January 18, 2018

Should Art Be Political? You Mean...It Isn't Already?

YES in Neon

Whenever I'm talking with others on Twitter or Facebook (it's almost never in person, for reasons that will soon become apparent), there's always a line of conversation. Usually, it's white dudes over 40 years of age (like me) who say something like this. (Although I admit that I had a conversation with a white woman over 40 years old who expressed similar sentiments over Doctor Who).

Usually, the line of conversation usually results in someone making a variation of the following:
"You know, I'm tired of this movie/show/book/genre being so political? Why can't we just have things the way they used to be, with good old fashioned escapism/entertainment"
And the problem with that statement is that there was never a golden age when things weren't political. I would argue that the act of creating - especially now, in the age of the current GOP administration - that creativity is an especially powerful political statement.

Nostalgia is a tricky thing: it allows the person to momentarily escape the Doctor Who conversation I mentioned previously? We were at a Chicago Doctor Who Meetup event, and she spent so much time complaining about a female Doctor/
difficulties of the present by engaging in an idealized past. Yet paradoxically, escaping into that idealized past prevents you from even enjoying the present experience of that media.

That Doctor Who conversation that I mentioned? In the background, a Tom Baker story was playing. You know, the guy who was the David Tennant of the 1970s? The Doctor for many people? And ironically, this woman could not understand that she was spending more time complaining about Jodie Whittaker than watching the show she loved.

But how does this play into politics? No creative act - writing, music, dance, what have you - exists in a vacuum. Politics permeates any piece, and many writing is a reaction to the politics of the time. Even "simple escapist fare" is a political statement because it serves to relieve the tensions of modern living. (And one the things I've learned about the Operator 5 Purple Invasion and the Spider Empire State Pulp arcs of the 1930s...they weren't done on the whim. Harry Steeger, the editor of Popular Publications, wanted those storylines written in response to the then-prevalent isolationist movement in the United States). So the idea that there was this "golden age" when politics was never involved in art - whether through individual motivation or editorial mandate - is simply naive, choosing to avoid present reality and emphasize an unhealthy nostalgia.

[And yes, many people who wish to "go back" to a golden age are a reaction to greater inclusion/creators of color. My response - just where do you expect new readers and creators to come from? And yes, I am aware that the Spider arc was known as the "Black Police" arc. In a time when we have a movement called "Black Lives Matter", I think renaming it "Empire State" is much cooler and more respectful. My blog, my rules]

Even in my own writing, I'm finding that certain political themes are creeping into my writing. Even before I deliberately chose to insert themes into works like AKA THE SINNER: Cover of Night, there's been an emphasis on portraying white supremacy as a malevolent force. (This was way before Charlottesville). Being more inclusive in my writing, and trying to "get" representation right, has been a focus, preferring not to "insert generic Indians/Asians", for example, or actually working to balance a 21st century understanding of gender and racial roles and attitudes with the less enlightened roles and attitudes of the past.

[Yes, I have actually been told - by fellow white writers - to use "generic" types of diverse cultures. And also, yes, I'm willing to get representation wrong and get called out on it.]

So yes, art should be political...because it's already political. Creating a unique statement, or crafting a story, is always influenced by external politics. We are living in a time when many voices are being extinguished or stifled (whether it's DACA or net neutrality), and quite honestly, we need to hear more diverse voices.

And we also need to let go of the past, because it's never coming back.

January 14, 2018

What's Gordon Working On?

Toughbook 12/20/2017

Back in December, I outlined my writing and project docket for this first quarter of 2018. Even though we're less than a month into the New Year, I thought I would post an update into what I've accomplished...as well as some additional projects and to-do stuff because, let's face it, I have to stay accountable.
  • First, my panel proposals for C2E2, Oak Lawn Public Library Fan Fest, and DePaul Pop Culture Celebration have all been submitted, so now comes the waiting game....
  • I set up a Ko-Fi page for donations. Since I already run a Patreon for Chicago Doctor Who Meetup, I wanted to set up a different "tip jar" for my writing. If you're interested in supporting me, please visit http://ko-fi.com/gordondym
  • I've made some progress on putting together the animated pitch/bible - luckily, based on some research, it wasn't too hard. The graphic novel is all introductory material, so now it's just a matter of putting it all together...
  • Unfortunately, the AC adapter for my HP laptop died, so while I was waiting for a new one to arrive via eBay I revived Harvey, my Ubuntu Toughbook. After installing Linux Lite (because Xubuntu was way too slow), I have rechristened the Toughbook Lucille (a Leverage reference) and will be shopping for a new chip to increase its RAM. It's not my first laptop of choice...but I miss working with the Toughbook.
  • I've put in a pitch for one story, and working on two others that don't require pitches, and....
  • I've started doing "research" for both the one story pitch and the graphic novel proposal, plus....
  • I'm continuing to work on my presentation/speaker page for my website, which I can use (along with my online portfolio and LinkedIn profile) to market my freelance services
Although I haven't felt very productive lately (I've been fighting off the flu), I think I've managed to make some headway into my writing life...and yes, I'm hoping that continues into this blog.