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Audiobook Review: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) written and read by Felicia Day

You're Never Weird on the Internet

When Felicia Day was a girl, all she wanted was to connect with other kids (desperately). Growing up in the Deep South, where she was “home-schooled for hippie reasons,” she looked online to find her tribe. The internet was in its infancy and she became an early adopter at every stage of its growth—finding joy and unlikely friendships in the emerging digital world. Her relative isolation meant that she could pursue passions like gaming, calculus, and 1930’s detective novels without shame. Because she had no idea how “uncool” she really was.

But if it hadn’t been for her strange background— the awkwardness continued when she started college at sixteen, with Mom driving her to campus every day—she might never have had the naive confidence to forge her own path. Like when she graduated as valedictorian with a math degree and then headed to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting despite having zero contacts. Or when she tired of being typecast as the crazy cat-lady secretary and decided to create her own web series before people in show business understood that online video could be more than just cats chasing laser pointers.

Felicia’s rags-to-riches rise to internet fame launched her career as one of the most influen­tial creators in new media. Ever candid, she opens up about the rough patches along the way, recounting battles with writer’s block, a full-blown gaming addiction, severe anxiety and depression—and how she reinvented herself when overachieving became overwhelming.

It’s been more than year since I read or listened to a memoir. I think I can still count all the memoirs I’ve ever read on one hand. I guess it’s not really my genre. Most lives don’t have the metatextual intricacy or the teenagers and lazers I usually go for. Oddly enough, Felicia Day’s kind of does.

And that’s not even why I chose the audiobook. Like the last memoir I took in, I’d heard plenty of good things about it and it was read by the author. I think the latter’s pretty important. A dissociated narrator reading someone else’s autobiographical material makes me go Twilight Zone.

But it was really because of World of Warcraft. Yes, we’d seen Felicia Day in Buffy and then Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, but I never went out of my way to read about the lives of any of the principals.  It was “Do You Wanna Date My Avatar” playing while we waited for a raid to start. It was watching The Guild on off nights.

So I expected some stuff about childhood and some stuff about Geek and Sundry and I was hoping for a little bit about that moment where our lives intersected someone else’s, however briefly and tenuously. What I got was a surprisingly relatable story about a child prodigy that was part Real Genius and part every nerd everywhere. It was entertaining before WoW entered the picture.

When it did, I learned that Codex, portrayed in The Guild as a priest, was actually a warlock. I’ll just say that made things personal. Suddenly the whole narrative made so much more sense.

Day strips her rise to celebrity down to the bones, showing how it’s dirty and odd and difficult. And then all of the sudden it’s not. And even now it’s sort of specific and even kind of weird. Except on the internet.

It’s an empowering story. And an entertaining one. Encountering it at my age I can pass on whatever wisdom it has to offer to others. But I’d definitely hand it out to teenagers and college students if that wouldn’t be creepy and expensive.

Recommended for fans of Bossypants, Terry Gilliam, and Malefic Raiment.

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Comic Review: Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy TPB

welcome to gothamYou know what Batman really needs to get past the seemingly cemented gritty darkness of the Nolan film franchise? Teen drama. A little hormone-driven defiance and melodrama wipes that musty self-seriousness right off. Writers Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan give Gotham a fresh, new take with Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy.

WELCOME TO GOTHAM ACADEMY! Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school is a very weird place. It’s got a spooky campus, oddball teachers, and rich benefactors always dropping by…like that weirdo Bruce Wayne. But nothing is as strange is the students!

Like, what’s up with Olive Silverlock? Is she crazy or what? Where did she go last summer? And what’s the deal with her creepy mom? And how come that Freshman MAPS is always following her around? And is she still going out with Kyle? P.S. Did you hear the rumor about the ghost in the North Hall?!

GOTHAM ACADEMY is a new, monthly teen drama set in the shadow of Batman and the craziness of Gotham City, with new characters and old plus a secret tie to Gotham’s past…

This first collection of Gotham Academy runs on teen angst, mystery, and a touch of self-referential humor. It reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or first season Vampire Diaries, although the supernatural presence lurking behind Gotham Academy isn’t vampires, it’s Batman. Like Buffy, Elena, or even the eponymous Veronica Mars, Gotham Academy’s protagonist Olive Silverlock is having an identity crisis. She’s become the “weird” girl after a mysterious summer incident that she herself doesn’t remember but which had a detrimental impact on her life. As she attempts to figure out who she is now, she finds herself also investigating rumors of a ghost haunting the academy. The volume unfolds from there.

gotham-academy-mapsThe highlight of Gotham Academy is Olive’s plucky sidekick, Mia aka Maps. Maps is a first year student and Olive’s estranged boyfriend’s younger sister. What makes Maps fantastic is a combination of optimism, confidence, and a practical application of the lessons she’s learned playing the D&D-inspired table-top role-playing game Serpents & Spells. She maps everything, carries a backpack with compass and flashlight, tells stories of her gaming sessions, discusses real world tools in terms of their add-on rating to skills, and categorizes people by their alignment: “He’s too lawful-good to come with us.”

Maps is just a standout in an array of interesting teen students and academy teachers. Their quirks, insecurities, and relationships are engaging and fun to follow through the issues, and they develop in satisfying ways. The most emotional moments of the collection had, in both narrative and illustrations, an influence of melodramatic teen manga.

But this is a Batman title, and there’s certainly the shadow of Batman hanging over the academy. There is, of course, detective work being done by these students as they investigate the reports of ghost sightings and the mysteriously condemned North Hall. There are allusions to Batman characters and stories from comic canon. One character even makes reference to an event from Batgirl: The Batgirl of Burnside volume thatjust came out–a sister title if ever there was one, since both center their stories on young women and give the noir-ish genre of Batman a sassy goose in the pants. And, of course, Batman makes his appearances in the volume, though he remains mostly in the background.gotham-academy001f

Gotham Academy is a great fit for fans of Batman looking for a new tone and angle on the mythology and appreciate teen drama and intriguing female protagonists.


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Review: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs is like the geeky older sister back from college to guide a younger sibling into the world of MMORPGs, comic book stores, and cosplay conventions. Considering Sam Maggs is an editor at The Mary Sue, she may actually be one of the most qualified “geeky older sisters” available on the internet.

fangirl coverFanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes, including:
• How to make nerdy friends
• How to rock awesome cosplay
• How to write fanfic with feels
• How to defeat Internet trolls
• How to attend your first con
And more! Plus, insightful interviews with fangirl faves, like Jane Espenson, Erin Morgenstern, Kate Beaton, Ashley Eckstein, Laura Vandervoort, Beth Revis, Kate Leth, and many others.

I really love the idea of this book. It acts as a kind of manifesto for girl geeks, giving voice and published, authoritative presence. It offers interviews with the Queens of Fangirl Geekdom, like Jane Espenson who is known for her sci-fi television writing: Buffy the Vampire SlayerFirefly, Battlestar Galactica, and Once Upon a Time among others. So it offers role-models, a history of girl geekdom even. And that’s really, really awesome.

However, in the execution, I ended up wondering who the reading of the book was for. The coverage of any given topic–how to write fanfic or introduce a friend to a particular geek fandom–is introductory. So who would be starting to identify as a fangirl or geek girl and need guidance on how to find more to their interests or to share their interests? Certainly not me, but since I’m well into my 30’s, I’ve had more than enough time to do super fangirly things like create a Firefly-fan oriented guild in World of Warcraft (I named us the Special Hellions). So likely this is for someone younger, perhaps a teenager starting to orient strongly towards Doctor Who.

This book would be a great addition to a high school library to help diversify the ways students could build identity. It would be a perfect gift for a teen-aged girl without older role models in geekdom who might need some solidarity to allow her geek flag to fly.


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I Grow Weary of the Dramatic Doppelganger

I am a fan of The Vampire Diaries, which is my kind of soap opera: high school (originally) and vampires. See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

However, recently I realized it has absolutely obliterated my interest in doppelganger plot-lines. I noticed this as we entered into the second half of Once Upon a Time Season 3, wherein the main cast returns from Neverland to Storybrooke. [Spoiler warning]. In a last ditch effort to keep himself alive, Peter Pan pulls a “Grand Theft Me” on Henry, swapping bodies and sending Henry into Pandora’s Box, and Pan into the loving arms of Henry’s extended fairy tale family. He then plots to turn Storybrooke into a New Neverland (would have been the lamest Neverland ever, seriously).

Although I had been tipped off to this plot twist via IMDB’s cast list, as soon as happened, I sighed disparagingly. And that was the moment that I realized that Vampire Diaries had nailed the lid on the coffin of this trope for me.

Elenakatherine418Over the course of 5 seasons, Vampire Diaries has used the doppelganger trope ad nauseum. Elena and Katherine has been a seasonal showdown, but during this last season, Katherine ported herself magically into Elena’s body and forced Elena’s consciousness down. During this time, Katherine attempted to act like Elena but did so quite poorly. Since everyone thought Katherine dead, they were extra idiotic about “Elena’s” odd behaviors. Katherine’s charade went on for many episodes, which is like seasons for the fast turning plot of Vampire Diaries. When they did finally get Elena back in her own body and Katherine got whisked away to the void, Elena was understandably irate that her friends had failed to notice it wasn’t her. But honestly, she wasn’t near angry enough. Their absolute failure to recognize there was something wrong bordered on the absurd. She should have left Mystic Falls and never returned after seeing how inattentive her friends were.

But this was just the most recent of their doppelganger plot-lines. Stefan also has an evil doppleganger who mucks up trouble in multiple seasons. Actually, both of them have two doppelgangers. Though I find it promising that last season made Stefan and Elena the last living doppelgangers. So maybe the show has put the trope to rest.

However, let me credit Once Upon A Time for handling it judiciously. First, Emma wasn’t an idiot and noticed pretty quickly that Henry wasn’t acting normally, and Regina’s naivety about the switch was believable due to her desire to have Henry need her. Second, it was only about one whole episode before the body switch was discovered and another half episode before it was reversed. Finally, the conclusion to the whole Pan arc had huge emotional pay offs. Although I was wary of the doppelganger trope when it showed up, I came to value where it took the characters and the show.

But let me clarify that it seems my ire only gets tripped with dramatic uses of the doppelganger. I never seem to get tired of the doppelganger trope being used in a comedic fashion. See: The X-Files “Dreamland,” Farscape “Out of Their Minds,” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Doppelgangland.”

It’s apparently the dramatic irony that I loathe. In these body swapping instances writers are ruthless about twisting the viewers’ emotions and expectations. Often it will be used as an excuse to allow a couple to get together (but then go back on it once the swap is reversed). An example of this is in the season 4 X-Files episode “Small Potatoes” when shape shifting villain Eddie Van Blundt masquerades as Mulder and puts the moves on Scully, one of the funniest episodes of that season. Alternatively, the writers will drive a wedge in a relationship by having the doppelganger say or do something unforgivable that can’t be forgiven and forgotten even after their true identity is revealed. This was done on Vampire Diaries in episode 5.12 “The Devil Inside” when Katherine, in Elena’s body, rejects Damon’s heartfelt speech to get back together with words that speak to his greatest insecurity. This scene is played for absolute heartbreak.

Perhaps the key is that comedies end with a happy restoration of the status quo and dramas end with a sad, ironic gut punch. I end up often feeling manipulated by a dramatic doppelganger and then resenting that manipulation.

Television, let the dramatic doppelganger die.


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Joss Whedon Inspired Art at Gallery 1988

Gallery 1988, an art gallery that specializes in pop culture-inspired art, has opened a Joss Whedon-themed show.

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As Faith would say, “It’s a thing of beauty, boss.” And it is. The pop art ranges in style and Whedonesque subject matter, from a kawaii-styled Cabin in the Woods to a watercolor style vampire Dr. Horrible to a retro, Myst-style Sunnydale High School library. If the artwork is any indication Cabin in the Woods is the most inspiring of his works with the tooth-faced ballerina being the most indelible on the consciousness of these artists.

See the artwork here.

The show will run from Sept. 5-27 in the Los Angeles gallery. Oh, how I wish I could see these in person and buy them all and decorate my entire house with their fabulousness.