Six Weeks to Geek: Zombie Lore, a Panel

My Geek: A Brief History

Much to Fella’s eternal chagrin, I’m not much of a geek.  I didn’t grow up sucking down comics, tapping controllers, or digging on horror flicks, Magic the Gathering, World of Warcraft, anime, or any of the equivalents thereof.  My most successful forays into gaming were with Mario Bros. on 8-bit Nintendo, and a little later, Mario on Game Boy, first generation.

I am, by most reports, a hipster (much to my eternal chagrin).  I like indie rock and Wes Anderson movies, specifically his, but also that genre of artfully rendered pictures about quirky people who are either narcissistic or intellectual, and I read mostly literary realism by authors who people outside of Creative Writing programs have not heard of.  I’m trying to increase visibility of good, smart books as a personal crusade, and in so doing, I’m learning to branch out.

I’m discovering that the book market–with all its hard lines and rigid categories and neat definitions–is going to need to undergo metamorphosis in order to remain intact.  We are clearly not learning enough from our friends in the music industry.

My brother is of the DC/Marvel persuasion (I have heard him pontificate on the virtues of one over the other), plays video games; I have had a modest number of decidedly geekish boyfriends along the way, but a peripheral awareness has been the beginning and end for me.

Romance

I was mildly intrigued when Child’s bio dad was reading Sandman by Neil Gaiman et al, and I was reading it over his shoulder, but I imagine you can understand why those memories are fraught for me, and why I have not been eager to revisit.

When Fella and I first got together, he explained patiently (if with an edge of condescension) that geeks and nerds are two different things, and that I would require an education in all things geek.

Thus there was Zombies 101 early on Fella’s and my date-having time line.  That was our last course on geekery, as Fella found my lack of interest frustrating, and I found his interpretation of my contemplative absorption (and sometimes sleepiness) as disinterest to be frustrating.

It was around Halloween, which is my favorite holiday, and I made a brain jello that I served with canned Lychees at the Historic Genetti Hotel in Downtown Williamsport.

We watched Night of the Living Dead and The Serpent and the Rainbow.

New Respect

Until recently I was one of those regrettable studious sods who dismissed things known as comics strictly on grounds that some well-meaning collection of intellectuals and smarty-pantses whose taste and judgement I admired, wrinkled up their noses at the comic or graphic novel, pronouncing the word as if it stank of rotted skunk.  It was the same disdain they showed toward anything known as genre fiction.

Don’t misunderstand.  I am not suddenly gleefully reading The Hulk and Captain America or Tom Clancy and Danielle Steel.  I’m just starting to see that it’s not ALL crap, and that it might be useful for us literary types to expand our definition of genre, or our definition of literature.

You can read more about this problem at Billtown Blue Lit, and on this blog here.

In any case, I am sure you can imagine the tandem flurries of incredulity and joy in my house when I announced a few months ago that I would be moderating a panel at the coming Wildcat Comic Con on Zombie Lore with Dave Sims, John Weaver, and Jim Zub.  More, that I would be immersing myself in the context and culture (more academically than physically).

So over the next six weeks or so, I’m going to be taking in a plethora of geek fodder.  I’ll be reading World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide, and probably at least a few of the stories in an anthology of short zombie fiction called The Living Dead.  I’ll be watching more zombie movies, and reading more comics as I prepare for the interviews I’m doing with people as awesome as Dean Haspiel and David Small and others I won’t mention until the interviews are finished.

And I am fortunate to have as tour guides the panelists listed above who are well versed in Zombie Lore and, from what I can tell so far, have reasonably literary taste.  I am also fortunate to have automatic context for some of my new comics reading in my work as a journalist.

Tuesday night, after my presentation at ComiXnite, which I am pleased to report went over well,  I met with my fellow panelists to discuss the angle from which we’ll approach our zombie discussion.  It is going to be a lively and interesting talk.

Each week, I’ll be posting at least once under the category: Weeks to Geek.  You can enjoy the ride with me.

The Reading Life: Bossypants

I took this picture. This is a picture of this book as I physically possess it

Here are some facts I learned from reading Bossypants that heightened my girl crush on Tina Fey.

1.  Tina Fey’s first child, Alice (also a cool, old name, like Child’s), is the same age as my child within weeks.

2.  Tina Fey was also an adult virgin.

3.  She loves Williamsport.  Or I extrapolate that she loves Williamsport in that creepy, fan-person way.

4.  She is a good writer, and smart.

5.  She exhausts herself to a greater degree than I do.

6.  She worries about being a working mom, about being rich person, about having a nanny.

But what else?

What is this book?  Is it a memoir?  Is it a collection of essays? Is it a feminist tome?  Is it just funny?

I mean, yes.  It’s funny.

But that’s really all it is.  It’s not especially challenging or literary.  It does not reveal great truths, and often I found myself kind of both appreciating and getting worn out by Fey’s neurosis.

I enjoyed reading it, yes.  And reading it the same year it was published (by only 2 days, but still), is a luxury indeed.  A luxury I hope to have with more books in the very near future.

It also reminded me why my work with Billtown Blue Lit is so very, very important. More on this after the last heading.

Best Parts

The first third and last eighth were the best.  The first third was about Tina Fey’s childhood and journey through adult virginity and Chicago improv and landing as a writer for SNL.

The last eighth was about her current family, her relationship with motherhood, traveling across PA and OH at the holidays, and whether or not she should have another baby.

Those parts of the book were honest and funny and they made Tina Fey like a real person with whom I would like to have lunch  in ways that are brave for a public figure.

The middle remaining fraction (I am not good at math) had some good jokes, but it was about a world that only about 1,000 (this estimate is based on nothing, the point is it’s a small percentage of the actual population) people in the world will ever encounter: the world of making TV.

I enjoyed making the connections between the stories she tells in the book and episodes of 30Rock, in particular the pee jars.  And I found her pretty constant amazement that she gets to keep making this super smart, weird show to be refreshing and sweet.  It made me think that Tina Fey is humble.

I also particularly enjoyed the chapter about the photo shoot, though it was a little like reading about visiting the Moon.  There is no universe in which I will ever be a Moon-goer.

People who get to write books by popular demand

So Tina Fey is a writer in real life, and that’s the only reason I’ve read this book.  Will I ever read a book by Karadashians or by Snookie?  No.  But Tina Fey is also like Karadashians and Snookie in that she is a public figure who is also a pretty, young (in regular people years) woman.

She wrote the book because her agent or publicist or somebody told her she should.  Because her fans wanted to read it, and because Sarah Palin also wrote a book, and that matters to people who have no powers of logic.

She does improv and writes comedy because that is what feeds her soul.  Is this book soul food for anybody?  I kind of think not.  But I bet it sold more copies in hardcover than the book that’s sitting next to me that I got for Christmas, Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell.  But I bet Blueprints is a way, way better read than Bossypants.  I’ll let you know.

Tina Fey’s book is smart and thoughtful, even though it’s not literary.  I’m counting it as evidence that the world will read better books if somebody bothers to stand up and shriek about them, invite their authors to do interviews and podcasts, and writes blogs about them, and in some future happy land where the literati have a greater societal influence, interview them on The View and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

And that’s the long-term objective of Billtown Blue Lit.  To help the world see books that are smart and literary and feed souls.  The way to do this is with people: a community of people who think this is an important goal.

Come join us.  Invest in your future as a reader, in literary authors, and in the American Literary Canon.

Billtown Blue Lit, Letter to you

This is my non-professional logo
Dear Friends, Neighbors, Relatives, Mentors, Heroes and People,

I’m starting a nonprofit.

Those of you who know me well are not surprised.  I am happiest when I’m captaining my own ship.

Here’s the elevator pitch:  Billtown Blue Lit will host a free reading series in Williamsport, PA that will benefit local business and writers of literary (not genre) fiction nationwide.

If you don’t know, a reading series is a succession of events in which authors appear to read their work in a public venue, out loud.  These events provide publicity for authors, and an opportunity to sell and sign their books, as well as to meet with fans and generate positive PR.

Here are some details of the project: First of all, the authors will be well compensated: paid for their time, reimbursed for their travel, lodged for free, and given a food stipend.  As much of this as possible will be provided through local businesses.  In the beginning, Billtown Blue Lit will employ myself and two interns.  Within the first few years, I hope to create several full-time positions by starting an online/eBook (and small run print) literary journal, a writers’ retreat, and a book group, hiring a development person, and an administrative person.

That’s getting a bit ahead of myself, though.  For now, I need your help in small ways.
I’m running a StartSomeGood campaign to raise the money to start the project starting late next week.  I’m sending you this message now to let you know how you can help.
As the campaign and project progress, there will be updates and opportunities for you to get involved.

The campaign at StartSomeGood is to fund the first two months, and to buy some time to work on grants and launch another campaign.

You’ll be able to read with more specificity about the goals of the project and about how we’ll use the money we raise once the campaign is live.

There are donation levels starting at $1, and donor rewards ranging from shout outs on Facebook and Twitter to t-shirts, to signed copies of books for the first year the series runs, naming rights, and sole sponsorship credit, exclusive Skype attendance or reserved seating at the first few readings, and Coffee with the Author tickets.

The campaign will run for 50 days (until Late January), but I’m emailing you now because we need to hit the ground running with some donations on the first day.

I hope you’re as excited as I am by this project!  If you have other ideas or questions, please reply to this email!

Here are four ways you can contribute:

1.  After December 7th, Go donate at StartSomeGood.com.  I’ll email you a link, or you can search Billtown Blue Lit at www.StartSomeGood.com.  SSG is a crowd funding platform with an all-or-nothing funding model.  The campaign won’t charge you unless we reach our tipping point goal of $15,515.00.  Every dollar is a step toward realizing the project, so even if you can only afford $1, please do.

2.  Forward this message on to everyone in your address book.

3.  Come Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Billtown-Blue-Lit/234973966568699

4. Become a campaign captain: Send this message to at least 50 of the people in your address book, post on Facebook or Tweet to your followers at least once a week about the project starting now until February 1.  If you want to be a captain, reply to this email, and when the campaign’s over, you can choose from either a Blue Lit t-shirt, an MP3 of the first reading, or reserved seating at the first reading.

Sincere thanks in advance, and warm wishes for you and your people this holiday season.

Onward,

April Line