Asking Permission vs. Begging Forgiveness

By Terri

You’ve probably noticed that when we use someone else’s intellectual property, we make a point of getting official permission from the owner of that IP before we sell prints using it. This is because not only is art theft evil, but all forms of IP theft are evil.

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Faith Lehane telling the audience why you shouldn’t do bad things - Because it’s WRONG!

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Faith Lehane telling the audience why you shouldn’t do bad things - Because it’s WRONG!

We are a business. When we make a piece of art based on a book we like, it’s likely that we intend to sell it. It’s wrong to use someone else’s IP to make money without consulting them and making sure they receive proper attribution and monetary recompense. So all of our art based on major works is produced with permission of the IP holders and often we pay a licensing fee for it. All of those pieces began as an email to the author or their agent proposing that we turn their work into art, and how should we compensate them for the use of it. And we have been turned down. In three cases, it was because the books/series we wanted to do art of are in some stage of TV development. This means that the rights to the work are in legal limbo, and permission could not be given to us to use the work. (Another time the author’s staff judged that the author had too much on their plate to contemplate another business proposal; this is what staff are for and we applaud them for doing their job.) This makes us sad, but we respect other people’s intellectual property.

“But what about your Wonder Woman print? Did you get permission for that?” The answer to that is complicated. I did send Warner Bros an email requesting permission to use the logo in an art piece. I never heard back from them. However, since Warner Bros/DC Comics holds the copyright to the logo, no individual creator is being deprived of a piece of the profits. William Moulton Marston (the creator of Wonder Woman) is not being deprived of royalties from our print, nor is Gail Simone (one of the most recent writers of the comic). Moreover, this print is a clear example of transformative work. We have synthesized Proverbs and the Wonder Woman logo in a way that both changes and comments on the original IP.

“That SpaceScape print you did features a quote from Babylon 5. I bet you don’t have permission to use it.” Well, no, we do not have explicit permission to use that quote. We did try and figure out who we should ask, and it turns out that Babylon 5 is something of an orphaned property that no one really wants to acknowledge that they own. We even tweeted at J. Michael Straczynski, but he didn’t respond. The print contains an attribution of the text to Babylon Productions. If someone does come after us, we’ll talk it out then.

“Aha, I found something you don’t even attribute credit to!” If you are referring to either the Police Box Mizrach or the Salute Ketubah, then you are correct, in a way. In both of these cases, we used images that cannot be copyrighted in any way. Though both the British police box and the Priestly Blessing gesture are associated with major media franchises, one is a public utility akin to a mail box or phone booth and the other is a hand gesture that is part of Jewish prayer. Neither of these is subject to copyright. These are also pretty clear fair use cases.

Note - this is not to say there isn’t a place for fan art! We’re firm believers in any fan’s ability to create art based on their favorite fandoms. I’ve seen some AMAZING banner images on various fanfics on AO3 and don’t get me started on some of the stuff I’ve seen on Tumblr. But once you start profiting from the art, there needs to be recompense to the original creator of the IP. Oddly enough, this is one of the reasons I’m working on a proposal to the WSFS Business committee about the art categories. I don’t think what we do is fan art. Even when the art is based from something we didn’t invent in our heads, it’s work produced for sale.

It's an honor...

Rocket ship logo of the Hugo Awards

Rocket ship logo of the Hugo Awards

by Ariela and Terri

Wow. A Hugo nomination.

Thank you so much to all of you. You are the ones who chose us for this honor and we deeply, deeply appreciate it. We love making art, but it’s especially gratifying to know that the art we have made has touched other people.

Also an enormous thank you Lois McMaster Bujold, Neal Stephenson, and Mary Robinette Kowal, for writing words that inspired us so deeply and were kind enough to open the door to us when we came knocking, asking for permission to play in their universes. It’s rather fitting for us to be nominated this year, when all of our public work was literally fanart of others’ writing.

And just look at this slate of nominees! We can’t believe we get to call these people our colleagues!

Likhain’s colorwork is so unbelievably phenomenal and Grace Fong’s use of space is extraordinary. Ariela has been a fan of both of them for years. Terri has been both a fan and a friend of Meg Frank for a while. This is Spring Schoenhuth’s umpteenth nomination, and frankly it is a crime that her jewelry is not more widely recognized as being fine art, because it is. And we don’t even know what to say about being nominated with Sara Felix, who has friggin’ designed not one but two Hugo bases.

And the whole ballot. That is, as Terri says, a whole lotta ballot. How the heck are we going to be able to pick favorites?!!?? Congrats to all of the nominees. So, so well deserved.

Wow.

Ariela here:

You may notice two names up at the top of this blog post and that “we,” which is plural, not royal. That’s because this is a two-person operation. And though it’s my name on that list, it really should be “Geek Calligraphy,” because this art is a team effort. Editors get their own category for the Hugos, but there isn’t one for Artist Wrangler, who is a bit like an editor, agent, manager, assistant, and marketer/publicist all rolled into one. Terri is my creative partner; she comes up with a good chunk of the ideas that turn into our art. Lady Astronaut Nouveau, for example, was the direct result of her demand that I do art for The Calculating Stars, and her input and feedback along the way means you got a very different product than you would have seen from me working on my own. Hugo rules may say that it’s my name on the ballot, but the world should also know about Terri’s contribution.

Thank you everyone again and we will see you in Dublin this summer!

Where to find Terri, Ariela, and Geek Calligraphy Art at Arisia 2019

Arisia Logo

by Terri and Ariela

As we explained, we have decided to attend Arisia this year. We will be keeping our ears and eyes open, but we are cautiously hopeful that we, and everyone else, will be able to have a safe and enjoyable con.

If you aren’t there this weekend because of a principled boycott of the convention, we hope that you will support the artists and vendors who depend on Arisia sales for their livelihoods.

If you're on staff/volunteering for the convention, you can catch us at the Art Show reception in our business colors. Otherwise, you can see our work there (and us, from time to time). Protip: our art is cheaper at conventions than it is online!

You can also see us on these panels:

Terri’s Schedule:

Saturday, 11:30 AM: Neurodivergent Protagonists
Room: Franklin
Panel #: 301
So many mental health issues can make us feel disproportionately terrible for minor, everyday mishaps, and the culture of "neurodivergent character = villain" doesn't help. Instead, let's talk about neurodivergent protagonists and stories about people working around or even using their Quirky Brain Stuff to save the world and live happily ever after.

Sunday, 2:30 PM: Jewish SFF
Room: Tremont
Panel #: 201
It can be hard to find Jewish stories that don't focus on the Holocaust. Luckily, there are many works relating to Judaism in science fiction and fantasy. Naomi Novik and NS Dolkart are two Jewish authors who include Jewish characters and themes in their works. Marie Brennan based the world religion of her Natural History of Dragons series on Judaism. Let's celebrate Jewish authors, worlds, and characters!

Monday, 10:00 AM: Fluff and You: The Worth of Fun Reads
Room: Tremont
Panel #: 294
"Beach reads," "candy," "fluff," "guilty pleasures," -- so many words to downplay the fact that we may be reading something "less than literary"! But fun reads have worth of their own, and lightness and artistic merit are not mutually exclusive. Join the panelists as they discuss the delights of fluff, their favorite works, and moving away from a culture of shame.

Ariela’s Schedule:

Saturday, 1:00 PM: Girl Power in Anime
Room: St James
Panel #: 156
In anime, many female characters tend to fall into one of two stereotypical groups: weak and meek or angry warrior women. There are characters who go deeper, who might even make good role models. From the girls in Studio Ghibli to Junko Kaname in Puella Magi Madoka Magica to Mikasa Ackerman in Attack on Titan and beyond, who are these strong, nuanced female characters? What about them screams "GIRL POWER!" Which characters or tropes are doing a disservice to women today?

Saturday, 4:00 PM: Female Relationships in Fiction
Room: Beacon Hill
Panel #: 196
Though great strides have been made in recent years, we still hunger for depictions of complex relationships between women, whether familial, platonic, or romantic. What are we still lacking? What stories about female love would make the panelists' hearts sing?

Saturday, 5:30 PM: Clothing Modifcation
Room: Winthrop
Panel #: 361
Whether you're making a cosplay or something for everyday wear, learn to extend the life and utility of off the rack or second hand garments. Take a thrift store find and turn it into something amazing or save a favored piece from the trash pile with creative solutions for poor fit and minor stains and tears.
(Ariela will moderate this panel.)

Sunday, 1:00 PM: First Steps for New Costumers
Room: Cambridge
Panel #: 378
So you want to be a costumer, but don't know where to begin? Then this panel is for you. Our group of veteran costumers tell you how to get started in the hobby with everything from tips and tricks to demystifying the terms and expectations that are out there. We all had to start somewhere, so let us help you do the same.
(Ariela will moderate this panel.)

Sunday, 5:30 PM: Treatsments of Abuse in SFF
Room: Beacon Hill
Panel #: 429
While discussing Lethal Weapon, Junot Diaz, and toxic masculinity in a Fireside Fiction essay last year, author Brandon O'Brien reminded us that "We need to teach and remind men as often as possible that recovery means responsibility." How has SFF treated cycles of abuse and recovery, and how can it do better? Which books/shows/movies get it right?

Arisia 2019 - Go or Cancel?

By Terri & Ariela

Well, frak. It sums up our feelings.

Well, frak. It sums up our feelings.

When the Internet blew up surrounding several accusations of mismanaged Incident Reports by the Arisia Corporation’s Executive Board, we faced a very difficult decision. Do we stay with a convention that has been a very important source of both income and fun for us, or do we boycott as many are doing? This was compounded by the fact that Terri is now living in Israel for two years, and going to Arisia means an expensive international plane ticket.

Neither of us wants to support an environment in which assaults are not taken seriously or handled properly. While Arisia has an extensive Code of Conduct and a dedicated Incident Response Team, it’s clear that changes need to be made in who this team consists of and how they manage both official and unofficial reports.

Our difficulties in making this decision were further complicated by the vagaries of space and time. Ariela first heard about it on a Thursday night, when Terri was already in bed. By the time both of us were up the next day, Terri was about to bring in Shabbat. And what with one thing or another, by the time we managed to sit down and have a discussion about what to do, the window for a principled exit to effect change had closed: the former president had been kicked out, most of the EBoard had resigned, and an external review team had been contracted to revamp the IRT processes. At this point, publicly stepping away would signal dissatisfaction with the changes that are taking place, not disgust with the initial problem. And while we think that the changes made so far are not sufficient to call the problem fixed, we want them to continue this process.

Because of these efforts, we are cautiously giving the convention a last chance. We will be watching carefully to see how these changes are implemented. If we are unsatisfied, we will no longer be attending or exhibiting at Arisia until we can be sure that everyone in attendance is safe.

We ask that if you choose to boycott the convention, you support the artists and vendors who rely on it for their income. These people do not deserve to be punished for the actions of others. We will be posting a list of all of these in early January, before the convention.

Etiquette Q&A: Inquiring about a Commission When You Aren't Sure You Can Afford It

by Terri

Image shows a hand holding a fan of 100 dollar bills. You may want art and not possess this amount of money. We hope you follow this advice.

Image shows a hand holding a fan of 100 dollar bills. You may want art and not possess this amount of money. We hope you follow this advice.

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than the product releases, you’ll know that one of our personal soapboxes is the fair payment of artists. Our friends and family are pretty conscious of it, and most of our online followers already chime in with our ‘Fuck You, Pay Me’ art print when someone talks about working “for exposure” or anything similar.

Occasionally someone will ask us about the propriety of asking an artist about a commission if they aren’t sure they can pay for it. This is a reasonable question. Our answer is yes, you can, but be respectful about it.

Here are some specific ways to approach an artist respectfully in this situation:

  1. Be polite and clear about your limitations

    • State up front that you have an upper limit on your budget. If you have a hard number, say it outright.

  2. Give them as many details as you can about what sort of work you want them to do.

    • Let them know if you are willing to cut back on your request if it means it will be within budget;

    • Tell them you want to hear any ideas they have for trimming costs.

  3. Thank them for their time and consideration.

    • Let them know that you understand that they might not be able to work in your budget and you respect that.

  4. If they tell you no, respect that no. Do not argue.

All of the above only applies to an individual inquiring about a paid commission. You can also discuss the option of some sort of installment payment plan, if that is acceptable to both parties.

Charities/non profit organizations are another matter. If your organization is asking for a donation in kind, then that’s precisely what you should ask for. Never frame it as a job for no pay or reduced pay. Don’t act like you are doing them a favor by asking them to contribute their work (a good match between artist and institution will result in both feeling like they get something out of it; if you feel the need to frame it as a one-way benefit, that’s a warning sign to an artist and it should be one to you, too). Your organization should also be prepared to accept no for an answer without arguing, same as an individual. Unlike an individual, you may also be inclined to pressure the artist by declaiming the virtues of your organization and what a good cause they would be contributing to. Do Not Do This.

In sum, make it clear you don’t think you are entitled to their work, and be respectful of the artist’s boundaries.

We're Off to WisCon 42!

by Terri and Ariela

It's Memorial Day this weekend, which means that we're off to WisCon!

WisCon 42 Logo

WisCon 42 Logo

Per usual, art will be in the art show. It will be a small subset of what we have on the website, but there will be lots of everything we bring, including an early opportunity to buy the June product release (it's a new sticker with completely new art).

The art show will open on Friday evening with a reception from 6:00 to 7:30 PM and we will both be there. Look for the ladies wearing green and purple and chances are you've found us!

Also, for the first time ever, we'll be on a panel together! Two, in fact!

Ariela's Panel Schedule

Friday, 1:00 PM:  The Care And Feeding Of Artists
Room: Conference 5
Follow on Social Media: #CareFeedingArtists
Are you a creative? Are you partnered to an artist? Do you manage an artist professionally? Come and talk about management strategies, how to keep yourself and/or your artist from burning out, and learning how to Outsource Things You Are Bad At.
(Ariela will moderate this panel.)

Saturday, 9:00 PM:  The Best Laid Plans Of Mice: Immigration, Persecution, The 1%, And Found Family As Told By The Mousekewitzes
Room: University B
Follow on Social Media: #Mousekewitzes
Most of us remember Feivel Mousekewitz, a Russian Jewish mouse who emigrated to the United States in 1885 with his family, all fleeing religious & political persecution, They heard wondrous stories of life here, only to find America has its own problems. In our current political climate, many issues are relevant again: immigration, treatment of workers, distribution of wealth, police brutality, xenophobia. These films do a great job of tackling tough but important issues for a young audience, a task that children's films in the last decade have ignored. At the same time, Yasha's relief that "In America, you can say anything" sails over the heads of young viewers. These films also portray Judaism as a religion and a culture, without tokenization.

Sunday, 1:00 PM:  Uncommodifying Culture
Room: Conference 5
Follow on Social Media: #Uncommodify
So much culture is owned by corporations that it's difficult/impossible to imagine successful authors, filmmakers, musicians, animators, or others who aren't paid via a contract with a major publisher, studio, or production company. Is there an alternative to that? Do cultural "properties" (lol) have to be old in order to truly be shared? If I spend the afternoon thinking about Mickey Mouse, does Disney own the inside of my head?

Monday, 8:30 AM:  You Are (Probably) Not As Progressive As You Think You Are
Room: Assembly
Follow on Social Media: #NotProgressive
Socially progressive movements are increasing in popularity. So much so that it's become harder to discern who is in the fight for real, and who is just going through the motions, checking off more and more proverbial boxes in order to appear to be a good person. During this panel, we will talk about how to spot and address those people who fall into the latter category, as well as our own respective socio/political/economic stances and how they've evolved. Because no one is perfect.

Terri's Panel Schedule

Friday, 1:00 PM:  The Care And Feeding Of Artists
Room: Conference 5
Follow on Social Media: #CareFeedingArtists
Are you a creative? Are you partnered to an artist? Do you manage an artist professionally? Come and talk about management strategies, how to keep yourself and/or your artist from burning out, and learning how to Outsource Things You Are Bad At.
(Terri suggested this panel.)

Saturday, 9:00 PM:  The Best Laid Plans Of Mice: Immigration, Persecution, The 1%, And Found Family As Told By The Mousekewitzes
Room: University B
Follow on Social Media: #Mousekewitzes
Most of us remember Feivel Mousekewitz, a Russian Jewish mouse who emigrated to the United States in 1885 with his family, all fleeing religious & political persecution, They heard wondrous stories of life here, only to find America has its own problems. In our current political climate, many issues are relevant again: immigration, treatment of workers, distribution of wealth, police brutality, xenophobia. These films do a great job of tackling tough but important issues for a young audience, a task that children's films in the last decade have ignored. At the same time, Yasha's relief that "In America, you can say anything" sails over the heads of young viewers. These films also portray Judaism as a religion and a culture, without tokenization.

Sunday, 2:30 PM: SyFy's Leading Women - An Exploration Of Women Protagonists In SyFy's Current Lineup
Room: Conference 5
Follow on Social Media: #SyFyLeadingWomen
The programming on the SyFy Channel has had its ups and downs, but today it is giving us something missing from the offerings of many other channels: a diverse array of women as protagonists. From Killjoy's Dutch to the title characters in Wynonna Earp and Van Helsing, SyFy programs let us see these women as fully-realized characters, and not just the secondary story to the leading man. This is a panel to discuss what SyFy is doing right with its leading women, as well as where it still has room for improvement.

Monday, 8:30 AM: Comic Books On Screen
Room: Conference 4
Follow on Social Media: #ComicsOnScreen
Marvel and DC are currently battling it out on both the big and small screens for dominance with multiple movies coming out yearly, as well as new shows on various networks and streaming sites. There are also multiple shows on SyFy based on comics, as well as The Walking Dead and Comic Book Men series on AMC; Riverdale, which is based loosely on the Archie comics characters; and Amazon Prime has picked up a revival of The Tick. Let's dig in and discuss these tv and movie adaptations. Are we getting enough representation? Which shows and films are doing better, and which worse?

We will also be attending the Dessert Salon and the GOH speeches.

We hope to see you there!

The 90th Oscars - Why Dunkirk is Awful

Image shows the Oscar statuette with the Oscars logo superimposed over it on a brown background. I remain amused that everyone has given up trying to call this The Academy Awards.

Image shows the Oscar statuette with the Oscars logo superimposed over it on a brown background. I remain amused that everyone has given up trying to call this The Academy Awards.

by Terri

Did you see Dunkirk? I didn't. I don't know anyone that did. But the voters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seem to have and really liked it.

I'm not generally one for Oscar predictions. The movies I like tend to get nominated solely in what I think of as the "technical" categories - Visual Effects, Sound Design & Mixing, Costumes, Makeup Design, Set Design, etc. You rarely see genre films nominated in the "important" categories - Best Director, the various awards for acting, Best Picture. So there's not a whole lot of fun in going "well, which genre film is going to be deemed worthy of which technical award?" I mostly watch for the host, the pretty dresses and the occasional acceptance speech that blows you out of the water

This year I honestly did not know who was nominated in half the categories. I knew that Get Out* was actually nominated for several of the Big Awards, and so was The Shape of Water. So good on the Academy for nominating an excellent and groundbreaking horror film (and the weird fish love story movie). On the other hand, it's become clear that though the Academy has spearheaded some diversity initiatives in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, the old guard still holds significant sway. 

The two films that exemplify the hold of that old guard are Dunkirk and Darkest Hour. Both of these films are classic Oscar Bait. They're both World War II films centering entirely on White British People. Because Darkest Hour featured Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, that made it a shoo-in for at least one of the Big Awards it was nominated for. But poor Dunkirk only had Kenneth Branagh (and wasn't nominated for any of the acting awards, only Best Picture and Best Director). Since it wasn't going to win either of those awards, the Academy felt honor bound to elevate it beyond all sense. 

This mediocre WWII film won nearly EVERY technical award it was nominated for. Normally this wouldn't bother me so much. I like it when genre films win the categories they're slotted into, but no one cares who wins these Oscars. Except that Dunkirk won Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. The Last Jedi was nominated in both of these categories, and rightly so. If nothing else, the 6 seconds of silence when Holdo rams the Raddus through the entire First Order fleet (most notably the flagship) at lightspeed deserve both awards all on its own. And instead of awarding creativity and unique choices, the Academy tossed both of these awards to Dunkirk as a bone. What, me, bitter?

After that, learning that members of the Academy didn't even bother to watch Get Out surprised me not at all. It seems like every time we take a step forward, we have to take three backwards. At least Jordan Peele was acknowledged for his excellent original screenplay, and nominated for his direction and excellent film. Daniel Kaluuya's nomination for his performance in Get Out bodes well for the rest of his career. Logan's nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay gives me hope for Black Panther getting some nods outside the usual genre categories. And while I'll never see it, the fact that The Shape of Water was able to take Best Picture may mean that we're seeing some of those barriers break down.**

On a completely different note, the Best Original Song category was so crowded with excellence that it was hard for me to figure out which song actually deserved a win. I simultaneously wanted Mary J Blige to win because she was never going to get Best Supporting Actress and I wanted Remember Me from Coco to win because it was beautiful and poignant and made me want to see the movie. If you're going to pick a song from a sanitized and whitewashed fiction of PT Barnum's life then you can hardly do better than the ensemble unapologetic freak flag anthem of This Is Me,*** and Common and Andra Day in Stand Up for Something bringing out activists ranging from Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood to Alice Brown Otter of Standing Rock to Bana Alabed (an 8 year old author and Syrian refugee) was incredible. Even the mostly forgettable song from Call Me By Your Name was made wonderful by being introduced by Daniela Vega, an openly trans* actress of color. 

So once again, the Oscars were gratifying and disappointing. But there's hope that we're moving forward.

 

 

*This is just the one review actually written by a POC in the top ten Google results. There are more, fabulous reviews out there and you should find them and read them. 

**Though not enough - Patty Jenkins was profoundly robbed for not being nominated for her stellar direction of Wonder Woman.

***Totally worth not getting singing and dancing Hugh Jackman at the Oscars, in my opinion.

The Last Jedi - Thoughts & Reactions

By Terri & Ariela

Poster for The Last Jedi

Poster for The Last Jedi

Hoo boy, that was a movie, right?

Now that we have both seen it, and we suspect that most of you who want to have seen it to, here are our thoughts on it. For those who have not seen it yet, this post consists almost entirely of spoilers.

Terri's Thoughts

Once again, Disney's acquisition of LucasFilm and making sure that George Lucas isn't allowed anywhere near a Star Wars script or director's chair has paid off. I loved this movie.

Now, I will not say it was without flaws. It was perhaps 3 movies crammed into one, and ended at least twice that I could see. But the structural and pacing problems paled in comparison to the excellent dialogue, beautiful sets, profound character development, wonderful storytelling, and kickass representation.

For once in my SFF life, the strongest and most powerful characters in a movie were OLDER WOMEN! General Leia Organa and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo took no nonsense and made the hard calls. I do not know how I'm going to get through Episode IX without either of them. And they were deeply feminine women. As someone who sees femme as a deeply performative aspect of her personality (rather than natural and inherent), this was unique. Generally I can identify with women in an SFF setting because they are tough, wearing pants and covered in Space Grease/wearing Practical Fantasy Armor. For once, I was identifying with women wearing massive quantities of jewelry, fancily styled hair and dresses. This was new, and also has resulted in my deep need to do a screen accurate recreation of Vice Admiral Holdo's costume. 

As to some of the complaints about the powers of the Force, they didn't bother me at all. This is where I have to admit that I have been reading Star Wars licensed fiction since I was 14 years old, starting with Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire trilogy. I gave up somewhere during the New Jedi Order novels. Why is this relevant? Two reasons.

Reason one: as far as those novels were concerned, the prequels didn't exist (most of them were written long before any of those movies had been made). So there was no understanding of the Jedi Order before Obi-Wan Kenobi starts training Luke Skywalker on the Millennium Falcon. Need a character to accomplish the impossible? Pow, they're a super strong Force user. Jedi can't form attachments? Luke gets married and has a kid. Leia doesn't know how to do much with the Force? Well, that's largely because she's spent too much time being in government. So no, ForceTime didn't bother me. Neither did Leia rescuing herself from being blown off the bridge. Oh, and Luke can project himself across the galaxy? Kyp Durron pulled starships out of gas giants with the Force. There's a character whose mind was dropped into another body with the Force. So spare me your complaints about Leia saving herself. The Force can do whatever the script writer needs it to do. 

Reason two: I am an unabashed Star Wars fan. I've read the books (and was deeply sad when Disney axed that canon), watched the Only Relevant Films more times in my childhood/adolescence than I care to count, used to play a Star Wars parody game on my computer in my bedroom, owned Star Wars Monopoly and kicked everyone's butt at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. I used to play Princess Leia in my imaginary games. I am one of the people who isn't really capable of much deep critical thinking about a good Star Wars movie.  I will gladly read and watch other people's critical thoughts about the topic (and often appreciate their insights), but don't have the mental distance from what I love so much to be able to think about it in a way that examines it. So I largely gush, while Ariela below will provide you with more critical insights.

Ariela's Thoughts

Where Terri is a lifelong and devoted Star Wars fan, I am a much more casual appreciator. I enjoyed the original trilogy, but I didn't see it properly until I was in high school and I didn't adopt it into my core fandoms. So my expectations going in were very different.

I can see why this movie is divisive. Some of the most cherished tropes from the original trilogy are torn apart here (mostly to my satisfaction). It had some problems and I get that if you didn’t like the other parts, the problems might not be get-over-able. But I liked it.

I liked that it was new. I was never particularly surprised by anything in The Force Awakens because it was such a beat-for-beat sendup of A New Hope, but I was genuinely surprised by some things that happened here.

I love older Leia and Luke and the ways in which they have changed. Perhaps this is because I am older than I was when I saw Star Wars for the first time, I am tired and disillusioned, and I like seeing those changes mirrored in my heroes. But I also think that these changes are genuinely positive.

I like that Leia has learned that “jumping in a spaceship and blowing something up” is only the right move sometimes. Not that it’s never the right move, Leia is too wise to fall for that, but that there are times when another tactic is called for. Considering how much that technique was valorized in the original trilogy, this is a surprising backpedal.

Ditto Vice-Admiral Holdo not telling Poe her plan. In the original trilogy, Luke just kind of walked onto the base and was admitted to the inner circle of the rebellion immediately, given responsibility and access to all the rebel plans. Ditto Jyn Erso. Not so here. Poe has been working for the Resistance for a while, but that doesn’t mean that the people in charge need to get his approval for their plans. (Particularly shocking that a woman doesn’t need to get a man’s approval for her military plans, I know, or that an older woman might have any role to play other than the wise grandma type or a witch.)

In general, I saw far more older women on screen here than I am used to seeing. Carrie Fisher and Laura Dern are both well past the Hollywood sell-by date set for women, but they had large roles in a film aimed at a general audience. But the crowd scenes at Canto Bight also featured a surprising number of older women.  More older women on screen, please, kicking butt and also being generally present, but in the future, can more of them be women of color? (Is it any wonder some fragile masculine souls needed to cut all the women out of the movie? We are so goshdarn present in it.)

I like that Luke is disillusioned by his own mistakes, and that it is a young woman who shows him that he is wrong.

I love the lack of sexual tension in the films. I love that Rose is never subject to the Male Gaze TM, and that she is allowed to be a full human being, with expertise and ideals and an interest in someone. (If you’re going to ask with whom I ship Finn, I think Finn has too recently learned to be a person on his own and he is not ready for a relationship with anyone yet. I am in favor of Poe crushing on him, though.) I love that the movie shuts down the idea of romantic tension between Rey and Kylo Ren. Jill Bearup has pointed out that film language for romantic tension and antagonism can sometimes look the same; TLJ goes out of its way to point out that NOPE, romantic tension is not happening here. Rey has no interest in seeing Kylo Ren in any state of undress, thank you very much.

I love that Finn and Rose fail at their quest. All of the indicators for their success were there: the unbeatable odds, the one final hope, it’s a trope checklist, and it still fails. I love that because sometimes we do fail, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, and that trying and failing doesn’t mean you aren’t a hero.

So what didn’t I like? Well, a lot.

For one thing, there was so much going on that the movie feels overstuffed and un-cohesive. Our three protagonists from TFA are split up, each having their own adventures, and it’s hard to find a common thematic thread between them.

I’m also rather sick of the “giant, oppressive organization is coming for a progressively smaller and smaller ragtag group of people fighting back” trope. Exiting the movie, my spouse quipped, “At this rate, the next movie’s Resistance will consist of Finn and BB8 armed with nothing but a toothbrush.” (To be fair, I would watch that movie in a heartbeat.) But we’ve done this before. I’d like to see some new stories, or at least tell the same story in a different way, like Rogue One did.

I was also rather disturbed at how Finn and Rose dealt with the kids who are enslaved/indentured on Canto Bight. I get that they couldn’t take the kids with them and still complete their original mission. And I get that, from a thematic standpoint, they needed to be left there to sow the seeds of the next generation of the Resistance. But neither of them seemed to have any sort of qualm about leaving those children to be abused further. I would have been far more comfortable had either one of them acknowledged that leaving them there means they also failed to rescue people being oppressed, the very mission of the Resistance. I want acknowledgement that leaving the kids was a terrible thing to do and a horrid choice to have to make, to balance those kids’ freedom against the survival of the Resistance.

I also feel somewhat confused by the only common theme I could find in the movie, which is the older generation giving way to the new. We have now seen three of the older generation of the Resistance – Holdo and Luke in this movie, Han in the previous one – sacrifice themselves willingly so that the new generation can go on. On the Dark Side, Kylo Ren killed Snoke so that he can come into his own power. On the surface, this sends a kind of awesome message: the older generation needs to give way to the younger, but the Light side does it by consent and the Dark Side does it by force. I’m all for highlighting consent! But the more I think about it, the less that idea holds up. You can’t undo an unjust power system by waiting for those in power to consensually relinquish their privilege. In this, Kylo Ren is right that you need to tear it all down. Unfortunately, he isn’t interested in doing what he says; he’s only interested in tearing down just enough that he winds up at the head of the existing power structure, then using his new power to expand his dominion. (Oh crap, in addition to being a metaphor for neo-Nazis, is Kylo Ren also an allegory for false allyship?) So yeah, I don’t know what to make of this.

I want to watch it again, which I won’t get to do until it comes out on Netflix or Amazon Prime, but this is the first time I have wanted to re-watch a Star Wars movie in a while.

Come See Us At Arisia

By Terri & Ariela

The Arisia Logo.

The Arisia Logo.

As is our personal and business tradition, we will both be at Arisia this weekend January 12-15 at the Westin Boston Waterfront. We've got tons of art in the Art Show, and will both be appearing on panels! This is Terri's first time on Arisia panels and she is very excited. 

If you're on staff/volunteering for the convention, you can catch us at the Art Show reception in our business colors. Otherwise, you can see our work there (and us, from time to time), and see us on these panels:

Ariela's Schedule:

Friday, 7:00 PM: Costuming on a Budget
Room: Faneuil
Panel #: 457
Costuming can be an expensive hobby as the elements of a costume and the supplies needed to create them can add up quickly. We'll discuss how to get the most out of your dollar through the use of inexpensive fabrics and notions, alternative techniques or materials, and how to plan ahead so you can find time and ways to save the most money. Many elements can be sourced through thrift stores or even your own closet, and putting individual pieces to work in multiple costumes can help, too.

Saturday, 4:00 PM: Judaism's Influence on SF/F
Room: Marina 2
Panel #: 385
Jewish theology and culture permeates SFF & fandom from popular comics to well-known science fiction stories, which filters down in unrealized ways to fandom. What effect has Judaism had on the development of SF/F and fandom in general? Join our panel of knowledgeable fen to learn about Jewish influences.

Saturday, 5:30 PM: Depicting Diversity in Visual Art
Room: Douglas
Panel #: 279
Most figure drawing techniques are based on an idealized human form. This simplifies the drawing process, but it often leaves artists ill-prepared for representing characters of diverse age, size, gender, ethnicity, ability, etc. How can artists practice representing more diverse characters, and how can art education be improved to help them learn these skills?
(Ariela will moderate this panel.)

Sunday, 10:00 AM: Out of the Shadows: Spiritual Traditions in SFF
Room: Marina 2
Panel #: 340
SFF tends to fictionalize to practitioners of real-world spiritual beliefs in fantasy, inhabiting the liminal space between "normal" society and the supernatural world. These practitioners and their beliefs are often lazily and irresponsibly portrayed, creating further misinformation and stereotype. Our panelists will look at stories about practitioners of real spiritual beliefs in fictional settings and which portrayals are respectful and responsible.
(Ariela will moderate this panel.)

Sunday, 1:00 PM: Hats & Headwear for Costumers
Room: Faneuil
Panel #: 466
Hats and headwear can add another level of style to your costume and tie the entire look together. Learn techniques on how to make them, re-purpose old hats, make foundations for headpieces, resources available, and how to keep them on your head.

Terri's Schedule:

Sunday, 1:00 PM: Parents with Infants & Toddlers Meetup
Room: Paine
Panel #: 354
We have run into each other in panels, in hallways, and in elevators with strollers, but have we really *met*? Let's let the kids run around for an hour, catch our breath, bemoan cluster feeding/colic/climbing/teething/growing pains, and celebrate the fact that we're OUT OF THE HOUSE and among our people.

Sunday, 2:30 PM: Down with Grimdark, Up with...
Room: Marina 1
Panel #: 324
Grimdark stories, ones that focus on darkness and angst, have been prevalent throughout SFF recently. However, many people are pushing for change, with suggestions such as Solarpunk, Genderpunk, and Hopepunk, ones that focus on a bright future. Solarpunk is focused on green energy and sustainability, whereas Hopepunk is about people choosing love over hate, and fighting for that possible bright future. Will these new genres will gain a foothold? What other "punks" do you see emerging in SFF?

Monday, 11:30 AM: When Your Child Discovers Fanfiction… and more
Room: Marina 2
Panel #: 301
Description Being a fannish parent can mean the joy of witnessing fannish firsts – discovering fanfiction, the first cosplay or convention. Our panelists will talk about being a fannish parent to a fannish child, and the joys that come with your child discovering new parts of fandom they want to be involved in, and the challenges of navigating parts of fandom that are not always child-appropriate.

 

There are Friday Night Services at Arisia this year that are open to anyone who wishes to attend. They will be held at 5:30pm in Paine (2W). We will both be in attendance. Terri will be leading the Kabbalat Shabbat portion of the services, with some bonus fandom tunes.

We can't wait for the convention and we hope to see you there!

Arisia Prep is Bananapants

by Terri

Arisia is less than a month away. While we're also prepping panels, costumes and menus, the Arisia Art Show is a huge focus of our attention. Since we take so much more art there than any other show we exhibit at, Ariela and I have had to come up with a good system to ensure that she is not lugging too much matted art from Chicago. Last year Ariela brought most of the art to Boston with her along with the clear bags, hanging tabs, labels and stickers. I went out to Blick and bought ALL THE MATBOARD* (plus linen hinging tape, drafting tape and spray adhesive). We then had an epic matting party in my office.**

This year, she mailed all of the art to me ahead of time. We also ordered pre-cut backboards, more bags, & die cut stickers and had everything shipped directly to me. We still have not yet ordered ALL THE MATBOARD, but I already have just about everything else. I will be cutting the front frames once we order it, and then we will have another epic matting party when Ariela gets to Boston.

We have already had one exciting equipment failure (Ariela's printer decided that NOW was the best time to die, necessitating an express trip to Office Depot), but so far everything seems to be going OK.

So here are some picture of the already bananapants process, which is going to get Even More Bananapants as we get closer to the con.

This is sad art that the printer decided to eat.  [Image shows three different art prints that have color layers in the wrong places, chewed corners and black ink on their edges]

This is sad art that the printer decided to eat.

[Image shows three different art prints that have color layers in the wrong places, chewed corners and black ink on their edges]

The new printer calmly doing its job.  [Image shows a printer on top of a bookshelf with a print half completed coming out of it]

The new printer calmly doing its job.

[Image shows a printer on top of a bookshelf with a print half completed coming out of it]

A new treat for this year's art show - Stickers!  [Image shows a pile of colorful die cut stickers in plastic hanging bags]

A new treat for this year's art show - Stickers!

[Image shows a pile of colorful die cut stickers in plastic hanging bags]

ALL THE ART!  [Image shows a pile of unmatted prints and greeting cards on a wood floor]

ALL THE ART!

[Image shows a pile of unmatted prints and greeting cards on a wood floor]

Backboards. It turns out that it's cheaper to buy pre-cut matboard for the back of a print than it is to cut them ourselves.  [Image shows stacks of 11x14 and 8x10 backboards plastic wrapped together, surrounded by brown packing paper]

Backboards. It turns out that it's cheaper to buy pre-cut matboard for the back of a print than it is to cut them ourselves.

[Image shows stacks of 11x14 and 8x10 backboards plastic wrapped together, surrounded by brown packing paper]

 

 

 

*I almost blew over waiting for my rideshare home.

**This involved discovering that one Does Not Buy inexpensive mat cutters and sending Matthew out to Blick to pick up a new shiny mat cutter at 9 pm.