Category Archives: Ponderings

WIR (huh) What is it good for?

(A surprising number of things, actually)

There’s this Women Write About Comics Carnival and as I am a woman who has been known to write about comics from time to (all the) time I really want to contribute. The thing is, they’ve got a theme and it’s Women in Refridgerators, 13 years later.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of Women In Refridgerators, it’s the brain child of that champion of women in comics, Gail Simone. As the story goes, one day Gail noticed a pattern, whenever things got too good to be true for our doughty (super) Hero something terrible would happen to heighten the drama and spur him into action. Frequently “something would happen” meant the violent beating, rape, or death of a female member of his supporting cast. A mother, an aunt, or, as in the most famous example from Green Lantern (vol. 3) #54, a girlfriend. The list of characters is long and it’s scary and it’s one instance where my particular brand of “how I got into comics” works against me.

You see, I’m very much a Jenny-come-lately as far as comics goes. I bought my first X-Men comic in 2006 and I’ve read a lot since then, but since I’ve missed so much, I’ll probably use something like Wikipedia or UncannyXmen.Net to catch up on the backstory of anyone I don’t recognize. Which means I get spoiled for everything, which in turnt gives me a layer of distance from those traumatic events. I know they happen before the more visceral experience of reading the books. It’s a necessary thing, but it means that I can think of precious few examples of seeing this trope in action where it actually affected me.

So, I have no huge dramatic story about how I read The Adventures of Suchandsuch #Number and the death of female protagonist seared my young soul to the bone. I do, however have my usual level of righteous indignation over the way women in comics (both characters and creators) are treated.

Because Women In Refridgerators is only a part of the problem. So’s cheesecake and every single thing that fails the Bechdel test. You see, there’s this faulty assumption in not just comics, but the larger nerdy community that there just aren’t that many women to offend, so it doesn’t matter if you do. This is blatantly wrong, of course, but being blatantly wrong has never stopped a perception from damaging anything.

I came to my decision back when the furor over Starfire went down. It came from an exchange I had with my buddy Tim on Twitter. It went like this:

We had it right. It’s not enough for us to be indignant and to speak out. It’s not enough to confront the writers and editors over this online, in the letter pages, and at cons. The only way to change the comics industry is to become the comics industry.

I accidentally reread part of Mira Grant’s Feed last night and one part stood out at me in the context of this situation:

You could tell the ones who were genuinely young from the ones who’d had all the plastic surgery and regenerative treatments money could buy, because the young ones were the ones looking nauseated by all the human contact around them. They hadn’t grown up in this political culture. They just had to live with it until they became the old men at the top of the hill.

~Mira Grant, Feed p. 483

I genuinely hope that this is true of us in the comics industry. That nerdy women are coming into our own and as our generation rises to the top of the heap we’ll be able to shed the nauseating focus on violence towards and sexualization of women. I hope that this happens, but hoping isn’t going to get us anywhere.

So I shifted a few projects around on my “to write” queue. I’m not as ready as I’d like to be and everything’s in a very early stage, but I’m talking with collaborators. We’re working on it. Because I can’t just sit around and hope anymore. I’ve gotta work towards change.

That was the end of post, but if you’ve still got an earworm from my terrible pun in the title, here’s what I’ve been hearing for the last hour while I wrote this:

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Filed under Books, Comics, Feminism, Ponderings, Writing

First Time in the Files, 1-0 Prediction Post

Blatantly stealing this from Mark, but in the interest of full disclosure, I wrote down what I know about the X-Files before I started watching. I probably forgot some things, but this is what I could dredge up from the vaults on the spot.

What I know About X-Files Beforehand:

  1. Mulder and Scully are partners, he believes in the supernatural things they investigate, she doesn’t
  2. Gillian Anderson went on to play Lady Dedlock in Bleak House (Bleak House is very important to me, okay?)
  3. The truth is out there
  4. There’s a smoking man. Whether he smokes because he is on fire or smokes some kind of organic material in cigarette or pipe form I have no idea.
  5. Smoking man might be Mulder’s father. (I feel like I once read a list about the X-Files and that was in there…Or I might be making things up. I have no idea. Isn’t this fun?)
  6. I saw half of the first movie in the middle of the night on a computer screen in Heather’s dorm room sophomore year of college. There were… Bees? In a greenhouse? And Scully was in some kind of mortal peril? Maybe because she’s allergic to bees?
  7. The guy who plays Mulder left after x – 2 seasons (where x is the total number of seasons, which I believe is 9) and the show limped on for two more seasons.
  8. Scully has a baby at some point.
  9. There’s probably romantic tension. I feel like it might pay off after a number of seasons.
That’s it. Well, I for one can’t wait until tomorrow morning.

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Filed under First Time in the Files, Ponderings, Television

A thought, a plan, a canal, more posts

One part of that title is a lie.

I watched this 20/20 special yesterday about YouTube and the people who rise to fame and fortune because of it, I then talked with my Dad about it at lunch and what I was saying about providing consistent, regular content for your audience being the key to growing said audience struck a chord with me.  The thing is, that statement is not at all true about this blog at all. I never post and that’s because I’m lazy, particular about how my content looks, I agonize over every word and in the end it’s easier to post to Tumblr or Twitter. In writing circles we would say I struggle to silence my inner editor. That. Ends. Today.

My plan is to limit myself to thirty minutes for writing blog posts for one year.

If I have an idea that would make a good post I’ll do some limited prep (if there are pictures to download or vitally important links to gather) and then have half an hour to write and five minutes to edit it before I hit post. Period.

Does this mean the quality of my posts will suffer? Probably, unless it cuts down on my tendency to ramble. I’ll have less time to research, to find links or pictures to support my ideas and I ask your patience with that. Find evidence to prove/disprove me and put it in the comments, I’ll be doing the same.

Does this mean I can post more frequently? Absolutely. That’s the point of the exercise. I need to tell my inner editor to shush up about Appa (Avatar: The Last Airbender reference, I am incapable of saying shut up anymore, it always turns into that phrase) and just write. If it means I post three rambling posts that contradict each other, than that’s okay because I’m (hopefully) taking you though my thought process.

I’ve got over half of my thirty minutes left, but I’ve said what I had to say. With the exception of one post going up tomorrow (it’s already written and scheduled) I won’t take more than 35 minutes to do a post on this blog for the next year.

Please bear with me and understand that I’m trying to grow as a writer, not fill your feed readers with useless junk.

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Filed under Ponderings, Rules, Web, Writing

Geek Girls Travel in Packs

Yestereday on twitter Joey Heflich, or @MrBalls if you’d rather, decided to run a little geek survey. As ususal, there was a dearth of female geeks participating initially, so I (and a nice number of other ladies) decided to take part to give him a better sample.  Now, the core of this survey was the following scenario.

 

You see two geeks outside of a convention center.

Geek A is gesticulating wildly, talking about the upcoming release of The Dark Knight Rising, the new Batman movie. Geek A is a bit overweight, unkempt and pale. Geek A’s wardrobe is a wrinkled t-shirt and a pair of cargo shorts.

Conversely, Geek B is dressed up as superhero. Geek B is more of the skinny sort with nice hair to compliment a pair of glasses. A messenger bag is slung over Geek B’s shoulder to free up Geek B’s hands, which hold onto a book and a phone.

While Geek B appears to be politely listening to Geek A, Geek B shows clear signs of being disinterested.

 

We were then asked to identify the gender of the two geeks. I said both were male and so did a majority of the other responders, but Geek B was supposed to be female. As a matter of fact, Geek B was loosely modeled on Jill and Ali, Twitter buddies of mine. With the exception of the skinny attribute, Geek B could well be me, but I still thought of Geek B as a male, why is that?

Is it because we percieve a majority of geeks as male? Yes, absolutely, and that was the point of the survey (and this very nice response post), but I wondered if anything in the scenario suggested male geeks? I’d say yes, because the conversation depicted is between individuals and geek girls travel in packs.

Maddy and I hit a new (to her) comic book store yesterday and as we were pulling in I noted that the store is a really chatty place, she responded (paraphrased) “Of course it is, if you’re a girl alone in a geeky place, you’re going to get hit on.”

It’s true and to be honest, I don’t usually mind.  However, if I’m at a Con, a geek event or even hitting my LCS I’m likely to bring along a wingwoman. I don’t want to suggest that the geek community is an unfriendly or hostile place for women, but the situation described in the survey totally happens, it is uncomfortable and it’s much easier to get out if you can look over and say, “I need to help my friend pick an issue of Spider-Man” (Maddy always needs help picking out issues of Spider-Man).

Even when I hit geek events without a wingwoman I’m as likely as not to pick up a pack. If I’m travelling to visit a Con, I’m going there to meet up with people I know from twitter, I’ve developed con buddies on my own at MiniCon every year and I’m just extroverted enough to hop into a lively conversation if it looks welcoming.

However you slice it, I’m not likely to be Geek B. I wouldn’t be standing outside a convention center in an uncomfortable conversation, there’s no way my pack would let me get cornered like that.

That’s my opinion and experience, but I could well be in the wrong. Let me know what you think in the comments, on twitter, or via email.

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Filed under Ponderings, Twitter

Willful Suspension of Disbelief Only Goes So Far

Warning: Contains Feminism.

Second Warning: I am not an accomplished feminist scholar, a fault I lay at the highly successful feet of the women who have gone before me.  I don’t always recognize when I’m being marginalized, because it is a bit of a foreign concept to me.

So… I finished A Game of Thrones. It took me three tries over about nine months, but I bested the beast. As expected, I was not overly fond of it. I’m currently reading the second book and I’ll read the rest of the series, because I am invested in a few of the characters, not all of them, but a few.

I was surprised when I didn’t really struggle with the content of the books, but rather a lack of desire to keep reading.  It killed my second attempt at Game of Thrones when I left the book at my parents’ house right around the halfway point and never bestirred myself to go get it so I could finish. My parents live 10 minutes away and I’m over there a few times a week, all of which is to say it wasn’t lack of opportunity, it was lack of desire. A Game of Thrones is at least the fourth book I’ve put down for such an extended period in recent months and that is so unusual for me that I’ve mulled it over for a few days trying to puzzle out why it happened.

Today, however, I had a breakthrough. I was in the shower (a magical place for thinking) and I decided to take the Bechdel Test to a few books that were on my mind. This led to me doing something you’re not supposed to do with the Bechdel Test: use it to classify the overall feminism of a work.   Some books, including A Game of Thrones passed with flying colors, others, including what I’ve read of A Clash of Kings (the second book in the series), made me rack my brain to come up with an example.  When it comes down to passing the test versus passing it well most of the books I’d struggled to finish fell in the latter category. After a lot of thinking and trying on different definitions I have an explanation for what they share and why it is so frustrating.

I like to call this the isolated female protagonist or the isolated female.  Look at your shelf of fantasy novels and think about how many of the female protagonists in those novels interact with other women of their own free will. I’m not suggesting that the female protagonist needs to be sent to the kitchens or anything, just that they have a frustrating tendency to be set apart from other women in a way male protagonists are not set apart from other men. Sometimes this is because comparatively normal women don’t exist or aren’t present in the books, but more often the female protagonists tend to  throw off traditional roles in a way that isolates them.

The worst part is that I completely understand one part of why the isolated female happens, especially in a work trying for historical accuracy. Men hit harder than women, so the big army you’ll use to fight the epic battle is going to be made of men and your research is going to focus on depicting those men. If you’re good you’ll research not just the stuff your heroes are doing but how the cavalry, infantry and archers work, maybe even delve into what kind of men they might be when they aren’t fighting.  This in turn leaves you with little to no time to even think about the half of the population not in your big army, so you ignore them, not out of spite, but because they aren’t as necessary to your writing as a whole.  This means that when you write one of your female characters in a down moment you can either surround her with well-researched men or poorly researched women. It’s hard to fault the choice there.

The whole situation, both the isolated females and the lack of common women in proportion to common men is so jarring for me, personally. I know exactly what I would be doing in any other historical era.  If you doubt me on this, try to find a museum without a single spindle. The idea that I and my skills wouldn’t have a useful place in a fantasy world is is a major turn off for me.  It’s not really something I think about consciously, but I react positively when books show all kinds of women making things or doing things, that includes having laundresses and cooks, nurses and seamstresses.  It’s a fault in a lot of books, including some by authors I love (cough Mistborn cough).

I have more thoughts on this, I’ve got examples that I’d pull out if I didn’t have work in the morning, hell, I’ve got half a mind to coalesce, gather references and look into publishing, but I mostly wanted to start a conversation so have at it! I’ll see you all on the other side of MiniCon!

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Filed under Books, Ponderings

Winterizing for your Geeky Lifestyle

I promised an Austen post today, but lo, the Snowpocalypse is upon us!

Seriously, we’re supposed to get about 2 feet of the glorious white stuff here in Minnesota and thus far it’s fine stuff, not heavy, wet, and capable of collapsing tree limbs and powerlines on it’s own kind.  We had that stuff a month ago and a I lost a whole weekend to driving people around in it.  In fact, thus far we have had three major winter storms and I have driven for hours in each of them. So my goal for the Snowpocalypse is to stay in my apartment and not drive further than the bookstore and only then if I am promised coupons and food.

I’m bracing for the worst here and I thought I’d share some of my checklist for battening down the hatches in the face of extreme weather (applicable year round, thanks Tornados!)

The central point of my severe weather strategy is to assume that you will lose one or more utilities at any moment. I’ll refer back to that throughout, but the thing about extreme weather is that it can do weird things. It can knock over a tree and the roots can clip your gas lines, it can cause a car to hit a power line, it can get so cold that your pipes freeze. Basically, the idea is to be able to survive without utilities until they are back on line or the storm is over.

1. Get a variety of Food.

If the lines at the grocery store (and the liquor store) were any indication, folks around here have this one covered, but to sum things up briefly.

You want to have some food outside your fridge. If the power goes out for half a day your refrigerator can probably keep your food cold enough, as long as you don’t open it. So that means having something to eat in your cabinets. I have a gas stove so cooking is still an option, but if the power’s out I might not have water. Luckily I have an electric kettle, so that and my biggest teapot will be full of drinking water until the storm blows over.

If the weather’s just bad and I don’t want to have to leave, it’s just nice to have good, potentially work intensive food to eat.  The idea is to prevent Cabin Fever, so making a new food, or an old food a new way (I tried Fake In-N-Out Burgers a while back) can spice things up. (Sorry, that one was way to easy)

2. Charge Absolutely Everything

Assuming you lose power the battery life of your devices is gonna become very important.  That old laptop with about 45 minutes of life? That’s a whole TV show or a bunch of minesweeper.  Your old iPod can save whatever juice is in your smartphone for non-entertainment purposes. I have no idea where a flashlight is in my apartment, but between my iPhone, my iPod touch, my DS and my PSP I have hours of light. Incidentally, I have used all of those objects and many others as emergency flashlights, not because I needed them to get around, but because I was reading and needed better light to see. So while you have power, charge anything that can be charged. While you have power, prioritize things that use electricity, playing Xbox over your DS for instance.

3. Make the Most of Daytime

It’s winter, night comes early, but while you have daylight being without power can be kind of fun. You get to unplug, read that dead tree book you’ve got sitting around, play a board game, maybe use the fireplace (this is what I did a month ago, it was a total blast). Do your unplugged stuff during the day when it’s warmer, easier to move around, and when you have light to see.  I don’t think you want to try cleaning your place by iPhone light.

However when you actually get to night, you might have some things to consider, especially if you’ve been without power all day. Can you stay where you are overnight? Do you have heat?  Do your friends/family have power? Safety guys! Don’t freeze to death if you don’t have to.

4. Remember your Towel

If it worked for Arthur Dent it can work for you.  Besides, if you’ve ever been in a blanket fort when someone spills hot chocolate, well you probably wanted a towel too.

5. Cabin Fever

I love that movie. The way I see it you can fight Cabin Fever or you can embrace it, but if the storm is really bad you shouldn’t run from it. I’m prepped to be as ADD as I need to be. I have writing to do, naturally, that bar for Project Rizzo Allen hasn’t moved in over a week, but additionally,  my nails are unpainted but longish (I may go full on Lantern colors again), I’m cultivating a desire both to read books (my shortlist: more Austen, more fairy tales, Dragonflight, Hikaru No Go, and Deathnote) and to watch any number of movies and TV shows (my shortlist: Kill Bill, Love Actually, the good Pride and Prejudice, Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Firefly), I have some cleaning to do, I have christmas decorations to make/put up, I could build another treasure chest, there is Christmas Knitting, and there are video games. I’m just gonna follow my fancy and hope it doesn’t leave me too bored.

6. Clean What You Can Before it Arrives

I did not follow this one, but I wish I had. The idea is that some things are not great if you might lose power or something.  I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a load of laundry or dishes when the power or water went out. Ditto cleaning out the fridge (Cabin fever takes strange turns guys). Vacuuming is not as bad but you could end up half done. Even taking out the trash leaves you in the cold/storm for a bit. If I was perfectly prepared, my apartment would be spic and span right now, but it is so not, and the dirty dish smell might get to perceptible levels tomorrow when I can’t do much about it. It stinks, but what are you gonna do?

Those are the tips I’ve got, and now it’s late and I’m gonna sleep while we accumulate another half foot or so of snow! Stay safe and warm guys!

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Filed under Ponderings

Twist of Something or Other

I find it strange how things in my life interconnect.  I pick up a book randomly in a school library, which leads to an obsession, which leads me to learn to knit so I can make a costume replica from the movie of that book I picked up, which leads to another obsession, which leads to me discovering podcasts, which leads to Lime & Violet, which leads to me pitching a column for the brand new Daily Chum, which probably puts me over the top for my Marvel internship.

Now I’m sitting here, older, wiser (though not wise enough to replace the study skills I lost in the 8 months since I last was in school) and these two halves of my life continue to interact in strange ways. Take today for instance: I’m all jazzed because the article I wrote about Kniittiing (A knitting video game for the Wii, seriously) got picked up by CRAFT and Knitty.  Which I was pretty sure it would, because all the Chum girls were chatting about it (that’s often how you know a story will be big, GO CHUM TEAM!), which is why I’m using the last skills I’d ever think to transfer from Marvel to L&V to interview the design team for Kniittiing (I interviewed a couple of video game people while I was at Marvel).

I am of course accepting questions, you can ask them here in the comments, or you can email me, or you can ask me on Twitter, or on Plurk.  Ask away people!

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Filed under Comics, knitting, me me me, Ponderings, Web, Writing