22 October 2014 | 3 comments
Two weekends ago, I made my first ever trip to Seattle. I didn’t visit the Space Needle, and I still don’t really know anything about the city. I was instead consumed by GeekGirlCon, a 4,000-person event that was definitely worth the cross-country trip.
GeekGirlCon sprung out of overwhelming support for women’s experiences in fandom during a 2010 San Diego Comic-Con panel, and has been a yearly event ever since. Between gender-neutral bathrooms; an “introvert lounge” for the overstimulated; and plenty of frank discussion about harassment, sexism, and representation; it may have been the most inclusive convention I’ve ever attended.
I love West Coast conventions because to me, an East Coast girl who has been to Otakon nearly ten times now, they can make me feel like a brand new fan. I’ve never seen any of those panels, any of the artists in Artist’s Alley, none of the dealers in the Dealer’s Room. I spent the weekend with bat wings by Idolatre in my hair, which I justified buying because although I’ve seen dozens of East Coast cat ear headbands, I’d never seen anything like this!
Most of my time was spent preparing for panels, presenting panels, or getting from one panel to another. I was on three. First came, Slash in the Mainstream, where we discussed how gay relationships are portrayed on TV today. The highlight was when an original Kirk/Spock shipper piped up about her 30+ years in slash fandom! A media studies professor was kind enough to create a Storify of the panel.
Next, I was the organizer on Fandom and the Media, in which fandom professionals discussed the way the media does and does not get fandom right. My Mac had some technical difficulties, but our room’s discussion still went overtime. On Sunday, we presented From Feels To Skills: Putting Fandom On Your Resume, and you can watch the entire panel and fill out my resume worksheet online.
I spent my free time with my fellow panelists, amazing people from the Internet whom I rarely get a chance to meet up with in person. Passionate about reporting on fandom, geek fashion and more, Aja, Gavia, Lisa, and Versha are some of my favorite otaku journalists. Amanda is a meme librarian and Tumblr fairy who leaves a trail of stickers in her wake. Alex is an Emmy-winning writer for the YouTube series Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Cathy and Mike are fanfiction readers and writers with brilliant insights. Loraine, a professional artist who also draws fanart, brought her (amiably bewildered) dad to watch our resume panel!
Through all of this, I’d have to say the highlight was getting to see Anita Sarkeesian speak. Her panel was ostensibly about her work, but let’s be honest, these days her biggest accomplishment is continuing to be vocal while people are trying to make her disappear. I was impressed with how articulate and inscrutable her speaking style continues to be against such a backlash that I actually got tweets directed toward me simply for saying I was at her panel.
I have a lot of well-meaning friends who have urged me to join the GamerGate movement since I am a journalist and interested in geek journalism ethics. While I believe that is a conversation we will eventually need to have, I don’t think that while a section of the movement is screaming death threats at Anita is really the time. Ethical reporting is certainly something I care about, but I care more about women like Anita being able to put their opinions about video games on the Internet without people threatening to kill them.
In a lot of ways, GeekGirlCon was a huge stand against harassment in the way it gave us a safe space to talk about it openly. I was shocked to hear about some of the terrible experiences my friends have had with their online audiences. We’ve become so programmed to “not feed the trolls,” that we don’t even share this stuff with each other. But an audience member asked, and suddenly it became an ad-libbed new part of our Fandom and the Media panel, when it turned out we all had these stories that we’d never told one another. And there we were, telling stories about stalkers and Internet bullies in front of a packed crowd—and feeling good about it. It was just that kind of con.
20 October 2014 | 2 comments
I really thought that writing these posts would keep me more accountable, so I wouldn’t experience exactly the sort of crunch time that is happening right now.
But things happen. Life happens. You spend three weeks emailing cosplay photographers in a quest to find the right photos. You rearrange the chapters. You email twenty or more cosplayers at least to quote them for the book, and then you postpone writing the chapters until you hear back from more, fully aware that you might never hear from them again. (Mine is not the only cosplay book to solicit their opinions this year.)
What happened happened and I’ve found myself in the tight spot of having far less than half of the book written with just three weeks to go. This week’s goals:
Finalize all photography
Communication has been slow because my publisher and I have an eight-hour time difference, plus the cosplay photographers we’re contacting are all over the world. And I have to do a lot of waiting, since I don’t always recognize the cosplay and it isn’t always ID’d on the cosplayer’s website, so I do a lot of back-and-forth “what IS this?” emails.
No matter. This is the week I’ll nail it down. I spent this weekend rifling through more photos than I can count to select the final 300 for the book. I sent it off to my publisher, who will ideally spend the week getting the rights to these photos by negotiating payment and contracts with photographers, leaving me free to forget about them. Well, at least until it’s time to write a caption for every single one.
Write now, edit later
I’ve been putting off writing chapters. First, because I didn’t think the original chapter arrangement I’d conceived (some chapters focusing on genre, others on craftsmanship) truly reflected the cosplay community as a whole. Many thanks to Anna Fischer in helping me right this!
Now that I’ve reordered the sections in a way that feels good to me (now they’re all focusing on a genre, with the final chapter on original costuming), I have two options. I can wait around until I hear back from even a majority of the cosplayers I’ve contacted, or I can start writing now and fill in the quotes later. Each chapter only needs to be 1,000 words, which every high school student knows is maybe an hour’s work at most.
Remember this is just a job
Even in our digital age, there is something magical that happens when you tell people you’re writing a print book. For writerly types, the Book is still the ultimate unattainable artifact. I mention my book coming out this year and their expressions soften a bit. Now the people I admire are starting to ask me for advice on writing proposals.
But anyone who’s been reading these weekly updates knows that this book is not a Book book, it is not my blood, sweat and tears condensed into knowledge over 100 nights, and then granted legitimacy through a book deal. Instead, it happened backwards, a result of the coffee table book cottage industry. A publisher decided that cosplay is hot right now, and then Googled the first writer they could find with cosplay reporting experience.
I have been agonizing over every topic in an attempt to give cosplayers the rich, diverse book that the community deserves. But the truth is, the ultimate cosplay book simply can’t be written in seven weeks. The best I can do is strive to showcase cosplay in a way both fans and outsiders alike can enjoy, and that’s not such a bad goal to set.
Photo by Anna Fischer, you guess the cosplay. After all, that’s the game I’ve been playing all weekend 9_9
15 October 2014 | 6 comments
On Monday evening, I came home from Geek Girl Con to a packed inbox I really wasn’t ready to tackle. Because of the time difference, I ended up devoting two days to travel, and because of the lack of Internet in both the hotel room and the convention hall, I lost a full four days in which I’d normally be working on my book.
A lot of people, including myself, have an idealized version of the time spent writing a book. When I was younger, I imagined that by now I’d have a sunlit office (or any office at all), where I’d rise at 5 AM and churn out a chapter or two before anyone I knew was even awake. Or perhaps I’d retire to my candlelit library with a glass of wine in the evening, and transcribe the words on parchment with a fountain pen. So romantic.
But unless writing books is your full time job, and I’m guessing even if it is, life gets in the way. I wrote Otaku Journalism in snatches of time between my actual life obligations. And this book had such a tight deadline that I’m pretty sure I wrote every word of my chapter while actively experiencing a panic attack. Now, I’m writing around an event, not to mention all my usual writing jobs. (Though if I was going to take off time for ANY event, it’d be Geek Girl Con. More on that in a later post.)
I spent a good chunk of Geek Girl Con advising people how to launch their own careers in fandom, and if you have the time, I’d love for you to check out the fully taped panel I’ve linked here. But all the while, I was feeling pretty behind on my own. So now you get a short, late book-progress post, and I get a short week to compensate for all the work I didn’t do earlier.
I guess what I’m trying to say is there’s no perfect time to start writing your book. There are always going to be a million more pressing obligations to take care of.
Since high school I have idealized NaNoWriMo and every time—for over a decade now—I’ve pushed it aside with excuses. “I already write hundreds of words a day for work.” “Not this November; I’m too busy.” This year, however, none of that is stopping me. Because that decade has taught me that when I look back ten years, I don’t remember all the tiny chores I took care of. Only the book I didn’t write.
Who’s with me?
Screenshot from “From Feels To Skills: Putting Fandom On Your Resume.” Recording captured by Alexandra Edwards.