The thing I love most about GeekGirlCon is its bi-weekly board games nights (sorry convention). While the convention let’s me nerd out for nearly 48 hours straight, the board game nights are what introduced me to the local geek community. On one such night I had the pleasure of meeting Wanda Bertram over a game of Betrayal at House on the Hill. The whole group may have died by zombies, except me of course, but I was still able to learn about an interesting documentary.
It turned out Wanda is the Producer of A Brief History of Time Travel, a documentary that explores the history and connection between time travel and pop culture. As a Whovian, Doctor Who was the first thing to pop to mind. Fortunately once I learned Wanda Gregory, a Doctor Who scholar, was interviewed for the film I wanted to learn more. Apparently you can study your favorite fandom, and get paid for it. Who knew?
This documentary started as a side project for creator and director, Gisella Bustillos, while she attended film school in New York City. For years she’s slowly compiled interviews from experts in various industries, including: video games, speculative fiction, physics, and more.
Gisella and Wanda were generous enough to give their time for an interview with GeekGirlCon.
[Gisella] I’ve always been interested in time travel. I grew up reading books like A Wrinkle in Time, and one of my favorite comic books growing up was Calvin and Hobbes. I always loved when he was in a little time machine going back to look at dinosaurs.
But I don’t think I really started thinking about the project until I watched a movie in film school, called La Jetee. It is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. It just brought up these ideas of mortality, timelessness, time and memory. And inspired me to learn more about time travel, and what better what to learn more than doing a documentary about it. I realized that there’s already a lot of documentaries that talk about the physics of time travel, like Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole, but nobody really talks about the history, and that’s the part that really started interesting me.
Both of you are coming to the project with different academic backgrounds, how do you think it has prepared you for such a large project?
[Gisella] Film school was basically a crash course in filmmaking. We had to do a lot of films in a very short amount of time. Going to film school definitely helped my confidence a lot in film. It also definitely helped to have that support system. I can still talk to some of my professors, and get their feedback on stuff. And that’s definitely helped me prepare for the project.
[Wanda] Most of my work in film before getting on the project was just working on a smaller more puerperal level with the Northwest Film Forum, and SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) sometimes. Also, throughout college I ran a speculative fiction journal on campus which hooked me in to the sci-fi fan community, and I got to be apart of that conversation with people who are a lot more into sci-fi than I ever had time to become. It’s amazing how much people know. And I think just the culture around that has also really fascinated me, and that set me up well to help out on this project.
Both of you are in your early-to-mid twenties, and fairly young to be making a film of this caliber. How do you think your age has affected how people interact with you when it comes to making the project?
[Gisella] Initially, I never really thought about my age. There’s a lot of young people who have actually done feature length films. Lena Dunham is the first person who comes to mind, and she has her own TV show now. Richard Kelly directed Donny Darko when he was 25, and that’s like a four million dollar film. So I never thought about it as my age affecting my project. I definitely feel like when people hear about me directing this it turns heads, because I’m not a really nerdy white guy. I’m not the typical kind of person that you think would be doing this. But it’s something that I really love and interested in.
[Wanda] It’s not that we’re young, but I think it’s that we’re young and women. Traditionally we’re not one of the more recognized demographics in geek culture and I think that making this film has been really interesting in terms that we come into contact with a lot of different people who would consider themselves geeks. And the most important ones I think have been other women. Personally I think that its cool to be young doing this project, because a lot of that opens us up to know more about methods of non-traditional fundraising. The fact that we’re around at a time where films are being made with Kickstarter, [or other] crowd funding is exciting.
The director, producer, and editor for this documentary are all women. What has it been like working as an all-female led team?
[Wanda] Its been really great working with Gisella and Dani. Both of them are really inspiring people to work with. We all met through a series of film events around Seattle and the Pacific NW where we discovered a shared passion for science fiction. I think that being women in sci-fi you naturally have a perspective that is kind of subversive. I think we have shared interests of the more subversive or revolutionary side of sci-fi. What’s amazing though that a lot of the people we’ve interviewed for this film, the natural people to interview about time travel, have been men. So we also try to share the voices of a bunch of awesome geeky women. Like Chana Phaedra, a cryobiologist, who is super smart, and Wanda Gregory, a Doctor Who scholar and professor. So that I think to answer your question being a woman has definitely influenced the direction of the film and who we are trying to feature.
Image courtesy of the “A Brief History of Time Travel” Kickstarter
There is a variety of ways you could have funded your project, why did you choose Kickstarter specifically?
[Wanda] We’ve been doing grant work as well, on the local and national level. But we really tried to find a great way to get most of our post-production funding from our supportive fan base we developed during production. Fortunately we can do really gorgeous post-production on a pretty good budget because we’ve gotten such an outpouring of volunteer support. More than that I think that community based fundraising is something that we both really believe in. I think its fantastic model. It makes sense as we keep talking about [our project] and sharing it people all around the world.
If you could travel back in time to the beginning of the project, what advice would you give yourself?
[Gisella] It sounds really cheesy, but there were days where I thought I was going kind of crazy on this documentary. And it’s a huge project, it’s a lot of research, and it’s literally been years working on this. I would tell myself to take it a day at a time, and focus on the little things that need to be done everyday. Because when you think about the big picture you get just so overwhelmed and it can be really daunting.
[Wanda] Personally, I came on a little bit later, but the advice I’d give myself is to I share it with a lot more people. I’d share it with everyone I ran into about it. The more people I talk to about it, the more I realize that time travel has a different meaning for a lot of people, and everyone likes talking about it. The perspective we’ve heard from off the street and who we’ve interviewed have definitely influenced the movie. Personally, I mean both on a promotional level and on a research and development level, I’d talk to more people about it.
Thank you to Gisella and Wanda for taking the time to discuss their film with the GeekGirlCon community.
The Kickstarter will pay for post-production of the film. A Brief History of Time Travel will be complete in 2015, and distributed at film festivals and conventions. A copy of the digital download is available for $25 via their Kickstarter.
I never realized exactly when I was a geek, but that’s like a tree trying to figure out what a city is. Old, bearded, freaky, geezer geek. Ample, scruffy, multi-media maven, publicizing new underground music and culturally provocative books and weird cool movies from my deep nerd-pit of pop culture obsession. When I interview bands for fanzines, I do it here: a one-bedroom piled-high apartment where it seems like Octavia Butler could hang out with Nardwuar and Elvira. Musicians always give better responses when they know how deep my crates go. If you can’t bond with someone over the ideas, characters, sounds, and images that give electric meaning to our lives, you’re not trying or they’re not really in the game.
Written by GeekGirlConnections Manager Susie Rantz.
Did you know: In communities with a higher percentage of women working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), high school girls are as likely as boys to take physics (and sometimes more likely)? Yet, women comprised just 28 percent of science and engineering workers in 2010.
Did you know: Up to 80 percent of jobs are landed through networking? Connecting with mentors can be a great boost for your career.
Did you know: Since our first convention in 2011, GeekGirlCon has been committed to drawing attention to these disparities? Last year, we introduced the GeekGirlConnections Program as a way to help elevate STEM career opportunities for women. The program was such a hit, we are continuing it for GeekGirlCon ‘14.
GeekGirlConnections is dedicated to providing career mentorship and networking opportunities for women and girls. The program aims to help connect women with professionals in their desired career fields, as well as encourage women and girls to pursue their passions, develop leadership skills, and enter careers where women are currently underrepresented.
In a piece here last year, I shared how community building is an effective way to deter bullying and gatekeeping. One of the reasons I am so passionate about supporting GeekGirlCon is the sense of inclusiveness and welcome that is evident the moment you enter the venue. In the three years I have attended, I have made important connections with members of the geek community. Sometimes I have gained a new geek friend or ally; GeekGirlCon gave me the opportunity to meet Ashley Eckstein, who invited me to be a contributor in her own fangirl community-building venture, Her Universe’s Fangirl of the Day. Last year’s connections started me down a wonderful journey that resulted in a feature article in Star Wars Insider Issue #151, where I had chance to mention GeekGirlCon.
Panelists from the 2013 Star Wars panel: Linda Hansen-Raj, Amy Ratcliffe, Meg Humphrey, Lisa Granshaw and Tricia Barr, plus panel attendees. Photo by Joanne Perrault/FANgirl Blog
As an advocate for female fans of Star Wars, I have always known women loved the franchise and have sought ways to highlight their contributions. Greg Kubie, who markets Star Wars Books for Random House, had sent along an introduction to journalist Tish Wells. She and I spent over an hour in a corner of the convention hall chatting about Star Wars, the dynamics of the fandom, and her experience interviewing George Lucas. Later that day Tish introduced me to a few more longtime fans, including Maggie Nowakowska, who has been a fan academic, fanfic writer, and fanzine contributor since the late 1970s. Maggie and I exchanged contact information after she recollected an old fanzine piece that wondered where all the men were in Star Wars fandom. Considering the common perception of the state of today’s fandom, it was a piece of Star Wars history that definitely interested me.
Corresponding with Maggie – each email was marked with fantastic looks back at fandom before the internet – was like reading a history of fandom. I decided to ask Maggie to share her memories as part of an oral history project. Shortly after the recording was made, I was solicited to write a piece on fangirls for Star Wars Insider magazine. The Force seemed to be guiding me in a direction, and Maggie’s journey as a Star Wars fangirl became the focal point of that piece. Star Wars Insider Issue #151 included several pieces featuring the contribution of women to the franchise, including Lisa Granshaw’s article on geek couture. Lisa will be joining me on the panel “Fangirls Find the Force: Star Wars, from Episode VII and Beyond” at GeekGirlCon this year, where we will talk about the franchise and how we can participate in shaping its future.
You can listen to Maggie Nowakowska’s oral history on my podcast Fangirl Chat. She will also be participating in the GeekGirlCon panel “Geek Elders Speak: How Media Fandom Empowered Women in the 60s, 70s, and 80s” where I am sure she share some more wonderful stories.
Tricia Barr discusses Star Wars, fandom, and strong female characters at FANgirl Blog. Her novel WYNDEwon the Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/ Fantasy/Horror Ebook in the 2014 Independent Publisher Awards. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com. For updates on all things FANgirl, follow @FANgirlcantina on Twitter.
Star Trek fans have long been portrayed by the mainstream media as quintessential nerds. Generally considered more fanatic than enthusiast, the negative connotation surrounding the term “Trekkie” has driven many fans to opt for the more neutral “Trekker.” Even Urban Dictionary’s list of words related to Trekkie includes such affirming vocabulary as “loser,” “dork,” “dweeb,” and even “virgin” (which makes me cringe in a special way).
We’re all familiar with the image of a Trekkie as an unattractive, and maybe gross, middle-aged dude who presumably lives in his parents’ basement. (The comic book guy from The Simpsons comes to mind.) In America, this is the cultural baggage that we risk evoking when we tell people that we are Star Trek fans. Of course, this stereotype isn’t limited to just Trekkies, but, outside the gamut of geekery, it’s hard to come up with another hobby that carries with it such a specific and unsexy set of cultural associations.
As a fangirl, I find it incredibly inspiring to see other Trekkies getting their sexy on, Enterprise-style. It happens in fan fiction, in art, in swag, and in deliciously geeky conversations. But I find that I respond most strongly to something a bit more physical. Nerdlesque is the most over-the-top, sensual way to express and explore fandom that I’ve ever encountered. This subgenre of burlesque brings fandom to hot, fleshy life by combining it with parody, dance, and classic striptease. It brings physicality to fan fiction and narrative to cosplay, then gets naked and rolls in glitter.
Geek-mecca Seattle is home to some of the best nerdlesque in the world. (In fact, as a nerd and burlesque artist myself, the city’s robust community of geeky ecdysiasts was one of the main reasons I moved here.) That’s not an exaggeration; many genre-defining performers and producers call the Emerald City their home. (For more proof, check out this post on “Seattle’s Summer of Nerdlesque” by Jo Jo Stiletto, Professor of Nerdlesque and expert in all things naked and nerdy.) The artists that create nerdlesque are fans themselves, and use their bodies to investigate uncharted territory in canons “[f]rom video game vixens and superheroes to Labyrinth, David Lynch, DC Comics, Neil Gaiman and Doctor Who,” says Stiletto.
A newcomer to the production side of nerdlesque is up-and-coming theater company Songbird & Raven, whose inaugural season opener is Star Trek: The Sexed Generation, a fully scripted burlesque play that unfolds aboard the Starship Enterprise. When the initial casting call for this show went out, I nearly fell out of my chair. Not only is this a romp of sexy Trek silliness, but also a legitimate exploration of gender and identity in the canon. Through gender-bending and storytelling, the characters tease their way through questions of power and sex in Roddenberry’s future utopia. It’s a space-age cultural study in tassels and sequins. Smart and sexy? Yes, please.
(Full disclosure: The author of this post is definitely biased in thinking that Star Trek: The Sexed Generation will be one of the best nerdlesque events of 2014. She’s in the show! But seriously, it’s good, y’all.)
So why does this matter? I’m not arguing that the burlesque stars shimmying through the canon are writing fan fiction scenarios that haven’t already been explored to some extent elsewhere. But the physical sexualization of geek canon, done on geek-girl terms, has powerful implications. Fangirls run the risk of actually believing the cultural baggage that nerdiness carries. We risk being othered and made to believe that our interests are weird and undesirable, and that therefore we are weird and undesirable. Nerdlesque rejects and negates all of that baggage. It lets geekdom shine in all its sexy glory and connects canon with the bodily sensuality of both the performers on stage and the audience watching. What’s more, nerdlesque celebrates and critiques pop culture by using nudity in a very public, subversive way.
I would strongly encourage all ladies of nerdy persuasion to celebrate their fandom with some woman-powered, sexy nerdlesque. Bring your friends and daughters, too.
For another look at nerdlesque, as written for the audiences of Penthouse magazine, check out this article from September 2013, which features several Seattle-based artists.
It’s impossible to overestimate the impact of Barbara Gordon on my life.
I was either five or six–old enough to be in school but too young to read. I know this because I used to watch reruns of the 1960s Batman TV show and when the credit for Burt Ward came up, I could only read the “B” and the “W.” Naturally, I translated it as Boy Wonder. (Sorry, Burt.)
I loved the show, and memorized most of the taglines. especially, “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.” But it was full of boys: Batman, Robin, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Chief O’Hara, the majority of the villains, the majority of the henchmen. Oh, Catwoman showed up every now and then and some of the villains had girlfriends, but slowly the idea sunk in that this awesome incredible world was not for me.
I watched the episode that introduced Batgirl with my jaw hanging open. At first, I was just happy to see a smart girl in the show, one who wasn’t a villain, and one who had a real job besides wife or girlfriend. (What did Aunt Harriet do anyway?)
And then her wall pivoted to reveal her Batgirl costume and my worldview was upended. Barbara was a superhero. She had a secret lair, like the Batcave. She had an awesome motorcycle.
She could fight as well as the men, though apparently she was forbidden from actually punching anyone and thus had to resort to kicks and thrown chairs. I never noticed this. I did notice that she was smart, funny, sly, and courageous. Alfred respected her, and their scenes together were some of my favorites, as he not only protected her identity from Batman but seemed to view her as the Caped Crusader’s equal.
What a revelation. It was nothing I could put into words at the time, just a deep-seated conviction that this was proof that girls could do whatever boys could. If Batgirl could be as good as Batman, then I could do whatever I wanted to do and be whoever I wanted to be.
Was the path of my life all due to Barbara Gordon and those who made her come alive? Maybe. Perhaps I would have found another role model along the way. I was already eager to do a lot of things, whether they were what I was expected to do as a girl or not.
But Barbara Gordon was the first to show me the way.
As I’ve matured as a gamer, it can be difficult to enumerate female protagonists in games that don’t immediately fall into tired gender tropes. So when I came across Together: Amna & Saif, it’s an understatement to say that my interest was piqued. Here was a mother and son cooperative team as the game’s protagonists, AND they were persons of color too?
I wanted to know more about the project and the folks behind it. Lyle Cox (programmer, game designer, and owner) and Evan Munro (game developer and art director) took some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for our GeekGirlCon blog!
Hi Lyle! Hi Evan! Last February, Lyle quit his day job and took a leap into the world of indie game development. Were you always a gamer, Lyle?
LC: Yes, I have always enjoyed games, especially co-op games. I grew up making games too, just not video games. My friends and I would pretend there were Metroid-type unlocks around the neighborhood and the grass was lava. In the back of my grandparents’ house there was a bunch of broken glass which we used as currency for another game. The game ended shortly after inflation introduced from broken root beer bottles acquired from the nearby gas station. I was the oldest in my family so I was frequently making up new things for us to do.
How about you, Evan?
EM: Besides the occasional hiatus, I’ve been gaming since I was 6 or 7. My grandma had a scary basement with a black-and-white TV and an NES. My sister and I braved many a trip down there just to get a few hours of quality Mario time.
As I’ve gotten older, spending days playing a title has become harder to schedule. In fact, scheduling might be the order of the day if co-op play is required with other friends. Thankfully in Seattle, geeks are thick on the ground. There are a plethora of video game companies in the area, not to mention board game and RPG developers. Has it been harder for geeks to connect in a city like Salt Lake City?
LC: While we don’t have as many game developers as San Francisco or Seattle, it is pretty easy to connect with other developers; we have bimonthly indie game nights where 30-50 people show up. The game design program at the University of Utah was ranked #1 in the country as well. Utah also has a strong board game community, and over 70,000 people attended Salt Lake Comic Con last year, so there are plenty of geeks here.
Wow. I had no idea that Salt Lake Comic Con was the largest first year Comic Con in North American history and the largest convention EVER to take place in Utah. Impressive!
LC: There are a lot of us here that are doing things to build the game dev community in Utah. Hopefully we can make it one of the best places to be an indie developer.
What have been some of the challenges as an indie developer?
LC: Constantly playtesting and finding new people to test the game in a situation where I can observe is a challenge. We have local meetups where I can do some of that, but when I can’t find anyone I have gone to local universities and asked people to play my game while they are there eating their lunch. It isn’t ideal, and you get turned down a few times before you find someone who wants to and has the time, but the game will be better for it in the end.
Maintaining work-life balance, a schedule, and productivity can be a challenge for anyone that works independently. I sometimes overwork myself, which ends up being a net loss because I get burnt out and my body/mind won’t let me work anymore. I am getting better at not doing that.
EM: For me, the hardest part has been making enough money with side jobs to survive, while still having time to devote to development. As I’ve gained experience, paid opportunities have arisen, and it’s been getting gradually easier. But even so, the market is a fickle beast, and the lack of stability is always daunting.
How did Mount Olympus Games get its name?
LC: I like mythology, and the domain http://mountolymp.us was available. I thought it would be fun to have customer support and such come from Zeus at mountolymp.us or Apollo at mountolymp.us etc. So I bought the domain and Mount Olympus Games became the name of the studio.
Nice! I also like Greek mythology and knowing that Apollo was the patron god of music and poetry makes for a nice tie-in with video games, in my humble opinion.
Let’s talk about the video game you’ve been working on. Together: Amna & Saif seems like a fantastic way to spend an evening. How many hours of game play will Together have?
LC: I want two people to be able to play the game in one sitting. So I plan for the main campaign to take about 2.5 hours, which is close to the upper limit for most people to get in the same room together without interruption. There will be a good amount of additional levels and secrets that will probably double or triple that time. There is a stretch goal on the Kickstarter that will add New Game Plus, where you can play through the game again with more difficulty as well. I will redesign/tweak the levels to make them all more difficult.
The New Game Plus level – will that be available after you’ve completed the game initially?
LC: Yes. After you have beaten the game, you can play through the game again with harder levels. The exact implementation will be refined and decided later, but in the end there will be a lot more levels to enjoy if we reach that stretch goal.
Two-and-a-half hours seems like the perfect amount to complete a story mode. Were you inspired by any other video games that took about that long?
LC: Yes, I listened to a talk about how Journey kept the game length intentionally short so two people could play through in one sitting.
I mentioned earlier that I was intrigued by the decision to make the protagonists persons of color. What inspired that choice?
LC: There were some talks at GDCthis year that opened my eyes to the fact that there is a large amount of [people underrepresented] in games. At the same time Evan Munro, the art director on Together: Amna & Saif, asked me about trying out different races for the characters. I was passionate about it so I told him to go for it. All credit goes to him for the result.
As a POC, I am glad that you and Evan chose diversity for your game characters. Do you find that once you’re aware of the underrepresentation, you can’t turn it off?
LC: There are people far more qualified to talk about this than I am. But it is a cultural thing and not isolated to games. What we feed our minds affects us whether we admit it or not; that includes racial stereotypes. The world would be a better place if we consumed media with humanized characters rather than caricatures of stereotypes.
EM: For me as a white male, there are thousands upon thousands of lead characters designed to appeal to me. But for a POC not so much, and the characters that do exist are often based on offensive stereotypes. And even in the indie games scene, there are still overwhelmingly more white characters to choose from than non-white. So when designing Amna and Saif, I decided that if this were my only chance to have total control over a character design, I’d want to take that opportunity and do something unique with them.
Having POC characters also fits into the overall concept and theme of Together as well. As Lyle has mentioned, we want Together to bring newcomers into gaming, and designing POC characters instantly appeals to new audiences.
Were you inspired by any specific titles?
EM: I was inspired by Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana for a lot of the character proportions and color schemes. Other than that I used references outside of gaming. I researched into people from Iran and Pakistan.
Congratulations on reaching your funding goal on Kickstarter! Was its success a surprise?
LC: Thank you. We are taking a lot of risks with Together, so I was prepared for the game to flop, but hoping it would do what it is doing now. I am very grateful and happy that people have seen what makes Together unique and are supporting us. Thank you to all of our backers, and those who have told others about Together.
EM: This being my third Kickstarter project, in general I knew what to expect and what to plan for. So I had hoped that my preparation would at least get us funded. But yeah, it’s always a risk and I’m still amazed by people willing to proactively support indie game development. And we’re definitely elated with the response we’ve gotten.
I can see why. Checking out the game, I really look forward to playing through the game with my partner. He and I have played through many story modes together but this one seems like it might be more compelling because everything requires two players, working together.
So, what you do when you’re not wearing your indie game dev hat?
LC: I spend time with my wife Rachel, who has been very supportive of the development of Together. I like to read, mostly non-fiction, but I mix in some fantasy and sci-fi as well. And of course I play games.
Does Rachel play video games also?
She plays some, but not a lot. She likes the genesis era Sonic games and she was hooked on Flappy Bird and Threes for a little bit. We played through Portal 2 and some other games together, and she helps me playtest Together: Amna & Saif as well.
How about you, Evan?
Well, I always try to keep drawing and filling up sketchbooks. I also enjoy watching horror movies and anime with my girlfriend. And of course playing games!
Awesome! Can you share what we can look forward to for the rest of 2014 for Mount Olympus Games?
Mostly we will continue development of Together: Amna & Saif. We will have a number of beta releases that go to the beta backers on kickstarter. We will be showing the game at SLC Comic Con in September, and if the Indie Megabooth [at Penny Arcade Expo] and/or IndieCade want us, we will be there as well.
I wish you luck at Salt Lake Comic Con, and hope folks respond well to your game!
We here at GeekGirlCon, love sharing our geekdoms. What have you been geeking over lately?
LC: For Books: I am a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. The Manderlys make excellent pies you know. I have The Hound’s Helm from the HBO show sitting on my desk. It is my favorite decoration in my office space.
EM: I recently found an amazing anime film called Fusé: Memoirs of a Huntress. Fusé has great animation, really interesting story, and the main character is kinda badass. I’m also a big fan of synth music. I’m in the market for a korg or something to mess around on.
Any final words of advice would you have for anyone who wanted to follow your lead?
LC: Get out of debt, and study as much as you can. Debt weighs you down and limits your opportunities. Knowledge increases your opportunities. Start creating now–it doesn’t have to look pretty and it doesn’t have to make money. Only make games if it rewards you intrinsically, not extrinsically.
EM: On the art end of things, I’d say, focus on the basics 100%: color, anatomy and composition. Employers are impressed by traditional abilities more so than your handling of a specific program (though they also are good to know). Also if you can afford it, I had a very good experience at art school. I was able to seek out professors that taught me a lot about different mediums and visual communication. Additionally, for game development, all of the connections that have allowed me to work in game development came from my involvement at my university.
Thank you to Evan and Lyle for speaking with me today. I’ve really enjoyed their insights on Together: Amna & Saif, and hopefully you have too. I highly recommend this game whether you’re an old school gamer looking for something fresh or if you’re a neophyte to the whole gaming thing. It’s worth noting that the creators have also taken steps to make the game very accessible. You can play this game with one hand, and they’ve crafted the game’s color palette for people with color blindness.
Mike Madrid, a featured contributor at GeekGirlCon for three years running, returns this year to bring us a panel inspired by his forthcoming book Vixens, Vamps, and Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics.
Whet your appetite for this romp through the seedy side of the Golden Age with Wendy Whipple’s book review.
Cover image courtesy of Exterminating Angel Press.
Mike Madrid (The Supergirls; Divas, Dames & Daredevils) has a new book due out this October called Vixens, Vamps & Vipers. Written as a companion book to Divas, this book looks at the bad girls in those Golden Age comics, whose stories ran from the late 1930s through the mid 1950s.
I love heroines; that’s certainly no secret – my basement is filled with of hundreds of action figures of heroines from movies and comic books – but I adore the villainesses. In reading Madrid’s stirring introduction, dipping into the psychology of villainy, frankly, being bad sounds like a lot more fun. (At least until the Comics Code Authority ruined all their fun in 1954…) But until that dark time, these were “[w]omen who were bad because they wanted to be.” Being bad was a conscious decision; it was, in fact, agency. These were women who were taking charge of their own destinies. Whether we, as readers, agree with their decisions is an entirely different question.
As in Divas, Madrid splits the comics section into themed chapters:
Vicious Viragos – these femmes fatales were dangerous, unprincipled, and often sexy, a wicked combination! From deadly accuracy with a whip to hypnotic persuasion to a very brazen granny, this is a selection of ladies like none you’ve probably seen before.
From National Comic #30, 1943. Bad girl Idaho digs a bullet from her own arm as henchmen watch helplessly.
Photo source: Vixens, Vamps, and Vipers
Beauties & Beasts – from faces that don’t reflect the evil inside to bitter monsters, these women are not to be trifled with. A beautiful face is no guarantee of a beautiful nature.
A Rainbow of Evil – heroines were depicted as white, but that restriction didn’t apply to villainesses. The stereotypes may be offensive by today’s standards, but at least there were women of color on the page, and viewed from their perspective, were they really even the villains of the story?
Crime Queens – these pulpy stories are the sort that eventually led to Senate hearings about violent content in things children were reading. But until that happened, Crimes By Women was a sensational title featuring some truly dreadful villainesses.
From Crimes By Women #14, 1950. Drugs and murder are a family business for this horrid mother-son team.
Photo source: Vixens, Vamps, and Vipers
Aside from the awesome villainesses, the comics do contain some pretty spectacularly awful racial/ethnic stereotypes. Comics of the 1940s, in particular, were not known for their kindness toward Asian people; keep that in mind while you’re reading. The world was in turmoil, and open xenophobia was even more rampant than it is today. The Comic Code Authority banned the practice of making fun of racial or religious groups, but all that really did was erase them from the comics altogether.
My only real criticism of the book is that the comics are reproduced in black and white. Color printing is expensive, and I completely understand the decision, but seeing these villainesses in all their bloody glory would have been even better. (If you’ve read Divas, you’re already familiar with that same publishing decision.)
As always, Madrid’s commentary is insightful and interesting. His affection for the heroines in Divas is readily apparent; so too is his respect for the villainesses in Vixens. “They were in control of their own destinies,” he says. And who doesn’t want that?
As a reader who is still fairly unfamiliar with Golden Age comics, I found some of the selections Madrid used for this book astonishing and eye-opening. The drama is tight, given that the stories are so short and typically not continued on into the next month’s issue like we’re used to in today’s comics. If these are the gems he selected, what else lurks in the dusty recesses of comics history? The heroines in Divas, Dames & Daredevils were exciting and intriguing, it’s true, but my heart is still pounding over some of these very bad Vixens, Vamps & Vipers. Sometimes it just feels good to be bad.
This review is of an uncorrected proof and there may be changes to the book between the publishing of the review and the book; I have no control over that. Please see my reviews of The Supergirls and Divas, Dames & Daredevils. For more Golden Age comics in full color, please visit the Digital Comics Museum.
Last year, GeekGirlCon added a new department called Connections focused on leadership development, mentorship, and connecting women with professionals in their desired career fields. The Connections program was such a hit (read more from last year here and here), we’re bringing it back for GeekGirlCon ‘14.
In addition to featuring a Connections Room at the convention—where attendees can interact with companies, universities, and nonprofit organizations—we plan to dedicate a programming room for Connections-specific panels, networking sessions, and workshops. This Connections Programming Room will allow for more intimate conversations with attendees and panelists. And we need your help to make this happen!
Connections Programming at GeekGirlCon ‘14
We are looking for professionals in geeky industries, the arts, and academia, as well as female entrepreneurs. We hope to promote, celebrate, educate, mentor, and encourage women professionally. We are seeking engaging proposals from professionals for panels on topics such as, but not limited to:
Career-focused sessions: how to pitch, negotiate, interview; where to train; how to find a mentor; etc.
Panels straight from the source: featuring women working in specific career fields, including women in science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM); women entrepreneurs; women writers and publishers; career crafters and artists; etc.
Leadership development panels and workshops: sessions focused on building leadership skills to help women succeed in education and their careers
Diversity and representation: career discussions with a focus on race, ethnicity, class, gender, ability, sex, and sexuality
Portfolio reviews: Opportunities for professionals to sit down with attendees to review writing samples, artwork, and comic book ideas
Feel free to propose something we didn’t think of!
To be considered for acceptance, proposal submissions must reflect the mission of the convention: to promote, celebrate, educate, mentor, encourage, and empower the female professional. GeekGirlCon is committed to representing women of all ages, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, creeds, physical and mental abilities, and familial statuses. Proposals must reflect a commitment to this as well.
Please note: this call for Connections programming is specifically focused on career and leadership development panels. Our broader programming submission deadline has passed.
Finding a job can be an intimidating, challenging, and frustrating process. There are a million job boards to sift through and resumes and cover letters to customize. How do you stand out in a sea of other job applicants?
The best way to find these opportunities is by connecting with people around you. Your network of friends, relatives, and new acquaintances can be one of the most valuable job search resources. Networking can sound intimidating, but it can also be rewarding and fun—even if, like me, you shudder at the thought of approaching people you don’t know. The very idea of attending one more networking event gets my stomach churning, my palms sweating, and my throat tightening.
So how can you ensure networking advances your job ambitions and is more fun than a chore?
Type “job networking tips” into your favorite search engine and you’ll find a ton of great ideas. I don’t want to duplicate this heap of expert advice. Instead, I invite you to join me in thinking outside the box about job networking. Here are five tips for making the experience fun—and productive!
1. Go where you feel comfortable
There are a lot of career-focused networking events, and those intimidate me the most. Talk about high stakes! Hobby or skill-based groups can be a great alternative. One friend found multiple job opportunities while attending a meetup group for a game-development program he was using for fun. He worked in construction at the time—nothing remotely close to computer programming. In addition, I once attended a casual event for Seattle Sounders fans, and while I wasn’t searching for a job, I had multiple opportunities to talk about my work and skills. Yes, this happened at a soccer meetup, where I felt comfortable and the career stakes were low.
2. Find ways to help others
Networking is a two-way street; it is not just about asking for favors. Your side of the street should focus on helping others. This help can be as big as volunteering regularly for a cause you love, or as small as offering to babysit for a friend. As fellow GeekGirlCon staff member Laurel McJannet put it, “Do good work with people who share your values, and they’ll remember you or be a reference for you when a job opening comes up.” Another friend found a job in her desired career field as a direct result of her volunteer experience with GeekGirlCon.
3. Be the connector
Another form of giving is introducing people. Find ways to introduce friends, colleagues, and acquaintances with one another. Do you have a friend and a coworker who both like to brew their own beer? Offer to introduce them. This makes you a valuable connector and invites others to do the same for you—providing an opportunity to expand your network. One friend started a blog about Pittsburgh, focused on connecting people and businesses across the city, and said the experience was not only a great networking tool, it also helped her gain confidence in talking to people.
4. Don’t discount those chance encounters
I am an introvert, and the idea of striking up a conversation with a stranger terrifies me. But I have talked to more people than I can count on my hands and feet whose job opportunities came as a result of random conversations with a stranger. One friend told me she was offered an interview and was eventually hired by the guy sitting next to her on an airplane. They were both coming back from a major industry conference, and the plane was filled with other techies. Be open to putting yourself out there when you least expect it.
5. Attend GeekGirlCon 14
Our annual convention provides one of the best opportunities to meet career mentors or get job leads—especially if you are looking to enter a career field where women are underrepresented. Our Connections Room will feature booths from some of the leading technology, video game, nonprofit, and science companies. We will also host networking hours throughout the convention focused on specific career interests, and we’ll have a Connections programming room for panels, workshops, and Q&A sessions focused on education opportunities and leadership and career development.
These are five tips that can help enhance your networking experience. What other tips would you offer? Please share them below!
Susie Rantz is the Manager of Connections, a GeekGirlCon program focused on providing career mentorship, leadership development, and networking opportunities for women and girls