Superhero_ines: Rebooted Comics and Trans* Identity

baroness-resin-detail

My article “Superhero_ines: Rebooted Comics and Trans* Identity” is now the first online publication on the rebooted Vector Torque Control. It’s also my academic coming-out as non-binary.

Abstract:

Gender is a discursive and performative construct, and mass media such as comic books play a role in how it is constructed. Problems arise from discrepancies between prescriptive models of gender and individuals’ actual lived experience. Now, in the era of the reboot, comic book writers have the opportunity to change the identity politics inherent within well-known series, reaching a wide audience through iconic figures, and contributing to changing cisnormative perceptions of gender. Comic books are particularly crucially placed in this regard, since superheroes, as established metaphors of otherness, may in some sense already be ‘queer’ figures. However, although important and exciting steps have been taken toward better representation of trans* identities within superhero comics, we still have a long way to go. Drawing in particular on the theory of Judith Butler and Antke Engel, as well as lived experience, this article explores the past and present representation of trans* identities in comic books, and looks with hope toward the future.

[Bonus link for people who are looking for a great mix of upbeat LGBT+ comics: I recommend the SFF comics anthology Beyond.]

 

 

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Living Algorithms

BioMech_Eye_by_kirkh

“The three contemporary science fiction novels discussed here mirror the development of our stance towards artificial intelligence. In Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection, which employs a polarised world-view reminiscent of Cold War politics, the AI is demonized to such an extent that speaking about it and speaking about the devil become indistinguishable. In Stone Adam Roberts depicts uprising nanobots as terrorists from a human perspective but as freedom fighters from that of the awakened AI. Finally, M. John Harrison’s take on the topic in his Empty Space trilogy is the most complex one, reminding us that we too are living, self-replicating, self-conscious code. Based on that, self-aware technology is simply another culture to interact with.”

I have a new article up in Infinite Earths: “Living Algorithms: The Move towards Anti-Anthropocentrism in Gareth L. Powell’s The Recollection, Adam Roberts’ Stone, and M. John Harrison’s Empty Space Trilogy”. The illustration above is “BioMech Eye” by Bruno (kirkh on deviantart).

More Weird Politics

shoggoth

My essay “Sympathy for the Shoggoth” is now up on Infinite Earths! It’s based on a talk I gave at last year’s Weird Council Conference at Birkbeck and now features a lot of additional material as well as awesome illustrations by John Coulthart, Abigail Larson, K.L. Turner, and Nicholas Kole. (Thank you for letting me use them!)

Teaser illustration above: “Shoggoth” by K.L. Turner.

…And They’ve Done It Again.

The latest episode of “Black Mirror”, entitled “White Bear” (S02E02), features this ominous symbol, which is first mentioned in combination with a signal that supposedly changes people into zombie-like watchers who, equipped with their smartphones, help so-called hunters take down the ones not affected by this signal. Creepy, right? This is what the symbol looks like:

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Now, I have never in my life been in actual contact with Minecraft, let alone playing it, but I’m a citizen of the Internet, and as such I know what a Creeper looks like. For the record, their faces look like this:

minecraft_creeper
If you’re still thinking that any similarities might be purely coincidental, by the time the first hunter arrives you might agree with me:

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At this point I felt compelled to ask Minecraft Wiki what exactly it is that Creepers do (besides, well, creep up on players). Here’s what it says:
“The Creeper is a hostile mob that will ambush players and explode, causing damage to the player and the surrounding blocks and entities. Unlike Zombies and Skeletons, Creepers will not catch fire in direct sunlight, meaning they can wander around unharmed any time of the day until it is killed or despawns. However, the creepers will still be aggressive during the day. […]”
It’s downright scary how well this description applies to the zombie-like, camera-wielding population of this week’s nightmarish episode. They don’t really explode, but hey, what do we have those hunters for.
I won’t be giving away all of the plot here (after all, some of you might not have seen it yet, and I strongly recommend it), but in a final plot twist the background story is revealed as what looks very much like Running Man rewritten by Ben Elton’s evil mind twin. And while the whole concept of who the victim is here is seemingly turned around… is it really? After all, it’s not only the judicial system that defines “victims” and “perpetrators”, and it’s not only the tabloids that distort things for us to read at the hairdressers and feed our inner rubberneckers while we’re waiting for the dye to take effect. I think this episode makes it very clear that this is about actual living people – including the ones in front of the television. Even if one reviewer is of the opinion that it is “marred” by “the incessant screaming and crying of the ‘victim’ [note the quotation marks] that engenders a longing for someone to put her out of her misery”. To me as a viewer, her pain feels very real. And no matter the circumstances, even if a person is guilty of a crime, what gives anyone the right to torture her? In the end, respawn after respawn, what remains, what returns every time without fail, is the pain, and the Creepers. All of us.