Monday, January 31, 2011

Queer webcomics!

A recent convo on LJ led me to believe I should make a rec post for queer webcomics. So here. we. go.

The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal. A cross-country journey of convenience between strangers is slowly turning into something else. SO. MUCH. LOVE. Double love for the non-white main character: Amal is so sweet and conflicted, a young man trying to figure things out and having to wrestle with an intersection of cultural, familial, and personal influences. TJ is still something of an enigma at this point but the crumbs that we've gotten -- his casual brushoff of the time he spent homeless broke my heart -- have kept me intrigued. There's a LOT of this posted, so set aside some time to catch up.

Rooster Tails. An autobiographical comic from a New Zealand transboy. I love how webcomics are opening up the world to all these different voices and personalities. Here's my favorite one:

DAR! An old standby and no longer being updated, but it's worth linking again just so everyone gets a chance to read it. Plus, Erika Moen is super-awesome! I've had the opportunity to meet her twice, and she was lovely both times. Oh, the benefits of living in Portland.

Teahouse. I don't usually go for yaoi, but this one is damn pretty. Also, sometimes you just want some SMUT, amirite? Me, I'm shipping Linneus/Argos. Crazy albinos with swords need love, too.

Oglaf. I'm counting this one as queer, but really, it's pretty much equal opportunity filth. My favorite is the queen. She's such a heinous bitch.

Alright, now show me yours! :D

The checkout stand: protecting your children from gay adoption and gynecologists

Last night I was wandering through Fred Meyer and trying to run my brother's heels over with my shopping cart, as one does. He's something of a novice at the whole shopping thing, which means he got the wrong size of petit sirloin beef containers first time around and then he guided his cart towards an actual cashier stand instead of heading for the cold, blessedly human-free embrace of the U-scan checkout.

As we pulled up to the conveyor belt, we entered the Great Tunnel of Candy and Magazines. It's literally impossible not to look around -- I'm sure there have been extensive studies that led to both the Tunnel's strategic placement and the graphic design of every single magazine cover -- so I did my requisite shuddering at the National Enquirer's obsession with celebrity bodies ("BEST AND WORST BEACH BODIES," with helpful arrows pointing out the cellulite), flipped off In Touch ("LINDSAY TELLS ALL: 'I'M DATING TOM HARDY'"; hard money says they've never met) and stared in vague horror at OK! ("TEEN MOM JENELLE -- BEATING HER MOM -- SMOKING POT -- LOSING HER BABY FOREVER!"; the exclamation point makes it extra-classy).

Then my gaze wandered over to Cosmopolitan and stopped. There was a little black plastic flap over the cover. It didn't say anything on it, but after the recent news about an Oklahoma grocery store that censored a US Weekly cover showing Elton John, his male partner, and their brand new baby boy (pictured to the right in all its non-shocking glory) I recognized a "family shield." Glancing around, I ascertained that yes, every other Cosmo in the store had been similarly covered up.

Pulling the family shield away, I examined the magazine cover for myself. Mila Kunis stared back at me. God, she's hot. She was fully-clothed, though, so unless they're trying to keep her scorching image from damaging the heterosexuality of women everywhere, that wasn't why the family shield had been brought in.

I took a look at the headlines. "BAD GIRL SEX: 75 VERY NAUGHTY MOVES TO TRY ON A MAN." Well, that's very forthright. The family shield didn't even go high enough to cover that headline, though. "MILA KUNIS: THE ATTITUDE THAT MAKES HER EFFORTLESSLY SEXY." Yeah, right, effortless -- I'm sure it was totally effortless for the 500 stylists, makeup artists, lighting technicians, blotters, fanners, and Photoshop designers who put this image together, let alone whatever crazy diet and exercise regime Ms. Kunis puts herself through in order to look like she does. "GREAT GUY, LAME SEX?" Hah, we can't have men questioning themselves, too, can we?

My bet's on the little one down in the left-hand corner, though: "8 THINGS YOU MUST TELL YOUR GYNO." Everything else is pretty standard fare for the Great Magazine Tunnel, and certainly not anywhere as disturbing as Teen Mom punching out her mother, smoking pot, and losing her kid. But giving women important advice about their vaginas? Whoa, nelly that is just as destructive to society as two happy gay men showing off the new baby they have taken into their home!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Extreme Planet Makeover

Here's an interesting tool for sci-fi writers: NASA's website has a fun little interactive tool that allows you to change the age of a planet, its distance from a star, the type of star it's orbiting, and so forth.

It's meant to be educational, but I can see how a writer might use it to construct new worlds. I built myself a lovely super-Earth, bathed in the red light of a Class M star about .38 AU away.

Mwahaha, I feel like God.

I call it Doliea 581 d. And yes, I am writing a story about it.

Next question becomes, what music do you listen to while you're playing God? Methinks some Sigur Ros would be more appropriate to world-building. Or maybe some Tchiakovsky.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What to do with Wonder Woman?

Jezebel contributor Charlie Jane Anders discusses why we haven't seen any Wonder Woman projects in a while here. According to hir (I'm not positive on Charlie's gender) it all comes down to her origin story:
Why did the Amazons suddenly decide to break their policy of isolation to send one of their warriors to America? Because the Nazis threatened the whole globe, even the Amazons' secret island. Why on Earth is Diana dressed in American flag panties and a giant eagle? Because of some Amazon mumbo jumbo — but mostly to show solidarity with her allies in the fight against the Nazis.

Thus it gets a little tricky to transport WW to modern times while still managing to explain the combo of "Amazon-in-a-wearable-American-flag" thing. Anders has some suggestions:

1) Give her an iceberg of her own. Keep her origin in World War II and show her fighting the Nazis, only to get swept forward into this new, bewildering era at the end of the movie or TV pilot. Maybe in the 21st century, the Amazons are mysteriously gone, and she has to figure out why.

2) Give her a new reason to go to America and dress like that. Preferably some huge, terrible threat that only an Amazon warrior can overcome. Not some vague touchy-feely thing like, "people are being mean to each other." But some monstrous foe. And maybe we need an outsider to come and remind us of what America can be.

I added my own in the comments: 3. The Amazons don't send a champion out into the world--maybe globalization, environmental issues, and the march of "progress" brings the world to them. Diana leaves the crumbling colony in search of aid. You could either say that once upon a time she fought Nazis, and she's come to America in the hopes of using her old war ties to help the Amazons; or maybe this is actually their First Contact experience, and they dressed her like that after carefully studying what little they could find about American pop culture and coming to the conclusion that a short miniskirt, plunging neckline, and American flag apparel would help her fit in just fine. (Possibly they caught Ke$sha's appearance on SNL.)

Any way they go, one hopes that WW won't just pop up and remind us of "what America can be"--maybe, one hopes, she'll be amazed at the great strides that have been made since the 1950's (i.e. for blacks, gays, and yes, women).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Next Batman villians cast - and I am wary

So the Hollywood press is now reporting that Anne Hathaway will be Selina Kyle and Tom Hardy will be Bane in Christopher Nolan's third and final entry in his "Batman" reboot.


This "Shortpacked!" script describes my
feelings on Frank Miller perfectly.

As you might expect, I'm a big fan of Kyle and I'm thrilled to see someone rescue her from the crap heap that was the Halle Berry movie. However -- given Nolan's issues with female characters and the fact that he's basing a lot of his reboot on the writings of Frank Miller, I'm a little bit concerned that he's just going to make it worse. Berry's Catwoman strapped on that ridiculous outfit and slogged through even more ridiculous dialogue, yes, but she also had a personality and a job that didn't revolve around her tits. Frank Miller's version famously erased her independent cat burglar/bounty hunter origins and turned her into a dominatrix prostitute.

Still, I'm willing to give Nolan the benefit of the doubt on Selina Kyle. Anne Hathaway doesn't seem like the prostitute type, so he could very well be going in a different direction. Let's hope so.

The casting of Tom Hardy -- who played the forger Eames in Nolan's "Inception" -- presents a different problem. Now, I like Hardy a lot and when he was rumored to be involved in the project I crossed all my fingers and toes that they'd get him signed. (Also, apparently once you've acted in one of Christopher Nolan's movies and have proven to not be a complete asshat, you're going to act in all ze movies. For some reason I find that utterly charming.)

Taken individually, the choice of Bane as the villian in the third and final (?) Nolan film also makes sense. Bane is known as the only man who "broke the Bat" after he cracked Batman's spine in 1993, an event that's recent enough in comic book history that 20-something year old comic fans will remember it from their childhood with nostalgia. Yet Bane has an intriguing gray-area morality that actually had him working with Batman at times -- just like Selina Kyle. If they go with that characterization for them both, it'd make for a very interesting setup.

One problem. Or, well, uno problemo.

Bane is explicitly Hispanic. He was born on the fictional South American island Republic of Santa Prisca. He wears a wrestler's mask.

Tom Hardy? Yeah, Tom Hardy's pretty damn white.

Whitewashed casting stopped being cool when M. Night Shamayalan pulled that shit. It's not even the first time Nolan's done this, either: I'll give him the whitewashing of Ra's al Ghul in "Batman Begins," because who wants to see an Arabic terrorist blowing up Gotham? But Eric Roberts and Tom Wilkinson were both pretty damn white to be playing Mafia bosses.

Mr. Nolan, I raise a skeptical eyebrow at you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine publishes "The Demon and Sister Roberta"

My short story "The Demon and Sister Roberta" has been published in Issue 49 of Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine! Sweet. Here's a snippet:

She woke to find the demon there.

It was a woman -- or a girl, she barely looked eighteen -- with long, unruly black hair and surprisingly delicate features. She stood over Mr. Flats' bed, but her eyes were on Sister Roberta.

"Anybody ever tell you that you drool a lot in your sleep?" the demon asked. Mr. Flats didn't stir.

The Sister rose to her feet, quickly wiping the side of her mouth. She was not afraid. "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I command you to leave this man in peace

"Wow," said the demon. "Wow, are you serious with this?"

"Lord, have mercy -- "

"Oh my dog, you are serious." The demon sat down on the edge of the bed. The mattress bounced and Sister Roberta darted a glance at Mr. Flats, but he slept on peacefully.

You can buy a copy of the mag here. Please to be noting, it's published in Australia, so shipping might be a bit high. :/

2010 in Review: women and queers in the media

Apologies for the spotty updates lately: some dreadful events unfolded in my personal life. I'm all right, but it will take a while for things to get back to normal.

Award season is upon us, what better time to look back at what 2010 had to offer us in the way of diversity in media.

One year closer to the Mayans killing us all.
I think that's how that movie went.

The year started off promisingly, with Kathryn Bigelow taking home the Oscar for Best Director for the The Hurt Locker, something no woman had ever done before. I'm including a link to the video here just because I love to watch Barbara Streisand grind her teeth before finally making the announcement. Suck it Babs, you had your chance.

Before I go any further I also want to link to this flowchart, which put out this year.

Click for a larger version.

I lurve it.

You won't find Lisbeth Salander on that flowchart. That's because the prickly, bisexual, computer hacker heroine of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels defies your petty fucking flowchart. And she'll probably stab you with a bottle and ruin your credit for good measure. This year also brought us "Alice in Wonderland," "The Runaways," "Salt," "Easy A," "Black Swan," and "True Grit," all of which featured strong female heroines. "Let Me In" and "Kickass" deserve special notice: they focused on a man's emotional journey, but had strong female supporting characters who could really have carried their own films. Y'all already know my feelings on the women of "Inception" and Ree Dolly of "Winter's Bone." In all, a pretty damn good year for female characters.

However, there is still a huge dearth of queer representations in mainstream film. "Easy A" had that old trope of a "best gay" for the female lead; "Valentine's Day" included a gay male couple but then marginalized them in the film's advertisements and didn't even let them kiss onscreen. "The Runaways" did feature a lesbian relationship between the two female leads, as did "The Kids Are Alright," and "I Love You Phillip Morris" paired mainstream stars Ewan MacGregor and Jim Carrey as male lovers. But we also had Richard Chamberlain advising gay actors to stay in the closet for the sakes of their careers. And it's notable that all of the above roles were portrayed by straight actors and actresses, or at least no one who was out of the closet.

Things look rosier on the television side of things, especially for both queer representations and queer creators. For the first time since GLAAD began its Responsibility Index in 2005, all five major broadcast networks increased their representation of queer characters during the 2009-2010 TV season, with the CW leading the way. In the 2010-2011 TV season, queer characters represent about 3.9% of all characters on scripted TV series, when only three years ago that number hovered closer to 1%.

This was very apparent at the Golden Globes this last weekend. Glee, aka the "gayest show on television," took home several statuettes, with openly gay creator Ryan Murphy accepting for Best Show, recently-married lesbian Jane Lynch accepting the Best Supporting Actress globe, and the sweet little gay dude of my heaarrrrrrrrrrrt, Chris Colfer, making everyone cry with his Best Supporting Actor acceptance speech:

♥ He is my favorite. No apologies, deal wit' it. Colfer's also expressed interest in writing for film, which I hope he follows through on. We can clearly use some of that queer TV magic on the film screen.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Misfits: Like Heroes, minus the suck

Who's spent the last 24 hours watching all of Misfits on Youtube? Oh yeah, this girl. (Also: ALL OF MISFITS. IS ON YTUBE. Go watch before someone at the channel figures it out.)

Misfits is a British sci-fi TV series about a group of 20-something delinquents performing community service for minor offenses. They're a real collection of winners:
The heroes you deserve.
Curtis, an ex-sprinter obsessed with his former glory, was arrested for cocaine possession; Alisha, a party girl, got nailed for drunk driving; Nathan, the very definition of a cheeky Irishman, absurdly got nabbed for stealing some pick 'n' mix (British candies); Kelly, my favorite, punched out another girl for insulting her; and Simon, my other favorite, is a complete mental case who tried to burn somebody's house down.

Not the best candidates for becoming superheroes, you'd agree.

And yet that's exactly what happens when a freak electrical storm descends on London, causing the Misfits and other denizens to exhibit superpowers.

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Wasn't it a solar eclipse last time? But Misfits--so far--succeeds where Heroes failed, creating characters that (while highly imperfect) remain coherent and sympathetic...well, most of the time. The quintet react pretty much how you'd expect a super-powered twenty-something delinquents to react if suddenly given the ability to, say, mind-control other people into being sexually interested in them. The storyline reminds me a lot of Marvel's The Runaways, in that the super-powered team of youngsters has little interest in being at all heroic--excepting the geeky Simon--and usually act in their own self-interests first.

Kelly is, as I mentioned, my favorite. I love how her default problem-solving technique is HIT IT WITH SOMETHING HARD UNTIL IT STOPS MOVING. Which, come to think of it, all the Misfits have a problematic defense mechanism. Nathan's is to mock everyone in a hundred-yard radius, Alisha makes the problem worse, Curtis assumes that someone else will fix it, and Simon switches on his inner serial killer.

In fact, most of the series' plot involves them hiding the bodies of people that they've accidentally killed.

The series is filled with darkly hilarious moments like that, and also some profundity about what it means to be a young person trying to find your way in the world. But mostly it's a delightful sendup of the superhero ethos. With great power...comes great fuckups.