Jul 27 2012

A Thought On the “Fake Geek Girls” Thing

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Yesterday, John Scalzi posted a righteous smackdown upon those who cry “fake geek girl” and demand proof of geek cred whenever someone engages in geeky behavior while also having the nerve to be female. His smackdownery was in response to a specific editorial written by a guy named Peacock, but also sums up well the feelings a lot of us have had over the past months as more geeky gals have stood up and pushed back against the phenomenon.

As someone who is not a gal but is of the general opinion that gals are awesome, I stood and applauded at this. On reflection this morning, however, I remembered that I have myself encountered, and commented upon, exactly the sort of “fake geek gal” Mr. Peacock was describing. She was at Dragon*Con, some years ago now, sitting at a table adjacent to mine, and well… let me just quote from my LiveJournal entry at the time

Sales were slow on Saturday, so late in the day I crafted a new “BMSIBYF” [“Buy my stuff, I’ll be your friend!”– a running gag of mine at cons] sign out of bristol, tape, and extra cardboard and went back to the campy grin technique. Immediately sales picked up, and by midday Sunday, I’d made lots of new friends. 🙂

This caught the roving eye of the booth bunny next door. I have only a passing familiarity with the group who was next to us, but like so many of the people at D*C (and even more at Comic-Con) they are an indy comics shop who are Not Dark Horse and Not Image Comics, if you see what I mean. Demons in spandex and leather-trenchcoat vigilantes, that kind of thing. Their table had fairly brisk traffic, but their only product as far as I could make out was a $20 shirt with their company logo on it– not exactly an item calculated to set the congoing public on fire.

Thus, they had a booth bunny, a latter-day Betty Boop who appeared to be in her early twenties, with abs and eyeliner and auburn-in-a-bottle hair, who would take turns sitting on their table and lying on her stomach on their table, batting her eyelids at the people who walked by. Unfortunately for our neighbors, even having a booth bunny was not enough to make a $20 shirt bearing an indy comics label logo an attractive commodity, and sales were suffering. Meanwhile, 85% of the people who came back to our little corner and spotted me smiling happily and holding up my silly little handmade sign, would at least laugh, and a good 50% would then come over to the table and even if they didn’t so much as buy a button, they’d walk away having heard of NeverNever and The Suburban Jungle and remembering me as the “buy my stuff sign guy.” Several people who’d never heard of my work still wanted pictures of me with my sign.

Well, not knowing the booth bunny I can’t really ascribe motives to her, but I got the distinct vibe that she was jealous. At a lull in the proceedings, she sidled over to our table, batted her eyes at me, and cooed, “Could I borrow your sign for a little while?”

Halfway between annoyed and amused, I responded, “Wellll … I dunnoooo…” In the past, I’ve been approached in exactly that same manner by people who then proceeded to punch me in the face and take my lunch money. But she assured me that she only wanted it for ten minutes, so I acquiesced. And, having learned from bitter experience that discipline is paramount in these situations, made an exact note of the time.

So she took the “Buy my stuff! I’ll be your friend!” sign, hiked up her midriff-tied torn-off t-shirt, and started posing with it and telling people, “GOSH, if you buy our SHIRT, I’ll be your FRIEND! What more could you WANT?” [A business partner at the time], being susceptible to booth bunnies and insufficiently clad females in general, took the opportunity to take several pictures of her.

Not a sale.

After eight minutes of the fanboys not noticing the difference between her with the sign and her without it, their continued insistence on not buying the shirt no matter how much they stood around and ogled her, and my answering queries of “You gave her your sign?” with a casual, “Yup … she’s got six minutes left!” she apparently got disgusted and handed it back to me.

“Here,” she said. “I guess I’m just not as cute as you are.”

Now here’s the thing: I’ve been going to Dragon*Con for over ten years. Of the thousands upon thousands of women I’ve met or seen at Dragon*Con, regardless of whether they were supermodel types or not, this gal is the only one I have ever encountered who seemed to actually hold geeks in contempt and only be there with the purpose of being gawked at. (Technically she was there to sell books, as she was the model the artist had used to base his heroine on; I don’t know if she was getting a cut of book sales or what. The gawking was intended to lead to book selling, not actually the desired goal in and of itself.)

So it’s not like “fake geek girls” are exactly a rampant epidemic.

On top of which, and this is the part that gets me, can you blame the gal? By wearing her ridiculous outfit and posing in her ridiculous poses and doing that duckface, she got crowds of hormonal nerd zombies to line up at her table, staring and making Beavis and Butthead noises. If the table had been stocked with a $10 book instead of a $20 shirt, I have no doubt they would have made a killing that day from all the troglodytes going “Uhhh… hot chick… me give money…”

Meanwhile, a perfectly nice and real, genuine, bona fide geek gal artist of my acquaintance who was across the aisle was being roundly ignored by those same troglodytes, because she wasn’t vamping it up but instead sitting there, drawing and smiling quietly at anyone who walked past. If Mr. Peacock feels insulted that “I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence,” maybe he should be railing at the troglodytes who create that environment rather than the occasional (and frankly rare) woman who tries to capitalize on it.

Y’know, those same troglodytes who do this crap. And this crap.

Those are the real “pox on our culture,” Mr. Peacock.

-The Gneech

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Jun 20 2012

Dear AnthroCon: Can We Do Something (Good) About This, Please?

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So a gal was approached by a creepy guy at AnthroCon; gal chose to be polite and mostly non-confrontational, guy chose to be creepy. Yesterday, gal wrote a blog post about the event, detailing the creepy guy as a warning to other gals who may have been similarly creeped at.

Since then, gal’s post got linked to on 4chan and lulz.net, which apparently mobilized hordes of knuckle-dragging scumsuckers to mock and harass her, effectively bullying her into removing the post and generally creating a “you better keep your mouth shut if you know what’s good for you, girlie” environment. As a result, she’s now gone quiet about it, and creepy guy is still out there, creeping.

This must not stand.

Creepy guy does not appear to have been an AC attendee, but gal was, and we should be protecting our own. Not only in the case of the incident (’cause even the Dorsai, love ’em, can’t be everywhere at once), but also when she tries to tell everyone what happened and spread the word.

I’m not posting gal’s name here, because if she feels threatened she’s entitled to her anonymity. But we need to create an environment where gal is the one who is safe and protected by the social fabric, and creepy guys are the ones who get shamed and harassed.

More On the Topic…

Victim shaming & blaming (sexual harassment at Anthrocon)

Dragon*Con’s Back Up Project FAQ

Video Blog on a Different (But Sadly the Same) Event

-The Gneech

(Crossposted to the AnthroCon LJ community and my LiveJournal)

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May 29 2012

Let There Be Art! Also, Some Mini-Epiphanies

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So! I’ve been going through some interesting mental gymnastics recently about my creative endeavors, which I will spare you the sordid details of (at least partially because I don’t think think they’re finished and I’m not sure I spotted them all as it is); the net result as of this weekend, however, is that I went out and bought myself a new color printer and a laminator for making artistic stuffery.

I also put together a new price list for the upcoming cons, which ended up being a lot more fun of an activity than I expected. Something about making it, jazzed me up about wanting to do more art, probably at least in part because I tried to pick some of my favorite pieces for putting onto it. Note that I said some of my favorite pieces, not necessarily some of my best pieces.

The reason I say this is because one of the things that’s been getting the way of my creative endeavors lately is the nagging sense that I’m not working on what I “should be” working on. Writing fanfic? I “should be” trying to write a proper novel! Drawing ponies? I “should be” trying to do something more grand or with a broader appeal, etc. And few things kill the joy in art faster than the word “should.”

And without joy, what’s the point of doing art? I mean. Really.

So screw it. I’m going to do the art I want to do, and stop trying to think about what would be “good for my career” or “get a lot of attention” or “broaden my fanbase” or whatever. The goal is to be having fun with it! Anything that adds to fun, is a good thing. Anything that takes away from fun, is doing it wrong.

Bringin’ the Awesome

I also had a little mini-epiphany last night while playing “Draw Something” of all the silly things. I sent a way-more-elaborate-than-it-needed-to-be drawing to another player, who sent back the message “Just a [simple thing] would have been fine.”

I wrote back, “‘Fine’ is fine, but I always try to at least aim for ‘awesome’ if I can!” I meant it as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. The truth of the matter is, I’m not a particularly good artist– in point of fact, most of the time I’m way out of my depth. But for whatever reason, I keep aiming for awesome, even if I know I’m not likely to hit it. This used to be a constant source of frustration for me, but somehow, lately, it’s become a source of pride and pleasure. I dunno, maybe I’m channeling my inner Soarin?

Whatever it is, I like it. And I want to hold on to it. 🙂

Finally, Commission Pre-Announcement

It is widely-known, by the ten or eleven people who know such things, that I almost never do commissions. However! As I need to rustle up a few extra bucks to offset the cost of going to BroNYCon, I’m going to open up some commission slots in the next week or so. The reason I’m telling everyone now before I actually do it, is because there will be limited spaces, and in the past I’ve received flak for the way the slots opened and then closed again before people even had a chance to get one.

I don’t expect it to go that way this time– I’m not the celebrity I used to be– but better safe than sorry. So this is the official word: if you’re interested in a commission, keep your eyes open, because they’ll be opening soon.

That’s all for now! Have an awesome day. 🙂

-The Gneech

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Nov 27 2011

There Is Nothing That Gives Me Cool Ideas as Fast…

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…as trying to make progress on some OTHER project. 😛

Stupid contrarian brain! Don’t give me great ideas for projects I’ve shelved when I’m trying to force myself to stick with one!

Feh. Okay, I’ll write that down and put it into a fragment file with all the others. Then can we PLEASE make progress on the CURRENT project? Thank you.

-The Gneech

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Aug 04 2011

The Weirditude of Gender Nerdery

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This will be a long one, Websnark style. I apologize for the length, but I’ve got a lot to say here.

Imagine, if you can, what life was like for geeks and budding geeks in 1975-1976. Batman was all about camp. Star Wars was a pile of notes on George Lucas’s desk. The only really cool thing we had was Star Trek, and that was a canceled, not-terribly-popular show that was on life support by means of a Saturday morning cartoon. The only people who cared about it were NASA employees and the uncool kids.

But we made the best of it, and when you had enough kids together you could actually decently “play Star Trek” with a different actual person taking the role of Kirk, Spock, etc. Since I had the largest collection of Star Trek figures, including the Enterprise Bridge Playset, I got to call the shots on what we would do with it. On one particular afternoon, we actually had something like six of us together, including a girl whose name has long been lost out of the fuzzy recesses of my memory. She had dark hair, and I remember liking her because she was into all the same fantasy/SF stuff that I was, or at least didn’t go “Ew!” at it the way most of the girls did. But she lived in a different neighborhood, which when you’re six years old, might as well been another planet, so I rarely had the opportunity to play with her.

In any case, I was handing out figures for people to play with; I kept Spock for myself naturally, but pretty much let everybody else take whomever they pleased. But I left Uhura in the box, because she was such an nonentity. All she ever did was answer the phone and occasionally say, “Captain, I’m frightened.” What kind of a character is that?

This girl — I’m going to call her Melissa for purposes of the anecdote (and because I do remember knowing a girl named Melissa) — strenuously objected to this when I suggested she play Scotty. “I don’t want to play Scotty!”

“How can you not want to play Scotty? Scotty’s cool!” (May not have been my exact words … I was six.)

“But I’m a girl!”

This stymied me. It had never been an issue before: most of the time there were no girls around to play with anyway, and so if there were girl roles required, one of the boys would just take it. Playing a cross-gender role was something you just did if it was required to make the playing happen. (I myself became quite adept at the role of Kimba’s girlfriend, which seemed perfectly ordinary to me at the time and caused me much confusion when it bugged my best friend later. But that’s another story.) But for !Melissa it was apparently a big issue, and that left us stuck, because there was only the one girl figure: Lt. Uhura, who was only surpassed in boringness by Yoeman “Look At My Legs, Captain” Rand. If there had been a Lt. M’Ress figure, or even a Number One (Majel Barrett as human supercomputer, one of the coolest characters in Star Trek ever and therefore absolutely hated by the network), all would have been fine.

(It’s worth noting that Uhura did become cool later, particularly in Star Trek III, but that was decades away. Even her badass moment in “The Lorelei Signal” episode of the animated series only came because none of the Men Folk were around to be badass instead. And remember also, I was six, and didn’t realize that the reason Uhura was boring was because race and gender politics forbade her from being interesting at the time.)

This was my first real confrontation with the phenomenon of The Chick, and it’s something that really starts jumping out at you once you notice it. As someone in the blogosphere recently said (and I’m still looking for the exact quote, I’ll get back to you with it): many writers, especially of pop or genre fiction, default to male (and usually white male) for a character unless there’s a specific reason to do otherwise. Need a leader? White male. Smooth talker? White male. Gadgeteer? White male. Romantic Interest? Oops, guess we’ll make this one a female. Etc. Among other things, this leads to there being a character who is The Diversity Kid (“Chinese girl in a wheelchair, score!”), whose main role is to be The Diversity Kid, and who always rings false in the role.

Even being aware of this tendency isn’t enough to keep it from happening in your work: in NeverNever, both Mopsy and Jenny sometimes fall into the “The Chick” category, although I did try to make them interesting characters in their own right. (I was a little annoyed with myself at how often Jenny needed rescuing, but on the other hand just about everybody in the cast needed rescuing at least a few times.) Suburban Jungle was a bit better in this regard, largely because I started with a female protagonist and built the cast to be the people who were important to her life. Given how easy it is for me, a person who at least likes to think of himself as being proactive on this issue, to fall into it, it’s not hard to see why this is an ongoing phenomenon.

Now, fast-forward to today, where gender issues in geeky lit are in a state of high dudgeon. DC comics recently got reamed for its notable lack of female heroes and female creators (not to mention comics’ record generally for stuffing women into refrigerators). There is a strange backlash against girl geeks going on, especially ones who are what is traditionally thought of as “attractive” … and of course there’s a backlash against the backlash.

Into all this wanders My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which as I mentioned before is a very girly show for girls that is girly, but is also just a straight-up awesome show, thus having a lot of crossover appeal. That there should be bronies, geeky male fans of a girly cartoon show, should be considered a Grand Thing, shouldn’t it?

Well apparently, not everyone thinks so. Consider this comic from Shortpacked!:

Shortpacked!, by David Willis, for Aug 3 2011

Now, I’m not a regular reader of Shortpacked! so I don’t know the context here. This comic came to my attention by way of a MLP:FIM blog in which the blogger didn’t wanted to be associated with the term “brony” because to him it apparently means “male MLP fan who is a jerk about it.” This, as far as I can tell, is nuts. (Which is also my reaction to fans of anthropomorphic animals generally who don’t want to be called “furries.”)

But there are a lot of things in this comic that stick in my craw. First and foremost, it’s clear that the guy is being a jerk; however, this is being held up more or less to be, “This guy is being male.” That in itself is a trend I’ve been sick of for years. Second, there is a noticeable disconnect between MLP:FIM and the merchandise it is ostensibly being made to sell, and that creates natural frustration on the part of fans who want to support something they like by buying the merchandise. (“I love Rainbow Dash, she’s got so much attitude! I’ll go buy a Rainbow Dash toy! Er, what’s this doe-eyed waif with Rainbow Dash’s name on it?”) I can’t speak for everybody, but speaking only for myself I don’t have a problem with the doe-eyed waif qua itself, my problem is that there isn’t anything with the Rainbow Dash I was looking for. [1]

But my real problem is in the line “Males have 6/7ths of the Justice League, 90 percent of the Avengers, 12/13ths of Transformers, and now you’ve taken My Little Pony.” Presumably this is intended as an indictment of the concept of The Chick, which is a concept that needs indicting. But it’s also built on a fundamentally bad premise: how exactly has My Little Pony been “taken” and from whom? Does one jackass mouthing off suddenly turn all of the ponies into colts instead of fillies? Is the woman in the comic now somehow prevented from liking My Little Pony because it’s not an all-girls club any more? The little rejoinder at the end, “Sorry, we noticed something we didn’t have,” also sticks in my craw because, of all the crazy things, it feeds negative stereotypes — i.e., the rapacious and plundering white male.

In short, the fundamental premise of this comic seems to be that boys shouldn’t be liking stuff for girls because girls have so little stuff of their own. But isn’t that just as ridiculous as saying that girls shouldn’t like superheroes because superheroes are meant for boys? Either that or “boys are pretty much all jackasses and anything they touch is ruined,” which is also a premise that I don’t much care for. (The irony that this comic was written by a guy is also not lost on me.)

Some of this is just the natural growing pains of any fandom, I imagine. The original brony rant about “I’m totally not a brony!” was an almost point-by-point copy of the same “I’m totally not a furry!” rant I’ve seen a hundred times. But really, it’s getting old. Anything with human beings involved is going to include assholes sooner or later, and people really need to get over that.

Oh, and for the record, I handed over the Uhura figure so !Melissa could play her, and a good time was had by all. Until we realized the delicate hands of the Uhura figure didn’t have an opposable thumb and so couldn’t hold a phaser. But that’s also a post for some other time.

-The Gneech

[1] Well, there is the one set of tiny little ponies from the show, noticeably missing Applejack and Fluttershy. What’s that about?

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Jun 20 2011

Printer Fail, Continued

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The downside of self-publishing, of course, is that when things go all pear-shaped, you’re the one who has to scramble to fix it.

In this particular case, I’m referring to Volumes I and II of No Predation Allowed, which are currently floundering in the Hell of Printers Who Don’t Q.A. Ironically, Volume III, which is the one they received last, had no problems whatsoever and will be on my doorstep tomorrow, ready to take to AnthroCon on Thursday.

The sticking point in both cases is the text on the spine, which for some unspecified reason, keeps being mucked with by their tech department. First, Volume I came in with the text at the right size, but reading “No     Predation Allowed.” What the heck? So I poked ’em and they said, “Oops, we’ll send you a fixed one.”

Then, Volume II came in with the spine all disproportionately crunched, so the letters were all wide and short. Why people who are presumably trained in at least the basics of typography would not see this as an unacceptable gaffe, I can’t imagine, but again, I poked ’em and they said, “Oops, well send you a fixed one.”

On Friday, the “fixed” Volume I arrived (a day after it was supposed to): the giant empty space between “No” and “Predation” was gone — but the text was now scrunched like the initial Volume II proof.

Dude. Seriously?

So I called and beat ’em up in my nice and non-antagonistic way; they said “Uh … it doesn’t look squooshed to us.” So I took a photo of the squooshed Vol I next to the correct Vol III and sent it to them, and they replied, “Oooh, you mean squooshed! We see that now. We’ll show the tech team. They are working on Saturday, you might hear then.”

Oh, and no sign of the corrected proof for Volume II yet.

So I call this morning, to be told, “The tech team doesn’t work on Saturday, they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.”

Okay. Time for Plan B.

So now my plan is, with the gracious help of Mammallamadevil, to get some “emergency copies” printed posthaste (and probably at very high cost, le sigh) so that I can have at least some on hand for AC, hand-carried by Bill Holbrook and John Lotshaw. If my current printer manages to get their heads out of whatever orifices they’re stuck in quick enough, I might be able to get them to ship copies to the hotel, but I would be very surprised at this stage to see that happen in time.

The part that drives me craziest is that these are the books they had first! So it’s not like they haven’t had time to get it right — they got Volume I fourteen days ago. They got Volume III last Sunday. Nuts.

The part that drives me next-craziest is that the people there can’t seem to see what’s wrong with these books they’re shipping out. How hard is it to figure out that “No     Predation Allowed” is wrong? What are you doing in the print business if you can’t see it when proportions are scrunched? Argh.

-The Gneech, now in scramble mode ’cause somebody else screwed up

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