Rose City.

Leia WeathingtonThe day after Rose City Comic Con I had brunch with creators Leia Weathington and Karla Pacheco. I had salmon cakes; Leia and Karla dined upon the souls of men.

Rose City is a smaller con, placed just below Heroes in terms of its quaint and homey nature. The exhibitor floor was pleasantly crowded, but far from claustrophobic. Panels provided the ability to learn more about creators and their independent projects rather than issue a rundown of the basic plot points of upcoming mainstream events. Because of its location in Portland, the convention had an amazing array of West Coast talent with creators such as Jeff Parker, Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, and more.

Given my previous posts analyzing conventions, it’s safe to say this post isn’t a write-up of my vacation, but a brief look as to whether Rose City is a welcome addition to the convention circuit. I’d say yes. For those already on the West Coast, Rose City is a fairly inexpensive opportunity to showcase wares to a welcoming audience. More importantly, the oppressive media maelstrom that encompasses the DC/Marvel machine has yet to descend upon the event. (Just wait three to five years.) Creators launching new independent works, for example the delightful Caleb Goellner and Jim Gibbons of Birch Squatch, have a place to speak directly to potential audiences without having to wait until everyone has gotten their full of discussions surrounding Batman and Wolverine.

Yet while Rose City provides an amazing platform to sell material and interact with fans, it provides limited networking opportunities for creators who are not already established. The convention is nestled in the heart of “Comics City.” After the sun goes down? Everyone goes home. There is absolutely no “bar con” to speak of. The large raucous gatherings of conventions like Emerald City have been replaced by charming get-togethers for long-term friends and colleagues. It is not a place for meeting new people but for forming even tighter bonds with those one admires or holds dear. Creators should not expect an opportunity to chat up an elusive editor; fans should not expect to seize an opening to buy their favorite artist a drink. Still, given the low-key nature of the convention, fans have ample opportunity to chat up creators at tables during the day. In addition, aspiring creators can seek advice and portfolio reviews. Rose City is the one convention where you can have a pleasant unhurried conversation with a writer such as Brian Michael Bendis or Sam Humphries. That is a rarity on the convention circuit now.

Should you go to Rose City? Well, it truly depends on the region you call home. Located in the Pacific Northwest or California? Yes. If not, there are other mid-sized conventions elsewhere that provide a similar experience.


Conventional wisdom.

Emerald City Comicon is my absolute favorite comic convention. Unfortunately, I can no longer attend it. It has finally become large enough to cross the threshold where the experience can only be afforded by locals, those appearing at the event for work, and those willing to spend exorbitant amounts on what may perhaps be a fun experience—but with no guarantees.

The hotels surrounding the Washington State Convention Center have changed their policies regarding the convention, demanding a non-refundable deposit for any individual booking a reservation. The Emerald City showrunners have placed tickets for sale more than six months prior to the convention—well before an adequate number of guests have confirmed their attendance. The organizations involved demand money from attendees for a show they provide little information about. For those who do not live near the convention and must rely on hotels and airlines to experience the event it is simply too much of a financial risk to take.

It seems the pie has been divided, with different conventions assuming dominion over different regions. Guests may be shared—invited celebrities and creators freely bounding from one region to the other; convention-goers are not.

Unlike theme parks, which pride themselves on repetition and nostalgia—providing the same experience year after year—comic conventions make an effort to showcase a new crop of entertainers and creators each year, making each show a unique experience. However, that uniqueness—essentially instability—makes the convention difficult to invest in for fans who are not locals, especially when they are expected to purchase tickets and hotel rooms with only a handful of guest announcements made. For locals the draw is the spectacle—outlandish costumes, revelry, and the superheroic—convention constants. However, those who are not from the region attend to see very specific people—artists, writers, and actors. I can bear witness to spectacle at home; Dragon Con takes place merely a short drive away. But should I wish to get a particular comic signed? Well, I can’t attend just any convention. I have to attend the one the creative team in question attends. And if tickets for that convention have sold out months before the creative team has even announced their appearance? Well, I can’t attend the convention at all.

Every large convention, San Diego Comic-con, New York Comic Con, Dragon Con, and now Emerald City Comicon, requires attendees to purchase tickets prior to knowing what they are purchasing tickets for. A show with a paltry, partial guest list is no more than a mystery prize. One cannot expect fans to risk hundreds without knowing what is behind Door #3. Showrunners know this and do not care, for there are many locals who are more than happy to merely risk a couple of twenties. That risk is most certainly worth it.

I am excited to be attending Rose City Comic Con next week—and New York Comic Con the following month!—but the experiences will be bittersweet. New York Comic Con will likely be the last comic convention I ever attend, and the chapter will have closed where it began.

To watch the evolution of the convention industry has been astounding. What started in the musty basements of churches and tiny recreational halls has now become a phenomenon that fills vast convention centers each season. I do believe the comic convention has reached its “final form,” that of an impressive indoor carnival to delight different regions once a year.


Ferguson.

I forced myself to go to sleep at a decent hour last night. I hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since Mike Brown’s lids had closed forever—every waking moment since his last spent refreshing screens and consuming information and caffeine in likely dangerous quantities. A complete abandonment of any kind of long-form writing occurred; my words, angry and erratic, were quickly shot off via Twitter and Tumblr.

I’m still angry—for the obvious reasons. I’m angry that black life is worthless to people who are not black in America (and to some who are). I’m angry that Americans believe that we deserve the inequality heaped upon us for the crime of simply being black. The murder. The harassment. The silencing. The erasure. The blackballing. The punishment. I’m mad that many Americans still view black people as solely an inexhaustible resource to exploit, leeching from black communities and black cultures while promoting anti-blackness and purporting to speak for while speaking over black people.

But for the first time in a very long time I am also grateful. Because for all the comparisons between Ferguson and Selma, Ferguson is very different. Technology has provided black people the ability to burrow past the mainstream media and allow for black people to have a voice. And that voice is strong and unfiltered on Twitter and on Tumblr and in personal journals. And yes, the voice contradicts itself because black people are not a monolith and have a beautiful and infuriating and brilliant array of ideas.

We have never had a situation where black voices could not be crushed or warped beyond their meaning before. The television stations are owned by white people. The movie studios are owned by white people. The newspapers are owned by white people. The music labels are owned by white people. The radio stations are owned by white people. The publishing houses are owned by white people. They are owned by those who have been taught that black life and black cultures are worthless. And their teachings show in their word choice. It shows in the promotion and overexposure of negative depictions of black people. It shows in the dearth of positive voices. It shows in the selection of only black employees and clients who will mimic the tropes regarding black people that they have come to hold dear—the big black buck, the Jezebel, the tragic mulatto, the Sapphire, the Mammy, the minstrel—or it shows in the selection of no black people at all.

And for a very long time? It worked, churning out anti-black propaganda for centuries like a well-oiled machine, with black people having little recourse to combat it because we owned next to nothing. We stood on soap boxes, screaming to anyone who would listen that we were human and of worth, while those who opposed us controlled screens and airwaves across the nation.

That is thankfully no longer the situation we find ourselves in. When the mainstream media erroneously claimed black looters had taken control of Ferguson last night, black people were able to effectively use modern technology—affordable to most Americans—to show young black people protecting stores, not looting them. Pictures of black men using their own bodies as barriers with police nowhere in sight or on site to provide assistance, popped up across Twitter, gaining power with each reblog, barreling into the public consciousness. While Fox News is able to alter reality for a segment of old, technology-averse people salivating for tales of the black savage, their children and grandchildren are pulling up apps to hear directly from black men themselves. That is new and so very necessary.

And it is not just the news that affordable technology has altered. Black art is now able to reach the masses in an unfiltered state via online organizations such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allowing black creators to obtain the funds necessary to compete with the output of major publishing houses and movie studios that shun or subvert them. Square allows creators to sell directly to the people. WordPress and Tumblr allow black writers to reach an international audience in seconds. The means of distribution are no longer solely owned by white people; black art cannot be papered over mere moments after its creation. The mainstream media will most certainly continue to attempt to drown out or alter black voices, but those voices have been amplified by technology and sharpened by fury and determination. The task won’t be nearly as easy.

And I’m glad.


Return to sender.

I have done something tremendously scandalous that I have wanted to do for a lengthy period of time.

I deleted all of my email.

It felt phenomenal. Email has always been a source of anxiety for me. I read it, make a mental note to respond, promptly forget said mental note, and then gasp in horror and embarrassment upon noting that months have gone by and I have yet to reply. For there are only three types of email that demand my immediate attention: those involving money; those involving work; and those involving long-winded responses requiring an exhaustive amount of research on a subject that generally only I find interesting.

You see, much to the annoyance of friends and family, I do not just write emails. I write electronic letters complete with links and pictures and parentheses containing detailed explanations on myriad topics. It is a wall of text designed just for you because—oh, how I like you and we should have a dinner party nestled right here between the ones and zeroes where we discuss the topics at hand!

An email from me is basically me on Twitter, but tenfold. I don’t send them out often, but when I do? Oh, boy.

And so, I am declaring an Email Amnesty Week here at Digital Femme. I beg your forgiveness. And know that should you send me an email this week, I will respond this week! Ormes questions, site inquiries, etc.—ask and you shall receive!


Not all men.

“The interesting thing I’ve noticed about these dudes from (1) listening to the #yesallwomen discussion and (2) being a ‘geek’ is that they’d be just as furious if women developed their own communities and completely ignored them. They don’t want to drive women out of ‘their’ spaces. They want silent women there to yell at and poke.” Cheryl Lynn Eaton

I’m not a professional in an entertainment field nor am I a noteworthy critic. My status allows me the blissful opportunity to avoid interacting with the bigots found on countless social media outlets. I feel guilty because I see women who have remained in those fields—women who I admire deeply—forced to endure the daily hateful invectives of individuals who clearly despise them. They are despised because they are women in a position of authority where they are able to influence the existing narrative. For men who feel socially impotent, the idea that one they’ve deemed to be a lesser being could earn a position greater than their own is infuriating. They wish for those in positions of power in their community to look and sound like them. As long as that status quo remains intact, their worth remains affirmed.

At first I believed these men just wanted to be left alone—that they had built a community where they were no longer socially ostracized and did not want anyone to intrude upon it. As a black woman, I certainly understand the need for a “safe space” and had no problem leaving them be. My written work is limited to my personal website. The Ormes Society has shifted its focus from mainstream black characters to devote more attention to black women working in the webcomic and indie circuit. My Twitter account is private. I am now what these men have angrily demanded—a woman who has no interest in interacting with them nor is all that concerned with changing the content they enjoy.

And yet I’ve received hate mail regarding content published on my personal website. Men have requested to follow me on Twitter for the sole purpose of arguing with me. They enter threads dedicated to women in comics to accuse women of being lesser talents set to poison the industry. I’ve come to realize that these men do not want women to “go away.” They want women to stay and silently accept their abuse. Their self-worth as men is entirely dependent upon telling women and people of color that they are lesser beings. And if women and minorities are not present to be told this these men are then forced to examine themselves and be judged upon their own merit. For the men who have been found lacking and have retreated to these communities due to being shunned by the mainstream this notion is terrifying.

I’ve no solution for these men. Their hateful behavior is going to continue to result in women choosing my path and ceasing to interact with them or storming angrily into their communities to dismantle them. No individual will willingly endure abuse when there are other options available.


Shoulder the weight.

It’s Saturday, and that means one week has passed since taking on my 30-day challenges. How have I done? Not bad! I’ve managed to adhere to my weight-lifting schedule for 8 days—even though I find the activity dull. I haven’t lost any weight—I like donuts!—but I’m thoroughly pleased with my increased strength levels. I’m going to stick with the challenge for another week. This time I plan to up the ante and incorporate a healthy diet as well. After all, a truck can’t haul anything without the proper fuel.

I’ve abandoned the writing challenge, so my success rate is 50 percent at the moment! However, I plan to start a new reading challenge to replace the writing one—and that should be fun.

Speaking of fun, it looks like I’ll be spending the summer bopping up and down the East Coast! While the reasons for doing so aren’t enjoyable—house repairs and property scouting—it does give me the opportunity to attend Special Edition: NYC (a possibility), HeroesCon (a definite), and DragonCon (maybe). No more panels for me, but it’ll be nice to goof off with friends I haven’t seen since, uh, March.


A new challenger appears!

There are two positive habits I have managed to hold onto for years—habits I honestly believe have helped to keep me grounded and sane. I drink two large mugs of tea daily and I walk for 30 minutes a day. Last year I picked up a third daily habit: balancing my budget.

Of course, it’s all too easy to pick up a habit when it’s enjoyable. I listen to my favorite music while I walk. I browse the web while I drink tea. And my budgeting software is so similar to the simulation games I’ve been obsessed with for years that it’s actually a pleasure mucking about with it. So while making the activities repetitive ones have allowed them to become habits, I would have never engaged in said activities on a daily basis were they not fun.

Regarding the tea and the walking, if I stop doing either for more than 5 days? I feel lousy. My brain and body simply do not work right any longer without that caffeine-endorphin cocktail. Given the things that people in this world are addicted to, I’m glad I lucked out with walking and tea (and also bread, but that’s a whole other blog post)!

Though my good habits have improved my life considerably in the past, at this point they simply maintain a mundane status quo. To shake things up a bit I’ve embarked on a couple of 30-day challenges. The first challenge is to write daily for 30 days, be it a blog post, journal entry, or article. This challenge is more preventative than proactive, but will hopefully help to keep my mind sharp. The second challenge, one that is considerably more difficult than the first but should actually produce visible results, is to stick to a weightlifting routine for 30 days. Day one has been a success—both challenges met with ease—but I worry what day thirty will look like! For good or for bad, I plan to check in with the World Wide Web once a week to blog about it.

See you next Saturday!


Thank hue.

Shout out to every redboned militant in my family who knew the deal. Who lovingly painted angels brown so their babies would feel welcome at Christmastime. Who shook their heads and chuckled at the women using umbrellas on sunny days so that their little girls would see how ridiculous it looked, and how sad it would be to deprive the skin of sunshine.

Shout out to the light-brights who wove art into Afros while their wavy locks snapped in summer breezes. Who bought chocolate-hued Barbies by the armload. Who told their daughters that God made them the color they were because they were as sweet as cinnamon and should look like it too. Who used jobs their fair skin clearly afforded them to feed a family so very many shades of black.

Shout out to the high yellows who knew that the road would be hard for the daughters they sired who had been cloaked in the skin of the men they loved so, so deeply. Who were furious that the world would try to deny their children their rightful place by their side in all things. And so they would do all they could to support them and love them, to do battle until the world loved and supported them too.


Rinse and retweet.

The new Twitter design is ghastly and 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 imagine how marketing reps overseeing carefully constructed brands must feel.


Try again.

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.

Float.

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.

Toot!


After the party it’s the hotel lobby.

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.

Typical footwearYes, 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 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.)


Update.

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.


The Emerald Aisles.

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!


Giving.

Selfie

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.


Southern comfort.

My grandmother was a landlord, my mother is a landlord, and I will be a landlord as well. This depresses me considerably, not because I have a problem with the profession in question, but because I am afraid the Southeastern United States is the only region where the career change I’ve embarked upon is viable.

I am in Georgia and I am miserable. I have been to Alabama; I was miserable. I have been to Florida; I was miserable. The oppressive heat, the conservative culture, the massive insects, the insufferably long commutes to access any commercial or industrial district—I cannot stand it. Of course, were I a Republican Christian man who loved to drive and adored the great outdoors, this would be the best place on earth. The South isn’t a bad place in general; it’s just bad for me.

The plus side? Houses here are cheap. How cheap? A well-crafted, modest home in a safe area can be purchased and paid for in full for roughly half the US median household income.

Actually, I just had an epiphany while typing the previous sentence. I am not going to stay here! It’s as simple as that. I’d rather own a couple of trailers in California than settle for brick ranches in Georgia.

Oh, man! I can’t even imagine what my grandmother’s Brooklyn brownstone would go for now.

ETA: I just looked it up—roughly $800,000. Yeah, unless I win the Powerball tomorrow, I won’t be moving back to the old neighborhood! Actually, if I won the Powerball, I wouldn’t bother buying a home at all. I’d be too busy traveling and setting up meetings with geek moguls and culture mavens.