I’ve had a really rough year. Last August, I was laid off by the company I’d worked for for nearly eight years; by December I was in the deepest period of depression I’ve ever experienced; and in January I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My chemo treatments ended in May, and I’m now (as far as they can tell) cancer-free, but what people don’t tell you about having cancer is that after treatment is over, it’s really hard to get back into the swing of “normal life.” For one thing, you’re not the same person you were before the diagnosis. You might have body issues you never used to have, or the things you cared about before might seem small in comparison to what you just went through. You might drift apart from friends and become very isolated. In my case, a big part of my normal life–the comfy game writing job I’d had for years–no longer existed.
Depression after cancer is a thing, and more people are beginning to write about their experiences with it, such as this heartbreaking article by Lauren Szcudlo for Gawker. (Content note: frank discussion of depression, and NSFW language.)
I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life, and I knew that if I did nothing I’d end up in a deeper hole than ever.
There’s a list of things I know I can do to make myself feel like I’ve accomplished something, to make myself feel better both physically and mentally: the physical therapy exercises I started after surgery; remembering to take my meds every day; going to bed at a reasonable hour; working on my personal writing projects; volunteering for something I feel passionate about (GeekGirlCon). The problem is, in the throes of depression, these things feel like an impossible chore.
Have you ever been attached to a place for no reason?
I don’t mean the house you grew up in, or your first apartment after college–the one you paid for all by yourself. Not your elementary school, or your best friend’s backyard with the built in pool and the best swing set in the city.
I mean somewhere you visit for the first time, and you feel like you’ve come home to the place your heart has been missing all its life. It’s happened to me, and it makes me think of a set of my favorite books.
Author Kate Mosse wrote a trilogy of novels using this idea as part of her plot lines; it’s titled “The Languedoc Trilogy.” I own two of the books: Labyrinth and Sepulchre. I haven’t had cash to obtain or time to read Citadel yet, unfortunately, but it’s high on my list. There are two heroines in each book, and they are in the same physical place. One lives in contemporary times and one lives in an earlier time period (200 to 1000 years ago or more). Each timeline is a story with its own main characters and plotlines fully fleshed and alive on their pages, and Mosse is adept at writing them in such a way that you feel pulled into the story.
The timelines may be separate, and they may have completely different characters, but the stories are intertwined at the deepest levels. There is a symbol or an object from the earlier timeline that draws the contemporary heroine into the story, and she investigates the history and people of this place to which she has been drawn. The ending of each book makes the exact connections come clear to the characters and the reader, and they are thrilling to read–so I won’t spoil them for you!
Mosse doesn’t think of herself as a literary fiction writer; she thinks of herself as a storyteller. In our current age of technology and ebooks, I find that very intriguing. So many books are published these days, either on paper or online, that follow a formula or a description of a plot that has worked–and, more importantly, sold!
The reason Mosse’s Languedoc Trilogy reverberates with me so clearly is an experience I had many years ago in Scotland. I lived there for six months, working a couple of jobs to make money to travel around a bit, and experiencing life in Scotland. My mother’s family is Scottish (and English), and for several years I had felt an odd pull to see Scotland for myself. My Uncle Bruce and Aunt Peggy went on vacation to tour the United Kingdom while I was there, and they kindly picked me up in Edinburgh on their way from London to the west coast of Scotland.
We visited castles and historical battlegrounds, and looked up some of the family history my Aunt Neena Beth had complied for us. The most interesting place, to me, was the ruin of a castle on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula (Àird nam Murchan: headland of the great seas) called Castle Tioram (pronounced chee-rum). It is the ancestral home of Clan Macdonald of Clan Ranald, which is a large part of my mom’s family. It’s an island only accessible on foot when the tide is out, which was good for defence when it was built in the 12th or 13th century.
The visit started off on a strange note when my uncle, who was driving, turned down the road to the castle, and I told him we were on the wrong road. I hadn’t looked at a map, and I didn’t know anything about this castle other than its name. He kept driving until we reached the end of the road, and we saw the castle across the bay. My uncle turned around, and I identified the correct turning for him.
We got to the castle shortly after the tide had gone out, and walked out to the island. The grey stone walls, which are all that remain of the structure, loomed above us for three and four stories as we approached, and everything about it seemed familiar to me. I knew where the door was on the northeast side, and led my aunt and uncle inside. Then I pointed out several things, including where the kitchens had been, where the animals were kept, and how the toilets drained out of holes in the outer wall and out into the bay. I also informed them that any prisoners held would have been on the fourth floor–because even if they managed to get out of their cells, the only ways down were the spiral staircase in the corner, or over the wall to fall to their deaths on the rocks below.
As we walked back over the spit of tidal land, we found the parking lot we hadn’t seen on our approach. In the lot was a visitor’s guide, showing the placement of all the things I had told my aunt and uncle–and I was right about all of it.
Genetic memory? Maybe, if humans have such a thing.
Spooky and weird? Definitely. I still get goosebumps every time I think about it, and that was almost 20 years ago.
My brain says there’s no way this was real, but I remember it clearly–and so do the people who were with me. I think this is part of why Kate Mosse’s books touch me on a deep level, and why, whenever I read them, I wonder if there could really be something linking me to that land, from another time.
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.
Written by Adrienne M Roerich, Manager of Editorial Services
GeekGirlCon ‘14 is getting closer and closer, and the staff is very excited. We work hard all year to put on a fantastic and fun weekend, and we enjoy it as much as our community. One of my favorite questions to ask as the con approaches is:
What are you looking forward to at GeekGirlcon ‘14?
I am looking forward to so much at GeekGirlCon ‘14. The cosplay gets better and better each year! As a member of the copy team, I get to see all the programming as it is prepared for the program book. Let me just say, the panels, gaming floor, the GeekGirlConnections room, the Saturday night entertainment are all superb. We are so lucky to have a community that helps us put forward this amazing convention every year, and I’m excited to talk to so many of you!
“I’m looking forward to having a great time meeting intelligent, creative, passionate geeks and geek-lovers. People really make the con for me, and GeekGirlCon has some truly great people,” says Sheila Sadeghi, Director of Marketing.
“There are countless parts of GeekGirlCon ’14 I’m pumped about, but one panel that stands out to me is “3D Printing 101” with Breanna Anderson and Ericka M. Johnson. I’ve been fascinated by 3D printers forever now, but have never seen one in person. I’m excited to learn more about them and hopefully watch the printing of a geeky item!” contributed Copy Writer, AJ Dent.
“I’d definitely say there are some amazing panels coming up this year, with amazingly talented panelists. I’m also really looking forward to the COSPLAY!!! I haven’t done cosplay myself, and I keep meaning to do so…and then I run out of time. And hours in the day to make things. If I had any talent for photography, I would volunteer to be convention photographer so that I had an excuse to take amazing pictures all day, both days!” declared SG-1, Copy Writer.
“Aside from the fun festive atmosphere created by a sea of people in cosplay, I’m most looking forward to all the different panels. I think GeekGirlCon has the highest quality panels out of any con I’ve attended, and I always end up learning something new, or seeing things in a new light. This year, not only do I get to attend a bunch of panels as part of my copywriting position, I’ll also be able to write about the highlights for the GeekGirlCon blog.” answered Copy Writer, Jess Downs.
“I am looking forward to watching all the hard work by the GeekGirlCon staff unfold. I’m excited to meet the volunteers and hopefully attend some panels. I’m excited to meet more of the GeekGirlCon community.” added Allison Borngesser, Designer.
“I’m looking forward to so much. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, as I am really so excited for ALL THE THINGS happening at GeekGirlCon ’14. I love the programming lineup we have, the return of the DIY Science Zone, the epic gaming dungeon/floor, the concert, the fantastic contributors to GeekGirlConnections, and all the cosplay. I do have a particularly weak spot for our Exhibitor floor and Artist Alley as well — so many amazing things! Mostly I look forward to our incredible band of Agents, the dedicated and gifted contributors, the tireless staff, and all of the attendees that make up the GeekGirlCon family. I feel truly grateful to be able to be a part of this, and I think 2014 is going to be a great year for GeekGirlCon! Yee, as they say, Haw!” exclaimed Amanda Powter, GeekGirlCon’s Executive Director.
Let us know: what are you looking forward to at GeekGirlCon ‘14?
Hello, readers! Fall is slowly setting in and we have just a few more weeks until GeekGirlCon 2014! While we count down the days, check out an event or two from this month’s list!
Friday, August 29–Monday, September 1:PAX Prime
Visit GeekGirlCon at the PAX Diversity Lounge!
Monday, September 1:Fussy Cloud Puppet Slam Comes to Bumbershoot From the press release: “Fussy Cloud Puppet Slam is proud to present our special Bumbershoot edition! We’ve pulled together a selection of favorite acts and artists from our first 2 years of slams to represent us at Bumbershoot: Seattle’s Music & Arts Festival. From hilarious to heartbreaking to horrifying, both festival performances feature a variety of fascinating short works by puppeteers from the Pacific Northwest (and beyond)!”
Tuesday, September 2:Queen Anne Science Cafe From the Pacific Science Center: “Dr. Ann McMahon, Pacific Science Center’s VP of Science & Education and Engineer, explores ‘Engineering Empathy: The Potential Role of Engineering in Developing Life and Work Skills in Children.’”
Wednesday, September 3:John Scalzi at University Bookstore From the University Bookstore: “A Hugo award-winner and master of originality, author John Scalzi is back with a thought-provoking and suspenseful new novel set in a future forever altered by a virus that killed 400 million people. Of the survivors, one percent is left in a state of “lock in”—fully aware mentally, but stuck inside unresponsive bodies and able to interact with the physical world only through androids or by borrowing the bodies of those known as Integrators. When a murder is committed by an Integrator, the question is: Who or what is really behind it? And with John Scalzi here for a reading and signing of his suspenseful new thriller, we can’t wait for him to begin peeling back the layers of that mystery just for us.”
Thursday, September 4:Creative Geeks Society From the Meetup page: “We have a open-to-all crafters night on Thursday evenings ‘cuz you know geeks knit/crochet/spin/quilt on Thursdays, too!
Bring your Jayne Hats, Doctor Who scarves, Star Wars totes… whatever you have nearby, and join us for geekery and crafting.
Assistant organizers Kikki and Larisa will be hosting the events. We’ll be meeting around 6:00 pm to whenever. Feel free to wander in at whatever time you can make it. (Event repeats Thursday, September 11.)”
Thursday, September 4:Lois Brandt at University Bookstore From the University Bookstore: “For Lois Brandt, a childhood realization that her friend and her family had no food to eat stuck with her for years. Now, in her children’s picture book, she brings the issue of childhood hunger to life through a story of friendship, enabling children to both understand a situation that many around them face and giving them ideas for how they can help.
Interested in learning more about how Brandt uses her story to explore themes of perseverance, friendship, interconnectedness, and helping others with kids around the country? Join us for a launch party for the empathetic, honest, and original new book for children with the author herself.
Guests are asked to bring non-perishable food items to donate to Northwest Harvest as a part of this event.”
Friday, September 5–Saturday, September 6:Star Trek: The Sexed Generation From the press release: “More fun than telling Wesley Crusher to shut up, Star Trek: The Sexed Generation is a salacious and reverent celebration of Trekkie canon that combines artful striptease with the colorful characters and quirks of the final frontier. Presented at Annex Theater on September 5th and 6th by burgeoning theater company Songbird & Raven, the show is a fully scripted burlesque adventure that unfolds aboard the Starship Enterprise.
When a mysterious force alters time and space, the crews of Captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard find themselves united on the Enterprise. Something is clearly amiss, as the crews seem unable to repress their own deepest desires, resulting in some terrifically bawdy, though highly illogical, hijinks. Could it be a nefarious space gangster? The all-consuming Borg? A gaping inter-dimensional rift? Only Starfleet can get to the bottom of this.
In true “nerdlesque” fashion, The Sexed Generation goes beyond mere parody to explore the series’ treatment of gender, identity, and sexuality. The cast boasts some of the most established nerdlesque performers on the West Coast, including GeekGirlCon favorites Scarlett O’Hairdye and Sailor St. Claire. Through gender-bending and storytelling, the stars tease their way through questions of queerness, power, and sex in Roddenberry’s future utopia. It’s a space-age cultural study in tassels and sequins.
The Sexed Generation is the inaugural production of neo-vaudeville company Songbird & Raven, whose mission is to highlight the best in local theater and burlesque, as art is the core of a strong community. This new face in Seattle’s thriving fringe scene is the brainchild of local chanteuse and strip-starlet Jillian Boshart (who performs burlesque under the stage name Sara Dipity) and playwright Jacob Farley, a former recipient of the Audience Choice Award at the Playwright’s Forum Festival at Spokane Civic Theatre.
Set your phasers to strip and beam aboard!”
Saturday, September 6:Basic Puppet Building—Animals From the press release: “Walk in with a sad, naked hand and walk out with a fabulous new puppet friend in this basic class. Dip your toe into the wide, weird waters of puppet construction: cutting, sewing (hand and machine) and hot gluing your way to a finished puppet. Instructor Rachel Jackson will guide you step-by-step as you create one of five animals: Dog, Cat, Bear, Bunny or Unicorn. (3-week class also available Saturdays, September 27–October 11)
Saturday, September 6:Claire Gebben at King County Library From the University Bookstore: “Inspired by historic family letters and fleshed out with extensive research, a fascinating narrative, and compelling characters, Claire Gebben’s historical fiction novel about a 19th century blacksmith and his journey to America on the cusp of both the Civil War and the decline of his profession is a captivating and intimate glimpse of the German immigrant experience. For a moving story about dreams and the realities that met them in early America, join us for a reading and signing with Gebben. If we’re lucky, she might even share some extra anecdotes that didn’t make it into the book.”
Sunday, September 7:7th Annual Live Aloha Festival From the Seattle Center Festál Page: “Seattle Center Festál presents Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival, Sunday, Sept. 7. Explore and experience the cultural roots and contemporary influences of Hawaii through live performances, visual arts, hands-on activities, foods, games, a commemorative lei workshop, and a lively marketplace. The festival provides a feast for the senses as visitors journey through the sights, sounds and tastes of Hawaii. The Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival celebrates what it means to “live aloha.” With Hawaiian music, hula, ono food, Hawaiian crafts, hula, music and flower-making workshops honor this special culture.
Join many of the over 50,000 Hawaiian Islanders who call Washington State their home as they share their homeland’s colorful history through performances of music and dance.
Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festál is presented in partnership with the Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival Committee.”
Sunday, September 7:2nd Annual Women of Wonder Run! From the Meetup page: “Our fantastic GeekGirlCon Programming Manager Meg Humphrey is participating in the 2nd annual Women of Wonder Run and she wants as many folks to join up and walk with her! If there is enough interest generated in this event, maybe a GeekGirlCon team can be formed!”
Wednesday, September 10Success Stories in Science Blogging From Northwest Science Writers Association: “What makes a good blog post, and what sorts of content make readers click? Come hear some blogging success stories from NSWA members.”
Thursday, September 11–Sunday, September 14:The Doctor From the website: “Seattle Experimental Theater is proud to present the return of its hit show, The Doctor, an improvised parody of Doctor Who. The Doctor is a completely unscripted time traveling comedy. At the start of every performance, the cast will get suggestions from the audience that they will then use to create the time, location and plot of the show. Every performance promises to be unique, fun, and family friendly.
In addition to being improvised every night, The Doctor will have its cliff-hanger ending from January resolved with the thrilling (and still improvised) performance September 11th. Will the Doctor be able to fix the damage done to the timeline and get back Emma and the TARDIS? Whatever happens, the Doctor will wrestle with the consequences for the rest of our September performances.
The Doctor is created by Jeannine Clarke, Sam Hecker and Tony Beeman. It is directed by Jeannine Clarke (director of the hit Star Trek parody, Where No Man Has Gone Before and Wedding Horror Stories).
The Doctor is played by Tony Beeman. The cast of The Doctor is Elizabeth Brammer, Lauren Bond, Ashley Flannegan Russell, Jana Hutchison, Wayne Pishue, Sarah Scheller and Greg Stackhouse.
The Doctor is produced in association with Theatre Off Jackson.”
Friday, September 12:Science Friday Tour From the Washington Life Sciences: “Learn more about medical research through Science Friday events at Benaroya Research Institute that include a light breakfast, conversation with a leading researcher and a lab tour led by scientists.”
Friday, September 12:GeekGirlCon Board Game Night at Wayward Coffeehouse Do you love board games and enjoy teaching others how to play? Explore the board/card game hobby and meet folks happy to teach you their favorite board games! No pressure though, you can just come and play with folks who love playing games. And the best part about the GeekGirlCon game nights with our friends at Wayward? They are absolutely FREE with no cover charge!
Our group is inclusive and totally newbie-friendly. We play a wide range of modern board and card games as well as some classics. You might find King of Tokyo, Völuspá, Alien Frontiers,Locke & Key, Coup, Tokaido, The Resistance, Skull and Roses, Settlers of Catan, 7 Wonders, Toc Toc Woodman, FLUXX and many more!
Bring a game with you or just bring yourself. Join GeekGirlCon staffers, make some new friends, play some games, and enjoy some delicious organic, fair trade, and shade-grown coffee. There are also local pastries and vegetarian/vegan treats, if you get hungry during all that gameplay.”
Saturday, September 13:NERDZ4EVER: A Nerdlesque Gala of Geek From the Press Release: “NERDZ4EVER take the stage at the Re-Bar on September 13th for a geeky gala filled with more nerdiness than you can imagine. Lowa De Boom Boom leads this nerdy ecdysiastic trove of performers headed by Whisper De Corvo, Jesus la Pinga, Miss Violet DeVille, Lexi Luthor, Miz Melancholy, Nickey Bourbon, Sin de la Rosa, Tawdry Quirks, Red Kryptonite, and Xiola Sans Peur. The show is at 7:30 pm and doors open at 6:30 pm. Tickets are available at the door for $20 and online from http://nerdz.bpt.me starting at $15 for General Admission, $25 for Premium Seats at a table in the front row, and $35 for VIP Seats at center stage with a table and a goody bag. Every pre-ordered ticket comes with a free gift.”
Saturday, September 13:DC Web Women Code(Her) Conference From Geekwire: “DCWW Code(Her) Conference is the premier conference where women (and men) come together to learn the latest in Internet Technology!”
Saturday, September 13–Sunday, September 14:Seattle Fiestas Patrias From the Seattle Center Festál Page: ”Seattle Center Festál presents Seattle Fiestas Patrias, Sept. 13 and 14. Explore and experience the cultural roots and contemporary influences of the nations of Latin America through live performances, visual arts, hands-on activities, foods, games, and a lively marketplace. Dance to live mariachi music, join in a children’s soccer clinic, and learn how Latin American countries celebrate independence from Spanish rule. Seattle Fiestas Patrias celebrates diversity and the Latino community in Western Washington. Presented in partnership with Seattle Fiestas Patrias Committee and Sea-Mar Community Health Center.”
Monday, September 15:Ruth DeFries at Town Hall Seattle From the University Bookstore: “From a species on the verge of starvation to a civilization with more than enough food for everyone, the story of how humanity harnessed creativity and innovation to meet our most basic need is nothing short of astounding. But are the advancements that got us where we are today really our salvation? Or will they become our downfall? In her new book, Ruth DeFries presents a history of human growth and resilience, arguing that both our innovations and their limitations have been key to our continued advancement. Curious what the next steps in our search for sustenance might look like? Join us at a reading and signing with DeFries for a thought-provoking look at how creativity and crises have not only gotten us where we are, but will continue to carry us forward.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia. Tyson’s professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way.
In 2001, Tyson was appointed by President Bush to serve on a 12-member commission that studied the Future of the US Aerospace Industry. The final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations (for Congress and for the major agencies of the government) that would promote a thriving future of transportation, space exploration, and national security.”
Monday, September 15:Katherine Bouton at Town Hall Seattle From the University Bookstore: “Hearing loss is more than just an affliction of old age. As former New York Times senior editor Katherine Bouton reveals in her new book—a personal, psychological, and physiological exploration that weaves together her own experience, the personal stories of others, and the accounts of doctors, audiologists, and neurologists—it’s an epidemic that affects 48 million Americans, over half of whom are under the age of 55. For an engaging look at what it’s like to live with this increasingly widespread, invisible disability, join us for a reading and signing with Bouton as she presents her must-read book for anyone dealing with hearing loss and anyone who wants to understand the growing problem better.”
Wednesday, September 17:Emma Campion at University Bookstore From the University Bookstore: “In her critically acclaimed The King’s Mistress, Emma Campion proved herself to be a writer who knows how to handle both story and history with skill. In her follow up book, Campion delivers an equally engrossing tale about another fascinating woman from history: Joan, “Fair Maid of Kent.” Set in the court of Edward III and punctuated by three marriages surrounded by scandal, the emotionally resonate story reveals a woman who was more than just a beauty and a life of betrayal, love, and intrigue that will leave you captivated. To hear more about the complex story that drew Campion to Joan’s life to begin with, join us at a reading and signing with the equally intriguing Campion herself.”
Thursday, September 18:Caitlin Doughty at the University Bookstore From the University Bookstore: “Death has fascinated mortician Caitlin Doughty for as long as she can remember. But it wasn’t until she took a job at a crematorium during her first year out of college that Doughty came to truly understand what death and dying in America were really about. In an unusual memoir set during Doughty’s first year in the funeral industry, she shares her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story, bringing to life the world of the dead and encouraging readers to look at death as not an enemy to be feared or ignored but an intrinsic part of life we too often misunderstand. Join us for a reading and signing with Doughty for a unique look at life, death, and coming-of-age in the midst of both.”
Friday, September 19–Sunday, September 21:Start-Up Weekend Women Seattle From Geekwire: “Ready to be part of something big? Join us: We’re assembling 100 of the most talented entrepreneurial-minded women (and men) for a very special edition of Startup Weekend on September 19-21, 2014.
We provide the working space, brain fuel, food, mentors, new friends, and inspiring speakers and judges. You supply the energy and innovation to build something big over the weekend.”
Saturday, September 20:Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up From the Facebook page: “The 2014 Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up, the only conference is the Pacific Northwest to celebrate the rising genre of LGBTQ romance fiction, will be held on September 20, 2014 at the Seattle Public Library’s Central Branch and will include a full day of activities, from writing workshops to pitch sessions with publishers, from a reader meet-up with games and giveaways to panel discussions on the genre.
Following the day-long conference, there will be a book festival at the Hotel Monaco with book signings with over 50 LGBTQ romance authors, and a fun after-party at the Rendezvous/Jewelbox Theater featuring more short readings and time to mingle with attendees.
It will be a full day of festivities celebrating the universality of love stories, and that there’s a Happily Ever After for everyone!”
Tuesday, September 23:Nancy Kress at University Bookstore From the University Bookstore: “In the latest novel by prolific sci-fi author Nancy Kress, aliens have descended upon earth. Following close behind is a deadly cloud of spores that have already infected and killed the inhabitants of two worlds. And with the advance of both the aliens and spores come many questions. Are the visiting creatures really aliens? Is their purpose in joining with humans to stop the advancing cloud truly altruistic? Or is an even larger conspiracy at play? For a deeper look into a story that is far more than it first seems, join us at a reading and signing with Kress that is sure to intrigue.”
Saturday, September 27:Bernadette Pajer at Jacobsen Observatory UW Campus From the University Bookstore: “We all know Thomas Edison as one of the greatest inventors of all time. But when Edison’s arrival in Seattle in search of a dangerous and ill-conceived invention is followed by a mysterious death, UW Professor of Electrical Engineering and private investigator Benjamin Bradshaw must consider that there may be a more sinister side to his esteemed colleague. Can’t wait to find out what mysteries of science and human nature Bradshaw’s latest adventures will reveal? Join us as we welcome Pajer for a reading, signing, and inside look into her delightful and intriguing new mystery in the Professor Bradshaw series.”
Saturday, September 27–Sunday, September 28:Italian Festival From the Seattle Center Festál Page: “Seattle Center Festál presents The Italian Festival, Sept. 27 and 28. Explore and experience the cultural roots and contemporary influences of Italy through live performances, visual arts, hands-on activities, foods, games, and a lively marketplace. The Italian Festival is a “Celebration of All Things Italian.” Food vendors, crafts, puppet theatre, Italian films, a grape-stomping contest, and a bocce ball tournament honor and celebrate the “old country.” Presented in partnership with Festa Italiana.”
Sunday, September 28:Naomi Klein at Town Hall Seattle From the University Bookstore: “What do climate, politics, and economics have to do with one another? According to award-winning journalist Naomi Klein—pretty much everything. As Klein asserts in her new book, if economic and political policies are not reformed, not only will they continue to drag down their own systems, they will also turn the current climate crisis into a catastrophe we may never recover from. Want to know what issues are really at hand and what changes need to be made to not only save our economy, but our world? Join us at a reading and signing with Klein for a look at a side of the climate crisis you’ve never seen before.”
Sundays, September 28–October12:Beginning Stage Puppeteering From the press release: “In this fun, dynamic class, you’ll learn the foundations of good stage puppetry—focus, physical commitment, and basic puppet operation. Students learn the fundamentals of Muppet-style puppeteering through a combo of easy exercises, wicked challenges and practical scene work. Over the 3 weeks, you’ll get lots of hands-on time with professional puppets plus a simple practice puppet to take home so you can keep working on your skills. Working in the realm of visible puppeteering, we’ll explore both arm-and-rod and live hand puppets.”
Tuesday, September 30:Lauren Oliver at the University Bookstore From the University Bookstore: “Bestselling YA-author Lauren Oliver has made the leap into adult fiction. And with her imaginative new tale of secrets, ghosts, and family, she proves her ability to mesmerize all ages. A story that steps beyond the haunted house clichés of horror movies, Oliver’s captivating new novel asks what would really happen if the living and dead inhabitants of one house were set on a collision course and forced to confront the pasts that haunt them all. Can’t wait to find out? Join us for a reading and signing with Oliver to begin peeling back the layers of her intriguing new family drama and ghostly mystery.”
Frankly, I love all things pumpkin, so a game with pumpkin in the name grabbed my attention. As the title of this post suggests, it’s a farming/dating sim MMORPG for PC. On Kickstarter it is being promoted as “An MMORPG for players who love games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing! Craft items, decorate your house, date any NPCs and more!” I’m not so familiar with Harvest Moon, but I loved Animal Crossing on Nintendo GameCube and my daughter enjoys Animal Crossing on 3DS, so this sounded like a game of interest for us and the GeekGirlCon community.
What makes this game so unique? Pumpkin Online supports love equality. NPC and character gender do not matter. As a sim game that includes dating, you can form lasting friendships and relationships with any NPC through interactive rewards and questlines!
Additionally, the customization of your personal character goes beyond what is typically found in sim games. You don’t start with selecting male or female for your character, but rather start with a blank slate and non-binary options, then fill in the characterization you want without being stuck with certain hair or outfits because you selected “male” or “female” to start with. The racial identity of your character is not pigeonholed because you can select a wide range of skin tones. And finally, the body shape and size has many more options than is typically found in these games.
The players are creating the economy together, which means that your game play is fun for you and worthwhile for other players. Needed player items will not all be able to be purchased from NPCs (see the Kickstarter video “Unique Features”). Your chosen profession will matter, both to you and to other players in this player-driven economy. In order to complete quests and level up, players will need to get other player-crafted items. However, this is not only a social game. You can enjoy the game alone, without other players. And you have your own quests to go on.
In an article with Indie Game Mag, “Monique Blaize, the team leader at Pumpkin Interactive, explains that as an African-American woman, ‘I’m a double minority in the game industry and I’m hoping to get involved in it.’”
Monique Blaize, Creator and Project Lead, and Malik Gray, Lead Programmer, were generous in their time for an interview with GeekGirlCon.
We are seeing the rise of more and more Indie game developers. What brought your group of people together to start Pumpkin Interactive and develop Pumpkin Online?
[Monique]: Personally, I had just graduated with a Game Design degree and after applying for jobs for a year I had no luck because companies rarely hire without prior game experience. So while working a minimum wage job I realized the only way for me to get into the game industry was to actually make a game myself. So I called up some old classmates of mine who were stuck in a rut like I was and asked if they wanted to come onboard and at least work on a project. We did a lot of research before starting and slowly but surely we got more people to work with us.
[Malik]: I personally started the game later. I used to use Hero Engine and was around when The Repopulation (another major MMORPG made using Hero Engine with a successful Kickstarter) was just starting out. I happened to see Monique’s post in their forums that she was looking for a programmer. I was really excited about the fact that I could work on an MMORPG that was based off of the Harvest Moon series and also a game whose vision is to change the game community’s diversity which I think is long overdue.
What challenges do you face as Indie Game Developers, and specifically, what are some with Pumpkin Online?
[Monique]: There are many challenges that Indie developers face, but if I had to pick a big problem it would be the failures of other Indie projects and budget constraints. The faith in other Indie projects suffers as a result and Indie projects desperately need the support of the public. It’s the difference between having the money to spend on the best talent you can possibly have versus people driven solely on their passion and desire to make a game on a constrained budget. For Pumpkin Online, tackling a huge project like an MMORPG based on our research, with the current team we have working part time is a much higher amount than what we posted on Kickstarter. However, we’re a huge fan of the Indie community and we want to ease as much of a burden financially as possible off of their shoulders. Unfortunately, this does mean that it will take longer to complete our project.
[Malik]: I wholeheartedly agree with what Monique said. I personally have worked 30+ hours some weeks, with a full time job, just so I can get a task completed to show for our Kickstarter. To help with the budget, instead of being paid hourly, which most programmers do, I decided to work with whatever budget Monique has and just complete tasks as needed for the project. I really believe in her, this project, and the widely diverse community that we want to include in our game. I know that if we are able to get our voices heard, that we will succeed in every goal that we set forth.
How did you choose Pumpkin Interactive as a company name and why did you choose Pumpkin Online for this game title?
[Monique]: Honestly for the company name I really wanted it to be named after some kind of food. I remember, kiwis and apples were considered but I just really like the sound of the word pumpkin.
Most other farming games have Spring as their main season and color scheme, we wanted to be different and go with a Fall theme instead.
For those with little knowledge of Farming/Dating Sim MMORPGs, what is game play like for one of those and in Pumpkin Online specifically?
[Monique]: The gameplay will be relaxing and will not force players to do one particular activity or the other. After you have chosen a profession, such as farmer or chef, you can spend your game days however you wish. You can hang out with other players, you can craft as many items as you can, you can do quests for NPCs, form friendships with or date NPCs. You can fish, mine for gems, and more. We want to make a game with many mini activities you can choose from to customize your gameplay experience.
You explain in your Kickstarter videos why you are going with more diversity in your character design in terms of gender, race, and body style, but for those who haven’t had a chance to watch them, could you summarize why you made this decision and what that decision looks like?
[Monique]: Well the main reason is I’m an African American female and I’m not represented very much in games. In character creation for games, even if you have the option to play as someone with a dark skin tone, no one else in the game world has that skin tone. For gender we’re going to include and acknowledge non-binary genders. What that means is you’re not asked to select male or female at the start of the character creation, or lock certain clothes or body features based on body type.
Is it more difficult to provide that level of diversity in terms of programming and game development?
[Malik]: In terms of programming, the difficulty depends on the way things are programmed. I’ve noticed that making things easy on the programming side can sometimes make things more difficult on the artist’s side, and vice versa. When working with diversity we are going to have to create the art for every possible combination and in this sense, I’m glad that our team is heavily full of artists since it makes my programming tasks easier. The level of diversity has also added many lengthy discussions between Monique and I on what can be implemented, how long it will take, and if we should include it in the Beta or Gold release.
Your Kickstarter for reaching beta is under-way. Why did you choose Kickstarter?
[Monique]: I’ve personally used Kickstarter before and have backed projects through Kickstarter. I also appreciate that Kickstarter has stricter rules and guidelines, unlike other crowd-sourcing places where we can easily get lost. There are other means to get funding, but Kickstarter also is good for getting the word out there about your project and getting people excited about it.
For those who haven’t been to the page, Pumpkin Interactive is working towards raising $30,000 in a one-month time frame, ending September 18. As of the posting of this blog, you are about 25% to your goal about a third of the way into your time frame. Does this make you nervous? What are your hopes and expectations?
[Monique]: Oh yeah definitely, $30,000 is a hefty goal for the short period of time. But for what we’re making it’s the bare minimum to give us the kick we need. It’s not over till it’s over, and no matter what happens we can find other means and ways to keep us going. We always need to stay positive.
[Malik]: I was extremely nervous. What helped ease my nervousness a bit was when Indie Game Magazine released an article about us and one of their writers Laura Klotz had put up a Tumblr post about our game. So far it has received a whopping 10k notes and still counting. I am very impressed by how much positive reaction we have received since then and I hope that it continues to grow.
Your game is being developed on the Hero Engine. How does that help and how does that hinder game development?
[Malik]: Hero Engine has been around for a while. Star Wars: the Old Republic was built using their source code. There are many advantages to Hero Engine that far outweigh the negatives. The biggest help is that you can actively modify the world while other developers are logged in, and it updates in real time. Another benefit is that it handles full scalability for the back-end server structure. (This means I have more time to implement fun gameplay features.) Some of the problems that we have come across are that, unfortunately, there is no native support for Mac or Linux clients, and some of the features that are implemented by them are kind of glitchy. They have also been very slow to offer support to the Indie game community that uses their engine recently. Other than those few pain points, overall I am happy with this engine and there is a LOT of room for expanding and in real time, so that means easier to release updates and expansions. Imagine, being able to load those updates without any server downtime!
Is there anything else about Pumpkin Interactive and Pumpkin Online you would like to share with the GeekGirlCon community?
[Monique]: Pumpkin Online is large project; however we have been working very hard on it and we’re asking for the chance to possibly make this game a reality not only for us, but for all gamers everywhere. We’re open to any questions or concerns and anyone is free to send us a message via any of our social media. [Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, DeviantArt, YouTube]
At GeekGirlCon, we love to celebrate our various geekdoms. What geeky things do you do outside of game development?
[Monique]: Myself personally, I travel to anime and comic conventions and I do artist alley selling prints and buttons. I also have a webcomic. I love anime and playing video games. I used to play Dungeons and Dragons before I started devoting more time on my projects.
Thanks so much to Monique and Malik for taking time out of their weekend to discuss their game with me.
The developers of Pumpkin Online are located all over the United States, which means that supporting this project supports people who aren’t geographically in game industry-heavy areas.
In the Kickstarter FAQ, the possibility of the project’s flopping was addressed. We’ve all supported and been wholeheartedly behind awesome ideas that just never came to fruition. The team make-up is geared toward success, and they work with a partner who assists, but is not directly involved. The studio isn’t promising impossible deadlines, and has the mantra, “Take our time and keep working at it until it’s done.” And over half the staff have Game Design degrees, giving them a firm basis in game design.
The Kickstarter is to get the game to its beta release. In the end, Pumpkin Online is looking to release a single-purchase game in the $30 – $50 range, with further support being made by in-game purchases, and single-purchase expansions.
Monique had a few final words for our community:
“As a lady myself I just want to encourage other girls to not just take a back-seat in the games industry or the comics industry. We need to get out there and get involved.”
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.
In the famous movie The Last Unicorn, the protagonist goes on a quest to discover whether or not there are other unicorns in the world. Though a multitude of her fellow magical creatures do exist, she is made to believe she is the only one left, causing her great loneliness and concern.
Much like the unicorn in the film, it can often feel difficult for female geeks to find and meet others like them. There are countless strong, self-identified geek girls and women, as well as communities that support them, but naysayers can make it seem otherwise sometimes.
To combat the myth that female geeks don’t exist, writer Terra Clarke Olsen created The Unicorn Files. Through this project, she and photographer Nate Watters speak with and take pictures of geek girls and women. Each interview and image allows participants to represent themselves and their geekdoms exactly how they’d like — through their own words, with pictures of their various collections, clothing, dwellings, and anything else that makes them feel empowered in their geekiness.
We chatted with Terra to get the inside scoop on The Unicorn Files, so even more people will be aware of it (and can get involved!) and the fact that yes, females geeks do exist!
GeekGirlCon: What are you favorite geeky fandoms, and how do you participate in or express your passion for them?
Terra Clarke Olsen: In a traditional sense, my favorite geeky fandoms would include Tolkien, Marvel, Sci-Fi, and gaming. I always enjoy meeting fellow nerds who share a passion for the same things as myself—it creates an instant bond, regardless of other beliefs of interests. If someone points out that they like my Middle Earth leggings, I’m going to assume that they have good taste, haha. But honestly, I mostly like to geek out with my family. Growing up, many of my friends didn’t like the same things as me, so I’ve always been content getting nerdy with my family (all nerds). From making board games a priority to encouraging the collecting of silver and golden age comics, my family has been a big influence on my personal brand of geekdom. Nowadays, I express my passion for geeky interests in a more…elaborate way. Being an “adult” means you get to do things your own way, a privilege I practice frequently (e.g. I bought an arcade game that now resides in my dining room.)
Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when the first inkling for this project sparked?
There wasn’t so much of a spark as much as kindling that slowly grew. Over a year ago, when the whole “fake girl” debacle was getting really heated, I was reading a lot of women’s opinions on the subject matter. All great pieces, but words can only do so much. I thought it would be great to have a way to show, in a very personal way, how women are very much a strong and important aspect to the geek community. I kept throwing this idea out there (usually in frustration, after reading another instance of male geeks denying lady geeks exist), when my husband finally was like, “you just need to make this project happen!” So I contacted my good friend and talented photographer, Nate Watters, to see if he would be interested in creating this project with me. He was into it, so here we are!
What is the mission of The Unicorn Files?
The Unicorn Files aims to show that female geeks exist, one geek at a time. We strive to capture the diverse body of female geeks by featuring individual geeky women, giving women in the community a chance to tell their story.
Who was your very first interview/photography session with, and what did you learn from that experience?
Our first model was my dear friend Meg Humphrey. I’d mentioned the idea to her and she loved it, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to photograph her and share her story (which is a beautiful one, I might add). Honestly we had it easy with Meg since our rapport is so great, and she has such a wonderful and bubbly personality. What I did learn was that even the most outgoing people can be shy in front of the camera. Meg definitely had her shy moments, but as she became more comfortable with a camera in her face and me fiddling with her clothes, she loosened up and let her personality shine through. I’ve learned that my job/challenge to is ensure that each woman is comfortable with us and the process to ensure that we capture the real them. If we do that, then I feel like we have done them and the project justice.
Do you find that some people are nervous or shy at first upon getting involved with the project, especially the photography aspect of it? If so, how do you work with them to make them feel comfortable and confident?
Yes! A lot of women are shy in front of the camera (some women have refused to volunteer that I’ve reached out to because they don’t want their photo taken, while others have written in saying that they hate having their photo taken but they love the project so they want to make that jump). That is one reason we photograph women in their homes, we want to ensure that they are in an environment that is comfortable and safe – I think this helps a lot. In addition, we spend extra time letting women loosen up to get use to having a giant camera in their face….that and I often jump around and make faces like an idiot, hahaha. I can’t help making faces though, I’m very animated by nature. We also show them pictures as we go so they can see how wonderful they look! I think once they see that they look beautiful and that we’re really there to capture them, they become more comfortable.
Have you faced any challenges with the project so far? If so, what have they been like, and what have you learned from them?
Yes! Time and money. We got a lot of volunteers who wanted to be photographed who are not in the Northwest. At first I thought it might be possible to take a few trips to capture these women, but as time went on, it became more apparent that this wasn’t going to be possible (not yet, at least). Nate is a full time photographer with a busy schedule, and I have a full-time job (in addition to volunteer and freelance work), so we really have to be creative when scheduling these shoots.
In addition, it has been hard to find a diverse body of geeky women to volunteer to be photographed—this has been more challenging than I would have imagined, to be honest. Because the northwest is fairly white, many of the volunteers have been white women. Obviously their voices and opinions matter, but it wouldn’t do the project or the community justice to just give these women a voice. So I have been trying to reach out to more people to see if they know anyone who is not white in the area that would be interested in volunteering to be photographed. Another challenge has been finding older women to volunteer. Again, I want to make sure the project stays true to its mission, and I can’t achieve this by only showing 20 year olds (not that 20 year olds don’t matter!). At the same time, I want people to volunteer organically whenever possible. I love getting emails from women I don’t know or have any connection with saying they want to volunteer — that is the best! Hopefully with more exposure and more people learning about the project, more women will feel comfortable volunteering.
What kind of feedback have you received from viewers of the project? How about from those who have modeled and been interviewed for the project?
So far, the photographs we’ve taken have not been available to the public. We liked the images so much that we’ve decided to launch a Kickstarter later this year so we can self publish the collection into a book (look for it mid-September!). However, we’ve received really great responses regarding our tumblr, where we post images that women send in to us, along with their bio (which I create from a questionnaire I have them fill out) and a quote. I’ve heard from models and the women who have submitted their photos online that they are excited about the project and love learning about other geeky women.
Has your vision for this project changed at all since you started it?
My vision remains the same — give other women in the community a voice. But now, I am more determined to find a way to continue the project so we can photograph people all over the US and world! I realize that this may be a bit ambitious, but I don’t think the true mission of The Unicorn Files will be completely fulfilled until women from all over have a chance to be photographed in a meaningful way.
What do you hope people will take away from The Unicorn Files overall — both its readers and its models?
When reading The Unicorn Files, I hope that people realize that geeky women are NOT unicorns. We exist and are a big part of the community (and care deeply about it, I might add). Our voices matter.
Thanks so much for chatting with us here at GeekGirlCon, Terra, and for the fantastic work you’re doing for female geeks everywhere!
Want to learn more? Terra is appearing on a panel about the project at GeekGirlCon ‘14! Purchase your passes today to get in on the fun!
A long-time geek and feminist, Terra works for a mobile indiegaming company and writes for Seattle Weekly. She is the founder of Have You Nerd, a lady geek blog, and The Unicorn Files, a feminist project that highlights fellow geeky ladies. She loves helping people share their stories and giving others a voice. She has a BA from UCLA, and a MA in Medieval Studies from University of Toronto. Terra lives in Seattle with her husband, Randall, and two cats, Han and Chewie. Find her @terrasum.
It’s a truism among those of my friends who use OkCupid that if a guy fills up his “Favorites” section with Important Male Authors and Classic Dude Rock, it’s a red flag. You’ll probably spend the first date listening to his Deep Thoughts, and if he doesn’t bail when he hears you have every Tori Amos album, it’s probably only so that he can show you the error of your ways.
Similarly, when magazines and websites publish lists of “100 books to read before you die,” they’re overwhelmingly male. (And white, but that’s a topic that deserves its own post. Typically, Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Toni Morrison are allowed into the hallowed halls, so the list-makers can say they did their due diligence.)
Let’s have a quick overview, shall we? (I did the counts here by eye, so I may have missed one or two, but they’re generally accurate.)
Modern Library’s 100 Best Books clocks in at 91% male for the board’s list, and 87% male for the readers’ list (seemingly because their readers have an objectivist streak, and filled the top 10 with Ayn Rand).