all images and videos courtesy of the author
Let me start out by saying I’ve never really been into science fiction, fantasy, or even fiction in general (gasp!). Sure, I appreciated the occasional Indiana Jones or Lord of the Rings film, but I never developed a true devotion to the whole genre like my family and peers did. When I was younger, my excuse revolved around my fear of scary movies and anything with violence. As I got into my twenties, I’m not really sure what my excuse became.
Recently, everything changed.
It all started in early May when my sister and dad were getting hyped up for the release of Obi-Wan on Disney. Despite not liking action movies, I grew up watching the original Star Wars films with my family. While I wouldn’t say I’m a diehard fan, I know all the jargon, music, plots, and even have a Yoda lego keychain I take with me everywhere. For years, they’ve been telling me how much I would like a particular Star Wars series or Marvel film, but I guess I just never listened to them? I’m a tough sell when it comes to movies, podcasts, and books, so it really takes an Em-specific pitch to get me into anything. If they had told me these movies have complex plots about human morality and decision-making with lots of hot people and minimal violence, a bit of historical education, stellar costumes, fantastic orchestral soundtracks, and potential gay moments, I would have been sold.
When the trailers for Obi-Wan came out, my sister urged me to watch them, and I felt open-minded that day, so I did. To my surprise, I was intrigued. Since the characters are people I know from original films, it felt a little more comfortable. I had a foundation and connection to work from. It was also clear that the arc of this story would follow an old, sensitive man and a young, fiery child in a bit of an adoptive father-daughter relationship. I could see myself in these storylines. These relationships felt familiar.
I decided then and there that I would watch The Mandalorian so I could fully commit to watching Obi-Wan every week to discuss it with my family and friends. I would never admit this directly to my family members, but a big part of my motivation to watch Star Wars is so I can finally have something in common with them. It’s an easy and fun talking point, especially when I’m certainly the odd ball of the family (being queer, among other things). It also makes small talk easier, especially now when I don’t want to answer the “how are you” formalities. Instead, I can engage in a 20-minute conversation that has no emotional bearing on them or myself whatsoever.
What I didn’t know on that fateful day in early May is that this commitment to a single Star Wars series would lead me into a deep rabbit hole of creating an entire science-fiction-themed summer for myself. Sci-Fi Girl Summer was born.
It was a lot like coming out later in life, but this time instead of going to a bunch of lesbian parties and hooking up with strangers, I’m staying up until 4 a.m. Googling shit like “how is Loki still alive” or “what is the chronological timeline of the tesseract.” I’m late to the game, I know. But, being late to the game also means I can hit up my friends at strange hours after Googling these odd questions and know they will explain things to me. You know, since they’ve done it before. I have many older, wiser people to look to when I’m confused and don’t know what to do when I can’t stop thinking about that one scene all day, every day.
Lucky for me, this was the perfect summer to decide I was going to be into all things space and sci-fi. Right around the time Obi-Wan finished up, Lightyear hit theaters. You better believe I was there opening night with all the buttery popcorn I could handle. Up until June 17, if I had been given a choice between Woody or Buzz, I would have always chosen Woody. Now, I’m all for gay space rangers and weird cats. But at this point of my summer, I had yet to realize my true sci-fi girl calling.
Later in June, I moved, got a new job, slept with someone new (which for me, is a big deal), ended a few friendships, and started a few new ones, so I often felt like breaking into a million pieces at any waking moment. I would tell myself, “This is good stress! This is all because you brought it upon yourself!” But my norm became constant change. I would say “new norm,” but honestly I’ve always been the perpetrator and victim of constant, sporadic, sudden change. This time, though, the weight of uncertainty felt heavier. I found myself uninterested in the things I used to be really into. I stopped caring about the news. About COVID. About my friends. About my health. About my dog (!!!!). I have Bipolar Disorder, so it wasn’t like this depressive episode was uncommon — it just felt like the highs, lows, and constant shifts were a little too much this time.
After years of therapy and self-taught coping mechanisms, I knew that I needed to turn to things that felt familiar, stable, homey. I grew up in Ohio and was fortunate enough to have visited Disney World many times as a little kid. Despite the unending amount of generational trauma that both bonds and tears our family apart, Disney was always the one thing that connected all of us in every generation because our Papa, a Burmese immigrant, took pride and joy in taking his children there every year and, eventually, living nearby.The China pavilion in EPCOT was the closest he could ever come to visiting his home country. Because of this, our whole family spent a lot of time there. He eventually bought an annual pass so he could eat in China every day. Living in a small town in Ohio, none of us had ever really met anyone from a similar background (for more on this, see my A+ essay), so I guess this was our way of connecting to a lineage we never had the opportunity to explore. It’s so much deeper than blissful ignorance and capitalist entertainment. For me, well, for all of us Wins, Disney allowed us some kind of access to our roots and temporary healing from trauma.
Now that I’m off my Disney Adult soapbox, it’s no surprise that I immediately turned to Disneyland in my time of need. I went by myself on a random Wednesday just before my new job started. Much to my surprise, over half the park was space and future themed now that Batu (a planet in Star Wars) is built, and Tommorowland is all Star Wars and Buzz Lightyear themed! All the stars and aliens are cool, but again, it reminded me of home. It connected me to my roots. I had peace of mind knowing I could send our family groupchat pictures of myself with spaceships and not get criticized, scoffed at, or ignored. I would get smiley faces, hearts, and maybe even cheerful questions.
Toward the end of the day, I stood in line for Space Mountain, texting my sister in urgent anticipation because they had temporarily turned the ride into Hyperspace Mountain, the same ride but with Star Wars projections in it. It was this moment, standing by myself as a full grown adult, wheezing in excitement, that I realized two things: 1. I’m indeed, unfortunately, a Disney Adult now 2. Space is fucking cool. This is the part where I would call myself a nerd, but in my dad’s words from literally two days ago: “It’s not nerdy, it’s the Force.”
When my mom made fun of him for this comment, my dad and I shared a look of kinship. We both “got it” and I guess that’s the feeling I’ve been searching for all along.
In search of this familiar feeling once more, I hit up my good friend with a Universal Studios connection. She — also gay, depressed, in desperate need of serotonin, and into sci-fi stuff — suggested we embark on the ultimate day: Universal Studios all day until the 9:30pm showing of Thor: Love and Thunder.
Since I hadn’t seen most of the Marvel films, I decided the week between making these plans and actually executing them would be a perfect time to prepare myself for Thor. If I was going to go watch it in theaters, I wanted to be ready. I called up my sister to research the bare minimum of content I should watch before going into Love and Thunder. I ended up taking on Thor, Ragnarok, Infinity War, and Endgame. As you can imagine, watching all of these films for the first time immediately led me down a path I can never come back from. I had previously assumed these films were all dad-bro-y and hypermasc, but the storylines were so intricate. The relationships between the characters were complicated and realistic. It allowed me to embrace loss and change in a way that felt fun and uplifting. It felt like losing a friend because I came out or breaking up with that one person, or estranging myself from that one family member was all for the greater good of humanity. Sacrificing a relationship would get me an infinity stone and save the planet from decimation.
To quickly distract me from this strange way of grieving, I finally took my sister’s advice and watched the Loki series thinking that maybe this would simply be another point of connection for my family members and me.
Well, Loki RUINED me.
In addition to the astounding writing and groundbreaking themes of time, control, purpose, and manifest destiny, I found myself wildly attracted —not to Tom Hiddleston —but to the God of Chaos himself, Loki. At first, I couldn’t quite name why I thought he was so hot. It’s not like he has a ripped body or beautiful dark skin. He’s not even a noble hero! Something about him felt familiar. After a little bit of research and (spoiler alert) watching the episode where he explicitly states he’s bisexual, I not only realized that he’s hot because he’s essentially every gender all at once and fucks whoever he wants, but because I’ve dated him before, many times. He’s neither good nor bad and will never disclose his intentions. He uses his sense of mystery to both allure people and scare them off. He likes to charm people, but his agenda is ultimately for his own wellbeing. His only motivation is to get his father’s approval and rise to power. Classic 12-year-old boy issues. I’ve dated a lot of mysterious gender-conforming folks with the emotional bandwidth of a 12 year-old boy. Being into self-absorbed, sexually bratty people that I know will ultimately leave me is kinda my kryptonite. Realizing this, I decided that if I can be into sci-fi, maybe I could also be into cismen. I updated all of my dating profiles —all because this one fictional character smirked at the camera and said he’s into “a little bit of both.” It’s the summer of anything goes now, baby!
With a badboi crush and newfound love for all things science-fiction and fantasy, I decide to fully embrace all of the stuff I normally would skip at Universal. Did I wait two hours to ride the Jurassic Park ride? I absolutely did. Did I go on the body-aching 3D Transformers adventure? Yup. Fully committing to this new brand I created for myself, I decided this was only the beginning. After returning home from my super stellar day at the park, I made the ultimate commitment: I was going to watch every Marvel movie in chronological order for the rest of the summer until I’m finished.
Before I could even celebrate the mission I bestowed upon myself, my regularly scheduled programming was disrupted when NASA released never-before-seen color images from the James Webb Telescope. REAL FUCKING SCIENCE YALL. Maybe if I had listened to my high school physics teacher and gone into STEM instead of studying literature I would’ve fulfilled my true destiny of becoming a real-life sci-fi girl. Instead, I just screamed about it on social media and made it my screensaver so I could look into the galaxies and wonder: Are there really living things out there and, if so, how long do I have to wait for my space lover to hover down and swoop me away?
I was about halfway through my Marvel marathon when San Diego Comic-Con released their titles and plans for the next few phases of Marvel content. Up until summer of 2022, I didn’t even know what Comc-Con was. That last weekend in July, I found myself making plans with my friend’s partner to go to Comic-Con 2023 in cosplay.
Growing up pretty high femme, I thought all this spacey, fictional, fantasy stuff was for “boys” (ew, gender norms). I grew up constantly confused because I loved wearing princess dresses and always imagined myself dancing in a ball gown, but also loved being the “dad” in any game of house I played. I liked being the provider, protector, and ultimately having a wife. These two things couldn’t coexist in my universe. I grew up around socially enforced gender norms, so it wasn’t until my mid twenties that I started to really question my expression and identity. Now that I’ve unleashed my inner “masc” baby, I’m realizing that embracing nerd culture gives me a whole new outlet to explore my gender and sexuality. While I wouldn’t say I’m at the level of cosplay just yet, I am certainly thinking about which Loki I’ll be sporting for Halloween.
As someone struggling with many mental health issues, I was pleasantly amused to find how soothing it was and is to dream up my life on a different planet or in a multiverse where the problems of 2022 simply don’t exist. Life has been a lot harder on me recently, so I took the liberty of extending my fixation. I created a playlist based on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack to listen to in my car, in the shower, cleaning…just about anywhere that needs a bit of romanticizing. My music taste is already 80s Dad, but curating it together in one place makes me feel like I can fly around in space, save lives, and share an intimate kiss on the moon with someone, you know? I also started listening to an MCU podcast while I work so I can continue to live in parallel universes and solve problems that ultimately don’t matter.
When I first took on Sci-Fi Girl Summer, I understood it as a slightly unhealthy coping mechanism. As I write this, I’m realizing I took on a version of escapism that isn’t isolating, but exploratory. It’s offered me more connection to friends and family, and ultimately led me on a path to connecting with myself. Creating Sci-Fi Girl Summer was and is my way of excavating joy and creativity from the identities and relationships I’ve repressed most. As dramatic as it may sound, expanding my imagination through time and space really has offered me a new window of hope. Maybe my dreams really do exist in a multiverse somewhere. Maybe I secretly do have powers. Maybe I really will date cis men. The childish wonder of Sci-Fi Girl Summer will continue to help me get out of bed, maintain my relationships, and work on myself. As simply a human in 2022, that’s all I can really ask for.