvenilia. I think Jane is a fascinating writer, and one of the foremost feminists of her day.I also just finished Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey, for obvious reasons. I’ve recently really gotten into non-fiction books that take a look at subjects through a cultural lens, and liked Servants: A Downstairs View of Twentieth Century Britain by Lucy Lethbridge, The Kissing Sailor by Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi, and Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha.Next up in my pile is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (I know, I’m a bad Canadian, I haven’t read it yet), Julie Czerneda’s A Play Of Shadow, and Sarah Rees Brennan’s Team Human. Book Nerd that I am, I just picked up an antique copy of Charles’ Dickens’ A Child’s History of England and I want to read that. I can’t read it in the bathtub, though, so I keep putting it off because I don’t want to ruin it.
When did you first realize that you may be considered a “nerd” or a “geek”?
Oh, this one is easy! I was a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I even subscribed to the magazine. One day, when I was in grade seven, my grandmother decided to take my cousin and me to Niagara Falls for the day, and I brought along the magazines to share with my cousin during the car ride. I wanted to talk to her about the show, about what had just happened on the last episode, and after a few minutes she said, “Sorry, but I’m not into this weird stuff. It’s too strange.”
At first I was really hurt, because I didn’t think it was weird, or strange. I didn’t realize that what I liked was the wrong thing to like. It had never occurred to me before that there was a division between what people thought was the “right” thing to like and what I liked.I mean, I thought everybody watched Star Trek. My whole immediate family did, so I assumed everyone else did too.
For a while I was really put off Star Trek. I stopped watching it and I stopped reading the magazine and the TV tie-in novels that I found at the local library. I thought I wasn’t being a girl right, or being “normal” enough, that something was honestly wrong with me. And I hated it, because I did actually like Star Trek a lot. I missed it.
Then in grade 8 I met a girl like me who loved Star Trek (she even painted a gorgeous mural of a star field and all the ships on her bedroom wall) who showed me that I didn’t have to be ashamed of what I liked. She introduced me to even more classic scifi, and together we became fans of Stargate, and Forever Knight, and Highlander, and when I was laid up with a broken knee in 2006 it was her who sent me burned rips of the new Doctor Who hidden inside a “Get Well” card.
I learned the words “nerd” and “geek” from this girl, but more than that, I learned to be proud of the terms. Nerds and geeks rule the scientific and creative worlds. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in being passionate about something that is “weird” and “strange.” And more than that, loving these weird and strange things, calling oneself a nerd or a geek, means that you are part of a tribe, a community of people who love passionately, who literally wear the proof of their love on their bodies as tattoos, and tee shirts, and cosplays, and who refuse to be just passive consumers. Nerds and geeks are thinkers and doers. We run charities based on our favorite properties, we make comics, we write fanfiction, we study science because we love science fiction and fantasy.
Nerds and Geeks are people who are literally making the world a better place because of who we are and what we love.
There is nothing shameful in that.
And to this day, that girl who said that it was okay to love Wesley Crusher and Lt. Data instead of whatever hunk everyone was dishing on from 90210? She’s still one of my best friends, even though we now live on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
Can you tell us about the cosplay that you have done so far? Also, do you have any cosplay plans for the future?
Past:My first cosplay was Mariemaia Kushrenada from Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz. I picked her because our faces and hair looked very similar, and my friend Stephanie from Red Moon Glassworks helped me make the cape and jodhpurs. I’d taken some home-ec in grade 7, but I didn’t remember any of it, and she had to teach me how to do pretty much everything.
My first group cosplay was Bad Luck from Gravitation (that’s me in the center as Shindou Shuichi). This one was really interesting because instead of using wigs, we pinned up our hair in the correct styles and then absolutely shellacked them with coloured hair spray. It looked really natural, and really good. It was also my first go at the masquerade, and we won a performance award.
I did lots more, but the other two I’m most proud of are:
Belle, made of a damask jacquard and several wigs sewn together (which I have since donated to a local costume wearhouse because of how often local high schools borrowed it for their productions of Beauty & The Beast), and the “peasant dress” version, which I wore with the same wig, restyled, during the day.
And a gender-switched Inu Yasha, which I made by altering a 200 year old kimono and obi I bought in Dazifu-shi in Japan, and hand painted. I did a LOT of historical research for this one, and went all over Japan to find the right elements. The facepaint I bought from a geisha supply company in Kyoto, the yellow contacts and fangs I bought in Harajuku, and the parasol was from a temple on Shikoku where I had to walk up 688 steps to get to the shops!
And of course, there’s my penultimate cosplay, The TARDIS Gown. It was so complicated that I actually had to outsource the drafting, embroidery, and some of the construction to other cosplayers who were much better than me at those things. I did a lot of the electronics wiring myself, though I’m not entirely pleased with it and might re-jig it before the next con I take it to. I did all the jewellery and metal bits myself, as well. I love this one a lot and try to wear it to as many events as I can –however, it’s really complicated and takes about an hour and a bit to get into. (More if I decide to wear the contacts. I don’t wear contacts every day so I fall out of practice with them pretty easily). So, I generally only wear it to the Saturday night dance.
Future: I’m of Scottish heritage, and I have some swags of my family tartan and a family kilt brooch. I just got back from the Fergus Highland Games and Scottish Festival, where there were so many dudes in their family kilts, but the women mostly just wore our swags pinned to our shoulders. Which was nice, but… not as fun.
I’ve always sort of wanted to create a female-version of the current men’s dress kilt outfit, and with Outlander now on TV, I thought I might make it look a little bit 17th Century-ish too. I’m not entirely certain what I’ll do with the outfit, yet, or how modern I’ll go. But because of past cosplays I already have corsets, petticoats, underskirts, pillow bustles, chemises, wigs, mob caps, etc. So I can probably cobble something fun together, and all I’ll have to make is the skirt. The most challenging part of this will be a) being able to source/afford all the fabric in the correct tartan B) figuring out how to panel it all together so the pattern is uninterrupted and c) all those friggin’ knife-pleats in the back over the bustle. That will take HOURS of pinning, sewing, and ironing wool.
Can you tell us a little bit about your story in The Secret Loves of Geek Girls? Also, I would love to know about the process of making the book and meeting the rest of the team making the book.
The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is a non-fiction anthology of personal stories written by female (or female identifying) geek girls about love, romance, and sex. Hope Nicholson, the mind behind some of the most interesting Canadian comic projects in the last three years (the revival and reprints of Nelvana of the Northern Lights and Brok Windsor, and the First Nations comic anthology Moonshot), met Margaret Atwood through those projects, and with her decided to create Secret Loves. (The full story is here.)I know Hope personally, from the Toronto geek scene, and more than once while in our cups we’ve talked about how cool it would be to do some sort of project together. So when this opportunity came up, she emailed me and told me all the details about my chapter. She didn’t actually ask me if I wanted to be in it, which I found amusing. She just sent me the deets and the deadline and I was like, “Yup, got it, I’m in.”It took me a while to come up with what I wanted to write about, though. I thought I would do something about romance and Mary Sues (because that’s what my MA thesis was about.) I even considered lifting my chapter on sexual self-discovery and Mary Sues from my thesis wholesale and offering that for printing, but decided it wasn’t a personal enough story. Hope wanted to emphasize how people come to romance and sex as geeks in a personal, and intimate way, and had stressed vulnerability and helping others by talking honestly about the things that make us uncomfortable, and I decided I had to do something more personal.
So in the end I decided to write about the journey of self-discovery that has led me to identify as bisexual (and possibly greyace, but I’m still trying to figure myself out on that one – sexuality is a journey, yo!), and how fanfiction played a part in helping me understand and articulate my desires and feelings.
I laughingly called it “How Fanfiction Made Me Gay” as a jokey placeholder. Everything I write as dorky titles like that until I come up with something good. Triptych was “The One With The Woobie Blue Alien Threesome” and The Untold Tale was “Meta Feminist Fantasy Thingy”. But Hope took that title for the real one and put it on the Kickstarter home page. The bluntness of the title got lots of people interested in it, and I did some interviews because of the title. So, I guess I’m stuck with it now, eh?
Since its back to school time, do you have any favourite back to school stories? Like Harry Potter or Gotham Academy?
I loved back to school time. I still do. I love learning things, and I love the fall fashion, and I’m a September baby, so I love everything about the season.As for school books… I don’t think I ever really read a lot! Of course I read Harry Potter, but I read some of The Vampire Diaries too when I was younger, and really liked them. I think Harry Potter is the one that sticks with me the most – one of my best-reviewed fanfics to date was a Harry Potter fic.
Who was the first female character that you can remember looking up to?
Elena from The Mask of Zorro. I loved how no-nonsense she was. And how gorgeous, but still clever. And how well she handled a sword. I’ve always wanted to learn sword fighting; I learned a little bit of stage combat in acting school, but never as much as I would have liked. I watch Casey Hudecki, a swordswoman and stunt performer from Toronto, and just swoon.And for all the same reasons, I loved Amanda from Highlander: the series. I even got that super-short haircut Amanda wore, and bleached it photophorecent white in high school.I also quite liked Anne in Anne of Green Gables, because she was an unrepentant dreamer, like me, and a red head. She stayed herself even as she grew up.
What are your thoughts on the latest Doctor Who trailer? Are you excited for the upcoming season? Who is your favourite Doctor? Who is your favourite companion?
Uuuuhg…. painful confession time…I don’t really like Doctor Who any more.I loved all the seasons starring 9 and 10, and when I went back and watched some of the classics, I found them really entertaining. Some of my favourite episodes were written by Stephen Moffat, so when I heard he was going to be taking over as showrunner, I was really pleased. I loved “The Eleventh Hour”, and was pretty pumped about the rest of the season.
But I just… I didn’t dig what came after. I like Matt Smith as an actor, but I didn’t like some aspects of his performances. I found the storytelling uneven, the climaxes and overarching story arcs confusing, and it just felt too much like Moffat playing in his sandbox with his action figures instead of telling a professionally written, well-crafted story.
There is proof in his work on Sherlock, Coupling, and his earlier Doctor Who eps that he is a very clever, good, writer. But I find that as a showrunner, his imagination runs away with him and he forgets the story he’s trying to tell. He’s a great writer when there’s an editor above him to hold onto his leash.
With Peter Capaldi coming on board –and being a much angrier Doctor – I feel like I’ve lost touch with the show, and what it’s supposed to be. I don’t see the heart that was present in Davies’ run. I just see big set pieces and snarky quips and flailing.
And I don’t like Clara. I think she’s mean. I think Amy was a nag and a cranky, selfish, narcissistic b***ch. My favourite companions from the Moffat era have been Rory, who I think didn’t get a fair shake and could have been so much more as a character, and Craig Owens from The Lodger and Closing Time. I suppose I just want to see the Doctor with a male companion because I feel like Moffat wouldn’t dare try any of his weird psycho-sexual father-daughter-lover companion characterization with him.
My favourite companion was Donna, because she was just so clever, and worthwhile, and had such a big heart. I’m gutted every time I think about how she had to be left behind. I like Martha a lot, too, because she is a hero in her own right.
I’ve said before that I think that while the show is called Doctor Who, I feel that the Doctor is not the hero. He is the protagonist, but he is not the hero. He is the Trainer-of-Heroes. Jack says “I wish I’d never met you, Doctor. I was much better off a coward.” And Rory tells the Doctor that he is dangerous, because he makes people want to prove themselves to him. The Doctor is the man who makes heroes out of his companions. He is the one who makes his companions – and us, the audience – want to be bigger on the inside.
And I’m just not seeing that Doctor in the Moffat era.
Was there any announcements from the D23 Expo that your excited about? Any Disney development that you are excited for?
Moana!! I just want a marvelous Disney animated film that is culturally respectful and diverse and I have such high hopes, and I cannot wait for this film! Also, I sound like Jodi Benson when I sing, so of course I always love getting new music to add to my repertoire. (Here’s me singing. Here’s more of me singing.)I am a sucker for a fantastic Disney animated musical film, and while I’ve enjoyed the latest offerings, I feel like they weren’t as good as when Menken & Ashman were writing the scores. This is because The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, and Aladdin were all structured like musicals. They had fantastic scripts, and narrative structure, call backs, just… they were really well written.In a musical, a character bursts into song because they are so filled with emotion that they literally have no words to describe how they’re feeling and must sing and dance the emotion instead. The songs shouldn’t stop the action, but further it.And I don’t know what it is, but the last few films seem to have forgotten this. The first hours of Tangled and Frozen, for example, use music to fantastic effect. The opening numbers sung by Rapunzel and Anna set the scene beautifully. But then right around the Act II climax, it’s like the writers forgot this was a musical.
I mean, nobody sings at all from “At Last I See The Light” on in Tangled, except for Rapunzel’s Flower Song while Flynn is dying. Where was Mother Gothel’s musical Jafar moment? Why didn’t she reprise “Mother Knows Best” again? It would have been a third reprise, but it would have been very transformed, because for the first time, Rapunzel would have known that Gothel was gaslighting her.
And in Frozen, the last song that actually moves the plot forward is “Let It Go”. Olaf’s ode to summer, and the troll’s “Fixer Upper” literally stop the plot. They are useless songs. (Cute, well performed, catchy. But in terms of plot? Useless.) And from “Fixer Upper” onward, there was no more music. Again, it was like the screenwriter forgot that the film was a musical. Why didn’t Hans reprise “Love Is An Open Door” in a minor key while literally locking Anna up in a room to freeze to death? Hello, appropriate!
Anyway, I’m really hoping Moana is a return to the well-written musical film.
Are there any movies or television shows that are coming out that you are looking forward to (near or distant future)?
I haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road or Ant-Man yet. I know. I hang my head in shame. After that, outside of Moana, I am looking forward to all the next Marvel Cinematic Universe films, of course. And the Black Widow film that I’m desperate for them to realize they need to make. I would also love to see Fraction & Aja’s Hawkeye adapted, because I’d love to see Kate come to life.I am looking forward to the Newt Scamander/Fantastic Beasts film, too, because I am interested to see how it’s put together and how Rowling’s world comes to life in a period setting. Her worldbuilding is very interesting.
And of course, Pacific Rim 2 and Star Trek 3 because a) I’m a nerd who loves sci fi and b ) Idris Elba.
Thanks for tuning in! Fake Geek Girl Like Us is an interview series on +5 Charisma where we talk to girls in nerd culture. Email email@example.com if you would like to be featured!