Speaking on the phone with New York Times best-selling author Kami Garcia, there was a moment interrupted by the excited yipping of her two dogs.
“My dogs are named Spike and Oz, after Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Garcia said after the barking had subsided. “Spike is just like his character — blond and bad.”
Garcia’s decision to name her dogs after two characters from a cult-classic ‘90s TV series showcases how her passion for the fandom plays a role in both her novels and personal life.
The Alachua County Library District will host its third Fandomonium Comic Con on Saturday at the Headquarters Library, where Garcia will appear alongside graphic novelist and illustrator Andre Frattino and musician Brian Ross.
Garcia, who is attending Fandomonium for the first time, said the conventions she’s been to in the past have primarily been focused on movies and comic books, so she’s excited to see what people do for their book fandoms.
“I think the idea of going to a fan convention is really cool, and so I want to see if everyone is going to be dressed up like comic con,” Garcia said. “I’m really interested in seeing what the overall feel of the convention will be like. For me, personally, I’m in a lot of different fandoms, so it will be interesting to see a bunch of fandoms in the same place.”
Garcia was previously a teacher for 17 years, and she routinely incorporated her love of fandom and fantasy into her life by working on a side project with her friend Margaret Stohl for their book club. The result of that finished project was her novel “Beautiful Creatures,” which has now reached International Bestseller status, nabbed a spot on The New York Times Bestseller List and was made into a movie in 2013 starring Viola Davis and Emma Thompson.
“We wrote the book as serialized fiction for the seven teens in my fantasy book club, two of which were Margaret’s daughters,” Garcia said. “The book has now been published in 49 or 50 countries, and we never imagined that kids all over the world would be reading our book.”
Garcia, who is looking forward to meeting with her fans to connect and compare notes this Saturday, said her favorite feedback to get from fans is when they tell her that her books helped them feel less alone.
“I remember when I was a teenager in high school and junior high, and I had books that I carried around and read over and over again when I was having a hard time, and they always made me feel stronger or like I could get through my problems,” Garcia said. “It’s really rewarding for your book to be that book for another person.”
The recent surge of fandoms could easily be summed up by the takeover of social media. Garcia commends networking sites like Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram for creating an inclusive environment for people within fandoms to connect and interact with people who love the same things they do.
“My friends, a lot of us are much older now, but we still have shows and fandoms that we follow and read about online,” Garcia said. “Fandom is like an online community for people who are interested in comics, books and TV, and I think it’s really a part of our culture now.”
Fandomonium, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, will have a variety of events dedicated to celebrating fans of comics, anime and sci-fi pop culture.
According to the press release, these include a presentation on the history and production of comic strips, comic books and graphic novels from Frattino at 10:30 a.m., an appearance by Garcia at 12:30 p.m. to talk about her rise to New York Times stardom, a performance by the Harry Potter-inspired band Draco and the Malfoys at 2 p.m. and a bunch of unique panels that discuss topics such as feminism, fanfiction and cosplay.
Amber Griffin, a 21-year-old Gainesville resident, is no stranger to conventions. In fact, this will be the second year she’s attending Fandomonium.
“I really enjoyed it for being such a small con,” Griffin said. “My favorite thing to do was the live action trivia board game. We had to answer questions about our favorite fandoms and progress through different categories laid out on the floor. It was so much fun that my boyfriend and I did it twice.”
Griffin, who is attending the convention dressed as Raven from “Teen Titans,” will be co-hosting the panel “Cosplay, Make Up!” on how to properly create the best cosplay outfits.
Garcia has sat in on her fair share of panels, and she said there have been many times where she was the only woman on stage, which shined a light on the evident amount of sexism within the fandom community.
“I’ve been on panels for science fiction where guys will assume that I don’t know anything about Star Wars or science fiction because I’m a girl,” Garcia said. “I do notice that when I do Comic Con, I get a lot of suspicious looks when I do geeky panels that’s talking about fandoms and things.”
Garcia praised Marvel comics writer Jonathan Maberry for being supportive of women artists, but she also admits there is still a large amount of progress yet to be made, especially for women writers in the male-dominated science fiction genre. Garcia advises those women to continue to keep fighting.
“You go and write your book and do your thing, do your cosplay, race a car or do whatever it is and show that you can do it,” Garcia said. “We can do it just as well as any guy, and I think that eventually no one will be able to say, ‘Oh, a woman can’t do that,’ because, well, a woman just did. That’s the key, to just keep going and to not give up, and I think a lot of women do that, and it’s why we’ve had so much progress.”