I do appreciate it, Sleepy Hollow

So we’ve seen two episodes of the new tv series Sleepy Hollow. I can’t speak as to the quality of the show yet. It’s promising, certainly. She’s a skeptic with some emotional baggage who mediates the guy’s way through the world. He’s the charismatic believer who delivers awkward exposition with complete sincerity.

If that sounds X-Files, well, there are reasons for that.

But that’s neither here nor there. What I wanted to praise the show for is it’s casting.

See, in the “historical” segments, there are a lot of white folks. Mostly supposed to look English, Irish, Welsh, French, and German. (We haven’t gotten around to depictions of Native Americans yet, but I am CERTAIN IN MY BONES that we will.) In the present-day sections of the show, however, we meet character after character played by a person of color.

This is fantastic. I am depressed that it’s so unusual that I NOTICED, but it’s fantastic. It’s as if the casting director looked at each role and asked, “does this character NEED to be white? Because we have a crapton of NEED-to-be-white-folks already. So does this one NEED to be white? No? Great. Latino actor, you have the part.”

As for male or female roles, the show is doing its level best on that, too. In the historical fiction scenes we have the (male) town leaders, American rebel (male) military, (male) British spies, etc. But we also have not one but TWO covens of witches, all female. In the present-day one of the leads is an African-American woman. And the opening credits lists four actors — two men, two women, two white, two black.

As I said, I can’t tell you whether the show is going to be any good or not. But it’s promising, so far.

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Growing pains and generational shifts

1. There’s an ongoing conversation occurring about diversity in science fiction and fantasy, both in the literature and media and in the fannish communities and conventions. Check out the Twitter hashtag #DiversityinSFF for places to join in that conversation.

2. Rose Lemberg in hosting a conversation at her blog, “Disability, Diversity, Dignity”. This is a case where you DO read the comments.

3. DC Comics is having a rough month, and it appears to be entirely self-inflicted. J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman are leaving the Batwoman title due to DC’s refusal to allow the lead to marry.. While this may be due to a desire on editorial’s part for NO major characters to marry, the forbidding of a GAY marriage is pissing people off.

Additionally, DC is running a talent search. In which artists are to draw Harley Quinn sexily committing suicide.

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It’s a generational shift. These are the growing pains. The future is here, and it’s FULL of difference and diversity. And there are consequently a host of

old man yells at cloud

old [for various values of age] men [and women and everyone else] yelling [or conversing without listening or monologing] at clouds [reality].

Dear Fearful Reactionaries Who Desire a Past Status Quo Benefiting Themselves at the Expense of Others:

Suck it the fuck up and get the hell out of the way.

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Inadvertent Orcs

I am nearly finished with the Lars Brownworth podcast, 12 Byzantium Rulers. It’s the companion to his book, Lost to the West. I have reached the fall of Constantinople before the Ottoman Turks. It made me sniffle.

The final emperor of Byzantium, Constantine XI, is the very model of a doomed last stand leader. The night before Mehmet’s final push, Constantine met with every soldier in the besieged city and thanked them, asking for forgiveness. He stayed in the Hagia Sophia half the night. He rode his horse on the battlements until dawn, offering encouragement to his men.

And when the wall crumbled, he threw aside his royal robes, shouted that the city may have fallen but the emperor lived, and jumped down into the fray, sword in hand.

Constantine’s body was never found.

I was listening to this podcast, sniffing at the doom of it all. The images in my head were those of the battle for Helm’s Deep. You know, from the second Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers.

But then I realized. This accidentally cast the Turks as the Orcs. And there’s all manner of problems with that.

In truth, I also thought of Helm’s Deep during the bit about the Crusader siege of Jerusalem. And also during the much earlier siege of Ravenna. Basically, if there’s a historical siege, my mind turns to either Helm’s Deep or The Alamos depending on size. But my culture, here, it betrays me.

I don’t have powerful fictional models of beleaguered people of color under siege by monstrous white folks.

I KNOW that these things have HAPPENED. History is what it is. But all the stories I know, the images that flash in my head when I listen to Constantine’s fall, are of nobly doomed white people falling before a dark-skinned horde.

I need some new images, folks. So, tell me. What are some accounts, in movies, television, or books, of a siege in which the defenders are people of color? Historical or fictional, either is fine.

(Note: I typed this on the WordPress app on my tablet, using my very aggressive auto-correct keyboard program. The format is odd, and I apologize for any strange word choice or grammar.)

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YA lit with characters of color

I throw myself on your mercy, oh internet.

I’m looking for YA books for the late middle school age that feature characters of color. Books such as Five Children and It, or the Chronicles of Narnia, or The Dark is Rising series, or The Secret Garden. Books for kids at a reading level of 9-11 years old. I can find lists of books for junior-high-age kids, particularly in the YA Fantasy communities, but my kids aren’t quiet up for those yet. Where is Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret with a Latino kid? Or The Three Investigators books with African-Americans? These books have to be out there, somewhere, surely?

My Google-fu is not up to this task. Any help or suggestions are welcome. Thank you –

Warhamster and John Kovalic

A few days ago, John Kovalic’s webcomic Dork Tower began stating the perfectly obvious. Many RPGs have no people of color in them. The strip went on to discuss the chicken-and-egg mentality of many geeks who insist that there are no gamers of color. And today’s strip remarks on the insulting practice of asserting that orcs and trolls are the people of color, naturally.

Go read the strips, Kovalic holds the discussion with pointed humor that is worth your time.

My favorite part of this, though, is Kovalic’s blog post from August 31st. In it he addresses the usual complaints from gamers resistant to change or criticism with, again, pointed humor. Here are two of my favorites:

(4) “Do Dark Elves count?” I’m sure they do. They probably read and write, as well. But when painted up, their skin tone appears to be paler than even the other elves in Warhammer. And yes, I do realize you meant this absolutely as a joke. Still: buncha crackers, them Dark Elves…along with those honkey-ass Tomb Kings…

[...]

(6) “You can paint Warhammer humans any way you want to.” Yup, you absolutely can. However, as already stated, in hundreds of photographs of thousands of figs over 500 pages of your core rulebook – the go-to guide of the Warhammer universe – nobody actually DID.

These are the things I notice all the time. For instance, why is is so hard to get dark-complexioned LEGO minifigs? Why is it that every illustration in my newly-purchased Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse is of white people? There’s no reason for these things to be racially segregated. Just as there’s no reason for the Human armies of Warhammer to be all white.

Go read Kovalic’s blog post and comics, he says it better than me. And I’m glad he said it.

Ixtab for sale!

My latest comic, Ixtab, is now available for sale!

As the blurb says:

Ixtab is a reigning rock-queen, making her Mayan cultural heritage the cornerstone of her music and her act. But how does that fit with the family that adopted and raised her? Written by Sigrid Ellis. Art by K.C. Solano. Technical assistance provided by Erik Nelson.

This project came out of the iFanboy Sequentially Ever After Contest. I wrote a ten-page script and asked K.C. Solano if she could do a bit of art for the contest. She did, and our entry won an honorable mention from iFanboy.

But Ixtab means a bit more to me than that. Ixtab is a result of my decision to use my comics writing to make comics more inclusive. To make, in comics, the invisible visible. To write stories about the breadth of humanity, to include people of color and women and children and the elderly, to include people with differing levels of physical and mental ability, to include a variety of genders and sexual orientations. To, simply, put my money where my mouth is and make the world a tiny bit wider, a tiny bit more open, with each thing I write.

Ixtab tells of a girl adopted from Guatemala by a white family. It tells of the importance of names, of myths, of families made and found and lost. It’s also about a goth rock star who is not on drugs, not sleeping around, who has a plan and the passion of being a teenager.

Ixtab is for my daughter, who loves Pink and Britney Spears and Paramore, who loves macabre stories about dismembered heads, who notices that she is often the only dark-skinned child in a group of white people, who loves her flamenco class and likes to sing and play the piano.

Karla Xiomara, this comic is for you. The first of many, I hope.

Linkspam Tuesday

A few things I’ve seen around –

1. Warren Ellis goes on about print. I find Mr. Ellis’s musing on the using of media formats to be fascinating.

“I keep wondering. What can a one-writer magazine look like? What does a magazine do? You associate “magazine” with disposability: but on the other hand, I’m a hoarder, and magazines will live on a nearby shelf or stack for years in my office. Perhaps it’s simply a modular presentation. Perhaps it’s a tract. These things need considering.”

2. Tech Crunch looks at the available Android phones. This is useful to me. Unlike a lot of tech I hear of and think, “what the heck would I want THAT feature for,” I pretty well know what I use in a phone. I need easy texting — this means I need a qwerty keyboard that is study, easy to use, and has good feel-in-my-hand. I need internet access. This means I need a good screen of suitable width. I need a camera and the ability to easily upload video and image to said internet. What I don’t really need is a phone, so much. Or, rather, it can be a phone-as-afterthought. (Witness my monthly bill for August: 23 minutes of phone use, over 4000 text messages, over 500,000 units of data streaming.) It may well be that my next phone is an iPhone, yes, I understand that. But I still mistrust the touch-screen technology. I am hard on my phone. So I read these reviews with interest.

3. Mention of the fashion photography of Nontsikelelo Veleko. South African street fashion. This, this looks amazing to me. It looks compelling. I love how this looks.

4. Today’s Fantastic Fangirls Q&A is What comic book character should win the Nobel Peace Prize? I have to tell you, I had a tough time with this one.

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