“Atlantis Fandom Makes a Comeback”

There have been crickets chirping over here while I’ve been gearing up and now starting the semester, plus editing a new novel and lining up some guest posts for The Seventh Pleiade.

On that latter score, head over to speculative fiction blog Layers of Thought to check out my guest article: “Atlantis Fandom Makes a Comeback,” wherein I talk about the ebb and flow of interest in Atlantis and why this is the right time for Atlantis stories to make a big splash.

(hardee har har…sorry about that).

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The Number of LGBT YA Titles Increasing at a Turtle’s Pace According to Malinda Lo

This is a lazy blog post. It really is.

I basically just wanted to share a very sharp, well-reasoned analysis of the status of LGBT YA written by author Malinda Lo earlier this week (“LGBT Young Adult Books 2003-2013: A Decade of Slow But Steady Change”).

You might find the title to be a bit charitable after you read the article and see her pie charts and graphs. (Yay for Pie Charts and Graphs!) In an industry that publishes thousands of young adult books every year, on average only fifteen of those books portray LGBT teens and/or “LGBT issues” such as growing up with same-sex parents or bullying in school.

Yuck.

Anyway, as always, Lo is thoughtful and precise in her consideration of the dilemma. Part of that precision is focusing on big publishers only. The number of LGBT titles from small presses, or those self-published by authors, is very challenging to count and analyze. Including those titles could skew perceptions. It’s important that LGBT books are published, but it’s also important that they have a wide distribution so that they get to teen readers. That’s not to say that LGBT titles at big publishers are better. I like the way that Lo addresses this issue:

“In some ways, I see the largest YA publishers as analogous to the broadcast networks on television. Broadcast networks have historically had the widest reach, even though much quality programming happens these days on cable channels that have smaller distribution in the television marketplace. An analysis of the broadcast networks — or the major publishers — doesn’t negate the contributions that smaller networks (or publishers) can and do make, especially in representation of minorities, but I do think the major networks (and publishers) have a greater responsibility due to their greater reach.”

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Postcard to Putin

A friend of mine, artist and author Stephen Mead brought to my attention this important campaign.

Postcard collage by Stephen Mead

Postcard collage by Stephen Mead

You are probably aware of the vulnerable status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Russia due in great part by the government enacting a law prohibiting the “promotion” of homosexuality. With the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Russian officials even went so far as to warn international athletes that they will be banned from the games if there is evidence that they are spreading “gay propaganda.”

Some human rights activists have demanded that fair-minded countries pull out of the Sochi Olympics. Others have organized boycotts of Russian products like vodka. I think both of these strategies have their merits and their limitations, e.g. who really suffers from a boycott in a global economy?

Mead’s Postcard to Putin, which ties in with Change.org’s Love Letters to Russia campaign, is a straight forward approach to raising awareness of the government’s wrong-mindedness while putting pressure on Russia’s leaders. Whether or not the messages penetrate the hearts and minds of politicians, they give global visibility to the outrage so many of us feel. They’re also a great example of how anyone can be an activist.

Here’s Stephen’s page from the International Society and Assemblage of Collage Artists with information on how you can get involved.

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5 Reasons Why Atlantis is Making a Comeback

I love a good Atlantis story, and I despair a bit that Atlantis has never quite broken into modern pop culture, at least not in a way with much gravitas.

For sci-fi geeks, there was the Stargate Atlantis series and for kids there was Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Some big name authors have written about Atlantis, like Clive Cussler with his espionage thriller Atlantis Found, but generally Atlantis stories are considered genre and niche.

It’s time for a full-on Atlantis blitz, on the order of vampires, post-apocalyptic dystopias and zombies. Here’s why the time is right.

5. The Every-Thirty-Years Theory: Sociologists say our culture is cyclical.
Political, social and even artistic trends tend to fall in and out of fashion every
thirty years.

This is good news for Atlantis fans because the last decade of major Atlantis popularity was the 1980s. Here’s a look back in thirty year spans.

"Psychic" Edgar Cayce

“Psychic” Edgar Cayce

1920s:

Atlantis makes its silver screen début with the French/Belgian silent movie L’Atlantide, Scottish journalist and folklorist Lewis Spence publishes his seminal book The History of Atlantis. Pop-psychic Edgar Cayce claims that he can contact ancient Atlanteans.

 

 

 

From the 1959 film adaptation of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth

From the 1959 film adaptation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth

1950s:

Jules Vernes’ Journey to the Center of the Earth is made into a movie. Pulp author Lester Del Rey, who will become the founder of Ballantine’s sci fi/fantasy imprint Del Rey books, publishes Attack from AtlantisAtlantis:The Lost Continent becomes the first Hollywood studio production about the legend (OK, that’s stretching decades just a touch; the movie came out in 1961).

 

Screen shot of Atari's Atlantis

Screen shot of Atari’s Atlantis

1980′s:

Best-selling Australian author Marion Zimmer Bradley takes on Atlantis with her epic Fall of Atlantis. The award-winning film Cocoon is based on extraterrestrial myths about Atlantis. Atari is inspired and releases an Atlantis video game.

 

 

4. Everyone loves Greek Mythology: Recent projects about Ancient Greece are a warm-up for the BIG Atlantis breakthrough.

Percy Jackson: Sea of MonstersThere’s Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson book series and movie franchise, the 2010 reboot of Clash of the Titans (from the original 1981 movie — see #5 above), along with films like 300 and Immortals.

 

 

3. Young adult fantasy author T.A. Barron just released the Atlantis Rising series.

TA Barron's Atlantis Rising

2. BBC’s Atlantis mini-series just came to the small screen for Fall 2013.

Embedly Powered

 

1. You know where this was leading: Andrew J. Peters’ The Seventh Pleiade, upcoming in November 2013, begins a new epic series retelling the story of Atlantis. (And is available for pre-order by the way).

The Seventh Pleiade by Andrew J. Peters*Note: This article is not meant to be taken entirely seriously :)

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Atlantis Teaser – BBC One

I’ve been waiting quite impatiently for the BBC’s Atlantis series.

This video that came out last week doesn’t even qualify as a trailer, I think. They’re calling it a ‘teaser;’ even at that, at eleven seconds, it doesn’t give much of anything away. Kind of like Natalie Wood in her début as burlesque performer Gypsy Rose.

Anyway, I’m still excited to see how the creators will re-imagine Atlantis. And here’s the teaser:

Embedly Powered

And here’s Gypsy Rose :)

Embedly Powered

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Queer Portrayals in Books, the “Queer Seismometer” and What Really Impacts Cultural Equality

I have to credit comic writer Dale Lazarov for getting me started on this topic again. He posted a really interesting viewpoint on his Tmblr last week: “In Continuity: why people complain about the lack of gay characters in mainstream comics and why it isn’t about gay characters.”

Archie Comics publishes its first gay kiss

Last year’s advertisement for Archie Comics’ issue featuring gay character Kevin Keller’s first kiss

Lazarov talks about gay characters in comics, but it’s the same debate that goes on in YA and fantasy, and other genres I imagine.

Why aren’t there more LGBT people in books? And: what can we do about it?

I wrote on the topic two years ago in the wake of the #YesGayYA kerfuffle. (“Diversifying Books for Teens: #YesGayYA and Beyond.”) My perspective hasn’t changed that much, but Lazarov hit on some points about gay comics that I’ve often felt in regard to LGBT, or what I prefer to call queer literature. I don’t think I articulated that perspective as stridently as I could.

There’s a tendency to judge the progress of queer visibility by the changes that occur in mainstream publishing. We chart progress by watching the stylus on a queer seismometer. Everyone gets happy and excited when things register in a big way. We lament that most of the time it looks like a barely rippling line.

A Queer Seismometer

A queer seismometer showing an earthquake in queer representations in media; well, that’s my caption taken with liberties

I’ve fallen back on that tendency myself. When Entertainment Weekly ran an article about the cover art for Knopf Books’ upcoming Two Boys Kissing by David Levithanit felt like BIG NEWS. And I’m not saying that it wasn’t big news. But what Lazarov’s article got me thinking about was how the focus on mainstream publishing obscures and — dare I say — marginalizes the longtime efforts of indie publishers, their authors, and self-published authors.

Solutions to the perceived lack of queer books can also do the same thing; and here’s where it can get especially aggravating for queer authors and artists, as Lazarov notes. The common refrain is: if you want to see more queer books, you should buy more queer books. When publishers see sales, they’ll produce more of the books you want.

I’m all for people buying more queer books. But as a strategy for cultural equality, I find it a bit hollow and patronizing. Readers who like books about queer people already buy them. Shelling out our dough to Random House and HarperCollins for their few queer titles hasn’t made much of a difference. We make up 1-2% of their market.

Queer titles crossing over to non-queer readers has made a difference; and by “a difference,” I mean a tiny increase in the number of titles that come out each year by mainstream publishers. We need to acknowledge why that cross-over has happened. It’s because of broader social and cultural changes, well beyond the world of books, and made possible by a much bigger movement of activism by queer people and our allies. Straight readers (especially young straight female readers) are more comfortable reading queer stories.

I predict that the Supreme Court decision on DOMA will have a significant impact on the number of queer titles from mainstream publishers in future years. That landmark political change will have much more impact than any buying campaign by the 1-2% of us who are hard core queer lit fans. My second prediction: those mainstream releases will tend to deal with gay and lesbian couples getting married, and tend to be essentially books for non-queer readers – with straight heroines and heroes and gay or lesbian secondary characters.

So what about the 1-2%? This is a estimate that I arrived at considering: (a) most hard core queer lit fans are queer, and queer people are only 2-10% of the population according to most studies; (b) deduct at least half of the percentage points since, like our non-queer counterparts, the majority of queer people don’t read at all; (c) deduct a couple more percentage points since some queer readers aren’t particularly interested in queer literature anyway; (d) add a percentage point or two for non-queer people who mostly read queer literature.

I was tempted to invoke the slogan: We are the 1%! But I’ll restrain myself. :)

The good news that we don’t hear about enough is that there are many (hundreds? thousands?) of queer titles published and self-published every year. Try doing a search at Amazon. When I typed in “gay fantasy” just today, it turned up 5,341 titles. Scrolling through the first few pages, the vast majority of them were published by small presses or they were self-published.

Side note: Those first few titles also leaned heavily toward romance, so there may be fewer books with fantasy as their major theme and/or you have to search a little harder for them.

Queer presses and self-pubbed queer authors are creating cultural equality. With the growth of digital publications and on-line booksellers, the access point has widened dramatically. Lazarov says: “If you don’t see what you want to see in comics, make your own fucking comics.” (And he means the last part quite literally you’ll understand if you peruse his work). :)

I would add to that: if you want more stories about transgender people, lesbians, bisexuals, gay men, etc., do something to support LGBT political equality. Political equality and cultural equality are intertwined.

I know that many queer and ally authors are fighting the battles in and out of our manuscripts, so you can call me out on preaching to the choir. I guess what I’m getting at is that it makes more sense to me to frame the discussion in our own terms. We’ve got a fabulously talented community of authors and artists turning out high quality and diverse queer stories. Many of us have been doing the work for decades that has enabled queer characters to appear on the covers of mainstream books and comics.

 

 

 

 

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