The Art of Becoming: a Fanfiction Journey

Apparently, we’re having another round of “that’s just fanfiction.” Implying that fanfiction is below prowriting quality standards and should be dismissed, and that if you want to insult a prowriting piece, just call it fanfiction.

Xena and Gabrielle and fanfic

Xena and Gabrielle are a very popular fanfic pairing.

For those that live under rocks, fanfiction or fanfic is a derivative work of another creator, usually created out of love for the original work. More often than not written for fun and just because. Fanfic is largely created by women for women. And fanfic is infamous for its explicitly erotic stories, which do constitute a significant portion, though not all fanfic. Erotic fanfic often falls into Rule 34: if you can think of it, there’s probably erotica/porn on the internet about it.

Works that can fall under fanfiction:

See what I did there. A lot of those are published books! A lot of them are famous and well-written! There are even whole sections of GoodReads devoted to stories declared rewritten fanfiction by readers.

I’d like to admit: I’ve written, read, and recommended a ton of fanfic. Continue reading

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Only Icebergs Know Their Depths

For a year I wrote obituaries for my hometown newspaper. There I learned one thing: if someone lives a great long life, don’t just remember their last few years, remember their entire life. Not just the times where they were ill, had lots of wrinkles, maybe watched too much Wheel of Fortune, or did the sanctioned things we allow our elderly to do. Don’t list their past times based on only classes they signed up for at the senior center.

Me and my Grandma

Grandma and me about 10 years ago at my cousin’s wedding.

My paternal grandma, Evelyn, passed away in the early am this Christmas at age 87. She’d received a terminal cancer diagnosis earlier this year, and after spending the year before battling breast cancer, she decided to enjoy her final days instead of going for a treatment that wasn’t likely to succeed. Grandma was able to live her final moments as she wanted: in her home and with her family. And I can’t help but wonder what the family will list as her hobbies and interests.

I hope they write about my Grandma’s travels. How age and the dreams of the travelers, who crashed at the bed and breakfast she and my Grandfather started after they retired, propelled her across the world. How she went to Scotland to seek out genealogy and relatives. How she discovered that there are 22 different spellings of our shared last name. How she saw castles while the rest of us stayed safely within the confines of Oregon.

When I was 12, my Grandmother took myself and my two cousins, Sean and Kristen, to Alaska. While it was the second time I’d flown, it was the first time I remembered being on a plane. My cousins and I looked out windows for mountain peaks and entertained ourselves by reading magazines. My Grandmother remained calm and nonplussed as we pinned flying wings on our lapels and met the pilot. When I travel for business, I imitate my Grandmother’s attitude about being on a plane and being on airports. It helps with the stories in my head.

In Alaska, we met and stayed with distant relatives Grandma had met on her dives into genealogy. We stayed up all night getting to know our relatives, but also unsure what time it was in the constant light of summertime in Alaska. Even our relatives laughed when they realized it was 2am and they still had neighbors over after a Club Scout meeting. Before we headed on in our itinerary, we met more distant family, and I remember the first thing that surprised Grandma about Alaska was finding out we had black relatives.

Grandma navigated our travels in Alaska as if she’d taken the holiday already once herself. She had maps and pre-made plans. This was before GPSs and when only early adopters had cell phones. But we made our way from town-to-town, and Grandma had used her bed and breakfast connections for the rest of our stays. The places were overly frilled with tacky wallpaper and pillowy beds. Pinks and blues and Victorian prints seemed a theme.

Before Alaska, I’d had my hair cut short. I wanted to look like Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but instead I sported the infamous bowl-cuts of the era. My hair matched my brother Jonathan’s and my cousin Sean’s. I was as tall as I am now and as thin as a beanpole. In Alaska, it seemed that girls and non-elderly women all had long hair. They had curves and fat, and I had none of these things. And when one odd, ginger B&B owner told my Grandma that the two twin boys could share the candy caned stripped room, I flushed with embarrassment, but my grandma, not for the first time, correct the man that I was a girl.

We went on a day cruise to see icebergs and whales. As we loaded the bus, it was clear my cousins and myself were the only ones under the age of 60 on the tour. A man started to comment on the twin boys, but then he shouted, “oh, one’s a girl” when he noticed I wore a white jersey dress with pink and blue striping. Though this may have given away my gender, it was not appropriate clothing for the deck of a ship near icebergs. But I didn’t care the moment I saw humpback whales.

My Grandma and I were never close. To say she didn’t get me was an understatement and perhaps I didn’t understand her that well either. She was like the icebergs we watched, barely peeking above the surface with more below we never saw. She seemed accepting of the hand that life dealt her, in a way I don’t think anyone born after World War II is. Practical to a fault. But I imagine there were many things she just chose not to say. My Grandfather may have died when I was four, but I always felt this specter of the patriarch lingering. And it wasn’t the huge portrait of him and my Grandma, in full McGillivray tartan regalia, hanging at the end of the darkened hallway. I often felt like an outsider in this no-nonsense place for boys: my father, three uncles, two brothers, four male cousins, and our grandfatherly ghost.

I visited my Grandma about two days before she died, and she asked me if I remembered playing with paper dolls at the B&B log cabin house. How I’d sit for hours, creating new fashions for the paper dolls of Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae. Dolls my Grandma had kept from her own youth and packed away for decades until her sons gave her five granddaughters. She seemed surprised that I remembered this and eager to connect over this feminine activity. Because even though she rejected it, my practical Grandma never realized just how much we’d both needed feminism and how we were just different failures of stereotypical femininity. I kind of wished we’d talked about Alaska and icebergs instead.

I remember lying in the upstairs loft in the log house, staring back at the heads of moose and deer lining the walls. Looking for hidden specters and creepy monsters, listening to the great clock ticking away all throughout the house. While it felt cabin-like, I’d never describe my Grandma’s log cabin as cozy or warm. There were drafts and the strict tidiness of always having guests. (Even after she sold the B&B, my Grandma’s house remained utilitarian and uncluttered.) Only at Christmas, when 20+ people arrived and my cousins and I tore through our gifts littering the place with wrapping paper and new toys did the log house become warm and full of life. Perhaps that was why Grandma chose Christmas Day to die.

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The Long-Term Brand Strategy Behind Duck Dynasty Firing

I’d never heard of the A&E show, Duck Dynasty, before this week. Before it cropped up in my Twitter feed that Phil Robertson, one of the show’s stars, was fired for being a homophobe, racist, and general loose cannon with journalists. My Twitter following seemed shocked and appalled that someone would be that much of a direct bigot. Facebook, on the other hand…

The Duck Dynasty family.

The Duck Dynasty family.

“Save Phil” campaigns popped up everywhere on Facebook. Many people cried freedom of speech. Since A&E is a business, not the US Government, Phil is not protected by the First Amendment. If I said similar horrible things, my employer would fire me too. (Especially that most employers have a non-discrimination policy and think of the LGBT people and people of color who work with Duck Dynasty.)

So what about this firing of Phil? I’ve heard some Duck Dynasty fans say the show will suffer, fans will withdraw, and the show will fail without Phil. My argument is that Phil’s firing is a long-term business, marketing, and branding strategy for A&E. Continue reading

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Unhappily Beautiful: How Body Shame Burned Me Out

I said nothing as the woman sitting across from me mused that shaving one’s legs in the sink was the ultimate defining moment of womanhood. Whose womanhood? Perhaps only her own, perhaps only the other socio-economically privileged, mostly white women present. Perhaps she thought this expression resonated with all of us or perhaps it was to separate the superior kind of woman she wanted us to be.

Warning: Reflections in this mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of beauty.

Society’s mirror is a false one.

With few exceptions, I try to only dig enough into other people’s own psychodramas to interact with them or make them characters in stories. But I can tell you this barrier she set up affected others; it affected me. It’s never a flaming sword of body hate. No, it’s just tiny little jabs collected over months of similar comments, environments, and messaging that eventually make you bleed, face-down on the ground.

I spent a whole half year unhappy with my wardrobe choices. Staring in a mirror of unhappiness. Nothing looked right, and I didn’t seem to own what I needed. Or it wasn’t clean. My mornings just dragged out longer than necessary. And no amount of shopping or wardrobe purging seemed to fix it.

Finally, my secret became that Jacob, my partner, started picking out my clothes for me. Most days at my behest. Continue reading

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Priority Item: Write

“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.” – Lawrence Kasdan

In the evenings, my partner Jacob often asks me the question, “Are you done yet?’ Usually, I’m knee-deep in a project, gazing at my true love: my laptop. More often than not that project is my writing. A never-ending project that on good days is a swirl of joy and on bad, a petulant child who won’t stop screaming. Or perhaps won’t start screaming if I’m blocked.

Writing is not my hobby. Photo modified from danoff.

Writing is not a hobby.

My writing is sadly what I save for those stolen moments. When my work inbox nears the mythical zero. When I’ve called my grandma, cleaned the house, made dinner, and finished watching all of Orange is the New Black. (Which is really good, by the way, go watch it.) When I’ve finished with all the other very important things that I also do truly care about.

At first, I thought I’d fallen into the procrastination trap. The I’ll do it later… But I know what that looks like, there’s a failure of launch. My mom is a self-described A+ procrastinator, and my harddrive doesn’t resemble her barely-started project remnants that have a room devoted to them. You procrastinate on your taxes or finally fixing that door that doesn’t shut right, not the thing you crave, the thing you dream about, the thing you roll melodramatically around in bed and tell your partner you’ll die without. You’ll fall over dead if you can’t write. You’ll come down with a cold if you don’t get out of bed right now and write. This is a scientific fact you’ve proven. Proven.

This is not procrastination.* Continue reading

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Visibility Conundrums of Being Queer

We're Queer, We're Here by Steve Rhodes

Look right behind you. :) Photo by Steve Rhodes.

I’ve been dating Jacob now for eight months, and as often happens when I’m dating someone who identifies as male, I think a lot about my visibility as a queer person. Dating Jacob has added another layer entirely, which is my visibility at work since he’s also a coworker.

Now many coworkers of mine have met my English girlfriend [name withheld due to privacy concerns], and they know of my pansexual polyamorous ways. However, when you work for a company and are employee #38, after one and half years, and now there’s 130 and counting Mozzers… maintaining visibility is even harder. Confounded by new people meeting me and Jacob as a couple. And these are the people that I spend the vast majority of my time with.

But let’s back up… Why do I care?

I truly believe that nothing has propelled change in attitudes about queer people more than visibility. More than celebrities, the average queer person standing up and saying, “I’m queer, and I am a person who deserves to be treated like a human being. Oh, yeah, I’m also someone you might care a little about as a human.”

I care alot about human rights and about equality. Statistics show that you’re more likely to support, like, and understand an oppressed minority group if you have a friend, family member, etc. who is from that group. This is pretty logical that you wouldn’t want harm to come to or happen to someone that you care about.

Interestingly enough, studies have also shown that this kind of visibility also works with representations in the media. Don’t know any queer people? Do you like Modern Family and like Mitch and Cam? Then it’s pretty close to knowing someone in real life.

I also believe in being a visible role model or at least a safe person for other queer people to talk to. Not everyone, unfortunately, can be out, and not everyone feels comfortable sharing about themselves. Continue reading

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For My Cousin, On Her 18th Birthday

Because you are awesome.

Happy 18th Birthday!

Dear Nikki,

As you turn 18, you make me feel both old and grateful I am not your age. I’m turning 30 this year, and having watched you grow up, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would say to my 18-year-old self. I’ve been thinking a lot about you and the changes that are approaching you in your life. I know we’re not the closest, and I am probably your “weird cousin” — I’m many people’s “weird ___” in our family — but here’s my unsolicited birthday advice for you as you head off on your next journey.

Go to college.

Seriously, just do it.

Do what you love.

When in college, don’t pick a major because that’s what will get you a job. Or that’s what your parents want you to do. Or that’s what your teachers think you’re good at. Or that’s what the cute boy’s majoring in. Instead, do what you love. Find something where your homework’s not work, that you can lose yourself in for hours, that you want to learn about outside the classroom, that you can “geek out” about anytime you’re prompted. Only you can find that.

You won’t know what you’re going to major in or what you’re going to do when you grow up.

And you’re not alone. When I was a college n00b, I thought I was the only one without a major, and then as a senior, I tutored a bunch of freshies. Not a single one really knew what they were going to major in. That’s okay. It’s also okay to not have a 5-year plan or know what you want to do when you grow up. It took me at least 2-3 years into my career before I found what I loved. Heck, my current career, as a community manager, didn’t even exist my first year of college, and the greater industry that I’m part of, just got started then.

Prepare to fight to do what you love.

Continue reading

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Sprinkles Around the Web: April 15th Edition

Sprinkles from around the web

I decided to add “equality” given that I do read a lot of articles with intersectionality that cover stopping a lot of -isms, and they are all equally important. As always, these are links that I found interesting and you might too.

Me

Books Nominated for 2013 Hugo Awards!
Woohoo! Chicks Unravel Time & Chicks Dig Comics were nominated for The Hugo Awards. Big congratulations to the editors, all the other writers, and everyone else involved in the production and love of these books. :)

Cute Animals

Black and White Friendship Story of a 4-Year-old Girl and Her Cat
Yep, pretty sure I was exactly like this with my cat as a child.

Entrepreneurship

The Skills Most Entrepreneurs Lack
Very interesting.

Equality

Donglegate: Why the Tech Community Hates Feminists
One of the best articles I’ve read about the larger messages and lessons from Donglegate.

How to talk about a woman’s looks
Yep, even President Obama messed this one up.

To my daughter (should I have one)
A lovely thought from my friend Susie. Continue reading

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Books Nominated for 2013 Hugo Awards!

Huzzah! Both Chicks Dig Comics and Chicks Unravel Time, which I contributed to, are nominated for Hugo Awards. Congratulations to the editors, all the writers, and to everyone else who also contributed to these books.

Ironically, both are nominated for the same award, in the Best Related Work category. Both are rad books and products of the love and hard work of everyone involved. I don’t think I’ll be making it out for the awards in person, but will be celebrating all the fun with everyone else online as they’ll be streaming it.

Buy Chicks Dig Comics and buy Chicks Unravel Time, and then you too can party along. ;)

Chicks Dig Comics and Unravel Time

Whoo! Both books nominated for Hugo Awards.

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How the Great Wall Mall Saved Me

Great Wall Mall

Black and white classes up the Great Wall Mall. Photo by Camknows.

My third week at my first job out of college was one of those rare Puget Sound days where it was actually hot. Our office was packed with everyone on the second floor, where the air didn’t move. There wasn’t air conditioning or, as I discovered in the winter, heat. And I had cramps. Not little ones, big ones.

I was ready to spork my lady parts.

The web team consisted of lots of men. Men who carried wallets, not purses, and didn’t care or wanted to pretend to live in a world without periods. I didn’t know anyone in the other departments, which had women in them. I only new the web team and developers. Surrounded on all sides by a sausage fest.

I turned to my skill set, and I googled for the nearest Safeway. Even though I didn’t know the area, it was close enough. Only really two turns. I didn’t know where the printer was. I still don’t know if I would’ve had access to it anyway.

So I made a mental note — I’m not sure I even had notepaper — and took off in my ’83 Volvo that liked to stall out at stop lights.

This was the first time I’d left the office since I started. Continue reading

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