Announcing the Launch of The Very Official Dead Dog Art Zine

by Terri

You may have seen this tweet go out while we were at WorldCon.

Well, we’re putting our money where our mouths are. It’s important to us that there be as much access to Hugo Award eligibility as possible. That means both fixing the constitution (the root problem) and also providing an outlet for people while the amendment is ratified.

The only submission criteria for the Very Official Dead Dog Art Zine is that you follow our submission template. That’s it. The entire point of this zine is that everyone’s art is worthy of inclusion. There is no jury, no one will tell you that your art isn’t good enough. You made it. That’s enough for us.

You can submit your work here, but we do ask that you check out our submission template beforehand. We look forward to seeing your work!

Terri’s Post Dublin 2019 Report: Technical Failures and Networking Successes

By Terri

The Cliffs of Moher, just one of the amazing things I saw on my holidays.

The Cliffs of Moher, just one of the amazing things I saw on my holidays.

Though I am only just home in Israel, I have had a few quiet evenings (plus several forms of transit across Ireland and Northern Ireland - most of this blog post was written while loads of green flashed by) to reflect on Dublin 2019, An Irish Worldcon.

It wasn’t my first WorldCon, and I have to say that was a big relief. I knew that there would be long queues for the most popular author signings and most panels, and that there would be no way to do all the things I wanted to do. The time spent working the Hugo Awards in 2012 meant I was prepared for the sheer shock of ALL THE NOMINEES at both the pre-reception and the Loser’s Party. The other thing that mitigated some of that was the fact that many of us had been communicating since April in a Slack workspace set up by Mary Robinette Kowal. It’s harder to be scared of people whose impostor syndromes have had a party with yours, whom you’ve plotted setting swans on assholes with and shared sleep training tips with.

Ariela’s shared her opinions on the Art Show. Putting it nearly a kilometer from the main event space (yes there were panels there and yes it was only a tram stop away, but still not part of the main convention space) did not help anyone’s sales. It’s hard to know why our originals failed to move - they and the rest of our art have done well at other conventions where the Art Show gets a lot of foot traffic. The decision to put the reception for the Art Show (and I have to say, it wasn’t much of a reception), in a warehouse room apart from the actual art made no sense to me. I have been to many receptions held inside the actual Art Show and somehow no one got any food on the art OR the carpet. ::SHRUG::

My two panels went very nicely. I chose WorldCon to debut my nascent moderating skills as a stunt Q&A moderator on behalf of Elsa Sjunnenson-Henry who moderated the discussion parts very well. It was my first time, and I know where I made my mistakes. Note to self: pass off the question to the OTHER panelists first! However, since it was a jargon heavy panel, I was willing to take questions for clarification and people did seem to find that useful.

Becky Chambers, holding a towel in progress.

Becky Chambers, holding a towel in progress.

As for attending panels, I prioritized some readings (Charlie Stross and Naomi Novik) and was able to attend both. I also managed to get into a fabulous panel that was supposed to be about forests and stories and was actually just Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Mace, & Sarah Gailey talking about bugs, plant people and why hedgerows are awesome (and that’s just the tip of the 50 minute iceberg). I did get my Wayfarers books signed by the inestimable Becky Chambers and deputized my husband to get my Lady Astronaut novels signed.

And that’s where the fun parts of my con that appeared on the schedule (besides the Hugo Awards) ends. Because I actually spent the bulk of my WorldCon mornings at the WSFS Business Meeting. I had a constitutional amendment on the agenda to resolve the problem we encountered when we discovered that Lady Astronaut would not be eligible for consideration in the Hugo Voter’s Packet. I’m still working on fixing the artist categories wholesale, but that’s going to take a few years (and a favorable business meeting to present at). To say that I found the meeting draining would be an understatement. There was a lot of sitting, many cups of tea and instant soup, and a handful of votes that I actually felt were important. There are people for whom Parliamentary decision making is a fascinating process. I am not one of them. But my amendment passed! It will need to be ratified at CoNZealand next year, but there will be those to speak for it there even if I am not. Incidentally, I was also there when one of the constitutional measures to prevent slating was not only preserved, it was preserved via poison pilling an amendment to kill it. That was fun.

I spent my evenings networking via the time honored tradition of barcon. Typically, when the convention is held in a hotel, people congregate in the hotel bars to drink and blow off steam. This year’s wasn’t up to past standards, but I still spent time making connections, handing out my cards, and talking to people about projects that I CANNOT TELL YOU ABOUT BUT SO EXCITE!!!!!!

And now, the thing you really were here for - the Hugo Awards!

It’s hard to express how I feel. I was conflicted from the start. I do a lot of creative work for Geek Calligraphy, and it hurt to be excluded from the ballot for the fact that my skills do not lie in shaping pigment and paper into art. I know that Ariela values my work, but it’s hard to see that work go unremarked. Thankfully, every time I explained to anyone that no I was not a nominee, they went “why not? That’s bullshit, you’re a team,” or some variant on that theme. Which was highly validating. But the hoops we had to jump through to make sure I got to go to the pre-ceremony reception, a decent seat at the awards and entry into the Loser’s Party (and that last one with both our spouses) were many and slightly painful.

The fact that we didn’t take the award home was unsurprising. Once our best work was excluded from consideration, we didn’t stand a chance. We did come in third on the nomination ballot, which was nice. It’s a cliché, but it really was an honor to be nominated in the company of Likhain, Grace Fong, Sara Felix, Spring Schoenhuth and Meg Frank. Hopefully this is only the first time we’ll be here.

The Loser’s Party itself was both fun and disappointing. It was the first time I got to hear live traditional Irish music all weekend, which was nice. Drinks I don’t have to pay for and great company are also wonderful. But getting into the party was A MESS. To find out that taking the time to say goodbye to friends and rearrange our things (both Ariela and I had to prep at the Convention Centre due to panels, and there was quite a bit of spare clothing and makeup on site) meant that there was a good chance we weren’t getting into the party was very disappointing. From what I remember in 2012, the party really was for the nominees and eventually the winners. This year’s party felt more like GRRM throwing a party for his buddies at the Guinness Storehouse that incidentally involved the losing nominees and some of the winners.

Mary Robinette Kowal, me, The Lady Astronaut and a HUGO AWARD! (Photo credit: Terrence Karney)

Mary Robinette Kowal, me, The Lady Astronaut and a HUGO AWARD! (Photo credit: Terrence Karney)

Monday was quite special. Due to technical difficulties (namely that Ariela’s phone hates Ireland), there was no way for Ariela to let me know that she had run into Mary Robinette Kowal while looking at the original Lady Astronaut painting and had gotten a photograph. So we made arrangements for me to get a photo taken as well. While we were packing up the painting afterwards (it was the last thing to come off the wall during the tear down), Mary Robinette, my friend Terrence Karney and I were having a conversation about how some people felt that she was insufficiently reverent of and overexcited by her Hugo. Terrence replied that he’d be excited just to get the little nominee lapel pin in the shape of the rocket (and also told us a funny story about a Hugo that’s been sliced in half). I concurred, and Mary Robinette asked why I didn’t have one, before remembering “oh right. Because bullshit.” (Her exact words). At which point she began to remove the pin from her own lapel. After I protested, she insisted that not only did she have an abundance at home, I deserved it anyway. I started to cry, and received an excellent hug. Terrence remarked that between my ineligibility and the Lady Astronaut’s ballot exclusion, I may have more thoroughly lost a Hugo than anyone else ever has.

So that’s my second WorldCon over. It wasn’t everything it could have been, but it was wonderful in parts. I cemented connections, made professional plans, got a constitutional amendment passed and looked like a mermaid queen for a night. I’m looking forward to the next one.

We’re Off To WorldCon!

The logo for Dublin 2019. It features a D stylized to look like a harp, a rocketship and a dragon.

The logo for Dublin 2019. It features a D stylized to look like a harp, a rocketship and a dragon.

Once again, your intrepid artist and wrangler are embarking on a joint convention journey. We are both incredibly excited to visit Ireland together and it’s Ariela’s first ever WorldCon. Terri anticipates being staggered by the sheer amount of GREEN and is anticipating visiting local yarn shops. Ariela is excited to finally meet in person people she thus far only knows from the internet. Our art will be hanging in the Art Show, side by side with some amazing Irish artists and the usual fannish suspects.

In addition to the panels we are both on, you will be able to find both of us at the Art Show Reception (Friday, 5:30PM - 7:00PM at Point Square) and at the Hugo Awards ceremony (Sunday, 8:00PM, during which we will be gripping each others’ hands in an effort to stave off nail biting). We hope everyone in attendance has fun!

Terri’s Panel Schedule

Sunday 4:00PM: Neurodiversity and Extraordinary Powers in SFF
Location: Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)
The inclusion of neurodivergent characters in fiction plays an important role in normalisation, but if the depictions are themselves problematic then they can further harmful stereotypes. The panel will discuss representation of neurodiversity in media, where it's done well and where it's problematic, and how they would like to see neurodiverse characters written.

Monday 11:30AM: Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda
Location: Odeon 1 (Point Square)
Female creators and characters are finally gaining recognition in the comics industry, but with that came a backlash. Where we disagree with creative directions, how do we best engage with creators? And how do we support female creators for an increased presence, without threats and harassment?
Note : Panel title refers to the 'infamous' cover from the last issue of the Mockingbird comic series

Ariela’s Panel Schedule

Friday 1:30PM: Trends in Fan Art
Location: Odeon 2 (Point Square)
Our definition of fan art has been evolving from printed zines to online and in style from illustrations to include crafts and other forms of art. How do newer mediums fit in the fan art category? Are the traditional venues for fan art still around? What does the term "fan art" mean to you?

Friday, 4:00PM: The Return of the Space Cowboy: Westerns in Space
Location: Wicklow Room-1 (CCD)
The influence of the Western on science fiction can be traced from the pulp era and ranges from the subtle inclusion of tropes like the lawless frontiers of Star Trek and The Expanse, through cowboy imagery in Afro Samurai to literal robot horses in Firefly. The panel will discuss their favourite examples of space westerns in media and literature and why the genre has had such a lasting appeal.
Ariela will moderate this panel.

Saturday, 1:00PM: Inclusive Costuming
Location: Liffey Room-1 (CCD)
A discussion of design ideas and clothing and prop construction to accommodate those with mobility, visual, tactile, or other sensory concerns, and those who use mobility or medical aids. The panellists will come up with ways for everyone to look fabulous without compromising safety and comfort.

Sunday, 3:00PM: What Has Art Ever Done for Science?
Location: Liffey Room-2 (CCD)
From the creation of anatomical models to the visualisation of other planets, how has art contributed to our understanding of science?

Monday, 2:30PM: Your Next Costume: 2D Inspiration and 3D Quandary
Location: Odeon 3 (Point Square)
How do you turn a beautiful image into an amazing costume, but details are vague, the artist has taken liberties with the human form, or you have only one view of it? What's possible to make real and where might you have to make changes? How can you extrapolate what you cannot see? Panelists discuss techniques for making a two-dimensional image into something you can wear with pride.
Ariela will moderate this panel.

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.