I had the good fortune to be interviewed by Daren Jaime on Open, an interview and news program run through Bronxnet. In it, I discuss breaking into the industry, finding your passion, how to use internships, and more!
I’m starting off with Harlan Ellison here because he is the king of opinions, and I’m going to be sharing a lot of them in this piece. Some I agree with. Some I don’t. But he has found peace with his place in the world. He calls ‘em like he sees ‘em and has no problem sharing that with anybody who asks. That’s ultimately the point of this essay: know yourself. We’ll get to that point when we get to it.
But that last part in the video (starting at 1:30) above is particularly important, because it speaks to the duties between creator and fan. With all of the craziness going on over the past month (let alone the past… forever) about toxic fandom and what to be done about it, this is particularly important to artists of all shapes and types. What kind of duty do you owe to those who read your work?
Today I’m writing about fan service, and by that, I mean the “fan service” that has become meme-ified on the internet. These aren’t intertextual references that continue or resolve plot lines. I’m also not talking about the titilating sexual reveals that dominate anime. What I mean by fan service is the “material in a work of fiction or in a fictional series which is intentionally added to please the audience,” as defined by Valérie Inés de La Ville and Laurent Durup in their study, “Achieving a Global Reach on Children’s Cultural Markets: Managing the Stakes of Inter-Textuality in Digital Cultures.” In other words, these are the shout-outs, references, and callbacks to the previous work that created a fan base to begin with.
After over a year of production and release, we finally have the entire first season of my radio adventure serial, Queens of the Sapphire Sea, up online! Each episode can stand alone as you follow Belle and Madeleine Bernassi across the French Riviera in pre-WWII France, but put them together? You’ll find an high-flying action tale of romance and death-defying stunts as these two seaplane pilots take on the dregs of the Mediterranean underworld.
Episode 101 – An Air of Propriety
This piece is inspired by the artwork above, a parody of the famous Norman Rockwell triple self-portrait. This satire, like the original, speaks to the glamorized self we see in the mirror, demolishing and lightly mocking (respectively) their subjects. The depictions are not truth. They are the stories that people share in order to maintain illusions. And, like all stories, they are dependent on audiences in order to maintain their meaning.
Note first, however, that I am not a politician or a social scientist. Thus, any commentary on the mechanical issues that are devastating our society—namely, a failing educational system, a prison-industrial complex that favors punishment over rehabilitation, and a drug war that overwhelmingly castigates the poorest and most vulnerable citizens—would be purely opinion based. Get enough liquor in me and I’ll share them with you.
That being said, I am a narrative designer who has come to specialize in demographic analysis and story-sharing. I’ve worked with organizations, universities, and nations to help build narratives to embolden people and change lives. I’ve seen how people intertwine their personal stories with those of a larger group, for good and ill effects, as well as how to make sure this remains a conversation without turning into propaganda (more on this in a second, I promise). I’ve worked with people who have had their tongues torn out because they spoke the wrong words to the wrong people.
It is the lessons I learned from them that embolden me to say that we can assuredly beat the Narrative of the Nazi. If we can couple that with the physical means to make sure that Nazis can’t gain a new foothold, we can make that ideology so untenable that all but the barest few crazies remain, so few that they cannot make any meaningful change to the world.
This essay was inspired by this piece by Ian Bogost in The Atlantic, the title of which reads: “Video Games are Better Without Story.” I encourage everybody to read that piece first before continuing. As always, I will be leavening the serious stuff with funny pictures. I apologize in advance.
In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud discusses (among many other topics) the aforementioned gutter. It is here, between the images, that sequential art separates itself from other media. The white space holds the imagination of the reader. It makes that person complicit in the narrative. The creator(s) has done the heavy-lifting but the burden of filling in the blanks is on the part of the person holding the book.
“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual.”
If you’ve ever been to a movie or a show on Broadway, you know what I’m talking about with the title: people’s seeming inability to turn off their phones for two-to-three hours while they take in a bit of Kylo Ren or Mufasa. For the most part, these are tiny indiscretions: a few blips, a mild (or moderate) expletive, a couple seconds of fumbling, and then blissful silence just as Alexander Hamilton is about to lay down a few choice rhymes regarding fiat currency. At other times, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s journey in (and out) of love seems to be set to the tune of a “Kim Possible” ringtone.