2022. Hello Forty.

Over the last ten years I have shared—on or around January 1st—a vision for my future. These have never been ordinary resolutions. Instead I wrote mantras, hopes, and wishes for what I want my life to stand for, what I want it to mean. More often than not I talked about taking risks and leaps, harnessing optimism, searching for kindness, and in some of our tougher years, encouraged myself to dig deep for a well of defiance.

Earlier this week, as I continued to think about how to approach this piece, I saw a suggestion (by an old high school friend) to not look to resolutions, but rather to make a list of things you were proud of in 2021. So here’s my list:

Glittering poles with flowers and greeneries and shoes as witnesses to lives lost.
“Come, Take a Moment” is an installation by Devon Shimoyama meant to encourage visitors to the Arts and Industries Building’s exhibition called The FUTURES to pause and reflect on the “tumult and tragedy brought on by racial violence and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

We all know it wasn’t an easy year, but unlike 2020 it had moments of brightness made possible by the COVID-19 vaccine. I know taking a vaccine is an odd thing to list as an accomplishment, but when belief in our ability as humans to take care of each other feels like a challenge, taking the three shots in 2021 felt like something I could do not only for myself, but for others. More selfishly, taking the vaccine allowed me to hug family, and friends, and to fly across the country to meet my new nephew just days after he was born.

Continue reading “2022. Hello Forty.”

Kate Hamill: Vanity Fair and Adapting the Classics from the Female Gaze

This post originally appeared on FANgirl blog

Published in 1848, Vanity Fair falls within a broad category of novels often referred to as “classic.” Some may have read the novel as students, while others stumbled upon William Makepeace Thackeray’s serialized story through the Mira Nair film (starring Reese Witherspoon) or the recent mini-series on Amazon. Whatever the medium, the story of Vanity Fair details the life of Rebecca (Becky) Sharp and her friend Amelia Sedley, two women who come from vastly different circumstances and are thrust into — or take on, depending on your interpretation — a society that isn’t very kind to either of them.

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Thackeray’s intent was to be satirical and to be a mirror on society. However, like many classic novels it is often dismissed as lacking relevance in the here and now.

That expectation is what led to a challenge: How do you take a book like Vanity Fair and translate it to the stage, creating a more realistic and identifiable Becky and Amelia that serve, also, as a reflection of our times? Continue reading “Kate Hamill: Vanity Fair and Adapting the Classics from the Female Gaze”

Podcasting, Podracing, and Celebrating Star Wars

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L-R Fangirls Going Rogue hosts Sarah Woloski, Teresa Delgado,  and Tricia Barr,  and myself at the Podcast Stage for Star Wars Celebration. | Credit: Brian Sims

I am not at all impulsive, but one day last year I gave in and purchased, without really thinking, tickets to Star Wars Celebration 2019. The event, which took place last month was what I had always expected it to be — a party with 65,000 of my fellow fans. Before attending I had been apprehensive about my diminishing levels of fandom for the GFFA, and this convention was the moment to see how I really felt.  As I wandered amidst the crowds I realized that:  Continue reading “Podcasting, Podracing, and Celebrating Star Wars”

Journey to the Past: Timeless & the History Film Forum

Many fans of fantasy and sci-fi fall into two different camps: those who love time travel and those who don’t. For those who love it, suspension of belief is sufficient to get through the paradoxes that these narratives develop over time. The inverse is true for those who abhor stories that change the past, because repercussions from the butterfly effect leads to stories that are convoluted and messy.

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I thought about this the other day when watching Rogue One, last year’s Star Wars movie about a group of rebels plotting to retrieve the plans for the first Death Star.  While thrilling in its own right it is only through the final minutes (the final, last ditch, effort to escape Darth Vader) where we see the connective tissue between this film and 1977’s A New Hope.

In some ways it feels like a historical document. A primary source that fills in a missing piece — why everyone fears Darth Vader, just how desperate Princess Leia was to get the plans away from her ship, the absolute critical nature of C3PO and R2D2’s mission. It puts things into perspective and provides insight into a story that captured my imagination for the past twenty years. Continue reading “Journey to the Past: Timeless & the History Film Forum”

Hamilton: One Last Time

I had intended for this to go up in the waning days of last year but found myself wanting to spend my vacation away from my computer rather than in front of it. So here we are, with some final thoughts on the other side of the new year.

A final post, one last time, on Hamilton: An American Musical.

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This piece will mark my sixth and final blog post on my unabashed love for this genius historical musical. I swear.

In a lot of ways, this year has been the year of Hamilton for me. On some level it allowed some respite from the real world, while opening the floodgates on an already complex conversation about art, diversity, and our American past.

In 2016 I have been privileged to see the show on Broadway and like so many others devoured the Hamilton Mixtape, finished the Hamilton: The Revolution (henceforth the Hamiltome, the book about the making of the musical – with annotations!), and watched Hamilton’s America – the incredible PBS documentary that put the musical in its historical context. Continue reading “Hamilton: One Last Time”

Building Character: Writing The Heart of the River

“In every story that you read / A heroine or hero fills a need.”

At the end of January I finally hit publish on a children’s book three years in the making

The Heart of the River tells the story of a young explorer who searches for wonder at the heart of the River Idira. Along the way she encounters a fearsome dragon and uncovers her own ability for courage and kindness.

But this isn’t about my accomplishment, as excited as I am to share the news. Rather it’s a conversation on process, about how I wanted to create a world that was inclusive, but also a world where the main character would be the embodiment of all the writing and reading I had done over the past five years on what made a strong female character.5_ARYA_Light_Ray

In my acknowledgements I talk of how this story started as a tingle in my fingers and romanticized how it poured out of me with a life of its own.

But that’s a lie. Sort of.

Read the rest of the post on FANgirl.com.

A Twinge of Loss. The Aftermath of the Star Wars Expanded Universe

This post originally appeared on FANgirl.

Han shot first. A toy in a prime television viewing spot at a friends house.
Han shot first. A toy in a prime television viewing spot at a friends house.

In eighth grade science class my friend Tracy slid me a folded piece of notebook paper. Scrawled across the top were the words “Star Wars Expanded Universe and Ratings” or something like that. On this paper she had painstakingly written out the name of each of the books marking each in turn with a series of stars. One for Children of the Jedi. Five for The Last Command. A blueprint for a newly inducted fan.

Soon I found myself devouring each book as it came along. Wanting to stay current, and let’s be honest, to know everything. In 1995, the internet was in its infancy, and my sphere of conversation on this topic was limited. But, boy, did I read.

I read regularly until the end of the New Jedi Order. Then things took a turn towards darkness. bugs, strange adventures, twisted Solo children. So I moved on, returning occasionally for a book by Timothy Zahn and to read about Mara’s demise firsthand. I felt like I owed it to her to read about her death, to pay my last respects.

Despite all this the internet kept me informed and it was enough. A single toe in a larger pond.

Enter Disney.

Let’s get this out of the way: I am hopeful. Cautiously optimistic. Filled with anticipation. Even thrilled now that we have three films in three years.

Seriously all — ROGUE ONE. Even if it isn’t linked to Michael Stackpole/Aaron Allston, the idea alone… Whew.

Then there was a notice about the new books, including a blurb about Star Wars: Aftermath, and there it was: an unexpected twinge next to my heart, a sudden moment of loss.

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER ENDOR? FIND OUT IN STAR WARS: AFTERMATH Continue reading “A Twinge of Loss. The Aftermath of the Star Wars Expanded Universe”

Finding What We Need: Native American Heroines and the Creation of Historical Myths

This post originally appeared on the FANgirl blog.

The Corps of Discovery in Kansas City, MO, which features Sacagawea
The Corps of Discovery in Kansas City, MO, which features Sacagawea | Credit: Kristina Downs

On FANgirl we talk a lot about heroines – who they are, what makes them strong, how they represent and influence the culture we live in. Often these discussions involve looking at the process of myth-making and storytelling; stereotypes and archetypes – and how they reflect real world needs and ideas. These ideas specifically are rooted in our historical narrative.

For a long time the history we learned was told from a singular perspective: the white male, the victors, the overseers, the husbands. Since the 1960s historians have worked to fill that gap looking at the same history from additional viewpoints including African-American, immigrants, Native-Americans, and women. While we have some primary sources written by members of this specific groups, sometimes our understanding of these lives come from folklore: stories, myths, music, and literature.

Folklore gives us a sense of iconic figures and representations that reflect the age in which they were written. These historical mythologies are transitional and ever shifting from decade to decade, just as our heroes and heroines in science fiction have changed based on where we were in time.

About a month ago I sat down with a friend of mine, Kristina Downs, to talk about her dissertation on Native American heroines. We’ve known each other for about ten years through a mutual love of Shakespeare and science fiction at the College of William and Mary, but it was only recently through a random post on Facebook that I realized she was in the process of getting her Ph.D. in folklore. Continue reading “Finding What We Need: Native American Heroines and the Creation of Historical Myths”