Saturday, April 30, 2016

Personal Digest Saturday: April 23 – April 29

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday I was at my dad's house in Sarasota for my grandpa's 95th birthday. I woke up pretty early and went with him to pick my sister P up from the airport! Then we ate breakfast, well, brunch, at Panera. We picked up my grandpa and my aunt and went to see my grandma where she stays at a facility, and sat outside with her and saw some cool birds. That night was dinner at my dad's (and his cousin joined us), and we had another birthday cake and presents for my grandpa. After dinner and dessert we hung out for a while. It was a really nice day with family!
  • Sunday DAD MADE BREAKFAST. He didn't really cook when I was a kid so my sister and I were like "WHOA" and took pictures, haha. After we dropped P at the airport to go back to San Francisco, we went to see Grandma again and then my dad took me home. I did my unpacking and usual Sunday catch-up things. Another good weekend.
  • Monday was a work day and then after work I had my friend Eric over for dinner and cartoons. (He had missed six episodes of my favorite one and so of course it was my duty to catch him up.) After he left I did nothing productive with my day except taking out recycling.
  • Tuesday my bike chain came off on the way to work so I had to go get it fixed and my bike needs more in-depth repairs soon. After working, I went home and did not much. Mom usually comes over on Tuesdays but she didn't this time because she would be coming all weekend.
  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day as usual. We biked out to the comic shop and then ate at Cheddars. At home we listened to Night Vale. Next week we are going to do the same thing because I have to go back for comics and there's another new podcast episode. So . . . Jeaux Day on repeat! But after that it'll move to Thursday for a month because of cartoons.
  • Thursday I did a lot of stuff at work, went shopping after, made a video, and read some of a book but didn't finish it.
  • Friday I worked and got a proposal package done. Then I worked on my comic until my mom came over. She hung out and we ate biscuits, and she slept over. She did my dishes while I was asleep. Oh Mommy!
    New reviews of my book:

    • NO ONE CARES THIS WEEK WHYYYYYY

    Interviews, Features, Mentions:

         
        Reading progress:
        • Finished this week: Nothing because I'm lazy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
        • Currently reading: Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler.
          New singing performances:

          Here I'm singing "Butterfly" by Smile.dk.

           

          New drawings:


          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0572: "My Three Things."







          New videos:

          My video on writing diverse characters.


          New photos: 

          Grandpa's 95th birthday cake!

          Grandpa about to put out the candles.

          Dad is making breakfast!

          My dad and my aunt having breakfast out on the patio.
          They were backlit but I tried to fix it with a color correction on my computer.
          And here is me procrastinating on finishing my comic on Friday.

          Social Media counts:
           
          YouTube subscribers: 5,320 for swankivy (4 new), 568 for JulieSondra (lost 2). Twitter followers: 772 for swankivy (lost 3), 1,225 for JulieSondra (no change). Facebook: 290 friends (no change) and 197 followers (lost 1) for swankivy, 637 likes for JulieSondra (lost 2), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 121 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,422 (14 new). Instagram followers: 68 (2 new).

          Wednesday, April 27, 2016

          Wednesday Factoid: Rites of Passage

          Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What rites of passage have you participated in?

          Hmmmmmmmmm rites of passage. I'm not 100% sure what counts. I guess I'll operate according to this definition:

          "A rite of passage is a celebration of the passage which occurs when an individual leaves one group to enter another. It involves a significant change of status in society."

          So here are experiences that could be framed that way, though not all of them involved a "celebration" and not all of them resulted in me being categorized differently as a person.

          January 1978: Well, obviously I transitioned from unborn to born.

          May 1979: I became a big sister. 


          September 1980: I transitioned from being a resident of New Jersey to being a resident of Kernersville, North Carolina.

          February 1982: I transitioned to being a resident of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

          March 1983: I got a second little sister.


          July 1983: Lost my first teeth.
           
          August 1983: I became an attendee of elementary school.


          January 1984: Had one of those gigantic entire-class birthday parties when I turned six.


          December 1984: I transitioned to being a resident of Wilmington, North Carolina.

          Sometime in 1985: I was accepted into a gifted program, and also became a Hebrew school student.

          September 1986: I became a Brownie Girl Scout.

          Summer 1987: Had my first sleep-away camp at Girl Scouts.

          July 1989: I transitioned to being a resident of Sarasota, Florida.


          August 1989: I became a middle school student.

          Sometime in early 1991: Uhhhhh first visit from Aunt Flo so to speak.

          February 1992: I wrote my first complete novel.

          August 1992: I became a high school student.

          September 1992: I dated a boy for the first time.

          October 1992: I became an All-State Chorus member (and got in all four years of high school).

          Sometime in 1993: Got my first kiss, but I don't even remember when.

          June 1993: I got dumped by my boyfriend for the first time.

          June 1993: Got my learner's driving license.

          August 1993: I transitioned to being a resident of Tampa, Florida.

          January 1994: I had a sweet sixteen birthday party.


          February 1995: Went to a rock concert with my friends for the first time.

          May 1995: Went to my boyfriend's senior prom with him. (I did not go to my own senior prom the next year.)


          September 1995: Got my first real job (as a pasta server at a restaurant).

          September 1995: Lost a family member for the first time (my mom's brother).

          January 1996: Turned 18 and transitioned into being a legal adult.

          June 1996: Graduated from high school.


          June 1996: Got my wisdom teeth out.

          July 1996: Quit my first job.

          July 1996: Transitioned to being a resident of Gainesville, Florida. Moved out of my parents' home and lived with roommates in an apartment for the first time.

          August 1996: Started college as a music major at the University of Florida.

          January 1997: Became a vegetarian.

          Summer 1997: Traveled on an airplane alone for the first time.

          November 1998: Lost a grandparent for the first time (my mom's father).

          January 1999: Turned 21 while on a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada.


          June 2000: Graduated from college with a BA in Elementary Education.


          July 2000: Became a bookstore worker.

           
          August 2000: Got my own apartment and lived alone for the first time.

          November 2003: Took my first international trip (Japan).


          November 2004: Voted in my first national election.

          May 2005: Parents were divorced.

          May 2005: My first major interview was published.

          June 2006: Transitioned to being a resident of Tampa, Florida (again).

          July 2006: Became an administrative assistant.

           
          January 2008: Turned 30.

          October 2008: Was maid of honor in Meghan's wedding.

           
          June 2009: Attended a funeral for the first time (my friend Mike from Sarasota).

          August 2009: Maid of honor for my sister's wedding.


          October 2009: First on-camera interview (for a documentary).

          January 2011: Placed an article I wrote in a publication for the first time.

          August 2012: Signed a novel with a literary agent.


          January 2013: Went to my first conference (to speak on an asexuality panel).

          May 2013: Signed a nonfiction book with a literary agent.

          September 2013: First radio interview.

          November 2013: Sold my first book.

          December 2013: Became an aunt (my nephew was born).


          February 2014: Gave my first solo speech at a conference (IvyQ at Princeton).

          February 2014: Got an advance check for the first time.

          May 2014: Sold my first short story ("Your Terms").

          May 2014: Participated as a bridesmaid in my other sister's wedding.


          June 2014: Traveled internationally (to Canada) alone for the first time.

          June 2014: Appeared on live television for the first time.

          September 2014: Became a published author of a book (The Invisible Orientation).


          February 2015: First trip to the emergency room.

          May and June 2015: Received four different book-related awards or nominations at various ceremonies. Attended the Lambda Awards in New York City.

          Tuesday, April 26, 2016

          Too Much Time

          During a family celebration this past weekend, my dad related an anecdote I'm sure I've heard before but hadn't thought of in a long time. He said when he was a kid he was once made to dispose of his entire comic book collection by putting them in the incinerator.

          When I asked him whether it was a punishment or something, he said it had simply been determined that he spent "too much time" on comics, and for that reason he had to throw them away. He recalled it as being pretty traumatic. Hmm.

          I don't recall my own parents dishing out any particularly creative or traumatic punishments, but I do remember once being threatened with having my books taken away. I think this might have been because sending me to my room as a punishment was ineffective since one of my favorite things to do was hang out in my room and read, and it's not much of a punishment if one of my favorite pastimes is available to me while I'm in there. But I still interpreted this punishment as incredibly unfair and sort of back-asswards, because what parent punishes their kid by not letting them read? Don't they WANT us to read?

          I think part of the issue was that I was perceived to be rereading books I'd read already, and they were "empty" books without much educational content. They were just for fun, but even if you're reading for fun, if it's a book you for some reason get treated like this is a wholesome and constructive activity. But if it's comic books? Not really.

          I had lots of special interests as a kid. I continue to have special interests as an adult. Many adults who have special interests turn those interests into something potentially lucrative--or at least, if they have a job doing something else to make ends meet, they're "allowed" to have interests that aren't constructive. I liked to make up silly stories as a child and now I write books as an adult. I spend a lot of time on it. I wonder how much time would be "too much time" if I was a child.

          The particularly odd thing about my dad having to throw his comics out is that he didn't say he was getting bad grades or that his interest was leading him to hang out with kids who were a bad influence or even that the comics were considered a waste of money, though maybe he didn't fully understand why comics had been dubbed unworthy of his attention. From how he told it (which may have been incomplete, I don't know), it was just a sort of arbitrary line he'd crossed into being too interested in something that was not valued by the authorities in his life, and it "had to be" put to a stop. At my family gathering this weekend, my cousin once removed was there talking about his baseball card collection, which he sold to collectors as an adult and made enough money to pay for two years of his daughter's college tuition. I'm sure my dad's lost comics would have been pretty valuable too, but I'm not just talking about money-wise. I always wonder about these things and how they affect us for the rest of our lives.

          For instance, Captain Underpants author Dav Pilkey got hollered at by his teachers as a child for drawing gross pictures, and he was once memorably told that he could not grow up and draw silly superhero comics for a living. That's exactly what he does, though. And I imagine most people who have that job as an adult were children with a special interest. We laugh at those teachers now, saying you had no idea who you were putting down, but what about the people who didn't ignore the criticism, or the people whose authority figures were more insistent and more aggressive about taking their passion away from them?


          We really only say stuff like "little did they know" when children who are punished for their interests become adults who pursue it anyway and become wildly successful. We don't really seem to examine the phenomenon for what it is--what its effect is on every kid who spends "too much time" on something adults don't understand. Obviously I don't think every kid with a special interest is going to grow up to be successful in a field related to it--for instance, I'm reasonably sure my dad would not have drawn or written comic books as an adult, though there are also marketing and business organization–related ways to be in the comics field--but I'm tired of standards for kids being so focused on what is supposedly educational for them. When you're an adult, you get to play. Other adults often don't ask you to justify how you play; you can spend a ton of time on the golf course without ever winning tournaments or going pro, and you can spend every weekend on the couch watching sports, and you can get drunk as a pastime or go to Bingo religiously or engage in activities that don't add up to anything you can cash in at the end of the day.

          But even though it's understood that kids need to play, there's often this point at which adults decide its impracticality and unrelatedness to their own values make it a dangerous pursuit or a waste of time. Adults make some weird choices about what uses of time are a waste, too; I can certainly say that many of my homework assignments as a child wasted my time, but everybody made it clear that those time-wasters were necessary evils and that asking me to endure the same math drills and empty writing assignments day after day was not unreasonable in the slightest.

          If your kid is spending so much time with his books that his grades are in the toilet and he won't help with housework, by all means, lay down some laws and control his hobby for him until he can learn moderation. But if the only motivation to take it away is that he loves this hobby a lot and devotes a significant amount of attention to it . . . I hope parents in this situation reconsider, or at least develop a less permanent consequence than intentionally destroying what they love.

          Saturday, April 23, 2016

          Personal Digest Saturday: April 16 – April 22

          Life news this week: 
          • Saturday I did all my biz like a boss. I did some pre-sketches for Drink and Draw and got my blogging done before Eric picked me up for the event. Then it turned out he was interested in my opinion on a graphic novel and wanted me to talk about it on his podcast the next day, so I read the graphic novel at the event and STILL got all my drawings done for the next So You Write (which is going to be TWICE as long as usual because it's a multiple-of-ten issue, which means I did EIGHT drawings instead of FOUR). And then he fell asleep on my couch after, and I went in my room and wrote a review for the book and watched cartoons. Sweet day!
          • Sunday I watched some cartoons and talked to my sister and did some laundry. And then it was time for the podcast, which is called Handsome Boys, and we discussed The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks and, as Eric says, solved racism forever.
          • Monday was kinda poopy. Busy day at work and had to wrangle some tax stuff for my mommy. Argh. But I found out the book The Answer has a cover, which turned out to be really cute and made me all happy.
          • Tuesday was work and Mom Day again, though Mommy didn't come until much later than anticipated. It's really fun that my mom is a night owl like me. We were eating spring rolls at 4 AM, I swear. And I got a bunch of my comic done, helped her with online stuff, and watched cartoons a little bit. She also randomly washed my dishes. (!!)
          • Wednesday was Jeaux Day and we had Five Guys food and goofed off and forgot to listen to Night Vale, so we'll have to cram it in next week. Also I tried to go to Target with Mom in the morning but they didn't have anything I wanted so I got up early for nothing. Boo! Oh, and also I found out my friend Corinne had her baby and all is well! YAY! So cute.
          • Thursday I had a lot of work at work, went shopping after getting off work, and came home to pack for going out of town for my grandpa's 95th birthday. (Since I was getting picked up right after work, I needed to pack the night before.) Also finished my comic.
          • Friday I worked a short day and got picked up by my dad to go to Sarasota! I left work early and met up with my grandpa and aunt at my grandpa's house, and we went out for dinner at a really nice place where I had a baked potato and mushroom dish. He got a special slice of cake for his 95th birthday. And I gave him a cool plant for a present. Oh and I found out Steven Universe is coming back earlier than expected (May 12!!!), and tried not to flip out because HONESTLY I AM A DIGNIFIED PERSON YOU SEE. *snort*
          • Also I found out late on Friday that a podcast recorded a long time ago discussing my book was finally released online. Hooray!
            New reviews of my book:


            Interviews, Features, Mentions:

             
            Reading progress:
              New singing performances:

              Here I'm singing "What U Own" from Rent.

               

              New drawings:


              Webcomic Negative One Issue 0571: "A Mirror There."







              New videos:

              None.

              New photos: 

              My usual Drink and Draw selfie, with poster by Christian.
              Eric holding one of his creepier Drink and Draw posters.
              Some of the Drink and Draw crowd doing their thing.
              Another angle of Drink and Draw stuff, now with Action Eric.
              I took this silly picture of my toys because my Pearl figure keeps falling again and I think it's kinda cute how she needs to be steadied by a sturdier Gem.
              My grandpa's 95th birthday happened at a restaurant where they gave him a giant spoon to eat his cake.

              Social Media counts:
               
              YouTube subscribers: 5,316 for swankivy (11 new), 570 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 775 for swankivy (no change), 1,225 for JulieSondra (6 new). Facebook: 290 friends (no change) and 198 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 639 likes for JulieSondra (3 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 121 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 2,408 (6 new). Instagram followers: 66 (no change).

              Wednesday, April 20, 2016

              Wednesday Factoid: Hazing

              Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Would you ever go through a hazing ritual to be part of a group?

              Well, in general I would not. When I think of hazing, I usually think of clubs and groups and organizations that are exclusive for no inherent reason; I don't think tests and challenges are inappropriate if they make sense as qualifications for joining a group, but I don't think I'd want to be part of a group that says I've got to be humiliated or low-key tortured for the privilege of belonging. "You suffered enough to prove you really want it" doesn't ring any bells for me, and I don't want to keep company with people who are satisfied watching people who want to belong have to run a gauntlet for the privilege. (Especially since a lot of hazing rituals are deliberately cruel and serve no purpose except to keep away people who can't tolerate whatever the challenge is, which very well may not be related to what the group is about.)

              That said, I have to admit that having "run the gauntlet" in the publishing world is something I'm a little proud of, and I say stuff that amounts to "no pain no gain!" to people who are querying. But I feel like that's a different thing since being evaluated, criticized, and rejected is not a contrived situation in publishing. It's part of the "game" because it's how you end up with a publisher willing to pay money to take your idea and bring it into the world. It's not just there because you have to suffer to be worth it, though of course most of us do learn a lot through querying and the feedback that sometimes comes with it.

              I've also participated in Pitch Wars, which involves a lot of suffering for the applicants--they have to choose mentors, submit to us, and hope we pick them. Then deal with our advice and our demands until the agent round, and then hope like hell that someone picks them. I've been on the side that "hazes" people in that situation. But since it is, again, not fashioned just to create suffering on the grounds that it will prove your worth, I don't feel like it's in the same category.

              I think if something really is straight-up hazing, no, I'm not open to it.

              Tuesday, April 19, 2016

              Part of our world

              This past weekend I was asked to be on a podcast that's a little outside my usual scene.

              I go to an art club called Drink and Draw every month, and many of the people there are more "serious" artists than I am (or at least more talented). Anyway, my friend Eric is the club's host, and he usually picks me up on his way there so we talk about stuff. This time, we ended up talking about the comic book The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, which I hadn't read.

              It turned out that Eric had seen a Twitter discussion about whether The Nameless City was appropriative, because it has a cast and setting clearly based on ancient China, but it's written by a white woman. An Asian artist on Twitter was saying books like this and television shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender (which clearly influenced Hicks) are disappointing in a way because it feels like mainstream culture is capitalizing on "diversity" while still not making way for people to make art about themselves.

              This is a good point, and Eric and I had a spirited discussion about it. He invited me to come on his podcast the next day to talk about the same thing with his friend Robbie (who I also know but he's mainly just an acquaintance of mine--we hang out with the same people and he's been in my house but we don't really talk much). Of course, first I had to read the book. So I read it at Drink and Draw before doing my art. ;)

              The podcast episode I was on is here: Handsome Boys #142.

              A review I did of the book is here: The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks (review).


              Here's the thing: We all know we would like more diversity of all kinds in fiction, and we all know the only way it can happen is if people make it on purpose. The problems are many, though, and one of the most insidious is that mainstream audiences often think a piece of media is not "for them" if it primarily contains people who are not like them. When we "mark" a piece of media, usually the people who are described by that mark will flock to read it, but it will remain less circulated, undervalued, probably written off as niche, and rarely reaching the broader world. But if the mainstream media actively solicits media featuring characters, settings, and messages less commonly featured, will that help?

              Some say it's really not going to help that much if the creators filtering the message into the mainstream are not telling their own stories. If they're telling underrepresented populations' stories through their own lenses, does it really serve the purpose of bringing those stories to light, or is it just people from the mainstream culture wanting to pat themselves on the back for being so inclusive now that diversity is a buzzword?

              So what do the underrepresented populations in question have to say about this? Well, as usual, it's a mixed bag. Some want to know why mainstream authors with plenty of connections want to hijack their narratives and give them to the outside world so they can gawk. Some want to know why they're not being solicited to contribute work if it's their perspective that's supposedly so valuable. And some believe one of the things that actually does help pave the road for that to happen is getting mainstream audiences to understand that work about "the other" can be for them.

              Avatar: The Last Airbender managed to get a cartoon onto mainstream television that did not contain a single solitary white person, and it's definitely got a large cast, too. The names and concepts definitely have Asian inspiration of various sorts, but it is still Fantasy Asia, so the creators get a bit of a pass if something isn't "accurate." And its creators are two white guys. They have a ton of Asian consultants and people working on the show, but it's still a mainstream Nickelodeon show by Mike and Bryan. Perhaps this sends a message to big media companies that audiences can and do accept and enjoy these stories. Will this prompt them to actively solicit shows with actual Asian creators at the helm? Too early to tell.

              But it's clear from most of the dialogue that underrepresented people do not want to build a fence and say "you should not write about us." There's a very good reason why those folks are wary of mainstream creators (why do they want to do it? what are they going to screw up?), and they also have good reason to expect well-meaning mainstream creators to do their research extensively. That research can include bringing in test audiences from the population they're trying to portray, including creators from that background as co-creators or permanent contributors, and consuming media and commentary by those populations

              I want men to be able to write about women, for instance--and I want men who are making creative works about women to help combat the notion that works about us are marked for only our consumption, irrelevant to people who aren't women--but I'm not going to appreciate it if the way the male creator makes his woman character feel "authentic" is to graft in his assumptions about what women think about. I have seen a male author praised extensively for wow it's so hard to believe a man wrote this book about a woman, it feels so feminine but I was shocked that the supposed authenticity was literally her worrying about being fat and being obsessed with shoes. I also once read a very popular male author's book that was from a teenage girl's point of view and I cringed every time he tried to make her say/do something that reminded us of her gender ("ugh why do boys make us watch their movies? we're not interested lol because ladies!"). I would ask these men to read books that are by women, to try to understand why we write what we write, and then don't appoint yourself to tell a Feminine Story About Being Female. You don't need to tell that story, but yes, please, put female characters in your book.

              From a practical standpoint, I think it's very important for mainstream audiences to start seeing people who are different from them in their everyday media. Without having to deliberately seek it out. Because people who aren't like you are part of your world. Most media does not currently reflect that. We also need both "issue books" and "incidentally representative books." The Nameless City was not about what it is to be any of the Asian populations it included, though it gave its own culture to the fantasy world (as it should). So it's a nice thing if people from all backgrounds can go into a bookstore and see this and think "hmm that looks interesting" rather than thinking "welp, Asians on the front, must be some kind of niche media."

              I remember working at a bookstore and having a woman pestering me to make recommendations for "good books" and rejecting all the suggestions before I could even finish a sentence, and one of those attempts was me saying "You might like Life of Pi. It's about a boy from India--" "NO." She immediately wasn't interested as soon as I said "India." We also had an "African-American Fiction" section when I first started at the store. Many black readers would come in asking for the section, and other readers were scandalized by its existence--I heard black readers say it was gross to segregate it from the "regular" fiction, and I also heard non-black readers snot about it wanting to know where the white fiction was. (Clue phone: Pretty much the entire rest of the store.) Later it was integrated (along with several other categories) into one big mega-fiction section. Some people said that was the right choice. Some people were frustrated that they could no longer easily browse a section that was for them, and interpreted it as an attempt to take the entire thing away. Both sides are kind of right, but I think I'm personally more invested in my background and other people's backgrounds all being presented as "for" anyone to be exposed to.

              And here's something interesting.



              Wait, what's that? Is it a children's book with a same-sex couple on the front? Yeah it is.

              This book is coming out later this year. It's explicitly described in the book summary as a love story--depicted in the comfortable fairy-tale style children are used to seeing in all their other storybooks. There is no sticker on it proclaiming "LOOK, IT'S LESBIANS!!" or anything, but even though some people might interpret the red character as a boy because of how she's dressed, a basic glance at the information will make it clear that their names are both feminine-coded names (Sapphire and Ruby) and they both use "she" pronouns. They're in a clear casually intimate pose on the front cover. This is not being designated as a Special Interest book. It's just going to be released as a storybook. For the regular storybooks section.

              Recently in an interview, creator Rebecca Sugar said this about children's media:


              I think if you wait to tell kids, to tell queer youth that it matters how they feel or that they are even a person, then it’s going to be too late!

              You have to talk about it--you have to let it be what it gets to be for everyone. I mean, like, I think about, a lot of times I think about sort of fairy tales and Disney movies and the way that love is something that is ALWAYS discussed with children. And I think also there’s this idea that’s like, oh, we should represent, you know, queer characters that are adults, because there are adults that are queer, and you should know that’s something that is happening in the adult world, but that’s not how those films or those stories are told to children. You’re told that YOU should dream about love, about this fulfilling love that YOU’RE going to have. […]

              The Prince and Snow White are not like someone’s PARENTS. They’re something you want to be, that you are sort of dreaming of a future where you will find happiness. Why shouldn’t everyone have that? It’s really absurd to think that everyone shouldn’t get to have that!
              Based on Rebecca Sugar's history, it's clear that she is very invested in portraying same-sex couples as natural, as an everyday part of life, as not worth batting an eyelash at in protest. She tends not to make her works "issue" works, and on her television show she's included a large cast of non-white characters (as well as coding some of her aliens as having features typically associated with people of color), and she just presents that and lets it be without pointing at it and saying "look what I did."


              Rebecca's romantic partner (and major contributor to her show) is Ian Jones-Quartey, who is a black man, and most of the voice cast and many of the writers are also people of color. But this is not written as a niche show. I don't know if Rebecca Sugar herself identifies as any stripe of queer--I've never seen her say so, and she's partnered with a man, though I know better than to say that means we know anything--and ethnicity-wise she looks white, but she has demonstrated over and over that she believes racial diversity and queer representation belong in mainstream media, even for--ESPECIALLY for--children. Because, as she said above in the quote, we should all grow up knowing we can have that. That we're people. That we don't have to wait until our minds have formed around us being "other" before we're gently coaxed "back" into society. In the interview, she also said some vague things about how she never watched Disney movies thinking that could be her, though I don't know in what ways she was unable to relate. But I can certainly say I would have grown up feeling more like the world wasn't someone else's place I was just trying to live in if the media I consumed in my youth had hinted that people like me were real.



              Now I've heard tell that Seanan McGuire has written a book with an asexual protagonist. (The book also contains a trans man who is, I believe, a romantic interest.) The author is bisexual (and as far as I know not asexual-spectrum), and this is one of the only novels out there that has not just an asexual character tucked in someone's pocket somewhere but an asexual protagonist. This is also not a book about the character realizing she's asexual, nor have I heard that it heavily features that revelation. It just is. As it should be. The question is, did she do it right?

              I'll have to see, by reading it. And even though I'm an asexual woman, obviously I'm not the decision-maker on whether Seanan McGuire has written an asexual character "wrong." I would certainly be able to read it and say "I wish that hadn't been there" or "I wish that had been phrased differently" or "just once I'd like to see an asexual character who isn't also XYZ." (I withhold judgment until I read it, obviously.) But I must admit that as an asexual woman knowing a bisexual author has included a character of my incredibly underrepresented background, my first thought was "ohhhhh jeez I hope it isn't terrible." I feel bad that this was my first thought, because though I'm passably familiar with Seanan McGuire, I've never read any of her long fiction. I have no reason not to trust her, and I trust her more than I'd trust a straight person to write aces. And yet that was my knee-jerk reaction. Because I'm used to mainstream fiction taking people I can relate to and framing them as broken, as cold or confused, as villainous, or as needing to learn more about being human. And it isn't just hurtful to see yourself represented poorly in a story. It's hurtful to know this is a mainstream presentation and other people are going to be even more likely to think about me that way. I've been taught to expect this when non-asexual people try to show the world who I am.

              Right now we don't have enough characters like us in the media to risk getting a large percentage of them wrong. Just like a straight white male character being an utter douchebag in a movie will not make people think differently about straight white men, there does need to be room for non-majority characters to not be perfect people, but since people are establishing lasting impressions of us based on how media portrays us, we need to ask creators to be sensitive to this when they plan their presentation. If you have no exposure to a group but you see them on TV, you generalize--even if someone else has chosen how that group is portrayed without being part of it. We cannot realistically arrange global exposure to every marginalized group, but we can be responsible with how that exposure comes through our media.

              Saturday, April 16, 2016

              Personal Digest Saturday: April 9 – April 15

              Life news this week: 
              • Saturday I made a new asexuality video and subtitled it, but didn't really do anything else productive. I just squirmed into one of my cartoon-watching ruts and enjoyed myself. :)
              • Sunday I did a little bit of writing massage on Bad Fairy and answered some mail, and I made a slapdash Steven Universe music video to "What Is This Feeling?" from Wicked because I felt like it.
              • Monday I had to stay late at work to finish a project, went grocery shopping, and ran into Jeaux by accident so we went shopping together. Went home and argued with some turd on the Internet.
              • Tuesday was work and Mom Day. Mom came over and we ate at Panera. Then she slept over and we had a good time hanging out and she even watched some silly cartoon stuff with me and played with my action figures. Hahaha.
              • Wednesday was Jeaux Day and we had IHOP food and watched an episode of Over the Garden Wall and shared media.
              • Thursday I had a bunch of troubleshooting to do at work, did some Bad Fairy editing, and didn't get much done.
              • Friday I had a bunch of meetings at work and drew my comic at home. I did a bunch of maintenance tasks I'd been meaning to do and posted a new So You Write comic too.
                Interviews, Features, Mentions:

                 
                Reading progress:
                • Didn't finish any books this week.
                • Currently reading: Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler.
                  New singing performances:

                  Here I'm singing "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers.

                   

                  New drawings:

                  A pen doodle I did during a meeting at work,
                  featuring Connie Maheswaran from Steven Universe.




                  Webcomic So You Write Issue 59: "What's Editing?"










                  Webcomic Negative One Issue 0570: "A Blue Thing."







                  New videos:

                  Letters to an Asexual #35 is about the concept of asexuality as a disorder and whether it's "dangerous" to educate about asexuality in case non-asexual people accidentally identify with it when it's not true for them.




                  What Is This Feeling? is my Steven Universe music video featuring Amethyst and Pearl's relationship set to the tune of "What Is This Feeling?" from the musical Wicked.

                   

                  New photos: 

                  Just my haircut comparison photos this week:


                  Front, February 2014
                  Front, April 2016
                  Back, February 2014
                  Back, April 2016

                  Social Media counts:
                   
                  YouTube subscribers: 5,305 for swankivy (4 new), 569 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 775 for swankivy (3 new), 1,219 for JulieSondra (lost 3). Facebook: 290 friends (no change) and 197 followers (no change) for swankivy, 636 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 120 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,402 (lost 1). Instagram followers: 66 (no change).

                  Monday, April 11, 2016

                  Character conflict

                  I just made a new cartoon music video and I'm going to use it as a springboard to talk about today's rambly topic!

                  First, here's the video. Characters Pearl and Amethyst have a . . . well, a special kind of relationship. (This AMV is set to the song "What Is This Feeling?" from the musical Wicked.)



                  The song fits them well because they're very much like Elphaba and Glinda, the characters in the musical: they fundamentally hate certain things about each other and are extremely prone to squabbling at the drop of a hat. 


                  And yet, after some realizations, some intense conflicts, and some bonding experiences, they become very good friends and depend on one another.



                  In romance, we have this trope where characters hate each other and then realize they are madly in love with each other and proceed to have a passionate romance full of fireworks. But it's just as common with friendships in stories, and we like seeing these kinds of opposites-attract characters throw punches. Especially when it leads to them finding common ground.

                  So what exactly is this relationship? Do characters have to change as people before they can find this equilibrium? Well no. Of course not. And they're not even necessarily compromising when they begin to see eye to eye. I think, for this to work, characters who squabble and later become close often dislike something about the other character that has its roots in something they don't like about themselves.

                  For instance, take Galinda and Elphaba. (For those who haven't seen the musical Wicked, Galinda/Glinda is the eventual "Glinda the Good" and Elphaba is the "Wicked Witch of the West," derived from Oz stories, but this is a prequel of sorts, beginning when the characters are in college.) Galinda starts school as an aspiring magic student from an upperclass family, and she's forced through weird circumstances to share a room with Elphaba, who has been chosen over Galinda for a magic apprenticeship. Elphaba also refuses to be the meek "different" girl even though she's bright green and intellectual, so she's pretty aggressive and tries to be proud.

                  They pretty much instantly loathe one another.

                  Galinda is popular, pretty, rich, and not too happy about not getting what she expected. And she feels like she works hard and makes sacrifices to remain well-liked and successful, so someone like Elphaba winning the apprenticeship irritates her. And Elphaba may be a misfit in many ways, but she knows what she's good at, and she has spent much of her life trying not to be ashamed of who she is--so obviously a popular girl deliberately leading a charge against her is worthy of intense rivalry.


                  But after they've bonded somewhat, they do realize they want similar things and care about similar causes, though they continue to have different ways of approaching those things. Glinda admires Elphaba's brash refusal to compromise and willingness to lay her comfort and her life on the line for what she believes, and Elphaba admires Glinda's ability to work within the system and use her charisma to effect change. Neither wants to be what the other is, but they do accept the inherent value in each other's belief systems, and they care about each other as people once they've each stopped seeing the other as a symbol of something they themselves are lacking.


                  As for the Steven Universe characters Pearl and Amethyst, we don't yet know how they met or what their dynamic was like at that time, though a couple flashbacks from their younger years have shown absolutely no squabbling--if anything Pearl just kind of treated Amethyst like a child and bossed her around a little bit, but she didn't seem to mind.





                  But based on how we originally meet these characters, they have an antagonistic relationship that reads a bit like sibling rivalry--Pearl as the perfect older one, Amethyst as the screwed up younger one. (Pearl is a LOT older than Amethyst--we don't know how much older, but context suggests she is thousands of years older. She once says she was "only" a few thousand years old when she started fighting in her army, and Amethyst wasn't born yet when their war started.) On the surface, they hate each other because Pearl likes neatness and order and responsible behavior while Amethyst likes messes and chaos and lazy behavior. But that's not the half of it with these guys.

                  Pearl is not perfect at all, but she clings to that perfect image because keeping things clean and orderly is one of the only things in her life that she can control. She is one of the most broken characters I've ever seen--she's way more of a mess than Amethyst, despite images--and I think that's one of the things she's envious of Amethyst for. Amethyst isn't an anxious person--maybe a little restless sometimes, but not anxious--and her life and history is a lot simpler than Pearl's. She knows how to have fun. I'm not sure if I've ever actually seen Pearl legitimately enjoy herself (with a couple exceptions that also led to pretty awful things that I won't talk about here). She's always just trying to stay afloat and manage her nerves, and Amethyst is a good scapegoat. If you can blame someone for driving you up the wall, you don't have to take ownership of your grief, traumatic stress disorders, and anxiety.


                  Amethyst kind of buys the "Pearl is perfect" ruse (at least until she sees enough of her breakdowns and processes what they mean). She feels like the oddball in their group--she missed the war everybody else fought in when they saved the planet thousands of years ago; she was born on Earth while her teammates were born on another planet; she's very physically strong but the others are better fighters than she is; she's the only one who enjoys human behavior like sleeping and eating; and she was essentially created by the bad guys in the story and she carries guilt over being an instrument of destruction. Plus if they were on their planet of origin, she would outrank Pearl and everyone on their team because amethysts are quartzes and quartzes are apparently among the biggest badasses in the galaxy, but here on Earth she gets bossed around by everyone. And then there's Pearl telling her she's a mess, she's irresponsible, she's ruining everything. So she takes some comfort in rebelling--sometimes because she needs an outlet for her aggression, and other times just to do it.


                  But even though they have different interests and values, these two are on the same team. (As their leader, Garnet, sometimes has to remind them explicitly.) They both care about protecting the planet and preserving the lives of those in their care--and they've both been hurt by some of the awful traumatic things that have happened to them (most notably the death of one of their teammates; assuming I'm reading the context right, Amethyst lost a mother figure and Pearl lost a romantic partner when Rose Quartz died, and they both lost stability and direction in this world). Sometimes they even fight over who owns that grief or who has more of it, but they can agree that they miss her terribly. They both want to be important to the team. They both want respect from Garnet. And they've both realized that in a world where neither of them has fulfilled the purpose for which they were created, they are in a similar struggle to determine what they value and who they are. People with similar struggles can see each other as competitors, but they can also find comfort in each other.


                  Audiences love following characters who have authentic conflicts, but we will start to find it tiresome if it never goes anywhere. It can build to some resolution--explosive or quiet, doesn't matter--and while it can be satisfying to watch diametrically opposed characters like hero vs. villain fight to the death, it can also be fulfilling to see them become better companions. Building fundamental differences into characters that are easy to see on the surface is an ingenious way to hint at the real issues they have with themselves, and it's incredible when they can learn to help each other through a conflict when they might have been on opposite sides earlier in their evolution.

                  Conflict in the past makes it that much more beautiful when the characters have moved through it into what they can truly share.