Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Archive of 30 Years' Classic Sci-Fi Available For Free

Archive.org recently added a gigantic collection of the influential science fiction magazine Galaxy Science Fiction to its site that is free for anyone to read, worldwide. While it's not a complete collection of the magazine's run, there are many pieces of sci-fi history in the collection. Get the details after the jump.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Muslim World's History of Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fiction


Writing for Aeon, Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad delves into the long, rich tradition of speculative fiction in Muslim culture, including some of the first examples of feminist fiction in the early 1900s. As he points out, it's not really all that surprising when you consider the background it came from:

Western readers often overlook the Muslim world’s speculative fiction... Some of the first forays into the genre were the utopias dreamt up during the cultural flowering of the Golden Age. As the Islamic empire expanded from the Arabian peninsula to capture territories spanning from Spain to India, literature addressed the problem of how to integrate such a vast array of cultures and people...We also have the Muslim world to thank for one of the first works of feminist science fiction. 

He draws a line from the high fantasy tales of the Golden Age to the early 1800s to today, and it's a pretty interesting journal. And if that whets your appetite, you can find more at www.islamscifi.com .

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rare Recordings of Indigenous Language Saved By Today's Tech

This week, on International Indigenous Peoples Day, UC Berkley announced that efforts were underway to use new non-invasive scanning procedures to archive and preserve recordings of indigenous California languages.



UC Berkeley said in an announcement:
Berkeley researchers are using optical scan technology to transfer recordings from thousands of decaying wax cylinders, preserving audio of 78 indigenous California languages, most of which were recorded more than a century ago. Many of the recordings contain the only audio in the world of several of the languages, and others hold unknown stories and songs.
The collection will be made available to indigenous communities, as well as to scholars and the public.
The video above link has interviews with the linguistics and physics researchers, an archive specialist, and a descendant of a tribe that has no surviving "old-timer" speakers to teach the language.

fff

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Listen Up: Rolling 12s

Rolling 12s theme is built around the world of tabletop gaming and looking at some of the more unique forms of storytelling that the format allows. In particular, Rolling 12s features audio drama content focused on black characters and black tabletop players. The main stories, "Monde Demasque" and "Hallows Eve" centers on a Vampiric court of black women fighting for survival in territory staked out (no pun intended) in Houston.

The podcast is currently on hiatus, so now's the time to get caught up on episodes! You can listen via Rolling 12s on stitcher, on Google Play or via iOS.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Little Red Wolf Looks Gorgeous

I recently discovered Amélie Fléchais’ illustration work. I was delighted to find out that her delightful "The Little Red Wolf", originally published in French in 2014, will be published by Lion Forge Comics/CubHouse in the United States in English this fall. The English edition of this story, which turns the classic “Little Red Riding Hood” tale on its head and features a wolf in a familiar red cape. The translation was done by Jeremy Melloul.

I’ve got some art from the book to showcase today but let me do my best to describe to you what this book offers. In a twist on LRRH that is both whimsical and haunting, it follows a little wolf tasked with visiting his grandmother’s house to give Grandmother a rabbit his mother has just hunted. I got a sneak peek at the book and permission to share 2 of the 80 full-color images with you. Bon appetit, and keep your eyes out for this book in the fall!



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Listen Up: Fan Bros

The Fan Bros Show is a podcast that bills itself as the "Voice of the Urban Geek".  Hosted by Dj Benhameen, Tatiana King-Jones and Chico Leo, Fan Bros discusses the week in geek life and media fandom. The also have a weekly spinoff podcast called "Black Castle" that goes over the week in Game of Thrones. Lots of good stuff, and the guests they have on each week are super fun to listen to.

You can listen to the podcast on the Fan Bros  website, on iTunes via iOS (though the iTunes feed can sometimes lag behind the actual release date) or on soundcloud.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Shining Some Light On Solarpunk's Politics

Artwork courtesy of T.X. Watson
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably heard of steampunk. I've also covered steamfunk and silkpunk. There's a cyberpunk off-shoot that started via artist tumblrs and has grown from aesthetic to a speculative near-future with some interesting political underpinnings: solarpunk.
It's been the prompt for at least one game jam, and has an oversize influence in visual domains: There's a seemingly endless scroll of solarpunk pinterest boards, and the concept has worked its way into webcomics and concept art for Black Panther.

Writing for Medium, Andrew Dana Hudson has an in-depth look at the vision behind this speculative future, and the politics behind the genre. An excerpt:
Let me say from the outset: the world of solarpunk is this world. The here, the now and the very soon. Burdened with all that that’s been slung across our backs. While you might set your solarpunk stories in far off futures or fantasy universes (I won’t stop you), great speculative fiction always reflects the fears and aspirations of the time and place it was written. This is what I’m interested in: what solarpunk can tell us about the civilization we have right now, where it’s going and what we’ll be living through.
I’ll also offer up my own ideas about what exactly we should be doing with this strange bloom we’ve found. Solarpunk feels like a cathartic uncorking of a pent up imagination, and that energy can be channeled in different directions. A genre explores ideas through motifs, variations on a theme. A movement provokes change through iterations of strategy and deed. I love the former, but we need the latter.
The entire article is fascinating reading, so I implore you to read the whole thing. Then, once you've done that, have a look at the impressive body of work from the late, great Solarpunk Press, where you can find art, podcasts and fiction that explore the genre.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Listen Up: The Art Scene Podcast

Hosted by Louis Vargas, The Art Scene  focuses of on-depth conversations with up and coming artists, gallery owners, museum professionals and anybody else with an art background that have gone on to take non-traditional paths in life after an art degree. The Art Scene doesn't just cover an artist's work but also an artist's life. He also gives a lot of insight into the California art scene.

You can follow along via The (art)Scene website, on iTunes via iOS or on soundcloud.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Comic Con In Abandoned Mall Store A Hot Topic With Fans

Fandom Fest, a long-running comic and toy collector fan expo in Kentucky, seemed like is was off to a rocky start when it announced a change of venue a few weeks before the convention date. Soon after, sixteen of the previously announced celebrity guests canceled their appearances. Part of the reason? The new venue was an abandoned Macy's at a local mall. Writing for Comics Beat, Heidi McDonald is your tour guide to the train wreck. For example, celebrities complained of promised airfare and hotel fees not being paid. Fans seeking autographs of the 16 celebrities that had now cancelled were denied refunds. A fire marshall showed up at the venue and, citing safety concerns, only let the 30,000 fans in 1,700 people at a time.

So what did Myra Daniels, the convention co-organizer have to say in her defense? She did release a statement.

It's a doozy.
“I am not going to say that everything I have done… that I have no made mistakes. Absolutely I have made mistakes. Has there been a time maybe flights weren’t done on time that they had wanted? Maybe they said they wanted them by 30, 40, 50 days out and they weren’t done at that exact time. But did they have flights? Did they have hotels? Yes they did,” Daniels said.
When asked if she felt bad about the fans who were left without any celebrities that they wanted to see she said, “”No, I don’t feel bad about that, we’ve done nothing to rip anybody off. They knew that when they signed up. They even had to click a box saying I understand this.”
The entire report is by turns fascinating, frustrating and horrifying, and you can read the whole account here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Reaction Gifs: The New Digital Blackface?

Teen Vogue has been offering up a continuous supply of well-written, well researched essays, from a diverse range of writers. At least once a week, I'll read something on Teen Vogue that will give me pause and have me re-evaluate something I normally take for granted. This one surprised me: reaction gifs. As Lauren Michelle Jackson posits in her Teen Vogue op-ed, that could very well be the case:

 There’s no prescriptive or proscriptive step-by-step rulebook to follow, nobody’s coming to take GIFs away. But no digital behavior exists in a deracialized vacuum. We all need to be cognizant of what we share, how we share, and to what extent that sharing dramatizes preexisting racial formulas inherited from “real life.” The Internet isn’t a fantasy — it’s real life. After all, our culture frequently associates black people with excessive behaviors, regardless of the behavior at hand. Black women will often be accused of yelling when we haven’t so much as raised our voice. Officer Darren Wilson perceived a teenage Michael Brown as a hulking “demon”and a young black girl who remained still was flipped and dragged across a classroom by deputy Ben Fields. It’s an implication that points toward a strange way of thinking: When we do nothing, we’re doing something, and when we do anything, our behavior is considered “extreme.” This includes displays of emotion stereotyped as excessive: so happy, so sassy, so ghetto, so loud. In television and film, our dial is on 10 all the time — rarely are black characters afforded subtle traits or feelings. Scholar Sianne Ngai uses the word “animatedness” to describe our cultural propensity see black people as walking hyperbole.

The entire op ed is very well-written. Agree or disagree, you're likely to come away with a lot of food for thought, so be sure to read the whole article.

Being An Indie Game Developer While Keeping Your Sanity

Debates about the legality and how necessary "crunch time"--  extreme periods of work in order to meet milestones or game launch deadlines where 80 hour work-weeks are the norm-- have been a hotly-contested topic for close to half a decade. I talked about how AAA studios like Blizzard exploit workers' passion and camaraderie to cover up the effects of crunch time 3 years ago. As the perennial debate over crunch time and overwork in video games has heated up once again, I wanted to turn to an area that is often overlooked: the pressure and strain of single-person indie game development.

Writing for gamesindustry.biz earlier this year, Oliver Milne penned "The dangers of passion projects: Staying sane in indie development". He spoke with Josh Parnell, the single person behind the long-anticipated space sim Limit Theory that was successfully crowdfunded in 2012. Parnell worked on nothing but the ambitious space-sim for 3 years straight, handling programming and debugging and reworking all the code himself. In 2015, his regular public updates stopped cold. Parnell seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth. Six months later, he resurfaced, citing overwhelming stress and the need to retreat for half a year for his mental health.

Crowdfunded or not, you might think that control over your own schedule, milestones and owning what you make might make long hours and the pressure of crunch very unlikely. As Milne and Parnell point out, it's more likely than you'd think:
Being in control of their own hours and intellectual property might, on the face of it, seem like it would reduce those problems for indie developers, but Parnell says the indie lifestyle comes with its own risks: "On the one hand, what makes you so great as an indie dev is your passion. It's that you're doing what you love. On the other hand, that's exactly the danger of it, because the minute it becomes work, or the minute you let your life get consumed by it, everything changes. It's hard to see that coming when all you're thinking about is 'Oh, I'm just going to be doing what I love, it's going to be great!'

The entire article does a great deep dive on Parnell's case in particular and what all game devs could learn from what happened, so I'd recommend reading the whole thing.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Kids, Squids, Art Memes & DIY Hacks

The Splatoon series is well-known for two things: inventive multiplayer non-violent FPS action and the Miiverse player art accompanying player profiles that often showed some surprisingly intricate artwork. In fact, even though the Miiverse function won't be included in the Nintendo Switch, Splatoon 2 includes a profile function that works essentially the same way... so artists have kept on arting.

Some of the profile art looks jaw-droppingly detailed. Two examples:



How were these done? The two images were made using two different approaches: one involved a lot of patience, and the other involved hacking a game controller to run an external program.

The first image was created by reddit/twitter user Tobi, who explained his process this way:
“I just used a capacitive stylus for rough shapes, a zoomed in copy of the guy's face in 2-colour mode which I constructed in Photoshop, and a looooooooooot of patience to recreate the face. You don't have to be pixel perfect, because the entire thing hinges on visual noise to begin with, but it's nice if the face had some semblance of coherence to it. The clothes and hair are mostly random dots, whose only purpose were to create the illusion of texture and depth.

The second image, however, was not made by hand. Splatoon player and programmer ShinyQuagsire23 figured out how to trick an external USB input capture device to repurpose a fighting game controller to create the input needed to recreate an image pixel-by-pixel . The entire image creation process takes about an hour.

ShinyQuagsire23 uploaded the entire project to GitHub so that the rest of the world can share detailed Splatoon profile art too.

Or use it to make the dankest of memes.

Today Bandcamp's Donating Profits For Trans Law Aid. I'm Matching It.

Bandcamp, a DIY online music store for indie musicians that offers a pay-what-you-want pricing plan, announced it would donate 100 percent of its proceeds today to the Transgender Law Center. Bandcamp said in a statement this week that "We support our LGBT+ users and staff, and we stand against any person or group that would see them further marginalized."

While Bandcamp will be donating its cut of every sale today, the artist get to decide what they're going to do with their remaining share. I have an experimental music brand on bandcamp myself at lowercaset.bandcamp.com. I will be donating 100 percent of everything I make today to the Transgender Law Center today as well.

So, every sale made today August 4th (from midnight to midnight Pacific Time) will benefit to the Transgender Law Center, a nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to change law, policy, and culture for the more equitable. TLC does critical policy advocacy and litigation on multiple fronts, fights for healthcare for trans veterans, defends incarcerated trans people from abuse in prisons and detention centers, supports trans immigrants, and helps trans youth tell their stories and build communities.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Thank Yous, How You Can Help The Code & Get Free Stuff

Here's this month's Patron Thank Yous:
  • Cargo, who had nothing to link to, but is a great dude! Thanks, Cargo. 
  • Daphny Drucilla Delight David! Her Patreon is here and her blog is on the blogroll! 
  • Fluffy! Check out their stuff at beesbuzz.biz
  • Hillary Gross
  • Gabriel Gentile, on twitter at GabrielCGentile
This month's free Patron-exclusive download will be online this Friday-- FREE high-resolution glitch art that subscribers can print out, frame or remix.

What's The Patreon Stuff About, Anyhow?

The Code is helped by the patrons I just thanked. In addition to geek ephemera and the esoterically nerdy, I use this blog to focus on marginalized voices and perspectives, advocate for inclusiveness in media fandoms and sub-cultures, signal boost diverse creators and share stuff that can be food for thought.

I also create experimental electronic music and art prints & apparel under the name lowercase t, and perform improvisational readings with the Overly Dramatic Readers.

I also help people! Some of the ways I do that:
  • I co-host several charity fundraisers with The Munchausen Society every year
  • Advocate for strong anti-harassment policies and safe spaces at conventions
  • Organize public relations, media outreach, recorded an audio book & designed the website for a disabled dad's panel on disability for Bronycon; it was so successful he was invited back 2 more times!
  • And More!
I want to keep doing this work, and working with & helping people and also be compensated for my time and effort. My ultimate dream is to be able to offer a bi-monthly podcast along with a blog updated every day of the week. I know times are rough for a lot of people, so I've set this campaign to charge monthly-- no matter what, you'll only be charged the amount you chose to pledge once every month. 

I have rewards for every single support level I offer, too! Check it out:

$1 a month:
TIP JAR 

You'll get: 

  • My thanks & gratitude
  • Your name listed in a special "Thank You" post on The Code every month
  • Access to Patron-only posts and updates
  • One free Patron only exclusive download each month

$3 a month
CUP OF COFFEE

You'll get:

  • Your name listed in a special Thank You post on The Code
  • Access to Patron-only updates
  • Free Patron only exclusive download every month
  • Monthly link/plug to whatever you want-- your website, a project, your YouTube channel-- you name it!


$5 a month
LUNCH TIME


You'll get:

  • All rewards for previous tiers (named in the monthly thank you post, Patron-only update access, free monthly Patron only download, free plug on The Code)
  • free music download of a track of your choice from lowercase t every month!



$10 a month
SURPRISE MYSTERY CARE PACKAGE


You'll get:

  • All rewards for previous tiers 
  • A special Mystery Surprise Care Package made just for you mailed to you EVERY MONTH. It'll be a CARE package stuffed to the brim with fun stuff like novelties, toys, magazines, surprises and a hand-made doodle from me.




$20 a month
PIZZA TIME


You'll get:

  • All previous tier rewards (including the Monthly Mystery Surprise Package)
  • Every month you can request a post on The Code on a topic of your choosing or get a free music track made just for you based on a title you make up!
Click here to find out how you can become a Patron for as little as a dollar a month-- that's 3 cents a day.

If you don't want a monthly commitment but would still like to help out, you can send any amount you choose one time only by going through PayPal here, and you don't even need a paypal account.
Not a fan of PayPal? You can buy me a coffee via Ko-Fi!

Guest Post: Home, Heartbreak And Undertale


This post contains story spoilers for Undertale.

I spent most of my playtime with Undertale scared and depressed. This is probably not a normal or even, perhaps, sensible reaction. The game is pretty hilarious. It’s full of fantastically written characters. It’s an overall enjoyable, fantastic experience that I’d recommend to anyone. But it really upset me, and that’s still hanging around whenever I think about it. And it’s all Toriel’s fault.
Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But it certainly feels that way.
Toriel is the kind of character I wish there was more of in fiction. I’ve been experimenting with a character like her (though quite, quite different) for awhile now in my own writing. She’s caring and incredibly genuine. She’s feminine, and given many “grandma” sort of qualities. But at the same time she’s strong, she’s powerful, and she makes things happen. She has agency. She calls back to this ideal person I dreamed of being when I was little: mom-like, but without the dependence that was connected in my head. Who I am has changed a lot since then, of course, but there’s still a real strong connection there. I could do a lot worse to look back at my life and realize I resemble Toriel. I loved her, from when she first takes your hand in the game. It was something so ridiculously intimate-feeling, a gesture you just don’t see in games like this. How could I not?
And not long after, the game forced me into a situation where I had to essentially hurt her. Now, yes, of course, there’s a pacifist solution, and I used it, but I really hurt her emotionally by leaving. I knew she’d be upset. But she gave me a phone, and her phone number, so she’d always know I was safe. So I called her, and she didn’t pick up. I called Toriel approximately every 10 minutes of game time for the entire game, and she never picked up.
Now, from a narrative standpoint, this makes perfect sense. To her, me leaving was another death, of many. Another mistake of her ex-husband she couldn’t stop. To Toriel, she was grieving for me. (Even more true once it’s revealed she was really grieving for the me of long ago, the character you control in the game not being you.) Why would she increase her pain by talking to me? I wasn’t going to make it, just like the rest. I was already gone. I understand why it’d be hard to pick up the phone.
But to me, personally, it was devastating. I’ve been working really hard on my brain problems recently, and I’ve discovered something about myself. I have an anxiety disorder, and it all comes from this fear that people I care about are going to leave me, or abandon me. That I can’t be the thing they want. Someday they’ll realize it, and off they’ll go. Toriel wanted me to stay with her, enjoy a simple life with her, and I tried. I tried so hard to do that. I wasted almost an hour trying to figure out a way to not tell Toriel I wanted to leave the RUINs. I liked her. I wanted to be that for her, if that’s what she wanted. I couldn’t. It was a game of adventure. So I had to press on, because that’s the game. And she left me for it.
The moment I called her after walking out of the RUINs, and she didn’t pick up, I nervously told myself it was too quick for another event with her, and she’d pick up soon. I played a tiny bit more, and nothing. And I realized she would never pick up. And I vowed to stop playing the game right then and there. I couldn’t take her leaving me. It reminded me of my recurring nightmare I have. I used to have it every night. These days, I’m doing better, and it’s a couple times a month. But I’m always somewhere I want to be, and I realize, at some point, someone I care about has disappeared because of something I did. Maybe it’s my parents, maybe it’s my fiance, maybe it’s someone else, but they’re gone. I run and search and cry and can never find them. I knew I wouldn’t find Toriel either, a character who said she’d love it if I called her “mom,” since I brought it up. I couldn’t take it. I had that nightmare that night, just to seal the deal.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the game, and Toriel, though. Everyone else was enjoying it. I was going to miss something important, wasn’t I? So I asked around, talking to people who had beaten it, trying to find a reason to play more. “Will Toriel pick up the phone? Will it be okay? Will she talk to me?” They told me it would be alright. But the whole way through the game, I called, over and over again. And she never picked up. I held on to the pie she had given me. I couldn’t bring myself to use it, because I knew it would probably say something in the use text that would upset me, because it’d be about her. I laughed at the jokes, I got to know other great characters, I enjoyed the game, sure, but most of it I was on edge. I was worried. I was scared. What if it didn’t work out? What if she doesn’t pick up the phone?
Of course, in the True Pacifist ending, you are reunited. Toriel comes back as part of the dramatic finale, and you can give her the family she wants. But what you can’t do is apologize for hurting her, making her worry. And what she doesn’t do is apologize for not answering the phone. You tell her you want to live with her, and she remarks that you should have said so from the beginning. But I couldn’t do that. I tried, but I couldn’t, just like so many things I wanted to be for my parents, because they wanted it so badly, but I couldn’t. And just like my parents, Toriel abandoned me, for a time.
I saw those ending scenes, and I went, “Oh, good, that’s what I wanted.” But even now I can’t completely get into the fantasy of it. I’m still worried about it. She left me once, for doing something I had to do. Can I really be sure she won’t leave again? She made a joke out of me wanting to call her “mom,” after all. Is this as serious as I want it to be? I don’t know. There’s no more game to tell me.
A friend of mine commented (or maybe retweeted, I can’t remember) that it’s wonderful that Toriel has already basically become a mom for furries who don’t have that sort of thing. And that’s something I really understand, and that idea makes me happy. I kind of feel that way too, not because I don’t have a wonderful mother (mine’s pretty great, all things considered) but because can you ever really have too many moms? Too many people that show concern for you? And I’m glad she had an arc, of sorts, in the story, as a writer. It all worked well. I know she, in particular, is going to stick with me for a long time, and that’s the sign of a good character.
But I’ll never get to tell her I missed her. And she’ll never get to tell me she’s sorry for leaving me alone for so long.
Maybe that’s silly or ridiculous to be so hung up on. But I am. Such is the power of an interactive medium.

This post originally appeared at On The Stick and is reprinted with permission. Alexis Long writes cool stories you should read at poetfox.com.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Listen Up: Running on Rooftops

Hosted by Darryl & Phil, two big friends that are even bigger comic book nerds, Running on Rooftops specializes in discussing, analyzing and highlighting adapting comic book properties from the printed page to the silver screen (though they also cover television and Netflix adaptations too).

The most recent episode available does a deep dive on the recently released Spider-Man: Homecoming that's pretty entertaining to listen to. Whenever there's a major release on Netflix, they also invite a guest host onboard. The also have shorter episodes they call "Sprints" released on occasion.

You can follow along via the Running on Rooftops website, via iTunes on iOS or Google Play.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Disfigured Villains In Films Harm Real People

Batman's nemesis Two-Face, the Harry Potter series' Lord Voldemort, and Wonder Woman's Dr. Poison-- all of them are villains, and they all have disfigured faces. It's a common trope in fiction to show the internal ugliness of a character's evil deeds and thoughts be reflected by giving the character facial disfigurement. Popular culture reflects the world around us, which society reflects back, creating a feedback loop that further reinforces harmful stereotypes and makes the lives of people with facial disfigurements worse, because audiences have internalized these messages. In an interview with Brendon Connelly, when asked why so many James Bond villains have disfigurements, James Bond producer Michael G. Wilson said it was meant to honor the narrative device that Bond novel author Ian Fleming employed, "the idea that physical deformity and personality deformity go hand in hand in some of these villains.”

Writing for Teen Vogue, Alaine Leary outlines how Wonder Woman's Dr. Poison portrayal feeds into that idea and reinforces an already painful stigma for people with facial disfigurements:
Dr. Poison falls into the easy trope that suggests disability — and in this case, specifically facial disfigurement — means that a character is evil. We never find out Dr. Poison’s backstory and whether her facial scarring caused her to become a villain or happened after she already was one, but the message is the same: We should be afraid of people whose faces and bodies are different from our own... When we pigeonhole disabled characters into basic roles that are easily defined, such as sympathetic and pitiable or villainous and evil, we’re reinforcing the idea that disabled people don’t live full, meaningful lives the same way non-disabled people do. We need more media that offers a diverse perspective on disability and facial disfigurement, and doesn’t just boil our vast experiences down to a plot point.
Ariel Henley, an author with Crouzon Syndrome, has also talked about how Dr. Poison affects her as a person with facial disfigurement, saying "As someone with a facial difference,... [t]he only evil most of us have experienced has been at the hands of a society that refuses to accept us."

Honestly, I agree. The idea of someone's outward appearance reflecting anything about that person's inner life and worth is junk, and the "Evil Makes You Ugly" trope is cliched, lazy, harmful nonsense that had worn out its welcome ages ago.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Update: How to Call Congress When You Have Anxiety

I posted a version of this post about 8 months ago. As the current administration marches on, calling your state and local representatives as a means of taking direct action and affecting change have become even more vital than ever. For those that struggle with chronic mental illness or anxiety, taking this sort of action can be even more difficult than it would be for a neurotypical person.  The artist Cordellia of echothroughthefog recently made a comic about how they pushed against anxiety, made those calls, and how you can do that, too! A transcript of the comic and more resources follow.







“How to call your reps when you have social anxiety”

There’s a LOT going on in the U.S. right now. The civil rights and safety of many groups are at risk at the moment. You’ve probably heard that one of the most effective ways to advocate for issues you care about, or stand up against dangerous policies and appointments, is to call your local representatives.

If you want to help but have social anxiety and find phone calls very intimidating, you may be thinking, “How do I do this?!” (An over-sized telephone handset hovers ominously over the narrator with its cord spiraling around her body. She looks up at it with great concern.)

Here’s a step-by-step:
  • Block off time on your calendar. Each call only takes a minute or so, but you might want to block off more time for your first call, so you can prepare your words & nerves. Don’t rush yourself! Scheduling is super important, otherwise you will perpetually delay calling.
  • At the scheduled time, go sit somewhere quiet.
  • Find out who represents you. Some places to look: House (http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/) and Senate (http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/).
  • Write out exactly what you plan to say. It only needs to be a few lines, and there are lots of templates online that you can use. e.g. “Hello! I am constituent from city (zip code) and I am calling to urge Some Name to publicly…” If they have already released a statement, don’t use that as an excuse to avoid calling. I know it’s hard, but call anyway. Thank them and ask them to keep pushing.
  • Take a deep breath. You can do this.
  • Do this: dial. (This is the hardest part.)
  • Read from your script. At this point, you’ll likely be sent to voicemail or to an actual person. The person will most likely be friendly and probably won’t have much time to talk, so you shouldn’t have to deviate much from your script. It’s a quick conversation.
  • That’s it! Say “Thank you” and hang up.

You did it! If you’re thinking “Hey, that wasn’t so bad…”, call more people! And follow up with them next week, or even tomorrow, to make sure they keep these issues top of mind.

It is okay if your voice shakes. It is okay if you feel awkward.They get a lot of calls, so they don’t have time to judge you by how well you delivered your message. It is also okay if you can’t call.

This week, my best friend told me, “Do something that is uncomfortable but not harmful to your mental health.” For me, calling was enough outside my comfort zone to be stressful and scary, but not so far away as to use up all my energy. That might not be the case for you, and that’s okay. Do not beat yourself up about it.

There are lots of ways to take action without picking up a phone:
  • Write to government officials, One great tool is Resistbot-- a free service that turns your texts into a formal letter, and then faxes it to your elected officials. You'll get a copy of the letter, and a notification when the fax goes through. Although it takes its name from the idea of “resisting” the current administration, it’s a straightforward tool that you can use to voice your opinions, no matter what they are.
  • Create art that challenges and art that inspires
  • Donate, if you’re financially able, to organizations that fight injustice
  • Listen to immigrants, people of color, women, trans and non-binary people, people of all faiths and orientations, and people with disabilities. Support their work. Amplify their voices.
  • Keep it up.


And here are some resources:

  • Phone calls are still the most direct way to get a staffer’s ear, but this text-to-fax service has a few advantages on your end: you can speak up any time, the bot will keep trying if the lines are busy, and you don’t have to work up the nerve to talk to a stranger. Some members of Congress still have actual fax machines, while others will receive your message as a sort of glorified email. Either way, if your contact information is on the letter, it will be counted along with other messages from constituents.
  • Emily Ellsworth explains why calling is the most effective way to reach your congressperson.
  • Sharon Wong posted a great series of tweets that helped me manage my phone anxiety and make some calls.
  • Kelsey is tweeting pretty much daily with advice and reminders about calling representatives. I found this tweet an especially great reminder that calls aren’t nearly as big a deal as anxiety makes them out to be.
Informational resources:
There are a lot of these, as well! These three are good places to start:
Find your representative at house.gov
Find your senators at senate.gov
Use the “We’re His Problem Now” scripts when calling

Monday, July 24, 2017

Listen Up: Super Tangent

I first heard about Super Tangent during an episode of Fan2Fan. Super Tangent is best described as a nerdy entertainment podcast that examines geek fandom, black entrepreneurship and the culture of masculinity. Host Justin Williams doesn't just report on comic, films, anime, he ties it together to talk about running a business, doing it yourself and determining your place in the world.

Williams is a busy guy, so the update schedule is a little irregular. You can follow along via Super Tangent on stitcher  or playerfm or through  iOS.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fanart Friday #3: Danielle Sanfilippo

I met Danielle Sanfilippo this year during a fan-run Undertale tabletop-themed game at Dexcon 20 in Morristown, NJ. Aside from being a top-notch Undyne player, she also showed generous spirit when, after the game session was finished, she gifted each player a little chibi version of the character they played. That was my gateway to doing a deeper dive into her artwork and character design work.

So in the 3rd edition of Fanart Friday, I present to you a selection of the works of illustrator Danielle "Danimagining" Sanfilippo. You can find out how to follow Danimaging at the end of the post, and there's a bonus bit of silly art based on the Dexcon Undertale game session under the jump (since it's slightly spoilerish for Undertale).

First up, above is her take on Overwatch's fighter and competitive gamer, D. Va.


She also has a great take on Zootopia's Nick Wilde.

You don't often find fan art of locations in a game, and here you have a fan landscape of the Waterfall area in Undertale, complete with echo flowers.



Sanfilippo also works in traditional media. In addition to animation and character concept design work, she's also made artwork based on adventures and encounters for the Knight Realms LARP group.

You can find her work under the Danimagining name across pretty much every social media platform you can think of. Her facebook is www.facebook.com/danimagining and she's on instagram as danimagining. You can also even wear her artwork. Her fandom stuff is available at  www.teepublic.com/user/danimagining (I want that Tracer tee so badly, you have no idea) and her original artwork is up on redbubble at www.redbubble.com/people/danimagining .

Fanart Friday is an ongoing series where The Code looks to spotlight fanworks created by and 
for POC, LGBT artists. If you know of any work you think should be given a boost, send me an email at shawnstruck@gmail.com or comment below!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

5 Easy Ways To Find Diverse Summer Reading For Kids

Photo courtesy of The Book Trust via Creative Commons
If you're a parent, caregiver for kids, youth activity leader, or tutor, then you know that Summer vacation for kids usually come with some required reading over the summer, too. As a conscientious caregiver, finding diverse stories to share with kids can seem difficult. But it doesn't have to be. Writing for Huffpost, Nancy Traversy, Co-Founder of Barefoot Books shares a few tips.  For example, don't just stick with stuff you remember from when you were a kid! Branch out a bit:

[T]here are many other exceptional books out there that represent a wide range of experiences. To find them, look for book awards lists that honor creators of specific identities and backgrounds and best-of-class publishing. For example, the Coretta Scott King Award honors African-American authors and illustrators, while the Stonewall Awardcelebrates books with positive LGBTQ representation and the Foreword INDIES Book Awards recognizes the best of independent, innovative publishing. Share these stories with your children, and you’ll not only keep their book diet diverse - you’ll also inspire them with some of the very best children’s literature available.

Another great, and overlooked resource? Your local librarians:
Ask them to recommend books by a wide range of authors and illustrators that are appropriate for your child’s reading level. Many libraries run free literacy programs over the summer, so ask them if they have events or activities that feature diverse books. Your librarians may also be able to point you to local readings and events that celebrate authors and illustrators from a range of cultures or religions. Borrow as many diverse books as you can carry and encourage your child to read them all.

There are three more tips Travesy gives that are simple, effective and easy to start doing right now, so go read the article to get the rest!

Readers, do you have any tips you'd like to share? Post 'em in the comments below!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Listen Up: Wizard Team, A Harry Potter Podcast



#WizardTeam is a podcast that's a spin-off from the blog "Black Girls Nerd Out," where hosts Robyn and Bayana discuss the Harry Potter books, in order, one chapter at a time!

It's updated semi-regularly, so the best way to keep up is via  iOS or soundcloud .

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Vidders: History, Heroes Of Media Fandom & How To Be One Too


In what's one of the more novel uses of github I've seen in a while, lim, a fan artist whose work was recently shown at the Vancouver Art Gallery has released one of the definitive histories of early media fandom: Videlicet.. Like much of early media fandom in sci-fi and fantasy, its early pioneers were women. Not only does the zine look back at the past with profiles of prominent vidders, it also helps forward the future by presenting a DIY guide for your own fanvids.

Let's back up a bit. What is vidding? Vidding began in the mid-70s, after the original Star trek series went off the ait. Trekker Kandy Fong synced Star Trek stills sold to collectors, projected them on a slide projector, and synced the stills with music from a cassette player. This was the earliest version of fan-made music videos, called "vids", and vidding was often done live. For years, vids were only shown at fan conventions. While the VCR's widespread use made vidding more accessible, it still required extensive technical skill, often requiring daisy chaining VCRs together, splicing in footage and audio from many different source on-the-fly and as you needed it. Even with the rise of broadband connections and media sharing sites like YouTube, vidding still remains grounded in smaller communities, curated experiences, and smaller, more intimate exhibitions.

Videlicet covers a LOT of ground, so while I encourage a deep dive, I want to share two of my favorite parts of this zine:
It’s the soundwork that emphasizes their physicality of the characters, reminding us of the opening lyric of flesh and bone; we are cued not to think of these superheroes as 2-D comic book cutouts but as real three-dimensional bodies. The sounds of human effort are layered into the music with perfect synchronicity, so that we hear grunting, the crunch of bone, the crack of gunshots – things that mark the collision of people and things in a way that makes the fighting feel real; we can feel it in our teeth.

Dissecting lyrical interpretation is making the brushstrokes visible. Picasso did not paint the world as he saw it. He painted it as he processed it in the same way that vidders do. Vidding is a lie that makes people see the truth. When working through a lyrical interpretation of a vidsong, aim to make choices that strengthens that truth you are trying to vid and let that drive the lyrical interpretations.
Readers, do you have any favorite fanvids? What was your favorite part of Videlicet? Have a fanvid you'd like to promote? Sound off in the comments!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Listen Up: Black Media Minute

The Black Media Minute is a podcast that dives into the ins and outs of the media business with Black creatives and industry professionals. The show features interviews and analysis of books, movies and television. It's hosted by Kimberly Foster, who was named one of Forbes' "30 Under 30" last year. Every episode is packed full of probing interviews and insightful conversations with  people who shape the media landscape.

You can follow along at the Black Media Minute with Kimberly Foster website or via itunes.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

#SurvivedAndPunished: Free Toolkit For Marginalized & Criminalized Survivors


A collaboration between Love and Protect and Survived and Punished has resulted in a new, free downloadable toolkit aimed at survivors of violence, sexual assault and abuse. Titled "#SurvivedAndPunished: Survivor Defense As Abolitionist Praxis", the toolkit is the work of over two dozen creatives, activists and writers. It was created because for many women who are survivors of violence and assualt, once the ordeal is survived they find themselves at the mercy of a criminal justice system that ends of punishing them even further. The aim of the toolkit per the project's statement is to offer an accessible, practical, and visible:
...collection of tools, tips, lessons and resources developed through our own experiences. It is also an effort to document and reflect on our own movement work. It is important for us to document especially because our organizing work has been led by Black women, women of color, immigrants and queer/trans people, who are so often erased from history. We hope to preserve some of these histories, build solidarity, and share hope as we continue our collective struggle.
You can read the toolkit online, or download your own copy, for free at the Survived And Punished website here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Listen Up: Better Than The Movie


Better Than the Movie is a monthly podcast for people who are passionate about books. Each episode covers book news and issues related to literature and popular culture. The goal of each episode is th "encourage listeners and readers to look beyond the Best Sellers lists and discover new voices and stories", and they have had a number of interesting interviews with many authors of color.

You can listen along o the Better Than The Movie website, via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Ballroom Glitz: Analysis of Feminine Game Design Via "Princess Debut"

Writing for Mammon Machine's ZEAL project, Alex Roberts looks at what she says is a prime example of "feminine game design" that she feels was overlooked: "Princess Debut" for the Nintendo DS:
Princess Debut is a rhythm game and dating sim released, to mild commercial success and critical disinterest, in 2008 for the Nintendo DS. It stars a teenage girl who, after trading places with her princess doppelganger in a parallel universe, learns ballroom dancing and wins the heart of at least one handsome prince with the help of her feisty talking animal companion. She finds magical accessories that transform into elaborate outfits. She spends perpetually sunny days in gardens and beaches with cute boys who are all interested in her. Princess Debut could only be girlier if her dance instructor was a horse instead of an anthropomorphic rabbit. (But that would mean striking a crucial Alice in Wonderland reference.) 
What makes Princess Debut feminine, though, is not its pink menus, delicate soundtrack, or shoujo manga-inspired character designs. Rather, those external aesthetics are genuinely representative of an internal structure that whose priorities and techniques are expressly feminine. Its cover art — a petite teenage girl, gasping with delight, eyes wide as dinner plates, hair in a perfect up-do — is wonderful in itself, but what makes Princess Debut worth writing about almost a decade later is the way it delivers on the promises that happy face is making.
Roberts does a deep dive into the aesthetics of "Princess Debut", comparing and contrasting it with another rhythm-action game, "Elite Beat Agents". She examines why one was a critical darling, one was met with critical indifference, and the difference between feminine game design and pinkwashing. It's a great read and has me so interested, I'm gonna be tracking down a copy of "Princess Debut" as soon as I can.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Announcing BLERD CITY Con

Via Black Girl Nerds, the following awesome announcement:

WHAT:
The first annual BLERD CITY Con will hit New York City’s historic neighborhood and Silicon Valley East, DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.) Saturday, July 29 and Sunday, July 30, 2017.

BLERD CITY’s mission is to provide the Black community with substantial connections to talented and cutting-edge professionals in the craft of positive image making. BLERD CITY comes from Black + Nerd = Blerd, a conference dedicated to showcasing the complexity and multi-dimension of NERDiness through Art, Science, Film, Literature, and Technology.  The conference includes panels, workshops, film screenings, and a marketplace. The BLERD CITY marketplace will feature a mixture of curated gaming and comic books, and a children’s area for science and technology exploration.

BLERD CITY panels and workshops announced so far include: Women In Comics, Martial Arts and the Urban Landscape, Afropast and Afrofuture, Cosplay Interaction, SciFi/Fantasy/Horror Film Screenings, an L.A. Banks Tribute and more. Guests announced include:Tim Fielder, graphic artist, cartoonist, and animator, Afrofuturism The Next Generation; Nicole Franklin, CBS Sunday Morning Daytime Entertainment Emmy® Award winning editor, filmmaker, and co-producer and co-moderator of the weekly Monday night Twitter series #BlerdDating, Warrington Hudlin, and Regine Sawyer.

WHERE:

The Dumbo Spot, 160 Water Street​
Green Desk, 155 Water Street
Creative Chaos, 28 Jay Street
Automatic Studios, 52 Bridge Street
Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Empire Fulton Ferry (Near Main Street)

Visit the official website for more information about BLERD CITY or to register for the convention.

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