This review was originally posted on Medium.
Having read a serial, The Immortal Circus, only once before, I wondered if I would find this format just as compelling a second time around. While the element of being introduced to a new fantasy world ensnared me the first time, I was compelled to read the Geek Actually series because I relate to the authors and characters, who are primarily women of color. While the concept of receiving a book chapter-by-chapter may seem new to many, it is actually a format that was used very much in the 19th and early 20th centuries. What was then published in magazines to subscribers, would often offset the cost of entire book, which were expensive in those times. As a book reviewer and someone who reads a lot of academic papers for work, what I like most about this format is that I don’t feel like I’m lagging behind when it comes to completing a chapter. Each chapter that I read for the Geek Actually series took about an hour, which is the approximate length of my commute on the New York City subway.
Geek Actually is one of the series available under the Serial Box imprint and is written by four authors, Cathy Yardley, Melissa Blue, Cecilia Tan, and Rachel Stuhler. Each episode chronicles the adventures of Michelle, sci-fi book publisher extraordinaire, her half-sister and production assistant Christina, an author in the Midwest named Aditi, Taneesha, a game developer who geeks out on games as much as she does Beyonce, and Elli the young, free-spirited cosplay enthusiast. Serial Box offers teasers into their world with a free preview and first episode on their website. I dare you to read them and NOT get hooked. I found the most captivating aspect of this series to be how well each author has seemed to capture behaviors that I recognize in myself and others, including using Slack to communicate as a group. At times I feel as if someone has peeked into the diary I’ve never written! While I’d like to share my insight on the whole story, I have only received the ARC for episode seven, thus, I can only review the plot of it and episode one.
When episode one left off, Michelle contemplated her dissolving marriage and how to maintain her semblance of authority at work while managing her recalcitrant author and friend, Aditi. In episode seven we get a better glimpse into how Michelle holds this together (not well) but that she has good instincts when it comes to her friends. It also seems that she’s experienced a lot of personal growth after becoming a publisher and needs to further explore what this means for her and her personal relationships. Part of me wonders if Aditi would be better served in not working directly with a friend and instead had someone who understood her professional needs to represent her as an author. As we see in chapters one and seven, Aditi has a tendency to avoid her problems and become defensive when pushed to do something she has no desire to do or doesn’t understand how to do (very similar to my own tendencies). She also continues to hold a grudge against Michelle for signing her into something she didn’t want but benefits her in the long run. While Michelle’s prodding bears fruit in Aditi’s work, I felt this didn’t release any of the tension in their relationship. I hope that the pair can resolve their issues without having a huge blowout but I have a feeling that wish will not come true.
Speaking of tension, Taneesha is going through her own private hell as she faces backlash from a community of MRA bros who have doxed her for successfully beating a guy in World of Warcraft. When she tries to relieve some of the tension by having a glam day, it seems to inspire even more undesirable attention, from an unexpected place. In LA, Christina ignores the tension that is bound to come up when you mix business and pleasure. She’s literally dating the star of the movie that she’s works on as a PA! Can’t imagine issues that could arise there… Finally, Elli seems to have found her calling as an assistant for a cosplay queen, but has to evaluate whether she has what it takes.
So who is the metaphorical pussy biting back in this episode? Aditi and Taneesha reacting to the negative forces that they encounter? Is ‘pussy’ being used as a negative pejorative for the cowardly men imposing their will onto the women? I’d like to think it’s the former because pussy is actually WAY more resilient than male genitalia (and is more commonly used in colloquialisms) and each of the women display some form of resilience in this series. I look forward to catching up with the episodes that I’ve missed and reading upcoming installments.