I have been more than a little bit obsessed with romance novels, erotica, and romantic fanfiction for most of my life. It started with sneakily checking out books from the library and skim-reading to get to the “good parts,” then moved on to scouring Archive of Our Own, Fanfiction.net, and other glorious sites for all of my slash fic needs, no matter how niche (Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini, anyone?), and now, at long last, I can finally say that I am a proud sex nerd and devourer of all things romance and sexuality.
Given this extensive history, I think it’s safe to say that I couldn’t have been more excited to sit in on this year’s GeekGirlCon panel A Geek Girl’s Right to Erotica. This panel was the first live episode of the certifiably awesome Podice Rippers podcast, hosted by Natalie Warner and Lainey Seaton. When not podcasting “at length and girth” about romance novels, Natalie and Lainey are a cyber-security technical writer and an account manager, respectively. Together, they host a podcast that is an incredibly funny and thoroughly geeky exploration of all things romance, smut, and erotica.
Image Description: podcast hosts and panelists Natalie Warner and Lainey Seaton sitting at their panel table at GeekGirlCon ’17. Source: Twitter
As Rufus Scrimgeour says in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “these are dark times, there is no denying.” Given all of the darkness, pain, and anxiety that all of us are inundated with so often in recent times – and which so inordinately affects those who have already been oppressed and marginalized – it sometimes feels to me like everyday is Halloween. Experiencing an ambient sense of dread and fear, worrying about looming monsters both actual and theoretical, consuming a truly impressive amount of candy – this is basically my day-to-day reality. But Halloween is about more than just stress and candy. For me, at least, it’s about acknowledging the spookiness around us, facing up to all of our lingering fears, and proving to ourselves that we can laugh and have fun and eat our body weight in candy corn despite whatever ooky-spooky ghouls might be plaguing us.
So for this Halloween, I’m turning to my trusty source for all things inspiring, empowering, and fear-fighting: pop culture. These might be dark times, but one of the best ways I’ve found to both revel in and rise above the darkness is to celebrate the unruly, wonderful, strange, exciting, monstrous, and magical women who populate some of my favorite scary movies.
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!
“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.”
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.
Editor’s note: With the announcement of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s DLC at the recent E3 conference last week, we’re hopeful that Aloy will continue to overthrow gender norms in Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds. In this post, we are excited to feature Theresa Tyree’s examination of the strong female character in the original revolutionary release.
Horizon: Zero Dawn has everyone talking. Breaking ground as the first open-world game to exclusively feature a female main character, the game has thrown out the hugely expired trope of gender roles. If you’ve played through the game, you might be asking, “What the heck are you talking about? The Osram tribe is hugely patriarchal. The Carja had a civil war over different opinions about the treatment of women and outlanders. And Aloy’s tribe, the Nora, are matriarchal. Seems to me like there are definitely some gender roles happening!”
Editor’s note: Although this essay discusses specifically being an ally against structural racism in the United States, the concepts apply to many forms of allyship. The author has requested to remain anonymous.
Hi. I am white and I am an ally. I am not a perfect ally—let’s go ahead and get that out of the way. I’m not even sure I could say I am a “good” ally. I would like to be, and I strive to be the best I can. But this isn’t an essay about me. I wrote this essay because I want to encourage other allies to act where they have an opportunity and responsibility to act. This is an essay about one way in which passionate allies—even those who are shy and reclusive—can be effective.
In the wake of its season 13 finale, I can’t help but feel as enamored with Grey’s Anatomy as I did when I first committed myself to the Shonda Rhimes way of life a mere five years ago during my sophomore year of high school. My relationship with the show has been steady and enduring—nothing at all like those I’ve had with practically every other TV show I’ve ever loved and, at times, hated. Grey’s represents everything I’ve come to love about storytelling and, more specifically, storytelling by and for women.
Feminist Camp is a weekend camp for college-age students that goes beyond classroom or campus activism for networking and learning more about feminism. While Feminist Camp was originally based in New York, it has since expanded to the Seattle area. I had the opportunity to speak to the campers last November, and also got to interview the camp organizers!
What are your official roles at Feminist Camp?
KATIE GALLAGHER: I’m one of the Feminist Camp Seattle directors, along with Jody.
JODY JOLDERSMA: I’m the other Seattle director, along with Katie.
CARLY ROMEO: I’m the Feminist Camp Director, I run all the sites!
What is Feminist Camp?
KATIE: Feminist Camp is a transformative experience. I attended the NYC program when I was a senior in college and emerged as an entirely different person by the end of it. Being immersed in a constant exchange of big ideas (from both experts and campers!) shaped who I am as a thinker and an activist. I left camp with a stronger feminist network, a new perspective, and the kind of renewed energy that can only come from spending a week with passionate, driven people.
JODY: I attended the Feminist Intensive program in NYC, which visited many of the same organizations as the week long program but is targeted at professional mid-career women. I was introduced to A.I.R. Gallery (the first women run cooperative art gallery in the United States) during my session. As a professional artist this was a great opportunity to expand my network and was pivotal in my career.
CARLY: Feminist Camp is an intimate week-long conference for folks who want to further explore what feminism looks like beyond theories/campus activism. It’s one part inspirational retreat, one part professional development, and one part launchpad.