If you haven’t already noticed, geek is increasingly chic. But even with the mainstreaming of geekdom, sci-fi/fantasy shows, and comic books, identifying as a geek is still not an easy thing for kids, especially girls, to do.
Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon, 30, knows that first hand and that is why she decided to pay it forward, interviewing prominent “geek girls” from around the world and then compiling their experiences and words of wisdom into a book, “How Geek Girls Will Rule The World.” We chatted with the Gravesend native about what it’s like to be an author, a doctor of psychology, and a geek girl.
What is HGGWRTW?
It’s a book designed to inspire women and girls who are interested in geeky activities either as career or pastime. To encourage them to pursue those activities in the future.
The sections in the book are computer science, hard science, math, gaming, comics, science fiction, and fantasy. These categories tend to be passionate and create genres that allow participants to be creative. Scientists, for example, can think outside the box and come up with solutions that others wouldn’t have thought of.
What does the word “geek” mean to you?
For me, geek equals people passionate about particular activities, who have an equally powerful interest in things that are real and fictional.
When did you start identifying as a geek girl?
For most geeks, before you knew the label, you knew it in your heart. I guess I first started in high school, where I found a community of people with similar interests and activities. For me, I have always been into science. I have a degree in psychology and was always interested in physics, astronomy, math. . . Numbers are so logical. The way they operate resonates with me. On the flip side, I have always loved fantasy novels and science fiction. Then, at Stuyvesant High School, I met people into gaming.
One thing that’s great about NYC in general is the people here are so open-minded. I never felt I was weird or out of place because of my interests. There were always a lot of other people like me and I was accepted for who I was. What’s wonderful about the city is it allows you to explore your interests and not feel like a weirdo.
Why this book and why now?
I have always been passionate about women’s issues and equality and helping women succeed in various aspects of their lives. I have always wanted my work to have a positive impact on people and I felt like the geek community in general is getting more attention in mainstream media. We’re not hiding anymore — people know who we are. So I think that as a geek — especially as a geek female — you’re always aware that some people think there are some things you shouldn’t be doing because your’e female. That’s especially true in some hard science areas and computer science areas. It wasn’t always that way, but it certainly feels that way now. I wanted to do something to help girls approach those passions without fear. So what better way to do it than talk to people who’ve already done it? To learn about their experiences, how they overcame obstacles they faced and managed to pursue those passions. That was something I could do take what they learned and share with other girls.
I had this idea in September of last year (2012). At the time, I was commuting from a job in New Jersey and had a lot of time to sit and think about how could I take my interests and use them to find work but also make a difference. I was sitting there on the phone, with my notepad app open, jotting down ideas that came into my head. This idea came into my head and then thought about it more and said could make a book.
Who are some of the interviewees included? How did you get them to agree to be included?
There are 67 interviews. I mostly found them over the Internet since a lot of them have webpages or blogs. We spoke mostly over email or over the phone. There are a lot of famous people. including Anne Rice and Patricia Briggs in science fiction. For comics, we have Trina Robbins, Alex de Campi and a lot of well known comics women. In gaming, one of the standouts is probably Margaret Weis — she is responsible for the Ravenloft storyline, which is prominent in the Dungeons & Dragons world. Then in computer science, Barbara Liskov; and for math and science, Amy Mainzer. . . there are a lot of well known people. They were all pretty eager and excited to be involved with it.
What lesson(s) did you take away from this experience?
The biggest thing is that having these interviews and learning these women’s perspectives was so inspiring to me what some of them have gone through and how they persevered in the face of that, overcame it, and are now successful women doing what they love. The thing I got was inspiration — to let nothing hold me back. To persevere against the odds.
Do you have any mentees who you would give this book to?
I’m an only child, but have a younger female cousin who is a pre-teen. She loves to draw manga. So I’m hoping that she is the sort of person I hope will benefit from this. When I was conducting these interviews, I was inspired myself. These are such incredible women with such inspiring stories. Listening to them made me even more proud to be a geek girl.
What does your husband think of the book?
He loves it. He’s did the cover illustration and read the book himself. It’s intended for women, but is not just for women. Men who are geeks know these women who are interviewed and love their work, so are also interested in reading their stories.
What’s next for you?
I’m definitely interested in writing more books. I have a PhD in social psychology from NYU and just started a new job as a research director at Catalyst – a not-for-profit that helps promote women in business. So it matches my interests!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I guess I would just say how really grateful I am to the women who contributed to the book. They’re really amazing, their stories are amazing, I hope that young girls and women who are thinking about even just doing geeky things as a pastime or as a career choice, that they will look to these women and learn from their experiences and realize that nothing is impossible for them and they can do it too.
By Dr. Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon