Episode #111: MariNaomi, author and illustrator of DRAGON’S BREATH and KISS AND TELL

Episode #111! Featuring an interview with MariNaomi, author and illustrator of DRAGON’S BREATH and KISS AND TELL.

Check out MariNaomi’s comic, TURNING JAPANESE, on 2D Cloud’s website here.

A panel from TURNING JAPANESE by MariNaomi

A panel from TURNING JAPANESE by MariNaomi

marinaomi-headshot

MariNaomi is the author and illustrator of the award-winning graphic memoir Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 (Harper Perennial, 2011),Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories (2D Cloud/Uncivilized Books, 2014), the upcoming bookTurning Japanese (2D Cloud, 2015), and her self-published Estrus Comics (1998 to 2009). Her work has appeared in over fifty anthologies, including I Saw You: Comics Inspired by Real Life Missed Connections, Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women, Eisner-nominated No Straight Lines, Ignatz-winner QU33R and Action Girl Comics. Her comics and essays have been featured on The Rumpus, The Weeklings, LA Review of Books, Midnight Breakfast, Truth-out, SFBay.CA, The Comics JournalThe Bay Citizen, XOJane and more. Mari’s work on the Rumpus won a SPACE award and an honorable mention in Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Comics 2013.

MariNaomi’s artwork has been featured in such venues as the De Young Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco’s Asian American Museum and the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles. In 2011, Mari toured with the literary roadshow Sister Spit. She splits her time between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In her spare time, Mari has created and maintained the Cartoonists of Color Database and the LGBTQ Cartoonists Database.

2014 Favorites: Michelle Chan Brown

It’s that time of year!  We’ve asked guests and contributors we’ve featured on The Blood-Jet Writing Hour in 2014 to share with us their favorite books, literary magazines, and reading series from the year.

This post features poet and editor, Michelle Chan Brown, author of Double Agent.  She writes:

14 Things I loved in 2014

(left to right) Eugenia Leigh, Sally Wen Mao, Michelle Chan Brown and Cathy Linh Che are the Honey Badger Don't Give a B**k Tour!

(left to right:) Eugenia Leigh, Sally Wen Mao, Michelle Chan Brown and Cathy Linh Che are the Honey Badger Don’t Give a B**k Tour!

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(Books featured – left to right): Double Agent by Michelle Chan Brown; Mad Honey Symposium by Sally Wen Mao; Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows by Eugenia Leigh and Split by Cathy Linh Che

kundiman

  1. Not to use terms like “fierce” and “stunning,” which are cliches of poetry-love, but to use those terms for the collections of my fellow Honey Badgers. We did an East Coast/South book tour in July; each reading was a chance to marvel at something new. Sally Wen Mao’s “Mad Honey Symposium,” Cathy Linh Che’s “Split” and Eugenia Leigh’s “Blood, Sparrows, and Sparrows.” Get ‘em.
  2. The Young Writers Workshop at the University of Virginia. I was lucky enough to teach there, or be taught, by my students – hilarious, odd, quirky, brilliant, raw. These high school students wrenched me out of any lingering cynicism about the “use” of poetry.
  3. On Being. It’s not just Krista Tippet’s dulcet voice. I turned 33 this year – the Jesus year, yes – and as I try and slow down and observe and construct meaning, these interviews, with poets, monks, yogis, scientists, on everything from the value of play to the importance of community, have been integral for my own spiritual quest. Jennifer Michael Hecht’s interview, against suicide, is a must-listen.
  4. Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for A Time Being. Each section of this complex, accessible, virtuosic novel spurred me to shake my head and wonder, how does she make it look so easy? I interviewed her for Sycamore Review and was humbled by her wisdom and authenticity.
  5. Kundiman
  6. The Pratt Library – specifically, the Poe Room – in Baltimore. A dazzling space, housed in a former department store, and librarians and curators whose grace, warmth, and beautifully-crafted introductions left me wondering – for me? I read with Kamilah Aisha Moon, whose wrenching, lyrical work is another 2014 highlight.
  7. Drunken Boat. It’s difficult to choose what to publish from all the fine work we receive, but I’m particularly proud of the Debt folio, and the poems of Cynthia Cruz and Kara Candito.
  8. Politics and Prose in Northwest DC. It’s the Rolls Royce of independent bookstores. I spent a good portion of my nineties childhood lipping through From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in the dark, fragrant coffee shop below the store and eyeing, indiscreetly, the Eddie Vedder doppelgängers sipping chai . They’ve managed to retain all the magic of those early years, and their reading series, while VIP-heavy brings in Terry Gross’s co-conversationalist and provides an irresistible chance for Beltway-celebrity ogling.
  9. On the other end of the spectrum, the reading series Poetry Sucks! in Nashville, TN. Why don’t I live in Nashville? Go eat a meat and three, and hang out at this record store/music venue/poetry showcase. Tattoos, winged eyeliner, and genuine niceness
  10. Back to DC: Split This Rock is a wondrous organization. As is BloomBars.
  11. This poem, by Laura Eve Engel.
  12. I’ll be moving to Kazakhstan soon (a Fulbright), and although it’s not from 2014, this book by Professor Kate Brown – A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland - has been essential.
  13. The atrium of the American Portrait Gallery, for writing.
  14. With this album, by Aphex Twin.

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MichelleChanBrownBW-1

Michelle Chan Brown’s Double Agent was the winner of the 2011 Kore First Book Award, judged by Bhanu Kapil. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Cimarron Review, Linebreak, The Missouri Review, Quarterly West, Sycamore Review, Witness and others.

A Kundiman fellow, Michelle received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was a Rackham Fellow. She was a Tennessee Williams scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and received scholarships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Wesleyan Writers’ Conference. Her chapbook, The Clever Decoys, is available from LATR Editions. She lives with her husband, the musician Paul Erik Lipp, in Washington DC, where she teaches, writes, and edits Drunken Boat.

Episode #110: Oliver de la Paz, author of POST SUBJECT, and a review of Sheryl Luna’s SEVEN

Episode #110!  Featuring an interview with Oliver de la Paz, author of POST SUBJECT, and a review by David Campos of Sheryl Luna‘s SEVEN!

Oliver de la Paz, author of POST SUBJECT

Oliver de la Paz, author of POST SUBJECT

Oliver de la Paz is the author of four collections of poetry, Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby (SIU Press 2001, 2007), and Requiem for the Orchard (U. of Akron Press 2010), winner of the Akron Prize for poetry chosen by Martìn Espada, and Post Subject: A Fable (U. of Akron Press 2014).  He is the co-editor with Stacey Lynn Brown of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry (U. of Akron Press 2012)He co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Asian American Poetry and serves on the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Board.  A recipient of a NYFA Fellowship Award and a GAP Grant from Artist Trust, his work has appeared in journals like Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, Tin House, Chattahoochee Review, and in anthologies such as Asian American Poetry:  The Next Generation. He is the music editor for At Length Magazine and he teaches in the MFA program at Western Washington University.

The book trailer for POST SUBJECT:

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seven

Sheryl Luna earned a PhD in contemporary literature from the University of North Texas and an MFA from University of Texas, El Paso. Her first collection, Pity the Drowned Horses, received the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize and was published by the University of Notre Dame Press. It was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Colorado Book Award. Her second collection, Seven, was published by 3: A Taos Press in 2013

Reportback from Comikaze Expo: Female Fans Matter to Everyone

fangirl2

By Leighman Red Eagle

In light of the boiling climate of rabid sexism in the gaming community caused by GamerGate, attending the “Why Female Fans Matter” panel at this year’s Comikaze was an inspiring and rejuvenating experience.

GamerGate, a so-called “movement” meant to protest against corruption in video game journalism, led droves of gamer enthusiasts to vilify, harass, and threaten prominent women in video games.

Misogyny has plagued the female experience in nerd culture before GamerGate laid bare the toxic undercurrent affecting women. Thus, the importance of creating safe places for women to express themselves and find camaraderie with other women is more urgent than ever.

Moderator of the “Why Female Fans Matter” panel and Editor in Chief of FangirlNation.com, Victoria Irwin, introduced the panel by briefly addressed GamerGate and announced—“Don’t worry. It will blow over.”

The majority of panelists consisted of women who have already gathered to express their individual and collective love of media on a website called FangirlNation.com. The goal of the website is summarized in the following excerpt from their “About FangirlNation” page:

“We embrace all levels or fandom, nerdery, geekdom and culture, knowing that in the end we are all passionate about something. We banish the concept of “fake geek girl” knowing every woman deserves the chance to love what she loves without being questioned for her dedication.

We are Women. We are Fangirls. We are United in What We Love.

We are the FangirlNation and we want you to join us!”

The term “fake geek girl” is negative and dismissive stereotype of women who claim to be fans, or geeks as a means of gaining attention. This slur is notoriously used to bully and shut women out of the geek community by questioning their credibility.

The panel was a wonderful way for women to dispel this stereotype and to share their flourishing safe place for others to witness.  The panelist list included: Stephanie Hayslip, Jonelle Davila, Bethany Davis, Toni Adams, and A. Wrighton.

To kick off the questions, Irwin asked what their first introduction to geeky media and what got them hooked.

Bethany Davis, the craft columnist for FangirlNation.com and cosplayer, explained that she was raised in a home that celebrated genre and cult media. She added that her father used to go around the house yelling “Inconcievable!” a quote from the cult-film the Princess Bride.

Jonelle Davila, business owner of GeekdomWear.com, credited her constant exposure to geeky media to her grandmother who was a rare tried and true fan of many things. Jonelle noted that her grandma even had a “Tolkien shelf” in her home.

Wrighton, an author of genre-bending fantasy and steampunk fiction, explained that she was an avid reader of genre literature and a video game player. She then joked that she would play video games to take breaks from the progress on her current novel.

The panelists were then asked: “Have you been personally attacked by others in a fandom?”

Stephanie Hayslip, a connoisseur of horror movies and the official Loki Handler and Professional Cumberbatch Lover, shared that she has been snubbed by other horror fans who wouldn’t take her seriously enough to engage in serious conversations with her. She humorously noted, “I watch Hellraiser for comfort.”

Each panelist had experiences with microaggressions, snubbing, or attacks in the geek community. Since Bethany was dressed up as a character from the comic series Thor, she recalled that someone asked her whether she liked Thor or if she was simply into Chris Hemsworth. Amidst groans, another panelist retorted: “Umm, both?”

Nevertheless, it was challenging to hear about the obstacles these women have had to overcome in order to maintain a sense of comfort and safety for simply being fans.

Irwin then asked: what is one of the best moments that the panelists have experienced in geek culture?

Wrighton said she was approached by soldiers who loved a novel of hers that they read in an army book club. This was a pleasant surprise for her.

Toni Adams, a fan and columnist for live events and reviews on FangirlNation.com, said her favorite moments happened through her coverage on fan websites. There were instances where authors reached out to thank her for her reviews of their comics.

Davila stated that she has a strong passion about conventions because being there, with her friends, is where she felt most like herself— convention culture is a part of her identity.

To conclude the panel, Irwin asked the panel: “Why do female fans matter?”

Toni Adams answered: “women have the buying power.  In order to avoid being overlooked by financial and marketing experts, Adams iterates that women should demand their attention and consideration.

Wrighton shared about her daughter, who was brimming with happiness to dress up as Elsa from the Disney film Frozen for the convention, which made it even harder for her to understand why attackers are out there when women attend conventions to have fun.

Hayslip emphasized that people, especially women, need to seriously talk more about issues of discrimination because we are all currently paving the way for the future like Wrighton’s daughter.

After the panel, I found myself walking up to a massive audience crowding the Hot Topic Main Stage during the “My Little Pony – The Full Cast Reunion” panel.

Tara Strong, a voice actress for the My Little Pony, was given a letter a male fan had written in the voices of the characters and used to ask his date to the prom. The fan then had the honor of hearing his letter read by the actual voice actors.

“Bronies” are a fandom of boys and men who enjoy the animated show designed with themes and messages of female empowerment aimed at young girls, My Little Pony. Sometimes they are casual fans but the most notable “bronies” are men who make a stand to change cultural perceptions of males, regardless of age or orientation, and enjoy a “girly” cartoon.

While this was a wonderful experience — this celebration of the rejection of gender norms — I couldn’t help but feel a sense of imbalance in venues between the My Little Pony panel and the “Why Female Fans Matter” panel in regards to scale, space and fan participation.

As a male, I adored shows labeled as “girly” like Sailor Moon, Powerpuff Girls, Totally Spies, and more. Yet, I have never been questioned or made a fool of. I have also sailed by in conventions without running into the sort of resistance that the “Why Female Fans Matter” panelists have endured.

Of all of the casual to hardcore fans that I have met at conventions since I first started attending them in 2009, I have never had my knowledge base or personal beliefs questioned.

I was also raised in a nerdy home like Bethany Davis and Jonelle Davis, actively followed nerdy internet news sites and social media, and have seen enough memes and jokes to understand many references to television shows, books, and movies that I have never personally experienced.

If there were a term for men as widespread and hurtful as “fake geek girl,” I would definitely be accused of being one.

But the problem is that I haven’t.

I have never had anyone call me out for taking pictures of Chris Hemsworth, despite not knowing a single thing about Captain America besides what is presented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The amount of Tweets tagged with “#GamerGate” that criticized or accused men for being a part of the “corruption” of gaming journalism were nowhere near as numerous or threatening as those sent to women.

It is horrid that the public finally noticed this rampant sexism when these women journalists feared for their safety and forcibly left their homes.

Hearing the panelists at “Why Female Fans Matter” and witnessing their endless supply of jokes and laughter made me appreciate that these women have found each other and are making spaces for other women to come together and to enjoy what they love without resistance.

This discussion reinforces the importance of looking critically at how society treats women in the geek culture and how everyone can work together to make it safer for women.

***

Leighman Red Eagle

Leighman Red Eagle

Leighman Red Eagle is currently a fourth year undergraduate studying Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. Currently, he is the art editor for the University’s art and literary journal, Mosaic. He born and raised in Moreno Valley, CA.

2014 Favorites: Scott Wiggerman

It’s that time of year!  We’ve asked guests and contributors we’ve featured on The Blood-Jet Writing Hour in 2014 to share with us their favorite books, literary magazines, and reading series from the year.

This post features poet and editor, Scott Wiggerman, co-editor of Wingbeats II.  He writes:

In no particular order, here are some poetry books published in the past year that impressed me in various ways:

boss

  1. Victoria Chang’s The Boss (McSweeney’s, 2013)

Once I got into the rhythm of Chang’s unpunctuated quatrains, I couldn’t put this book down. “The Boss” is a shifting character in every poem in this fascinating collection, sometimes literally a boss at work, sometimes a parent, sometimes the poet herself: “the square / root of 4 remains 2 just as the square root of / the boss is always the boss.”

  1. Max Early’s Ears of Corn: Listen (3: A Taos Press, 2014)

I came for the poetry, but quickly realized that this book was the perfect introduction not only to the culture of the Laguna Pueblo, but also to its language (many pages include a gloss to Laguna terms). An important, fascinating, and beautifully designed first book published by one of the best of the new small presses.

newtestament

  1. Jericho Brown’s The New Testament (Copper Canyon, 2014)

Indeed, Brown’s book does play off the Bible (and myth), but it’s also a testament to persistence despite the many obstacles that America places in terms of race and sexuality. Gorgeous writing throughout: “Because I am what gladiators call / A man in love—love / Being any reminder we survived.”

  1. Brian Turner’s My Life as a Foreign Country (W.W. Norton, 2014)

While not technically a book of poetry, Turner’s language is so poetic that I’m including this memoir in my list. Nor is it a typical memoir—Turner jumps in time and place, from Bosnia to Iraq to Cambodia, and from the perspectives of his forbearers, as well as “the enemy.” Strong and resonant, the book proves that one cannot leave war behind.

  1. Ted Kooser’s Splitting an Order (Copper Canyon, 2014)

A long time since Kooser’s last book of poetry, but this was worth the wait, and his brief but precise poems, often centered on time and aging, seemed perfect companions as I turned sixty this year. Deceptively simple, Kooser’s perceptions never fail to connect: “the tree makes its exit with grace, / going down slowly, one piece at a time.”

haiku-in-english

  1. Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton, 2013)

Editors Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns are to be commended for what is my favorite anthology of the year, a first-rate overview of the centennial of American haiku, from Pound and Lowell, through Snyder and Kerouac, to contemporary masters that most people don’t know (but should). Here’s Allan Burns’ one-word haiku: “leaflight.”

My favorite readings of this year? Two of my poetry idols, Jane Hirshfield and Sharon Olds, at AWP in Seattle—wow! Hearing Olds read “Douche Bag Ode” is something I won’t soon forget. Wang Ping reading from Ten Thousand Waves (Wings Press, 2014) was another AWP highlight. Joy Harjo at Poetry at Round Top was spectacular—a reading which included live and pre-recorded music (all Harjo)—and I loved getting to dance with her at the after-party!

Favorite websites? As someone who writes in form a lot and as someone who has been getting more and more into haiku, I’m often excited by the work in tinywords, The Road Not Taken, A Hundred Gourds, and the always quirky Right Hand Pointing. The Poetry Foundation’s “Poem of the Day” and the Writers’ Almanac are two indispensable sources of poems that come right to my inbox to start each day. And I love Diane Lockward’s wonderful monthly Poetry Newsletter, the basis for her recent book of prompts, The Crafty Poet.

Bookwoman in Austin, Texas

Bookwoman in Austin, Texas

Favorite bookstore? Just one year old, Malvern Books in Austin is truly an independent bookstore; in fact, they only carry titles from independent presses! Even more significant, they’ve quickly become one of the places to host poetry readings and events in Austin, though BookWoman, one of the country’s last remaining feminist bookstores, runs a close second.

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ScottForWebsite

Scott Wiggerman is the author of two books of poetry, Presence andVegetables and Other Relationships, and the editor of several volumes, including Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku & Haiga, and the brand new Wingbeats II.  Recent poems have appeared in Decades Review, Frogpond, Pinyon Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Good Men Project website, and the anthologies This Assignment Is So Gay andForgetting Home: Poems about Alzheimer’s. He is chief editor for Dos Gatos Press in Austin, Texas, publisher of the Texas Poetry Calendar,now in its seventeenth year. He frequently runs writing workshops, many of which feature exercises from the two Wingbeats volumes.

Reportback from Comikaze Expo: The Battle for Multicultural Heroes

The new Ms. Marvel, or Kamala Khan — the first Muslim and Pakistani-American superhero

By Jameson Adame

“The Battle for Multicultural Heroes” was set amid immense advertisements for Disney’s new Big Hero 6 and the intense efforts of vendors to sell the newly collected trade paperback of Ms. Marvel featuring Marvel’s first Muslim woman superhero, Kamala Khan. Knowing this, it became interesting to ponder whether the battle had not already been won, and if this panel was not an effort in futility. However; the panelists arrived all the same, ready to express their grievances with the comic book industry—the lucrative superhero subset in particular—and make it known how this problem of sectarian protagonists in comic culture was still very much a problem.

Moderating the panel was Tony Kim, whose blog site Crazy4ComicCon.com acts as a hub for news about the geek community, convention culture, and promotes an increased inclusivity in the comics industry. Next were Crystal Clark, writer, editor, and general manager of GeekPiñata.com, and Tamara Brooks, the writer for MisfitsOfScifi.com.

As the panel began, Kim set the tone of the event by displaying a slide on the projector screen reassuring the audience that himself, Clark, and Brooks—none of whom identified as white—loved white people, and asserted that nothing in the ensuing discussion should be taken as an attack on any particular group of people.

With his humorous expression of goodwill done, Kim continued by telling the audience of his experience as an Asian-American growing up in Texas with few icons that he was able to personally identify with, stating that, “It was pretty hard like, it was literally like Sulu or Bruce Lee was pretty much what there was to choose from.”

Kim continued on, saying that because of this, he began to notice that A-list heroes didn’t look like him, leading him to struggle with identity issues, directly conflicting with the goal he thought comics facilitated of “finding [one’s] identity in a greater society”.

Tamara Brooks then explained that her familial experience and childhood in Pasadena had been very diverse, leaving her to wonder why the representations of people in the media she consumed were so narrow in scope.

She stated that while her own experiences brought her to expect a level of diversity from geek culture, the reality was limited. Additionally, she asked the question of “Where are all the tall women?” to the amusement of much of the audience.

Last was Crystal Clark, who explained that she was interested in every facet of geek-culture, finding herself watching, reading and playing, television, comics, and video games respectively. She identified as Chicana and found the lack of proper representation of other Latinos left her wanting. Clark explained that while Latinos appeared in many different media, they often fulfilled stereotypes, such as maids or nannies.

The panel’s focus shifted to an overview of representations of non-white characters in media and how they often fell back on stereotypes. Illustrating this, Kim switched slides to show the characters of Speedy Gonzalez—known for his sombrero and pidgin Spanish—as well as the lesser known but much vilified African-American stereotype hunter from the Bugs Bunny cartoon “All This and Rabbit Stew.”

The panelists then discussed superheroes, referencing The Super Friends in particular. Kim made note that the show’s attempt to add cultural diversity to its cast of white superheroes instead led to the creation of the characters Apache Chief, Samurai, Black Vulcan, and El Dorado. Though the gesture was well-intentioned, it instead propagated cultural stereotypes enhanced to the level of super powers.

The panel moved on to discuss the difference between well realized and ethnically insensitive characters of more recent media.  Kim contrasted the multi-dimensional character of Ponch as portrayed by Erik Estrada on CHiPs, with the aliens of the later released Star Wars Episode 1, fulfilling stereotypes of people who identify as Black, Asian, and/or Jewish.

He explained that while the former’s identity as a Latino man was incidental to his characterization as a good cop whose heart was in the right place, the latter showed a Hollywood-based reliance on such stereotypes in order to entertain a moviegoing audience. Clark and Brooks gave further support to this assertion, stating that while characters intended to play the fool are an acceptable trope, their implied identifications with minorities made such characters unacceptable.

Later, a member of the audience said that he was hired to write a Latina character and expressed his feeling that while so many positive changes had occurred in recent months with the announcements of the Black Panther film, the introduction of Kamala Khan, the reception of Miles Morales as Spiderman, and more, he hoped for the inclusion of entirely new heroes who were not tied to mantles of their (mostly) white predecessors and could instead have their own identities.

The panelists agreed, and the conversation prompted Kim to ask the other panelists about the use of stereotypes in popular culture — are they good, bad, and/or useful?

Clark stated that though some stereotypes are based in truth, it is important to present people of color in a variety of characters to avoid making assumptions.

Brooks made the distinction between making generalities as a means of connection (“so we’re all at a comic convention, which means that everyone here has probably read a comic book”) versus stereotypes which negative and reductive (“all black people are thugs”).

As a critic of modern day media in the geek-culture sphere, this panel served as a reminder that though progressive strides towards inclusivity are made every day, cultural exclusivity still needs to be addressed.  Films as recent as The Last Airbender featured a vast majority of white actors, though the original animation is populated with characters of color.

As a writer, the panel served as a how-to and how-not-to create characters and scenarios in which people of color are present. Understanding the flaws in past works can help pave the way for the innovation of old characters, and the genesis of entirely new heroes for the next generation.

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Jameson Adame

Jameson Adame

Jameson Adame is a senior student at the University of California Riverside. He is majoring in both English and Media and Cultural Studies. He is a staff writer for the Highlander Newspaper published at UCR, and his articles may be read at highlandernews.org.

Reportback from Comikaze Expo: From Cosplay to Novel Writing

comikaze1

By Matthew Zuniga

Perhaps one of the most terrifying things to me is stepping into unfamiliar territory without any knowledge of how things operate, or, more importantly, what it will be like. The Los Angeles Convention Center in California housed Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo 2014 from October 1st to November 2nd.  With limited background in the world and fandom of comics, Comikaze 2014 seemed alien to this first-time goer. Yet, there’s always fear and excitement in exploring the unknown.

On Saturday the 1st, my friend and I entered from the parking structure and went into the West Hall that leads to the annex towards the South Hall. The South Hall was the agora of the convention center. Here, we registered and noticed Baymax from the newest animated hit Big Hero Six towering and looming over the denizens of cosplayers and attendees.

I noticed how diverse Comikaze was. The convention was a melting pot of fandoms, encompassing more than comics to include television, video games, and anime. In retrospect, there was a niche for everyone attending even if you’ve never even touched a comic before.

The first panel we went to was called Sexuality and Cosplay. One of the best ways to celebrate fandoms is to cosplay, which is the act of dressing up as a character from an anime, video game, comic, television, or film. It featured a wide array of panelists including Keith Zen, Abby Dark Star, Mel Hoppe aka WindoftheStars Shelby Michael, Danielle Yuan, and Nick Smith Nexus.

Cosplay is Not Consent

After a parental guidance warning, the session began with the issues surrounding cosplay. Abby Dark Star began the panel addressing the golden rule of cosplay—that it does not equal consent. In essence, permission is required from the cosplayer for photography. Photography without consent can be seen as sexual harassment from either gender. Another issue that was prominent during the discussion was Gamergate.

Gamergate is an ongoing controversy displaying misogyny and harassment in the gaming industry, most notably in video game journalism. It has escalated issues concerning women’s rights like equality in the workplace. Many anti-progressive gamers view women as infiltrators of their gaming world which is predominantly male. And thus began the threats, the doxing, and the issue of sexuality in the gaming industry.

Now this may have seemed like a tangent, but, it is relevant to the discussion of cosplay. Gamergate is revolutionary in terms of women’s rights in the geek world. The geek scene has been primarily male-dominated. For quite a long time, women cosplayers were seen as eye-candy, or fan-service, and not taken seriously in the community. Cosplaying spans all fandoms and displays the cosplayer’s celebration of it. With many female characters being oversexualized in comics and other fandoms, many people think that women cosplayers do it for attention. This is often not the case.

The panelists also discussed the notion of “being sexy is bad.” Keith Zen noted that what you wear does not equate to your sexuality. But, because many female characters in most fandoms are often oversexualized, women who wish to express their interest in their fandom are sometimes “slut-shamed.” This happens to men, too.

One of the panelists, Nick Smith Nexus, told the audience a story about cosplaying the Old Spice man. He garnered much attention because of how revealing his costume (or lack thereof) was.

In the end, it all boils down to acceptance and the knowledge that as a community of geeks, we should feel free to express our interests in any way we deem fit.

*

On Sunday, we went to a panel called How to Write a Novel led by the Brianna and Brit Winner (The Winner Twins), Richard Hatch, and Steve Elliot Altman. The audience composed of mainly writers and the panelists displayed enthusiasm and expertise in showing their secrets.

The Winner Twins, known for The Strand Series started the discussion with a tear-jerking story from their childhood. Both currently 19 years old, they have began writing at 11 and have published four novels to date. Unfortunately, they were both born with harmful birth defects and dyslexia. The twins told the audience that when they were young, “they were often called stupid,” due to their conditions. At the panel, they commented, “…when you hear it enough times, you really believe you are.” Despite their disabilities, they have created beautiful stories with vivid imagery through collaboration and their techniques, which they offered to the audience::

1. Start from the end.

  • Make your ending simple such as having the protagonist save the world.

2. Write the beginning.

  • The beginning is the opposite of the end. For example, the protagonist in the beginning could be planning to destroy the world or is living in a dying world.

3. Connect the middle with the beginning and end.

  • This is where all the events lay out to tell the bigger picture.

All the panelists went on to discuss publishing. The Winners first published their novels using independent publishing. Altman, author of Deprivers, utilized major publishing. For the independent publishing route, there was consensus that this was a good first step. There are many outlets for independent publishing such as Amazon for eBooks. For major publishing, Altman stressed the importance of knowing major publishers for what they put out and using social networking to promote your work.

Overall, Comikaze 2014 was an amazing experience. In an unfamiliar territory, it is always terrifying at first, but, in a community where ideas, passions, and fandom runs rampant, Comikaze 2014 was definitely an outstanding outlet to let out your inner geek.

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MatthewZuniga

Matthew Zuniga

Matthew Zuniga is a former Creative Writing undergraduate at University of California, Riverside. He is interested in writing and hopes to write for video game developers as well as to write his own novels in the future.