Digital Femme

Commentary on geek culture, race, and gender by Cheryl Lynn Eaton

Rinse and retweet.

April 23rd, 2014

The new Twitter design is ghastly and is determined to stamp out a user’s unique design sensibilities. I hate it. Having forced its preferred blue color scheme on all users, I have to wonder how Twitter’s design will be welcomed by companies that have linked their popular products to particular colors—such as Mattel’s trademarked pink—especially when those colors quite clearly clash with Twitter’s chosen hues.

If an average Jane such as myself is annoyed at the loss of her preferred color scheme, I can only image how marketing reps overseeing carefully constructed brands must feel.

Try again.

April 15th, 2014

One thing many would be surprised to know about me is that I am irritatingly organized. For those who would like nothing more than for someone else to handle the details, I am a blessing. For those who are equally meticulous, I am an ally. And for those poor scatterbrained souls who adamantly refuse to relinquish control and just let me organize their lives—for the love of God—I am a fearful apparition who could appear at any moment clutching a fistful of papers while screaming, “How can you live like this?”

And yet I was always fearful of finance. I’d happily organize receipts, but was terrified of filing a tax return. Investments? No, thank you. I’ll stick with a simple savings account. Math is hard.

Bull. Who knew that a low-level obsession with minutiae could make one financially savvy? And here I thought my strange quirk only helped my way with words. So often women are ushered into what is deemed appropriate for the “fairer sex,” are told to let men handle the serious issues. And yet we are more than capable of handling those issues ourselves. We are simply afraid to try.

I was afraid to try, but quickly realized being afraid of something one is already knee-deep in is extremely dangerous. The greater the level of panic, the greater the potential to screw things up. Keep a level head. Relax.


Instead of letting fears of ending up a destitute spinster freeze me in place, I did some research, took a deep breath, took stock of my future, and opened up a brokerage account. Yeah, I know most of you are rolling your eyes. Big deal. Well, it’s big to me and I’ll celebrate it, thank you! It’s another step towards a different life—and a different way of looking at it.

Anyway, I promised I’d keep the real estate and finance talk to a minimum—and I plan to save for this quick tooting of a horn.


After the party it’s the hotel lobby.

April 13th, 2014

The Grand Hyatt—can we please talk about the Grand Hyatt for a minute?

Like every other lazy person who attended Emerald City Comicon, I wanted to stay at the Sheraton. Who doesn’t want to stay at the Sheraton? While its dated design and limited accoutrements leave much to be desired, the ability to stroll down to the lobby in your pajamas and chill with your friends until two o’clock in the morning is a massive benefit. When I discovered that the Sheraton had sold out by the time I had made plans to attend this year’s event, I was devastated. Reluctantly, I booked a room at the Seattle Grand Hyatt.

Son, I am never staying at the Sheraton again.

I’m still not certain whether I was accidentally provided a suite or if the basic rooms at the Grand Hyatt simply make the rooms at the Sheraton appear pasted together with particle board and equipped with used furniture from Craigslist. I requested a quiet room and did not hear a peep from my neighbors for the duration of the convention. I took bubble baths in a gorgeous giant tub twice daily. My room had two large flat screen televisions. When I needed to find a drugstore on short notice, the concierge was charming and helpful. The drugstore, however, did not have jet black pantyhose.

Yes, it was a bit of pain schlepping back to my room from the Sheraton lobby late at night (especially given my well-known eccentric choice of footwear), but not once did I fear for my safety. I did have a rude comment lobbed my way by a convention guest or attendee who was clearly high as a kite at the time, but neither the Hyatt nor is the ECCC responsible for that individual’s behavior.

For the life of me I cannot understand why people stay at the Sheraton, but I most certainly can see why people party there. The bar, though woefully understaffed, is charming and well-lit—as is its lobby. The Grand Hyatt’s atmosphere is strangely dark and subdued, as if it were more interested in hosting romantic tête-à-têtes than industry gatherings.

I was honestly a bit reluctant to make this post, for fear of massive crowds ruining the experience of Emerald City Comicon and the Grand Hyatt! Both seem like magical experiences that should be reserved for a select few. But I suppose one can’t pay the bills catering to a small number!

(Okay, judging from the photos displayed on the Seattle Grand Hyatt’s website, it seems I was accidentally provided a suite. That said, the basic king room is still leagues better than what the Sheraton offers.)


April 13th, 2014

It has been approximately one year since I’ve written a post such as this one. I didn’t plan it—though I find that I ritually take stock of my life twice a year, generally at the beginning of spring and the end of autumn. In fact, I still give myself quarterly life reviews, a practice that is hokey, ridiculous, and essential.

Things are—decent? Yes, decent—with the potential to be quite good in the future! And it is so odd to type that, because when I left everything (New Jersey, publishing, etc.) in the wake of my grandmother’s death I was adamant in the belief that things would never be good and I would simply have to arrange my life to best cushion blow after inevitable blow.


We are so programmed to fear change that we will hammer away at that which does not work rather than consider a new option. Even the changes made in my own life were due not to a flash of enlightenment but hastily scrambling through an exit after discovering that all of my previous paths had been blocked. I didn’t decide to change; I was forced to change—and I was miserable about accepting said change. Later, I was very lucky to discover that the change made was an improvement. But that positive result was completely arbitrary.

I’ve become much more proactive in the past few months, though I haven’t blogged about it. (Talk of finances and lease agreements are a hell of a lot less popular than scathing comments about various entertainment industries.) At the risk of sounding schmaltzy and dipping into Oprahesque tendencies, pick the path that will best get you to the life that you want and take it like you’ve got a NOS tank strapped to your back. There’s an immaculate modern ranch and a dopey looking Labrador named Frank in my future and best believe real estate will get me there. Your path will get you there too—wherever “there” is—even if you have to reroute your course a few times. (The ranch and Frank are mine though, but feel free to select from the wide array of bright futures the universe has to offer.)

C’mon. Let’s go.

Golden Archie.

April 3rd, 2014

I’ve been impressed with Archie Comics as of late. While I’ve always been fond of the Riverdale gang (except Veronica), the company itself has made a serious effort to embrace diversity and redefine what we think of as suburban small-town America. It’s the America we’ve always wanted and pretended we’ve always had—the one that embraces everyone and accepts and delights in all colors and creeds.

Sounds very “after-school special,” no? It is, but the company can safely revel in its hokey elements while dragging its less tolerant readers towards enlightenment—while four-color competitors such as Marvel and DC must tiptoe around its reactionary clientele lest the delicate white eggs they have placed all in one basket tumble to the floor of the direct market.

Archie, however, has been weaving baskets for eggs of all hues on Tumblr. (As an aside, its Tumblr account is hilarious.) Reveling in camp is a nice way to lure former adult readers back into the fold. While those adults will likely continue to view Archie Comics as a company that produces kids’ material, they will buy tie-in merchandise for themselves or perhaps purchase material for their children. Still, while Archie Comics has been making strides, I’d like to see more from the company.

Multi-Media Outreach: A new incarnation of The Sims video game, wildly popular with women and young girls, is just around the corner. Partnering with EA to provide a special DLC pack of the Riverdale gang (and neighborhood) would be a brilliant move. I’d also like to see Red Circle characters move past comics towards the small screen. A kids’ cartoon show featuring The Fox would blend the best of DC’s slick animated output and the charming humor of Marvel’s cartoon past. And, of course, there would be a host of toys to sell. Speaking of toys and cartoons, the time is very ripe for a new era of Josie and the Pussycats. Getting Josie’s crew to the small screen as Jem gears up for the big screen would give the illusion (and hopefully spark the reality) of a rebirth in material geared towards young girls. Just make sure women are involved in the creative process! Oh, and make Alexandra and Alexander Asian! Surely, we are past having solely one member of a minority group in the mix.

New Genres and Imprints: I love that Archie Comics was daring enough to delve into horror with Afterlife with Archie. I hope that they continue to test new waters by launching a small line (three books maximum) of romantic graphic novels for women. Alitha Martinez has worked with Archie Comics in the past. Looking at her work on her original characters, she would likely fit in well given such a project. I’d also love to see Yasmin Liang and Natalie Nourigat tapped too.

Celebrity Creators: Once I heard Lena Dunham would be writing a four-part Archie series, I immediately stated that the company should seek out Nicki Minaj for a Josie issue. The goal is to acquire work from controversial men and women who are a great deal smarter than the public believes them to be—resulting in good stories and an immense amount of publicity.

A “Face”: In the same way Stephenson has become synonymous with Image, Berger (and now Bond) represents Vertigo, and Didio is DC, Archie needs a couple of “charmers” out front and center to woo the media. Like the company itself, they should be seen as quirky, cheerful, and sincere.

ECCC: Convention contemplation.

April 1st, 2014

The Washington State Convention Center is an exceptional place to host a convention—airy with ample space and fantastic lighting. Plus, there are restaurants, hotels, tourist traps, drugstores and department stores all within a short radius. It’s what sets Emerald City Comicon apart from its larger competitors. NYCC and SDCC have been unpleasant experiences for me due to terrible locations that provide no respite from the overwhelming convention crowds unless I’m willing to travel long distances from the convention. At Emerald City, one is able to pop across the street and eat at a cozy restaurant or take a nap in one’s hotel room. There’s no escape from the Javits Center without walking at least a dozen very long Manhattan blocks. As for San Diego? Good luck finding anything affordable.

And good luck finding anything affordable at the closest contender to claim the title of ECCC East—Dragon Con. Not only are ticket prices ridiculously expensive compared to other conventions, the nearby hotels charge exorbitant prices designed to gouge attendees. Rates often double those found at Emerald City. And while the location is perfect—countless amenities are only a block or two away—the comics industry is treated as a mere afterthought. Film, television, and prose reign supreme.

Comics come first at Heroes, but the convention’s location is horrifically dull. While Seattle, San Diego, New York City, and Atlanta offer an amazing array of activities apart from their conventions, Charlotte offers little in the way of excitement.

Given that Emerald City is quite a trek for me, I’ve been thinking about how best to recreate the magic of the convention closer to home. I’m sure many convention organizers looking for a lucrative investment are too. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

The Location: Atlanta, Georgia. Specifically? The Atlanta Convention Center. However, a set-up similar to Dragon Con where a few smaller hotels share space would also work well.

The Date: Like Emerald City, the event should be scheduled during “Spring Break.” Weather in Atlanta during that time is exceptional, and a late March or early April date would provide a great kick-off to the convention season for those tired of winter weather. Plus, being such a great distance from Emerald City would allow it to occur at a similar time without “poaching” guests from that convention. Those who would attend “Peachtree City Comicon” would likely never consider Emerald City due to the distance involved. And Megacon, currently showing signs of weakness, could easily be cannibalized.

Key Factors: If one is going to host a comic convention in Atlanta, three organizations/events should be involved or showcased in some manner. The first is Cartoon Network/Adult Swim. The second is the Atlanta branch of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The third is the ComicsPRO annual membership meeting. Also, making a deal with hotels in order to keep rates in the range of $100.00 to $150.00 a night is essential. Expensive hotels hurt attendance.

I’m sure the last thing Jim Demonakos and his crew want is to launch yet another large convention, but they have shown that they can succeed where many others have failed. Plus, there is a clear “convention vacuum” here on the East Coast that no one has been adequately able to fill. I’d like to see someone fill it—and I’m willing to put my money and muscle where my mouth is to make it happen.

The Emerald Aisles.

March 25th, 2014

Don’t groan. That pun is great—and accurate. This weekend you will find me at Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon! As the title of this post suggests, I’ll be wandering the floor a bit, but you’ll be able to spot me participating in two very special panels. First and foremost, on Friday afternoon I am extremely lucky to participate in Rachel Edidin’s panel on representation in geek culture. How in the world I’ve managed to sneak into a group that includes such insightful and talented people I’ll never know. I am so grateful to Rachel for creating these spaces where those of us who feel marginalized or are simply disturbed by the depictions shown and the behaviors observed in our communities can come forward to discuss matters honestly and without fear or malice.

Looking Past the Target Audience
Room: HALL D (602-603)
Time: 3:40PM – 4:30PM

The world is a politicized place and the geek community is no exception. Join us as we look at how gender and race are portrayed in geek culture. Creators, curators, community leaders and critics on the front lines of this issue examine the fight over geek identity and the barriers to diversity in geek communities and media. The discussion will include proposed steps toward a diverse and inclusive geek culture. Panelists include Rachel Edidin, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Regina Buenaobra, G. Willow Wilson, Scotty Iseri, Andy Khouri, and Sfe M.

On Sunday you’ll catch me gleefully bopping around in the audience taking your questions for three of my all-time favorite people—Adam Warren, Brandon Graham, and David Brothers. Brothers can hold an interview like nobody’s business and Graham and Warren are a delight to hear. I legitimately adore these dudes, but fondness aside—they have very smart things to say about comics (and more if you’re lucky).

Harsh Realm: Adam Warren and Brandon Graham
Room: HALL D (602-603)
Time: 1:40PM – 2:30PM

Adam Warren (Empowered) and Brandon Graham (Prophet) are two creators at the top of their game. The two gather to discuss how they incorporate their influences in their work, creating comics that don’t look like any other comics on the racks, & more!


November 27th, 2013


That’s me. Sans makeup. Sans Photoshop. Sans eyebrow waxing. Sans extensions. Sans a decent night’s sleep. I take selfies once or twice a year. I’m not at all photogenic, but I like to mark the biannual pressing and cutting of my hair with a commemorative photo. When I was younger I’d proudly make my way to my grandmother’s house and she’d tug at my hair and measure where the ends would fall. “Oh, sha! Look how long your hair grew!”

I miss her terribly. There are times when her loss hits me and I have to stop whatever I’m doing to sit with the pain of it. And when it passes, I pick up and start again.

I marked all of my milestones by her, good and bad. And I’d know if I was headed down the right path by how she greeted me. But she’s not here anymore. Were she here, I’d tell her that I’d finally got the house. That I’d stopped writing. That I’d started running. That I’d lost a little bit of weight. That, no, I’m not teaching any more. I haven’t for a very long time, remember? And no, I’m not seeing anyone right now, but that’s okay. I’d tell her that I finally had a closet full of dresses. How I’d made the decision to take a trip to Bequia. That I was terrified I’d chosen the wrong career—again. That Georgia had nice weather, and New York had a nicer everything else, and California was perhaps even nicer than that. I’d tell her that things were getting better for us—the collective us—because sometimes a white lie is more palatable than a black truth. I’d tell her the last thing I ever told her, that I loved her. And that I was loved, the last thing she ever told me.

In the bag.

October 27th, 2013

I’ll admit it. I laughed! And it was far more than a chuckle! However, I hate the fact that these “_____ while black” moments capture the national attention for a brief moment, only to be forgotten again as if the problem has been rectified. You will still be harassed as a black person if you are driving an expensive vehicle. You will still be harassed as a black person walking through an expensive neighborhood.

And now we’ve come to department stores. However, it is all the same. It is about America demanding black people stay where America is comfortable with them—any place that is substandard. Our clothes should not be as luxurious; our cars should not be as expensive; our homes should not be as pleasant; our jobs should not be as prestigious. And if they are? We will be abused for it—because it is suspicious. To be black and have something of quality is not considered normal. It is not considered right. It is America’s legal way of enforcing segregation, of reinforcing its not-so-secret caste system.

When I’d first heard briefly about the incidents at Barneys, having only headlines and photos to go by, I will admit that my first thoughts were not positive. I’d assumed Christian was the spoiled son of a rich mogul. I’d assumed Phillips was a ditzy mistress. Honestly, I would have assumed the same had the victims been white. (Note: had they been white, they would not have been victimized.) But America? America assumed they were thieves. To engage in a completely legal transaction and be considered a criminal for it is par for the course for African Americans.

We are guilty until proven innocent.

All-Negro Comics #2

September 10th, 2013

So, one blog entry, a few Tumblr posts, a few tweets, a dozen or so e-mails, and one week later—here we are!

Full disclosure: I received two responses in total regarding the publication of All-Negro Comics #2. Am I disappointed? Yes. However, two things console me—that creators are focused on some amazing projects dear to their heart and have no time to participate (which makes me very hopeful about the industry) or the possibility that creators would prefer another individual at the helm of such a project (easily and amicably resolved). I much prefer these two options compared to the possibility of the industry not caring about the inclusion of black voices! And I know, given the passion and talent of the black men and women in the industry right now, that the third option is not an option at all.

So, is the All-Negro Comics anthology dead? Never! The work is in the public domain and is available for anyone to pick up the torch. It is my hope that those in the comics industry will pick it up and carry it to the masses. I am not abandoning the project; I am very eager to support it as a consumer!

For any individual considering taking on this project, please note that while I only received two creator responses, the interest expressed by fellow fans was quite positive. If you have the talent to create comics and a few like-minded colleagues, you absolutely can do this! And we’ll be here to buy it!

All for one.

September 4th, 2013

“If a Negro got legs he ought to use them. Sit down too long, somebody will figure out a way to tie them up.”—Toni Morrison, Beloved

Late last night I had an idea, promptly dismissed it as crazy, and went to sleep. It woke up with me this morning, settled in with me at breakfast, and has remained lodged within my cranium since. Apparently, it’s here for the long haul. The last time I had a crazy idea I ended up with the Ormes Society, so I’ve decided to entertain this visitor for as long as she plans to stick around. Allow me to introduce you…

All-Negro Comics #1 (now firmly entrenched in the public domain to be enjoyed by all) appeared in June of 1947. I’d like to publish All-Negro Comics #2. I’m sharing my idea today in the hopes that you would too.

Black people have been making comics since there were comics. A cursory look at our ancient history and you could argue that black people invented comics. But in America we were not always provided a chance to share the national stage enjoyed by creators of other races—to create works that would become our modern-day myths. The purpose of the second issue of All-Negro Comics would be to celebrate the milestones of a past long buried by the industry and carry them with us into the present in order to leave a legacy for the future. I want to show the diversity found in regards to black individuals within the comic industry: men and women who come from various professional levels, genders, generations, sexual orientations, religions, and geographical regions—creators who have been influenced by everything under the sun.

I’d like to keep the length of the comic fairly small (roughly 32 pages featuring 8-10 vignettes of 3-4 pages) and distribute the work digitally. My focus is on reaching a large number of lower-income readers who desperately need to hear black voices but may not have the capability of finding a local comic shop or the funds to spend four dollars on a comic book. Donating one or two dollars to a Kickstarter project would likely be all they could handle, but a large number of small donations would allow for an acceptable page rate to be offered. Also, starting off small would enable me to gauge how receptive fans would be to this type of project and make it easier for creators to contribute and introduce (or reintroduce) characters they could take with them to other projects. Even better, it would allow for further issues by all-new creative and editorial teams. The brand could be passed from one to another as if a totem, a badge of honor, or simply a way to link generations.

Q: Hey, if I created a character, who would own it? Who would own my artwork?

A: Each creative team would make their own agreement as to how the ownership of new intellectual properties would be shared. Artists would own the artwork they produce; writers would own their scripts. Point blank—creators own their creations. If you wanted to use an existing character that you already own, you would be welcome to do so. Creative teams would be welcome to publish their work elsewhere if they so desire! Yes, even in print! I’d only ask that you wait until March 1, 2014, if you plan to share your work elsewhere (website, sketchbook, script archive, another anthology, etc.)—and provide All-Negro Comics #2 with a one-time, first appearance credit.

I think it would be a wonderful idea to honor those who came before us by using public-domain characters (Ace Harlem, John Henry) or gods (Anansi, Papa Legba). It’d be nice to make sure these characters were not forgotten, but could live on and be reinvented like Thor or Wonder Woman. (I’m curious to see if someone could snatch Breezy back from Chris Brown.) And, of course, the lead character in each vignette should be black. It’s All-Negro Comics, folks!

Q: So, black lead characters and black creators, huh? Any other story requirements?

A: Your work should be suitable for ages 16 and older. That’s it. You are black, so your story is as well. Sci-fi, western, romance, war, noir—it doesn’t matter. In fact, the more diversity the better.

Q: If you want diversity, why not open the project up to people of all races?

A: Because it is important to showcase black voices that have been silenced elsewhere. Honestly, black storytellers are dealing with specific anti-black stereotypes that argue that (1) they are not intellectually capable of professional literary work and (2) they have an agenda to denigrate white people with their creations. These are negative stereotypes perpetuated by fans and professionals that creators of other races simply do not have to deal with (though there are certainly other difficulties to be encountered). Places where black writers can combat these stereotypes are insanely rare. We must cherish and protect each platform we are given. For readers, I wanted to provide inexpensive stories where black people could be seen and heard. Both are vital.

Q: So, what would campaign contributors get? And creators?

A: Readers would get a 32-page digital comic with no advertisements for the very low price of one or two American dollars. I wanted this to be a project for the people, a project that even the kid who works at Foot Locker or the woman who works at McDonald’s could be a part of. I’d edit the work free of charge and there would be no printing costs. Funds raised would be provided to the creators.

Q: Your heart is in the right place, but it’s not feasible given ______.

A: Is there something I haven’t taken into account? I’m certainly open to hearing the feedback/wisdom of others! Please let me know.

Q: I’d love to help, but I am so not black! What can I do?

A: Plenty! One, you can help to spread the word by linking to this page! You can also blog about black creators that you would love to see more of in the future or would like to see honored by the industry. If you are an artist, feel free to promote the project by working on a pin-up of a black creation of the past (Torchy Brown, “Jive” Gray) and share it on your site (or donate it to be offered as a limited-edition Kickstarter bonus)!

Q: I’d love to help, and I am so black—but I’m swamped! How can I help?

A: See the answer above! (I’d also suggest angling for a cover spot or providing the afterword or foreword.)

Q: Anything else?

A: You tell me! This week has been set aside for discussion. Would you want to read a project such as this? Who would you want to contribute? Would you like to contribute? Talk amongst yourselves—or with me! (My people—those who’ve emailed me before–hit me up on the direct line.) If all goes smoothly, we’ll move onto submissions and art samples next week! If not? Well, we’ve had some good discussions about some great creators who definitely deserve our praise.

A pleasant view.

August 25th, 2013

Sims 4 Characters

A lot has happened in 50 years! Can the idyllic town of Riviera, a haven for youthful adventurers from far-flung lands (as well as the neighboring town of Pleasantview), quell rising tensions before friendly rivalries become all-out feuds?

Clockwise from bottom center: 

Beau Broke is determined to make it big in Riviera. A man of meager means, but rich in willpower, will Beau finally be able to reverse the Broke history of misfortune?

Lucy Burb dreams of recreating the idyllic family life her parents provided. Yet while Lucy fantasizes about white-picket fences and baby carriages, her suitor’s wandering eye may make her dream a nightmare!

Can Carlo Lothario break the Lothario curse as he has broken so many hearts—or is he doomed to never find true love? Could the mysterious mother who abandoned him be the key as to why he is unable to commit?

Tina Caliente is determined to succeed where her mother has failed: by hook or by crook she’ll marry her way into the Goth fortune! But how can she win Alexander’s heart if her mind is continually on Carlo Lothario?

Sullen and stand-offish, Alexander Goth has difficulty making friends, and has cut off all ties to his family. Yet, strangely, he is fond of the roguish Carlo Lothario. Can the brotherly bond between the two help Alexander come out of his shell?

Given her childhood as an orphan, Marsha Bruenig cannot help but cling to the new-found friends she considers her family. But will her pursuit of popularity only lead to the population of Riviera considering her a pest?

Chandler Platz loves robots, sci-fi festivals at the local cinema, and rockets. What he doesn’t love? The idea of romance with the ladies of Riviera! Can Chandler keep his head out of the clouds when he’s so focused on the stars?

Ollie Dreamer inherited his father’s artistic talents and his mother’s shy, sensitive nature. Can Ollie overcome his timid ways and win the heart of Sophia Gilscarbo? Can he follow in his father’s footsteps and romance the woman of his dreams?

Sophia Gilscarbo, the heiress to the Goopy carbonara sauce fortune, is Riviera’s resident party girl. Will Sophia be able to tame her wild ways and settle upon a culinary career before her grandmother cuts her off completely?

(Note: I just made this up myself. Not official information for The Sims 4, folks!)

Four got.

August 24th, 2013

Earlier I discussed some of the features that I still hope EA/Maxis will add to The Sims 4. I’ve spent the time since my last post pouring over preview videos and I am absolutely floored by the gameplay. What I see is the game that I’d hoped The Sims 3, a completely lackluster experience, would be. The Sims 4 seems to be a reincarnation of The Sims 2, with simplified controls and improved graphics—exactly what I so desperately wanted.

Though as much as I lionize The Sims 2, the game isn’t without its faults. What is absent from The Sims 2 is an adequate level of customization. Players of The Sims 2 may scoff upon reading this, but the customization that we enjoy has been granted to us by the modding community, not game developers. I had to seek out darker player skins created by fans in order to have any hope of creating a reasonable facsimile of the actual neighborhood I once lived in. Later, I downloaded SimPe, a program that would allow me to alter character files, in order to make ten percent of the NPCs in my neighborhood gay and add new NPCs with bronze and ebony skin tones.

What I want from The Sims 4 is greater control over the appearance of my neighborhood. I want greater control over my neighborhood’s “story.” Allowing players to create NPCs in the CAS (Create A Sim) would be a huge step forward in achieving this. Let players make a grumpy nanny or flirtatious maid—or an entire neighborhood of green-skinned shopkeepers! Personally, I’d like the ability to prevent supernatural characters from appearing entirely. We shouldn’t have to depend on mods to remove them.

I hope that players will be able to alter not only a NPC’s personality and appearance, but her history as well. I loved the fact that the NPCs featured in the custom neighborhoods of The Sims 2 had existing relationships. In fact, I used SimPe to provide NPCs with family and friends. In my Pleasantview, the town thief was the husband of the maid and would prey upon her wealthy clients. The staff members of a popular bistro were all members of the same family. These stories existed apart from the tales I wove for my playable characters. I enjoyed creating them.

Enter the dragon.

August 17th, 2013

sexual harassmentI must shamefully admit that some of the responses quoted in the second panel of Jim Hines’ comic once mirrored my own. I could barely contain my irritation when an individual would come forward to discuss his or her personal experience with racism or sexism in the entertainment industry (publishing, film, gaming, etc.) and yet refuse to name the individual who participated in the harassment or discrimination. How could one allow a bigot to stay in power and thwart the career of another black creator or prey upon another woman? As a victim, how could one willingly condone the cycle of abuse when the mere utterance of a name could “slay the dragon”?

I was so focused on winning the public war that I overlooked the private battle. These men and women have families to support, a desire to create that consumes them, and a reputation to uphold. To be marked as one who “named names,” one who made the company look bad—as opposed to the one actually engaging in the unsavory behavior—would jeopardize one’s career by alienating those in power. Coming forward, yet remaining vague regarding details, would allow the company in question to quietly rectify the situation while still alerting fans to the bigotry that continues to plague the industry.

Sometimes, often, the dragon is simply too powerful to be slain. But sometimes, often, individuals come forward privately, not publically. A female creator is told confidentially why it would be best for her to avoid a particular colleague or limit time alone with him; a black creator is quietly informed as to why certain individuals will not be receptive to his work. These hushed anecdotes act as precious guides, allowing creators to tiptoe past the dragon and navigate his lair successfully—or simply to find treasure and glory in a less guarded lair.

This is not to say that those who have named names have not chosen the proper path. As a reader (or player, or moviegoer), it can be quite satisfying to hear one acknowledge the source of a problem that, quite honestly, is evident in the work produced. Female fans and consumers of color are often dismissed as delusional when discussing institutionalized sexism and racism within the industry. When an actual creator comes forward and names names, there is a moment of vindication that is generally lost when a vague accusation is brought forth. For when a vague accusation is brought forth, reactionary fans will often label the whistleblower coming forward as a liar or bitter incompetent.

It is so difficult to make one’s way as a woman or a person of color in the entertainment industry that I would rather an individual do what is best for one’s career and the careers of one’s peers than to consider the wishes or comfort of a fan such as myself. The industry can only improve if these men and women are able to remain within it. If a quieter form of resistance is required, so be it.

Digital Femme

Commentary on geek culture, race, and gender by Cheryl Lynn Eaton