The future is what we can see. The future is what we dream of. The future is the future we write about in our stories, whether they’re film, books, comics, or another medium. We don’t have to look further than our smartphones, tablets, or heck, automatic sliding doors to see the impact of what Star Trek dreamed up, and we said, you know what, that is a good idea. It wasn’t just tech. The utopia of the Federation put on screen by Gene Roddenberry showed a future about the good and possibilities of humanity when we work together. On Star Trek and in the Federation, there was peace among far reaching cultures and types of lifeforms. There wasn’t poverty, hunger, homelessness, abject hate, or many of the other social ills which plague our world today. Roddenberry and the hundreds of other creators who’ve helmed Star Trek have never explained how this vision of the future eliminated and solved those problems, but the vision is there.
When watching Star Trek: Beyond, I couldn’t help but think of our world right now and how we need this type of story. Beyond’s two predecessor films never felt like Star Trek films because they never layered in the pieces of utopia. (Among other flaws.) Popular culture, right now, is full of stories about the one special hero and the dystopian reality. No wonder we’ve found solace in those types of tales. Continue reading “Why We Need Stories Like Star Trek: Not Really a Review of Star Trek: Beyond”
A 7am flight out of Boston equals torture for this West Coast night owl who hasn’t been there long enough to adjust to the time zone. (Which is approximately a week for the East Coast and about three days for the UK.) As I’m digging for my book, a young girl with a huge scowl on her face sits down across from me. Instantly, I see myself — particularly my younger self, though in many cases my current self — reflected in her. She has glasses and a mop of long blonde hair looped in a messy bun. She immediately sticks her nose in a young adult book about ghosts. I have the same shoes she’s wearing, only in black and hot pink, instead of gray and hot pink. We’re both wearing bright patterned leggings. She takes a Purell wipe from her bag and cleans down her seat and tray table. When the dudebro behind her neglects to cover his cough, we both give him death glares. She sees me doing this, and I smile at her when our eyes meet for a brief second.
I start to think about how I’m old enough to be her mother — though her parents appear about a decade older than me — and how perhaps I shall steal this one mostly-formed child. Clearly, we could save some money by sharing clothing. She’s at what Sandra Tsing Loh described as the perfect moment in girlhood: strong, confident, prepubescent.
I also obverse her family, noticing how they are focused on entertainment and what to order from the on-flight menus. In my own childhood, no one understood why I love to read more than most things. Why I preferred to write or tell myself stories, playing with dolls or action figures. The girl takes out a journal and a pile of embroidery thread; no doubt, she’s going to make friendship bracelets. And I am uniquely satisfied that the art of friendships bracelets hasn’t been lost only to Christian camps sequestered from cell towers.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Deadpool movie since seeing it last weekend. It was not one of my favorite Marvel-based movies. Many people found the movie transgressive, as an R-rated risk for Marvel properties and a reaction against the overly serious DC movies and tones of the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse and Captain America: Civil War films. One of the conversations coming out of Deadpool aka Wade Wilson being turned into a film is Deadpool’s position as a pansexual comic character.
Let me be clear: Deadpool, in no way, shows attraction toward men in the film.
If you don’t already have them on your shelf or on your to-read list. 🙂
This year, according to Goodreads, I read 122 books. My goals this year were to keep better track of the comic books I’ve read and continue to read more diverse voices. By the numbers — 57 (+13% compared to 2014) were written by women, 28 (+13%) drawn by women, 26 (+1%) written or drawn by people of color, and 13 (+3%) written or drawn by queer people. (The latter two categories may be slightly off.)
Genre: Intersectional feminist comics, sci-fi, fills my heart with glee Recommended for: EVERYONE (who gives a fuck about social justice and rad comics)
I’ve probably told everyone to read this comic this year. READ THIS COMIC. Bitch Planet rifts on ’70s prison exploitation movies and totalitarianism, particularly the control of women. Non-compliant women, as they are called, are shipped off to a prison-in-space colloquially known as Bitch Planet. Some of them have committed crimes we might consider valid reasons to go to prison — murder, theft, etc. — but many are there because they talked back to their husbands, because they were too fat, too gay, too stubborn, too outspoken, too brown, etc., and it’s those women’s stories that make Bitch Planet stand out as not too far from our own reality.
Genre: YA comics, female friendship to the max, camp songs Recommended for: EVERYONE (no, literally everyone)
Volume 1 came in as my #1 read, so not surprising to see 2 and 3 come up high on the list. Lumberjanes remains a book full of heart and love, centered around the friendships of young girls. Though as the cast expands, we learn about the friendships of adult women and add some boys too. The book takes place at a camp and focuses on adventure and fun. The quality of the story is maintained through all the new additions.
Genre: Magical realism, thrillers, fiction set in South Africa Recommended for: EVERYONE (who wants the dæmons in His Dark Materials to have a darker meaning)
I’ve wanted to read something by Lauren Beukes since I read her Fairest comic book miniseries. Several years ago, I traveled to South Africa, which instantly became of my favorite places in the world and somewhere I wanted to learn/read about. This book explores the concept of sin, particularly the sin of murder, and what if when someone murdered someone — regardless of situation and if in cold-blood or accident or self-defense — they were ‘burdened’ with a random animal (anything from a bear to a beetle). The lead character Zinzi is animated with a sloth and has a sixth sense to find lost items. When that lost item is a pair of teenagers, her live gets further turned upside down.
Grandfathers are put into our lives in order to make better sense of the universe. And my Grandfather certainly shaped the universe for myself and the rest of our family. Astronomer Dr. Michelle Thaller explains our position in the universe with the eloquent, yet literal sentiment — “We are dead stars, looking back up at the sky.” Grandpa now having returned to the sky.
My Grandfather, like all of us, was a complex person. He was someone many people would describe as gruff and serious. He didn’t always make the best first, second, or third impression, but his heart was always in the right place, whether he was ushering here at St. Mark or helping me clean rabbit cages or my cousins with their Boy Scout projects. But today, I want to talk about the Grandpa that I knew.
My Grandpa was the one who smiled for my photos — which he never did for Grandma —; he always made sure to hop on the phone and say “I love you”; and he liked to joke that I was his favorite. (But let me pause here and draw back the curtain to spoil you for Grandpa’s hand. He said this to all his grandchildren. Sorry, brothers and cousins, if this takes away the magic.)
My Grandpa found his joy with his grandchildren, and it’s something that almost wasn’t. I’m the oldest grandchild. When I was born over 30 years ago, my mother told him he wasn’t allowed to smoke or drink around me. My Grandfather in all his infamous stubbornness took a “5 Day Plan to Stop Smoking” class from the Seventh Day Adventists and quit cold turkey. Grandma recently gave me the certificate from the program, and I laughed a lot. Of course, Grandpa made something lots of people sincerely struggle with look like a day in the park with his granddaughter. Everyone now knows no single addiction can be curbed in five days. But Grandpa stopped a 40-year-old habit because of his love for his grandchildren.
Last Friday, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that legalized marriage for all adults regardless of gender, Moz was one of the brands who decided to rainbowfy their social media icons.
Now, you might be surprised to learn I wasn’t behind this decision. I am one of the community team members, and yes, we’re responsible for social media. Instead, my manager Jen, with a thumbs up from our CEO Sarah, made it happen. The rainbow was all done before I was even in the office. Or had a cup of tea.
For the most part, Moz’s community was very supportive. However, a few community members and a handful of customers complained. They spoke to typically “arguments” about gay marriage — everything from it being political to outright saying they disliked queer people and yes, the illogical jump to sex with ducks. (Don’t worry, it’s a humorous music video.) Poor Roger even had his sexuality mislabeled. He’s asexual because he’s a robot!
I am the community team member who’s point for responding to “situations that require escalation” aka when someone’s having a freakout, legit or otherwise. And I could talk about how I responded, what I did as a representative of the brand, and what I really wanted to say to those particular bigots.
In 2014, I focused on reading books that I already owned, with the exception of new comics, and that were already sitting on my shelves. I bought less books than other years, and my shelves, like the melting ice caps, have migrated to even more books read. That was my small win.
Goodreads says that I read 96 books in 2014. I probably read more than that because I’ve been shit at tracking the new comics (when they finally come out in graphic novel format) that I’ve read. Not to mention, not all comics are collected in graphic novels.
Genre: YA comics, Feminist comics, Holy Kittens Recommended for: EVERYONE
This comic book filled my feminist heart with glee. I know, I rated a comic book number one, but yes, it is that good. Lumberjanes is about a group of teenage girls at camp, and they are — next to the Pawnee Goddess — my favorite group of fictional girl scouts. The girls come from diverse backgrounds, and they solve the supernatural mysteries of the camp with their unique skills and friendship.
Plus, Lumberjanes has catchy phrases like “Friendship to the max!” and “Holy bell hooks!” I do love a catch phrase. It’s pretty rare to see a book filled with girls, much less girls valued for their brains and brawn and who love and care deeply for each other. Lumberjanes reminded me of my very best times with my female friends.
In early 2014, Lumberjanes was the book pointed out by privileged comic book dudes to be ruining comic books for them. I’m pleased to say it lives up to its hype, and it’s done so well that Lumberjanes is now an on-going series, determined to ruin comics forever.
Why hadn’t I read this before now? The main question I kept asking myself over and over when reading Sister Outsider.
When I was a child, I spent lots of time in Catholic and Lutheran churches and around people who found great comfort in the Bible and its teachings. (Personally, it either bored, enraged, scared, or seemed like common sense to my younger self.) But if I had to pick text which moved, comforted, and expanded me in the same way, it would Sister Outsider. Continue reading “Shit I Read in 2014 & Think You Should Read in 2015”
I am my maternal grandfather’s favorite grandchild, or so goes the family joke-truth. I was the first grandchild. When I was born, my grandpa quit heavily smoking and drinking, which he’d done for 40 years, cold turkey. My mother had given him an ultimatum; but let’s be clear, he didn’t stop because of her or my grandmother or his own health. He quit because of me. This is one of the heavy realities of my birth.
Luckily, for grandpa and I, we’ve pretty much always gotten along. I spent an enormous part of my childhood at my grandparents’ house, and my grandpa even lived with my family for many years, on the weekdays anyway, when building two of my childhood homes. He taught me how to hammer nails and developed my love of cheddar cheese. Grandma often comments that I’m sometimes the only one who can make him really smile. (Both grandpa and I are prone to resting bitch face; it’s a thing.)
My grandfather is notoriously stubborn. And I can dig my heels into the sand with the best of them. But being grandpa’s favorite, I learned that sometimes it was better to ask for forgiveness and count on unconditional love than ask for permission when I knew there was a ‘no’ attached. Grandpa always seemed more lighthearted when I asked for forgiveness. Even if it was just changing the TV channel with his remote.
Almost every year as an adult, I bring my cat “home” for Christmas. Now my grandfather grew up in rural South Dakota and believes that animals should only be kept for work. If my cat was out in a barn killing mice and other vermin, fine. But my cats are pampered, indoor creatures. As a child, I dressed them up in Cabbage Patch Kids clothing, and as an adult, I feed them higher quality food than many people eat. I learned long ago never to ask my grandfather or let him know I was bringing my cat. And he still acts like it’s a surprise every year to see me carrying in my feline companion along with my Christmas gifts.
However, it’s always be crystal clear that my cats were not allowed in grandpa’s room or to do such horrible things like snuggle up to him.
One year, I was taking a shower after everyone else had gone to bed. When I got out, my grandma was knocking rapidly on the door. She was in a panic. After grandpa had gone to sleep and grandma was still getting ready for bed, my cat Winston had wandered into their room. When grandma had tried to remove Winston, he’d growled, hissed, and snapped at her. This was very un-Winston like behavior.
Apparently, we’re having another round of “that’s just fanfiction.” Implying that fanfiction is below prowriting quality standards and should be dismissed, and that if you want to insult a prowriting piece, just call it fanfiction.
For those that live under rocks, fanfiction or fanfic is a derivative work of another creator, usually created out of love for the original work. More often than not written for fun and just because. Fanfic is largely created by women for women. And fanfic is infamous for its explicitly erotic stories, which do constitute a significant portion, though not all fanfic. Erotic fanfic often falls into Rule 34: if you can think of it, there’s probably erotica/porn on the internet about it.
For a year I wrote obituaries for my hometown newspaper. There I learned one thing: if someone lives a great long life, don’t just remember their last few years, remember their entire life. Not just the times where they were ill, had lots of wrinkles, maybe watched too much Wheel of Fortune, or did the sanctioned things we allow our elderly to do. Don’t list their past times based on only classes they signed up for at the senior center.
My paternal grandma, Evelyn, passed away in the early am this Christmas at age 87. She’d received a terminal cancer diagnosis earlier this year, and after spending the year before battling breast cancer, she decided to enjoy her final days instead of going for a treatment that wasn’t likely to succeed. Grandma was able to live her final moments as she wanted: in her home and with her family. And I can’t help but wonder what the family will list as her hobbies and interests.
I hope they write about my Grandma’s travels. How age and the dreams of the travelers, who crashed at the bed and breakfast she and my Grandfather started after they retired, propelled her across the world. How she went to Scotland to seek out genealogy and relatives. How she discovered that there are 22 different spellings of our shared last name. How she saw castles while the rest of us stayed safely within the confines of Oregon.
When I was 12, my Grandmother took myself and my two cousins, Sean and Kristen, to Alaska. While it was the second time I’d flown, it was the first time I remembered being on a plane. My cousins and I looked out windows for mountain peaks and entertained ourselves by reading magazines. My Grandmother remained calm and nonplussed as we pinned flying wings on our lapels and met the pilot. When I travel for business, I imitate my Grandmother’s attitude about being on a plane and being on airports. It helps with the stories in my head.
In Alaska, we met and stayed with distant relatives Grandma had met on her dives into genealogy. We stayed up all night getting to know our relatives, but also unsure what time it was in the constant light of summertime in Alaska. Even our relatives laughed when they realized it was 2am and they still had neighbors over after a Club Scout meeting. Before we headed on in our itinerary, we met more distant family, and I remember the first thing that surprised Grandma about Alaska was finding out we had black relatives.
Grandma navigated our travels in Alaska as if she’d taken the holiday already once herself. She had maps and pre-made plans. This was before GPSs and when only early adopters had cell phones. But we made our way from town-to-town, and Grandma had used her bed and breakfast connections for the rest of our stays. The places were overly frilled with tacky wallpaper and pillowy beds. Pinks and blues and Victorian prints seemed a theme.
Before Alaska, I’d had my hair cut short. I wanted to look like Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but instead I sported the infamous bowl-cuts of the era. My hair matched my brother Jonathan’s and my cousin Sean’s. I was as tall as I am now and as thin as a beanpole. In Alaska, it seemed that girls and non-elderly women all had long hair. They had curves and fat, and I had none of these things. And when one odd, ginger B&B owner told my Grandma that the two twin boys could share the candy caned stripped room, I flushed with embarrassment, but my grandma, not for the first time, correct the man that I was a girl.
We went on a day cruise to see icebergs and whales. As we loaded the bus, it was clear my cousins and myself were the only ones under the age of 60 on the tour. A man started to comment on the twin boys, but then he shouted, “oh, one’s a girl” when he noticed I wore a white jersey dress with pink and blue striping. Though this may have given away my gender, it was not appropriate clothing for the deck of a ship near icebergs. But I didn’t care the moment I saw humpback whales.
My Grandma and I were never close. To say she didn’t get me was an understatement and perhaps I didn’t understand her that well either. She was like the icebergs we watched, barely peeking above the surface with more below we never saw. She seemed accepting of the hand that life dealt her, in a way I don’t think anyone born after World War II is. Practical to a fault. But I imagine there were many things she just chose not to say. My Grandfather may have died when I was four, but I always felt this specter of the patriarch lingering. And it wasn’t the huge portrait of him and my Grandma, in full McGillivray tartan regalia, hanging at the end of the darkened hallway. I often felt like an outsider in this no-nonsense place for boys: my father, three uncles, two brothers, four male cousins, and our grandfatherly ghost.
I visited my Grandma about two days before she died, and she asked me if I remembered playing with paper dolls at the B&B log cabin house. How I’d sit for hours, creating new fashions for the paper dolls of Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae. Dolls my Grandma had kept from her own youth and packed away for decades until her sons gave her five granddaughters. She seemed surprised that I remembered this and eager to connect over this feminine activity. Because even though she rejected it, my practical Grandma never realized just how much we’d both needed feminism and how we were just different failures of stereotypical femininity. I kind of wished we’d talked about Alaska and icebergs instead.
I remember lying in the upstairs loft in the log house, staring back at the heads of moose and deer lining the walls. Looking for hidden specters and creepy monsters, listening to the great clock ticking away all throughout the house. While it felt cabin-like, I’d never describe my Grandma’s log cabin as cozy or warm. There were drafts and the strict tidiness of always having guests. (Even after she sold the B&B, my Grandma’s house remained utilitarian and uncluttered.) Only at Christmas, when 20+ people arrived and my cousins and I tore through our gifts littering the place with wrapping paper and new toys did the log house become warm and full of life. Perhaps that was why Grandma chose Christmas Day to die.