The Next Chapter, aka 2018

While I have technically been an American Culture Studies (ACS) Ph. D. student for a semester, now I really feel like it. I am really looking forward to starting this new chapter of my life. And a new chapter it will be.

I’m going to be taking three classes this semester. Back to full time student!! I’ve got Geneology of American Culture, Critical Approaches in Film Studies, and Global Popular Music. This is going to be so much fun! The first class is required for all ACS students, MA and Ph. D. The second is required for the Media concentration in the Ph. D. program. The third is my choice for the Media track. I am really looking forward to having more than one class. Hopefully I’ll do better at getting the readings done and being able to contribute consistently in class. I’ve been working on it.

We are also working on moving closer to school. Which means no more long drives – especially since I’ll be in class three days a week. We’re trying to find a bigger place as well. More changes. More new. More excitement.

I’m going to be going to BroadwayCon in a few weeks. I’ll also be seeing Hamilton, again, the night before. Then, of course, there’s Marcon in May and DragonCon in September. I’m hoping to be attending/presenting at 3 conferences this semester, 1 over the summer, and 1 in the fall. At two of those conferences, I’ll be presenting chapters of my thesis. I’m hoping to get useful feedback on how to better expand/explain/polish the information. And the rest are looking deeper at topics I’ve written about before. Conferences are a great way to figure out if you’re headed in the right direction, or if you’re just indulging your own interests. So far, it’s been the former. I hope I continue that way.

Hopefully I’ll be able to take 2 classes over the summer. That way when I take my 3 classes in the fall, I’ll be almost caught up. One of my fall classes is one that I should technically have taken this semester, but was told by the professor who teaches it that I could put it off a year so I could focus on Theory and getting the comps passed.

It’s going to be a year of seeing old friends, making new; making new professional connections; adding more to my knowledge bank, and putting it all to use; and so much more that I don’t know about. This is going to be a great year!


Reflections on 2017

Well, the year is almost over. It’s that time of year when we take the time to look back and think about what has happened over the past 365 days. For me, it has been quite the rollercoaster.

Mostly it has been focused around school and classes. I started out the year with a rough draft of one chapter of my thesis done.  A thesis that needed to be completed, approved by my committee, and uploaded by April. Yeah, no pressure at all. But I also was taking a class about the superhero genre in comic books. Yay! I was also studying so I could pass the two parts of the comprehensive exam I would be retaking so I could graduate in the spring. All while continuing to serve as the president of the student organization for Popular Culture scholars and helping to organize our yearly academic conference. There was just a little stress going on.

I buckled down and got my thesis finished. Is it the final product? No. But it is a thesis that satisfied my committee, which was the most important part at the time. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start picking away at revising and expanding it so it does reach that final product and I can start looking at getting it published. I went to another graduate student run conference at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. I got to present my paper on “my descent into Hamilton fandom” and make new friends. I presented my first paper on the intentional representation of Deafness in comics at the Ray Browne Conference on Cultural and Critical Studies, which I had quite the hand in organizing and it went off successfully!

I managed to pass one part of the comps, but still failed the other. I was given one last chance to pass it, and managed to fail again. The bottom dropped away from me. I had worked so hard to get my thesis finished and I wasn’t going to be graduating? How would I start in the fall as a Ph.D. student? I could not take another year off. I had taken so much time off already, I wanted to keep the knowledge coming in. Things finally settled and the fall was laid out for me: I would retake the entire comprehensive exam again in the fall (all three parts), I would also start the American Culture Studies Ph. D. program, I would be able to continue in the spring providing I passed the comps in their entirety. In order to prepare for the comps, it was suggested that I only take 1 class in the fall: theory. I also worked with a wonderful professor over the summer to better prepare for the comps.

Still, I was crushed. I wasn’t graduating with the rest of my cohort, my friends. I had to pass this exam that has been kicking my ass repeatedly in order to graduate and continue my studies. I wouldn’t have a job on campus since I was only part-time. Also, it made sense to simply live at home and just drive up for class once a week. That was great for my budget and for being at home with the hubby. But it also meant only seeing my new cohort/classmates/friends once a week. It sucked.

But as the semester went on, things got better. I gave successful presentations at CPAC and MPCA. I finally passed the comprehensive exams and graduated a few weeks ago. I successfully completed my first semester as a Ph. D. student. I have begun a new research project that I can continue to pick away at in addition to my dissertation work, and has been suggested as the topic of my dissertation, if I didn’t already have one.

There were also the more leisure-fun times. Soon after the year started, I had my adventure in NYC. I went to my first (the second ever) BroadwayCon! I got to be in the same room as so many talented legends, learn so much about Broadway, both in front of and behind the scenes, and enjoy being with fellow fans. And, thanks to giving in to an impulse, I finally went to see Hamilton. It is an experience I will never forget. To really experience the show, you need to see it performed. It truly is a combination of music, acting, choreography, staging, lighting, words… Knowing only one aspect does not paint the entire picture.

Which is part of why I went and saw it in Chicago in September. That and gathering more observations on the audience and the performance. It was completely different and completely the same. That cast has really made it their own. I only wish I could see the tour’s Angelica company in LA.

I had so much fun being on panels and just being at Marcon in May. I got three new costumes together for DragonCon in September. If only I had taken the time to make sure the one fit before calling it finished I could have worn all three! I had a blast at DragonCon, making more friends/professional connections. I even managed to amaze someone that a scholar they highly respect – with very good reason – was on my thesis committee. I watched many cool movies (including seeing Star Wars twice!), and even went to see Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time in the theater. I have met many new people and made many new friends. I have added many books to my shelves – both academic and for fun. I have added so much to my knowledge bank. I have so much more to learn.

I am grateful for all my experiences this year, from the very exciting to the extremely depressing. I am looking forward to everything that next year is bringing. But I’ll save that for another post. For now, thank you 2017 for quite the ride. Bring it on, 2018!

Introvert in an Extroverted family

Yesterday I went to my cousin’s wedding. I had an absolute blast! There are a couple of reasons for it. But the main reason was a personal realization. My gut always says “It’s okay to sit or stand to the side and watch the fun!” My training always says “Why aren’t you out there with the rest of your family?!” I said that last night to my hubby early in the reception.

I am so glad I did. Saying it out loud helped me to realize that by observing, watching my family celebrating, I am participating in my own, comfortable way. It also helped that this was a much more informal reception where no tables were assigned and we never sat down. We found spaces that worked for us to stand and be out of the path of traffic, but still be a part of things. We sang along with the music. We even danced to a few songs.

It felt so good finally finding my place in a big party/celebration like that. It allowed me to be a part of things instead of trying to maintain my walls and worry about what people are saying because I’m not out there like everyone else. I came home just as, if not more, energized than when I arrived! No introvert hangover this morning!

This is really going to help me out at DragonCon this year. It’s another place where being an introvert can be draining. But if I just remember that I’m there for the same reason as everyone else – DragonCon – I’ll be just fine!

DragonCon Prep: Learning from the past

Every time I go to a convention, DragonCon particularly, I realize how much I’ve learned from the past year. That really is the important thing when going to any convention. When you are preparing to go to your first convention, many, including myself, go to the Internet to see how others prepare for conventions. But honestly, after that, you should pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.

I was just commenting to my hubby how much we took with us that first year. We took a ton of food and drink. I took a ton of costumes and spent a bunch of time walking back and forth between our hotel and the convention to change. We ended up bringing at least half of the food back with us.

Every year it’s different. I’m usually down to 4 costumes at most. Lately I’ve been taking 3 since Monday is also the day we head out, I’m not always in the mood to be in a full costume when driving home. This year I’m only taking 2: my Star Trek science officer uniform from the original series and Osgood from Doctor Who. I’m taking every other piece of Star Trek clothing I own with me to wear, and, of course, something professional to wear for my presentation at the conference.

The big difference I’m personally noticing this year is food. This is our 7th time going to DragonCon. It’s at least my 13th convention overall. I’ve figured out what food I need to take with me and what can be bought there. I’m taking enough snacks so I can snack my way to dinner, which will be something from the food court taken back to the room. I’m going to just have one of each with me each day instead of taking multiples. It’s going to save space in my bag, make the bag lighter, and help me have a steady supply of energy throughout the con.

I’m also planning to go do my academic shopping on Friday. That way I don’t have to worry about saving money for it later. This is going to be so much fun!!! I just hope I have enough money… Who am I kidding? I don’t think that’s possible when it comes to DragonCon.

The Annual DragonCon Prep has begun!

It’s that time of year! The packing list has begun. The schedule is out and I have to choose what I want to go to and what is backup. But this year I have something else I need to do: prepare my presentation.

Yes. Yours truly will be presenting at the Comics and Popular Arts Conference (CPAC) at DragonCon! I am going to be presenting Saturday night on a panel about disability and trauma in comics. I am so excited! I just found out that this conference existed last year and now I’m presenting at it. It’s going to be great to meet the other scholars and hear what they have been working on.

But, it’s also going to be so much fun going to DragonCon again! This year is going to be our 7th DC. It’s always fun to be there among all those other geeks/nerds/fans and to see friends we only see at DC. It’s also fun to go to fan panels with a room full of other fans. While I am an introvert, there’s something about DC that isn’t draining. If anything, it can be recharging. Of course I’m going armed with my trusty bottle of St. John’s Wort to take the edge off of the anxiety so I can truly kick back and relax.

I am hoping to be able to post daily from the con about what I’ve done for the day. This is going to be so much fun!

Okay, back to prepping…

Marcon Influences

Every time I go to convention, I always end up into something new afterwards. Marcon is no exception.

First there’s the fabric. It’s on my mind even more since I’m working around it all day long. But it has to stay there because there are more important thing the paychecks need to go to right now.

Second, there’s Seanan. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while now. But I’ve been kind of limited as to what I’ve read. The Newsflesh series (which she writes as Mira Grant), the October Daye series, and Indexing. She’s got a lot of other works out there. I just hadn’t gotten around to them. Until now. I checked out Sparrow Hill Road for my Kindle from the library. It is awesome! Not that I expected anything else, but it’s making me look forward to getting into the InCryptid series and Velveteen.

And of course, there’s the lists. One of British shows and one of sci-fi/fantasy. I’m so glad I went to that panel. Because of, well, both panels, really, I have a huge list of shows to get into. I’ve started on the list with Daredevil. This show is amazing! If you like Marvel and you have Netflix, go watch it! I’m not done with it yet, but I’m loving it! I’ll be posting about it over at Ianto’s Black Book once I do.

Unfortunately since the British list isn’t the most recent, I may be relying on the magical pixel faeries to watch some of those shows. I can’t wait to get started on it!

I just love that post-con geek high. I’ve got shows to watch, books to read, resources for costumes, and a burning desire to get more done. I love it!

Marcon 50: Saturday and Sunday

Saturday I was ready and raring to go! First I went to a panel about reboots and we ended up spending about 1/3 of it determining what is a reboot vs a remake. Even then it was still muddy at times. The thing that really got on my nerves was they kept referring to Doctor Who returning as a reboot. It is definitely not a reboot or a remake; it’s a revival and continuation of the series.

From there I went and listened to lots of fans sharing their love of Babylon 5 before going to a panel celebrating the 10th anniversary of the return of Doctor Who. Sadly half of it ended up being people insisting on talking about the 20th century Who instead of the 21st or complaining about how different it is now. I wanted to point out how with the Twelfth Doctor, I feel a lot more 20th century Who having an influence. But I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, so I bit my tongue and tried to focus on the positives. It really was a good panel, it just strayed a little, which happens in the best of panels.

After a few interesting panels, it was time for my moderating debut. British TV Addicts. I had suggested it because I figured if DragonCon can have an entire track of paneling devoted to British media, we can have one panel. It was a huge success! Well, I thought so and my fellow panelists seemed to agree. It mostly consisted of someone throwing out a show and everyone gushing over it. I’ve got a list of shows I want to watch and that only covers about half of what we talked about that I haven’t seen. It was so much fun. And, the Jaffa Cakes went over quite well. Part of that was due to the fact that one panelist is British and so is the husband of another panelist. They descended on them like they hadn’t seen them in years. It was great!

I finished off the night by being on the Urban Fantasy panel. I have not felt so out of place before! My fellow panelists were all authors. Two of which have been successfully doing so for years! I mostly sat back and chimed in where I felt I could add something. One thing we did was try to come up with a definition of “urban fantasy”. We settled on two things. First, “urban fantasy” refers to any fantasy that takes place in an urban setting. Second, “contemporary fantasy” is a more accurate term for most of the books that are being labeled “urban fantasy”. A book can be one, the other, or both. Like The Dresden Files; it is a contemporary urban fantasy. The Sookie Stackhouse series is a contemporary fantasy since it doesn’t take place in an urban setting.

The other great part of that panel was the end. We went down the line and suggested an author or series that hadn’t been mentioned yet. Seeing as one of my fellow panelists had talked quite a bit about Jim and The Dresden Files, and Tanya Huff and the Blood Books, I figured I’d mention the other urban fantasy author I love to read: Seanan McGuire. That got a chorus of “How did I forget about Seanan?!” from the panelists. It made me feel so good to know that the three main urban fantasy authors I enjoy are held in high regard by their fellow authors. It also inspired me to check out Sparrow Hill Road from the library.

I was going to go to a couple of events, but I ran into a couple of friends I hadn’t seen for a while and ended up talking to them for around 2 hours. So I went up to the room, got as much packed as possible to assist my check out Sunday morning, and crashed into bed.

After getting everything to the car and a quick group photo, I went to the last panel I was on for the weekend: The Dresden Files panel. I had been looking forward to it all weekend, mostly because I was going dressed as Harry. I thought it added a nice touch to the panel. I am so glad I was on it this year. It was so much more fun being on it than just attending it. We had an absolute blast talking and theorizing about the series.

I was going to go to a panel about patterns, but a friend convinced me to go to the panel he was on instead. I’m so glad I did. The panel was called “Do You Watch What I Watch?” Pretty much it was a chance to talk about the stuff we enjoy watching that no one outside of the convention seems to be watching. I came away from it with a long list of stuff to watch. Thanks to that panel I’ve started watching Daredevil on Netflix and I’m starting the process of re-watching and getting caught up on Grimm.

It was an amazing weekend and I’m eagerly looking forward to next year! I can’t wait!

Marcon 50: Friday

I figure since it’s been a week, I should write up a post or two about Marcon 50.

It. Was. A. Blast!

This was only my second time attending, but it has become my favorite convention. I still love DragonCon, but there’s something wonderful about Marcon. Part of it is being around fellow geeks for the weekend. Part of it is the more relaxed and less crowded nature of the con. Part of it is having friends to chat with, be on panels with, and attend panels they’re on. And it’s great knowing that the convention is why I know them.

But I digress. The panels were so much fun this year. Only one time did I go to my room instead of a panel. And that was because I needed food and a break from the chest binder. I wrote a bit about a couple panels over at Cosplay Notes. But they’re only the tip of the iceberg.

After the two costuming related panels, I was going to go to the panel about religion in science fiction. But as I passed the room where the Star Wars Episode VII was setting up, I noticed who was on the panel and decided to go to that instead. Totally worth it! We watched trailers. We talked about all the movies. We talked about why the original trilogy was awesome and the prequel trilogy sucked. One thing that was brought up in regards to that really hit me. In the original trilogy, the world was worn: things were scarred and scuffed and dusty and dirty and used. In the prequel trilogy, the world was shiny and clean; everything was neat and clean and polished. There was no dust or dirt or wear and tear. That is what keeps throwing me off with that set of movies. Aside from the other problems, but that’s for another time.

I tried going to a make-up panel, but I didn’t learn anything new. Then I was on my first panel ever. All my worries and jitters vanished as soon as I saw one of my fellow panelists was also dressed as Dr. Abbey from the Newsflesh series. After that I went to my second panel ever where we ate Twinkies and talked about zombies. Well all the zombies out there that aren’t in the worlds of Romero or The Walking Dead. It was great!

It has begun…

Well, technically Marcon 50 starts tomorrow. But I’m at the hotel ready to go! After much yelling at my stuff, I got to the room, got the basics sorted, and took a nice, long shower. After work and hauling everything around I needed it. Then I got things further sorted and set up before getting the wi-fi up and the computer hooked up to the TV.

There’s only one thing that would make this evening better: a bottle opener. I have ten bottles of beer sitting in the mini-fridge getting cold and I can’t drink them. They’re not twist off and I am not putting on anything in addition to my nightshirt. I really want a bottle of beer, but I refuse to go buy one at this time of night.

Anyway. I am really looking forward to the convention this year. Being on panels, knowing many people attending, it’s going to make this year so much more fun! And I think I’m pretty prepared this time around. I’ve got three snack Ziplock bags full of salted almonds, two boxes of GoGo Squeez, and almond milk and chai concentrate for in the mornings.

Now I just have to hope my paycheck is big enough so I can buy some food as needed. Silly hotels don’t include tax when they tell you how much it is going to be when you make the reservation.

Tomorrow night I should have some fun to report. If I have the energy left that is. 🙂

Marcon 50 Preparation: Part 2

Part 1 is located over at Cosplay Notes.

I think this is going to bounce between the two blogs. For me, preparing for a convention involves so much: costume preparation, food preparation, gear preparation, mental preparation. It’s too much for one blog. 😉

In two weeks I’ll be sitting here recovering from another amazing convention. It’s only going to be my second Marcon, but I couldn’t have picked a better one to be my second. This year is the 50th Marcon. This convention has been happening for 50 years! This year’s guest list is made up of many previous guests and is much longer than usual. It is going to be great!

This Marcon also holds a couple of firsts for me. I’m going to be on a few panels, as well as moderating one. I’ve never been on a panel, let alone moderated one. But I have been reassured that I’ll be a great moderator. But this means another level of preparation: panel. I want to have the topics of the panels as fresh as possible in my mind. So lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of rereading and rewatching. It’s been great since they’re, obviously, topics I enjoy. But it’s definitely different than any other convention prep I’ve ever done.