Flight Papers

feminism and creativity, art, madness, and play

Archive for the ‘anything you can do i can do meta’ Category

An ordered list.

Monday, June 15th, 2009
  1. I am still here.
  2. I have, however, been quite busy.
    1. …but that’s a bit of a cop-out. It may be more accurate to say that I’ve focusing on meatspace concerns, relationships, and processing. (Lesbians love processing.)
  3. But I have been writing! You lovely lot have just not been privy to it, but I’ve been convinced to remedy that. I have posted the first part of a semi-fictional travelogue. I’ll be posting short story updates Monday, Friday, and if I’m feeling impatient, anxious, or unproductive, Wednesday. Comments encouraged.
  4. Ann and I are planning a lovely radical non-monogamous heart-twining ceremony. This is 99% amazing, 1% terrifying, with those figures varying slightly depending on the day.
  5. After that, we’re going to Portland! Not permanently. Just for a bit. Just for a taste. If there’s anything we absolutely must do there, you should tell me. If you know any awesome radical Portlanders (Portlandites?), or indeed, if you are yourself a radical Portlandian, we would love to meet you and say hi while we’re out there. Which will be, incidentally, the 19th through the 24th of July.

“We are all white men between the ages of 18 and 35.”

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Jane Irwin recently considered ending Clockwork Game, a comic that follows the exploits of the mechanical Turk and its inventor. Here’s what I wrote to her:

Thank you.

Thank you for creating art that I, for one, find lovely and fascinating. Thank you for thinking about how your work fits into a social context. And thank you (so much) for being courageous enough to recognize the ways in which you weren’t telling the story you wanted to, and make what had to be a hard decision.

It makes me think even more highly of you as an artist and an ally.

But the reality is that I cannot create and analyze Clockwork Game at the same time: they’re two different processes. I have to stop what I’m doing, do some more reading, and decide then if this is something that I can pick back up, or if it’s best left behind.

This is a lot to ask, but I think it would be really valuable if you exposed this process in some way. I know that analysis of your own work in particular can be really intimate, but I think this kind of dialogue can be a hopeful result of the otherwise basically shitty Great White Fail.

“The Great White Fail” is my term for the most recent explosion of SF/F fandom, in which readers of color critiqued problematic subtext in some works by white authors, and those authors responded by utterly freaking the fuck out. It’s more commonly known as RaceFail ‘09, but I didn’t realize how embedded that title was when I commented—goodness, there should be t-shirts.

Jane has since decided to post the rest of chapter one, along with notes about not just the geeky chess / mechanical trivia, but also notes on historical context that’s missing from the text—like, say, the fact that the Austrian empire was at war with the Ottoman empire at the time, which undoubtedly influenced Kempelen’s decision to dress the automaton as he did. I have to say, when I came across the comic a few months ago, I wasn’t abjectly shocked by its racism—nor, in fact, did I think of the text as problematic. Which makes me even more grateful for Jane’s willingness to come out and critique her own work, not just as an ally, but as an author interested in telling brilliant stories.


After our Dogs game on Tuesday, Ann and I talked about racism in the game. Obviously, the game’s text (at least, the setting material therein) is written from the stance of someone within the Faith, with all the prejudices that implies. In a divergence from Mormonism of the time, the Faith is not officially racist. But neither are they particularly interested in or aware of the people who they, y’know, took the land from. The native tribes are referred to, collectively, as “Mountain People,” with no particular distinction beyond that. That bit might actually be okay, as the book’s setting information is quite coarse, overall.

Where it gets to be a problem is that in a game which is so centered on society and family and, well, sin, there’s very little information about the Mountain Peoples’ societal and family structure, nor their beliefs, not even just a statement on how those beliefs relate to the Faith. Or even the shape of their names, which when you’re spinning characters up really fast, can definitely be a problem.

And, of course, Ann and K are both playing native people, and at various points in the game, I’ve felt distinctly uncomfortable manufacturing bits of their characters’ culture from what amounts to a mishmash of probably-inaccurate stories and stereotypes.

And all of this makes me realize: this is hard. A while ago, on a pretty unconnected topic, Brand Robbins commented,

When you play a historical game where you mostly just make it up as you go, or oracle it, or simple sentence it, then what you get is a pastiche of history, a shallow collection of everyone’s highschool history tropes. That they tend to be full of imperialistic, colonial, racist bullshit is just an added layer of not-fun.

But wait, I thought, surely if you’re aware of that potential, you can work against it? And yes, I think we’ve avoided, in our play, the most obviously problematic ways of dealing with indigenous people in fiction—substantially because the ancestry and gender of the characters marks our narrative as transgressive. But I can’t promise we’ve never re-hashed a racist trope, or a problematic story, because those things? They’re under our skin. However much we might wish them not to be.

Walking and ghosts.

Friday, February 20th, 2009

They’ve never sat us down, my sister and I, and said, “It’s time we told you our life stories. We’re immigrants, and it’s important for us to share what that means, and it’s important for you to know where you came from.” I don’t think any parents have ever said that in the history of the world outside of movies. But you pick these things up—a stray word here and there, stories packed up the attic and left to rot. They’re patched and dusty, and they don’t fit together and I’m sure that dates and details have fallen off over time.

My mother came when she was twenty-four. Alone. She came because she wanted an education (education is very important to us), and because she didn’t want to live in a room with her five siblings for the rest of her life. She wanted independence. So she got a Rotary scholarship, stepped onto a plane for the first time in her life, and flew to Tehran.

My grandmother came seeking a doctorate in mathematics (education is very important to us), and she brought her family along. My father was seven, his brother 13. My grandfather was never happy here. Two years after arriving, they went back to India, leaving behind two sons and a bit of money.

When my parents tell this story, it has a very specific ending: “and that is how it came to pass that our children were born and grew to be greater and smarter and wealthier than us.”

That’s how the story goes. You’re can’t change the ending mid-way through. It’s cheating.

(more…)

E!

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Sarah J over at Season of the bitch gave Flight Papers an E.

This is a compliment! Not a snide comment that I need to say “fuck” more and talk about sex—though perhaps I should.

Part of the award is passing it on. This has made me realize that I am a slaaacker when it comes to reading blogs, but here are some fucking awesome women (and one cool dude) anyway:

Taking Steps
is just beautiful. (Also, she’s collecting monies to go to the Allied Media Conference this year. Go help, if you can.)

Brownfemipower,
who does not write theory so much as practice, and who I’m really happy to see again.
Echidne of the Snakes,
who might get this based on her blog’s title alone, but she’s also, like, brilliant.
Fair Game
is a running collection of Emily Care and Meguey Baker’s shiny play experiences and insights into games.
Girls Read Comics (and they’re pissed)
is soothing for the comics geek buried deep, deep down inside me.

Thouandone
is basically Jonathan Walton’s design process put on the Internet, which makes it cool.

Read them all. Right. Now.

Punkass Blogging

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

I am blogging over at Punkass Blog now! Don’t worry (in case the death of Flight Papers would cause you… worry) I’m definitely still going to be blogging here. There’ll probably be some division—most of what I put on Punkass I’ll probably crosspost here, but I’ll probably also post more involved design and theory stuff that might not connect to Punkass readers here. Or maybe it’ll go the other way. Or maybe everything will be crossposted. Who knows! It’s a slightly scary thing, being invited to blog with a bunch of people where more people are reading, and I’m really excited. Wish me luck ‘n’ stuff!