Tag Archives: conventions

I Went to Yaoi Con: Main Events!

If you visit us here at CWC often, you have probably seen a trend in the types of things that I talk about when I post here. Mostly men, and mostly about them touching in some way.

Did you know there is a convention dedicated to this wonderful niche interest [you probably could have guessed, there is a con for everything these days]? It’s called Yaoi Con, and up until this year, it had been held up in Northern California. I’ve attended since 2006, with the exception of last year due to work *grumbles*.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, Yaoi is a Japanese term referring to boys’ love, generally geared towards women. Yaoi Con is a glorious place where people come together to celebrate an interest. It’s 18+, since the content is really meant for adults. Even with a guardian you can’t get in unless you are over 18.

So as I previously mentioned, this year was the first time since 2001 that it was being held in Southern California. One other major change that happened was that last year it was bought by Digital Manga, and many regular attendees were nervous about both changes. I myself, try to be an optimist, and was [1] excited that it was just 40 minutes away and [2] not ready to judge until I saw what Digital Manga did differently.

Now, please bear in mind that this is my viewpoint of the convention. If you attended and had terrible experiences, be it with staffers, with panels, with the dealer’s hall, please let Digital Manga know! The only way to make things better is to give feedback!

I’m breaking this up in chunks to try to make everything more digestible. Today kids, we will talk about the main con events!

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GGC12 Panels: Why Men Write Women Poorly, With Greg Rucka

This panel was inspired by a piece comic writer and novel author Greg Rucka wrote for i09 and can be found here. But it seemed like a good topic to address at Geek Girl Con, so he took the stage with Susana Polo to talk about his article, his method of writing believable, realistic women, and answer some questions.

When Polo started reading comics it was for one character. She says it takes a while for you to pay attention to the names of the authors on the comics. And one of the names that kept coming up was Greg Rucka. No Man’s Land, Batman, etc. Rucka is also the author of the Atticus Kodiak series.

Rucka says he wrote the i09 piece in response to being asked how he writes realistic female characters. There are two part to the question: 1) how does he, having a penis, write characters without a penis? And 2) why aren’t more people doing it. “How do we do it?” Rucka asks. “I try to treat all characters with respect…. Characters are never all one thing. That is bad writing.” To assume that is the same thing as saying Harry Potter is a scar. Characterization is a million things. They are built on their history, education, experiences, sexual orientation, etc.

But when it comes to men writing women, we have to acknowledge we live in a sexist society. Rucka says, for example, he can walk down a Seattle street at 3 am, and doing that is a different experience for him than a woman. So it needs to be acknowledged, but that doesn’t mean it’s all you think about. “We ignore gender and characterization at our peril,” he says.

Of course, like any writing advice, Rucka reminds us, “Any writer who tells you this is how you do it, eye with suspicion.” One of the reasons writing works it that it’s an individual voice. There is no one right way.

His fourth Kodiak book is his first told from another character’s POV. That character is Bridgett Logan, Atticus’ ex-girlfriend, and a woman. In first person, everything is character because it is a character voice. Atticus might describe a chair as “sickly green” but Bridgett would call it “a piece of junk.” Bridgett is an Irish catholic girl from the Bronx who is a recovering junkie. Her perspective and narration are affected by those things.

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GGC12 Panels: Capes & Canes – Disabilities in Comics

Geek Girl Con was so much fun, I don’t even know where to begin. Autumn and I have a zillion photos and reams of panel notes, and Autumn interviewed some ladies from NASA. So we’ll be posting our Con Converge as quickly as real life allows. (Damn real life!)

Barbara Gordon as Oracle from her Wikipedia page

This panel was proposed and moderated by Katelyn Bruhn. The other panelists were Greg Rucka, comic writer and novelist; Jen Van Meter, comic writer; Teal Sherer, actress and producer, and star of the webseries My Gimpy Life; and Jill Pantozzi, writer who contributes to many sites including The Mary Sue. This is a long write up because it was so awesome and so much was discussed.

So what inspired the panel, among other things, was the backlash last year when DC announced that in the New 52 reboot of Batgirl, Barbara Gordon would reprise the role. She had been using a wheelchair after the Joker shot her through the spine and had become the Oracle. In the reboot, she would be walking again.

Pantozzi says she was mostly in the dark about new 52 but a friend from DC gave her a heads up that they were getting rid of Oracle and putting Barbara back as Batgirl. She found it extremely upsetting. “Oracle is a role model of mine,” she says. And to have a bad ass female character alone is unique in the Dc universe, let alone one in a wheelchair. And of course back then, she had no idea how they would do it. Would they magic the wheelchair away? Pretend it never happened?

Sherer says she felt basically the same way. There are so few characters out there with disabilities.“There’s this misconception out there that people with disabilities are broken and need to be fixed..Maybe she doesn’t want to be fixed.She released a youtube video dressed as Oracle to argue that side of it last year. (It’s hilarious and I suggest you watch it. On having to be Batgirl again: “Girl, I’m 30 years old!”)

Rucka says he’s curious now, a year later, how you feel about it and how it was handled? He’s quick to add not about Gail doing a good job, because that’s a given.

Pantozzi says Barbara Gordon is a good character no matter what. “[Gordon] as Batgirl is interesting but also, we have seen that story.”

Rucka agrees and adds that Oracle was so successful as a story because the entirety of her journey was in the books. Readers got to see her before the wheelchair, and see the trauma of being shot and then disabled, and see her cope with it and accept it and move on. If DC were to say, Okay, we hear you, toss in another wheelchair-bound lady crime fighter, it would feel apologist.

Bruhn asks, How important is it that when we rejoin Barbara she is recovering physically and emotionally even though she’s out of the chair? Bruhn is a big Marvel fan, so she’s big on the idea that when you fix something with Tony Stark you give him another problem. It’s a constant battle.

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Sluts, Gamer Girls, and Booth Babes — Oh MY!

Just when I thought I was being lazy about making new blogs posts, someone was horribly wrong on the internet and has induced both feminist AND nerd rage. That’s a pretty impressive level of heinous douchebaggery right there.

The person wrong on the internet is this dude right here. While he attempts to offer criticism on the phenomenon of booth babes–something I also find troubling–Joe Peacock manages to write a  piece positively dripping with the underlying sexism that is ubiquitous in nerd culture. The lists of sins Peacock commits in this article is long and tragically overshadows any valid points he has. However, I will attempt to address the main points best I can.

Instead of tackling the real underlying problem in my opinion–that corporations think it’s a great idea to use half-naked women to sell their products–he instead attacks the women themselves. Sorry, perhaps “women” is the wrong term. He’s  talking about “wannabes who couldn’t make it as car show eye candy slapping on a Batman shirt and strutting around comic book conventions instead.”

That's right, she's a REAL gamer girl. Not one of those FAKE gamer girls. (Seriously you guys, WTF does this s^#$ even MEAN?) This graphic has the added bonus of reminding us that MOST "gamer girls" aren't of the "real" variety.

So, what’s the problem with these women exactly? Other than simply not being genuinely interested in nerd culture, they just aren’t all that attractive. Peacock claims that in the non-nerd world, these girls would only measure up to a 6. However, simply by dressing up in nerdy costumes they ascend to a 9. So these women dress up in revealing clothing, think they’re way hotter than they really are,  and bask in the attention of dudes who they totally wouldn’t actually sleep with? Those bitches.

Holy objectification, Batman! Not only did this guy just demonize feminine displays of sexuality, but he goes as far to describe women using a number as if her lack of attractiveness somehow degrades her worth as a human being. Even more confounding is that Peacock goes on to link to the fantastic Fat, Ugly, or Slutty without realizing that he is, in a form much more subtle than that website shows, helping to promote and perpetuate some of the very misogynist attitudes that give rise to the harassment he himself is obviously opposed to.

He does, however, make a good point about an issue nerd boys face in the culture at large. He states:

“As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting.”

In another context, my response would have been “Preach it, brother!” But alas, Peacock is talking about the girls themselves –not the people who decide this sort of misogyny draws more money from consumers.

Here is your obligatory booth babe picture. At least, I think they're booth babes. They could be cosplayers. It's impossible to tell because no one has ever bothered actually talking to hot girls in costumes at cons. They just post their pictures on the internet.

But Autumn! He isn’t talking about the ACTUAL booth babes! He’s talking about sluts who go to conventions in order to get attention from nerds when they don’t actually care about nerd culture!

True! That is the target he seems to be aiming his vitriol toward, but guess what: he is doing little more than slut shaming under the guise of defending nerd culture. Defending nerd culture from what exactly? Why, from poser women who conspire to use nerd boys’ boners against them! This is particularly baffling since he admits that this sort of attitude–that boys are helpless thralls of any pretty girl that looks their way–is ludicrous and insulting. What Peacock totally misses is that he is promoting the equally repugnant and insulting flip-side of that stereotype: Girls are petty, blood-sucking succubi who prey on helpless boy victims.

Perhaps the only statement that might prevent me from vomiting every time I read this article is the following:

“There’s no doubt about it – girls in geek culture have it hard, and it’s probably going to be that way for a long time. … Women elevate the culture, and thus, the content.”

You know what is hard for girls in geek culture? Having to downplay their attractiveness and interest in “girly” things like fashion in order to be taken seriously in the community. Being treated as some sort of awful predator looking for an easy kill should they partake in nerdy hobbies. Having to prove to everyone that they are a REAL nerd girl and not just some “slut with a controller.” Feeling shame for dressing nicely or, heaven forbid, sleeping with a dude she met at PAX lest she be forever branded a con whore.

This comic cropped up a few months ago and showcases the troubling dichotomy of a "real" gamer girl versus the fake "slut" girl. This is a destructive and divisive concept that needs to stop.

Peacock meant well with this article, certainly, but guess what? Girls shouldn’t be required to meet a certain threshold of appreciation of your hobbies in order to gain your permission to express their sexuality in a way they see fit. We need to stop trying to shove women into a tiny subset of acceptable behaviors and roles in order to accept them in our community. Need proof of this weird, frakked up dichotomy? Here you go:

“Flaunt it if you got it – and if you’re a geek, male or female, and you’re strikingly handsome or stunningly beautiful, and you cosplay as a handsome or beautiful character, more power to us all. Hot geeks are hot.”

So it’s totally okay if you want to strip down to your skivvies, drape yourself in Super Nintendo controllers, and post pictures of this to the internet… but only if you can complete a speed run of Super Metroid in under 45 minutes. If not, you’re a poser and a “pox on our culture.”

What this whole fiasco exemplifies is the following: it is incredibly hard to not be sexist. Even people who mean well and actively try to not be sexist fall into this trap all the damn time. In her wonderful article describing “hipster racism” Lindy West states that the best we can do is to commit to working our asses off to not be racist. The exact same thing is applies to sexism–it is so incredibly ingrained in us that we don’t even realize it when we’re being terrible little crotch goblins. This is my attempt to point out to a well-meaning dude that he is being exactly that: a crotch goblin.

ECCC Panels: Sympathy for the Devil – Crafting Great Villains

I didn't get a photo of the panelists. There were a number of reasons. I'm sorry.

Villains can make or break a story or RPG. This panel was about crafting a good–or even great–villain for your story or game. First, let’s meet our panelists: Philip Anthans, author of several books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction. Erin M. Evans, author of The God Catcher and soon Brimstone Angels. And our panel leader was editor and writer Susan J. Morris of Writers Don’t Cry.

Morris begins by asking why villains are important. Anthans says, “I really, really believe it’s the villain that begins the story.” Generally the hero is sitting around and waiting for things to happen. It’s the villain’s actions that spur the hero into action. Evans agrees, because villains are the source of the conflict.

“Villains have to want it,” Morris says. There’s rarely a reluctant villain. They tend to have active personalities. Anthans adds that heroes can start out with weak motivation. For example, a homicide detective is assigned to a case and has to deal with it. The killer isn’t assigned to the murder. And of course, villains are great to use as foils to the heroes.

What about sympathetic villains? Evans says “I like villains that you almost want to succeed and then feel dirty about later.” Like minions with incompetent bosses who are always riding them. You kind of want them to show their boss, until you realize that probably means doing bad things. She adds that villains can have good traits and do decent things. A prime example is Tony Soprano. The TV writers managed to show him being a family man but then would make sure to remind the audience he was a terrible person by showing him randomly hitting people who didn’t deserve it, etc. Evans really likes villains who do things anyone could do, and might do if not for X, Y, or Z. Anthans points out that most of the time, the villain doesn’t think they’re the bad guy. They have some agenda and then their methods go off the rails.

What’s the difference between an anti-hero and a villain? Anthans says simply, “Villains don’t turn away from the dark sides of themselves.”

What are good and bad ways to signal who the villain is? Morris said basic evil acts, obviously, like murder and rape. Evans says it depends a lot on the context. Morris brings up Supernatural: on that show, evil is shown in how people think about their actions afterward or whether they hesitate. Anthans added that well drawn villains will have that moment of hesitation too. They may decided to kill people to get what they want, but they will think about it and have to decide how many people can die or how far they’re willing to go.

How does the villain get defeated without making them look stupid or incompetent? They don’t always need to be defeated, Anthans says. Sometimes they win. Evans says that sometimes it can be closer to a draw: the hero doesn’t win but the villain isn’t defeated. All the same, the conflict needs to be resolved. That doesn’t mean one side has to be destroyed.

And now the big one: Villain Origin Stories.

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GeekGirlCon: No, I am not a Booth Babe

The ladies of Crabcat Industries: Elizabeth, Hilary, and Jessica.

All right, kids! After a fall quarter from hell and surviving an over-booked-but-fun holiday adventure I am finally writing up my thoughts on the GeekGirlCon panel titled, “No, I am not a Booth Babe: Sexism in the Video Game Industry” featuring the ladies of CrabCat Industries–Elizabeth Heckmaier, Jessica Merizan, and Hilary Shapiro. The original plan for this post was to rave about how awesome Jessica Merizan is, but frankly, with over three months between now and the con, I can’t remember exactly why I wrote “I love this woman” in my notes from the panel. So, instead of a straight up review, I will liberally interpret what my notes say to weave my own narrative on the topics discussed during the panel.

Representations of Females in Games
It is apparent to anyone who has been exposed to gaming culture that ladies in games are often only eye candy or objects to be rescued and, even if they are plot-relevant characters, they tend to be overly-sexualized and scantily clad. As Merizan pointed out during the panel, the door does swing both ways in some respects.

“How often to the guys look like the characters they are playing?” she asked. While I agree with her on that point, I would add that just because both sexes are subjected to this sort of idealized representation in games it does not follow that it is therefore acceptable. Indeed, I would argue that females have it worse in many respects (the second result on google for “female video game characters” lists 25 of the hottest ones). The most obvious example is how females are clothed or, perhaps more accurately, how often they simply aren’t clothed.

I’m sure we are all familiar with the tendency for female characters to wear “armor” which often fails to cover fairly large portions of vital bits–particularly around the abdomen. In fact, in games such as World of Warcraft it is often joked that the less skin the armor covers the more protective it is–this is due to the plate and mail armor sets in the game often more closely resembling a chainmail bikini whereas the cloth armor tends take the form of more conservative robes (with some famous exceptions, of course). This isn’t to say that there is an objection to ladies wearing revealing outfits in general, but rather that women routinely going into battle wearing a chainmail bikini is insulting. Why is it that females simply aren’t dressed for the job?

The original is forgivable for sake of the "big reveal" with awful graphics, but come on.

Samus Aran pictures from the end of the Metroid games.

As Shapiro pointed out during the panel, we are thankfully seeing a trend of more appropriately dressed ladies in video games. Of note are Aveline from Dragon Age II and, my personal favorite, Shepard (or “FemShep”) from the Mass Effect series. I am hoping this trend continues and that other appropriately dressed characters such as Samus Aran from Metroid (who originally was considered a breakthrough with respect to women in games) will no longer be reduced to posing in pin-up style pictures of increasing states of undress offered as a reward to the player for higher percentage of game completion.

That being said, I have no problem with ladies posing as pin ups or with ladies wearing chainmail bikinis–it just shouldn’t be women’s only accepted role in the community.

Authenticity: There ARE Girls on the Internet, Assholes
“Authenticity shouldn’t be an issue anymore,” said Heckmaier. I believe she was referring to how women are often seen as somehow being posers or not “real” gamers unless proven otherwise. I believe this goes hand-in-hand with other stereotypes of girl gamers–they’re not good at games, if you admit to being a girl it is because you want free stuff from guys, you’re probably 800 pounds and ugly (attractive girls don’t play video games, of course), and the list goes on and on. I remember being very cautious and even ashamed about admitting my gender on MMORPGs because of encountering these exact stereotypes myself. While in a group, if I simply corrected someone for using the wrong pronoun I would either be accused of being an attention whore or I would be hit on. I once had a PVP group of mostly males and people made statements that the only reason I was allowed in the group was because I must have been sleeping with the person running it.

I’ve even been on receiving end of well-meaning sexist comments too–two friends of mine once commented on how girls were not any good at PVP. One of the friends countered with the fact that they knew ONE girl who was good at it–me. How flattering.

Rule 30: There are no girls on the internet. Recently, a friend joked that I put his manliness to shame while playing Guitar Hero because I can play guitar on expert and he can only play on medium. While more subtle, these comments are still troubling because they reflect the pervasive underlying assumption that girls are bad at games.

Hey, guess what? Girls are good at video games. In fact, there are girls who are better at video games than guys are. I used to be flattered every time someone reacted with, “Wow! You’re beating me at this game and you’re a GIRL!” Not anymore. I just find it insulting. I am not some sort of god damn anomaly just because I have a vagina.

This trend goes both ways, though. For every sexist comment from a male I’ve gotten (“I didn’t want to talk to you at first because you are pretty and therefore I assumed you were stupid”) I’ve gotten something just as awful from a female perpetuating the same nonsense. For example, I once went shopping for a hair dryer. I was then berated by a friend of mine because she “know[s] the types of girls who own hair dryers” and I clearly was wrong to venture into the “pretty girl” camp from her “smart girl” camp. As Merizan also pointed out, girls commonly get disapproving comments for wearing make-up as well–it seems to me that no matter what you do to your appearance, there is always something wrong with it.

This pretty girl vs. smart girl dichotomy has got to stop. We are human beings. We can be and often are both of these (and many more) things. We fall within a bell curve like most of the rest of the population. We shouldn’t be shunned by our nerd peers for wanting to wear make up, dresses, or do our hair. Women do not do these things for the attention of men. We do them because we want to do them. Also, just because a girl doesn’t somehow meet your standards of attractiveness doesn’t mean you can dismiss her, either.

It seems to me that the current state of gender issues in the video game industry, much like the current state of feminism in general, is a matter of personhood and a battle against pervasive, destructive stereotypes–for both genders. For goodness sake, do an image search for “girl gamers” and look at what comes up. I dare you to tell me this isn’t a huge problem.

2011: The Year of The Faerie – A Retrospective Extrodinaire

I ❤ Silly Hats & Champagne. And my Surly Geek Girl Necklace 😀

FIRST! Some acknowledgements: 2011 was the year this blog started. It began because my friend Jon and I had a conversation during which I realized the best way to be a part of an awesome Geek Girl Blog was to create one. I’m a huge geek. And I have lots of lady friends who are also geeks. Thus, Chicks With Crossbows was born. I need to say a sincere and awesome thank you to people who’ve made this blog possible through their support and friendship:

Defective Geeks, which is the most rocking geek lady blog around. They’ve existed for five years! And they’ve been nothing but awesome to us. Thanks, ladies! Glass of Win, where my friend and globe-trodding geek girl Rachael talks about food, geekdom, and takes gorgeous food porn photos. We met at a con and were able to reunite in person for another con this year. Which leads me to Geek Girl Con. Who rekindled my love of conventions and celebrated lady geeks in all forms. It was a rocking time and I look forward to next year.

And of course, there are the lovely ladies who work on this blog: Autumn, Claire, Anji, and Alex, and Janiene who will contribute in the future. You are all awesome and someday I will make you all tee shirts and bake you cupcakes. (If you want to contribute, go here.)

I Read a Metric Ton of Faerie Books This Year:

Long live the faeries! From faerie romance (Wings) to faerie dystopias (Bones of Faerie) to faerie detectives (October Daye), there are a ton and I loved them all.

Faerie novels also led to my biggest squeeful fangirling moments: Tamani of the Wings series is the handsome smoldering green-eyed faerie boy. And then there’s Tybalt from the October Daye books. How do I describe Tybalt? He’s like walking sexuality in leather pants with a snarky attitude. Team Tybalt, for the win.  Someone get me a tee shirt. And possibly a life-sized cut out.

I Went to a Lot of Cons – Here Are My Favorite Panels: 

Are Faeries the New Vampires?Copper Con – With Faerie Experts David Lee Summers, Janni Lee Simner, and Aprilynne Pike.

Young Adult Authors Geek Girl Con – With Hope Larson, Nancy Holder, Scott Westerfeld, and Phoebe Kitanidis

Steampunk!Geek Girl Con – With Claire Hummel, Belle Holder, Erica Johnson, and author Cherie Priest (who liked my clock socks).

Playing God: Apocalyptic Storytelling – OryCon – Victoria Blake, author Daniel H. Wilson, and author E.E. Knight

(I just realized I still haven’t written up the Nerd Burlesque panel from Geek Girl Con, or that would have made the list too. Darn it. For shame, me!)

My Favorite Post of the Year By Me: 4 Obvious Things I Always Forget About Travel

Things By Amazing Ladies I Discovered This Year:

Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series. Best zombie series in the world, if you ask me. Witty, funny, smart, amazing world building, with genre-savvy characters set in the not too distant future, where news comes from blogs and zombies are a constant danger.

Feminist Frequency – a video blog that discusses and breaks down examples of tropes that affect women in media. Entertaining, educational, and awesome.

My Drunk Kitchen – Hannah Hart is hilarious, drunk and sober, as she drunkenly tackles recipes and cooking goals.

Amy Roth and her Surly Ceramic Jewelry. Bought so many of these my wallet wept and still want more.

SkepChick – Critical thinking lady skeptics who love science, reason, and facts.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of awesome things. I hope you all have a happy, fun, and safe New Year’s Eve, and I’ll see you in 2012.