Fanfiction Fridays: Rhythm and Robotics by Laiska

Overwatch recently introduced some new characters into its ever-growing world, including a new playable hero. And while the giant centaur-like Omnic tank Orisa is an interesting addition to the fighting lineup, her creator is more interesting to me. Efi Oladele is an eleven-year-old inventor from the highly advanced African city of Numbani. Despite her young age, she’s already received worldwide attention after receiving a prestigious grant for her robotics work. After a mysterious attack at the Numbani International Airport, Efi was inspired to use her grant money to create a new protector for her city from an old OR15 defense bot. Thus, Orisa was born. Orisa is well-intentioned but still has a childlike innocence despite her many fighting capabilities, and Efi, while a genius, is also still an adorable preteen. The bot and her creator are to put it in simple terms, too precious, too pure, so I was excited to stumble upon a fic that captured that, especially since it hasn’t been that long since they were introduced.

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The Road So Far: “Black” Review



Supernatural is back with a bang… well, more of a whimper. Even though I haven’t been Supernatural’s biggest fan in the last few seasons, I still thought the premiere would be exciting, somewhere under all the misogyny and white characters. But the premiere ended up raising more questions than it answered, and not in a plotty way, either. Spoilers after the jump!

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Is Being Ambiguously Black A Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

Knuckles_OVAFor the millionth time, representation matters! But unfortunately, we don’t always get to see ourselves quite so directly in human characters for various negative reasons. Maybe diverse characters were taboo at the time, maybe the author didn’t think a varied cast was necessary, or maybe the characters don’t necessarily have a racial or gender identity. But in this case, many tropes are still used to create characters that people of color can identify with.

This is sort of a personal issue for me: growing up, there weren’t a lot of Black characters outside of family sitcoms and token Black teammates. So to have a Black character who was uniquely their own person would have been a monumental thing. However, even though there weren’t very many Black characters I could identify with, there were still several racially ambiguous characters that I often thought of as Black.

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On Black Characters and the Cost of Diversity

michael-b-jordan-fantastic-four-e1392904953390As you likely already know, Michael B. Jordan will play the Human Torch in the new Fantastic Four film, slated for release on June 19, 2015. This casting decision was met with its fair share of outcry, because Johnny Storm is understood to be a White character, and Michael B. Jordan is clearly African-American. I think it would be easy to write it off as just another instance of fans of a very White and very male industry being a very White and male kind of racist. But there are deeper questions about misunderstanding of the role of diversity in artistic representation. During my tenure at this blog, I’ve written a fair amount about race and representation in the geek world, not just in comics, but also in video games, and theatre. I’ll be honest, I’ve found a dearth of good arguments against increasing the level of racial diversity in geek culture. Once more, with feeling: brown kids deserve more brown superheroes. Most counter-arguments to that notion are vapid, disingenuous, or just plain racist, like “most people won’t be able to relate to that character if his race is changed/is nonwhite”. There’s a comic over at Critical Miss that sums it up perfectly:

People can identify with Fox McCloud and he’s a bipedal fox. But a dude with darker skin is somehow too alien? What is that if not [racism]?

Arguments like this one are easily, and hilariously, dismissed (seriously, go read that comic). But every once in a while, a more seductive argument against diversity of representation pops up. It usually goes something like: “Why is it okay to change the race of [x], who is White, but not okay to change [y], who is a POC, to a White character?” The argument relies on a rather misguided sense of absolute equality, among myriad other problems. It’s probably easier to get traction on such an issue if we phrase it in terms of concrete examples.

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Web Crush Wednesday: Cosplaying While Black

Web Crush WednesdaysCosplaying is a wonderful pastime. You can be creative and really be whoever you want to be: restrictions such as age, gender, and body type don’t have to exist! That said, there are still the occasional fans that insist people shouldn’t cosplay outside of their “demographic”, that is, dressing as characters of another race, gender, or body type. In my personal experience, this has often come up with race, being Black but cosplaying characters that aren’t. Luckily, Cosplaying While Black is one blog that has set out to showcase Black costumers and to make cosplayers of color feel at home. I’d say it works!

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Theatre Thursdays: Location, Location, Location


Gentle readers, I’d like to tell you a story. I work managing a theatre company that primarily produces works of what might be called “multicultural theatre.” What that means is that we basically do plays about people of color and that makes us somehow a special class of theatre, though mainstream theatres aren’t called “white theatres” for staging seasons that are either entirely white, or all-but. I’d be angrier about this, but it does mean that there are specific grants for which we can apply, and non-profits need grants to run. You take the good with the bad, I guess.

The company I work for is currently deciding whether or not to put on a play at another venue, which seems innocuous enough; theatre companies use one another’s spaces all the time. However, this potential working relationship began when the director of that venue — let’s call him Keith — approached me and my boss by saying, “I hate to say this, but there’s no other way to put it: my venue is having real difficulty getting people of color to attend our shows. We’d like your help.” The venue in question is close to my hometown, in an area where about half of one percent of all residents are Black, and the total percentage of people of color doesn’t break four percent. Their season consists of shows like Assassins, Annie, The Wizard of Oz, Legally Blonde: The Musical. All of which (shut up!) are shows I would gleefully fill a seat for. Especially Assassins. I love that show. But that’s a pretty white season.

I just didn’t understand how someone could be confused that in an area with virtually no Black people and very few Latinos, they had difficulty attracting persons of color to their performances. Let’s be charitable and assume that Keith was asking us how his theatre might engage with audiences of color, and I think that the easiest answer is: put on shows that they care about. I mean, for Christ’s sake, if the least white show in your season is Fiddler on the Roof, what do you expect? Continue reading

Fanfiction Fridays: The Death of Narcissa Black

Today I bring you a story of magic. Of witches. Of a great evil and uncertainty. Or, in other words, a Harry Potter fanfic. It’s about as close to a Halloween fic as I could muster and after I just remembered it, I had to share it. It’s my favorite HP fic I’ve read and explores one of my favorite characters, Narcissa Black. In particular, The Death of Narcissa Black as author, Massicot, leads us through the dramatic change from Black to Malfoy.

The most striking thing about this fanfic is that it’s actually comprised of several screens of watercolor paintings, so it’s more of a picture book rather than a several thousand word epic. This lends itself to the story so much, though. The limited color palette of reds and blues creates a feeling of melancholy and hopelessness which very much mirror Narcissa’s descent down a path she knows she can never return from. While some pages are blank, either mostly or entirely, the pacing of this story is great in that no one part is spent too long on. I also like that nothing is too explicitly stated: there is an expectation that you have read the actual books and know the characters.

Beyond this, the story is a simple one. Narcissa and her sisters, Andromeda and Bellatrix, must worry about upholding the Black bloodline as the pot for pureblood intermarriage becomes smaller and smaller. However, Narcissa has no desire to settle down and live domestically; she has dreams of becoming Minister for Magic. Her mother has no problem with this desire—in fact, she supports it as having a Black in a higher level of politics would be beneficial for the family name—but this puts all the pressure on Narcissa’s sisters to continue the family line. As to be expected, things do not go according to plan.

What I loved most about canon Narcissa is her undying love for her family and that her morality is so grey that everyone is able to form their own thoughts about her and her motivations, but, to be honest, there isn’t much to characterize her by. Sure, she makes an unbreakable vow with Snape for Draco and is a total jerk to Hermione and Harry when they run across each other in Diagon Alley, but there’s so much more behind that. So much more to the members of the Black family. Massicot does a fantastic job of not only characterizing and humanizing these easily hated purebloods, but also extrapolating from the scarce knowledge we get in canon and creating a background that not only makes sense, but is also compelling.

I will warn you, however, that some of the images are NSFW, so you may want to think about where you read this. Other than that, I really do recommend taking in this piece of art: not only is it visually striking, but you may form a couple new headcanons from it.