Five Sides of Greatness

As some of you are aware, I’m a pro-wrestling fan. While I’ve followed sports entertainment very closely for my entire life, just recently something very special transpired in TNA Wrestling that would go amiss by even the most astute observer.


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And Then GMX Happened

Yours truly has a guest post on the Outer Alliance Blog recounting my adventures at GMX and the special experience I had on the LGBTQ panel.


I couldn’t explain why but I had been excited about Geek Media Expo for weeks leading up to the event. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always jazzed whenever I have the opportunity to attend a con whether as a fan or a panelist, but there was an infectious energy about GMX that I just couldn’t put my finger on. With the con being in Nashville and so many friends and loved ones being involved and attending, perhaps it felt like a bit of a homecoming.

The moment I stepped inside the Marriott Convention center, I knew it was going to be one hell of a weekend.

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Do You Feel Like *Educating* Today?

Yeah, I know, it’s not our job to educate straight white cis men on this stuff.  Or people who aren’t straight white cis men but still need a clue-by-four.

But if anybody has blog posts on racism/sexism/other -isms in SFF fandom, and you want to signal boost ’em, fantasy author Jim Hines wants to give us a platform.  Not because he wants cookies, but because on a previous post of his someone pointed out how fucked-up it is that a straight white guy who writes about the lack of inclusiveness in SFF gets close to 100 comments while the actual people being marginalized blog about it ALL THE FUCKING TIME and hear crickets.  And someone else suggested that he push his audience to read some of those more marginalized voices, since he has that well-read platform and all, and so he is.

For anyone not familiar with him, in my opinion Jim Hines is a legit ally who always tries to own his privilege and fail better, and blog about it.  I already dropped a link to Ars Marginal there, but if anyone else wants to signal-boost either your blog or individual posts that you’ve read or written that relate to SFF inclusiveness, he has a lot of readers in the greater SFF community (his blog won the fan-writer Hugo this year).

Trevor Project, We Needs To Talk

Dear Trevor Project, 

There are many fine people deserving of awards and recognition. 

Katy Perry, however, IS NOT one of them.


I would touch on how indicative this is of the gay community to shuck and jive and sell out for the first chance to worship straight oppressors when they haven’t done shit for us. I would also touch on how the LGBTQ “community” puts too much emphasis on worshipping “allies” (or in this case oppressors) and not uplifting our own. I would discuss all of that but there’s simply not enough bandwidth on the entire internet.

However the money shot quote at the end of the article brings it home:


I don’t want to celebrate these people any more than I want to celebrate a straight cis person being nice to me because I happen to be queer. Congratulations on being a decent human, but I refuse to throw a dinner honoring the fact that you think I should get married someday (which isn’t something I even want to fight for, frankly, and many other queers are with me on that).

No individual is flawless and no saint is without a past. I’m not asking that our heroes be impossibly good human beings who have spent a lifetime adhering to only the highest of morals. On the contrary, I want people in charge who have period stains on their briefs and a love of guilty pleasure television. Someone who knows what it’s like to be an outcast, or the worst at math, or has spent a lifetime facing oppressions that have raised them up into an outstandingly experienced human being. Cracks let the light in. Give me queers who have been around the block. Give those queers a raise, and throw them dinner parties. See if they want a dinner party, or if they want you to give that money to charities, to shelters, to causes that directly affect the queer community. Let us be a community that honors our own and uplifts our own and directly cares for our own, rather than a community that thinks being prostrate to a hetero mainstream will get us anywhere besides, I guess, feeling like a plastic bag.”

Hello from a Hollywood Math Geek

Hi there!  I’m a new contributor here at Ars Marginal. My pop culture habits are definitely in the nerd demographic, so you can expect posts from me that explore why Martha Jones is awesome or are recommendations for queer-normative fantasy.  Being a numbers geek, I’m also fond of doing the math on institutional racism / sexism / other -isms in media, which is useful whenever people tell me I’m either making things up or, alternatively, that it doesn’t matter if the straight-white-male narrative dominates. *stabstab*  Yeah.

I also work in Hollywood, and am faced daily with how backward and behind the film industry is.  Popular media might be shaping people’s attitudes in fundamental ways (heck, Racebending’s recent review of Red Dawn pointed out that 28 percent of Americans rarely or never interact with people of Asian heritage, leaving movies their only exposure to Asian-American diversity), but that responsibility never even crosses the minds of the majority of writers / directors / casting staff here in Los Angeles.

Anyway, I thought I’d introduce myself by linking to a few posts I’ve written recently on institutional racism:

Why Is the “Normal Television Family” Always White?

It pisses me off that Hollywood only allows diversity in families that aren’t the two parents, 2.5-kids-and-a-dog, white picket fence American “ideal”:

But, of course, the family who moves into the alien development, the “normal” human family we’re meant to contrast the aliens against, is all white.  Because white is normal.  And human.  It’s the weird alien family who cry tears of green goo out their ears who have people of color among them; diversity is acceptable there.  Why not have had the human family be mixed-race, or Hispanic, or Asian?

An Open Letter to John Scalzi

John Scalzi is a science fiction writer (and current president of the Science Fiction Writers of America) and runs the popular blog Whatever, where he’s made positive posts before on gender and race.  Which meant I was sorely disappointed with his recent Star Trek parody novel Redshirts:

[Y]ou made close copies of exactly the five white men in Star Trek’s main cast—and only them, because for some reason the two crew members you chose to excise were the black woman and the Asian-American man.

How could you possibly think this was okay?

[…]  Mr. Scalzi, I’m sorry to say this, but you did worse than a show that was written in the sixties.

Scalzi stops by in the comments to respond and offer his reasoning for doing it, saying that he was going for a commentary by deleting all the diversity.  I tell him I do not think it worked.

Anyway, this is already longer than I meant an intro post to be, so hi, thanks for having me, and I’m excited to be here!  (And if anyone would like me to put together a post here on anything specific that relates to the math of popular media and/or Hollywood behind-the-scenes, feel free to drop me a comment and let me know!)

GMX Bound

Geek Media Expo is going down this weekend and I’m too stoked for words. In fact I’m packing up and heading out now.

If you’re in the Nashville area, you should definitely stop by. Yours truly is going to be a guest along with some most excellent peeps.Below is my schedule. I’ll definitely be wandering around and sitting in on other events so don’t be shy.

And as always, yes, I will be armed with a camera. You’ve been warned.

Saturday, Oct. 27

9 AM: Resources for Local Authors

Local authors Sara Harvey, Denny Upkins and MM Buckner come together to share the hidden treasures and possibilities of Nashville’s writing scene for writers and readers alike! Bookstores, events, local groups and book clubs, all the things.

6 PM: LGBT Characters In Genre Fiction

Discussion of gay, lesbian, and transgendered characters in fantasy and sci-fi. Featuring Sara Harvey and Dennis Upkins.

8 PM: Your Favorite Lesser Known Whedon Character

Joss Whedon has created some of the most powerful and memorable heroes. But it’s his one shot and minor characters who are his best kept secrets.

My Media Litmus Test



A little known fact about yours truly.

Since the release of Hollowstone and garnering a respectable following online through places like Ars Marginal, I’m often solicited to review and endorse books, tv shows for virtual strangers and their websites. For many I’ve taken up the opportunities, as many of you are aware and for others I turn down these requests.

It’s interesting because while the solicitors don’t know me well or at all, for some reason they think they are entitled to my time and energy. However if they knew me for five seconds they would know why I might be turning out endorsing the media. Like most people, said time is precious but more than that I have a Litmus Test that I use whenever I ponder on considering new media to consume. Now while there are obviously exceptions to the rule, more often than these are guidelines I run with.

This Litmus Test is a series of simply questions I’ll ask before I even entertain watching a television show, reading a novel, a comic book, etc.

Question 1: Is the lead or central protagonist a person of color?

Question 2: Is the lead or central protagonist an LGBTQ?

Now if the title in question has already failed to pass the first two checks, it’s not looking good but it doesn’t mean it’s automatically eliminated. There are 3 saving grace questions I’ll pose then.

Question 3: Is the writing exceptional? And by exceptional, I mean would I as a fellow writer be impressed? By exceptional, I mean is it on some Shonda Rhimes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joss Whedon, Dwayne McDuffie, Janelle Monae, Russell T Davies, JK Rowling level of exceptional?

Question 4: Is there eye candy? Because if the eye candy is pretty enough I might be willing to overlook a lot but there better be some smoking eye candy?

Question 5: Does this project feature Gina Torres in any shape or fashion. Because if the Goddess herself is involved, game on!

No? Nada? Then chances are I won’t be reading or tuning in.

“Oh but Denny,” many of you say, “You’re being SOOOOOOOO unreasonable?”

Am I? Am I really?

I missed the law that was passed that said that I am obligated to support any and all straight white media that passes my way. I missed the part where my personal decisions about what media I choose to view affects anyone else.

However you tell some fans why you have legitimate issues with the new regime running Doctor Who or why you think Game of Thrones is a train wreck they act like you just assaulted their first born or something.

And then when you voice how you’re sick of minorities being denigrated and erased, mofos look at you like you’ve lost your damn mind. Like in the 21st I’m supposed to be grateful for table scraps, of one dimensional token sidekicks and racist homophobic caricatures. I should be grateful and have faith and trust and wait for things to gradually get better. I’d be better off waiting for Godot and waiting to exhale.

But answer me this, how many straight white people do you know go out of their way to view media where they aren’t featured as the primary or central protagonists. How often do they seek out QUALITY media (and no BET and Bravo don’t count), that features POCs and LGBTQs with RESPECT? How often do you see them going out of their way to better learn about their brothers and sisters of different ethnicities and different orientations?

Exactly. Just like I thought.

There desperately needs to be more diversity in the media. While my options are immensely limited, the fact of the matter is I do have options, thanks in large part to the world wide web.

While Hollywood continues to hemorrhage money and can’t understand why most of its movies are tanking, they still have yet to figure out why series like Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl, the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers and Unwritten Rules have been a huge hit.

Keep your crappy NBC dramas, my must-see TV Thursday is reserved for Olivia Pope on the hit series Scandal. My Friday nights are with a sexy dame known as Nikita.

Keep your Nu Who, I’ve got seasons of Torchwood, the Sarah Jane Adventures, and the RTD era of Who that are not getting old anytime soon.

While some of the comics I’m reading are often to critique in how NOT to storytell, there are so many shitty titles that I’m happy I’m not reading: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, pretty much everything in Marvel. In fact the only thing I am reading and enjoying are Ultimate Spider-Man (Miles Morales), X-Factor, any Storm-centric X-Men issues (the goddess still gives me life), classic Midnighter and the vintage Cassandra Cain. And less I totally geek out, I won’t mention how much I live for Kevin Keller.

Keep your 50 Shades of Grey and Save Your Pearls, my reading list consists of Catherine Llundoff’s Silver Moon, Scott Tracey’s Witch Eyes series, Sarah Diemer’s the Dark Wife, Amaya Radjani’s Nightingales, I can continue on and on.

I can read high fantasy plays that feature leading queer black and Latino protagonists.

And for stuff that I want to see but is not out there yet, well, I just write and publish my own stuff.

So no, I don’t have to settle and I’m not going to settle, and I couldn’t be happier with my choices. I’m being sufficiently entertained, the art is challenging me and transcending me as art should but more than that, I’m supporting marginalized media.

If the media can’t pass one simple test, then it’s not really worth my time. As far as settling for table scraps, those days have long since passed.

Recommended Reading:

Counting Colored Cash:

Web Media:

You Got That Moxie Baby:

Avengers vs X-Men Review: Why I’m STILL Team X-Men

Each time I’ve read an issue of Marvel’s “biggest event of the year”  Avengers vs X-Men, I felt dirty. I feel like Tom Buchanan reading Goddard’s Rise of the Colored Empire because the themes in both are the same. In fact I’ve felt this way for too many comics I’ve been reading from the big two. But a theme in Marvel was even more blatant in the AvX storyline:

When minorities get too much power, you’ve got to put them down.

When women get real power, they forget their place. They can’t handle real power. Scarlet Witch, Jean Grey, Hope, they’re too emotional and too fragile, not like Silver Surfer, Nate Grey, Cable or Thor. Women can’t handle real power, you’ve got to put them down.


When blacks get uppity, you’ve got to put them down. That’s why the Avengers didn’t lift a finger to help Wakanda when Doomwar went down and we saw how Tony Stark betrayed Blue Marvel because he couldn’t be trusted with too much power. Blacks and other POCs can’t be trusted. You’ve got to put them down.


It’s okay to have gays as token sidekicks but if they prove to be serious players, a la Wiccan in Children’s Crusade who showcased some serious power and proved he might be a formidable contender in the sorcery game, and will quickly forget his place. Freedom Ring actually thought it was okay to be a gay superhero and an awesome one at that. He forgot his place. You’ve got to put them down.

It’s okay for mutants (the metaphor for marginalized people) to be be on the edge of extinction and be hunted and murdered. But we can’t allow them to get real power to dismantle institutional oppression and change the status quo. YOU’VE GOT TO PUT THEM DOWN!!!!!!!

For those of you who are just joining us, the series focuses on the return of the Phoenix Force, the cosmic entity of death and rebirth, as it looks for its new host, believed to be the teenage mutant Hope Summers, who will possess all of its power. Cyclops and the other X-Men want to protect her and prepare her as if she’s to be the mutant savior, while Captain America and the Avengers want her handed over to them so they can figure out what to do with her and keep the world safe from a potentially deadly fate (the return of a minority group.) —Summary courtesy of Wikipedia.

Marvel has produced some shoddy writing in its day but this might be the worst yet. In fact it makes Civil War look like A Tale Of Two Cities.

But what’s really frustrating about Marvel is that their stories have so much potential and they squander it almost without fail.


The fact is that The House of Ideas does indeed come up with some excellent concepts. However Marvel will consistently sabotage their own stories to maintain the status quo if said storytelling will result in character development or changing the landscape of the universe such as protagonists being unheroic or venturing the universe into unfamiliar territory.

Examples include but not limited to: Hulk being shipped off to another planet by his friends and their ship accidentally murdering his wife. And while his comrades had a legit reason for their dubious actions, rather than explore their corruption, it deus ex machina’ed that some random alien sabotaged the ship and thus all the Marvel “heroes” are still good. Scarlet Witch murdering three Avengers and wiping out mutants, only it wasn’t her fault, a bad force made her do it. Tony Stark violating the Civil Rights of metahumans (yes I know that’s a DC term but roll with me here) and minorities only he gets amnesia and doesn’t remember his crimes. To be fair the last one was probably the best play Marvel could’ve made because even now I still can’t look at Stark as anything other than a racist Nazi fascist (read Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel to see Stark’s racism at play).

The point is Marvel sabotages its great ideas maintain the status quo and maintain one dimensional characters: House of M, Civil War, World War Hulk, Children’s Crusade, Doomwar, etc. and so forth. AvX proved to be no better.

The story was sloppy and all over the place with a few flashes of brilliance. Said flashes came in a comment Rogue made which sums up the Avengers vs. X-Men conflict accurately. The Avengers were fighting to maintain the status quo, the X-Men were fighting to change it.

Of course the best point was made in this scene here:

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Occupy Sesame Street

Like many people, PBS and I have a long history. Like most children who grew up in working class homes and didn’t have cable or many resources, my parents, grandmother and teachers understood that education was important and it needed to be mixed in with media we consumed.

I discovered some true treasures through PBS: Sesame Street, the Letter People, Reading Rainbow, Masterpiece Theater, Doctor Who, Lambchop, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, Ghost Writer, and many others.

When I was in college, I had the honor of volunteering for one of the PBS Telethons because I know what positive impact it makes in people’s lives, especially for many of us who came from a challenging background.

Which is why I’m both disgusted and horrified that a politician would threaten to cut the funding for PBS when its funding only constitutes of .012 percent and the rest is provided through private donations.

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