Monday, November 19, 2012

No Geek Needs To Justify Their Fandom

Let's get this straight right from the beginning. No one has the right to tell someone else they aren't a true fan/geek/nerd because of X. That is some straight-up bullshit and I'm sick and tired of seeing it splashed all over the Internet.

I'm going to assume everyone reading this knows about the recent comments Tony Harris made about girls in cosplay at conventions. I'm not going to link or repeat his comments because, quite frankly, they are moronic and sexist. I mean, really, complaining about people having fun wearing a costume? What crawled up Tony Harris' butt and took over? (For an interesting theory on this please consult the following link - )

I've now had the pleasure of attending a few cons, including a day at FanExpo in Toronto. At almost every single one I've had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of female geeks, some in cosplay and some not. Every single one of these women has been intelligent, engaging, interesting, and a pleasure to be around. In short, they were beautiful in more than just the physical sense. (If you're one of the women I've met at a con and you're reading this then yes, I am talking about you.)

I hate to think what my life would be like if I held Mr. Harris' attitude. I remember my teen years when I was extremely shy and alone. I did not trust anyone, least of all the pretty girls. A large part of that was fear at being teased and laughed at because I was perpetually the outsider. Being a geek only made it worse, because when I was growing up being a geek was still far from cool. Thankfully, through a lot of mental anguish and honest self-assessment I've grown past these insecurities and understand that the pretty girls are just people with different plumbing, and that has made all the difference.

Should I be jealous of people growing up today, when just about anyone can watch a couple episodes of Dr. Who and claim they are a nerd, or who play one game of Dungeons and Dragons and say they're a gamer? Hell no! There's no declared point where someone becomes a nerd or geek. I may jokingly say, “Nah, your not a nerd until X,” but that's more because I want to encourage them to explore our great nerd/geek subculture more., and because I have an odd sense of humour.

Also, should I be angry/scared/upset over casual fans coming to conventions in cosplay, especially if they are attractive, female, and wearing something provocative? Uh, no. Nope. Negative. Niet. NEIN! And so on. These women went to all the effort of either making or buying the elements needed to put together said costume and have the confidence to wear it in public. My response should be to appreciate not just the fact that they look good in it but all the hard work and/or money that went into constructing said costume. And so should you.

Guys, instead of being upset that these beautiful women are “invading” what you consider your space, go over to them and say, “That is an amazing costume.” Now, I shouldn't have to say this but I will anyways, say this while looking into their eyes rather than other parts of their anatomy, no matter how pleasing to look at said anatomy may be. Leering is never a good thing. Most women don't like it, and even if they do it makes you look like a creeper to everyone else.

No, give an honest compliment and unless a conversation naturally springs up, such as you ask her why she chose that character and then get into an engaging discussion about comics or whatever, then politely walk away. This is for two reasons. First, hanging around a half-naked woman you're not talking can be seen as creepy. Second, she may not be in the mood to talk or have something on her mind. Either way, don't hang around for no good reason. Just because this particular girl wasn't interested in talking to you doesn't mean all the girls aren't interested, but if you give everyone the creeper vibe by hanging around or giving unwanted attention then you may make it so no one, male or female, wants to talk to you.

Keep in mind, no one, male or female, owes you anything. It's great that you share the same interest, but that's all that you do. A woman wearing a provocative costume is not wearing an invitation for your attention, the same as a guy in a superhero t-shirt may just like the way it looks and doesn't need or want to discuss comics for hours on end. Harassing anyone is not cool, no matter the circumstances.

Don't be afraid or angry about anyone new deciding to join geek fandom. Welcome them in politely and get to know them. Share what you're passionate about with them but not all at once. Give them time to acclimate and what you'll find that you've gained a new friend and are better for it.

Now some of you may be crying out from your poor black hearts, “What about the fake geek girls!?!” Ummm, okay, how do we determine they're fake? “Oh, you know, the ones that dress up all skanky in order to get attention from us.” Yeah, for various reasons this isn't a problem.

First, don't assume that just because someone is dressed provocatively, like what you would consider the stereotypical “booth-babe” that they don't know anything at all about who or what they're dressed as. They may in fact know more than you do and could school you on a few things. Instead of getting defensive and angry about it, ask questions. Learn something. Just because someone, especially a, gasp, girl, knows more about something than you doesn't make you less of a man/geek. A true man accepts his faults and ignorance and strives to be better.

Second, if in fact someone is dressed up in order to garner attention the solution is not to shout insults at them. Besides, how do you know that's their intent? Look, this is a really complicated issue. Some people do dress in order to garner attention, some dress because they love the character and see it as a way to honour them, some dress that way because damn they look good. (I'm still looking for the cosplay that does that for me.) If you think they are dressing to draw attention/make the geeks all hot and bothered for nefarious reasons, the solution is for you to ignore them. It's better for everyone all around. While you're over there pointedly ignoring them I'll be the one having a pleasant conversation with the lovely lady dressed head to toe in steampunk glory. See! Win-win all around.

Or, you know, you could give up on the whole idea of “fake geek girls”, or better yet dropping both “fake” and “girls” and realize, as I've been saying all along, they're people too. You'd be amazed at how things get better for you when you stop acting like a judgemental ass and have real conversations with people, when you stop seeing a woman in a sexy costume as an object to be consumed but as a person brave enough to expose not only their skin but themselves to ridicule and objectification to do something they truly love.

In the end, the rule is, as always, don't be a dick even though you may have one.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Dork Review: Wreck-It Ralph

 Wreck-It Ralph is worth seeing in the theaters, especially if you good memories of arcades while growing up as a kid, or even if you have kids you want to drag along. However, feel free to skip the 3D showings and save yourself a few bucks. Unlike Despicable Me or Monsters vs. Aliens, the 3D for Wreck-It adds nothing.

Despite the non-use of 3D, Wreck-It Ralph is exactly what I expect and want out of an animated movie. It's big, bright, and gorgeous while telling a story that both kids and adults can enjoy. Ralph is the classic tormented bad guy, someone who is seen as evil because of circumstances rather than his innate nature, and dissatisfied with his lot in life. It's this dissatisfaction rather than circumstance that kicks off his game-hopping adventure.

This is a well written and voice-acted film, a point made much clearer to me since I decided to watch Exosquad, a cartoon from the late eighties or early nineties, before going out to see Wreck-It Ralph and the contrast is extreme. I'm glad to see animation getting the recognition it deserves and drawing in much better talent in both acting and writing.

As I said the writing in this film is spot on. A prime example of this is the term "Turbo". It's used a few times in context by characters who know what it means before finally being explained. The audience gains an idea of its definition but the full scope of its meaning, the sheer horror it represents, isn't fully revealed until later in the film and is done such that it doesn't feel like a gratuitous infodump. Additionally, there are twists that were foreshadowed but still ended up being a surprise, and emotional moments that tug on your emotions in ways you didn't expect. The same set of words is used twice in the film, once for comedy and once for pathos, and both times they fit.

Again, I really do recommend going out and seeing Wreck-It Ralph, especially if you have kids or know people who are kids at heart.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Con Report: World Fantasy 2012

It's rather amusing that as I'm writing this an episode of Castle set at a science-fiction convention is playing in the background, though the Castle episode has a ton of costumes while World Fantasy, the convention I was just at, had almost none.

That's not a bad thing, because from what I saw, World Fantasy is a writer (both established and up and coming) and writing focused convention as opposed to a media or fan-focused one. While fans seemed welcome to come, the programming wasn't designed with them in mind. There were only two panel tracks that ran simultaneously and all the panels were writing and publishing focused. Aside from the panels there were readings, an art auction, and parties galore. So it was more about the networking opportunities rather than the fan-boy craziness.

If World Fantasy had been my first convention I would have felt terribly out of place. Thankfully, it wasn't. I had a blast catching up with friends I only get to see at cons, such as the lovely Marie Bilodeau, the powerful-looking Derek Kunsken, and the fairy-like Leah Petersen. Honestly, hanging out with great people and having awesome, intelligent conversations about writing would have been enough for me, but there were also free books.

Yes, I said free. I easily walked away at the end of the con with a bag full of books, for free, that covered if not exceeded the cost of my con-pass. And not books from authors nobody has ever heard of either. There are books from George R.R. Martin and Mercedes Lackey sitting in my overstuffed bag right now.

The other great free thing at the con was the food in the con-suite. It's not unusual for there to be some munchies lying around, but the World Fantasy organizers had full-on family style buffet meals lying about. I bought maybe three meals the entire four days of the con, and those only because I wanted to hang out with new and old friends.

And yes, I said four days. This was the longest con I've ever been at and by the end I felt it. Saturday felt a lot like Sunday, and the time change right at the end didn't help ease the confusion at all. Having that extra day helped though, as due to Sandy huffing and puffing and nailing the East Coast, not everyone was able to make it on time. At least one author a friend really wanted to meet wasn't able to come due to cancelled flights, and another author showed up halfway through a panel since she'd arrived at 1:30 the night before and had understandably slept in. Still, the list of people who made it was impressive.

I had the opportunity to raise my Writing Excuses meet list to three since Marie Robinette Kowal was at the con. I picked up both her Jane Austen-esque books and has them signed and had the chance to tell her how much I appreciate the work she and her fellows do on their podcast. I also got to meet Brandon Sanderson for a second time, get a couple books signed, and found out that he and Mary and some guests had recorded a few podcasts that very day in Mary's hotel room. So, yeah for Writing Excuses on Canadian soil. Now if they'd just get all four of them together at a con in Ontario recording a public session...

The only element of the con that was disturbing at all I heard second-hand and did not actually witness. A friend who attended the awards banquet posted that there was a definite gap between the "established" authors and the fans and wanna-be authors. After hearing this, I was glad I decided to skip the banquet. I don't need to be reminded that I'm not there, yet, and it seems to be that this was a wasted opportunity to give the fans and the guys and gals on the lower end of the writing food-chain a chance to interact with those who've "made it".

One of the best experiences I had was at Con-cept a few years ago where I got to sit near Tad Williams and talk shop. It was a lovely experience chatting with Tad and his wife Deborah Beale. That, and meeting Marie Bilodeau, were the highlights of the con for me. I do hope that World Fantasy will try and find a way to better integrate the banquet seating arrangements in the future. Over four days there are plenty of opportunities to hang out with friends, but only so many times a person will get to hang out with the likes of Patrick Rothfuss or Mercedes Lackey.

So the only really negative thing about the con I ended up missing, meaning my experience was well into the positive. Much like Fan Expo, I would go again but as a professional or if it was within a reasonable driving distance.