Monday, May 23, 2016

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LADY GEEK NIGHT YEG, AND HOW WOMEN FANS ARE UPGRADING AND LEADING SCIENCE FICTION, COMICS + FANTASY FANDOM (MF GALAXY 079)


HOW LADY GEEK NITE EMPOWERS WOMEN AND GIRLS, SEXIST SNOBBERY AGAINST COSPLAY + THE EVOLUTION AND DEVOLUTION OF WONDER WOMAN OVER THE DECADES



The core contradiction of North American science fiction and fantasy fandom is that while often describing itself as a bastion for people who faced rejection from small-minded people, for decades it offered plenty of rejection of its own. North American fan culture was dominated by European men and boys, predominantly middle class and straight, with Western, Northern, and ancient Southern European cultural reference points.

While obsessed with physical sciences and militarism, it was largely ignorant of social sciences and popular struggles for justice. Even to this day, as plenty of fans attest, fandom was a closed shop where alleged outsiders could ride the starship in small numbers, but could never by the helmsman or the captain.

While some abusive and oppressive fans still cause havoc for others as with the Gamergate and Hugo Award Rabid Puppies scandals, many fans have brought many changes. And inside that fan-vanguard are feminist participants and creators who are changing the culture and changing the content. Cosplay has moved from mass-produced and monotonous Star Trek uniforms to superbly hand-crafted costumes from thousands of storyworlds.

Convention artists tables are no longer simply sales-spots for a few men, but rows and rows of women with outstanding art, particularly of female characters in exciting, fun, and non-sexist portrayal. Women are creating science fiction, fantasy, and superhero comics, graphic novels, documentaries, feature films, costumes, video games, conventions, and more. They’ve evolved the scene from what it used to be, into where it’s going for the 21st Century.

In E-Town, that leadership belongs to the Lady Geeks Unite. On the first Thursday of every month, they meet at Happy Harbor Comics for Lady Geek Nite. They host a range of events that include table top gaming and role-playing games, documentaries and discussions, and costume creation workshops, and annual events such as a Christmastime fan-craft sale.

For a few months I was embedded at Happy Harbor Comics to write a play about it for Workshop West, and I got to attend many meetings of the Lady Geeks and learn of their mysterious ways. So on May 14th, 2016, I sat down at the store with lady geeks Sylvia Douglas and Sylvia Moon to talk about what they do.

Sylvia Douglas is an arts administrator, writer, and indie filmmaker who works for FAVA, the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta, and she’s a board member for the Alberta Media Artists Alliance Society. Sylvia Moon is a graphic designer who helped organise Lady Geek Nite since its inception; she even designed its logo. She was one of the artists who created the World’s Biggest Comic during the final two days of the Royal Alberta Museum’s original location.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, the two Sylvias discuss:

  • How Lady Geek Nite began and why it’s so important
  • How Lady Geek Nite empowers women and girls who’ve otherwise found themselves silenced in male-dominated fandom
  • The illogic of sexist snobbery against cosplay
  • The debate of self-expression vs. objectification
  • Who’s better: Ripley or Barbarella, and
  • The evolution and devolution of Wonder Woman over the decades

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SPEAKING OF HAPPY HARBOR COMICS... check out the
THIS IS YEG Salon. I speak about the play that Workshop West commissioned me to write about it: What It Is podcast, Saturday April 23, 2016. 


 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

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MILTON DAVIS’S AMBER AND THE HIDDEN CITY IS AN ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL CONTEMPORARY FANTASY ADVENTURE.


Milton Davis’s Amber and the Hidden City is an absolutely delightful contemporary fantasy adventure. It’s the story of Amber Robinson, a teenager from Atlanta who crosses the Atlantic with her grandmother because of their supernatural connection to the ancient, hidden city of Marai, located in Mali. Their aim is to use their ancestral divination power to choose Marai’s next ruler, while fighting against the usurper who wants to dominate the city for himself and the shape-shifting villainess he sends to stop them.

I write Africentric fantasy fiction, and Amber and the Hidden City inspires in me the very emotions and intellectual curiosity I hope to inspire in my own readers. Davis combines relatable contemporary characters and dialogue with fascinating denizens and magic systems from an ancient world. What a delight to be learning about classical and medieval West African civilisations inside the world of a thrilling fantasy novel.

Final note: I love finding novels I can share with my daughters. I read the entire book to my six-year-old, who loved every bit of Amber and the Hidden City. The hero is a girl, and her mentor (her grandmother) is a woman; one of the two main villains is a woman, and various other entertaining characters are girls and women. Add it all together, and Amber and the Hidden City belongs on countless “must read” lists.

  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

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INVESTIGATOR KARL EVANZZ + EDITOR A PETER BAILEY COUNTERING MANNING MARABLE ON MALCOLM X (MF GALAXY 078)


MARABLE CLAIMED ALEX HALEY WAS AN FBI INFORMANT WORKING AGAINST MALCOLM X, THE MISSING CHAPTERS OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Malcolm X is an icon of Pan-Africanism. Born May 19, 1925 to a Pan-Africanist family active in Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, Malcolm survived the racist murder of his father and his own descent into crime and prison. He emerged as a minister for the Nation of Islam, one of several organisations born from the US government’s destruction of Garvey’s UNIA.

While committed to the NOI’s religious doctrine, Malcolm X developed a secular, revolutionary, political ideology that combined Garveyism with the Original World liberation struggles raging against imperialism throughout the 1950s and 60s. So respected was he that after he broke from the NOI in 1964, Malcolm X formed the united front Organisation of Afro-American Unity and won observer status on behalf of African Americans at the newly-formed Organisation of African Unity. While Nation of Islam assassins murdered him in Harlem on February 21, 1965, extensive evidence points to involvement of the United States government as Karl Evanzz details in his monumental work The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X.

On today’s episode of MF GALAXY, we’ll hear from Evanzz and also from Malcolm X associate A. Peter Bailey, who was the editor of Malcolm X’s newsletter The Blacklash, later the editor of Ebony magazine, and eventually the co-author with Malcolm X’s nephew Rodnell Collins of Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X. I spoke with Evanzz and Bailey in 2005 for the 80th anniversary of Malcolm X’s birthday. They’ll offer their responses to the then-unfinished final work by Manning Marable, later published as the controversial Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. 

Marable claimed, among other things, that Alex Haley, the author of Roots and co-author of Malcolm’s Autobiography, was collaborating with the FBI against Malcolm X’s interests. We’ll also hear Evanzz and Bailey on three chapters deleted from the Autobiography, whose contents Marable claimed were explosive.

Karl Evanzz is one of the planet’s leading Malcolm X scholars and also the author of The Messenger: The Rise and Fall of Elijah Muhammad. He was once an online editor at The Washington Post. Both men spoke to me by telephone from Washington DC in May 2005.

But first we’ll an excerpt from a February 21, 2005 Democracy Now! interview with Manning Marable, former head of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies. He authored a dozen books, including How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America. We’ll then hear Bailey’s and Evanzz’s reactions.

For links to Malcolm X books, including a discount ebook offer for The Judas Factor, and a video of editor Jared Ball discussing his book A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X, visit mfgalaxy.org.

And to hear the half hour patrons-only extended edition of this focus on Malcolm X, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes:
  • Malcolm X discussing his political ideology and why he urged people to keep their religious life private
  • Karl Evanzz on Malcolm X’s final political evolution and how he thinks some biographers have misrepresented it.
  • The disturbing case of an attempt to auction an item literally stained with Malcolm X’s blood for $50,000, and
  • Director and cinematographer Ernest Dickerson discussing the aesthetics and effects of the 1992 Spike Lee feature film Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington, for which Dickerson was director of photography










Finally, if you’d like to hear the tables turned on me, listen to Invaders from Planet 3 podcaster Robin Shantz asking me questions about science fiction, Dune, my own novels, politics, religion, movies, and TV.

INVADERS FROM PLANET 3 Episode 7: Interview with Joe Haldeman