Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse! My spoiler-free review

Arrrgggh I know I haven’t posted here in 50 years, and this totally wasn’t the blog post I’d planned, BUT HERE WE ARE.

I’m a little late. My boyfriend and I saw it in theaters tonight. And I have so much to say! So then. Here we go!

First of all…

See it *now* while it’s in theaters, because the big screen does justice to its visual beauty. I wish I had better vocabulary to describe the style and the vibrant, vivid colors. The movie yanks out from the screen, plucks you from your seat, and drops you into the comic book world. The animation is stunning, clever, and quirky, and I’m pretty sure I only blinked maybe three times throughout the whole film.

I’m kind of tough to please when it comes to movies, and I surprised myself when I was genuinely shocked when [BIG PLOT TWIST] happens. In retrospect, the foreshadowing was definitely there. So when it DID happen, I was immediately able to connect all the dots, and it made sense. That was so well done. 💖

The pacing was good. Initially, I thought it was weird that so many characters just sort of accepted these fantastic things happening without questioning much… but this is Marvel. In Spider-Man’s neck of the woods, I’m sure by then, everyone’s seen some shit.

And can we talk about Miles himself? Firstly, his heritage, at least a little
It’s 2018, and there are still people who don’t know (or don’t want to acknowledge) that Afro-latinos exist. And I think the movie does a wonderful (and subtle) way of showcasing this, as it pertains to his character. You see it in his parents. You see it in the way he briefly interacts with his friends from his old school. AND LOOK AT HIS HAIR. THE KINKS ARE THERE. I LOOKED AT THE SCREEN AND KNEW EXACTLY WHAT HIS HAIR FELT LIKE.

Anyhoo! I think Miles was believable and relatable, and there was never a time where I thought he did something out of character.

The only thing that turned me off about the film was the whole boy-of-color falling for the white girl trope. I’m sick to death of it, and I have been since 2007, when I read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian”….. after watching “American Dragon: Jake Long” in 2005. But I’m not here to grumble about my hang-ups about this trope~

That said… I do really like Gwen Stacy. She is quite badass, as she should be.

I also realize there is a time limit to films, and there is ample information in ample comics, but I wanted to get to know the characters better.

What they did, and what I thought was terribly clever, was use the same quick (and witty and visually stunning) intro for each character. It was so charming. I was intrigued enough to look them up immediately after the movie (I can’t tell you who they are without slight spoliers) because I was so fascinated.

On that note, another hangup of mine is that it got a little *too* silly at times. For the most part, the humor was spot on, though. I don’t have much to complain about there.

Kingpin’s motivation was believable. A bit cliché, but believable, and I would have been more sympathetic toward him if the film had given it more detail. Again, I know you can’t put everything from the comics into the movies. But hey! This serves as an incentive for viewers to read the comic books if they want more, I guess. 😅

I just… I just WANT MORE.

This movie tugged at my heart strings, and my eyes watered a little… when… things and stuff happened. And it takes a hell of a lot for a movie to make me care so much about a film that I’m on the verge of tears. 💖

And that is partially why the ending is so satisfying for me.

Another reason the ending struck a chord with me is that, as should be no surprise, Miles was able to overcome his shortcomings — due in large part to the tear-jerker things — in a real underdog-wins-all-the-stuff sort of way. His emotional struggle was palpable, and his victory felt earned (within the timeframe that
the film would allow, anyway). ❤

Finally, the soundtrack was done well. 😌

For me, personally, I’ll have to give this movie an A- 😌😌

Oh, and the post-credit scene was pretty great.

3 Things They Don’t Tell You About Self-Publishing (When You’re a Poor Nobody)

If you’ve been keeping up with my journey, then you likely have an idea of how this blog post is going to do down. If you’re new here, then hello and welcome! ❤ Thank you for joining me on my quest to self-publish my science-fiction and fantasy anthology, Fairy Tales and Space Dreams.

So I’m going to talk about the early issues I’ve run into while trying to get this baby published (so this does not include marketing — but trust me, if I ever get this project off the ground, there will definitely be a post on marketing later).

  1. Recruiting Beta Readers

    After a couple rounds of self-edits and revision, your manuscript is ready for the next step, which is seeking out beta readers.

    Now, beta readers are precious unicorns who take time out of their day to volunteer by reading your book and giving you their honest thoughts.

    Some people struggle with finding good beta readers and instead end up with people who provide useless answers such as, “That was good. I liked it.”

    One way to remedy this (and to be nice to your beta readers) is to provide specific follow-up questions, and ask your readers to explain why they feel a certain way.

    But my personal issue pops up before I even get to this point. My problem is getting people to care enough about my project in the first place. Whenever I turn to YouTubers for advice, I am painfully reminded of the fact that they already have hundreds (or thousands) of followers. So even though they may not be famous, they have tons of willing volunteers to choose from and are able to recruit about 20 or 40 beta readers per round (at least).

    I, on the other hand, am a nobody. I don’t mean this to be self-deprecating. I mean that I’m still a newbie in the world of publishing and social media. And since no one knows who I am, it’s nearly impossible to get people to care about my writing projects — let alone get them to care enough to beta read for me.

    So, what I’d like to know from self-published authors who’ve sold a decent amount of books is — how did they get started? No one ever really talks about this. How did they recruit beta readers when they were still relative nobodies?

    I’ve managed to nab 17 volunteers — 10 of them are my friends, and the remaining 7 are complete strangers from Twitter and Facebook that decided to give me a chance.

    The good news is that this is progress.

    When I published my first book, I couldn’t have had more than five beta readers, all of whom were my friends. And I had no system going, so all kinds of friends signed up to beta read and then never actually got back to me.

    This time around, I’ve learned it’s good practice to make your expectations clear, to set up a timeline, and to give specific follow-up questions that you’d like answers to. It’s also good practice to send your manuscript chunks at a time and make sure your readers actually have the time to read it (if you ask someone to beta read and they’re honest about being too busy, thank them for being honest and move on). For those who tell me they can beta read, I do ask that they let me know if, at some point, they can’t meet my timeline for whatever reason (some people get busy and life just gets in the way sometimes) so that we can negotiate an extension or so that I can find a replacement reader.

    And make no mistake — if you plan to publish, the beta reading process is 100% necessary. You might think your book is good, but before you start spending a fortune on revealing it to the world, you need to make sure others think it’s good, too.

    If you don’t really know what beta reading is or you don’t know how to go about facilitating the process, I recommend watching this and this for useful information from one of my favorite YouTubers.

    I’m still in the recruiting process myself, and I’m trying to remain positive. Everyone has to start somewhere.

  2. Hiring a Professional Editor and Cover Designer

    After the first round of beta reading, you make the appropriate revisions and initiate the second round of beta reading. Then you make more revisions and initiate your third. After that, you’re ready to look for an editor!

    Once again, if you plan to publish, professional edits are a must.  When I published my first book, I couldn’t afford an editor, so I skipped this step altogether and brought my book baby into the world unedited and unformatted. Don’t do this to your story. If you love your story, you will have it polished the way it deserves to be.

    If you go through the traditional editing route, this part (both editing and cover design) is taken care of for you (I have my reasons for not going this route, though, and maybe I’ll write about those reasons in a future post). If you go the self-publishing route, then you need to find your own editor(s) and pay for their services yourself.

    Some people pay $800, some pay $4,000, and some pay $7,000. It depends on the length of your manuscript and what sort of edits you’re receiving (and how many rounds of edits you’re paying for). Either way, it’s expensive, especially for someone like me, who literally (not figuratively) is living paycheck to paycheck. (After paying bills last month, I was left with $15… And then I spent $10 putting gas in my car.)

    You hear authors say, “Yes, editors are expensive, so you’d better start saving up.”

    But what about those of us who literally cannot save up?

    I’m not going to lie. This has taken some of the fun out of writing for me, and writing is my oldest and deepest passion. If I don’t write, I feel like I lose a large chunk of my identity, and the fact that money is strictly the only thing stopping me from publishing is unendingly frustrating.

    I feel alone in this, and it sucks. So, if you are currently experiencing this, I hope this serves to let you know that you’re not the only one going through this apparent impossibility.

    This also applies, on a smaller scale, to hiring a cover designer. (My first book has stunning artwork on the cover drawn by a friend for $135, but the title itself was created… by me… and it’s not even aligned correctly. Ugh.)

    I’ve seen $600 to be a typical price for a cover (for a cover meant for both print and ebook), but I’ve found an artist who’s quoted me at $450-500. So that’s nice.

  3. Crowdfunding Sucks Ass

    First of all, I hate asking for money. It makes me feel like a beggar.
    What helped ease my aversion to starting a crowdfunding campaign (at least a little) was reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer some years ago. If you’re any sort of artist (and especially if you’re feeling like a fraud — you aren’t a fraud, by the way), I highly suggest giving it a read.

    That said, crowdfunding is still rough. And I still hate it — not only because it makes me feel like a beggar, but because people have bills to pay, children to care for, and their own dreams and hobbies to fund. There are people who need help finding a place to stay or need help acquiring food, and how dare I ask for help funding my book (again, there’s that feeling of being a beggar and a fraud).

    But it’s my passion and my dream, and I have to at least try.

    My current goal is $1,600 to pay for edits, cover design, and the costs that accompany ISBNs and IngramSpark.

    Posting my GoFundMe campaign on Twitter has yielded zilch results (again, I’m a relative nobody), and I haven’t gotten any results from posting it in my Facebook group, Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi, either. Although complete strangers ignoring me on Twitter isn’t something to be upset about, I thought I was building a brand and an audience and a platform when I created the BGBFS Facebook page. But I’m learning quite quickly that my page is seen by its followers as nothing more than a source for pretty pictures of black women in sci-fi and fantasy settings (never mind my call for beta readers, or my asking them what sort of content they’d like to see in this blog, or my request for donors to fund a book that actually features black girls in fantasy and sci-fi).

    Maybe the page isn’t the platform I thought it was. It’s disappointing, but you live and you learn.

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    This is a taste of some of the art I showcase on the FB page. This particular piece is “African Magical Girl” by StarZhelli
    https://www.deviantart.com/starzhelli/art/African-Magical-Girl-651233087

    Alas.

    It’s a huge world after all, and I am but a small voice in it.

    Most days, I’m tempted by the idea of giving up.

    But, other than not letting down the few individuals who’ve already given me their support, the only thing that keeps me going is that before most things, I am a writer, and my need and desire to show my work to the world burns too hotly to let me quit.

    I know there are people out there who need my stories — just as there were stories I’ve read that I’ve needed.

    GoFundMe, to help me cover the costs to publish my anthology of fantasy and science fiction short stories, Fairy Tales and Space Dreams.

    Twitter: @BGBFS

    Facebook: Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi

    Website

The Radical Notion of Afro-futurism and Blackness in Sci-Fi

So I recently watched a brief video by Afrikan Martial Arts that explores why blackness in science fiction is so radical, yet so important for the growth of the black community.

In the first place, the idea of a black future has always been radical because who has the time to imagine something as cool and whimsical as astro-blackness when we have to fight to live in the real world? Progress has always been seen in terms of beating oppression, in steps. Often small steps.

Case and point, Ray Bradbury’s short story “Way in the Middle of the Air” in his 1951 episodic novel The Martian Chronicles takes place in the year 2003/2034, a time during which colonizing Mars is possible. And yet! The blacks escaping to Mars in this story are escaping lynchings and Jim Crow laws.

In the words of Phenderson Djèlí Clark:

The whites scratch their heads, trying to figure out why the blacks are leaving now, when the poll tax has just been abolished, states are passing anti-lynching laws and they’re getting all kinds of equal rights. “What more they want?” one white asks. “They make almost as good money as a white man, but there they go.”

Bradbury, though in some ways ahead of his time, thought that even in 2003, blacks wouldn’t have progressed much further than they were in the 1940s! (The stories were originally published in the ’40s.)

This is because the future, including science fiction, is most often seen through white eyes. But what if we allow ourselves to use our own imagination? What sort of beautiful world could we make for ourselves?

Today, if you were to gather a group of black children and asked them what they want to happen to the world in the future, you might be given answers like, “No more violence,” or “No more gun violence.” Even at a young age, we’re not allowed to dream about spaceships and flying cars, especially those of us who live in urban areas. But, coax them into using their imaginations anyway. Suppose we take away all the violence and racism. Suppose all of that is gone. What does a black future look like?

Afro-futurism … is an art form, practice, and methodology that allows black people to see themselves in the future despite a distressing past and present.

And for the African diaspora, this could mean imagining a home — one that isn’t tainted by colonization, slavery, and displacement. Here, we are the creators and the makers of our own future. This is one of the reasons why Black Panther is so important, and why it broke box office records. Not only is Pan-Africa seen in a positive light, but it embodies the very notion of Africans owning their own futuristic lives — being technologically advanced, progressive, positive, culturally rich, and unaffected by outsiders. Wakanda is not corrupted by the slavery, segregation, colonization, or disenfranchisement that haunts us in the real world, and that’s what makes it precious.

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Shuri is the princess we both need and deserve.

And even though Black Panther brought Afro-futurism further into the mainstream, it isn’t a new concept by far. The term was coined in the 1990s, but the concept stretches further back to Parliament Funkadelic’s imaginings in the ’60s and ’70s. (If you’re in the mood for some amazing music, here is a clip of one of their 1976 shows for their fourth and fifth albums “Mothership Connection” and “Cosmic Slop.”)

You might have recognized Afro-futuristic vibes in more contemporary artists like Janelle Monae, OutKast, and Deltron 3030.

Through time, the definition of Afro-futurism has blossomed from “speculative fiction with African-American themes” (click here to check out some Afro-futurist authors) to include all media, including music (such as the above-mentioned artists), film (such as Black Panther), art, and dance (… I’m sorry. I struggled to find good examples of this one… that are free, anyway).

At this point, you might be thinking this is all well and good, but what is the difference between Afro-futurism and science fiction?

When we think of science fiction, we think of characters like Zoe Washburne (Firefly) or Uhura (Star Trek).

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These are characters who happen to be black and who happen to exist in someone’s science fiction story. Which is awesome! Because (good) representation is awesome. But, these characters typically exist in some sort of post-racial society where their blackness is of little to no consequence.

And although Afro-futurism encompasses more than just science fiction, Afro-futurist science fiction specifically shows the world through the eyes of an African or a member of the African diaspora, and it focuses on a black future.

Afro-futurism looks at where we’ve been and projects us into a future that could be, or that we can only dream of. The important part is that we’re dreaming about it in the first place.

I’m still learning about Afro-futurism myself, but I invite you to come along for the ride and learn with me. And if you’re coming, you’d better hurry. My spaceship leaves at 10.

GoFundMe: To help me cover publishing costs for my book Fairy Tales and Space Dreams

Twitter: @BGBFS

Facebook: Black Girls Belong in Fantasy and Sci-fi

Website