Hello, gentle viewers!
I have an exciting announcement in the works for you. But I can’t reveal it yet.
I, along with three other badass women are about to create something super cool. When we do, we’ll be looking to get the word out, because we want YOU to join in. Artists, writers, designers, and general geek-loving folks — we’re gonna need a bigger boat.
So keep your ears peeled or perked or whatever. And look for an announcement 1 May!
Until then, check out this cool happening. They’re screening the documentary Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines online with a moderated discussion Wednesday at 4 PM EDT. Apart from the unfortunate use of the word “heroine,” (which I discussed at length here), this seems like a really cool documentary. Check it out and watch for free Wednesday!
So, the very cool J.J. Anderson featured me on his blog for my flash fiction writing! Go forth and check out his blog, including the parts that aren’t about me! But then come back. Because I love you and we gots shit to do together today.
Aside from the awesome factor of this gentleman carving out a chunk of his blog for yours truly, there was a moment of head scratching where I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “haven’t you written a bit more flash fiction than all that on your Fiction page?”
And then after another moment of head scratching, I thought, “Why, yes. You have.”
Part of it was J.J. attempting to track down a bit of Twitter flash fiction he’d seen and lost in the abyss of The Timeline, which happened to be about killing a chicken. I thought, “I just wrote a blog post about not doing that.” My second thought was, “And I wrote a piece of flash about doing EXACTLY that.” I sifted through the Engine of Search (that’d be Google) and found it. And posted it on my fiction page where it belongs. Which has really nothing to do with this post at all. This post is a whole other thing.
You’re welcome for that ramble.
This post is my ineligible contribution to last summer’s End of the World Flash Fiction Contest, which I ran in July. It was a highly successful and awesome contest, and I had fun creating my own entry just for the halibut. The prompt was, in essence, happenings that occur the day before the end of the world. My preference was for human snapshots, moments that show they don’t know what’s coming — but you, O Wise Omniscient Reader, you do. I hope I captured that essence in this flash fiction piece.
Additionally, this happens to be my 500th post. *nostalgic sniffle*
I thought about doing something extravagant, like tooting a kazoo on YouTube or painting my face with gold. But then I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “you’re a writer. Your 500th post could totes be a bit of your writing. You know, the fiction kind. As opposed to the other kind that normally pollutes people’s eyeballs with this blog.”
(I usually don’t use the word “totes.”)
So here you go, gentle viewers. Here’s my little snapshot of the day before the end of the world. I hope you enjoy. And happy 500th postiversary to me!
by Emmie Mears
I hear the chuffing growl of the engine just as the cherry of my cigarette hits the filter. It’s close, but I can’t see it. But I know what it is.
“Shit.” I stomp on the butt and kick it into the grass. “Shit.”
I come around the corner just as the tow truck lifts my battered Buick onto its back axle.
“This yours?” The driver’s mouth is pinched and puckered like a dog’s asshole, and she spits on the ground before I can get the image out of my head.
“I was just having a smoke. I gotta get back on the road. My kid graduates tomorrow.”
“I’ve already done the papers, Mister. Sorry.” Her hand is creased like her mouth, and it feels like leather when her skin brushes mine as she offers a business card.
“Look. Please? I haven’t seen my little girl in five years.” My fingers jab at the healed track marks at the crook of my left arm, and as the driver’s gaze follows, I pretend I’m slapping a mosquito. “I gotta be there.”
“Maybe you should’ve left earlier.”
I snort a laugh. “Yeah, maybe. Ended up losing my job anyway.”
Her jaw slackens as she takes in my appearance. I know what I look like. Boots like barely tanned leather. Jeans I had to scrape the cow shit off of before the laundromat owner let me wash them. White button down I got for two bucks at the Second Run Thrift Store and spilled mustard on at dinner. Yeah, I know what I look like. Burned out cowboy who took too many do-si-dos with needles.
“Where’re you headed?”
She nods. Hope tickles my chest.
“Yard’s open all night. You should hit the Texas border by four or so. It’s not the end of the world.”
It’s half past ten. “How much to get my car out?”
Could be worse. Could be five. This way, it’s fifty bucks less than I got to my name.
“Where’s the yard?”
“Five miles down Route 15. Turn right there,” she points. “And just keep walking. You’ll see it.”
“Can’t I hitch a ride with you?”
“It’s not allowed.” She slams the door of the tow truck and tips her hat at me. “Good luck getting to your girl.”
The sun’s long gone to sleep, but the Mississippi air smothers me before I make it a mile. My white shirt soaks through in minutes and clings to my chest.
It’s almost midnight before I make it to the yard. My stomach’s sounding like the tow truck, but I hand over my two fifty-three to the attendant, grab a Slim Jim and a Coke, and snatch my keys from his hand.
“Second row,” he says.
Little Lou’s graduation is at one. I’m gonna make it.
I crank the air as soon as the engine turns over, and it cools my skin and brightens my mood as I speed west.
I’ll be there.
Tomorrow I’ll make things right.
It’s been a while since we’ve busted out the SuperWomen hashtag, folks, but a discussion this morning with my agent and another writer on Twitter made me think it was time to raise the banner once more.
The spark for the discussion was this: Chris Perna, the art director of Epic Games (which created the popular Gears of War franchise) said that it was unlikely they’d ever have a female protagonist for their games.
Because “if you look at what sells, it’s tough to justify something like that.”¹
Excuse me while I turn my head and cough.
What I hate the most about that kind of statement is that it’s a bit of a straw man. If you look at the gaming industry, it certainly looks male dominated. Just like the comic book industry looks male dominated. But if you look a little closer, you’ll find that women make up a huge portion of gamers and readers and enjoyers of these media. (Though admittedly the creation aspect is still overwhelmingly skewed toward men.)
For instance, 47% of gamers are, in fact, women. And female gamers OVER the age of 18 are one of the fastest-growing demographics in video games.²
Perna’s argument is a straw man because honestly, most major video gaming companies simply haven’t MADE a game in a major franchise that has a female protagonist, so they have nothing to actually compare it to. And if you look at the success of the long-running Resident Evil series (Capcom) and Tomb Raider (Core Design/Crystal Dynamics), you see that games with female protagonists can absolutely be hugely profitable and popular with the male demographic. If both of those franchises had flopped horribly (or rather, blipped into the waters of gamerdom without so much as a ripple), maybe his statement would have a teensy bit of merit from a fiscal standpoint.
But after multiple films, huge numbers of titles, and years of devoted fans — he comes off as more than a little naive and condescending. Perhaps he didn’t mean to sound like he was patting women on the head for feeling empowered when they go to cons and cosplay as Anya or Samantha (two characters in the Gears franchise), but it sure sounded that way.
You can’t say games with a female protagonist won’t sell because most of the games out there have male protagonists. Naturally those will sell more copies, because more of them exist.
Until one of the hugely-successful, popular franchises goes for it and produces a title in their series with a female protagonist, they really have nothing to compare it to besides the success of Resident Evil and Tomb Raider and the franchises that were built around a female leader in the first place. If you can point to a blockbuster gaming franchise that tanked as soon as it introduced a female protagonist, do tell.
Comments like Pernas’ are like saying women clearly don’t want to see superhero movies with female leads because Catwoman flopped. Hello. Catwoman flopped because it was an awful film, not because Halle Berry was the lead instead of Christian Bale. The point is this: make an awesome, well-written, exciting game and gamers will flock to it regardless of whether the protagonist has a dingle or a hoo-hah. But don’t try to tell me people won’t buy games with female protagonists (or rather that men won’t). They will.
To their credit, Epic Games seems to have gotten the point that they needed to minimize Perna’s words, because they issued a statement saying they would never rule out having a female protagonist for the Gears of War series, but that doesn’t mean much to me until there is one.
There are plenty of franchises (like my beloved Dragon Age and the Elder Scrolls) that offer gamers a choice. I love that option, and I think that Bioware did a good thing by giving gamers the opportunity to control much of their character from the outset, including the character’s sex.
This Thursday (21 February), I would like to bring back the #SuperWomen live chat to discuss geek girl culture and female gamers.
What: SuperWomen live chat on Twitter!
Topic: SuperWomen in gamer culture. Female protagonists, the female gamer demographic, and more.
When: Thursday, 21 February from 7-8 PM EST. (Don’t worry, I’ll let you out before The Vampire Diaries.)
Come hang out and discuss what YOU want to see in the video gaming industry.
¹Yep, he really said that. Here’s a link.
²Entertainment Software Association. See link.