Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

WorldCon: White is Good, Curves are Great, but Seldom a Purple Face to Be Seen

When did it get so late? Arrgh.

White is Good, Curves are Great, but Seldom a Purple Face to Be Seen
Rani Graff, Doselle Young (M), Michelle Kendall, N.K. Jemisin
Despite the ubiquity of aliens in a range of pretty colours, SF and fantasy art still seems to be rather averse to the presentation of humans in their full spectrum. How much of this is the market? How much is it thoughtlessness? How much is it a fear of “exoticizing” and exploitation? How much is just old fashioned discrimination?

I came in late and missed all the introductions (which since the participant bios aren't anywhere to be found, even though I know people submitted them, means I must now rely on Google & inference). Young, Kendall, and Jemisin are all African-American; Young writes for American comics; Kendall (karnythia) is a writer and co-founder of Verb Noire, a new publisher; Jemisin is a writer. Graff is from Israel and the founder of Graff Publishing, a small press.

I also I have no idea if anyone gave the title the eyeroll it deserves (yeah, like a lack of _purple_ is the problem), and missed most of the first question, which seemed to be about myths about selling.

Kendall: self-defeating prophecies. Comic book character Misty [Knight (Wikipedia, Marvel Wiki), based on context--I didn't hear all of it]

Jemisin: front hair pressed, back natural, know any actual black people know doesn't happen, hair would break

Young: not sure yet find single African-American character can relate to; insulting that *just* brown & poor supposed to resonate: example of Black Panther, every other Marvel character has tremendous power, he jumped around in trees; Falcon--nevermind, can't even talk about

Jemisin: assumption that tribe of fandom/genre readers doesn't include people who look like three of us or have ethnicities similiar to fourth; also assume that tribe is racist because won't buy things with people of races not theirs

Kendall: if try something and doesn't do fabulous well in first five seconds --
Young: -- it's fifteen years before it comes back

Kendall: son loves Static Shock, died on vine

Jemisin: cover art of Justine Larbalestier's _Liar_, if does not do well, will say, because changed cover; how the marketing people, multiple people along the chain make those assumptions

Kendall: re: cover of Verb Noire's first book _River's Daughter_: noticed certain amount of "that's a big risk you took" -- well that's the story; character's race is an integral part of story, not going to put cover on book that doesn't have anything to do with story. Art is on CafePress, people almost excited about as much as story or more

Graff: in his area of publishing (in Israel), never do cover art without author approval

Young: talking more about marketing to tribe, how sophisticated does idea of wanting to see self reflected get, is it fairly primal? [didn't really follow this]

Jemisin: same thing happened with women on covers; Sime Gen series example: 1960s cover with man in foreground attacking another man, in background woman in filmy negligee just covering enough: this was the female protagonist of book written by woman. So in some ways race is where gender was was

Young: last few years been tossed onto every fucking race panel, hard to talk about anything new because things talking about are part & parcel of very old thing; how do we push forward & transform that?

Jemisin: caveat to her own story, gender not done, _Realms of Fantasy_ (context)

Young: such strong marketing to separate segments, how do get past that? one very specific thing can do and tell people to do: _Liar_ now has African American woman on cover, buy 5, keep 1, give 4 to schools

audience: re: being able to identify, don't want character to be stereotype or be the Black Whatever; consumers make conscious choice [not sure where this was going]

Jemisin: think that's part of what pattern / shorthand thinking that feeds into what been talking about; people who wouldn't buy _Liar_ would assume book is about race; only way to avoid is put characters of color on cover of lots of things have nothing to do with race

Young: also content has to become explicit; also we can all be hypocrites on the right day; _Liar_ will offend some to be calling African-American woman that on cover; can make people want to take what they think is safe route

[I am not at all sure that hypocrisy is the right word for this. It seems to imply that there's no way anyone could reasonably object to this.]

me: talking about how to get past 101 discussions, _Rabbi's Cat 2_ quote (previously mentioned); new people always coming up, sometimes just let people with energy do 101 because needed

Young: tries to add something to conversations, e.g., example used that's connected with a lot of people that Batman is coded as black because he's an urban violence victim; Spiderman codes as black [? for same reason? not sure]; so what patterns can we find that we can illuminate? when I was a kid, it was often the aliens; not that they were coded black but resonated with the outsider

Jemisin: most black people I know watch Star Trek and love Spock, who's the outsider, has to act as representative of his culture & be more Vulcan than Vulcans

Kendall: lot of why so much excitement + backlash about Spock/Uhura (context)

Young: okay that is exactly the moment when you log out

Kendall: they (backlashers wanting Kirk/Spock to be canon) have a petition and everything

Young: of course they do because they don't know how to log off!

Kendall: very interesting to see reactions of black female fans, love idea--doesn't get stuck with Kirk

(someone, notes unclear) back to comics & superheroes, by being superheroes they're already different, _The Incredibles_

Young: that was why he never cared that Superman was white. Doc Savages's Man of Bronze, always liked to say was mixed-race

audience: white-washing: paranoid marketing department or?

Young: really reluctant to say "marketing departments" ; sometimes really simple, just racist; sometimes really complicated

Jemisin: people in publishing tell me they don't actually use marketing research, instead gut feelings & assumptions about audience; so if they've gotten messages throughout own lives that America is racist, problem. Just don't have money to do actual research re: % of audience that is of color or is willing to buy stuff with people of color on cover. Publishers hear about books with covers that were poorly marketed, poorly written, didn't sell well like 90% of all books -- and assume cover is reason

audience: really angry about publisher response to _Liar_

Young: should be

Jemisin: what prompted author to eventually post, reader letters about how do we know what to believe

Kendall: Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series, once she got big, can tell races [I'm not sure this is right, at least for the US editions--Amazon has this as the first edition of _Daja's Book_, the one featuring the explicitly-dark-skinned character, and though the image is crappy, it doesn't look whitewashed to me; however I'm pretty sure Pierce was already pretty darn big by this point, regardless, so the outcome is the same]

Young: one thing really cool about _Liar_, could care less what ethnicity, but happened to be African-American *and* possibly psychotic made me estatic, characters of color are nicest sweetest most helpful people in books & films

Jemisin: "oooh-kay!"

Young: characters of color have as much reason to be existentially f-ed up as anyone else

Jemisin: "normal"

Graff: I feel like such a minority here, can I [be helpful and] give you a glass of water?

Young: those characters are severely compromised

Jemisin: as well-rounded as the white characters

Kendall: _River's Daughter_ : you'll totally love it

audience: mainstream comics, nearly all have outsider real-world perspective, why doesn't this go over much in super-hero comics

Young: because super-hero comics are porn, which is cool, but when read _Thor_ don't want to hear about crippled dr. having bad day at work, want him to have magic stick letting him beat people up in different locations

Jemisin: okay wait, I am an anime & manga fan, shounen manga, and _Naruto_, what makes it resonate is that protagonist is outsider, ostracized, had to fight for acceptance whole way

Young: outsider establishes value by fighting for status quo, could be turned into negative, but let's not there go there

[I have no idea if this applies to _Naruto_ or is an observation about American comics]

audience: will book covers get better faster than Hollywood? or will it trickle down into books after Holllywood?

Young: probably a formula: Hollywood sets general aesthetic meme, 100 years old, how far have we gotten . . . so gonna say 300 years, done.

Graff: more optimistic 25-50 years, recently getting better faster

Young: wouldn't have this panel 50 years ago

Kendall: also part of this is consequences, _Last Airbender_ movie: _Dragonball Z_ did same thing & didn't make any money

Jemisin: but were trying to make B-movie; _Last Airbender_ trying to make big-budget franchise; it's still going to suck

Kendall: if Jesse McCartney who turn to, already in wrong room. _Twilight_

audience: boo

Jemisin: publicist conjured up 1/32 whatever [I hadn't been following this: see deadbrowalking's twilight tag]

Young: flip side, kid wants a job; all of us are compromised; I think everybody gets 3; we can reinforce with each other, provide backbone; Larbalestier's post, part of that comes from support from other people; encourage friend, or if friend encourages you, listen. Not just posting, things that actually have real world effect are worth doing, everything else just adding to noise

Kendall: but posting does matter, part of effect is bloggers boosting signal

audience: comment on RaceFail, re: sympathy & forgiveness

Young: one comment, not being involved and having friends "targeted" by it: despite all benefits, Internet not the best place to have complicated nuanced discussions about race; any medium that makes distance and depersonlization easy, not for him.

Kendall: as someone who participated, stomping not one-way, not a horde

(some stuff I missed in being grumpy about stupid "Internet is not real" thing again)

Tags: anticipation 2009, con reports, cons, race, sff, worldcon

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