When I came up with the idea of the #SciFi Women Interviews, I didn’t expect such a positive reaction from the amazing ladies I contacted to take part in the series. I am honored to launch this project with the supportive and inspiring Johnamarie Macias. I met her through the Star Wars fan community here on WordPress and on also on Twitter.
Born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City, Johnamarie grew up under the care of a loving and supportive family. She later attended Cornell University and Queens College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in archaeology and a master’s degree in library science, respectively. Growing up, she was a fangirl of many things, including DuckTales, Star Wars, MacGyver, Stargate SG-1, and much more. She also loves comic books, her favorite characters being Bobbi Morse and the Vision. What really brought her into the thick of fandom was Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an animated series that made her a very dedicated clone trooper fangirl. She enjoys regularly updating her Star Wars-inspired blog, The Wookiee Gunner, and contributing to Making Star Wars, The Star Wars Report, and Fangirl Next Door. You can also find her engaging with fans on Twitter as @BlueJaigEyes and on Facebook.
NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your life?
JOHNAMARIE: Years ago, one of my teachers told my mom that I have a highly active imagination, and I like to think it’s because of my love for science fiction. It was the first genre I remember being exposed to as a child, and I never shied away from creating my own worlds or contraptions and thinking of a future far more advanced than ours. I also may have had a few alien friends along the way. Even though I didn’t possess the confidence to pursue a career in math or science, science fiction did much for me in terms of keeping my imagination alive and creatively flowing over the years.
NG: How did you get the idea to create The Wookiee Gunner?
JOHNAMARIE: Several blogs had inspired me to pursue and create my own space to share my thoughts, but at the time, I found it difficult to focus on a topic. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon Tricia Barr’s FANgirl Blog and Lillian Skye’s Fangirls in the Force that I really took up the interest in writing about Star Wars. I’m also an extremely passionate fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and that propelled me forward into being more involved with the fandom and communicating my thoughts in the way I knew best: writing. Coming up with a name for anything is a difficult task, but “The Wookiee Gunner” came easily to me, since it appeared in one of my favorite Star Wars books, No Prisoners by Karen Traviss. So, in the end, the blog was born out of the need to write and find a niche is a thriving community of Star Wars fans.
NG: Do you have other current or future Science Fiction related projects?
JOHNAMARIE: My goals and plans tend to be all over the place, since my mind is a whirling mess of fangirl thoughts, but I am working on a personal science fiction story that I hope to develop as a novel someday. It takes place in Earth’s future and on the moon’s surface. It also contains a diverse group of characters (Latina, Native American, Maori, just to name a few), a radical race of aliens, and a sister and brother caught between a war. I like to think it’s a good ol’ space adventure!
NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?
JOHNAMARIE: Growing up, I watched unhealthy amounts of television and movies. Some parents will frown upon that today, but it was the only solid way to keep me entertained for long periods of time. From Star Trek: The Next Generation to X-Files, I was exposed to my parents’ favorites at a very young age, so I ended up adopting a lot of their tastes and preferences. One of the few vivid memories I have as a child involved me sitting in front of the television set on Sunday afternoons and watching Star Wars: A New Hope on the WB channel.
NG: What are your top 3 favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows and movies?
JOHNAMARIE: Reading wasn’t my favorite activity as a child, sadly. I remember the difficulties I had when it came to reading comprehension. I ended up going to summer school for it once, and I’ll never forget when the teacher gave me a “Hooked on Phonics” case and left me alone in the classroom to learn on my own. Frustrated and angry, I hated reading even more because of it until things eventually turned around in high school. I do have a few favorites, however, such as A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. I’m more of a visual learner, so I was naturally more attracted to television and movies as a child. At the time, I found more enjoyment watching a story unfold on the screen than having my eyes go cross eyed while reading pages filled with text. My preferences have changed since then, but when I was younger, the relationship I had with my television helped my imagination grow and even influenced my career path later on. My top three favorite science fiction series include Earth 2 (1994), Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007), and Stargate Atlantis (2004-2009). Finally, for short bursts of inspiration, I love going to the movie theaters. My comfort zone is at home, but I enjoy stepping out of that and into a theater for the occasional escape and bringing that movie home months later to watch over and over. That said, my top three film franchises are Tron, Jurassic Park, and of course, Star Wars.
NG: Which Science Fiction characters have had the greatest influence on you?
JOHNAMARIE: When I lived in Puerto Rico at the age of 9, I remember sitting in front of the television on a Sunday or Monday evening and watching the latest episode of Earth 2, a NBC science fiction series in 1994 that was ahead of its time. In an attempt to find a cure to an illness called “the syndrome”, an expedition to a planet that resembled our own went terribly wrong when the ship crash landed. The leader and the mother of a child with “the syndrome” is Devon Adair played by the lovely Debrah Farentino. I never really considered myself the “leader” type, but when it came to group projects and other sorts of activities, I naturally picked up the role. Till this day, whenever I’m in that kind of situation, I ask myself “What would Devon do?” because she was a strong and self-empowered woman who was very aware of her goals and what she needed to accomplish in order to give her son a proper life. The fact that a woman was leading this trek out into the unknown in a science fiction series during the mid-90s is something that continues to amaze me. Even as progressive as we are today, we rarely see a science fiction series with a woman lead. What saddens me the most is that the show itself was prematurely canceled, and on top of that, no one knows about it. Whenever I bring it up in conversation, most people are unaware of its existence. What made the show so memorable for me were the emotions and the drive behind Devon and her dream to establish a new life for her son and all of the other children afflicted with this illness. She was selfless and full of ambition, traits that I highly admire in characters and people in general. Whenever I go through the process of creating my own women characters, I always find a way to incorporate Devon in some manner because I want them to be as compelling.
NG: What are your favorite and least favorite developments that happened to the Star Wars franchise since Disney purchased it?
JOHNAMARIE: When Disney first acquired Lucasfilm, I was worried about how the content was going to be handled. A few months later, the acquisition became a nightmare when Star Wars: The Clone Wars was canceled. That show–more than the films–made me the Star Wars fan I am today. I was disappointed that it was cut short, especially at a time when it had reached its prime in animation and storytelling. My heart still aches when I think about all of the stories we have yet to see from that era, but when it comes to the animation side of Star Wars, all isn’t lost. Star Wars Rebels premiered in October 2014 and it gave me what I crave as a fan: new characters and new adventures. The series, like its predecessor, has captured my heart and imagination.
NG: What is Science Fiction’s responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation?
JOHNAMARIE: One of my favorite quotes came from television writer and producer Jane Espenson in an interview with Advocate.com, “If we can’t write diversity into sci-fi, then what’s the point? You don’t create new worlds to give them all the same limits of the old ones.” It encapsulates everything I believe in when it comes to incorporating diversity into all aspects of society, especially in science fiction. We all know that a lot of imagination goes into writing science fiction and developing worlds filled with possibilities, but what’s the point of creating a story about some untold and inventive future if it perpetuates the things that continually hold us back in the present. I believe it is our responsibility to be more aware of our surroundings and the world we live in right now before we go off and dream up of a story set in a galaxy far away or a future of human advancements.
NG: Do you think that Fangirls are an expression of Feminism?
JOHNAMARIE: Someone once tried to tell me that the term “fangirl” only helped create more of a divide, and therefore, contributed to the struggle of women trying to find equality in the geek community. The reality of the situation is that the term exists because women fans need to continue to establish themselves in a male-centered fan community. Perhaps, one day, we will achieve the universal “fan” term and give up on assigning it a gender, as they had suggested. Whether that comes true or not, I see the term fangirl as a way to celebrate geek women–women who want to demonstrate that we, too, can be passionate and dedicated fans. The Fake Geek Girl term is a recent example of the attack of women in geek culture, leading me and many other girls to take more pride in the fangirl name. Despite the negativity aimed at geek women, however, there are positive forces reinforcing the fangirl and feminist image, such a Geek Girl Con and Her Universe. There is a message we’re all trying to reinforce and that is that feminism is about equality, empowerment, and the freedom for women to live their lives without societal restraints and to choose roles that aren’t solely based on traditional expectations. Being a fangirl is also about finding equality in the geek community, empowering fellow geek girls to not feel ashamed about what they love, and to not let society dictate who you are as a geeky individual. Taking up the fangirl name is an expression of feminism and there’s certainly nothing wrong about that.
NG: How do you think fangirls can change media industries? JOHNAMARIE: By starting a massive coup and taking over the world! Realistically speaking, though, fangirls have been very vocal throughout social media and the blogosphere, actively letting media industries, companies, and our fellow peers know that fangirls of a variety of backgrounds are a significant percentage of the fan population. We no longer want to be an audience that’s pushed aside and excluded. The best thing that we, as fangirls, can do is to continue to create stories that include diversity, to support each other’s projects (instead of tearing each other down), and to unite and collectively bring awareness to ill trends in media and to work for positive solutions. Just recently, actually, I broke down crying because I found something to be unfair. Without going into too much detail, it was related to the lack of representation of women in a well-known franchise. My mom, an intelligent woman and the hero in my life, told me recently that I shouldn’t expect a tweet to change the world. Instead, she told me that I should take satisfaction in the fact that I voiced my opinion and that I didn’t sit on the sidelines. As fangirls seeking representation and equality for underrepresented groups, including women, it’s important to keep in mind that our efforts may not change the world in an instant, but our continued and prolonged efforts may make the future brighter for women in the future.
NG: Thank you very much to join us today, Johnamarie! I am certain that my readers will be interested in connecting with you!