Chaotic Good shook me to the core. It moved me in ways I didn’t even know it could. The way the sexism and fear, regarding Cameron’s participation in the mostly male dominated ‘geek’ world, was portrayed was spot on to some of my own experiences.
Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.
When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.
At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.
But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious
So I’ve already stated this, but Chaotic Good hit me right in the emotional feels. I have zero sewing and artistic talent. So I didn’t feel like I was like Cameron in that way. No. I felt exactly how Cameron feels when she is being interrogated for being a ‘fan’ and denied entry into the spaces of ‘fandom’ and the ‘geek’ culture. It’s no secret that it’s pretty male dominated. There have been some great changes, but it has a long way to come. We know this. We know because women have been harassed, threatened, and told that they don’t have a seat at that table.
So this book is timely – which makes Gardner’s dedication to ‘the feminist killjoys’ a piece of cake. I want more. But this book brought me right back to being on the outside of the circle discussing science fiction in college. Literally on the outside of the male dominated circle. For having my tastes in SF dissected as not being ‘real SF’ even though I have now written two thesis about this. People I have done actual research into SF critical theory and its history. (Don’t @ me).
But it immediately clicked with me in a way that lead me to tears. It lead me to tears when I remembered all the ways I had to erase myself to fit in. To prove to them I wasn’t threatening, and to feel like I could blend in and be safe. The fear and the knowledge of the power dynamic. As someone who played World of Warcraft (and many other RPGs) and tried DnD. This just mirrored some of my exact experiences.
And this reflection of my experiences just made this book even more special to me. In fact, while I deeply loved other aspects of this book, it kept coming back to this for me. It was about the spaces that I was excluded from and included in – the fan conventions and the craft stores. To name the things I did like: I loved her relationship with her brother, and her brother in general. I adored the DnD storyline and illustrations within the book!
All in all, read this book if you ever felt like I did. It has the potential to resonate so deeply with you too.
You have to check out Chaotic Good on Goodreads.