Fake Geek Girls: The Only Kind, Apparently

So you’ve probably heard by now about recent misogyny at a Television Critics Association event, when Todd Macfarlane and other significant creators claimed that comics are a man’s world, and that creators shouldn’t have to write about non-straight-white-dudes, because who else is reading comics? Apparently he also doesn’t understand the difference between idealization and sexualization, between a power fantasy and a sexual one, since he believes that men are objectified to the same degree that women are (and he uses the term “stereotype,” which shows a blatant misunderstanding of the issue). 

I know I write about this topic A LOT but given this crap (and after Tony Harris’ ridiculous sexist comments about female cosplayers last year), it seems like time I posted this piece, originally written for the Queen’s Feminist Review.

Some content was taken from another post I wrote last year, but overall I think this piece is stronger and more concise.

In addition to identifying as a woman and a feminist, I identify as a geek – a difficult mix. I am surrounded by hyper-sexualized representations of women in all streams of media, women characters dying to torment and motivate the men who love them, conflicting messages about how I should look and dress and act, and men decrying my audacity at complaining about any of this.

I first learned that girl geeks are treated differently than the boys when I received the Lord of the Rings books for my tenth birthday, about six months before the first film was released. I adored the books and movies to the point that my grade school nickname was “Mr. Frodo.” Yet boys in and outside of school could never accept that I was a “real fan” like they were. They assumed that as a girl, I was only watching the movies for the cute boys, so I’d be asked if I’d ever played the video games, exactly how many of the appendices I’d read, and minute trivia about the books and movies to prove my legitimacy as a fan. I’d always win these contests, of course; I’d read the series twice by the time I was twelve, I knew a thing or two about it. I would prove myself to be a worthy fan in their eyes, unlike the “fangirls” only in it for Orlando Bloom’s face.

Hostility in geek culture can be neatly summed up in the fact that fangirl is held as a derisive term. According the geek community, fanboys are a little too interested in their geek interests, but fangirls are only interested in attractive men and romantic plots. Not only do these concepts ignore the potential for women to have different interests, they delegitimize the sorts of media that are associated with femininity; there is nothing in romance to make it inherently inferior to other genres aside from its association with women. Society has very strict ideas of what women are allowed to like and engage in, so exploring media outside this bubble is treated as suspect. As a result, women are shamed for enjoying traditionally feminine interests, but are told we only seek male attention if we enjoy the more masculine. Women gamers are constantly assumed to be less skilled than the men, and women who cosplay (creating realistic, detailed costumes for conventions) are criticized for wearing the revealing costumes assigned to women characters by their often-male creators. According to masculine-heavy sections of the internet – fans and men in the industry – women cosplayers select the skimpiest costumes they can find in the hope that they will be showered with praise from male nerds. Yet again, the idea that women could be genuine geeks is not within their realm of possibility.

Basic belief in the difference between legitimate and false nerds is present in less obviously hostile ways however, such as the prevalent concept of the Fake Geek Girl. Pictures, articles, tweets, and every other form of Internet expression have been written at length criticizing the women who conform to all of the stereotypes I’ve discussed; women who know nothing about their chosen geeky interest, or express their love for it in the wrong way, or don’t love the right aspects of it. Even other women will lament losing nerd cred by proximity to these Fake Geek Girls – but I’ve never witnessed any women who fit this mould. If women don’t know as much about something as other geeks, they are shamed for having newly discovered it, or for having less investment in it than others do. In the end, women are discouraged from liking anything, and can be scared to admit their interests, because no matter what they do, someone will question their validity.

I understand some of the motivation between distancing yourself from a ‘fake’ geek. Being a nerd is cool now, so we want to have some kind of exclusivity to our title. But there’s no number of hours one has to log in order to be a geek. No one was expelled from the womb with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Batman. A geek is just a person with a lot of enthusiasm for something that has been deemed geeky. Yet this extends further than nerd culture; girls who like sports or hardcore music can face similar problems with perceived legitimacy. In any of these areas, decrying fake fans – especially when we only attack women – results only in women being afraid to express their love for things, not in some kind of exclusive identity. We should be working to make this a supportive community, rather than policing arbitrary concepts of geek purity.

Girls, we don’t need to be afraid to express our love for the things we like. Being a geek is cool, and there are safe spaces to share the love and learn about new things. Be a geek, be proud, and don’t listen to the guys who say that your love is less legitimate than theirs or that you love it for their attention. I never would have made it through elementary school if I’d let their attitude get to me; I survived on my one Lord of the Rings zinger question, since none of the boys could remember what Éomer’s sword is called.

(By the way, it’s called Gúthwinë).

This was originally published in Vol 21 of the Queen’s Feminist Review (2013).

A Modern Gothic

No one ever warned me that studying at a bona fide English castle could have downsides; being miles away from civilization can make you a bit stir-crazy, and I didn’t think cafeteria food could be worse until I tried Quorn, a meat substitute so artificial it is banned in North America. However, the worst part about studying at this castle was the possibility of being alone there at night.

The Castle is supposed to be haunted by the wife of a previous owner, usually called the Grey Lady, and a poor soul known as the Headless Drummer. Reportedly the Grey Lady was spotted in the Castle’s conference room a year or two before my stay there. I’m not exactly a believer in the supernatural, but it’s harder to remind myself that ghosts probably don’t exist when I’m alone in the dark. That castle is spooky enough without ghosts, and legend has it that Horace Walpole had it in mind when he wrote The Castle of Otranto.

Late one night I was studying in the small meeting room on the second floor of the Castle, when a custodian came by informing me that he was shutting off the lights, asking me to do the same when I left. I packed up a short time later, around 1:00 am. At this point I remembered the recent ghost sighting – which had happened in the adjoining conference room (not to mention that I was a floor above the entrance to the castle’s small dungeon). I decided to exit into the Elizabethan room, so named for a giant fireplace and old decorations meant to evoke that era. The stone and high ceilings in the Elizabethan room evoke the Gothic even in daylight, so in near-darkness it was simple to imagine Walpole’s Manfred or poor Matilda on the floor below. I took out my £9 phone, hoping its meagre light would help me get down the old wooden staircase. There was no way I was crossing the second storey platform to the enigmatically named Drummer’s Room; if any room in the Castle was haunted, it was that one. I descended the stairs and crossed the floor as quietly as possible, thinking the whole time of the passageways beneath the Castle of Otranto, casting myself as Isabella as I all but ran through the windowless passage that connects the Elizabethan room to the courtyard in the middle of the Castle.

The courtyard possessed an eerie quality, somehow cut off from time. Inside the Castle, one is surrounded by modern updates; electric lights, modern desks and chairs, placards labelling rooms. Outside, aside from some modern wooden benches, I imagine that little had changed since the last occupants of the castle had left or Walpole had perhaps visited. The paltry moonlight was obscured by the looming castle walls, and I could all but see a giant helmet before me, perhaps with Conrad’s body still beneath it.

I passed back into the interior of the Castle, where thankfully the reception lights are always on, and was greeted outside again by a thick English ground fog. “Stick to the road. Keep clear o’ th’ moors,” I snickered to myself. At least the moon wasn’t full – although that meant that there was almost no light aside from sparse streetlamps, reduced to halos in the fog. I walked (or more accurately, stumbled) through a grove of ancient and gnarled chestnut trees, the light on my phone being no help. I probably could have mused on the mood brought on by the trees, but I was too busy trying to find my footing to scare myself much. The brief paved path proved a respite, until I came to a dark wooded section of the walk. To make matters worse, the darkest part was also up a hill. I walked as fast as I dared, surrounded by night rustlings of various bunnies, badgers, birds, and who knows what else. Until I heard a sound not unlike a person feebly yelping. I quickened my pace, fleeing like Isabella from Manfred’s dread embrace, although my pursuer was most likely a screech owl.

At the top of the hill, the road was paved, streetlamps were numerous, and residence was in sight. I glanced back at the Castle once more. In the fog, it looked ethereal, stuck in time. During the day, it was a gorgeous place to learn; at night, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something walked there, and it walked alone.

This was originally published as an assignment for ENGL 499, Queen’s University, Prof Yaël Shlick, October 12, 2012.

So begins the 4th year of undergrad (and a new blog!)

I haven’t posted much this summer, but hopefully a new blog will change that.

It looks like I’m applying to grad school in October, so I’ve decided to revamp my online presence – the good stuff from my old blog is still here, I’ve just purged some of the ramblier stuff. Which I will celebrate with this ramble.

This is the first year I’ve not been involved with Orientation here. Everyone seems to be having a blast, and I’m really happy for them, despite expectations that I’d be really jealous and nostalgic. I chose this summer to go Fan Expo Canada and then recover from that instead of rushing back to school, and I can’t say I regret that decision, since it was a blast. But I am glad to be back at school now.

Being in my last year, I’m finally starting to get used to the idea – even excited about – seeing myself as an adult. With grad school, I’ll still have a few years of being a student ahead of me, but I’m getting excited at the prospect of getting my own apartment and feeding and clothing myself. I mean, I’m still terrified of that, but I’m excited too.

It’ll be hard to attend regular classes after my amazing time in England last year, but hopefully this year can be ALMOST as good.

Tonight I’m heading out with my lovely housemates for the first time this year, and classes start on Monday.

Wish me luck?

Geek Culture: A Girl’s Dilemma

The other day I walked into a comic store to get a new comic, a one-off, so I couldn’t be sure where it was being kept on the shelves. Well, it was in a counter-intuitive location alphabetically, so I spent a few minutes staring at all of the books. Part of me wanted to ask the sales guy who was standing right there, but I was terrified of being judged by the 12 or so male customers whose eyes I could already feel on my back. No, I don’t mean they were doing anything untoward, but I looked like I didn’t know what I was doing, and I could tell that they were judging me for it, in a way they weren’t the browsing male customers. The only other women in the store were the woman working cash, and a female customer heatedly conversing with the aforementioned sales guy. Seeing such a heavy male-to-female ratio is a common occurrence in comic stores, as anyone can attest who’s ever been in one. And sometimes, especially if there are already a bunch of guys in there, it can feel intimidating to just be a woman – which is a problem I’ve noticed in all of geek culture.

I use the example of comics, which is a new thing for me, but this is far from a new phenomenon. This is the sort of problem faced by women in all aspects of “geek” culture; women gamers are constantly viewed as being less skilled or knowledgeable (as a recent Oatmeal comic clearly demonstrated), and can face all kinds of harassment if they try to play online. When I was a kid, boys were constantly questioning and testing my love for Lord of the Rings. I’d be asked if I’d ever played the video games, exactly how many of the appendices I’d read, and minute trivia about the books and movies to see if I was actually a fan. Issues with “real fans” being judged by encyclopedic knowledge aside, I would always “prove” myself in their eyes. I was a “fanboy” by every aspect of the definition, other than the physical. I still am forced to identify as a fanboy rather than a fangirl, because the latter comes with a depressingly negative connotation. I’d love to call myself simply a “fan” but that doesn’t quite hold the right weight. A fanboy can show you every instance of visible sound equipment in a given movie and write an essay on why, exactly, Han has to have shot first. A fangirl cried the first time she saw Edward Cullen onscreen and she only watches her favourite shows for the hot boys. Do I think these are fair definitions? No. Yes, there are people out there who conform to these definitions, but they are in no way entirely representational. However, ask most people in fandom, and they will admit that these are the stereotypes.

One of the reasons that fans seem to be overwhelmingly male is simply that most of the creators are too. Most stories in any medium are about men and from a male gaze. Twilight may be poorly written and horrible in its portrayals of gendered interactions (or so I’m told, I couldn’t get past the third page), but at least it’s about a woman and uses a distinctly heterosexual female gaze – so it makes sense that it would be popular among young women who don’t want to read about shopping or whatever it is teen “chick lit” is about. I actually have no idea. I’m generalizing, and I’m sure there is a lot of great literature out there that I haven’t read yet, but I have always gravitated toward the more traditionally “geeky” stuff. While I do avoid the more blatantly misogynist examples (like Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men), many of my favourite “geeky” passions are about men. However, there are prominent creators out there, Joss Whedon most famously of all, who are trying to write interesting, relevant stories about strong women. Now, Joss’ work is not without flaws certainly (River Tam is one of the most pathetic attempts at a “strong woman” I have ever witnessed), but Buffy Summers, Fred Burkle, Zoe Washburne, and recently his version of Marvel’s Black Widow are shining examples of women whose stories can appeal to men and women alike. Natasha Romanoff was so well received in her Avengers role that a prequel movie is allegedly in the works. Whedon alum Felicia Day is gaining fame with her webseries The Guild, and showing that a cool, funny girl can be as huge a geek as your average fat, cheesy-covered weirdo living in his mother’s basement, and women are slowly becoming more prominent in other areas of geekery – except maybe DC Comics.

If you didn’t hear about this, DC Comics has been meeting a lot of backlash since only a measly 3% of their staff are women, and then again for some horribly sexist representations of prominent characters Catwoman and Starfire. Their response to this backlash was basically to tell fans that the issues are not important. Nice one, DC. Not to say that other comics are pristine, but Marvel is trying – Ms Marvel, one of their most popular women, is getting her own series this summer, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. That said, this will be their only female-helmed series after they cancelled X-23, their only comic left with a woman protagonist. EDIT: I’m oblivious to DC, but kind reader Kelly has reminded me that their current Batwoman (or Batgirl?) series by Gail Simone is excellent, and portrays the leading lady in a very favourable light. I’ve also heard excellent things about their Wonder Woman series, in the interest of being fair to the company.

Even from the links I’ve provided here, it’s obvious that I am not the first person to notice this issue. But how couldn’t you notice, when women are subjected to this kind of crap? (Edited in later, but this example was too golden not to include). Award-winning comic artist Tony Harris went on a rant against women cosplayers (dressing in costumes to attend conventions), claiming that we only cosplay for male attention while shunning it in the real world, that we “aren’t hot,” and that worst of all, we don’t actually read comics. It’s a really fun read if you enjoy rage-induced aneurysms. Thankfully, many people of all genders in the community and in the industry explained to Harris exactly why he was wrong, but he hasn’t backed down from his original statements, and many men expressed agreement on the original post. Women get the short end of the stick in all forms of media, let’s get real here, but I don’t find such overt hostility in most other areas.

Boys, having some female superheroes aren’t taking away from the male ones. I like a lot of stories the way they are, but sometimes I want to see ME – or at least someone I can aspire to be – reflected back to me in the stories I love so much. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

EDIT: Here’s a really excellent article from The Mary Sue about “Fake Geek Girls” Check it out.

Upon Leaving the Castle

Hi everyone! Sorry I’ve been MIA for so long, I’ve been travelling, but I’ve also had school work, and balancing the two meant little time for blogging. As I write this, I am sitting on an airplane getting ready to take off from Heathrow Airport. This morning I watched some tearful goodbyes, mainly from the first year students, who have been here since September. It felt like the last day of camp, which is a good description of how I’ve felt about leaving for the past few weeks.

But before I talk about that, let me briefly list off a few high lights of my time since I last posted properly. We spent a day in Bruges (which is just as bizarre as In Bruges makes it out to be), a night in Brussels, where I tried some funky Belgian beer and went to a comic art museum,  a few days in Paris, then an afternoon in gorgeous Dieppe. In Paris I ate baguette and cheese on the Seine across from Notre Dame, saw the Eiffel Tower lit up, visited a few art museums, tried some amazing cheese fondue, saw a Phantogram concert, and did a lot of walking around. I nearly burst into tears in front of Oscars Wilde’s grave, seeing some of the messages that fans had left for him. Since the 90’s, people have been leaving lipsticked kisses on Wilde’s tomb stone, and cleaning them off has led to corrosion and damage, so the city erected a glass barrier around it. Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t hindered people, who continue to kiss and leave messages on the glass, as well as shove flowers (and even a Body Shop gift certificate) underneath. I love literature, and I love Wilde’s work and his public history, so it was emotional for me to see how his work has touched so many people’s lives.

I’ve done a bunch of other assorted fun things, like hiking in Snowdonia national park in Wales (spending St Patrick’s Day in nearby Conwy) and seeing Shakespeare’s house at Stratford-Upon-Avon. I also went into London on my own one day and met up with another friend I’d made online. Michelle and I went back to London a few weeks ago for another Stories Before Bedtime, this time featuring Billy Boyd reading Irvine Welsh’s “Granton Star Cause”, Andrew Scott reading from Martin Amis’ The Rachel Papers, and a newcomer named James Basden reading a few of his own stories. The audience for this show was much younger, consisting mainly of 15-16 year old girls, probably fans of BBC’s Sherlock, on which Scott played a major role. The performances were all excellent, and while this show felt less organized, they did make better use of lighting and sound effects. I couldn’t help but laugh whenever the younger audience reacted with disgust at mentions of sex or preparation for it. Overall, I had a great night, although we decided not to stay afterward, since we were both exhausted after a full day of walking.
After all of that and much more, it’s finally time to head home. I’ll miss the castle, the students and professors there, the proximity to London, and the surrounding British countryside; but I am ready to go home. I miss my dog. I’ve got an exam on Tuesday (stupid correspondence course) but after that, I have a week to get ready for my summer job at a bank working on social media. It should be a really excellent summer.
Checking out Cafe Delirium in Brussels with Michelle, Jia, Diana, and Brenna
Still, I wanted to give England a proper send off, so Michelle (my perpetual travel partner) and I headed back to London for one final night. On a professor’s recommendation, we visited both Freud’s and Keats’ London homes, which are a 15 minute walk away from each other. The Freud museum gave a good impression of what his house looked like when he lived there, as they have kept all of his furniture. The best example of this was his original couch, still in its place in his study. I didn’t realize that he was an obsessive collector of artifacts, and his house was filled with bowls and plates and statuettes from ancient civilizations, mainly Greece and Egypt. The audio tour told much of his work and legacy, as well as his personal life; one room featured home movies narrated by Anna Freud, Sigmund’s daughter. Some rooms also featured an exhibition by Louise Bourgeois,an artist who used Freudian dream imagery in much of her work. Her art was sort eerie, statues set up in cages, most with very strong sexual content. The art lent a layer of almost surrealism, as it was set up next to Freud’s antique furniture. Keats’ house was quite a different experience. The house itself looks very different than it must have in his day, as little was preserved after Keats’ death, so most of the information came from a tour guide, who happened to be starting a tour just as we arrived. She was wonderful, going room to room and sharing Keats’ larger life story, as well as various anecdotes which can be gleaned from the detailed letters Keats sent to his friends and family. Keats died very young of tuberculosis, which he caught from his brother, leaving behind a fiancée with whom he was completely enamoured, and despite being considered today one of the great poets, he never found much praise in his day. I love his poetry, especially his Odes, and I yet again had to hold back tears when we discussed his final days. The tour was in many ways a re-cap of forgotten information I’d learned last year, but I learned a lot of finer details which made him seem even more like a real person than a abstract historical figure. For instance, he once lodged with a woman who had a picture of Shakespeare in her hallway, and because he was lonely away from his friends and family, Keats asked her if he could take the photo of his favourite writer into his room. She allowed him to take it back to London with him, and he never went anywhere without it afterward.
Gorgeous Snowdonia National Park in Wales
Come to think of it, I’ve seen a lot of memorials for my favourite writers on this trip. I missed Hugo’s grave in the Pantheon in Paris, but I did my own memorial for him on my Les Miserables walk. I’ve really enjoyed what I have seen though, from Wilde’s grave to Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, to their pictures in the National Portrait Gallery, where, it must said, I nearly cried as well. The whole three months could be easily summed up by the places I had literary feelings. It could also summarized by trips with Michelle to the Criterion Theatre. Both Stories Before Bedtime were performed there, and our final trip, we decided to see The 39 Steps there as well. The show was hilarious, with a cast of 4, meta-humour, and Hitchcock references. The theatre is lovely too, I wrote a bit about it after my first trip there.
Archaic Rue des Gravilliers in Paris
A day at Freud’s and Keats’ houses could only be followed by some equally unique attraction, and an ad on the Tube suggested we visit a free exhibition about brains at the Wellcome Trust. I know, I’d never heard of it either. It turned out to be a museum for the “incurably curious,” where they “combine science, art, and culture” into one of the strangest museums I have ever visited. The exhibition featured archaic instruments for studying and measuring brains, old operating tools, casts of skulls (as well as real ones), information about experiments done in the past and today, art about or by and photos of people who have had drastic brain surgeries – and half of Charles Babbage’s brain in a jar. Altogether it formed a bizarre experience, and I couldn’t stop thinking about horror movies the whole time. I enjoyed it a lot. After that and some lunch, Michelle met up with her family for further travel, and I headed back to the Castle to pack.
On the train home, the sky couldn’t seem to decide whether it wanted to be sunny or stormy. The dark storm clouds against sunny blue skies seemed an odd objective correlative to my own feelings toward leaving. I am excited to be going home, and this is looking like a great summer. That said, I will miss living in England. I would love to move to London one day, albeit temporarily. I’m grateful for my 3 months, and I know that I have had a number of experiences I will never forget.
The sun sets on the castle grounds for the last time – at least for me.

My Nerdy Weekend Extravaganza!

Sorry again that I was so late with my post about Morocco, but to make up for my tardiness, you can have two posts in one day! This weekend was equally, if not more exciting than the last. I did a lot, and I almost feel like I should be making two separate posts, but I think there was some continuity to the weekend, in that I spent most of my time immersed in fandom despite being away from the Internet. Confused so far? Me too. I’ll just start at the beginning.

This weekend was a long time coming, and much planning went into it. My friend Michelle and I have been calling it our romantic weekend getaway, because we’re inseparable at school, and we decided to go and see an “anti-Valentines” show on the most “coupley” weekend of the year, then stay together in a private room. The show was part of a series at London’s Criterion Theatre called Stories Before Bedtime, featuring actors reading short stories at 10:30 at night. My reasons for being there: Tom Hiddleston reading Tennessee Williams’ “The Kingdom of Earth” and Russell Tovey reading Ovid’s “The Art of Love.” For all two of you who aren’t yet aware, I’m nursing an embarrassingly large celebrity crush on Hiddleston, which started when I saw him play Loki in Thor. Tovey played George on one of my very favourite shows, BBC’s Being Human (which sadly just jumped the shark, but that’s a post for another time). Both men are immensely talented, so needless to say, this was a big deal for me. We all know how I get with my obsessions.

Anyway, we headed into London on Friday morning, but due to train delays only arrived in the afternoon. After burritos for lunch, we checked in at our very classy hostel in Soho – the gay area of London, of course. We went first to pick up our tickets (which had been hastily purchased by phone in Cambridge weeks before), and asked as nonchalantly as possible where we could find the stage door. The guy at the box office was really calm about telling us, and didn’t seem to think that we were creepy, obsessive fangirls for asking – although he wouldn’t have been too far off the mark if he had. Afterward, we walked around London, got some shopping done, as well as some photos of Westminster Abbey and the surrounding area at sunset. We decided to dress up for the occasion, so we got ready, and headed out for dinner. We found this really funky little vegetarian restaurant off Regent Street, and after dinner walked down to the theatre.

Our excitement is written on our faces here

My first impression of the theatre was that it is gorgeous. Old architecture, gold embossing, and tiled walls make for a very Victorian atmosphere. My second impression was of the crowd: “oh my god, we’re all from Tumblr.” The audience was probably 85% female, and while I hate to stereotype, it was simple to pick out the bloggers, especially since they made up most of the population. I suppose I should explain that Mr. Hiddleston has an enormous and very passionate following on Tumblr – so passionate that he received most of the questions in the Avengers panel at the New York Comic Con, surprising the panel and most of the reviewing journalists at the event.

Russell Tovey signing for someone else… and also my face.

We were seated in practically the centre of the third row. The seats went right up to the stage (there was no orchestra pit), so we were maybe 10 feet from the stage. The stage was dressed more than I expected, with two chairs front and centre, a writing desk to my right behind them, and a bed to the left. I noticed that the young woman next to me was also alone, and learned that like most of us, she was there for Hiddleston. Shortly after introducing ourselves, the lights dimmed and without any introduction or fanfare, Tovey and his co-star from Him & Her, Sarah Solemani came onto the stage, and read the introduction from Ovid. They read three times throughout the show, and were absolutely hilarious. I knew Russell was funny, but Solemani probably got the most laughs of anyone in the show. Some of her jokes were apparently spontaneous, like when she paused after saying that “women should come late.” The mostly-female audience exploded into laughter, and it took Russell a moment to see why – then he too started giggling. She also demonstrated women’s “purring” during sex with a “meow.” But Russell was great too, even when he flubbed a line and confessed “I have no idea what I’m saying.” They moved around the building (doing one section from two boxes), and played off each other very well, so they kept the show lively. They spoke on the subjects of obtaining a partner, keeping said partner, and of course, sexual positions. It was hilarious and I was hugely impressed.

While we’re on the subject, here’s me with Russell

After the introductory bit to Ovid, Niamh Cusack read a sort of modern re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast. It was the story we all know, only with references to telephones and cars. It was pleasant, and more like what I was expecting – she read us a story. I felt a bit bad for her though, since she was soft spoken and not adequately mic’d, so you could hear the audience shifting in their seats, as well as the subway going by beneath the theatre while she spoke. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that she was sitting behind the desk, which makes it difficult to connect to the audience. That said, she did read well, and did it by candle light, which was terribly atmospheric. The story was more something I’d like to be read before bed, so she actually conformed to expectations.

After another Ovid interlude, the lights went down and “I am a Man of Constant Sorrow” from O Brother, Where Art Thou? came on. Excited whispers went through the crowd as Hiddleston walked out in what I could immediately tell was a tank top and coveralls, the arms of which were tied around his waist. The lights came up, and happily excited gasps erupted when we could see that he was covered in dirt. He opened his mouth and rather than his usual gentle, posh British voice came a surprisingly accurate Tennessee accent. This story was in the first person (so essentially a monologue) about an uneducated man who falls for his dying brother’s “loose” wife. Given the erotic subject matter, I thought I kept my composure with remarkable tact, although Michelle insists that I was squirming. I was better off than the woman hyperventilating behind me, and the one falling over in front, at least. Aside from my fangirling, he was excellent. He read with his usual expressiveness, and was completely in character the entire time, changing his voice and body language the few times he spoke as different characters. Telling a story as the woman, his body language was absolutely hilarious, and he got a few unexpected laughs. He is an immensely talented actor, and he was on in full form. I had a great time, and was completely absorbed in the story.

This is the best picture I could get of Tom – and it isn’t zoomed in at all

After a group bow, Michelle and I headed to the stage door along with our new friend – and a huge crowd of girls already waiting there (all of the people I had picked out earlier, I have to say). Russell came out fairly quickly, and I managed to get a photo with him. Michelle, whose love for him is evidently stronger than mine, was way less cool about it than I was, despite all of our friends expecting the opposite. She asked him to sign an advertisement for the event without his name or picture on it (which confused him hilariously), and then got a photo wherein her eyes are closed. She calmed down after that spaz attack, which was good, because we had to wait around for about 40 minutes. In the crowd, we befriended another fan, who happens to go to school with a friend of mine from Tumblr, and who was also on exchange in England. It’s a small world.

To give you an idea of the crowd

When Hiddleston did finally come out, it was obvious that he was exhausted and just wanted to go home. Even so, he did sign a few things with a smile, and the crowd was remarkably quiet. I felt too guilty to ask him for anything, so I just flashed a camera light at him a few times. He got in a car and left, so Michelle and I walked home, our new friend Natalie helping make sure we got there. We tried to go to bed, but in our excitement just talked about the night for about an hour before we could even think about sleeping.

Wow, this post is already stupidly long, isn’t it? Well, it’s only halfway done! The next day, Michelle and I caught a train to Brighton, where she met up with our classmates who had a field trip there, and I finally met some of my “Buffy Friends,” about who I’ve spoken before – Janet, Kelly, and Shaun. They were all just the best people, and exactly how I imagined they would be. I mean, I’d being speaking to them since 2007, so obviously I knew what they were like, but it’s different when you can attach an actual voice and body to a person. We met up in the mall, where I was greeted by a sign written in yellow crayon, proclaiming the event “Allison and Wee Frosty’s 1st International Buffy Convention.” (Janet had assumed correctly that I would be bring my Loki bobblehead, who I’ve named Wee Frosty, and has been the subject of many photos of my trip that I’ve been posting daily on my Tumblr.) Everyone signed the poster afterward, like a yearbook, and I put it up in my bedroom when I got home. They took me to Harry Ramsden’s, apparently a popular fish and chips joint in the UK. After lunch, we went back to Kelly’s hotel (an adorable B&B), and played an old Buffy boardgame, which was ridiculously complicated, but fun. There’s not so much to tell that makes a good story to anyone else, but we were all able to catch up with each other in person, which was new and exciting.

After the board game, out came the presents. I still feel horrible that I brought exactly nothing to the event, but they insisted that since I was the visitor to the UK that I was the subject of the party, so they all brought incredibly thoughtful gifts. Janet made this unbelievable cake, decorated with blood and the logo for Joss Whedon’s production company, Mutant Enemy. She also made a wooden stake out of chocolate icing, and put a heart shaped hole (filled with icing) inside the cake – so it was a stake through the heart! So clever! Kelly brought a bunch of things, like perfume flavoured of orange blossom (my general moniker online), a book of Buffy quotes, and some lovely British tea (which I drink as I write this). Shaun added to my Loki obsession with some toys, and (I still can’t believe this) gave me his copy of the first Buffy comic, along with a yellow crayon. I barely kept myself from crying after all of this. The internet can really bring people together, and here is proof.

Unfortunately, we only had time to watch Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, since Shaun hadn’t yet seen the whole thing (*gasp*) and then depart. Janet graciously took all of us to our destinations for the night, including bringing me back to the castle. It was so hard saying good bye to everyone after so little time, but I really hope to see everyone again one day, even if not together. Another member of our little group was unfortunately sick, and unable to attend, so I hope too to meet you one day too, Laura!

I wish the second part of this entry could have been longer, as it was just as amazing and special, but it’s so hard to explain lunch with friends, you know? For those who haven’t had a friendship like this, the explanation is literally impossible to explain. I mean, we’d known intimate details of each other’s lives for years, but occupying the same physical space seemed to solidify something about our relationship. I’ll miss all of you terribly, even though we will continue to speak to each other online, the way we always have.

Look at my prezzies!

This weekend was just incredible. I’m sorry this post had become so long, but I need to write all of it down so I don’t forget anything.

Fandom is the best.

Morocco: An Over-reliance on the Kindness of Strangers.

So I’ve been here for awhile, and I’ve done a lot, much of which has been school. I’ve been into London a few times (in fact I’m headed back tomorrow, but you’ll hear about that next week), I’ve seen Cambridge and Rugby and some adorable British towns, but the most exciting weekend trip I’ve taken so far was to Morocco.

Two friends, Brenna and Diana, organized the whole thing, and flew to Merrakech in the hours between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Ji, Jesse, and I flew out to meet them on Friday afternoon. Our plan was to meet them in a fairly prominent location, Jemaa El Fna square, and walk together to the hostel. However, once we got there, we couldn’t find our friends, none of our cell phones were working, and we had no idea where the hostel was. We decided to wander the square and have some dinner, but eventually anxiety began to set in. Payphones weren’t working, none of the locals had heard of our hostel, and eventually the shops began to close. Luckily, a man in a shop let us use the wifi on his iPhone, so we found directions to the hostel from the square, and his friend brought us to a notable landmark. We apprehensively started down the indicated alleyway, when another man found us and showed us where our hostel was. We ran in, found Brenna and Diana, and much hugging happened. We all went out and had excellent late night mint tea, then headed to bed.

Ji, Jesse, Brenna, and Diana enjoy some mint tea and the view of Jemaa El Fna

We were up early the next morning for the tour, but realized that we hadn’t quite taken out enough cash – on top of that, the closest cash machine was broken, and no one spoke much English, so we were a bit short, and knew we’d have to worry about it later. Thankfully they still let us do the tour, despite being 13 Euro short, and let us pay later. We took a bus tour into the mountains, saw a gorgeous Kasbah (where parts of Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia, among other movies, were filmed), snowy mountains, expansive desert, and much local colour. The tour bus had a soundtrack consisting solely of Moroccan music (which frequently sounded very traditional), Bryan Adams, and Phil Colins. It was an interesting mix. We took many photos, and I’ll just throw some onto the end here, because I’m feeling lazy.

Snowy mountains! I almost felt at home!

The high light of the trip though, was that night. We were dropped off in front of some camels, which we rode for about an hour in the moonlight. In theory, this should have been lovely, and it was, with the exception of some fears regarding my camel. He was much rougher than the others, so I was in pain in some already tender areas by the end of the trip. To make matters worse, he seemed to be dying. I know nothing about normal camel behaviour, but periodically, mine would make a groaning sound, then throw back his head, and he would make an awful gurgling sound in his throat while his tongue lolled out of his mouth. I thought he was in the death throes, and my friends would not stop teasing me for killing my camel, especially since he was the only one the guides took away when they dropped us off at our Berber tents. Thankfully, Bubbles (as I aptly named him) was reporting for duty the next morning, but I rode a much calmer camel, so my morning ride was much more pleasant.

This was basically me the whole time I rode Bubbles. Actually, I was much like Bilbo for the whole trip – curious and excited, but always a bit nervous.

The night in the Berber tents was phenomenal. We were immediately given dinner, with a Moroccan soup, chicken Tagine, and orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon. After dinner, both tour groups (all in all around 20 people) crowded around a fire and listened to some African drumming. Once the group was down to about 10 of us, they taught us the refrains of a few songs, and even a few drum beats. We then piled into our tents, and slept in about 5 layers of clothes under 3 blankets each. The 5 of us were all in one tent, and stayed up talking for a bit because Jesse insisted that we tell her stories before she went to sleep. I slept quite well, considering, although I had a bit of a fright when I woke up to the sound of wild dogs barking.

Sunrise in the Zagora desert

The next day started off very well, with the aforementioned camel ride at sunrise. However, we realized around 12:30 that there was no way we were going to get back to Merrakech in time for our flight. We were able to communicate this fact to our bus driver, who managed to arrange to have us take a taxi back – a 4+ hours ride. With 5 people in a 4-seater car with doors that didn’t lock. With no seat belts. With a driver who didn’t speak a word of English. That was probably the most memorable part of the trip. I was one of 4 people jammed in the back seat, and it was a little cramped, but the ride was just gorgeous. We had to get back through the mountain, and we stopped for a bit in this tiny completely non-tourist village. The trip was dirt cheap, considering, and we got to the airport in good time for our 8 pm flight… Only to learn that it had been delayed because of snow. None of us had any substantial amount of money left, so we just got what food we could, and tried to get some work done – or in my case, some sleep.

The Death Cab, as we affectionately called it afterward

Eventually we did get a plane, and the taxi picked us up when we finally got in around 5:00 am. I got to bed at 6:00 am, and was exhausted the next day, but overall it was a pretty incredible experience. I’m glad we did the tour, because it let us see a lot of stuff we wouldn’t have otherwise, and I got to ride a camel to sleep in the Zagora desert. However, I would never go with that tour company again (don’t use I Go Morocco, is what I’m saying), and I think the sketchy cab ride was probably what all of us will most remember in 20 years. We all agreed that the other stuff had been amazing, but you do tend to better remember your more authentic experiences, and anything that happens because of desperation like that is bound to be much more memorable than what a tour sets up for you.

Look at your man. Now back at me. I’m on a camel.

So I just got to the Bader International Study Centre in England

it has a moat and everything!

And it has been a hectic few days, to say the least. Our flight out of Toronto was delayed by about 4 hours in total, and by the time we finally got to the Castle, everyone was just so exhausted and jetlagged and confused that I don’t remember the first day very vividly. The people were cool, the Castle was amazing (it was actually sunny the first day and I’m kicking myself for not getting any photos). We got a tour of the Castle properly on the second day (and I still have trouble finding my way around – the place is a labyrinth). There are a few classrooms, mostly in one hall, a “ballroom,” a lovely courtyard in the centre (the walls around which still has the original brickwork – the outer walls were replaced at one point), a little library, a dining hall, a pub, and a number of other rooms. It also has a dungeon, a secret passageways, two ghosts, and this creepy, tiny, circular whitewash room at the top of one of the turrets with nothing in it but a bunch of flies, some bird skeletons – and a chair. They think it was probably once meant to hold pigeons. I’m going to get a photo of it at some point, it’s super creepy.

the courtyard in the middle of the castle – it’s kind of a square

On the first day a few of us ventured onto the grounds (which are, in full, about 650 acres, 450 of which are leased as farmland). We met a groundskeeper who told us a lot about the grounds, the various notable locations around the “park” as he called it – some trees that are hundreds of years old, the peacocks (that he hates), the best views of the countryside, and other stuff like that. We’re hoping to get to know the groundspeople, and help maintain the grounds, because apparently they’ll invite you to tea, or let you help catch the peacocks and stuff, which would be awesome.

The people at the Castle are pretty awesome too. I went in not really knowing anyone (I knew one person, but not well), but most people are kind of in that boat. I like being in residence this time, especially since I’m one of I think 7 girls on the floor with like 9 or 10 guys we have in the upper years. It’s so different from the all girls’ experience I had in first year. There’s more going on, for one thing. But even besides that, everyone is so friendly, and while people do seem to have their closer friends, so to speak, you can pretty confidently sit next to anyone at lunch and have a conversation. Even the first years are mostly pretty cool, walking back to res after breakfast, everyone I walked past said good morning and smiled back at me, not at all like in Kingston. I guess even though Queen’s is so tiny, we’re packed even tighter here – not to mention how many fewer there are of us. Even most of the profs live in our residence, in the Castle itself, or in cottages on the grounds. So we’ll see them in the pub and stuff. My roomie is pretty cool, we haven’t really done anything outside of our room, but she’s really nice, so we should get along just fine 🙂

my room is already a mess

If we get stir crazy, there are a few towns nearby, so people will taxi into Eastborne to go to the clubs there, and if you’re feeling adventurous you may even go to Brighton, which is about 40 minutes away. We’ll be in London a lot for field studies (mandatory field trips) as well, so I’m hoping to do some touristy stuff by myself while I’m there. There’s going to be an organized hiking trip I’d like to go on at some point, I’ve signed up for info on a kickboxing class, and am thinking about joining intramural dodgeball as well as a choir. Some friends are even planning a trip for a bunch of us to go to Morocco for two days, which is kind of incredible. I can’t wait to start traveling!

Not much to report on classes as yet, since I’ve only had two. The Shakespeare class seems good, although I’m re-reading a few plays that I just studied, blergh. We’re reading Macbeth first, though, which is awesome, because I love it. Art History is… a bit intimidating, but I guess I’m willing to try it.

Anyway, I think that’s all to report for now. I’m having a great time, I miss my friends and family in Canada, and I hope you all have happy, healthy, safe months without me.

A Post About Breaking and Repairing My Own Dreams

(I think this post wins for cheesiest post title. I know it’s stupid, but I can’t think of anything better right now, so deal with it).

For Darnoc, Bringer of Darkness

A friend of mine is having a bit of a tough time, so I thought I’d write about a time when I was feeling like he is now. Be prepared for a story that starts out pretty braggy, and getssort of self-pitying in the middle. Don’t say I didn’t warn y’alls.

From the time I could speak, my favourite game was what my mother calls “I’ll be Jasmine, you be Genie.” Basically, rather than play with dolls and making them act out stories, I would make my parents or babysitter or whoever else would humour me act out scenes from my favourite movies. I sang “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid at my school’s talent show in grade 1. Basically, I loved performing from a very young age.

When I was 7, I was in my first musical, How to Eat Like a Child. I adored it, and was in a show every year for the next 3 years, switched to choirs instead, but did a few more musicals in later years. I hate to brag here, but to get you properly into my mindframe for the latter part of this story, I should point out that I usually had lead roles, and if I didn’t, it was because I was the youngest in a group of people who were all at least a few years older than I was. I got used to feeling special, and had never experienced rejection.

Now here’s the thing: I can sing pretty well, I’m a mediocre (but serviceable, sometimes) actor, but I can’t dance to save my life. How did I get into so many shows you ask? Well, when I was a kid, skill in dancing wasn’t as necessary, and in later years, I could usually squeeze in for my singing, or play roles where dancing was less prominent. I had been encouraged to take lessons in singing/acting/dancing, but couldn’t really see the point. I hated dancing, and I could still get into shows without it, so why would I pay to embarrass myself? Especially since it got harder to find super beginner classes as I got older. And, I admit, I thought I was pretty good on my own, and that I was learning all I needed to from my choirs about singing. After I sang in that talent show, my grade 1 teacher told me I should get lessons, and I assured her that I was good enough without them. I guess I never quite lost that cocky 7 year old self.

So as time went on, I liked doing a lot of things, but my passion lay with musical theatre. When it came time to start applying for university, I decided that nothing could really make me happy the way that theatre could, so with my parents’ support, I decided to go for it. I applied to a few theatre schools in Canada, as well as the musical theatre program at NYU. I was pretty sure that I could “at least” get into Ryerson, if I couldn’t get into the school in New York, which is where my heart was set. I took the SAT (and did pretty well on the reading/writing, not so much on the math), I sought professional assistance to choose material and prepare for my auditions. In February, my Dad and I went to New York and I auditioned for one of the entomologists from Silence of the Lambs. I felt pretty good about it, and hell, even if I didn’t get it, I did an audition in New York, which is pretty cool on its own. Inside though, no matter how many times I told myself that, I desperately wanted “to go to there.” I loved the program, the school, the location, just… everything. So then I just had to wait.

A few weeks after that audition, I went to Ryerson in Toronto, where they had group auditions for the theatre program. Seeing the sorts of people I was up against, I realized that I had nothing on them. It was the first cold, hard splash of reality, especially after I’d flubbed one of my pieces out of nervousness. I went home, put on a sad episode of Buffy and then cried for 45 minutes straight. I was upset that I wasn’t hot shit like I thought I was, but the fact that I did it to myself just made it so much worse. I had so many opportunities to train, to learn more, but I never did because of my own stupid cockiness and pride. Because of over confidence in my own abilities, I wouldn’t be able to do what I loved. So I was embarrassed and frustrated and angry, and couldn’t envision what the future held. I had no idea what I would do.

Needless to say, I didn’t get into any of the theatre schools I wanted. Luckily I had applied to some schools that don’t require auditions, including my mother’s Alma Mater, which is where I ended up. I applied for Drama, I think, but quickly re-thought that when I got Bs in first year drama class. I couldn’t even minor in drama as a result. On top of that, I had some relapses into self-pity when I couldn’t get into musicals at school. I had really though I had a chance at those too, but again, I just didn’t quite measure up. I now have friends in the drama program who are doing shows all the time, and I’d be lying if I said that no small part of me twinges with jealousy when info about their shows pops up in my Facebook NewsFeed from time to time. It’s not crippling self-pitying jealousy, but a sort of wistful sigh will escape my lips if I’m feeling morose.

Thankfully, my story has a happy ending. I’m doing so much more writing than I ever have before, and I’m loving it. I’m majoring in English, and just got a scholarship for third year English students, so I guess I’m doing pretty well. I’m seriously considering becoming an entertainment critic, which would put me only a degree or two of separation away from the actors doing what I always wanted to do. I’m still singing with a choir, so my life isn’t devoid of performance. I’m really happy with the way things turned out and I really don’t see this as “giving up on my dreams,” of which I was accused by one or two theatre types when I decided to ditch theatre for books. My brother is now the age I was when I was trying to do theatre, and part of him still longs to be a rockstar. I really hope that he can take his own path and find something that will make him happy too. And I wish that two years ago I could have known I’d end up here. I’ve been coasting along for years, but I hope that now that I’ve sorted out what I want to do (or come close), that I can take some control and steer the ship more.

I thought for a while that I’d really screwed myself over there, and part of me will always regret not doing more to further my potential theatrical career. But now I think I’m working to something different and better for me, and it feels awesome.

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2011!

Yesterday I went to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival and it was awesome.

I bought things!

For those of you who are unfamiliar, TCAF is a festival celebrating the art of creating comics. Artists and fans came from all over the world to attend and exhibit. It was my first real “convention,” unless you count Can’t Stop the Serenity, an annual screening of Joss Whedon’s Serenity with proceeds going to Equality Now, a women’s charity. However, I’m not sure this even qualifies as a convention by the traditional or stereotypical concept of what that entails. For starters, it was completely free, and happened at the Toronto Reference Library. There were lines for some of the bigger names, but none of the hours long lines for a quick signature or picture that you see at huge events like Comic Con. It was all very casual and small, comparatively speaking – but it’s hard to call an attendance of more than 12 500 people a small event.

Chris Hastings’ signature on his “Night Powers”

Now I’m not the hugest reader of comics, but I really love the few I do follow – and they’re all webcomics. I lucked out, and the creators of all of my favourites attended the Festival. Specifically, I was excited to meet the creators of The Adventures of Dr McNinja, Nedroid Comics, and Hark! A Vagrant. I went with my friends Malini and Jonny (both of them are also into webcomics, of course they have blogs), and we were trying to explain why exactly we were so excited to meet these Internet celebrities, moreso than we would be to meet most actors. It’s a post for another day, but there’s something about reading a person’s writing that makes you feel so much closer to them than you would watching them act or sing or something. For me, at least. So the whole day was a big, exciting deal.

Hastings again.

The day started around 10:30 for Jonny and me, when we went into the library and scouted out our favourite artists on a map. I had my school back pack with me, and it still had highlighters in it, so I became my mom and highlighted all of the names and tables we wanted to visit. We wandered aimlessly for a while, met a woman Jonny really likes, and made our way over to see Chris Hastings, the creator of Dr McNinja. There was a woman speaking to him when we got there, so we just stood awkwardly behind/beside her while Hastings signed all of her books for her. She struck up a conversation with us, the first of many we had with other fans throughout the day. I spent the whole time trying to make my hands stop shaking out of nervous excitement – I have physical responses to emotions, it’s a frequent occurrence. When I finally got to talk to him, I just started an awkward verbal assault, but I assume he’s pretty used to that sort of thing. I think I made some comment about how his comics had gotten me through every period of procrastination I’d had in the year (which is more or less true), but that my marks had come out fine anyway… HAhhahahhhaahahAHhaha? When I was explaining the spelling of my name, I got even more awkward, saying something to the effect of “Allison. Two l’s, one s. and an i. All is on.” He said he liked that last one, so if you look closely at the signature with the zombie picture, he seems to have signed it to “All is on.” Or so I’m telling myself. Either way, he was really nice the whole time, despite my awkwardness, and it was really exciting.

Just before we had seen Chris Hastings, Malini had texted me, saying she was on her way, so we wandered a bit more. I knew that she would eat my face if I went to talk to Nedroid (whose real name is Anthony Clark, but I’ll keep calling him Nedroid) without her, but I still wanted to see him, like a good stalker. I did get a visual on him, and in excitement sent her this incomprehensible text, brought to you by autocorrect:

Nedroid is here and I can seeeeee Bioko Mmmmm

Self portrait by Nedroid

Followed by a clarifying “seeeeeee hiiiiiiiiiiim.” I am not creepy at all. Once Malini got there, we decided to go and get lunch first, since she was tired from dance, and I needed to come down from my excited-high a little bit, so we wandered around Yorkville for a while, and passed the weed march, so that was an experience. When we went back, we beelined straight for Nedroid’s table. Now, I need to explain our weird excitement about him. His comics, linked above, are ridiculously cute, but we also follow his Tumblr, Twitter, and especially his thread on the Pointless Waste of Time forums. He frequently draws pictures of himself as an adorable, round, bespectacled little guy, and makes constant self deprecating jokes. On top of that, he’ll sometimes draw pictures in response to certain comments or jokes. While he won’t draw every single little thing people ask him for (he’s a person who has other, better things to do with his time), he will draw for special occasions, like a little girl’s birthday or a thread where people invent and draw Pokemon (keep reading that thread until you’ve seen every evolution of Smooth Willis). Because of all of this, we just imagined him as the sweetest, cuddliest, most huggable guy in the universe, and we wanted to see if he lived up to this image in our minds.

Anthony Clark’s signature and a tiny Beartato

He totally did. He was incredibly friendly, and engaged in discussion with us, which is difficult. Malini and I have similar responses to awkwardness/excitement, and we also have a tendency to finish each other’s thoughts, so poor Nedroid had to listen to this constant stream of talking from us, probably like twins in a movie. But he handled it good naturedly, and agreed to pose for a picture high fiving us after packaging the prints we bought. I assumed that since he sells through Topatoco that I was to pay them for his prints, so after the picture, we went to one of Malini’s favourite artists, then to the Topatoco cash station to pay. Once I got there, I was told I should have paid him directly, so we had an excuse to go back to his table! But guys, Nedroid is so nice, he let us walk off with his 20 bucks. So we went back, paid him, and asked him to sign the prints, because why not? Malini and I also agreed that the cutest thing he did was blow on his sharpie signature to dry it before placing it back in plastic. I don’t know why it was so cute, but it was. So if you’re wondering, yes, Nedroid is really as adorable and nice as you would expect him to be.

Nedroid, as little as we’d like to believe it, is in fact a mortal. As far as I could tell.

After Nedroid, we met Ryan North and David Malki!, two of the guys behind Machine of Death. I bought Malini the book for Christmas, so she had them both sign it, and one of the story authors happened to be there, so he signed it too. They were really sweet too, doing actual “predictions” (just check out the link if you’re unsure what I’m talking about – this is too long already), and embossing the books as well as signing them. Just generally really sweet guys – and both kind of attractive, I must say. So after that, we all needed an excitement break, so we headed up to the third floor of the library, and sat and chatted in the stacks for a while. In the break, I sent another even less coherent text to another friend who had inquired about the exciting day she knew I was having:

We met nedroid and he is adorable and the dr McNinja and omg autocorrect recognizes McNinja and this is awesome and hooray
The MoD Panel: Malki! and North standing, Diaz, Green,
Hastings, Beaton at the table
We also wanted to wait around, because we wanted to attend one of the last panels of the day, also related to Machine of Death, a not-pictionary they were calling a “draw and guess”. Basically, two teams competed like regular pictionary, but instead of a noun or a verb, they got a means of death. They had two artists on each team (Aaron Diaz and KC Green vs Chris Hastings and Kate Beaton, of Hark! A Vagrant, above) and one audience member. Malini, being the lucky bum she is, played with Hastings and Beaton. The whole thing was just a blast to watch, I’ll explain some of the highlights to the best of my ability: KC Green’s first entry was “dolphin,” so he drew a Dolphin going through a screaming guy’s torso. A few cards later, he got “bear,” and drew the same picture, but with a bear. Poor Chris Hastings kept getting more conceptual ideas, like “revenge,” but could only pass three times – so attempted to illustrate “extensive problems” with a man with a bunch of bills, a man holding a gun at his window, and then a shark. At that point, he realized the point wasn’t getting across and said skip – only to get “unnatural disaster.” He kind of went “…uuunhhh?” and gestured at what he had already drawn. We nerds all got excited when Aaron Diaz got “venom” and drew the Spider-Man villain, then when the audience member on the same team got “claws” and drew Wolverine. Thanks to Malini’s knowledge about how to actually play pictionary (and I’m going to tell myself that my vast history playing the game contributed in some small way to that) was able to bring her team from a huge loss to a one point win. She knew that proper drawing is not involved in good “draw-and-guessing.”

I sadly didn’t get a chance to talk to Kate Beaton, since she was a very busy lady, but I did manage to snag her drawing of “spider bite,” so that’s something, I guess. I’m thinking about volunteering for the event next year, so maybe I’ll get to meet her then.


Death by Spider Bite

Anyway, the whole event was a blast, and if you have any interest in comics and live near Toronto, I recommend checking it out in the future. It’ll be worth it. I’ll leave you with this hilariously fangirly picture of me with Chris Hastings, taken after the panel, since I had neglected to get one earlier. My camera is ridiculous, and it regularly makes my pictures come out weird, but I love the blurriness of the background in this picture, it looks like crazy things are happening behind us.

I feel like we should be in front of an explosion…