Thoughts from UshiCon, Austin and a local Sake Brewery

I am back from another convention. I was accepted as a panelist for UshiCon and so I went. If you’re close to me personally, you know this convention was… a lot. Disorganization and poor communication made it hard to plan for, hard to get excited for and hard to do but I’ve never turned my back on a convention and I don’t plan on doing so now. I spent weeks frantic over which of my already finished costumes to wear and weeks frantic over the state of my panels and me as a panelist. I want to talk about this con as I have talked about others since this one doesn’t lend towards a flowing narrative, let’s bring back the old format: you’re welcome. 

  • Austin has too many toll roads. If this is supposed to help boost the economy then I want to see it boost the economy. I get tolls pay for roads but good lord I do not look forward to my bill that will be sent to me sometime within the next couple of months. 
  • Austin is a beautiful city that is simultaneously very close and very far away full of things I quite like a bit. 
  • The hotel my friend and I were staying at this go around as beautiful and I’m so glad I found a good one. I was fretting over the condition of the hotel only to redeem myself from the previous year where we stayed in Kamoshida’s Castle with a staircase that went to nowhere. 

Now for some context. UshiCon is a con I’ve tried to get into for years. It was just never at a good time so I could never make it. It’s an 18+ con and I’ve been trying to visit since college. I put in a panel application late last year and was shocked to find out that I was. The convention itself is older, in its 15th iteration of the eponymous convention. I was lured in by the hopes of an older audience as recently I have been disillusioned and deep in the ennui of being an anime fan, panelist and human person. I assumed that maybe being around a group of older peers would help.

Back to the bullet points: 

  • Whole Foods is a magical land full of delicious and over-priced food. I regret nothing.
  • The Domain is a mall that I could live in but also reminds me of all of the best and worst parts of gentrification and generational wealth. 
  • It was nice to get some hallway photos for once. 
    • For context: hallways are when photographers ask to take photos of you in the con hallway. It typically means you look good and are worth photographing.
  • Having costumes and panels done is wonderful and it means moving forward, I want to work on having that material done way before the convention.
  • Getting ready in a hotel bathroom is indeed an art form; and one I am getting shockingly good at including applying makeup, wigs

One of the detours I took on this trip was to a local sake distillery: Texas Sake and FOR THE LOVE OF KAMI-SAMA their stuff is delicious. Honestly, some of the best sake I’ve ever had in my life and you should support them if you’re anywhere near Austin. Austin did feature some delicious food including Cafe Eden which had some of the best chicken katsu I’ve ever had and Little Lucy’s donuts which is a pink food truck that serves mini donuts and I could just live there; let’s be honest. Also I found a cute little succulent shop that nearly resulted in Toi gaining a sibling…which may happen this year regardless.

This convention didn’t bring a lot to me as far as big bombastic moments like larger cons but I do want to get a little personal here. This convention opened my eyes and well…let’s ditch the bullet points. 

I have been struggling as a panelist for the last year or two. I’ve been chasing the high of packed houses from 2015 and 2016. I’ve been chasing this high that I can still dazzle audiences and still be good. But my numbers have not been the best in the last few years, hell; I’ve had flat out bad conventions in the last few years and in tying so much of myself and my self-worth to paneling; I hated myself. I was not my best and I was bitterly disappointed and cruel to myself. I had told myself over and over again that I liked small crowds and that surely it was my fault that audience participation had dwindled and my numbers weren’t the same. It was my fault, my failure, and my inadequacies. 

UshiCon told me that I was partially right. I do like paneling. I do like small and engaged crowds. I am good at this and all of those things were so needed for me, my career and my ego. 

I have spent the last few years beating my head against a wall obsessing over what I was doing wrong even though the answers were right in front of me. I was ignoring changes in my audience, changes in trends and changing in how conventions are to begin with. I have spent the last few years chasing a dragon that flew off years ago; hoping lightning would strike twice and shunning any other success I had. 

During UshiCon I had a guy say that I changed his view on media criticism. I met a fan who said they loved my energy. I had questions that spilled out into the hallway and I couldn’t see any of that as success because I didn’t have a packed house. 

And it took some serious self-reflection and some serious emotional time to realize that I was not helping myself. I was giving myself too much time and resenting a lack of questions during my panels rather than the simple answer of just asking for less damn time. I was upset at low numbers as I forgot that for most conventions: fan panelist attendance is down if you aren’t like Youtube famous. 

I spent years mad at myself for nothing; well, for things that are rather easy to fix. 

It also reminded me that I am so blessed to have Carlos as a co-panelist. I traveled with another friend of mine who I am indeed close to but certainly communicates in a way that was less helpful to me: which to be fair, I’m awful at communicating my needs. At this stage, Carlos is damn near psychic and knows my needs and knows how to talk me up, talk me down and keep me grounded and even; and I only realize how much I appreciate him and need him during those moments of intense stress and emotional exhaustion when he isn’t there.  

UshiCon was a good time. I can’t say it was a great time, but it was a good time. It’s given me a new focus and a new drive to be better that I have needed now for a few years. I look forward to more conventions this year; maybe even one for fun; I haven’t taken a con off in years so maybe I’ll just visit one to visit. I look forward to retooling my formula and being the best version of me. I’m not the same person I was in 2015. The world is not the same world as it was in 2015. I’m not a bad person for not being able to pack a house consistently; most performers can’t.

So thank you to all of those who came to see me during Ushicon. Thank you to Ushicon for having me. Thank you to my friends who keep me humble and thanks to my anxiety that never lets me think too many positive things about myself. 

See you all next con. 

Thoughts from A-Kon 30

Normally, when I write these posts, I do them in a bulleted list. But this time, I’d like to try something different. I want to try and structure these thoughts a little more. I hope that you enjoy this small descent into madness.


“I don’t want to be the Akira.” I whined from behind Carlos in the hotel hallway. I had made yet another reference to Devilman Crybaby, a series that had broken me two years ago and had become a vital part of our friendship. Much like how boy’s love characters fight over who is the seme or the uke, we argue over who is the Ryo (literally Satan) and who is the Akira (a dumb but good guy doing his best). We had checked into a hotel that was perfect in every way. It was close to the con site, close to the places we liked to hang out and we each got our own bedrooms and bathrooms. The kitchen had a stove and oven and the living room had a fire place we were not allowed to use but did look good in photos. I had driven to Dallas from San Antonio earlier that morning and this convention had been stressful to deal with. Before traveling, I had managed to get myself into a minor car accident and then prepping for the convention itself was exhausting. I didn’t get my panel time until less than a week before the convention. The con had moved from Fort Worth to Fair Park and many people complained and thus Carlos and I complained. We lovingly referred to it as TrashCon as we prepared for the convention. The move was an unpopular choice in the convention’s part. Moving it to Fair Park meant that it was in a less than safe at times part of Dallas and it was hectic and mostly outdoors. But a lot of the gripes people had with the move seemed to be unneeded. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Carlos and I dropped off our bags and went to lunch at a Long John Silvers/ A & W combo where I ordered too much damn food and felt like I was going to die.

We went back to the hotel and I had time to change before having two panels on Thursday. I cosplayed as Mello because I love being a chocolate-loving sociopath. We parked fairly easily at Fair Park and though the walk from the parking lot to the main registration building felt like a death march, it wasn’t so bad. But the heat already began to feel oppressive under my makeup, wig and compression shirt. I got to my first panel room about an hour early and it was empty so Carlos and I got to set up and entertain the few guests that had already settled in because it was hot and the panel rooms were inside and had air conditioning. The panel which covered the Mary Sue trope was only about half an hour as it was mostly me just preaching to the choir but it was time in the air conditioning so I could not complain. I had time in between my next panel and we mostly wandered around the Dealer’s Room where Carlos immediately found a very on brand button for me and we decided to simply go back to the hotel for a little while to rest. We returned to convention to finish up with another panel this one on Fandoms where I faced my greatest enemy: noise.

The new set up in Fair Park’s Grand Place felt a little like a flea market. Lots of structures made with pipes and fabric coverings and that would have been fine but every panel heard everyone else’s noise. I was the loud one during my first panel but my second one I was in between an idol performance and some sort of horrible karaoke event and so much of the video footage likely will just be me rolling my eyes and trying to fight against such awful audio.

We returned to the hotel, ordered pizza and spent the evening watching Into the Spiderverse and living our best Peter B. Parker lives.

Oh, and returning back to our car the second time, we heard a gunshot from one of the neighboring apartment complexes and our first time returning to the parking lot, we hired a man in a bike taxi and paid him double for the ride as I shouted whilst in a blonde wig “Ja ne, weebs.” as Carlos and I cackled as we zoomed past normies using their human legs.


Day Two started with breakfast and deciding to go to convention a little later hoping that the sun would be less of a miserable force. We decided to use some of our free time to go to Daiso and I shopped a lot and then oh lunch. Lunch was at Kura Revolving Sushi. Kura has a promotion going with Naruto and I was determined to eat the 15 plates needed for a prize with a lot of help from Carlos. I ate so many pieces of snow crab nigiri and I felt like I was climbing a mountain to keep eating despite my fickle appetite and I did win a Sasuke Uchiha eraser that I will never use but will treasure until I die.

We did not plan though for the sun to pull to giant “to hell with you, nerd” and it was actually cooler as we faffed around shopping rather than when we did finally arrive closer to evening at convention and it was hot as Ryo in that one strange technicolor nightmare club.

Day Two ended with some shopping and mostly hunting for a poster that will later become very important to the plot, I mean the story.

Dinner for Day Two was spent at Olive Garden, a place I have not been to in years and had strangely missed.

Friday night we went swimming and I got to wax philosophic about Free! one more time. I sat in the pool on my back looking up at the ceiling telling Carlos that very few people saw me like this, laid back, enjoying the water. I said that many people saw me as the more high strung Makoto, which is not false, but Carlos gets to see me as Haru: mostly wanting to be near the water and honestly a little listless.

I also made Carlos an entire peach cobbler because I am a good person.


Day Three I decided to not be lazy and get into costume. We had breakfast again and decided to go early and hope that the sun would not be cruel. I had made a Drifloon maid outfit for the convention because of course I did and I put on my makeup after breakfast and we set out to convention. The mask was a huge pain as I could still smell the paint I used and the heat of my breath and the stuffiness of the room drained me nearly immediately. I got a few photos taken of me which meant posing with a tea set I spent days on and doing the typical peace-sign anime idol pose. But a mask also meant not speaking as it was mostly muffled and resulted in me mostly making annoyed little whines and tired little moans to express my feelings to Carlos who was irked by my transformation fully into an anime idol.

We did more shopping and then decided to break away and go back to the hotel to cool down. We chose a local Tex-Mex place and I got queso and tequila drunk before attempting a small raid on a local Whole Foods Market.

Saturday night was spent ordering more food and we made two entertainment choices that evening. We watched YugiOh: Dark Side of Dimensions in which Seto Kaiba builds a literal space ship to be with his boyfriend, Atem, after the end of the main series and the rest of the plot mostly flopped around and it honestly made me hate the series a little with its camp and lack of logic. It was a lovely garbage fire and then we watched a series that I asked you to put a pin in based on a poster.

Before my accident I was asked to by a close friend to watch the anime Sarazanmai, a show about three boys that are turned into Kappas and must do things. I got two episodes in before I decided the show was too weird for me and honestly, it made me hate anime a little. But this person who means the world to me asked for me to be on the lookout for merch from the series and I picked up a print of two of their favorite characters. I was annoyed by having to do something that was for a series I didn’t care about but Carlos was sick of my complaining and encouraged me to try the show again. We ended up watching 5 episodes in one night before I managed to in my best idol voice mimic a line from the show and nearly tripped and fell over one of Carlos’ shoes: Kami-sama was finished with my nonsense.

I realized in that moment that I didn’t hate the show, I just needed a better reason to watch it. This is the same person who had so lovingly coaxed me into watching Yuri on Ice and thus I did hate that series because I don’t like being told what to do. This person isn’t a bad person, just wanted me to try something new and I am a stubborn trash goblin. The series is fine and the more I thought about it, the more curious I am and will likely finish it.

Back to talking about convention: the new set up was actually really good. There were lots of water and hydration stations. Lots of ice cream (I got an alcoholic wine pop day one but I didn’t finish it because it’s malt liquor and I can’t handle malt liquor especially before I’m meant to go on stage and talk about feminism). The walking wasn’t so bad but the Dealer’s Room, I have issues. The aisles were really narrow and that made traffic insane. If one person stalled or stopped for a photo, it backed up traffic and made a hot room full of people even more hot. That is my major gripe aside from the bad rooms in the Grand Place. Also, dollar water was a wonderful idea as well as the giant cooling misting fans.


Sunday was the last day of con and I had one more panel to go, Research Tips for Writers. Sunday featured a lot of packing and getting ready to go back on the road. The panel went wonderfully well and I got to be in a cool room that was literally called The Library. I got to have a more relaxed panel this time which was more fun if I could ignore the people that wandered into the cool room just to take pictures. I had a wonderful time and even though I was tired, it was worth it to do. We did a final lap around the Dealer’s Room, more things were bought and we decided to get lunch. We were originally going to go to Gen Korean BBQ but that place was packed and before I arrived, Carlos had been gushing about this shabu shabu place nearby. We had already planned on getting my post panel cake from Mozart (also nearby) so we decided to try something new: shabu shabu. We entered the restaurant that looked like the bar from Kill Bill Vol. 1 and we ate so much shabu shabu, a hot pot of broth that is then filled with things like rice cakes and veggies and noodles to make a rich soup later after one is finished dipping meat and softer veggies in for a wonderful dining experience. I ate with gusto, something that my friends have been concerned about recently, and the protein did help me feel a little less drained. Also, when you place potatoes into your caldron of hot broth, it becomes like a little hot bomb that will burn you out of spite. I added so much sriracha to my hot pot that my broth turned red with spice.

I got my post panel cake and it felt like all was going to be okay. We discussed the timing issues I had earlier in the week and we’re still learning how to overcome that.

The drive back to the hotel was…different. I won’t go into details here but I left Dallas feeling an odd mix of feelings that only got to simmer and brew as I sat in traffic.

I got home late last night and did my best to unpack my clothes and my feelings.

Overall, I never regret convention and A-Kon despite its rocky start was worth it. The new owner and shift to a new place did make for a very hectic con and it was hard to plan for and build hype for: but going in with no expectations or honestly, expectations of it being bad, made for a very good convention.

We watched Bar Rescue and anime and Live PD and cooked and ate and enjoyed ourselves. I had fun with my best friend and saw places I miss when I return home. I’m happy to be in my own bed, but I’m still so glad I went.

Sure, A-Kon was in places a brilliant TrashCon. But it was my TrashCon and the memories I made during it will stay with me for the remainder of my days.

Thoughts from A-Kon 29

_This is obviously Kamoshida's castle. Look at those doors that go to nowhere. This is clearly a castle from Persona 5_.png

I’m back from another A-Kon. Another 500 miles. Another whirlwind weekend. Another set of memories with thoughts and feelings attached to them. Let’s discuss.

  • The drive gets a little easier every time if I get to make a stop.
  • Now that we’re at this place…let’s talk about the hotel:
    • This has to be the jankiest hotel we’ve ever stayed in. It was super expensive for the night and every time we overturned something there was a stain. WiFi didn’t work (bad for a panelist), shotty television (also bad for a panelist), stains everywhere and it was all just bad. Roaches in the stairwell, elevators that didn’t work but the only light was a man named Joshua. He upgraded our room (which was still stained but had a kitchen) and did his best to keep me and Carlos. But the crappy room really weighed heavily on both of us. Me as an introvert rely on the hotel to recoup and relax after how intense and draining con is and that just didn’t happen. I think it all left me even more tired than I should have been.
  • The hotel pool was weird, including two doors that seemed to go nowhere and the pool was an unnatural blue color: I can tell, my swimsuits are both Iwatobi blue and it matched my Iwatobi suit.
  • Hotel breakfast was awful but I do love me a Texas Waffle.
  • Remember last year’s A-Kon when I complained about the layout and the walking? Let’s touch on that.
    • I still had issues with the layout but this year it seemed to flow a lot better. I didn’t care so much that I had to wander far to get to places, it just seemed to flow better. But the heat was unbearable. I also got to take some awesome photos in the Water Gardens this year. Except for the bad 12 dollar Chinese food. That can go to hell where it belongs.
  • This con was absolutely THOT-con, like the amount of scantily clad cosplayers was intense. I’m old, y’all. We just didn’t do things that way.
  • It was AMAZING meeting people that I’ve only known online.
  • Apparently using a setting spray means nothing, I still got makeup everywhere.
  • Revolving sushi is amazing.
  • Daiso did not have apple gummies. My heart is still broken.
  • Lonely God may be the best chip brand ever.
  • Gen Korean BBQ is still amazing but it’s not great when you’re tired and dehydrated.
  • I still love Chicken Express and Taco Bueno. No one will take that from me.
  • Fun fact, I still don’t really understand e-sports.
    • Carlos got to do a big tournament at a huge e-sports arena and it all just seemed sort of silly to me. I get that I’m a cosplayer and too much of my brain is taken up by anime trivia but hey, it all just seems like a lot of fuss for a game.
  • I also learned that I don’t like losing.
    • Fun fact, I’ve always known this but Carlos and I sort of discovered why and it was all over a fighting game. So I love Naruto Clash of Ninja and in comparison to Carlos, it was for once, something I was good at. But Carlos is good at fighting games and he rather quickly learned how to beat the game and beat me. The same happened in Castlevania another game I thought I was okay at. It upset me because I suddenly felt like I wasn’t good at something and Carlos had to tell me that there are lots of things that he looks at me and sees as things I’m good at. It was sort of frustrating because in that moment, it didn’t matter. It’s a feeling that I’ve felt most of my life and it actually is really well illustrated in Free!. Haruka, in the first episode, talks about the pain of being almost an adult after being a child prodigy for most of his life. As a child, he was the best and as a teen, he’s just above average. That inferiority is something I’ve felt most of my life and it manifests in an inability to lose at something as simple as a video game or card game.That was something Carlos got to learn this weekend.
  • Bar Rescue may be the best thing on TV.
  • Live P.D. is also some damn fine television.
  • Just Dance for the Switch is evil and I am still winded from Applause by Lady Gaga.
    • Also, I’d love to do a Persona 5 group cosplay and do the Numa Numa routine. It’s very on-brand for a few of the best boys.
  • Flex-Glue is a strange thing that Carlos thinks is wonderful based on the advertising, so I suppose advertising does work.
  • Carlos is still surprised at my ability to choke down pills.
  • Honestly, Anthony Bourdain’s death hit me hard. Those of you who know me know that Bourdain was one of my idols and knowing that he lost his battle with mental illness brought me down a lot. It was nice though having friends that checked in on me and know that I am always here for you, dear readership. Together, we are never alone.
  • Packing alternate costumes was the best plan I ever had and having one go to hell was annoying after all the work I put into it was irksome but it felt good being out of costume.
  • By the time we reached the last day of con and my panel day I was really low energy and down and I felt like I couldn’t get that energy from the crowd or from Carlos; he was tired too after being in a crappy room and that was worrisome. I’ve always struggled with my friendships and I worry that I rely too much on and don’t get enough from those I care about. I worry that I lean too much on Carlos but also that he is not able to accept when I need to lean on him. That’s no one’s fault, just a realization.
  • Paneling on Sunday was really disappointing but this ended up being one of the best panel experiences of my life.

I will never forget getting to huge a young woman after telling her that she’s going to be okay after she expressed concerns about coming out to her family. I’ll never forget spotting friends in aisles and buying things that I’ll treasure forever. I’ll never forget swimming in a pool that was clearly out of Persona 5 and watching Carlos’ mind work through the mechanics of very broken fighting games.

This A-Kon was a lot, I’m happy to be home and happy to be finished with it all.

Till next year.

Some News!

Some News.jpg

Hello, all.

How’s your day going? I hope it’s been well! You may have noticed some changes around the site! I am now more social than ever.

After much protesting, I finally made a proper Youtube channel that’s full of panel videos and even a cosplay tutorial!

I also made a Tumblr account for generalized short musings.

And on top of all of that, I have an Instagram now for the ever so elusive photo of the real Amanda.

Thank you all for stopping by and to those who have stayed with me for so long.

Please check out all the places you can find me and as always, stay fantastic!

-A

 

A “True” Introvert

There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum. Carl Jung.png

I’m always surprised by what the internet thinks an introvert is. Listicle after listicle will say that an introvert is someone who shuns plans with friends, ignores humanity from days on in and lives in some sort of Frodo Baggins book-filled Hobbit Hole.

Well, folks. Sit down. Today, we’re gonna talk about introversion, being a crappy friend and what it means to get power from the self or power from the crowd.

Here’s a good time to discuss the difference between introversion and extroversion. An introvert as described by the Myer-Briggs Personality Test of Magic and Mostly Nonsense is a person who generally sounds like this, apparently:

I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “reflective” or “reserved.”
  • I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.
  • I prefer to know just a few people well.
  • I sometimes spend too much time reflecting and don’t move into action quickly enough.
  • I sometimes forget to check with the outside world to see if my ideas really fit the experience.

And extrovert is someone who looks a little like this, apparently:

I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”
  • I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
  • I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
  • I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.
  • Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.

The main differences between the two is that an introvert gets power from within while an extrovert gets power from the crowd or others.

In the made up land of Myers & Briggs (and I only say made up because it is reductive to say you can fit all of a person into literally 4 letters but like astrology, when it’s right, it’s right) I am an INFP. That is the archetype of the “idealist” and this is what that looks like:

As an INFP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.

INFPs, more than other iNtuitive Feeling types, are focused on making the world a better place for people. Their primary goal is to find out their meaning in life. What is their purpose? How can they best serve humanity in their lives? They are idealists and perfectionists, who drive themselves hard in their quest for achieving the goals they have identified for themselves.

INFPs are highly intuitive about people. They rely heavily on their intuitions to guide them, and use their discoveries to constantly search for value in life. They are on a continuous mission to find the truth and meaning underlying things. Every encounter and every piece of knowledge gained gets sifted through the INFP’s value system, and is evaluated to see if it has any potential to help the INFP define or refine their own path in life. The goal at the end of the path is always the same – the INFP is driven to help people and make the world a better place. (source)

I am an introvert and that surprises a lot of people. Many know me from paneling, podcasting, cosplaying, running organizations or generally being the center of attention. None of my friends would describe me as having a small personality and no one I work with has ever been able to claim that I don’t leave an impression.

So when do I have time to curl up in a cocoon of manga panels and mainline Mr. Pibb and ignore humanity in a sea of books I can’t afford and will never finish? The truth is that the Internet Introvert just isn’t real. Introverts aren’t just hermits. They aren’t hobgoblins that shirk away from sunlight and ignore humanity just to read and write fanfiction and sure there are introverts that do that but not every introvert is like that. And the continual perpetuation that an introvert is some sort of silkworm pupae that nestles in and ignores plans and calls from friends to binge watch Netflix is just immature.

If a friend needs me, I’m the first to hop in my car and be with them. If a friend cancels plans, am I sometimes happy? Sure sometimes. Am I also sometimes really disappointed that I’m wasting a full face of makeup and cute outfit? Absolutely and I will occasionally go out anyways if that happens. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t command an audience. Doesn’t mean I hate going out. Doesn’t mean that I don’t like other people. It just means I don’t get a lot of power from those actions. If you’ve seen me panel I’m energetic and vibrant. I adapt to the changes of crowds and answer questions gracefully and with charm. After the panel? Oh, after the show is a whole different story. In the Whataburger at 2 AM after a panel is a very different Amanda. And even after convention I am usually exhausted emotionally for days after. The crowd takes my energy. And sure, sometimes I get perked up from the crowd. Carlos has noted many times that he can see the sparkle in my eye when I’m on stage but the power I get is not equal to the power I give.

The difference between introversion and extroversion is what gives you power and I do not get a ton of power from people. That doesn’t mean I don’t like other people or that I don’t like going out. I also do get lonely and don’t like being by myself for too long.  And the idea that introverts are strange magical bat creatures diminishes all the good that introverts who have to be public do.

You know what real introversion is? Sitting down after convention at Mozart Bakery with Carlos over aloe vera tea and rainbow cake. Introversion is sewing while watching Deadliest Warrior. Introversion is still comforting a friend after a long day. Introversion is late night phone calls despite being tired and firing up an audience only to sit in your hotel bedroom while watching 5 hours of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

That’s what being an introvert is. And it certainly doesn’t involve being a garbage person who just likes to flake out on friends and shun commitments.

So is now the time that I ask for my book fort, obnoxious blanket pile and general disdain for humanity?

Audience vs. Author

“To defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive.”—William Zinsser.png

I’m a rather selfish writer. From an early age, whatever and whenever I wrote: I was writing fundamentally for me. I think it’s the big reason why I blog and panel: I write and say as I wish. If someone isn’t happy with my opinions, I adore discourse but no one is making any unhappy reader stay. I also tend to share my work with just close friends. They have plenty of things to say about my work but I rather defend my work from friends than strangers. But as someone who writes, reads and loves discourse between fans and creators: what does an artist or author owe their audience.

Well, to me the short order is nothing. Most of the time.

I read a lot of webcomics and webcomics have become the last stand for many artists and writers who want real creative freedom. Smaller audiences, you are your own editor and almost total freedom to write about whatever you want. Well, most of the time. Amazingly, despite the “freedom” that comes with abandoning traditional platforms and avoiding editors and publishing houses it puts creators and audiences in direct contact with each other. I’ve seen many a comment section grow into riots over canons, storylines and shipping. And amazingly, when you remove the buffer between creator and audience: it isn’t always pretty. I know plenty of webcomic artists that are damn near defensive of their work and refuse to accept any criticism. There are comics that will never properly end because the creator got so burned by their audience. Storylines have been changed. Plots retracted. And so so many arguments over pronouns and if a character is asexual, non-binary or whether a pairing is true or not.

And I can attest that as an author and creator: I get defensive, too. I’ve never quite argued with people nor will I often correct them but I also don’t usually bristle too much when a creator does dive into the comments to correct a misgendering or to assert that a “pairing” is in fact just a pair of friends. Hell, after a negative review on one of my panels, I bristled for days. Even though the criticism was in many ways valid and I did grow and learn from it.

What I will probably never understand is being so defensive to the point of being delusional. Sister Claire is a webcomic I love and have followed from the start but there’s a scene that…borrows heavily from the popular anime Big O. And instead of just owning “Hey, you’re right. We did heavily borrow from another series.” the creator and her partner spent many days in the comments saying that it was common Knights Templar imagery and verbiage as opposed to just accepting a spade as a spade.

But on the flipside of that, I’ve seen audiences completely steamroll over authors. There’s webcomics that will never be finished because the creators became so exhausted by the rigor of keeping a fanbase happy. Blaster Nation famously almost didn’t get a proper ending because the creators were besieged with negativity over ending the very popular comic in favor of one that actually made them money. I was sad as anyone else to see Blaster Nation end but I’d never spew venom to the creators. One of my favorite comics Saint for Rent is currently on hiatus for a year and from what I’ve been able to see everyone has been very supportive and patient in waiting for the series to return while the creator explores other creative ventures.

Now that we’ve discussed how an author should act, what does an audience owe the creator? Well, that’s a strange subject now. Things like Patreon make audiences even more powerful. If I am giving an artist money, like a patron, then I should have some influence on what happens. One of my favorite historical figures, King Ludwig II was the patron of Richard Wagner. And King Ludwig II did dictate what and when Herr Wagner should compose about. Audiences do especially in webcomics drive what creators can do. If you want full creative freedom, finance yourself. But even though audiences are paying for creative ventures now, that doesn’t mean an audience gets to be nasty. I do though even more so understand the frustration an audience has when a comic or property fails them. There are plenty of webcomics I wish would just end, they have strayed so far from their original plots. Dangerously Chloe has had an interesting run that has strayed very far from its original rom-com roots. But no one who loves a property or piece feeling like they’ve been taken for a ride. And there is a certain helplessness that comes with being a lover of a property or piece and having no control over the direction, plan or execution of a series. And that lack of control can be exhausting, scary and demoralizing for fans. That isn’t an excuse to be nasty to creators, but as someone who has watched a beloved series derail, I “get” where that feeling comes from.

I do also understand the strain and stress of performing for an audience. Why do you think I only panel a few times a year? It’s exhausting! Yet alone having to crank out pages while at times the unsympathetic herds can rant and rave about a page being later. Energy wanes and waxes, desire to post lessens and it creates a rather unfortunate feedback loop. And honestly, that pressure does keep me from wanting to publish more of my work more often. I luckily try to blog multiple times a month but I do my best not to beat myself up too much if I don’t. And I have seen many artists who openly admit to taking breaks or slowing down only to be met with extreme hatred and vitriol. There’s a reason I don’t quit my day job to be just a panelist and writer: 1) talent and 2) I never want a hobby to be anything more than a hobby. I know how quickly once you turn passion into work it can become exhausting. Anyone who knows me knows how stressed out I get before and after paneling and if I can do anything to lessen that feeling, I’m willing to do that. I can’t imagine the stress of making people happy and having to perform and if I displease an audience more than my general panelist rating is affected.

Is there a way to move forward or go on? I think so. Have meaningful discourse, at least in private. I may have issues with Never Satisfied or Sister Claire but I tend not to talk about those in public. I do have friends that read the same comics so we get to rant about those forever. If you do feel the need to talk about your concerns to the creator or in public: do so respectfully. If diplomacy fails and you do manage to raise the ire of the creator: keep things civil.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to read the comic if it irritates you that much even if that argument fundamentally makes me angry. I will never totally accept that rationale of “if you don’t like a thing, stop reading/watching it”. Even just as a reader, you invest time, energy, money and life into a work. Without audiences, creators cannot create. There has to be a balance of respecting the creator while also respecting your audience.

A Struggle Between the Sacred and the Profane

“My flaws and imperfections make me perfectly incomplete.” Aisha Mirza.png

Contrary to popular belief: I am not perfect. I have plenty of things that make my normally sunny disposition at times a little less than rosy. Now, if you clicked on this hoping for a manifesto on what makes me terrible: shame on you. If you clicked on this looking for a discussion on the nature of flaws, agency and expertise: then I humbly welcome you and let’s get started.

So as many of you know, I panel. I love being a panelist and I love being able to show that I am an expert in my field and that I adore sharing my knowledge with other people during a panel performance. Now, my panels are sometimes a bit odd. I really get to cut loose when I’m on stage and really have fun. I have a big personality despite my small frame and a voice that doesn’t match the petite princess many assume I am. But in cutting loose, I worry very little about what I have to say. I use slang, expletives, chatspeak and whatever word that comes out of my mouth to best explain my thought at the time. Truthfully, if you’ve even seen me perform the same panel twice: each performance is a little different.

During last A-Kon, on top of the fantastic review that I received I also did get a not so positive one. A viewer was more than put off my by use of casual language and the occasional bad word (oops). The reviewer comments that it “took him entirely” out of the panel that I used common vernacular and even gasp profanity. Now, before you start thinking:

Amanda, are you just mad because SOMEONE didn’t like one of your shows?

Well, yes. But more than that. I was very struck by the choice of words. Took him out of the show because of my use of common speech. And it got me thinking. How am I supposed to speak? What would have satisfied him? What was he expecting? And really, does common language make an artist no longer an artist?

Shakespeare was considered to be lowbrow during his time because of his use of common language. Poe never received a great deal of critical acclaim because of his use of terrifying imagery and rather plain language. And many authors, poets and creators have been put to the side for their use of the language of the common folk. And why is that? Because it makes art attainable. Art and writing has always been a tool to keep those in power in power and those below in the muck and mire of mediocrity. So when revolutionary people took art into their own hands (Oh, you know. Like publishing the Bible in German not Latin) they are often demonized because now EVERYONE could understand and reach and react to the piece.  

I’m a writer. I have been paid for my work. I hold a degree from a top-tier school. I’ve paneled before and my use of language that is common to myself and those around me should not be the thing that absolutely invalidates my ethos. And if it does: again, what did you expect? For me to saunter out onto the stage in full arsenic-filled makeup, corsetted to the gods and speakin’ the King’s?


Now, I’ll take the hit. I should reign in my mouth. I can stand to, at least a little bit. It isn’t ladylike to be profane but the double standard of a woman who uses profanity and a man that uses profanity is a topic for, well, another time. This whole audit of panels and panel videos (that don’t go up for a reason you’ll find out soon) in prep for a new round of panel creation and applications. I do swear, probably more than I should. And I was very taken aback by my own loose nature with language upon listening to my videos, and truthfully, a little ashamed. I’m disappointed that I get so comfortable with my audience that I do not always try to impress them by finding a different word to use than “damn”. But that doesn’t stop me from putting on a good show and it doesn’t seem to bother any of the other literal hundreds of people that have seen me perform.

And I’ve struggled with that in other places as well. The chatroom I moderate for has a very strict no chatspeak policy and despite how I feel about the rule, I do think it’s an odd paradox. Sure, I’m a writer and sure, I can use more elaborate constructs of language but sometimes there’s no better response to something that LOL. We’ve added those things to our language. They are our cultural artifacts that I’m sure will be judged by future humans and future civilizations. But hey, remember that time that people actively shunned television because they assumed they’d ruin books? Also remember the time that people actively shunned books but they didn’t want humans imagining things that weren’t real and happening before them?

So let’s just remember that an expert by any other word is an expert. And really, if my occasional swear word and use of shorthand is the most egregious thing you’ve witnessed me do or say; then I guess I’m doing a hell of a good job.

Amanda.Actually: Panelist Most of the Time

Hello, readers! As many of you know, I’m a panelist, cosplayer and general fangirl. It’s convention season for me and I wanted to ask you: my friends, readers and those that are generally made of awesome a simple question.

AichiYume Needs Your Help (1)

 

Topics I’ve covered in the past include: Fandoms 101, Character Development, Men’s Roles in Anime and Convention Etiquette. The writing ones are a huge hit and I’m lucky enough to be a seasoned fangirl so I can talk to a few topics.

Here’s a picture of my panel crowd from Character Development at A-Kon 27 ( I apologize for the crappy pic but this wasn’t even all the crowd, the room ended up filling out by the time I was finished with my panel).

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And here’s another picture from MizuumiCon to another fairly packed house where I presented my Fandoms 101 panel for the first time!

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At this stage of asking about topics there are no wrong answers so don’t hold back. I’m very open to suggestions.

What topics would you love to see in a panel run by the tiny awesome me?

I look forward to your submissions in the comments below or on any of my social media channels that are linked to this humble little blog.

Thanks for reading as always and thank you for continuing to inspire me to be a better writer, panelist and person.