Still That Superhero Of Mine

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The highly-anticipated gay wedding issue of Archie Comics has finally been revealed.

The January issue’s cover illustration shows Kevin Keller, Riverdale’s first openly gay character who is also an active U.S. military officer, tying the knot with his African-American partner, Clay Walker.

It should also be noted that because of his astronomical success, Keller will be getting his ongoing series in February.

How Archie seems to get it (and get it right) while other comic book companies pay lip service to diversity amazes me to no end.

And my internet wife RVC Bard made the best point: constantly amazed that mainstream kid-friendly shit gets it right when so much of m/m fic gets it all wrong

Archie Comics: DOING IT RIGHT!!!!!!!!

Like I needed another reason to fall in love with this character.

Why Fangs for the Fantasy?

It’s vaguely possibly you’ve noticed I’m involved in the running of Fangs for the Fantasy by my oh-so-subtle plugging. But yes I’m one of the ones behind it and I likes it I does. But there’s always the question of why, especially given how little time I have and how much time it takes.

Well, let me count the ways. I like Fangs, I like the reviews, I like an opportunity to snark, I like the new series its exposed me to and because it’s fun, lots of fun.

But also because I think it’s important. Especially analysing books from a social justice perspective. Yes, analysing fluffy, trashy, frequently silly Urban fantasy is important. Especially since it’s popular and, if anything, becoming more so and establishing itself very firmly as its own genre.

Our society is shaped by the media. In fact I think the media is one of the grand pillars of our culture. The media we consume reflects the stereotypes and tropes of society, reinforces them, encourages them and spreads them. We as a society, as a culture, as people are shaped by the books we read, the television we watch, the films we see and the games we play.

When we see the same type of people showcased front and centre, the same stereotypes paraded, the same groups erased, the same insults given, the same bad behaviour showcased, excused or justified and generally the same prejudiced, and –ism scented problems repeated again and again then yes it shapes us.

And I know there are people out there saying “but why urban fantasy? Who cares about sexist werewolves or homophobic vampires or racist witches?” there are many reasons – I can talk about how we tend NOT to analyse these types of books so the genre is even more unchallenged and just accepted. I can tell you it’s because I love the genre – I really do – and as such I want to be able to consume it without sporks and with more joy; as something I love, I want it to do better. But most of all, it’s because if we’re going to challenge any media, it has to be popular fiction that is consumed broadly for entertainment.

What do you think shapes culture more? A verbose, dense literary fiction artistic epic read by English literature professors in a university congratulating each other on how wonderfully dense and nigh incomprehensible it is, so full of metaphor and depth? Or Twilight? Or True Blood? A series that is read by thousands if not millions, turned into a TV series or a film and watched by yet more? Personally, I think it’s the latter that will have the greatest effect on our culture.

I also don’t think that you can truly change culture without addressing the media. Ultimately, no matter how many laws we pass saying that misogyny, homophobia, racism, transphobia, ableism et al are Not OK, no matter how much we fight, no matter how many bigots we vanquish, if everyone goes back home to books and TV full of hate speech and stereotypes and tropes and marginalised servants and villains or – and most commonly – to fictional worlds where we don’t even exist – then how much can you change? “Hearts and Minds” are the key here – and it’s in the pages of books and the light of the TV screen where we will reach them.

Yet if you turn round and say you’re going to analyse the dusty book of pretention everyone will nod and smile. Say you’re going to analyse True Blood and we get “it’s only fantasy! Don’t take it so seriously!” It’s a genre that seems to actively resist and deny analysis even more than most.

Do I claim I’m doing some massive cultural changing thing? Gods no. I snark too much for that :P. But it matters, it does matter.

Also, of course, I need to say the inevitable – we have yet to read/watch a perfect book/TV programme. We have always found something to criticise. That’s not because we’re joyless curmudgeons who hate everything – it’s because our society is so well and truly messed up that it’s nearly impossible to produce something lacking in problematic issues in a society that has saturated us with them. I say again, criticism does not mean “I loathe this book and all it stands for!” it means there are problematic elements that could be – need to be – better. For our opinion on the book, check the fang rating (and if it’s 0.5 fangs? Yes, I did loathe that book and all it stands for!). I will say that we’ll never just say “I hate it.” There’ll always be a why – so even on a negative review you can be a recommend – since you can see “oh Sparky hated this book because he loathes X, Y and Z. I actually quite like them so this book is worth reading”.

So, yes, Fangs. I like it.

Open Discussion: Once Upon A Time

So one of the most popular new shows this season has been the hit series Once Upon A Time.

RVC Bard and I have been having some excellent discussions about the characters, the plot, etc.

I’ll be the first to say the show has its work cut out for it, but there’s a lot of potential there. I certainly find myself liking it a lot more than I thought I would.

One of the characters who has made me a fan of the show, is this one right here:

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Will you support queer Black women’s stories on stage?

“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid” — Audre Lorde

Earlier this year, I wrote and produced a play called Tulpa, or Anne&Me that debuted at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

Since that first production, I’ve often been asked about what’s next for Tulpa, or Anne&Me. This is a great sign because it means that the play has touched people in some deep places and led to powerful moments of growth and healing for many. I feel a real responsibility to make this piece the best I can make it and bring it to as many places as I can where people want and need to see it.

Right now, I’m talking with someone who can offer me an opportunity for more performances in mid- to late April. Despite the fact that I’m based in NYC, there are still only a few plays by and about queer Black women being made. Although the world we live in wants me to be comfortable with feeling insignificant, I no longer have the luxury to deceive myself into believing that my work and my voice are not important.

I am raising $3,000 for the 2012 production of Tulpa, or Anne&Me. If I reach this goal, my work will have another chance to do what it’s meant to do — pave the way for healing and transformation in our lives, relationships, and communities. If you contribute to this project, you will be doing more than putting a story on stage, but creating a vibrant opportunity to honor those of us who are Black and woman and queer.

Will you contribute to be part of that process?

(*Check out the IndieGoGo campaign for a moving promo video from Hollowstone author and Ars Marginal contributor Dennis Upkins)

Reflections on Dennis R. Upkins’ “Hollowstone”

On Saturday, November 19, fellow artist and internet husband Neo Prodigy (aka Dennis R. Upkins) will do a book signing for his debut novel, Hollowstone.

In honor of that occasion, I’m finally doing something I don’t normally do and talk at length about a piece that has had a strangely parallel journey with my work work on Tulpa, or Anne&.

Here we go.

AJ LLewellyn and Appropriation in M/M Romance

Sorry for the long absence between posts — and thanks to all the posters new and familiar who continue to do completely awesome and eye-opening things while I’m off in the wilds of conference planning and manuscript editing. I’m making up for the lost time by writing an extra-long post — aren’t you excited?

Earlier today, romance blog Dear Author posted a news item that m/m romance author AJ Llewellyn — oh, what was the delicate phrasing they used? — “admits adopting male persona despite being female.”

Here we go.

You Got That Moxie Baby!!!!

So as many of you know, my novel, Hollowstone, was released through Parker Publishing.

A fine indy press that celebrates quality fiction for readers of distinction, Parker celebrates black, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic literature. In addition, it’s been the home to some world class authors, including the late L.A. Banks.

While romance has been Parker’s tour de force, they’ve recently made a concerted effort to expand and branch out into other genres through various imprints. I was honored to learn that Hollowstone was in fact one of their first titles for their Moxie line.

Moxie focuses on the multi-ethnic Young Adult stories which ranges from the contemporary to paranormal. These tales explore the young adult’s journey while embracing the diversity of culture.

In addition to Hollowstone, Moxie also some other excellent titles. Excellent titles whose signal should be boosted.

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