GenCon 2008: Wrap-Up and Notes from the Booth

The past week has been a blur of faces, pitches and products flying past me so fast and furious that I’ve been trying to answer that mundane question: How was the show?

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the answer to that, because there was a lot going on. As a contributing author for four of the products at the Abstract Nova booth we were running, I was focused on the business side of things to make it a success. Was it? For a first year at GenCon, absolutely!
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My Interview with Cerise Magazine

This month I was interviewed by a girl gamer after my own heart; JoAnna Gootee is an interviewer for a girl gaming webzine called Cerise Magazine whose mission statement calls out the need for a feminist publication:

We are a feminist publication and oppose all forms of oppression and the ways in which that oppression manifests itself in game communities in ways that hurt women, transgender individuals, queer-identified people, people of color, people with disabilities, and other marginalized individuals. We hope that our inclusive philosophy will propagate to help the game industry and culture at large become an environment welcoming to people of all identities.

Cerise Magazine Interview with Monica Valentinelli

The site features a monthly issue that has news, reviews, and other content targeted toward girl gaming. Be sure to check out some of JoAnna’s other interviews that includes names like: White Wolf freelancer Jess Hartley, Lady Fireeze of the Guild of Gaming Women and Sara Girard, Marketing Lead for D&D.

Writing with Gender Treatment in Mind

In today’s world, headlines are splattered with same sex marriages, celebrity “bumps” (a slang term used to describe a pregnant woman’s stomach), and women deemed to be “fat” because they gained a few pounds. Whether you’re a writer in the entertainment industry or a columnist for your local newspaper, gender treatment is one of the biggest issues facing our work today, because the boundaries and descriptions of gender have changed.

I often laugh at old fifties advertisements showing a submissive wife waiting hand-and-foot on her husband. If you’re writing fiction or a story about that particular time period, however, those gender roles were part-and-parcel to what the society is about—much like “hippies” were part of the 60s, “disco” defines the 70s, and “over-consumption” spelled out the 80s.

Unconsciously, we deal with gender treatment all the time in today’s society; when we see a female action hero and comment on her costume, when we read about bisexual, gay or cross-gender relationships in the news, when we form opinions about gender treatment based on what’s happening in another country.

In writing, our own ideas and conceptions about gender treatment may color our projects and speak to our values. This isn’t a “good” or a “bad” thing, but it does have consequences that may range from alienating sections of a market to offending a particular group. Some of these reactions are unavoidable, but they are a result of how we approach gender even before we write words on a page.
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The “Fan” Trap: When Writers Write for What they Love

Writers are often naturally curious and flexible, able write about doughnuts in one article and cloud computing in the next. Because of our insatiable need to continue learning on a mosaic of topics, we sometimes fall into one industry or another, because we love it just “that” much. Couple that with our recurring “oh-crap-I-still-need-to-live-in-the-real-world” realization, and we often gravitate toward industries that change frequently or hold some sort of personal interest to us.

The phrase “jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none” often applies to writers for that reason, but it doesn’t accurately describe the emotional side or the attraction we have to certain industries. For example, I had a great experience working for an internet company, so I’m making it a goal to keep up on top of trends in “search” because it’s fascinating to me and practical. It’s what we “do” every day and what every writer should pay some small bit of attention to because it affects everything from blogging, finding source material, shopping for holiday gifts online, etc. Additionally, I make it a point to keep up with entertainment industry trends–to see where the market is shifting and changing–for my fiction and project management work. Science fiction may not be that popular now, but it will probably be again. Trend watching is something all writers do naturally, in order to write both topical and factual articles that readers will want to read. In my opinion, there are two dangers to getting sucked into the trends, however, that affect our critical thinking and our ability to write to the broadest audience possible.

Simply, the “fan” trap is what happens when a writer loves an industry so much, that they lose focus.
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How Search Engine Technology is Catching Plagiarists

Plagiarism, the very word strikes fear into the hearts of writers everywhere, forcing them to clutch their precious stories to their chests and never show them to a single, living soul. In ye olde days, there was no Google, no MSN, no Yahoo! There were simply two, little gems called “ethics” and “copyright.”

If you were lucky enough to drill down to the bottom of the ethics mine, you consciously knew that you’d be influenced by other writers–but you would expect Thor’s hammer to fall down on your head should you rip one of them off and sell a story using their words. Copyright, on the other hand, is that piece of fool’s gold that everyone buys but no one knows what to do with, because they forget that once you have it–you have to protect it or you lose it.

Enter the internet era with its torrent of words and images. Ever copy an image that you’ve searched for? Used it in a blog post? Did you check to see whether or not you legally could? What about an article? Have you ever used one or two sentences in an assignment because you were rushed and didn’t bother rewriting them?

Personally, I don’t believe that writers are malicious by nature, but I do think that we’ve forgotten to hunt for the copyright, to remember what rights it gives us, because there is so much material out there on the web. Well? I’m certainly not the first to worry about such a thing, nor will I be the last. Fortunately, people a heck of a lot smarter than me found a way to catch plagiarists using search engine technology.
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