Category Archives: fandom

NOCs (Nerds of Color)[Essay]

By Guest Contributor Bao Phi, originally posted at the Star Tribune Your Voices Blog

I’ve told this story a million times: when I was young, my father kept me off the streets and saved much needed money buying me the toys I wanted by getting me a library card and teaching me to walk to the Franklin Avenue library, and there began my love of books and stories.

What I’ve written less about is the books I gravitated towards: books about mythological monsters, Greek gods and heroes, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Lord of the Rings, my older sister’s Elfquest collection and X-men comic books.  And the secret of many a nerd of color from the ‘hood: my lifelong devotion with role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, and Vampire: the Masquerade (making vampire fixations embarrassing long before Stephanie Meyer).

Although I had friends in and out of the neighborhood who were also nerds, it definitely wasn’t typical.  I remember one of my fellow nerds of color inviting me to a Rifts game in a tough tone of voice as if he was initiating me into a gang, all the while looking around nervously as if his street cred would be in serious jeopardy if anyone overheard him talking about how much SDC a Glitterboy had.

Nowadays of course, being a nerd can mean big money.  Everything from Tolkien to comic books to video games is finding its way into mainstream America’s fast food blood stream.  Along with it seems to be the rebellious streak that goes along with being the kid who gets picked on for knowing how to write in Tolkien’s Dwarven – a certain righteousness about being the odd person out, the strange smug martyrdom that comes from knowing that painting miniatures and possessing a dice bag marked you as being a freak and an outsider.

But then how do nerds of color like me fit in, and how do we deal with fellow nerds who don’t want to talk about things like race and class in comic books, video games, role playing games, and movies?   I’ll be the first to admit, I got into all of that stuff for the escapism it allowed.  It was invaluable to me, as a refugee from a war growing up in an economically poor urban area, to fantasize that I was someone else, somewhere else.  I’d rather be a paladin with a war horse riding to battle a chimera than be the Vietnamese ghetto refugee nerd running from the dudes on my block who tried to jump me on my way to and from CUHCC clinic to get my teeth cleaned.

Continue reading

Is Star Trek Exposing Your Latent Racial Issues?

by Latoya Peterson

I came across this gem while browsing the Hathor Legacy.  Blogger Ankhesen Mié has been watching the debate on fan forums about the Trek reboot (specifically the Spock-Uhura relationship) and decided to create a quiz around some of the most common sentiments:

1)    Do you feel horrified when you see Spock kiss a woman who looks like Uhura, and don’t know why?

2)    Do you look at Zoe Saldana and feel you “just can’t trust her” but can’t say why?

3)    Do you think Uhura’s not a very feminine character, but just can’t say why?

4)    Would you prefer Spock to be with Christine Chapel over Uhura?

5)    Do you think the Spock/Uhura relationship—in the story—is controversial because of Uhura?

6)    Do you consider yourself a “die-hard” Trek fan but still don’t agree with the pairing?

7)    Have you watched all things Trek—shows, films, interviews, etc. pertaining to this cast—and still think this pairing “came out of nowhere”?

8)    Do you think the kissing was “just wrong” and that Zachary Quinto was hurt by the writers? Continue reading

Comic-Books & Race ’09 Part 1: Open Thread

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

StormTChalla1

Seemingly lost amid the news of Disney’s acquisition of Marvel Comics was this post by Marvel Executive Editor Tom Breevort, where a question about non-American comic-book leads yielded this rather candid response:

Because we’re an American company whose primary distribution is centered around America, the great majority of our existing audience seems to be white American males. So while within that demographic you’ll find people who are interested in a wide assortment of characters of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, whenever your leads are white American males, you’ve got a better chance of reaching more people overall.

Boom! Studios head Mark Waid commented on the issue at Comic Book Resources:

In the original post, Tom makes it abundantly clear that he’s not sure he has an answer, isn’t sure he knows THE answer, but that he’s hazarding a guess. And while Tom’s syntax following that is a little blunt…man, I wish it were wrong, but it’s not. Every comics publisher ever, including BOOM!, can tell you maddening tales of retailers who, even now, in the 21st century, are hesitant to order books with non-white, non-American leads because their community won’t support them. It’s absurd, it’s crazy-making, I don’t know what it’s going to take to change that other than time…but like it or not, it is an unfortunate truth of the time in which we live.

Needless to say, there’s a few layers to this discussion. But rather than try to wrap it all up into one post, I figured we’d start by getting your take on the matter. Is it a matter of “not supporting” POC superheroes, or the industry that creates them? Is it a case of creative and business inertia? What do you think?

Notes from a Con [Series Introduction - Race and Otakudom]

by Latoya Peterson

While Arturo was gearing up for Comic-Con, and Joe hung out at the Asian American Comic Con, I spent the weekend at Otakon.

Stepping off the bus near the Convention Center, I felt myself involuntarily break into a smile. Neko ears, Naruto headbands and wings galore. For three days, the Baltimore Harbor area transforms into planet anime, and you never really know what you’ll catch out of the corner of your eye.

The locals tend to be amused. As I was walking down the street, a woman rolled down her window and hollered at the boy in front of me. “Excuse me – what’s going on here? Is it a Harry Potter convention?”

“What? No!” he said with a pained voice, pulling his Ichigo Kurosaki costume tighter around his thin brown frame.

I couldn’t help myself. I laughed. Continue reading

Pop Mythology, Buying and Selling: A Report from the First Asian American Comic Con

by Guest Contributor Joesph Shahadi, originally published at Vs. the Pomegranate

On my way out the door to attend the first-ever Asian American Comic Con in New York City last week I turned on the TV to keep my (awesome, but needy) dog company and suddenly my apartment was filled with the Owen Wilson/Jackie Chan vehicle Shanghai Noon. I averted my eyes (I can’t look at Owen Wilson’s face… I am sure he is a nice person who loves his mom but his nose, with its various planes and levels, is like an SAT math question). I changed the channel but not before Wilson could point that dodecahedron at the camera and say “She’s not the killer. She’s just a very, very, very, hot confused Chinese girl.” I looked at the dog and said, “Boy, these personal ads just write themselves, don’t they?” The dog gave me nothing so I settled on a soothing infomercial about mineral-based makeup, and left for the Con. But the random intrusion of that orientalist/sexist joke was a weird preface to the rest of the afternoon.

The Asian American Comic Con was presented by Secret Identities Media (the folks who gave us Secret Identities: the Asian American Superhero Anthology), The Asian American Writers workshop, Greg Pak’s Asianamericancomics.com and the Museum of Chinese in America, in whose beautiful new building the event was held. While it was modest compared to the San Diego Comic Con International, which has become the mother ship of pop culture, the first year of the AACC was impressive in its scope. The Con was designed along three separate workshop tracks: “Reading Comics”, “Making Comics”, and the “Spotlight Track”, which featured comic book industry professionals like Pak, Khoi Phan, Larry Hama and others. Organizing the event this way acknowledges that comic books have become a force in setting trends for mainstream pop culture and in a more academic sense, as models for looking at stuff like ethnic representations in popular media. According to the program, “ You might want to think of the ‘con’ as representing not ‘convention’, but ‘conference’—or even ‘conversation.’” Hmm. Interesting. Continue reading

“From the Wilds of America” – Analyzing the Idea of “British Colonial America” in Steampunk [Essay]

by Guest Contributor Ay-leen the Peacemaker, originally published at Tales of the Urban Adventurer

    “In the colonies the truth stood naked, but the citizens of the mother country preferred it with clothes on.”- Jean-Paul Sartre


Prologue

When I first became interested in steampunk last year, I posed a question to one of my friends.

Me: “So… I was wondering about steampunk, where does colonialism fit in?”

Friend: “Colonialism? Like in the Colonies?”

Me: “Like being from the colonies.”

Friend: “Oh, you can do that. They’re different types of subgenres in steampunk, and it can take place in America.”

Pause right there. I wasn’t referring to America. Or was I? Yes, my friends and I are from the US and steampunks, and most identify our personas as being from the “Colonies.” Yet their idea of what the Colonies represented in steampunk—aka an alternative America that was still under control of the British Empire during the Victorian Era—and my interpretation of the colonies—aka the actual ones that had existed during the Victorian Era—were vastly different. Which leads to the questions I’d like to explore here. Why is the concept of the United States as a colonized America so appealing to steampunks? Is this notion damaging to steampunks of color (SoCs), whose histories are negatively intertwined with the realities of colonialism? Does the idea of a colonial America promote or denounce the imperialism that existed during the Age of Empire?
Continue reading

Racialicious is going to Comic-Con!


By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

comicconlogo1

It’s official: yours truly will be part of the press corps at fandom’s biggest media expo – San Diego Comic-Con.

The full schedule isn’t out yet, but already on my agenda are:

* The panel showcasing The Last Airbender
* The “smaller” panel for the show that built a Roundtable, Heroes
* I’ll be doing my damndest to track down and talk to POC talent and fandom
* Usually there’s a POC-specific panel during the weekend, so I’ll be there, as well.

Anybody else going? Perhaps we can do a get-together, show LDP and the 212 crew how a meet-up can be done with a West Coast style, hmmmm?

The Intersection of Race and Steampunk: Colonialism’s After-Effects & Other Stories, from a Steampunk of Colour’s Perspective [Essay]

by Guest Contributor (and regular commenter) Jha

Steampunk! Variously described as an aesthetic, a genre within scifi/fantasy that sprouted from cyberpunk, and a subculture vaguely related to the goth counter-culture. Like many other things with vague origins and a tenuous identity that overlaps with others, it is hard to pin down what steampunk is.

The only that we can all seem to agree on is the aesthetic involved. In a way, it’s a lot like the SCA’s medieval roleplaying, trying to recreate the past with all the good stuff and none of the bad. For other steampunks, it’s a lifestyle movement, in which they transform practical items into works of art and live their lives with exquisite manners.

Here’s a good summary of the literary genre stemming from the 1980s, written by Lavie Tidhar. Cory Gross of Voyages Extraordinaire has a very comprehensive history, delving deep into not just the literary but also the film aspect of the aesthetic before the actual term was used and the evolution of the movement afterwards in literature, RPGs, graphic novels, anime and the general subculture afterward. In Steampunk Magazine’s first issue, the essay “What Then, Is Steampunk? Colonizing the Past so we can Dream the Future”, stridently declares, “First and foremost, steampunk is a non-luddite critique of technology. It rejects the ultra-hip dystopia of the cyberpunks—black rain and nihilistic posturing—while simultaneously forfeiting the ‘noble savage’ fantasy of the pre-technological era. It revels in the concrete reality of technology instead of the over-analytical abstractness of cybernetics” (4).

Steampunks express themselves with Victorian-inspired clothing (or costumes). Goggles, chains and pocketwatches are typical gear for a steampunk. Steampunk styles range from fastidiously neat (streamlined, heavy clothes typical of Victorian aristocracy/middle-class, e.g. anarchronaut) to greasemonkey bricolage (dreadlocks, the ‘airship pirate’ look, merging with more ‘mainstream’ punk fare, e.g. Abney Park). For a sense of the visual aesthetic, one should look to the 1999 movie Wild Wild West (although it’s a terrible movie) and the graphic novel League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore. Cory Gross discusses the two ends of the Steampunk spectrum in his essay “Varieties of Steampunk Experience”: Nostalgic Steampunk, which idealizes the Victorian era as it should have been, and the Melancholic Steampunk, which focuses on the gritty reality of the Victorian era, bringing to the fore the dirt and soot and grime (60 – 63). Japan has its own steampunk movement, the most cited example of its technology-focused aesthetic can be seen in the anime Steamboy. (I’m not going to touch Japanese steampunk in this article.)

Steampunk is still an emergent subculture, gaining ground fast with its DIY creativity and elegant nostalgia. Stephen H. Segal has a cute article on why steampunk is considered friendly, even optimistic despite drawing inspiration from what was a very oppressive era. As a genre that’s in its adolescence, the rules (if indeed any counter-culture has rules) haven’t been set in stone. But it’s getting attention anyway: the New York Times did an article on steampunk fashion last year.

This is where being a Steampunk of Colour comes in. Continue reading