Let me get the obvious out of the way first: I’m a fan of G. Willow Wilson’s work. Her storytelling finesse, and experiences as being at the intersection of several identities speaks to me. I recently saw her in conversation with KUOW’s Jamala Henderson as part of Humanities Washington’s speaker series, talking about identity, the comics industry, and of course, Ms. Marvel. Part of the flyer for the event introduced Willow (the G is silent) thusly: G. Willow Wilson lies at the epicenter of multiple fault lines of American identity.
Not going to lie, when I first read the description for Refill Your Hearts: Fandom Librarians Recommend Stories to Get You Through the Bad Times, I was a little skeptical. The panel was meant to be a group of fannish librarians providing personalized reading and viewing recommendations for the audience. According to the description, they would focus on uplifting fanfiction, online and self-published fiction, webcomics, tv shows, movies, and other media created by and centered on women; queer, trans-, and nonbinary people; people of color; neurodiverse people; and other marginalized groups. As someone who has read fanfiction for over sixteen years, I was specifically doubtful that the panelists would have read enough fanfiction in enough fandoms to make useful recommendations to the audience. I did love the idea that they might have a couple story suggestions that would fit my preferences, though, and I wanted to see how the panel would play out, so I gave it a try.
As a pop-culture geek, I’m all about the suspension of disbelief. Give me mythical creatures, interdimensional travel, and fireball explosions in the vacuum of space—I prefer creativity to realism. But I also enjoy digging into whether or not fictional realities play by their own rules, and GeekGirlCon ‘17’s “The Science of Wonder Woman” panel did not disappoint.
“The Science of Wonder Woman” was a fantastic discussion of the Wonder Woman film from a scientific perspective. The panelists included astronomer and physics professor Dr. Nicole Gugliucci, forensic chemist and GGC DIY Science Zone project manager Dr. Raychelle Burke, and science writer R.K. Pendergrass.
I don’t know about you, but with just a little over a week to go until the Con, I’m currently in full strategic planning mode, obsessively highlighting my copy of the panel schedule and inevitably overscheduling myself in the hopes of catching all of the amazing panels we have lined up.
That moment when you realize you’ve scheduled yourself to see two (or three…or four…) panels at the same time
In the leadup to #GGC17, we’ve been highlighting the incredible panels you’ll have the opportunity to see, including ones centered around Social Justice, Diversity and Inclusivity, GGC After Dark, and Pop Culture! I couldn’t be more excited about each of those topics, but today I’m here to introduce you to a group of panels that are especially near and dear to my heart: the ones Focusing on Fandom. As geeks, we are basically Olympic medal-ers in fandom, so let me give you a sneak peek at some of the panels that will let you revel in the joy, excitement, and possibility of fandom.
Ever wondered which fandoms and tropes are most popular in fanfic? Are you curious how comments affect an author’s writing skills, or how fans navigate the sexual content in fanworks? Join a panel of fandom analysts, moderated by Ruby Davis, for By the Numbers: The World of Fandom Statistics. This group of amazing analysts will present their findings on these topics (and more!), showcase data visualizations, explain their methods, and answer questions.
A representation of my feelings after Sense8 was cancelled
I personally had a day of mourning when I heard that Netflix had cancelled Sense8, and am eagerly awaiting next year’s two-hour finale special, which will hopefully give us heartbroken fans some much-needed closure. Sense8 has become a global phenomenon, earning itself an extremely diverse and loyal fanbase in only two short seasons. The panel I Am Also a We – A Sense8 Panel, moderated by Meagan Malone, will discuss the show’s successes and shortcomings, with panelists sharing their hopes for the upcoming special.
Me, deep into a binge-watching session of “Sailor Moon”
This year is the 25th anniversary of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, so it’s only fitting that the panel Humans of the Moon Kingdom: 25 Years of Sailor Moon, moderated by Misu Russell, will celebrate the impact that Naoko Takeuchi’s epic manga has had on countless fans around the world. Come discuss the ways you’ve been affected by a cute young girl in a Sailor Suit!
Grab a latte, slip on some comfy socks, light a pumpkin scented candle, and prepare to settle in for this spooky tale about a girl who sells her heart. Her literal heart. Demons in this world, are willing to grant you your greatest desires as long as you’re willing to part with an arm, a leg, and occasionally your heart. I wondered what would prompt a person to decide to trust a demon and lose a body part in the process. I went to church-I watch Supernatural. I know that you do not trust freakin’ demons no matter what. However, the book answers that question very quickly: very desperate people.
The Hearts We Sold was not what I was expecting from the description. The author slowly ushers us into this world that is much deeper, darker, and even creepier story than as first presented. Peeling back layer after layer and feeling a little more horrified each time was both skin-crawling and highly entertaining. There were more Grimm fairytale qualities than I initially expected. The small elements of fantastic creepiness really put it over the top in the best ways.
Our main character, Dee is surrounded by fully formed characters with express purposes outside of simply helping or pushing her narrative. Because of these characters, even though the world is a fantastical one, it feels eerily realistic. Everyone has a motive, a backstory, that makes their actions, even cruel, abusive ones, realistic. It does make every action excusable, but it does make those actions understandable. Human. The romance develops naturally and sweetly and does not overpower the story. If you’ve read Vassa in The Night, which I recommend if you like dark fairytales this book would be right up your alley.
Representation-wise, this book does a fairly good job of portraying people of color, and LGBT+ characters. Dee is half Hispanic. Her race is mentioned at most two times. It does not affect her story, so if you’re searching for a character with a heavy latinx identity, this is not the book you’re looking for. This world is not exactly a diverse utopia, as some of the characters do face discrimination. However, it’s something that is alluded to in passing and does not come from any of the characters we know and love. There is a gay supporting character, as well as a trans character. Their sexuality and identity does not affect who they are as people and is only mentioned briefly.
I appreciate the way in which abuse is portrayed in this story. Abuse storylines can often be a bit obvious. They run the way that most people think all abuse happens: physical. But in The Hearts We Sold, the abuse while not exactly subtle, forces you to think about how you would survive in this situation when your options of escape are slim to none. The results of which forces Dee to make extremely difficult decisions, that I’m not sure everyone will be agree with, but I personally think it was an important one that should be illustrated as an option to matter your age or situation.
There were some aspects of the “weird” and “spooky” that seemed too readily accepted by the main character. She describes herself as being afraid all the time, yet when faced with truly terrifying situations, she’s calmer than most people would be. Only later does she seem to react appropriately to them, so it made her a little inconsistent to me. I would have liked to see her struggle with her fear more. It does get off to a bit of a shaky start, but it finds its legs early. Before you know it, it’s five hours later, you’ve forgotten to feed your cats, and you’re getting dual death glares. Can’t relate.
The Hearts We Sold is perfect to get you in the mood for Halloween season, and a great filler until we all binge watch Stranger Things come October.
Marissa is a grad school student, writer, and feminist who’s surviving Arkansas in our current political climate. She gets through it with her two fluffy cats and her Hufflepuff tendencies.
“I belong in the refrigerator. Because the truth is, I’m just food for a superhero. He’ll eat up my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend.”
–– The Refrigerator Chronicles, pg. 144
If you’re a woman, girl, or other gender-marginalized person who loves comics, you’ve probably heard of “fridging.” Also known as being “refrigerated,” or “women in refrigerators,” fridging is a term coined in 1999 by comic writer Gail Simone, after reading a Green Lantern comic in which Kyle Raynor comes home to find his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, killed and stuffed into a refrigerator. Since then, the term has spawned a website cataloguing the many ways in which women in comics have so often been treated as disposable plot devices within the broader narratives of male protagonists. Too often the wives and girlfriends of comic heroes, as well as other women comic book characters, are abused, injured, disempowered, or killed in order to provide a catalyst for the heroic actions of their male counterparts.
Drawing on this trope’s long and complicated history––as well as the format and mission of the Eve Ensler-created Vagina Monologues––prolific author and comic book fan Cathrynne M. Valente’s most recent book, The Refrigerator Monologues, began with her own Gail Simone-like call to action. As she describes in an article for The Mary Sue, after Valente saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2, she left the theater in tears, enraged and disappointed by the filmmakers’ treatment of Gwen Stacy. When Valente’s partner told her that, as much as they both might want to, there was nothing they could do to fix Gwen Stacy’s death because “‘she was always going to die. She always dies. It’s kind of a thing,’” Valente responded with redoubled enthusiasm to directly address that very inevitability.
“On Monday, I am Julia Ash. I dye my hair cranberry red and live in a trendy suburb with three cats, two teakettles, and one first edition Jane Eyre on which I have never once spilled ramen broth.
On Tuesday, I eat a star.”
–– The Refrigerator Chronicles, pg. 25
What results is a series of linked, monologic short stories, each centered around a different member of the Hell Hath Club, a tightknit group of “fridged” badasses, relegated to the monotonous obscurity of the underworld while their husbands and boyfriends heedlessly continue their above-ground heroics. Illustrated by amazing artist Annie Wu, the stories are by turns tragic and hilarious, snarky and earnest. Those who are familiar with comics will likely be able to place the inspiration behind Valente’s characters, and part of the fun is identifying the incredibly creative ways that Valente updates the stories of Jean Grey, Gwen Stacy, Alexandra DeWitt, Harley Quinn, and others. By drawing on familiar themes––updated and embellished by propulsive, acrobatic prose and galvanizing anger––Valente is able to honor the importance of comic books while simultaneously drawing attention to the very tropes that can hinder such pure enjoyment for us comics fans who aren’t cis white men.
At the same time, there are certainly limitations to what Valente is able to accomplish in The Refrigerator Monologues. The stories themselves––like those that inspired them––are, with few exceptions, heteronormative narratives involving white, cis men and women. Additionally, while Valente’s characters are given a voice and a spotlight through which to tell their own stories, the fact remains that they are still dead. United by shared experience and empowered by mutual storytelling, these powerful and complex women are not able to enact physical retribution on those who have hurt, oppressed, and used them.
Still, as someone who loves comics and graphic novels, I view Valente’s work as a celebration of the comic book genre precisely because it refuses to ignore the problematic tropes and themes so often contained within it. By putting a spotlight on abuse, misogyny, and the perceived disposability of certain bodies, The Refrigerator Monologues is a book that comes out of a deep love, addressing the anguish that results when that love is betrayed. As a nerd, that’s exactly the kind of representation that I’m looking for.
“The Hell Hath Club walks its newest member out into the Lethe Café, into music and moonlight and steaming cups of nothing that taste like remembering. Her frozen blue skin gleams like the bottles behind the bar. We help her into the booth, hold her hand, slip her a joke or two to make her smile.
What’s the difference between being dead and having a boyfriend? Death sticks around.”
Written by Guest Contributor Regina Barber DeGraaff
With all the excitement surrounding the film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, I wanted to discuss the ideas of diversity that the book explores and how the ideas of what is “different” and “normal” has affected my life as an academic in science.
Not long ago, I was an PhD astrophysicist who had never read A Wrinkle in Time. Madeline L’Engle’s book was beloved by many of my academic colleagues due to the physics references; however, literature that everyone else read in childhood was always a touchy subject for me. I remember being a sophomore in college when several fellow physics majors said to me “You haven’t read The Lord of the Rings? You haven’t even read The Hobbit?!” That summer I spent the entire break reading the Tolkien series in the Shire-esque landscape of the Pacific Northwest. Being a female, Mexican/Chinese American, first-generation college student in physics, I was already wary about my appearance and “class,” so I did anything to belong.
I did not grow up in a house with books for children or adults. My mother was always nervous about her English due to growing up in Taiwan and never wanted to read English books. When I would visit my father during the summer, he tried to encourage my sister and I to read, but he was self conscious about his own reading skills. I remember the crippling dread when teachers would ask me to read out loud. This is probably one of the many reasons I moved towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
The eighth edition of the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi, is set to be released in December. So if you’ve got a Star Wars fan with a birthday coming up, why not treat them to a themed gift to ramp up the excitement even more? Here are ten super-geeky gifts to give to the Star Wars fan in your life.
Tauntaun Sleeping Bag
Who hasn’t dreamed of snoozing inside rotting corpse of a biped snow horse? This is the unfortunate fate that befalls everyone’s favourite moisture-farmer-turned-Jedi in The Empire Strikes Back. If you know a Star Wars fan who would love to recreate the experience, you can treat them to a Tauntaun sleeping bag. The attention to detail is superb; check out the lightsaber zip pull and printed entrails on the inside. Let’s just hope that haven’t been as meticulous in their work on the smell.
A plush Wookie hoodie seems like the ideal winter jacket. Chewbacca manages to stay pretty warm without the need for clothing, even on the ice planet of Hoth. It does seem doubtful, however, that the product is made using genuine Wookie fur.
How often do you get to shield yourself from the rain and make passers-by mistake you for the Dark Lord of the Sith? Now is your chance with the Darth Vader lightsaber umbrella.
Captain Phasma Hot Toy
You probably remember Captain Phasma. This suave silver Stormtrooper was one of the major talking points in the trailer, but only received about two minutes of screen time in The Force Awakens. Still, the whole visual appearance is pretty striking and she will probably make further appearances. Any Star Wars super fan would love a Hot Toy model. If you’ve never heard of Hot Toys they are collectible figures that take realism to another level. There are a variety of Star Wars options available, but Phasma has to be one of the most impressive.
Darth Vader Pizza Cutter
This pizza cutter is in the shape of Darth Vader’s lightsaber. And while you won’t be slicing your pizza with a concentrated beam of red light, the cutter does have integrated sound effects – so you can almost imagine it. Just make sure you remove the pizza from the oven in time, otherwise it might come out a little on the Dark Side.
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars
Now you can enjoy the story of Star Wars in the vernacular of Shakespeare. Sadly, these were not written by The Bard himself although at least this means that he wasn’t responsible for the creation of Jar-Jar Binks.
Add a dash of Star Wars to your chow mein by using these impressive light-up chopsticks. There are plenty of different options for you to choose from including Darth Vader’s sabre or Kylo Ren’s broadsword-style weapon. But maybe the best option is the glowing purple of Mace Windu’s lightsaber.
Kylo Ren Suitcase
How many times have you been at the luggage carousel at the airport and almost walked away with someone else’s possessions? Let’s face it – most suitcases look the same. That’s not a problem you’ll ever have again with this polycarbonate Kylo Ren model. There’s definitely something quite intimidating about the face of Kylo Ren staring at you from the front of a suitcase. You imagine it’s more than enough to scare away potential thieves.
Original ‘Revenge of the Jedi’ Poster
You might already know that the original name for the third instalment in the Star Wars saga was Revenge of the Jedi. The name was dropped in favour of Return of the Jedi because it was felt that the word ‘revenge’ was not something that should be associated with the Jedi. However, this title changed was decided after several thousand promotional posters had been printed.
Today, these original posters are real collector’s items. You’ve got to be pretty serious if you’re going to buy one though – genuine posters usually go for thousands of pounds.
If you’re not looking to splash that kind of cash, there are plenty of cheaper options to keep any Star Wars fan happy. These lightsaber pens are a great choice.
Mike James is an independent writer based in Brighton, UK, who specialises in nerdy stuff for work and geeky stuff for fun. When he’s not writing about cyber security or tech innovations, he loves Star Wars, Hot Toys and considers himself an avid Naughty Dog gamer.
For as long as I’ve been a fan of anything, I’ve been a fan of Star Wars. I have vivid memories of sitting on a friend’s couch watching The Empire Strikes Back and being completely immersed in the experience.
Princess Leia was my favorite character. She was a girl just like I was, and she was snarky, had great hair, and did everything the boys did. Years before I had ever heard of fanfiction, I was mentally writing elaborate adventures for Leia as she repeatedly saved the universe in increasingly spectacular (and improbable) ways.