Geeking Out in Middle Grade by Sam Maggs
Con Quest!, my debut middle-grade novel, is out this June 23rd. I’m so excited about sharing this story with the world – not just because it’s a debut, and not just because I loved writing it (though I did), but because I hope that it might have the power to help even one middle-grader out there who needs it.
I’ve always been a huge nerd! My parents saw Star Wars: A New Hope in theatres over twenty times when it first came out, and I guess instead of rebelling and getting into football, or something, I just kind of went along with it. My first true geeky love was Stargate SG-1. I found the show when I was eleven years old, and I immediately became obsessed with it. (Looking back, I think it may have been because the show’s female lead she was one of the first really multifaceted female characters I’d seen in modern genre TV. Also, we had the same name.) Stargate quickly dominated my thoughts, my dreams, my fanfic-reading hours, and I wished more than anything that I could share my love with someone other than my mom.
That’s not how things went for me. I struggled hard, especially around eleven and twelve years old, to make friends. Well-meaning authority figures would tell me I had something of the “victim” about me that made me an easy target for the extra-cruel brand of bully that can pop up in sixth and seventh grade. I came home crying from school, from dance class, from swimming lessons. I was too weird. I didn’t know how to fit in. I was “weak.” And I definitely never brought up Stargate.
It took me years – decades, even! – before I’d finally built up enough self-confidence to realize that I didn’t have to hide who I was in order to please other people. That there were enough people in the world – billions! – that there would be someone out there who’d like me for who I was. (This was a journey I would later repeat when I finally came out as bisexual. Go figure!) I moved to a big city, started hanging out at comic book stores and on Twitter, and I found my people. I went to my first Stargate convention with my mom when I was eighteen, and I’m still friends with the other fans who showed up. We see each other at back at the con every two years like clockwork. I had friends who loved me – and who showed me a whole new world of comics and video games and sci-fi to explore. Heck, I’ve made a whole career out of being a nerd!
But what if I didn’t have to go through twenty years of heartache, bullying, and shame to become the loud, proud geeky gal I am today? I wanted to write Con Quest! so that any nerdy middle grade kids who read it would know that they aren’t alone. That there are tons of other kids out there who love all the same things they do, and who will accept them for exactly who they are. Who will want to share their obsessions with them, and bond over being big dorks. Who don’t fit just one stereotypical nerdy mold (diverse representation in the fandom sphere is so important, and the characters in Con Quest! deal especially with their own mental health and sexuality.) It’s also my hope that any parents, guardians, teachers, or librarians who read along with their kids might also learn something new about geek culture. Conventions and online communities are wonderful and inclusive spaces that could be just the place for their kids, who might otherwise have difficulty making friends, to find likeminded geeks. Con Quest! is about embracing your nerdiest self, and not feeling like they have to change in order to be accepted.
The geek shall inherit the earth. So what are you waiting for? Get your nerd on with Con Quest!, and live your geekiest life.
Sam Maggs is a bestselling writer of books, comics, and video games. She has been a senior game writer, including work on Marvel’s Spider-Man; the author of books like The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Unstoppable Wasp: Built on Hope, and Tell No Tales; and a comics writer for beloved titles like Marvel Action: Captain Marvel, Transformers,and My Little Pony. Her work has taken her to comic book conventions all over the world. A Canadian in Los Angeles, she misses Coffee Crisp and bagged milk. Con Quest! is her debut middle-grade novel.