Marvel Partners with ABC News to Raise Awareness of Syrian Siege

ABC News has been monitoring and reporting on the situation in Syria since peaceful protests, inspired by the Arab Spring, escalated into civil war in 2011. More recently, concerns of the impact of war on the civilian population, particularly children, have been the focus of international media and war journalists. Despite a call for increased transparency into war torn areas and the need for aid organizations to be permitted there, many times foreign entities, including press or NGOs, are turned away at the border.

Since this past January, ABC News has been texting with a 30 year old, mother of five who lives in the sieged town of Madaya. This “Madaya Mom” has been an informant for ABC News, giving journalists glimpses into her daily life via text message as she tries to secure food for her children, waits eagerly for UN involvement, and simply tries to ensure the survival of her family in devastating circumstances.

After their video crews were turned away from Madaya a final time, ABC News decided to go a different route to bring visual representation to the story of “Madaya Mom,” which has been documented like a diary on their website. The news conglomerate reached out to Marvel Comics, the graphic novel company who is responsible for the Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America franchises, to create a visual accompaniment to Madaya Mom’s story. Instantly invested in the idea, Marvel was eager to go “where the cameras can’t.” They recommended Deadpool and Avengers: Civil War artist Dalibor Talajić, who survived the Yugoslav wars in the early 1990s and currently resides in Zagreb, Croatia, to draw the scenes from Madaya Mom’s life “with skill and authenticity.”

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“Snapshots of American Culture: Japanophilia and the Otaku” now on Amazon

Learn more about this subculture that lies in the intersection of internationalism and fan culture. Now available in paperback directly from the printer (and higher royalties to the author- https://www.createspace.com/5262447 ) and from Amazon ( link ).  In exchange for some promotional marketing, I’ve secured a 90-day exclusivity contract with Amazon for the ebook version, available here.

front cover

 

Book description: Why do we love Japanese culture? What inspires hundreds of thousands of Americans to travel to anime cons each year? What are cons? What role does fanfiction play for the anime-loving community? How does Japanese culture influence our own? Can we predict what stories will be popular both in the US and Japan? This book answers these questions and more, offering insight into this unique and trendsetting facet of American culture as our world enters into an era of global art exchange unrestricted by geography.

The Barbie Book Everyone is Talking About

barbie to delete

The social media sphere is lighting up about “I can be a computer engineer” book from the Barbie franchise, so here’s my two cents.

Rachel Zarell’s sarcastic but thorough look at the book on buzzfeed.

Pamela Ribbon’s caustic gizmodo review.

Slammed on Daily Dot.

Book listing on Amazon.

The title of the book Barbie “I can be a computer engineer!” is a misnomer, as the story progresses, we see that Barbie is merely brainstorming ideas for a game, she gets a computer virus, and has to call her male friends to fix the issue.

The quote that sums up the book:  “It will go faster if Brian and I help,” offers Steven.

At first, I thought, “Oh, this must be a hoax.” But no, the listing on amazon looks legit. The book was published last year by an author that works with random house.

For writers, there is a dilemma of which “other” group to choose to promote. You can promote progressive gender ideals, but race will be put to the side in order for the product to be commercially viable on a mass scale. Here, we see a great mixed representation of different races, but gender takes the backseat and put into the ultra-traditional binary idea. Maybe in another ten years we’ll have mass distributed media that shows characters to be intelligent, valuable, and have agency no matter color or sex; even then, we’ll see other identity characteristics slammed into the backseat (sexual orientation, non-gendered folk, etc.)

Overall, it is a rather deplorable example of “female empowerment.”

The latest, and final, chapter in the legal struggle for Sherlock

Many fan fiction writers have been following the legal efforts of a group of Sherlockians in their pursuit to publish an anthology of fanwork without paying the hefty fee the Estate of Arthur Conan Doyle alleged they were owed. The Supreme Court upheld their claim that the characters published in 1887 were outside of the 75 year copyright lockout. It is important to note that storylines and characters written after 1923 are stipulated to being still inside the copyright, and therefore not yet in the public domain.

Now the final chapter: The Court of Appeals has denied the Estate’s appeal of that decision.

More info/source: Free Sherlock blog November 2014: Petition Denied.

Disappearing Women: Part 3

Step Three: Gender Identity Displacement

When women and girls are confronted with role models that are only destructive to their psyche, the simplest solution is, oddly enough, to become men. Imagine parts of your identity as building blocks: one for assertiveness, another for demureness, one for pride, one for humility, one for social capability, another for gestures and physical communication skills, and so on. Some of these traits, society teaches us, are rewarded in men and others are rewarded in women. In this final category, a female target audience empathizes with a male-gendered protagonist (or sets of characters) with feminine identity components. Since these female stand-ins are in narratives for female audiences, the plot or major force driving the plot is often romance, and so we have two (or more) male-bodied characters in a romantic situation. In Japan, this genre is established in print and television media as “yaoi,”, but in the USA, “slash” is limited to the fanworks (fan fiction) and grassroots interpretative reactions to male -dominated character dramas.

Fascinatingly, yaoi and slash originated within years of one another in Japan and the US. In the late 1970s, doujinshi mangaka parodied the contemporary boy’s platonic love stories, spinning them into romantic and sexualized versions. Also in the late 1970s, female Star Trek fans began writing fanfic about the protagonists of their favorite starship. Stories would be about Kirk and Spock, abbreviated K&S if the relationship remained platonic, or Kirk slash Spock, abbreviated K/S if the relationship became romantic/sexual. This coined the term “slash” for the future generations of fan fiction writers to codify their works.

In Japan, yaoi has become a well-established genre, even becoming a major avenue for media exportation, reaching its most recent peak in international popularity in 2009-2010. There are thousands of yaoi titles, but I will review a couple here briefly. Yaoi follows formulaic character roles: the protagonist is almost exclusively the uke, the “receiver” or bottom of the sexual pairing, and the main romantic interest is the seme, or the “attacker” or the top of the sexual pairing. Ukes are drawn effeminately, with large eyes characteristic of female or prepubescent boy characters, and often have feminine personality attributes. In Junjou Romantica, Misaki (girl name for a boy character) spends much of his screen time cooking, cleaning, or thinking about dates. In Okane Ga Nai (1999-present,) uke Ayase becomes a domestic partner for the the seme Kanou in lieu of working a job. The roles these male (uke) characters play are traditionally facets of femininity.

Slash is harder to define as it remains a grassroots literary movement with, as of yet, no institutionally-backed artifacts. Like yaoi, slash is most often slanted through the point of view of the more effeminate, “bottom” character. These slash protagonists retain parts of their feminine identity while still being able to succeed in their professional lives and hold equal footing with their romantic partners.

Yaoi has been popular the world over, and slash is on an exponential growth of popularity over the past four years, gaining legitimacy by leaps and bounds over the past ten months. 

Disappearing Women, Conclusion:

In a country where a woman is shot and killed for talking back to a catcaller–in a country where a woman has to carry around her college mattress in order to get a fair acknowledgement of her sexual assault claim–in a country where there has yet to be a female president, American women are overburdened with the realities of a world set against them. They burn to fulfill their aspirations. In the quiet of their private lives, they turn to art to assuage the hurts of daily microaggressions and larger structural oppressions. Even in fantasy, they cannot fathom nor imagine a realistic female character that would believably solve the problems of micro-sexism and macro-chauvinism and accomplish their own personal goals and have a well balanced family life. Such a woman is unbelievable. Such a woman is unimaginable. So we turn to male characters, who wouldn’t have to deal with the problems we face. By displacing elements of our feminine gender identity, we are able to more easily process other elements of it. When we engage in these narratives, we suspend the feminine gender building blocks of “unhealthy beauty ideals,” “sexism in the workplace,” and “the dangers of travelling alone.” With these parts of our identity temporarily displaced, we can focus and process other elements of our lives and our feminine identities, like “sexual agency,” “building healthy, equal, and sustainable romantic relationships,” or “balancing professional ambition and personal life.”

 

Resources from Otakon Vegas talks, part 2

Here is some of the information presented at my panel on fan fiction from Otakon Vegas.

Fanfiction community publishing websites:

  1. Archive of Our Own (AO3) the best that’s out there, also look up the parent organization, Organization for Transformative Works, they have a great amount of resources there.
  2. Fanfiction.net – the oldest, and with the best international fan base. (Beware of purgings.)
  3. Live Journal, Deviant Art. (Beware of purgings.)
  4. Tumblr – in my opinion, works better for graphic exchange than text exchange, but still worth a mention here.
  5. Wattpad- a good resource for publishing original fic. They recently branched into fanfiction as well.

Fan Fiction professional publishing websites:

  1. Amazon: Kindle Worlds (beware of exclusivity contract)
  2. Outlier Digital  (read about it here: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/kindle-worlds-has-first-imitator-outlier-digital-from-twilight-producers/)

Sherlock and Watson thrust into the Public Domain (in the USA)

Sherlock and Watson thrust into the Public Domain (in the USA)

A few days ago, the US District Court for part of Illinois ruled that Sherlock and Watson are in the public domain. The court case was between a Sherlockian scholar and fanfic writer Leslie S Klinger versus the Conan Doyle Estate, which stated the Sherlock was under the estates copyright since original stories were published about him post 1923.

Klinger only wanted to use pre-1923 cannon (story) and characters, and filed the civil complaint against the Estate in preparation for his (and his editor Laurie R King’s) up-coming anthology “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes” through Pegasus Books. “In the Company…” is a collection of short stories written by many different Sherlockian  fan fic writers.

This ruling has large significance. First, it clarifies and highlights that all characters created before 1923 are in the public domain. (OTW points out that this includes Borrough’s Tarzan, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, and Disney’s Mickey Mouse. http://www.tranformativeworks.org)

Secondly, it’s a huge step in the direction of proper recognition and appreciation of fan fiction writing as an art form. Not only do large corporations get to re-envision tales, myths, and characters to suit their purposes, but the everyday man can do it to, and benefit from their creative products.

I’m looking forward to seeing a boom in Johnlock fic up for sale. If there is anything that fan fiction does well, it’s challenge dominant paradigms, and now we are seeing a huge opportunity for the writers.

Additional sources:

Organization for Tranformative Work’s page on Sherlock ruling: http://transformativeworks.org/news/free-sherlock-implications-summary-judgment-sherlock-holmes-case

PDF of said ruling: http://freesherlock.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/klinger-order-on-motion-for-summary-judgment-c.pdf

NYT article about this: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/sherlock-holmes-is-in-the-public-domain-american-judge-rules/?_r=0