Equity

Jul. 8th, 2017 01:34 pm
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
Over the past week I solicited more than half a dozen reviews for my professional blog; and, as usual, only the men got back to me with a positive response. I obviously don't think that women are less professional than men, but I do get the feeling that, for whatever reason, men are far more comfortable than women about getting paid for their writing.

As much as I strive for equity within my limited spheres of influence, it can be a difficult goal to achieve. And honestly, although I welcome content from anyone, sometimes I wonder if I'm not actually shooting myself in the foot by allowing so many men to write for me. Does the mere presence of a majority of male-gendered names cause female writers to feel like the venue is not a safe space? This may seem like a stupid concern, except that I myself have refrained from submitting my own work to male-dominated publications – and, if I had to guess, I might say that "not feeling like it's a safe space" may have something to do with why so many female writers in tech and gaming have started to go by their first initials and use "they/them" pronouns within the past year or two.

Probably I shouldn't worry about this too much, though. The sexism I've faced in my own career has been much more overt, with my work rejected out of hand while editors actively scout male writers with equal qualifications. As long as I'm holding the door open and not closing it in anyone's face, I think I'm doing what I need to do.
rynling: (Default)
So this (link) was a story in the Washington Post this morning:

Bowing to public uproar and deeply skeptical council members, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has scrapped proposals for a far-reaching set of animal regulations that would have decidedly cramped the style of cats, dogs and chickens in the nation’s capital.
 
Also golden:

"This is not a war on pets," City Administrator Rashad M. Young said.
 
It's sometimes difficult to get myself to read the news these days, but at least I can always look forward to the antics of the DC mayor, a fundamentally smart and decent person who despite everything is almost comically inept at politics. She will typically have a good idea, take that good idea just a step too far, face a ridiculous amount of opposition, and then have one of her spokespeople deliver a series of acerbic one-liners to the press. I kind of feel bad for Mayor Bowser, but I am here for the ripostes.
rynling: (Default)
Tomorrow is my first class about Final Fantasy X ahhhhhhhhhhhh

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhh

I am so not ready haha.

The syllabus is finished and posted in several places, and after work this evening I'll print out physical copies for the students at a copy shop. I've already uploaded most of the assigned readings to the course site on Blackboard, and I traded favors with a friend who promised to send me pirated copies of the rest by the end of the day today.

(But why doesn't she just ask the university library and/or Interlibrary Loan to scan the readings?? you might be thinking. The answer is that I did, and they did a remarkably shitty job. As someone dating a university librarian, I'm not going to say that university libraries are useless, but they could do a lot better in certain regards.)

In any case, the course has a full enrollment of 25 students, and I intend to overload anyone who shows up and asks to be added to the class. The more the merrier, right? For what it's worth, 10 of the 25 students seem to be female, although some of them have Chinese and Korean names that could go either way.

The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I've structured it so that we will talk about industry history, Japanese culture, and game design theory on Tuesdays, and on Thursdays we will apply this information to FFX. In terms of assignments, this means that students will be asked to read academic articles and book chapters for Tuesday classes, and they will need to have played FFX up to a designated point by the beginning of class on Thursday.

FFX is extremely well written and has excellent pacing, and it lends itself to division into "chapters" of relatively even length. It actually wasn't that difficult to figure out that students should play "until the morning after the Djose Temple" and "until you wake up in the Sanubia Desert" and so on. The kids should be in the Calm Lands by spring break, and they will have beaten the game at the end of the first week of April.

Something that is true of all undergraduate students everywhere in the world is that there are a lot of demands on their time, and they often have to make difficult decisions regarding what assignments they are and are not able to complete. I understand that playing a video game can feel as if it's not work, which means that many students may procrastinate if they're not given an incentive to treat these "reading" assignments as serious coursework. I'm therefore planning on giving written quizzes on FFX at the beginning of class every Thursday, which should be fun.

(I suppose I could reproduce those quizzes here if anyone reading this is interested.)

A friend of mine who teaches at a university in Australia has been thinking of developing a course like this, and he asked me a good question regarding a practical concern, namely, what happens if students get stuck? At the boss fight with Seymour on Mount Gagazet, for example?

In my own experience, dealing with the difficulty curve in FFX is mostly a matter of level grinding. One of the reasons I chose this game is because it's fairly easy – and because it has a minimum of level grinding. I took the major hikes in difficulty into account in the syllabus, and I'm going to do my best to alert the students to potential problem areas in advance. I also put PDF copies of two strategy guides up on the course website on Blackboard, and I'm planning on including links to a number of fan-written online guides as well.

From what I understand, the way that other instructors teaching games have handled the issue of difficulty is to pair students up or put them into groups of mixed skill levels so that they can help each other out. When I was an undergraduate, however, I worked well over 40 hours a week at multiple jobs, and I think there is a special place in hell for college professors who assign mandatory recurring group work. The university where I'm teaching this class has a fairly high number of nontraditional students (a few of the ones enrolled in my class are already professional game devs), so I don't think something like that would work there anyway.

If I had better library or media lab support, I would consider scheduling something like a "lab" for class, meaning that I would book a room for a certain number of hours a week where my students could play the assigned texts together. If I were assigning multiple games instead of just one, I think this would be an ideal scenario, and it's something I might consider if I have an opportunity to teach a class like this again.

The one thing I'm really worried about is that I will have one or more Final Fantasy Experts™ in the class, by which I mean people who are obsessed with game trivia. I've played FFX five times, and I will play it again along with the students, but I don't remember all the tiny details of the game perfectly, and there are other Final Fantasy games I've only played once or twice, like FFVIII and FFXIII. I don't want to try to pass myself off as some sort of authority on the series, but I do need to act as a moderator and as an administrator, and I hope I will be able to maintain a friendly atmosphere while still commanding at least a small degree of respect. I know this is something that probably no female professional has ever struggled with before, so wish me luck lol.
rynling: (Cecil Palmer)
An acquaintance of mine from college works on the staff of the Smithsonian magazine, so I called him and asked if he could let me into the American History museum and give me a tour of the offices and archives. He was game, so off I go.

I have a new boss, and so far he seems more equanimous about my selfish bullshit than my old boss. I told him I needed to take the morning off to do research for a novel, and he was like, "Okie dokie, knock yourself out." It probably doesn't hurt that he's a novelist himself. I hope we can be friends.

I think the best way to approach my "fanfic as novel pilot" plan is to try to write a chapter every weekend. This gives me a month to figure out whether the story is worth dropping out of fandom and doing the actual work of becoming a writer.

Meanwhile I still haven't submitted the manuscript for the actual book I have under actual contract, because why pursue real-world success when you can build imaginary castles in the sky, I mean honestly.

ETA: My behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian was amazing, holy fuck. That was such a good idea. Everyone I met was brilliant and encouraging, and I was so energized and inspired that I ended up writing almost 5,000 words after I got home that afternoon. I could really get used to this whole "being a writer" thing.
rynling: (Mog Toast)
Last night I had an incredible dream that I think might translate well into my first "real" novel. I woke up and went to work and sat down at my desk and wanted to put together a chapter outline, but instead I had to do... you know... my job.

More on this project later. (ETA: Here is later.)

Meanwhile, I've got a professional piece of writing that's way overdue. I've reached the point at which writing literally one sentence in the next 24 hours would be more progress than I've made in the past week. I said I'd do it, and it's already half done, and I'd like to get paid for it, but knowing that it's utterly meaningless and that maybe only two or three people will ever so much as look at it is stifling any drive I might have ever had to finish the damn thing.

It's so weird that the prospect of writing the story is holding me back from writing the report, while the necessity of writing the report is holding me back from writing the story. I am such garbage at being a writer, it's not even funny.
rynling: (Ganondorf)
Yesterday afternoon I took myself to a clothier in downtown DC to get fitted for a bespoke suit. What this entailed was three hours of talking with two stylists and two tailors about fabric and fit and the length between buttons on my vest. The aesthetic I was going for was "1920s mob boss," and they all knew exactly what I was talking about and didn't try to steer me into more feminine fashions.

If you're wondering how much something like this costs, the answer is $1,750.

This is far and away the most expensive cosplay I've ever done, but I'm not entirely sure who I'm trying to cosplay as. An adult version of myself? Who is actually good at her job? And actually has this level of income?

I am so tired. I am so, so tired, all the time.
rynling: (Teh Bowz)
The essay on FFVI was accepted without revision to Kill Screen, and I got paid $50.

I just submitted the fourth round of edits on the Bowser essay, which was only nine hundred words to begin with, and got paid nothing. Academic publishing is such ridiculous bullshit.

After Aonuma's recent "Link can't be a girl" nonsense, I wrote a thousand-word essay about a popular feminist Zelda fan comic hosted on Tumblr. I thought the piece would be perfect fit for a specific column run by The Mary Sue, so I submitted it to them. In response, they said that The Legend of Zelda is not relevant to their readers and that they strongly disagree with the idea that fans have agency to challenge problematic media.

Some you win, some you lose, and some make you want to burn cities to the ground.
rynling: (Celes Chere)
This morning I submitted an essay about Final Fantasy VI to Kill Screen.

I've been reading Kill Screen ever since I randomly picked up a copy at Quimby's in the fall of 2013, and its articles have always struck me as having an undertone of pseudo-intellectual dudebroism. What I mean by this is that the writers and editors are almost entirely men, and the printed articles tend to privilege masculinist grand narratives (such as discussions of nationalism and philosophical views of human identity) at the expense of the smaller narratives that have historically been so important to intersectional feminism.

Regardless, I feel that Kill Screen is one of the more interesting and dynamic venues for game criticism currently operating at a large scale. The editing for the online version of the magazine is crisp and clean, and the people in charge of the web layout and visual design are at the top of their game.

I therefore put a lot of time and effort into emphasizing the sociopolitical relevance of the topic of my essay while still keeping it accessible to a broad audience. I hope I can manage to catch the interest of the editors, because I think my piece will help to fill a niche on their site (gender-conscious close reading and analysis) that's currently somewhat lonely.

If Kill Screen doesn't work out, I'm going to try Gamasutra, which might actually be a better fit, all things considered. If that doesn't work out, I'll take advantage of a friend's contacts to make a pitch to Kotaku, which I understand might be a long shot. FemHype was more or less created for this kind of essay, and I actually feel a bit guilty not submitting it to them first, but I also think it would be nice to get paid for my writing.
rynling: (Celes Chere)
Over the weekend I submitted two essays to one of my favorite gaming websites. I had pitched them in advance, and the editor responded positively.

Both started as responses to something someone said on Tumblr, but I decided that the research and effort I put into both pieces, as well as their broader relevance to gaming cultures, outweighs the limited attention that either of them would find within my tiny circles.

I've written professionally about games before, but never for an actual gaming website. I experienced a high level of anxiety concerning my submissions, especially since both ideas originated in fandom. To me, there's a clear disconnect between my fannish voice and the discursive space of online journalism, and I feel a strange sort of guilt for blurring the line, as if I'm somehow betraying fandom by having taken advantage of it as a source of professional inspiration. Then again, I myself feel betrayed by fandom, which has largely failed to reciprocate the investment of time and emotional energy I've put into it.

Of course none of this really matters, as there's no guarantee that either article will run on this particular site. Also, I sincerely doubt anyone is paying any sort of attention to what I do or say, so I should probably just get over myself.
rynling: (Default)
Some time ago I wrote a negative review of a graphic novel. The book's publishers were marketing it as "a feminist masterpiece," and it had quite a bit of buzz surrounding its release. My assessment of the work was that, far from being "a feminist masterpiece," it was a celebration of rape culture. The message of the story seemed to be that women should be grateful if they're raped, especially if they're raped by artists. Artists can't control their generative impulses; and, by being raped by an artist, a woman is offered a rare opportunity to serve as a muse. Gross, right? My argument was that the book should come with a trigger warning instead of a feminist endorsement.

I got shit for this review, because of course I did, but I kept my head down and waited quietly until the internet hate machine moved on. Suddenly, however, the review has started to generate comments again, and my former editor is insisting that I respond to them, which he believes will result in increased traffic to the site. He's not wrong.

My question is this – how much should I ask to be paid, per word, to feed the trolls?
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
A few weekends ago I got very drunk with a handful of writers and somehow found myself in a debate over who was lower in the geek hierarchy, furries or steampunk nerds. Because I was already three sheets to the wind by that point, I gave an impassioned defense of steampunk, which in all honesty I barely remember. One thing led to another, and I got asked to organize a panel on steampunk at a certain nascent technology-focused pop culture convention here in DC. If successful, the panel would more than likely become an exhibition at the federally funded museum organizing the convention.

I was like, Hahaha, okay, no.

Because the Metro was shut down yesterday (something about fires burning underground), I had the rare pleasure of working in the DC office, so one of the museum curators walked over and twisted my arm – and by "twisted my arm," I mean "bought me a few beers." I'm not entirely sure if I'm going to be paid for any of this, and I'm fairly certain I'm going to have major regrets later, but I ended up agreeing.

Who knows, maybe I won't have a nervous breakdown, that would be nice.
rynling: (Silver)
I'm not a huge Clinton supporter, but I'm following the election coverage for basically one reason, and that reason is pictures like this:



(This is the source; scroll down for the world's cutest animated GIFs)
rynling: (Mog Toast)
Now that I'm writing a book, I'm having trouble caring about my professional blog. I didn't update it at all last month; I couldn't be bothered.

I've been having all manner of crazy thoughts concerning what to do with my contract advance (like scheduling an intake appointment for cosmetic surgery - no, seriously!), but I think the best use of the money might be to pay people to write for me. I would solicit guest writers and then compensate them fairly for their labor, basically.

The problem is that most of the writers I know in real life are neurotic. Like, I love them, but they are all different types of crazy. I am already an editor in my day job, but my institution lends me authority. If I become an editor on my own blog, it will just be me being a dick to my friends, many of whom are already a few cards short of a full deck (which is why I love them and, let's be honest, why we became friends to begin with). Also, if I start paying the people I drink with, obviously our relationships are going to change.

Still, I think it's worth trying. Since it's just a blog, I wouldn't be under any obligation to do anything with any degree of regularity, or to continue anything that isn't working for me. No one else on the internet or in print is doing anything remotely like what I'm doing, and it would be cool to turn this project into A Real Thing.

My plan for today is to (a) start drinking early, (b) send out the first batch of emails before I start doubting myself, (c) leave work after lunch to continue drinking, and then (d) put together a simple set of practical guidelines for guest writers. This is how professionals do things, right?
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
Sometimes I think a good 75% of my current job involves nothing more than the process of absorbing negativity, filtering it through my body, and releasing it as something useful and productive. I'm very good at this, but I'm also something of a delicate flower, and it's not uncommon for me to leave my office to sit in my car for fifteen minutes while I sob uncontrollably like a middle school drama queen.

For the past two months I've been thinking about how abnormal this is, and how it might even be bad for my health... but whatever, you know? Being an adult is hard, and I've been telling myself that my job isn't so bad, all things considered.

BUT THEN! Something so traumatic happened to me at work this week that a sizable strand of my hair turned bright white. I thought this only happened in comic books, but apparently not. It doesn't look as cool as I thought it would, and it doesn't even have an interesting explanation.

Is this permanent, I wonder. If it is, should I make up a better story?
rynling: (Ganondorf)
This morning, after a particularly disastrous staff meeting, I posted something personal to Tumblr.

Tumblr is not the sort of discursive space that facilitates reflection, and I felt as though I was outing myself by saying how old I am, even though I'm the median age of registered Tumblr users. I don't expect to get any response, as I don't have anything even remotely resembling a following, so the act of writing and publishing the post was something resembling a dress rehearsal of identity performance.

In my professional life, I have been repeatedly discouraged from revealing too much of myself online. To give an example, the (extremely successful) blog I launched in grad school triggered a public seminar in which a panel of professors delivered scathing diatribes about how putting things on the internet can damage a young professional's reputation.

This is also the reason I started writing fic under the username "rynling" - I was deathly afraid that people would somehow connect "rynling" with "pocketseizure" and then connect "pocketseizure" with me. I'm not afraid of that anymore (I don't think anyone cares enough about me to undertake that degree of internet legwork), but I'm still hesitant to make myself vulnerable by presenting aspects of my identity that aren't limited to what is strictly necessary to maintaining a functional relationship with whatever community I happen to be operating in. What this means is that I feel a strong internal pushback against crossing the streams of my professional life and my fandom life. As a result, I feel like I'm always in the closet.

There is so much going on here with "the hidden" and "the repressed" that I'm surprised someone hasn't written a novel about this exact situation already.

ETA: I deleted the post. Fuck that and fuck me, Tumblr is indeed not the place for baring one's soul, and what I wrote was pretentious anyway. Let's pretend this never happened.
rynling: (Teh Bowz)
There's a project in the works to put together an anthology of "The 100 Best Video Game Characters," and I got invited to submit a piece about Bowser. Sweet.

Apparently they received over 400 abstracts, but someone took them aside and said, "Listen, I know you're under a lot of pressure here, but you really need to get this woman to write about Bowser."

I'm very honored, of course, but... How do people know this about me?
rynling: (Teh Bowz)
A couple of my interns sent me pictures of two Mii characters they created in Smash Bros and named after me. One is a Bowser build, and the other is a Ganondorf build.

Except for a Wind Waker Link Nendoroid, I try to keep my office as free of Nintendo paraphernalia as possible, and I always do my best to act like a professional adult.

I therefore want to believe that they chose these two characters because I have red hair and a singularly unattractive face, but another part of me is like, they know.

But this is not possible; I made sure of that years ago.

It would be cool to become Smash buddies with the two of them, but I can't, because I'm responsible for their work and reference letters. I also have a measure of control and influence over their lives. Like, I just fired one of my interns this past weekend for acting like an anti-Muslim racist piece of shit. (I made him cry, and his tears were delicious.)

I spent most of my life "fighting The Man," and now that I am The Man everything looks completely different. It turns out that maintaining a professional façade requires a great deal of self-management and self-denial. I think this is part of the reason why I'm so insistent on hiding behind a wall of relative anonymity when it comes to fandom – I don't want to feel pressured to behave like my job title when all I want to do is geek out about video games.
rynling: (Gator Strut)
Seattle was fun.

I drank a lot, ate a lot, and bought a lot of flannel.

I also now have a bunch of new followers on Twitter. I need to sit down with my cell phone camera gallery and the stack of business cards people gave me and try to match faces to names and Twitter handles. For some reason this is stressing me out, probably because I hate making value judgments about who to follow and who to ignore.

I took a short break on Saturday afternoon to wander over to the waterfront park behind Pike Place Market. While I sat there getting mildly stoned, I sketched out an elaborate plot map for a Wind Waker fic based on The Odyssey. Maybe I'll write that fic one day, but right now it just seems pretentious.

Over the weekend I got a comment on one of my stories pointing out an amusing typo. I try to go through everything every few months to edit and fix things, but stuff always slips through. I'm sure I look like a complete asshole in the current ongoing Zelda fic, inserting pseudo-philosophical tracts alongside ridiculous typographical errors. I try not to let the knowledge of my persistent incompetence as a writer bother me too much, but it does.

Not gonna stop writing though.
rynling: (Teh Bowz)
One of the great pleasures in my life is handing my business card to someone who used to be mean to me when I was younger.

Every so often I'll consider quitting one (or all) of my jobs, but this is never going to happen because (a) I fucking love money, and (b) I enjoy using my position to piss on people's shoes when they try to front with me.
rynling: (Gator Strut)
This morning I was informed that I will be spending a week in September in Israel. My days will be mostly divided between Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University, but outside the cities is a huge and terrible desert, and I'm going to have to put in some time there too.

I was complaining about this on Facebook, and people have been all, "That's so cool, it'll be like Mad Max!" Don't get me wrong, Fury Road is a fantastic movie, but the desert is legitimately the worst thing. To quote from the introduction to Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert:

Confronted by the desert, the first thing Americans want to do is change it. People say that they "love" the desert, but few of them love it enough to live there. I mean in the real desert, not in a make-believe city like Phoenix with exotic palms and golf-course lawns and a five-hundred-foot fountain and an artificial surf. Most people "love" the desert by driving through it in air-conditioned cars, "experiencing" its grandeur. That may be some kind of experience, but it is living in a fool's paradise. To really experience the desert you have to march right into its white bowl of sky and shape-contorting heat with your mind on your canteen as if it were your last gallon of gas and you were being chased by a carload of escaped murderers. You have to imagine what it would be like to drink blood from a lizard or, in the grip of dementia, claw bare-handed through sand and rock for the vestigial moisture beneath a dry wash.
 
On one hand, I'm going to need to stock up on summer scarves, order another pair of polarized wind goggles, and resign myself to dying from skin cancer. On the other hand, my administrative assistant booked me a three-day layover in Paris, so at least there's a silver lining.

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