Three Rules For Being a Fan

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Your move, D.C.

The more I go to conventions, the more I see people like this kid on the left doing fandom right. How can you be a good fan? There’s only three rules, and neither of them refer to having seen every episode and knowing every bit of trivia. Here they are:

Define yourself by what you love, not by what you hate.

There are many variations of this maxim on the Internet. I’ve seen “Define yourself by what you love” attributed to Tim Minchin, but it’s a common sentiment. It’s common not because it’s trite, but because it’s true. As an example, I give you the rivalry between Harry Potter and Twilight.

I’m interested in the fact that you love Harry Potter, and I’m not interested in the fact that you hate Twilight. Hating Twilight will not bring you joy. It does not make you smarter or kinder or better in any way.

Incidentally, “Define yourself by what you love” does not mean that the things you hate are exempt from criticism. Calling out things that are problematic can make the world better. Calling out workmanship that is shoddy can make us better creators. When I say, “Don’t define yourself by what you love,” I don’t mean “Keep quiet about what you hate.” Tell us what you dislike about it. But don’t make that your main focus in life, don’t use it as a source of snobbery, and don’t let it define your fandom. You can love Harry Potter and Twilight, if you want to. And you certainly don’t need to love Harry Potter because you hate Twilight. Love Harry Potter for its own sake. Leave the things you hate out of the equation. Define yourself by what brings you joy.

 

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More hugging, less hating!

 

Let your fandom influence your life.

 

What values attract you? Does Star Trek speak because of its messages of inclusion? If so, bring that into your own life, even if in small ways. Donate $5 to the ACLU, post a cartoon on Facebook, and stand up for the rights of women and people of color in conversations. Maybe what attracts you to Star Trek is the focus on science – so go learn some, and support science programs in schools and elsewhere. Maybe you like the ideals of teamwork and found family, in which case, let Star Trek help make you a better real-life friend and team player. If what you like is the clothes, then perhaps you want to study fashion. I won’t judge. Just let your fandom make you a better friend and a better person in the world.

 

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I’m judging you a little bit.

 

 

Never apologize.

 

If you love 50 Shades of Gray, you know what? You rock on with your bad self. It’s not my thing, but who gives a shit about whether it’s my thing or not? Your fandom is about what YOU like, not about what anyone else approves of. As I stated above, I’m free to point out aspects that concern me about the material, but I don’t think you are bad, or stupid, or immoral because you love the work. I encourage everyone to look at what they love critically and learn from both it’s strong points and its weaknesses. I adore Victorian fiction for lots of reasons – that doesn’t mean I support the colonialism and other problems in the material. It just means that there are other aspects of the material that speak to me. Don’t worry about whether I like 50 Shades. If you like it, read the hell out of that thing. Power, sister (or brother).

 

 

In closing, here’s a great message from Wil Wheaton about being a fan. “I want you to be kind, and I want you to be awesome.” Beautiful.

 

 

 

between the lines book club logoTomorrow (January 23, 2015) Between the Lines Book Club is meeting at 10:30AM at Arden Dimick Library to discuss Orange is the New Black. You can also participate in book club by leaving a comment below!

In Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange is the New Black, she talks about the dehumanizing experience of jail and the social issues which contribute to women spending time there. Our penal system exists in a complex social and political system that includes institutionalized racism and sexism as well as poverty and limited physical and mental health care for those who need it most.

If you find this topic interesting, here are four articles that give some information about the state of American jails and prisons today.

The American Jail Association’s “Ten Facts About Women in Jail” give a good overview of the situation of women in the penal system.

The Huffington Post reports that “The US is Home to Nearly One-Third of the World’s Female Prisoners”

“Hellhole”, by Atul Gawdane, explored the impact of solitary confinement in American prisons.

“The Milwaukee Experiment” addresses the disproportionate number of African americans in prison and what some people are doing about it. At the bottom of the article are links to other New Yorker articles about prison in America.

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WednesdayVideoio9.com did a great article in which they pointed out that Taylor Swift’s video for “Out of the Woods” is fairytale madness of the absolute best kind, and I am not one to argue. I am also an unapologetic fan of Talyr Swift. I love the song, which sounds exactly like the way I feel when trying to manage periods of anxiety. Listen to how the thing Taylor is worried about keeps drumming along underneath, and she keeps shoving it down, and shoving it down, until it breaks out in the high notes and then she has to try to shove it down again. Taylor is caught in the weird space in which people either idolize her or demonize her and I’m not saying she’s my idol, but DAMN that woman can write a song (she co-wrote this one with Jack Antonoff).

And also…this video is beautiful and insane and I’m not sure what happened here, but it sure was super cool. And I’m having a very emotional week this week so I’m not gonna lie – that final flash of writing chocked me up every time. So here it is:

 

Lest we forget when Taylor tackled science fiction by blowing everything up with her girlfriends, here’s the video to “Bad Blood”. In this video, she throws in The Fifth Element, The Hunger Games, Tron, Mad Max, MMA fighting, some truly incredible high heels, and pretty much all of the 1970’s into four minutes.Click on “Watch on You tube” to view.

The Expanse: A Guest Review by Heather Thayer

The_Expanse_TV.pngOur intrepid reviewer, Heather Thayer, is back with a review of The Expanse. This show opened to a lot off hype, but Heather has not been feeling the love 100%. Here’s her review!

The Expanse – Old Fashionedy Space Opera, But Read the Books First

 

I’ve rewritten this review from scratch several times now – poor Carrie keeps asking me when I’ll be done and my answer is always “I have to rewrite it again.” Here’s the overview — I’ve watched the first six episodes of The Expanse, and it could be pretty good stuff, but it is confusing. Not mind-blowingly great, but still definitely worth a watch – if you can figure out what is going on. It has been compared to Battlestar Galactica or Game of Thrones in space. I suppose its “gritty realism in space” could be compared to BSG, although BSG was much, much better, but I am not seeing the Game of Thrones comparison — perhaps that might make more sense as the series goes on.

 

The show is based on books by James S.A. Corey, which I have not read. The basic premise is this – it is the future and mankind is divided into essentially three factions – Earth (run by the UN), Mars, and the people who mine the Kuiper Belt for ice and other resources – these folks are called “Belters.” Earth and Mars have been locked in a cold war for many years. Life is not good for the Belters: they work hard at monotonous manual labor only to send the products of their hard work to Earth and Mars, they live on cramped space stations where water is strictly rationed and clear air can be a luxury, and they are starting to adapt to life in low gravity to the point where some of them can no longer live on a planet with normal gravity.

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Our story follows two primary point of view characters and a third character who is mostly there to provide context for the primary stories. The first point of view character is a hat-wearing detective on Ceres Station, the home of the Belters. He is a walking cliché, after six episodes I still have no idea what his name is. It isn’t important. Detective Cliché is a hard-bitten veteran, maybe a little on the take but with a heart of gold and a desire to do what is right. Yawn. In between trying to calm Belter tensions, he is given the task of finding a rich girl who has disappeared — the viewers know that something strange and bad has happened to her because a scene with her encountering the Weird and Unpleasant is a prologue to the first episode. Our second point of view character, and the one whose story is most interesting, is Holden. He’s the second officer on an ice-mining ship that receives a distress call. Holden and four colleagues are dispatched to investigate and Bad Things Happen. We follow this group for our primary action. The third point of view character is a woman who is high up in the UN, maybe the head of UN Intelligence or something. She’s boring and one dimensional. We only come back to her when the show finds it necessary to explain something about what is going on politically between the Earth, Mars and Belters – hers is not a separate story but merely serves as an expositional frame for the real story being told through Detective Cliché and Holden.

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The special effects, particularly the space ships, are spectacular – exceptional for television. The acting, particularly the group with Holden, is quite good and many of the characters are interesting. There is something mysterious going on and I am invested in the story of Holden and his team. So far, so good.

 

However, I have to call this show out for its inexcusable gender inequity. To double-check my initial perception that this show is a complete sausage fest, as I watched the first three episodes I counted every speaking part for a female and every speaking part for a male. After three episodes the male speaking roles outnumbered the female 3 to 1. The story is largely told from the point of view of two male characters. I note that there is nothing in their stories requiring either of them to be male – either one of these characters could have been female and it would have worked great – probably even better because then the characters wouldn’t be so familiar and uninteresting. As I’ve noted, Detective Cliché and his investigation are not compelling – I suspect that if they had changed the actor to being a woman so that the character wasn’t such a complete trope, the character and the investigation might hold my attention more.   In this day and age, post-Mad Max, there is no excuse for this. I don’t care that the source material has gender inequity – there is no reason for SyFy to have adhered to the source material in that way – after all, is there anyone who would argue that it wasn’t brilliant to have Starbuck be a woman in the rebooted BSG? Every time I try to watch this show the lack of interesting and crucial female characters sets my teeth on edge.

 

The other issue is that it is seeming more and more like it is necessary to have read the books to understand what is happening. For the first four or so episodes I was willing to give the show a pass even though I didn’t know what was going on, because I assumed that my confusion would be cleared up as I got to know the characters and story better. Instead, the opposite has happened. In every episode more new characters are introduced that I have to keep track of, and I don’t have enough context or backstory to be able to figure out who is important and who is not. After six episodes, I’m pretty lost.

 

Will I keep watching? Maybe. The effects and production values are great. But it is clear that this is a show for the people who have read and enjoyed the books. Apparently, the rest of us gals aren’t invited.

between the lines book club logoThis month in Between the Lines Book Club, we are reading Orange is the New Black, a memoir by Piper Kernan. Orange is the New Black received critical and popular acclaim when it was released, but it’s best known for being the basis of a TV show that runs on Netflix. The Netflix show of the same name is very loosely based on Piper’s experiences, and as the seasons have progressed, the plot focus has shifted away from Piper (although she remains a major character, and more to the other inmates.

One thing the show does well is address the overwhelming racial imbalance in the prison system. Women of color, particularly Black and Latina women, are far more likely to imprisoned than White women, and the show’s cast reflects this. The show also deals with genre and sexuality, and has made huge stars of transgender actress Laverne Cox and two time Emmy W Continue reading

Remembering Abe Sass

DSCN6973Today on Geek Girl in Love I would like to say goodbye to my friend, Abe Sass. We were workplace friends; as he was married to the head of the library and I was a very active volunteer. Most of our interactions were at Library events. Some of the events were artsy and social. Some, like a few Friends of the Sacramento Public Library Board meetings, were tense. Abe had my back during those tense meetings and gave me the confidence to speak up (and, I’m pleased to say that the tense period was relatively brief and the Board has been in wonderful shape for years). Every time I went to a library thing, I hoped to see him, because exchanging even a few words with Abe was always the highlight of the event.

 

Abe was a big guy in every way – he was tall, he was loud, he was the center of every room, and he loved everyone. He spent his life fighting for social justice and he loved to tell the story of how he was present for Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington and “I Have a Dream” speech. Abe’s most vivid memory of the day: “It was hot!” He was a poet and an activist, and supported his wife, Rivkah, in her work as head of the Sacramento Public Library by being a part time househusband and by attending countless library events, both with and without Rivkah. Often he attended several events in a day. You could count on Abe to wear a crazy hat on Dr. Seuss Day and to show up at City Council meetings. The only thing I ever saw Abe refuse to do was dance at the Jane Austen Tea. Attend with great enthusiasm – yes. Dance – no. He said he was more of a Grateful Dead dancer than Regency one.

 

What I loved most about Abe was the way he made me feel about myself – and that’s not just my ego talking, because he made everyone feel good about themselves. In the moments I spent with him, I saw that he had the great gift of bringing out the best in people. He complimented me in sincere and specific ways. He gave me confidence. He helped me recognize my own strengths. Even though I didn’t spend much time with Abe, I always felt like he “got” me, and I doubt that I’m unusual in that regard. I think that in general he “got” people – whether he liked you or disliked you, he was able to quickly figure out what made you tick. He had the kind of warmth and open enthusiasm that I just love – I feel more alive when I’m with people who are passionate about the world and about their interests, and Abe was a passionate person even as he was able to exude calm during fraught moments.

 

In the photo above, Abe is sitting with my daughter at the Annual Friends Dinner (Theme: Tom Sawyer). Like anyone else who experiences a loss, I wish I could play over that dinner again. Better yet, I wish for one more dinner. I wish that all those times we tried to meet for coffee had worked. I wish I had gone to his poetry reading last month. Why did I miss it? It must not have been very important, because I can’t remember – so why didn’t I go?

 

There’s nothing new to say when someone is gone, we just have to repeat the things we already know but that, over and over again, we fail to internalize. Love the people in your life. Love them now. Love them today. Call them, text them, give them hugs (if they are huggers). None of us can possibly juggle all the parts of our lives in perfect order, so don’t worry about that. Just appreciate the times when being in contact with the people that nurture you works. Soak it up. Fill your battery. We will miss you, Abe. If you are at dinner somewhere, save me a seat.

Many of our readers are from the Sacramento and have connection with the library. If you would like to make a donation in Abe’s name, his family has suggested the following organizations:

 

The Sacramento Poetry Center http://www.sacramentopoetrycenter.com/membership-donatio…/…/;

Friends of Sacramento Public Library – http://www.saclibfriends.org;

P.S. 11 in New York City: http://ps11chelsea.org/annual-fund/ (in memory of Abe Sass, class of 1952);

The Innocence Project — http://www.innocenceproject.org/

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Orange is the New Black

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club is thrilled to be meeting on January 23rd at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM. We also meet here in the comments, so even if you don’t live in or near Sacramento, California, you can participate. This month’s selection is Orange is the New Black.

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Orange is the New Black is a memoir by Piper Kerman. In 1993, Piper helped her girlfriend launder drug money. In 1998, she was indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking, and beginning in 2004 she spent thirteen months as an inmate at Danbury Prison, a minimum-security prison for women. Orange is the New Black tells of her experiences during her stay in prison. It became the basis for the Netflix show of the same name which to date has won a total of seven Emmy Awards.

 

Today, Piper serves on the Board of the Women’s Prison Association and is an advocate for prison reform. She has been married to her current husband, Larry, since 2006.

 

I was delighted to see that my favorite online study guide, schmoop.com, has an entry for Orange is the New Black. Study guides have a bad reputation because some people use the guide to avoid reading the book. Don’t do that! But as a supplement to your reading, study guides are great; so don’t be afraid to take a look.

 

Next week I’ll post a few links and clips from the TV show of the same name. It’s a show I’ve never watched, although it’s critically acclaimed and very popular. If you watch the show, how does it compare to the book? Why do you like or dislike about it? Let us know!

 

Open Thread: Best Pets in Speculative Fiction

dragon-vs-human-war-in-how-to-train-your-dragon-3-will-toothless-die-606152It’s cough and cold and flu season, and for anyone with musculoskeletal issues it’s also achy joints season. My pets have been taking good care of us of late. Once their busy work of demolishing the Christmas Tree was done, they had time to attend to monitoring our health, which they do by sitting on various parts of our bodies. Any time I get a migraine I end up with a cat on my feet, a dog on my stomach and a cat on my head, and I can’t tell if they are concerned for my well-being or just thinking, “Don’t die, Lady, you are in charge of feeding us.”

 

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My dog, looking concerned.

 

So with appreciation to my pets, let’s talk about the best pets in Science Fiction and Fantasy! Hop on the comments and let me know who your favorite pet is. Harry Potter’s owl, Hedwig? How about K9, the robot dog from Doctor Who, or Ms Marvel’s alien doggie, Lockjaw? And let us not forget Star Trek: The Next Generation and Data’s cat, Spot:

 

 

Fantasy is full of dragons, but which kind would you prefer to have – fearsome ones, like in Game of Thrones, mischief ones, like Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon, or tiny one, like Emmy in The Dragon in the Sock Drawer?

 

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Game of Thrones memories. They were so cute when they were little!

 

What every pet you get, for crying out loud, follow the damn rules. How hard can it be to not feed this guy after midnight?

 

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