hit on me like this and i guarantee it’ll work
Gene Yang is one of my heroes. Read this, y’all.
Read This: Gene Luen Yang’s rousing comics speech at the 2014 National Book Festival gala
From the Washington Post, article here.
GENE LUEN YANG, Library of Congress, Jefferson Building:
Good evening. Thank you, Library of Congress and National Book Festival, for inviting me to share the stage with such esteemed authors, and to speak with all of you. I am deeply grateful for this honor.
I’m a comic-book guy, so tonight I’d like to talk about another comic book guy. Dwayne McDuffie was one of my favorite writers. When I was growing up, he was one of the few African-Americans working in American comics. Dwayne worked primarily within the superhero genre. He got his start at Marvel Comics but eventually worked for almost every comic book publisher out there. He even branched out into television and wrote for popular cartoon series like “Justice League” and “Ben 10.”
Dwayne McDuffie is no longer with us, unfortunately. He passed away in 2011, at the age of 49. But within comics, his influence is still deeply felt.
I was lucky enough to have met him once. About a year before his death, we were on a panel together at Comic-Con. I had the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him how much his work meant to me.
In a column Dwayne wrote in 1999, he talked about his love of the Black Panther, a Marvel Comics character. The Black Panther’s secret alias is T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He has super senses, super strength, and super agility. He’s an Avenger, though he hasn’t yet made it into the movies.
The Black Panther wasn’t created by African American cartoonists. He was created in July of 1966 by two Jewish Americans, Stan Lee (who was born Stanley Lieber) and Jack Kirby (who was born Jacob Kurtzberg).
By modern standards, the Black Panther is not a flawless example of a black superhero. In their first draft of the character, Lee and Kirby called him “the Coal Tiger” and gave him a goofy yellow and black costume. Even in his final form, his superhero alias includes the word “Black.” This is true of many early African and African American superheroes, as if what makes them remarkable is neither their superpowers nor their heroism, but their ethnicity. Most problematic, though, was that Marvel made their most prominent black superhero the star of a series called Jungle Action.
All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”
Dwayne’s love of the Black Panther eventually blossomed into a love of comics in general. Dwayne was a smart guy with a lot of options in life. He’d earned a master’s degree in physics. But he chose to write comics as his career. I would argue that without the Black Panther, this flawed black character created by a writer and an artist who were not black, there would be no Dwayne McDuffie the comic book writer.
Dwayne wasn’t just a writer — he was also a businessman. In the early ’90s, he teamed with a group of writers and artists to found Milestone Media, the most prominent minority-owned comic book company that has ever existed. The Milestone universe have since been folded into DC Comics, so these days characters like Static Shock and Icon – characters Dwayne co-created – fight crime alongside Superman and Batman.
In the early ’90s, I was finishing up my adolescence. I visited my local comic-book store on a weekly basis, and one week I found a book on the stands called Xombi, published by Milestone Media. Xombi is a scientist who became a superhero after he was injected with nanotechnology. He allied himself with a secret order of superpowered nuns. One sister was known as Nun of the Above, another Nun the Less. Together, they protected the world from all kinds of supernatural threats.
Xombi was inventive and fun, but he stood out to me because he was an Asian American male carrying in his own monthly title. And even more notable – he didn’t know Kung Fu. Xombi wasn’t created by Asian Americans – his writer was white and his artist black – but he did make Asian Americans a little less invisible.
We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.
But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.
This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities.
After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.
I told you the story of Dwayne McDuffie to encourage all of us to be generous with ourselves and with one another. The Black Panther, despite his flaws, was able to inspire a young African American reader to become a writer.
We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.
Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.
Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them – definitely correct them – but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.
And let’s say you do your best. You put in all the effort you can. But then when your book comes out, the Internet gets angry. You slowly realize that, for once, the Internet might be right. You made a cultural misstep. If this happens, take comfort in the fact that even flawed characters can inspire. Apologize if necessary, resolve do better, and move on.
Let your fear drive you to do your homework. But no matter what, don’t ever let your fear stop you.
Gene is the best dude.
Roger Ebert’s sketchbook and thoughts on drawing
While I was watching Life Itself last night, I noticed two or three drawings in the mix of images, none of which were commented on.
Had I been reading his blog more carefully, I would’ve come across this blog post, “You Can Draw, and Probably Better Than I Can,” where he explains how he met a woman named Annette Goodheart in the early 1980s, who convinced him that all children can draw, it’s just that some of us stop:
The break in our childish innocence comes the first time we use an eraser. We draw a chin and think it looks nothing like a chin, and in frustration we erase it. That’s it. Our bond of trust with our artistic instinct has been severed. We will be erasing for the rest of our lives. I speak here not of great and accomplished artists, for whom I hold great awe, but for you and me, whose work, let’s face it, will not soon be given a gallery show.
It seems to me Annette said something like this: Begin with a proper sketch book. Draw in ink. Finish each drawing you begin, and keep every drawing you finish. No erasing, no ripping out a page, no covering a page with angry scribbles. What you draw is an invaluable and unique representation of how you saw at that moment in that place according to your abilities. That’s all we want. We already know what a dog really looks like.
When he was in London, Ebert bought a Daler sketchbook and a drawing pen across the street from the English National Opera.
I settled down in a nearby pub and began to sketch a glass, which is no more than an arrangement of ovals and lines. I continued to draw throughout the 1990s… I sketched mostly on vacation. I had the time. In Chicago there was always a deadline, someplace to be, a phone ringing. On vacation I found a cafe or a park bench, or was waiting for a concert to begin, or whatever.
He soon found out that the quality of his drawings didn’t matter at all — it was the mere fact that he drew them:
That was the thing no one told me about. By sitting somewhere and sketching something, I was forced to really look at it, again and again, and ask my mind to translate its essence through my fingers onto the paper. The subject of my drawing was fixed permanently in my memory. Oh, I “remember” places I’ve been and things I’ve seen. I could tell you about sitting in a pub on Kings’ Road and seeing a table of spike-haired kids starting a little fire in an ash tray with some lighter fluid. I could tell you, and you would be told, and that would be that. But in sketching it I preserved it. I had observed it.
I found this was a benefit that rendered the quality of my drawings irrelevant. Whether they were good or bad had nothing to do with their most valuable asset: They were a means of experiencing a place or a moment more deeply. The practice had another merit. It dropped me out of time. I would begin a sketch or watercolor and fall into a waking reverie. Words left my mind. A zone of concentration formed. I didn’t think a tree or a window. I didn’t think deliberately at all. My eyes saw and my fingers moved and the drawing happened. Conscious thought was what I had to escape, so I wouldn’t think, Wait! This doesn’t look anything like that tree! or I wish I knew how to draw a tree! I began to understand why Annette said finish every drawing you start. By abandoning perfectionism you liberate yourself to draw your way. And nobody else can draw the way you do.
As he wrote in a Facebook post, “An artist using a sketchbook always looks like a happy person.”
Knowing Ebert himself drew means a lot to me, as the only direct contact I ever had with Ebert was this Facebook post where he praised one of my drawings.
He published a little paperback with some of his drawings (Two Weeks In Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook), but, unfortunately, it’s out of print. Luckily, you can read all of his thoughts on drawings and flip through some of his drawings on Flickr.
Filed under: Roger Ebert
Tried to write fluff for abalidoth. Came out with… sort of angst and sort of fix-it fic? I guess? It took on a life of its own after a certain point.
WoR spoilers follow. 1073 words of Shasnah (what else?)
She dreams infrequently, but when she does she dreams of Jasnah.
(Shallan’s mind has always shown her that which she loves and that which she doesn’t want to see, all the more when they are the same.)
Dating isn’t easy, no matter who you are. This is a great Attenborough clip about wasps and orchids.
I rewatched Gundam Wing recently and drew my 90’s boyfriends
For this week’s cosmere challenge I decided to try my hand at writing different parings, not just those that I adore. This fandom has many parings that don’t get any love or very little and I wanted to have a little something for everyone here. I apologize in advance if I butchered any parings in my attempt to write a drabble for them. It was a challenge but one I am glad I tackled.
A very big thank you to dm-mo for the beta and the criticism. Many of these drabbles would be all the poorer if not for her efforts.
Title: Twelve Dances
Word Count: 1412
Parings: In order; Dalivani (Navani/Dalinar), Dalishshshsh (Dalinar/shshshsh), Shadolin (Shallan/Adolin), Kalarin (Kaladin/Renarin), Shallarin (Shallan/Renarin), Adomav (Jakamav/Adolin), Kalazil (Sigzil/Kaladin), Shasnah (Jasnah/Shallan), Kaloash (Moash/Kaladin) Adorin (Adolin/Renarin), Shalladin (Shallan/Kaladin) and Kadolin (Kaladin/Adolin)
Notes/Warnings: The Shasnah one contains a very tiny spoiler for the piece Tor recently published on their website.
I admit, I don’t know Cho that well, so I am glad there are other readings to be had!
And if he is just calling it out simply because he’s tired of it and he feels comfortable doing so even on his own films now, I think that’s fantastic. There’s certainly plenty for him to be calling out.
Heh. Well, I don’t know John Cho either. But he has talked about race & representation before* (and not in a ‘we’re all human, it doesn’t matter’ way), so it’s not completely ‘out of character’ for him to bring it up. I think it probably would be easier on him if he didn’t say anything, but I’m glad he does.
*Re Harold & Kumar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHEkLBZI1IM 4:07 mark): If you have a Korean and an Indian guy as your leads, you must address race at some point in the movie. You must, because the audience is noting it, really. The other thing is, I think, comedy at its best, treads in taboo waters a little bit. It has to have that transgressive quality to it, and race is the biggest taboo in America. I mean, people are very reluctant to talk about race and yet when you do jokes about race, uh, that work, people are very happy to release tension and laugh about it. But it has been interesting. I’ll make an observation. During the first tour for the first movie, we were talking about race all the time with journalists. It was almost like a process— looking back, the first movie was more concerned with race, but we talked about it so much, I felt that it was in a way…a way of justifying our presence in a motion picture.
And from an interview in 2009 http://www.asiaarts.ucla.edu/090703/article.asp?parentID=110145>:
JC: I recall from the Harold and Kumar movies is my struggle with the advertisers.
APA: What happened there?
JC: There was all this racial humor in the movie, and the advertising department wanted to say “Starring the Asian guy in American Pie, and the Indian guy from Van Wilder…” and they did go with that, and they submitted that to me for approval, and I said, “I don’t like it.” They asked me why, and I explain it to them, and that was tricky because it’s difficult explaining to my own representatives, why that didn’t jibe with me, because everyone kind of felt like it was keeping in tone with the movie. And I said, “I don’t like it. We’re poking fun at racism in the movie all the time, but it puts the audience on the wrong side of the racism joke.” So they were playing with the wording a little bit in the edits, and they kept coming up with versions to make me happy, but they were essentially the same thing, and I finally said, “you are not going to make me happy. You’re dancing around it, and you’re clearly attached to this idea, and I want you to know that no version of this idea will make me happy. And if you’re afraid that I won’t show up to do promotion because of this bitterness, you can rest assured that that’s not true. I consider promoting a movie part of my duties, and I will show up nevertheless. But you can either use this campaign and know that I’m unhappy, or you can change it and know that I’m happy. That’s it. Stop trying.” And eventually they went with it, and it’s one of those things where I look back and I’ve very proud of the movie, but that’s the thing I remember.
APA: Last question…for Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, Viva La Union recorded a song for the soundtrack with the line, “I want my own Chinese baby” — what’s that about?
JC: When I was thinking about it, I thought of a literal baby. There’s a kind of lack that children fill, that’s just the dark side of being a parent, I think. And there’s an accessory quality to Chinese babies in America, and I just think it’s funny. I just liked it. And you know, I would know people who would fawn over Asian babies more, and it got me to thinking, there’s this belief that Asian babies are really cute, and it got me thinking that our whole race is infantilized to some degree, and it manifests itself in different ways. You infantilize a woman, and she becomes eroticized. You infantilize a man, and he becomes emasculated. You infantilize a baby [laughs] — and it’s possible, it appears that you can infantilize a baby even more. [laughs] The babies need to be cuter than white babies. And it’s just a weird thing that I felt like said something about mainstream America’s relationship to Asians in general. So that’s where it came from.
Also this interview: http://blog.angryasianman.com/2008/04/q-with-john-cho.html
“And yes, I do feel a responsibility, and always have, and it’s been an odd burden for me. Even when I started and no one gave a shit, I was trying to avoid doing roles—and it’s no accident that I’ve never done something with a chop suey accent. It’s no accident that I’ve never played those parts. I strongly believe there are a lot of Asian American actors who think that that’s the price to pay before you get to wherever you’re going. And I take real issue with that. Because you have to maintain integrity from the start, and on a personal level, you have to not do something that’s going to make you sick to your stomach.
But on a political level, how are things supposed to ever change if there’s someone willing to do it? I can tell you now, having worked in the business, that you can gather an army of people to hold picket signs and stand outside the studio, and say, “we destest this portrayal”… but it doesn’t matter if there’s a guy—who they know, a peer—who’s willing to do it, who stands in front of the crew and does the buck-tooth accent. If he or she is willing to do it, it makes the protestors look like extremists. It makes this guy look like the normal guy. Because we all work in the same industry. So the willingness of one actor negates a thousand protestors and a thousand angry letters.”
(So I can see why Butawhiteman Cantbekhan playing Khan would be deeply upsetting to him, even if Cho wasn’t in this movie.)
I love him 1000 times just for flawlessly articulating this racist absurdity in the most succinct and accurate way I’ve ever encountered.
john cho my hero