“I’m going to address the elephant in the room,” Carolyn Noe said. “I do not have binders for you all.”
So began the Leslie Knope Guide to Geek Activism panel.
“I’m going to address the elephant in the room,” Carolyn Noe said. “I do not have binders for you all.”
So began the Leslie Knope Guide to Geek Activism panel.
The fourth member of our Voice of a Hero panel was one that I was particularly interested in listening to at GeekGirlCon ‘17. Kimberly Brooks, whose voiceover work you’ll hear just about everywhere, shared with us her years of experience working on everything from Rugrats, to Bioshock Infinite and Voltron. A fan of hers myself, I was ecstatic to cover her personal Q&A at the convention.
Kimberly was really shy growing up, and faced a pretty rough period during her childhood. It was her 5th grade teacher that really helped spark her creativity. She had a small puppet theater set up in her classroom, and Kimberly started voicing all of the puppets in her own little shows. After listening, her teacher invited Kimberly to audition for the children’s theater. They were putting on Alice in Wonderland.
She gave Kimberly the confidence to believe in herself, and like all creatives eventually do, that’s how she got the bug.
She did the children’s theater, and later moved on to a good high school in LA with a pretty stellar theater department. She was in Sweeney Todd, she played Mrs. Lovett. It was a great experience where she learned different aspects of production, like directing.
As some of you already know, I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. I had been eagerly awaiting the GGC’17 Looking for Leia panel since I first read about it while helping edit the con’s program booklet. The panel highlighted filmmaker Annalise Ophelian’s six-episode docu-series Looking for Leia about women of the Star Wars fandom. The panelists included Annalise herself, along with droid-builder Christina Cato, Rebel Legion member Pat M. Yulo, physician and starwars.com writer Linda Hansen-Raj, fanfiction author and cosplayer Maggie Nowakowska, and KUOW reporter Jamala Henderson.
I should be fanning myself, really, as I recollect Fryda Wolff’s Q&A at GeekGirlCon ‘17. So buckle up guys, because I’m about to reiterate why her panel was one of my absolute favorites at the convention, and how Fryda easily became one of my top girl crushes of all time (nice and snug between Maggie Stiefvater and Danai Gurira).
GeekGirlCon was Fryda’s first ever convention as a voice actor, and we couldn’t have felt more honored or humble to have her with us. She was a force to be reckoned with, whose voice didn’t demand but immediately earned my absolute attention when I first heard her speak during the Voice of a Hero panel the day before. Her confidence was intoxicating, and made live-tweeting her panel almost impossible, as nearly everything she said was a quote that could be used to inspire the masses. She was truly amazing, and was eager to share her experience getting started in gaming and how that got her into voice acting.
While Fryda began her voiceover journey in 2013, that’s not where her career in gaming started.
She graduated high school a year early, in fact, the week she turned 17. She wanted to be a campaign manager back then, and didn’t have a clue how far from that she’d end up (although it did play a pretty big role in how she got there).
Even though Fryda ended up in the gaming industry, it wasn’t until high school when she got her first PC. She then dubbed herself a PC gamer, and got really into Blizzard (because I swear, all us cool kids started our Blizzard phase when we should have been studying). The interest sort of sparked from there, she really loved to game. “This is what happens when you don’t let your kids do things,” Fryda joked. Gaming wasn’t something she did a lot growing up, so the infatuation was serve. It was fun and exciting.
…and then it just happened.
Sony was hosting an event in Vegas, Fryda’s home town. The event was supposed to host about a thousand people, but unfortunately the venue could barely hold two hundred and fifty. She put that prior interest in campaign management to work and did something about it. She started organizing people, and eventually ushered those who couldn’t get in to all meet at a nearby GameWorks.
Long story short, someone from Sony hunted her down and nonchalantly asked “do you want a job?”
Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Representation of Asians in Film, TV, and Gaming was the first con panel I ever attended, so when I heard they were bringing it back for a fourth edition, I was thrilled.
This year’s #GGCPandas included archeologist-turned-illustrator-and-costume-designer Meris Mullaley, former Japan-based sports journalist and current writer, baker, and cosplayer Tony Loiseleur, GGC Twitter Administrator and self-proclaimed media binger Kristine Hassell, blogger and gamer Sonja Marcus, and former Virginia Tech professor and current video game creator and GGC Manager of Editorial Services JC Lau.
One of my favorite things about GeekGirlCon is the way provides a space to critique the media we love and discuss how it could be made better. The Do Black Heroes Matter? panel was a perfect example of this. The panelists included writer, filmmaker, performer, and self-described hater on twitter Isabella L. Price, writer and GeekGirlCon twitter administrator Kristine Hassell, and tech professional and self-described Superpowered Diva of Dopeness Risha K.
Isabella set the panel’s tone in her introduction when she explained that this was the panelists’ third time doing this panel and said, tongue-in-cheek, that, “this is old hat. We’ve already solved racism; this is just a refresher course.” Once the introductions were done, she went on to dedicate the panel to Darrien Hunt, a twenty-two year old black man who was shot and killed by police in 2014 while cosplaying as Mugen from Samurai Champloo. Police saw him as a threat, she explained, which is one of the reasons why the fight for representation is so important.
Going into my second Con as both an attendee and a copywriter, I was incredibly excited to attend the panel “¿Como Se Dice ‘Nerd’?” Last year, this panel was without a doubt one of the highlights of my entire convention experience, and this year proved to be no different. Moderated by Sylvia Artiga, a writer and the creator and manager of ¿Cómo Se Dice Nerd?, an online spaced dedicated to celebrating Latinx nerds and their contribution to art, music, and pop culture, the panel explored the fraught yet joyous intersection of Latinidad and geekdom. Artiga’s fellow panelists included Tristan J. Tarwater, a prolific comic and fantasy writer, Isabel Ann Castro, an illustrator who acts as co-founder and art director for St. Sucia, an international Latinx art and literature zine, and organizer for the San Anto Zine Fest, and Joamette Gil, an illustrator, cartoonist, curator, podcaster and publisher.
The panel was guided by a variety of questions surrounding creativity, community, and identity. How does language, nationality, race, and history influence the way Latinx nerds interact with fandoms, hobbies, and geekery in general? What are some of the works or places that make Latinx nerds feel welcome and represented and what feels isolating? How can geeky interests be used to confront issues of colorism, colonialism, and culture clashes in the Latinx community?
The beginning of the panel focused on introducing the panelists, a diverse group of self-identifying Latinx nerds from a wide variety of backgrounds. The panelists immediately reflected on the difficulty of the time in which the panel was taking place. This year, the convention took place during the utter devastation of Hurricane Maria, and the ensuing governmental and aid response (or lack thereof). Artiga and her fellow panelists noted that it was a “heavy time” for the Latinx community, and that GeekGirlCon provided an opportunity for those carrying so much stress and heartache to still recognize how much they simultaneously deserve joy and fun.
The panelists then highlighted some of the ways in which their geekery interacted – and often clashed – with their Latinx identity growing up. As fledgling nerds within a Latinx community, the touchstones of nerd culture that they loved were often seen as “American” (read: white), leaving the panelists in a difficult position in which “American-ness” was both venerated and discouraged. As Tarwater pointed out, “the whiter you acted, the better you could do,” highlighting pressure from within the Latinx community to comply with the forces of assimilation in order to get by. Artiga underscored this point, noting that there is a “painful and complicated narrative of passing into ‘Americanness.’” Ultimately, many of the lessons that the panelists absorbed growing up played into the false narrative that if marginalized people play by the rules of assimilation they will succeed and be accepted. Part of their individual and collective activism lies in recognizing the damage of this narrative, making sure that the Latinx community knows that it doesn’t “have to play the game anymore,” and creating new spaces for Latinx people to thrive without having to adhere to the strictures of a white, capitalistic, colonialist society.
In order to create these spaces, the panelists spoke about the crucial importance of the internet as a tool for communicating, collaborating, sharing work, finding your voice, finding an audience, and, ultimately, expressing yourself independently and authentically. In this way, Latinx creators can push for their own representation, creating media that speaks to their experiences far more directly than anything in the mainstream. The internet also tends to have a snowball effect, creating large-scale change out of small-scale projects and mobilizing people around common goals and experiences. To this end, the panelists highlighted the hashtag #latinxscreate, which provides one such space to share and celebrate Latinx work that is also inclusive of the Black community.
The panel moved on to a discussion of the challenges facing Latinx nerds and how to face them. The panelists noted how much guilt can be involved in the process of creation for Latinx individuals – a sense that pursuing their passions means betraying both their community and their ancestors. They reflected on the importance of being self-centered rather than selfish, of paying attention to what you are and what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt others. They spoke of the fact that guilt will inevitably crop up, but alongside it there must be space for a reclamation of happiness and joy, and a recognition that incredible suffering has occurred in the hopes of building a better future.
The panelists then offered a few examples of great representation of Latinx identity within mainstream media, such as characters from “Jane the Virgin” and Cisco from “The Flash,” as well as the re-vamped America comics from Marvel. Alongside these positive representations, the panelists also expressed uncertainty about Claire Temple from “Luke Cage” and frustration over the fact that white brunette actors are often substituted for Latinx characters and that Afro-Latinx women are usually cast as Black characters. Because of the disappointing nature of so much media representation of Latinx identity, many of the panelists spoke about purposefully avoiding content that promises Latinx characters in the understandable fear that they won’t deliver. The representation that is necessary is of Latinx characters as authentic, well-rounded, diverse people – a low bar, but one that mainstream media all too often fails to meet.
The panel concluded with a question and answer period. One attendee reflected on the fact that too many Latinx characters are written by white people and the result is almost uniformly terrible. They wondered where consumers should be looking right now to nurture Latinx creators. In response, the panelists pointed to the aforementioned #latinxscreate hashtag along with the #comesedicenerd hashtag as valuable resources, as well as the power of writing and creating for yourself. They noted that it’s important for Latinx creators to allow themselves space to fail and get it wrong, but that putting their work out their is too important to stay silent out of fear.
Another attendee asked about Latinx-owned businesses to support, to which the panelists noted that many creators at the Con itself were incredible and more than worthy of support. They also highlighted zine fests, creator Patreon pages, and the importance of supporting friends and utilizing community resources, as well as prioritizing money to support independent creators of color. One of the final questions centered around “passing privilege” as a light-skinned Latinx person, and wondered how they could interact within Latinx spaces without bulldozing and taking advantage of their privilege. In response, Artiga noted that “there is space for people to be the scaffolding and make the space” for others to speak, to provide crucial behind-the-scenes support and signal boosting and to use privilege and the energy that privilege provides to call out racism and prejudice where those with less privilege might feel unable to. Ultimately, the panelists also emphasized the fact that light-skinned Latinxs are “part of the story too,” and have an importance space within the larger fight for greater representation of the incredibly diverse Latinx community.
This panel was thought-provoking, beautiful, and an important reminder of the power that creators have when nurtured by an inclusive and committed community. Here’s hoping that the panel will be back to provide additional insight and inspiration at this year’s Con!
(Also, a reminder that, more than three months after Hurricane Maria, nearly half of Puerto Rico’s residents still do not have power and the devastation from the hurricane (and the lack of an adequate governmental response) means that attention and support is as necessary as ever. Alongside supporting Puerto Rican creators, please consider checking out the following links and directly contributing to disaster relief efforts:)
No matter what holiday(s) you celebrate this time of year, we all love to give something back to the people in our lives. Gifts that show our geeks that we care—that we support their interests and passions and love what makes them unique.
For many, this past year has presented difficult trials, and we will continue to conquer them in 2018. These trials will never dull or cease, but we should step back and look to our friends and family, to those who inspire us most. We need to look to our artists, who bring color into our lives. Our dreamers, who show us how magical each day can be. Our philosophers, who challenge what the world should be. And our scientists, who push the boundaries. The geeks in our lives deserve something special, a little something to express our love as we end 2017 and look beyond.
Without further ado, here is the GGC Gift Guide 2017:
Beautiful, yes, but what makes these journals from Raven + Lily an amazing gift? They were handcrafted by artisans at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in Northern India. Raven + Lily works to empower women by employing artisans who otherwise had difficulty finding work, so that they can earn an income to support their families and community. I’d highly recommend taking a look at their mission statement and values while you scroll through their stunning pieces.
I came across this doll while watching Youtuber Jessica Kelgren-Fozard’s October Favorites video. Mia is a Wildlife Photographer. Inspired by a real nine-year-old girl, the description on the back of the box reads: From birds and butterflies to all kinds of creepy-crawlies, I’m just mad about wildlife. Everywhere I go, I carry my camera with me. Because who knows when—or where—a brilliant photo opportunity will pop up? A beautiful photo can tell its own story. I hope that my pictures will inspire other children to love wildlife as much as I do and to take good care of this wonderful planet of ours! Mia also has a cochlear implant, and it’s just a part of what makes her unique.
I started reading Darling a few years back myself, and I can’t sing enough praises for the magazine. Darling is self-proclaimed as “the art of being a woman,” but what initially caught my eye is that they are very vocal about not using Photoshop or other editing programs to alter women’s bodies and faces. The photographs used are beautiful and raw images of very real women. It focuses on a handful of women each issue and discusses their creativity and careers in a positive, supportive, and intellectual light.
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.
I’m so glad I did.
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.