Manga & Millennials: How I Found Comfort in “Solanin”

girlgonegeeksloanin

solanin_meiko_lonely

Solanin, by Inio Asano, is about Meiko Inoue, a recent college grad working a 9-5 that she hates. Sound like anyone you know? She fears she’ll end up a faceless employee, so she quits. Her boyfriend, Taneda Naruo is a freelance illustrator and doesn’t make enough to support himself so he permanently crashes at her apartment.

Meiko, like many of us twentysomethings, is in that transitory stage where she’ll have to make critical decisions that may affect the rest of her life. She struggles with figuring out her place in society, which causes her to question if she’s even cut out for the real world.

With our thirties tapping us Millennials on the shoulder, we are left with this nagging feeling to search for purpose before we get trapped in a passionless routine. (Queue existential crisis.) Like a remixed version of Joan Didion’s essays, a lot of us are “Slouching Towards Adulthood”. It’s a splinter we try to ignore. We hope it goes away, or that we’ll get used to the pain. But there will come a day when we’ll have to either do something about it, or decide to live with that splinter. To quote my favorite anime Cowboy Bebop, “You’re gonna carry that weight.”solanin_meiko

Meiko’s first step was quitting a job that wasn’t fulfilling. But what’s next? What do you do, when you don’t know what to do?

You live. You make mistakes. You get to know yourself. Find out what you like and what you don’t like. You cling to your passions like Teneda clung to music and his band. You do what you want to do.

I know I’m dangerously flirting with the age where I have to start acting like a self-sustaining adult. These are the years where I’m sculpting my future and I wasn’t happy with the shape it was taking. So I did something about it. Just like Meiko, I don’t want to end up spending 9+ hours of my day feeling empty.

I know nothing good can come by waiting for good to come. You have to take risks. It’s scary, but also exhilarating. If you’re a recent grad, or feeling lost about life and your place in it, I suggest reading Solanin.

Life’s too short to be anything but happy.

Always follow your happy.

How Hawkeye #13 Helped Me Deal with Death

hawkeye013_1

Hawkeye #13 made me cry. It’s not because I was emotionally attached to Grills. Although, I was fond of him and it was sad that he died. But as some of you may know, my uncle passed away last year. I’ve blogged about him a few times. We were close and he was the biggest influence in my life when it came to comics and geek culture. He took me to my first comic con when I was little. And he’s been even more top of mind because New York Comic Con was this past weekend and we would go together.

hawkeye013_2On Wednesday I headed over to Forbidden Planet to pick up my comics after work. I hadn’t been there in two weeks so I had quite a few to catch up on. I knew I wouldn’t get to them all that day, but Hawkeye was one of the top titles on my list that I had to read that night. If you’re a fan of Hawkeye, you know the series went on a little break, so I was super excited to get back into the world of Clint Barton and his crew.

Once I started reading I knew I was in for an emotionally heavy issue. But I had no idea how much it would end up affecting me. I was in Clint’s head. I felt what he felt. Which then in turn, brought up my own personal feelings. I saw myself in Clint. It was a comic about me.

After my uncle passed, I’ve been more sensitive to death, even fictional death, because I now have a point of reference. It’s easy to kill off characters in comics, but it’s not easy to make the reader connect to that loss.

If someone wanted to know why I love comics so much, Hawkeye #13 is why.

10 Tips For Surviving New York Comic Con

new-york-comic-con-logo-01-2000x740

I’ve been going to New York Comic Con (NYCC) for a couple of years now and I’ve discovered some tips that’ll help you make the most of your wonderfully geeky weekend. If you’re going to NYCC and wanna say hi IRL, hit me up on Twitter or email me at jamila[at]girlgonegeekblog.com! nyccc-mobile-promo

1. NYCC App

The NYCC App has everything you need to know about the con including panels, guests, rules, exhibitors, map and a bunch more. My favorite feature is that you can add panels to your schedule and they’ll remind you when it’s coming up.

nike_mcfly_001

2. Comphy Shoes & Clothes (Cosplay Willing)

If you plan to be there all 3 or 4 days you will be exhausted. The convention space is huge and you’ll be on your feet for a good portion of that time. Do your feet a favor and wear comfortable shoes. Of course, if your cosplay requires heels pack some emergency flats!

Kirby's_cake

3. Nomz

If you’re like me, you plan to go to as many panels as time and space permit. Which means you’ll be waiting in line and camping out in rooms for hours. Don’t lose your spot in line, or that front row seat to a panel because you were hungry or thirsty. Pack some food and drinks! Drink extra OJ and take your vitamins that weekend, you don’t want to suffer from con-flu on Monday!

kawaii-usb-to-micro-usb-charging-cable-with-led-blinking-smiling-face-_-assorted-colors_-free-shipping--compatible-brand-samsung-type-smart-brand-name-airbox---has-retail-package-yes-length-102-cm_0

4. Chargers

Even if you have great battery life, bring your charger. You’ll be taking more photos and on your social media pages much more because it’s NYCC. There are some charging stations and random sockets around the convention center. If you have a portable charger bring that fo sho!

220px-Todd_Snap

5. Camera(s)

As I mentioned above, the chances of your phone dying are higher than you seeing a Homestuck cosplayer. I know real cameras are becoming pretty rare, but if you have one bring it! The quality of your photos will be better and it’ll still be around when your phone isn’t. Worst case scenario is using your iPad. I know it’s pretty embarrassing and you look like a tourist, but I’m sure you can suffer 5 seconds of side eyes if it means taking a picture of an amazing cosplayer.

sharpies

6. Sharpie

Yup, that’s it. A sharpie. Don’t be the one who runs into Stan Lee at the con with no Sharpie at hand for an autograph.

spiderman-pile-comic-books

7. BYOC

Bring your own comics. This goes hand-in-hand with the sharpie tip. Go through the list of guests and artists that will be at NYCC and bring some of their comics with you. I’ve been lucky enough to have Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder, Brian K. Vaughan, Sean Murphy, Greg Capullo, Robert Kirkman (to name a few) sign my comics!

Pro tip: At the end of the panels, rush (in an orderly fashion) to the front of the stage. Most panelist stay and sign stuff and take pictures before they leave. No pushing!

StreetPass

8. Read/Watch/Play

If you plan to go to panels, you’ll be in a line. A lot. And you’ll be camping out in rooms (IGN theater, I’m looking at you kid). Although the con is my favorite place to people watch and make new friends, I suggesting bringing a book, comic, 3DS, PSP and/or an iPad to entertain you while you wait to be entertained some more. Plus, think of all the Street Passes you’ll get on your 3DS!

123046__clueless_l

9. Buy (Almost) Everything Sunday

If you’ll be there for the whole weekend, wait until Sunday to buy most of your goodies. By then, you would have gotten to see the whole floor multiple times and compare prices on all the swag you want. Also, Sunday is shorter so you won’t have to carry your loot for that long. There are less attendees as well so you’ll have the space to get a good look at everything and shift through comics without bumping into a fellow con-goer or getting accidentally hit in the face by their cosplay. Doh!

adventure time homies help homies

10. Don’t Be a Jerk

Seriously, dude. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t cut in line. Be respectful of cosplayers. Revealing cosplay isn’t an invitation to be a creeper. No one likes a creeper. Help make NYCC a happy place.

Where are all of the women of color in science fiction?

The Underrepresentation of Black Women & Latinas in Science Fiction

Fun facts before I get started: According to “Richard Whettestone of firsttvdrama.com, as of 2005 only 15 science-fiction TV series have featured black women in lead roles. Less than 9% of Science-Fiction TV series have featured black women as main characters… Including recurring characters who were usually tossed in the background.” [Source]

There aren’t that many Black women and Latinas in science fiction and that is a problem, and not a new problem by any means. The fact that we can probably easily name all of the Black women and Latinas in sci-fi that we’re or are lead characters and creators means there isn’t enough. We shouldn’t be able to name them all, there should be so many that we forget. Being a Black and Latina woman and sci-fi fan, I can tell you how important it is to see people who look like me in a genre I love so much.

It does not go unnoticed when people of color are continuously underrepresented in a genre. As self-proclaimed geeks, we read and watch these stories not only because they are fascinating, but because we connect and relate to these characters and their struggles. However, personally, I always seem to hit a wall. I’ll fall in love with strong female characters, but when I try to relate their experiences to my own, I eventually come to a point where I’m not being addressed anymore because I’m a woman of color. My connection to the character I’m watching or reading is over. Their experience can no longer be my experience. This doesn’t happen always, but fairly often. I’m fully aware of women being misrepresented in misogynistic ways in the genres, but unfortunately it’s still a different fight for me. Most of those women being negatively portrayed are white, Blacks and Latinas are barely even in the story. If I fight for women’s rights, or in this case, women being accurately depicted in a genre, I’m fighting for white women because they are what are represented. I have to fight a separate battle for women of color.

Our exclusion from the story is both conscious and subconscious. There are those who say, “Well you have that one black guy or that one Asian, you should be happy.” But in reality there are only a handful of us included and often times, when we are it’s solely for the purpose of adding some color. We’re tokens. You’ll rarely find more than one person of color that’s a lead character, and when they are lead characters, they are often stereotypes.

But then again, we are being represented, but not in the way we’d like. We are “the other” in science fiction. We’re the aliens, literally. Whether we’re being depicted as the Na’vi from Avatar, the wild and violent aliens from Predator or Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars. The fact that undocumented immigrants living in the United States are called illegal aliens has to ring some kind if alarm in your head.

A way to directly change this is for women of color creators to write and direct stories that feature women that look like them. Simple right? Not really. Other than the mountains they’d have to climb to get their story heard, there’s a cyclical problem that even limits them from the genre itself. Women of color are barely represented in sci-fi, so many women who could have become sci-fi creators by first becoming fans avoid the genre because they see it as a “white boys clubs” where they don’t belong and aren’t welcomed. In turn, there is no progress in the amount of women of color being represented in the genre, and the cycle continues.

Science fiction is a haven for us folks of color, the future is one of the ideal fictional narratives we can fit since our past is filled with oppression, colonization and slavery. A lot of us who read, watch and create science fiction see the genre as our possible future. These are worlds that are meant to signify what may come. The fact that women of color, and to be completely honest, people of color entirely, are not included in these futures is scary.

What can we do to change this? If you’re a creator, create fictions that include all people. If you’re a reader and watcher like me, let your voice be heard. A little blog post, email to an author or tweet may not seem like a big deal, but with the the internet you never know who or how many people can come across your words. No matter what anyone says, it is extremely important for everyone to be represented. If we don’t say anything, or do anything, we can’t expect anything to change.

For the Love of Geek

This is a stream of consciousness post. It won’t be polished, but it will be personal.

Some of you who are my friends, or follow me on Twitter know that I recently lost my uncle. He was an amazing man and one of the biggest reasons why I love the things I love. He took me to my first comic book convention. He introduced me to countless films, books and comics that I have grown to love and appreciate. I miss him terribly.

My Uncle Barry was the first major death I’ve experienced in my family. It was rough, and it still is. While watching The Dark Knight Rises (don’t worry, no spoilers), there was a scene that struck a chord with me. A character was talking to Bruce Wayne saying something like, “People can try to understand what’s it’s like to be an orphan, but only we know what it’s like.” Though I’m not an orphan, since my uncle’s death, I’ve been more sensitive to death in general. Whether it’s the death of a fictional character, or the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. Death seems to affect me more now because I don’t have to imagine what it feels like to lose someone you love. I know it. And unless you’ve experienced it, to quote that character again, you don’t understand what it’s like.

Now this post isn’t about death, or about TDKR, it’s about a realization I had during that scene. The reason why I love these “geek” things is because I can connect with them. All works of fiction are in some obscure or obvious way trying to tell us how to live, or not live, our life. I love geek things not because they are “geeky”, but because I can connect to them in a way I can’t with other fictional works. You, being a geek as well I assume, understand where that passion comes from.

We need these characters from tragic beginnings to show us that whatever troubles we have experienced, or are experiencing, we can overcome. We need to read and watch stories about the past, the future, the now and the never. We need heroes to believe in because we may not have them in our own lives. We need to lose ourselves in fantastic realms and outer space, because sometimes, we can’t deal with what’s going on in our own world. We need adventures and journeys to make our lives not as dull. We need villains to loath. We need something and someone to believe in. We need to laugh, love and cry. We need to understand why bad people do bad things. We need to know what to do when bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. We need to love people who can never die.

These stories, characters, worlds and adventures give us what we need. They give us what regular life may not, or cannot give. Yes, realistic fiction can give some of us that, but for whatever reason, we connect with these stories. And frankly we obsess about these stories, if nothing else, because they are damn good.