Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I read banned comics

Edited to reflect new information: Based on this statement, it seems like Saga #12's unavailability through the app store was not a result of any action by Apple, but a result of Comixology misunderstanding Apple's policies. I am very glad to learn this. I have crossed through my earlier, incorrect text.

Issue 12 of Saga, the very smart comic written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples comes out today. If you're not already reading it, I highly recommend you do so. It's great. Although, even if you are reading it, as of this writing, you cannot buy it through the comics app in Apple's iStore because it has a frank depiction of male-on-male gay sex.

Let's get the boilerplate out of the way. No creator is owed a space to sell their work. Apple is completely within its rights to decide what to carry. They need not have a good reason, or any reason - the app store is not a constitutionally protected free speech zone. Apple is within its rights to make the choice it has.

I am within mine to say what an idiotic and small-minded choice it is.

Apple, you see, has had no problem carrying the other issues of Saga, which contain frank visuals of sex and violence. They also carry other images of sex, sometimes quite graphic, and simultaneously violent. For example, please see the following for the contrast. (Note: this link goes to an NSFW image of nonconsensual sex, as well as the contested panel from Saga.) So clearly, the problem isn't with sex, the problem is with a specific kind of sex - consensual, male, homosexual sex.

Which makes Apple's decision gross and offensive. (And also, inconsistent, because, as of this writing, you can buy the issue in the iBooks part of the store. Inconsistent bigotry just looks stupid.)

I first learned about book banning when I was in grade school. I was reading a magazine, probably Seventeen. I don't remember the precise details of it, but I do remember that the book in question was Romeo and Juliet. Which clearly, one ought not read because teenage sex and suicide. Teenage marital sex, but you know, details. It was a safe book to write a don't ban books article on, because what kind of an idiot wants to ban Shakespeare?

But I was upset about it, especially since the article also mentioned book burnings, and that seemed really, really bad. So I talked to my Mom, and I went to the library, and checked out a ton of banned books. Lots of Judy Blume, and S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, and Fahrenheit 451. The Diary of Anne Frank.  I had already read Romeo and Juliet. I am proud to say these books helped make me the person I am today. 

(Even after playing my Cyndi Lauper cassette multiple times, I still couldn't figure out what was so naughty about "She Bop," which had also been mentioned in the article. I was precocious  in a very limited sort of way.)

Look, you don't have to like everything. You are within your rights to find art everywhere on the scale from bad to tasteless to offensive to obscene. You need not ever spend your money to support art or artists that you don't like or agree with. I have a very low personal tolerance for on-screen violence. Even in a film like Kill Bill, where it is purposefully over the top, and stylized, and clearly part of Tarantino's artistic vision, I can't watch. But I shouldn't get to say that just because it makes me feel uncomfortable, you don't get to watch it either. No one should get to say that.

Art should be one of the things that makes people uncomfortable. That challenges, that calls into question, that makes big claims. And sometimes, that discomfort is going to be powerful. Sometimes, it's going to be ugly and offensive. Sometimes, it will be just plain gross. As a creator, as someone who makes her living making art, it is my responsibility to support the right of other creators to make their art, no matter what it says. We don't just get to support the speech that is nice, that is pretty, that we agree with. Because then the question becomes, who decides? And we discover that we live in a world where two penises in proximity is just too much to handle.

Please consider supporting art and the first amendment by supporting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

And the lingering of winter

It's grey outside, and rainy. Cold, too, with snow in the forecast. Not today, but the next three days. It won't stick, I know, but still. Snow, and no sign of green or bud.

Winter is worse in February, of course, where the snow does stick, where my eyes freeze shut when I walk the dog. But that is February, and while I dislike that cold, it's this part of winter, when it has gone on far too long, when it seems like spring never will arrive, when I think seriously of buying a plane ticket I can't afford to my parents' in New Hampshire - New Hampshire! - because it will feel like spring there, where winter hurts. I am depleted. There is nothing left.

Through much of this winter, I have been working on a book. Rewriting it, so that I could show it to beta readers, and now revising it. I am pretty much immersed in the process - I occasionally surface to faff about on twitter, or do other work, or buy groceries, or walk Sam, but mostly, it's me and the pages, and I don't get to come out until they're all good.

They will be. Soon.

I get bad at taking care of myself when I'm this deep in a project. I forget that coffee is not the only food. I don't return phone calls or emails. I cancel plans. I become like winter, grey and clinging, and no new green or flowers.

Winter is not a good season to live in, creatively. You discover there is nothing left. 

We learn, as writers, as artists, as people who make things, how to make our own spring. For me, much of that creative spring is found in the art of others - books and poetry and music and photography, and all the different things that help me see the beauty and the strangeness in the world. That make a space in my head where mystery can live. Which sounds very "let the muse come," but it isn't that. It's the artistic equivalent of taking care of myself, of remembering that vegetables are a food, and that I'll feel much better if I go for a run. If I don't remember to look outside of myself, I become like winter.

I am ready for the thaw.