08.27.14 // Pumpkin Online – A Farming/Dating Sim MMORPG

Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services

While perusing my Tumblr dashboard last Saturday afternoon, I came across a post about Pumpkin Online, an Indie game being developed by seven game designers.

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Image courtesy of Pumpkin Online Kickstarter.

Frankly, I love all things pumpkin, so a game with pumpkin in the name grabbed my attention. As the title of this post suggests, it’s a farming/dating sim MMORPG for PC. On Kickstarter it is being promoted as “An MMORPG for players who love games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing! Craft items, decorate your house, date any NPCs and more!” I’m not so familiar with Harvest Moon, but I loved Animal Crossing on Nintendo GameCube and my daughter enjoys Animal Crossing on 3DS, so this sounded like a game of interest for us and the GeekGirlCon community.

What makes this game so unique? Pumpkin Online supports love equality. NPC and character gender do not matter. As a sim game that includes dating, you can form lasting friendships and relationships with any NPC through interactive rewards and questlines!

Additionally, the customization of your personal character goes beyond what is typically found in sim games. You don’t start with selecting male or female for your character, but rather start with a blank slate and non-binary options, then fill in the characterization you want without being stuck with certain hair or outfits because you selected “male” or “female” to start with. The racial identity of your character is not pigeonholed because you can select a wide range of skin tones. And finally, the body shape and size has many more options than is typically found in these games.

Image courtesy of Pumpkin Online Kickstarter.

Image courtesy of Pumpkin Online Kickstarter.

The players are creating the economy together, which means that your game play is fun for you and worthwhile for other players. Needed player items will not all be able to be purchased from NPCs (see the Kickstarter video “Unique Features”). Your chosen profession will matter, both to you and to other players in this player-driven economy. In order to complete quests and level up, players will need to get other player-crafted items. However, this is not only a social game. You can enjoy the game alone, without other players. And you have your own quests to go on.

In an article with Indie Game Mag, “Monique Blaize, the team leader at Pumpkin Interactive, explains that as an African-American woman, ‘I’m a double minority in the game industry and I’m hoping to get involved in it.’”

Monique Blaize, Creator and Project Lead, and Malik Gray, Lead Programmer, were generous in their time for an interview with GeekGirlCon.

We are seeing the rise of more and more Indie game developers. What brought your group of people together to start Pumpkin Interactive and develop Pumpkin Online?

[Monique]: Personally, I had just graduated with a Game Design degree and after applying for jobs for a year I had no luck because companies rarely hire without prior game experience. So while working a minimum wage job I realized the only way for me to get into the game industry was to actually make a game myself. So I called up some old classmates of mine who were stuck in a rut like I was and asked if they wanted to come onboard and at least work on a project. We did a lot of research before starting and slowly but surely we got more people to work with us.

 

[Malik]: I personally started the game later. I used to use Hero Engine and was around when The Repopulation (another major MMORPG made using Hero Engine with a successful Kickstarter) was just starting out. I happened to see Monique’s post in their forums that she was looking for a programmer. I was really excited about the fact that I could work on an MMORPG that was based off of the Harvest Moon series and also a game whose vision is to change the game community’s diversity which I think is long overdue.

 

What challenges do you face as Indie Game Developers, and specifically, what are some with Pumpkin Online?

[Monique]: There are many challenges that Indie developers face, but if I had to pick a big problem it would be the failures of other Indie projects and budget constraints. The faith in other Indie projects suffers as a result and Indie projects desperately need the support of the public. It’s the difference between having the money to spend on the best talent you can possibly have versus people driven solely on their passion and desire to make a game on a constrained budget. For Pumpkin Online, tackling a huge project like an MMORPG based on our research, with the current team we have working part time is a much higher amount than what we posted on Kickstarter. However, we’re a huge fan of the Indie community and we want to ease as much of a burden financially as possible off of their shoulders. Unfortunately, this does mean that it will take longer to complete our project.

 

[Malik]: I wholeheartedly agree with what Monique said. I personally have worked 30+ hours some weeks, with a full time job, just so I can get a task completed to show for our Kickstarter. To help with the budget, instead of being paid hourly, which most programmers do, I decided to work with whatever budget Monique has and just complete tasks as needed for the project. I really believe in her, this project, and the widely diverse community that we want to include in our game. I know that if we are able to get our voices heard, that we will succeed in every goal that we set forth.

 

How did you choose Pumpkin Interactive as a company name and why did you choose Pumpkin Online for this game title?

[Monique]: Honestly for the company name I really wanted it to be named after some kind of food. I remember, kiwis and apples were considered but I just really like the sound of the word pumpkin.

Most other farming games have Spring as their main season and color scheme, we wanted to be different and go with a Fall theme instead.

 

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For those with little knowledge of Farming/Dating Sim MMORPGs, what is game play like for one of those and in Pumpkin Online specifically?

[Monique]: The gameplay will be relaxing and will not force players to do one particular activity or the other. After you have chosen a profession, such as farmer or chef, you can spend your game days however you wish. You can hang out with other players, you can craft as many items as you can, you can do quests for NPCs, form friendships with or date NPCs. You can fish, mine for gems, and more. We want to make a game with many mini activities you can choose from to customize your gameplay experience.

 

You explain in your Kickstarter videos why you are going with more diversity in your character design in terms of gender, race, and body style, but for those who haven’t had a chance to watch them, could you summarize why you made this decision and what that decision looks like?

[Monique]: Well the main reason is I’m an African American female and I’m not represented very much in games. In character creation for games, even if you have the option to play as someone with a dark skin tone, no one else in the game world has that skin tone. For gender we’re going to include and acknowledge non-binary genders. What that means is you’re not asked to select male or female at the start of the character creation, or lock certain clothes or body features based on body type.

 

Is it more difficult to provide that level of diversity in terms of programming and game development?

[Malik]: In terms of programming, the difficulty depends on the way things are programmed. I’ve noticed that making things easy on the programming side can sometimes make things more difficult on the artist’s side, and vice versa. When working with diversity we are going to have to create the art for every possible combination and in this sense, I’m glad that our team is heavily full of artists since it makes my programming tasks easier. The level of diversity has also added many lengthy discussions between Monique and I on what can be implemented, how long it will take, and if we should include it in the Beta or Gold release.

 

Your Kickstarter for reaching beta is under-way. Why did you choose Kickstarter?

[Monique]: I’ve personally used Kickstarter before and have backed projects through Kickstarter. I also appreciate that Kickstarter has stricter rules and guidelines, unlike other crowd-sourcing places where we can easily get lost. There are other means to get funding, but Kickstarter also is good for getting the word out there about your project and getting people excited about it.

 

For those who haven’t been to the page, Pumpkin Interactive is working towards raising $30,000 in a one-month time frame, ending September 18. As of the posting of this blog, you are about 25% to your goal about a third of the way into your time frame. Does this make you nervous? What are your hopes and expectations?

[Monique]: Oh yeah definitely, $30,000 is a hefty goal for the short period of time. But for what we’re making it’s the bare minimum to give us the kick we need. It’s not over till it’s over, and no matter what happens we can find other means and ways to keep us going. We always need to stay positive.

 

[Malik]: I was extremely nervous. What helped ease my nervousness a bit was when Indie Game Magazine released an article about us and one of their writers Laura Klotz had put up a Tumblr post about our game. So far it has received a whopping 10k notes and still counting. I am very impressed by how much positive reaction we have received since then and I hope that it continues to grow.

 

Your game is being developed on the Hero Engine. How does that help and how does that hinder game development?

[Malik]: Hero Engine has been around for a while. Star Wars: the Old Republic was built using their source code. There are many advantages to Hero Engine that far outweigh the negatives. The biggest help is that you can actively modify the world while other developers are logged in, and it updates in real time. Another benefit is that it handles full scalability for the back-end server structure. (This means I have more time to implement fun gameplay features.) Some of the problems that we have come across are that, unfortunately, there is no native support for Mac or Linux clients, and some of the features that are implemented by them are kind of glitchy. They have also been very slow to offer support to the Indie game community that uses their engine recently. Other than those few pain points, overall I am happy with this engine and there is a LOT of room for expanding and in real time, so that means easier to release updates and expansions. Imagine, being able to load those updates without any server downtime!

 

Is there anything else about Pumpkin Interactive and Pumpkin Online you would like to share with the GeekGirlCon community?

[Monique]: Pumpkin Online is large project; however we have been working very hard on it and we’re asking for the chance to possibly make this game a reality not only for us, but for all gamers everywhere. We’re open to any questions or concerns and anyone is free to send us a message via any of our social media. [Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, DeviantArt, YouTube]

 

At GeekGirlCon, we love to celebrate our various geekdoms. What geeky things do you do outside of game development?

[Monique]: Myself personally, I travel to anime and comic conventions and I do artist alley selling prints and buttons. I also have a webcomic. I love anime and playing video games. I used to play Dungeons and Dragons before I started devoting more time on my projects.

 

Thanks so much to Monique and Malik for taking time out of their weekend to discuss their game with me.

The developers of Pumpkin Online are located all over the United States, which means that supporting this project supports people who aren’t geographically in game industry-heavy areas.

In the Kickstarter FAQ, the possibility of the project’s flopping was addressed. We’ve all supported and been wholeheartedly behind awesome ideas that just never came to fruition. The team make-up is geared toward success, and they work with a partner who assists, but is not directly involved. The studio isn’t promising impossible deadlines, and has the mantra, “Take our time and keep working at it until it’s done.” And over half the staff have Game Design degrees, giving them a firm basis in game design.

The Kickstarter is to get the game to its beta release. In the end, Pumpkin Online is looking to release a single-purchase game in the $30 – $50 range, with further support being made by in-game purchases, and single-purchase expansions.

Monique had a few final words for our community:

“As a lady myself I just want to encourage other girls to not just take a back-seat in the games industry or the comics industry. We need to get out there and get involved.”

 

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08.15.14 // Geek Inspirations: Barbara Gordon

Written by Corrina Lawson.

Batgirl

Image source: Batman Wiki

It’s impossible to overestimate the impact of Barbara Gordon on my life.

I was either five or six–old enough to be in school but too young to read. I know this because I used to watch reruns of the 1960s Batman TV show and when the credit for Burt Ward came up, I could only read the “B” and the “W.” Naturally, I translated it as Boy Wonder. (Sorry, Burt.)

I loved the show, and memorized most of the taglines. especially, “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.” But it was full of boys: Batman, Robin, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, Chief O’Hara, the majority of the villains, the majority of the henchmen. Oh, Catwoman showed up every now and then and some of the villains had girlfriends, but slowly the idea sunk in that this awesome incredible world was not for me.

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Image source: Batman Wiki

Until… Barbara Gordon.

I watched the episode that introduced Batgirl with my jaw hanging open. At first, I was just happy to see a smart girl in the show, one who wasn’t a villain, and one who had a real job besides wife or girlfriend. (What did Aunt Harriet do anyway?)

And then her wall pivoted to reveal her Batgirl costume and my worldview was upended. Barbara was a superhero. She had a secret lair, like the Batcave. She had an awesome motorcycle.

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Image source: Bat-Mania

She even had her own theme song.

She could fight as well as the men, though apparently she was forbidden from actually punching anyone and thus had to resort to kicks and thrown chairs. I never noticed this. I did notice that she was smart, funny, sly, and courageous. Alfred respected her, and their scenes together were some of my favorites, as he not only protected her identity from Batman but seemed to view her as the Caped Crusader’s equal.

What a revelation. It was nothing I could put into words at the time, just a deep-seated conviction that this was proof that girls could do whatever boys could. If Batgirl could be as good as Batman, then I could do whatever I wanted to do and be whoever I wanted to be.

Was the path of my life all due to Barbara Gordon and those who made her come alive? Maybe. Perhaps I would have found another role model along the way. I was already eager to do a lot of things, whether they were what I was expected to do as a girl or not.

But Barbara Gordon was the first to show me the way.

 

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08.14.14 // Creating Awareness of Geek Girls: Interview with Terra Clarke Olsen, Creator of The Unicorn Files

by AJ Dent, GeekGirlCon staff copy writer

In the famous movie The Last Unicorn, the protagonist goes on a quest to discover whether or not there are other unicorns in the world. Though a multitude of her fellow magical creatures do exist, she is made to believe she is the only one left, causing her great loneliness and concern.

Much like the unicorn in the film, it can often feel difficult for female geeks to find and meet others like them. There are countless strong, self-identified geek girls and women, as well as communities that support them, but naysayers can make it seem otherwise sometimes.

To combat the myth that female geeks don’t exist, writer Terra Clarke Olsen created The Unicorn Files. Through this project, she and photographer Nate Watters speak with and take pictures of geek girls and women. Each interview and image allows participants to represent themselves and their geekdoms exactly how they’d like — through their own words, with pictures of their various collections, clothing, dwellings, and anything else that makes them feel empowered in their geekiness.

We chatted with Terra to get the inside scoop on The Unicorn Files, so even more people will be aware of it (and can get involved!) and the fact that yes, females geeks do exist!

 

Unicorn Files

 

Tammy Vince Cruz of tbvc design

GeekGirlCon: What are you favorite geeky fandoms, and how do you participate in or express your passion for them?

Terra Clarke Olsen: In a traditional sense, my favorite geeky fandoms would include Tolkien, Marvel, Sci-Fi, and gaming. I always enjoy meeting fellow nerds who share a passion for the same things as myself—it creates an instant bond, regardless of other beliefs of interests. If someone points out that they like my Middle Earth leggings, I’m going to assume that they have good taste, haha. But honestly, I mostly like to geek out with my family. Growing up, many of my friends didn’t like the same things as me, so I’ve always been content getting nerdy with my family (all nerds). From making board games a priority to encouraging the collecting of silver and golden age comics, my family has been a big influence on my personal brand of geekdom. Nowadays, I express my passion for geeky interests in a more…elaborate way. Being an “adult” means you get to do things your own way, a privilege I practice frequently (e.g. I bought an arcade game that now resides in my dining room.)

Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when the first inkling for this project sparked?

There wasn’t so much of a spark as much as kindling that slowly grew. Over a year ago, when the whole “fake girl” debacle was getting really heated, I was reading a lot of women’s opinions on the subject matter. All great pieces, but words can only do so much. I thought it would be great to have a way to show, in a very personal way, how women are very much a strong and important aspect to the geek community. I kept throwing this idea out there (usually in frustration, after reading another instance of male geeks denying lady geeks exist), when my husband finally was like, “you just need to make this project happen!” So I contacted my good friend and talented photographer, Nate Watters, to see if he would be interested in creating this project with me. He was into it, so here we are!

​What is the mission of The Unicorn Files? ​

The Unicorn Files aims to show that female geeks exist, one geek at a time. We strive to capture the diverse body of female geeks by featuring individual geeky women, giving women in the community a chance to tell their story.

Who was your very first interview/photography session with, and what did you learn from that experience?

Our first model was my dear friend Meg Humphrey. I’d mentioned the idea to her and she loved it, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to photograph her and share her story (which is a beautiful one, I might add). Honestly we had it easy with Meg since our rapport is so great, and she has such a wonderful and bubbly personality. What I did learn was that even the most outgoing people can be shy in front of the camera. Meg definitely had her shy moments, but as she became more comfortable with a camera in her face and me fiddling with her clothes, she loosened up and let her personality shine through. I’ve learned that my job/challenge to is ensure that each woman is comfortable with us and the process to ensure that we capture the real them. If we do that, then I feel like we have done them and the project justice.

​Do you find that some people are nervous or shy at first upon getting involved with the project, especially the photography aspect of it? If so, how do you work with them to make them feel comfortable and confident? ​

Yes! A lot of women are shy in front of the camera (some women have refused to volunteer that I’ve reached out to because they don’t want their photo taken, while others have written in saying that they hate having their photo taken but they love the project so they want to make that jump). That is one reason we photograph women in their homes, we want to ensure that they are in an environment that is comfortable and safe – I think this helps a lot. In addition, we spend extra time letting women loosen up to get use to having a giant camera in their face….that and I often jump around and make faces like an idiot, hahaha. I can’t help making faces though, I’m very animated by nature. We also show them pictures as we go so they can see how wonderful they look! I think once they see that they look beautiful and that we’re really there to capture them, they become more comfortable.

​Have you faced any challenges with the project so far? If so, what have they been like, and what have you learned from them? ​

Yes! Time and money. We got a lot of volunteers who wanted to be photographed who are not in the Northwest. At first I thought it might be possible to take a few trips to capture these women, but as time went on, it became more apparent that this wasn’t going to be possible (not yet, at least). Nate is a full time photographer with a busy schedule, and I have a full-time job (in addition to volunteer and freelance work), so we really have to be creative when scheduling these shoots.

In addition, it has been hard to find a diverse body of geeky women to volunteer to be photographed—this has been more challenging than I would have imagined, to be honest. Because the northwest is fairly white, many of the volunteers have been white women. Obviously their voices and opinions matter, but it wouldn’t do the project or the community justice to just give these women a voice. So I have been trying to reach out to more people to see if they know anyone who is not white in the area that would be interested in volunteering to be photographed. Another challenge has been finding older women to volunteer. Again, I want to make sure the project stays true to its mission, and I can’t achieve this by only showing 20 year olds (not that 20 year olds don’t matter!). At the same time, I want people to volunteer organically whenever possible. I love getting emails from women I don’t know or have any connection with saying they want to volunteer — that is the best! Hopefully with more exposure and more people learning about the project, more women will feel comfortable volunteering.

What kind of feedback have you received from viewers of the project? How about from those who have modeled and been interviewed for the project?

So far, the photographs we’ve taken have not been available to the public. We liked the images so much that we’ve decided to launch a Kickstarter later this year so we can self publish the collection into a book (look for it mid-September!). However, we’ve received really great responses regarding our tumblr, where we post images that women send in to us, along with their bio (which I create from a questionnaire I have them fill out) and a quote. I’ve heard from models and the women who have submitted their photos online that they are excited about the project and love learning about other geeky women.

Has your vision for this project changed at all since you started it?

My vision remains the same — give other women in the community a voice. But now, I am more determined to find a way to continue the project so we can photograph people all over the US and world! I realize that this may be a bit ambitious, but I don’t think the true mission of The Unicorn Files will be completely fulfilled until women from all over have a chance to be photographed in a meaningful way.

What do you hope people will take away from The Unicorn Files overall – both its readers and its models?

When reading The Unicorn Files, I hope that people realize that geeky women are NOT unicorns. We exist and are a big part of the community (and care deeply about it, I might add). Our voices matter.

Thanks so much for chatting with us here at GeekGirlCon, Terra, and for the fantastic work you’re doing for female geeks everywhere!

Want to learn more? Terra is appearing on a panel about the project at GeekGirlCon ‘14! Purchase your passes today to get in on the fun!

A long-time geek and feminist, Terra works for a mobile indiegaming company and writes for Seattle Weekly. She is the founder of Have You Nerd, a lady geek blog, and The Unicorn Files, a feminist project that highlights fellow geeky ladies. She loves helping people share their stories and giving others a voice. She has a BA from UCLA, and a MA in Medieval Studies from University of Toronto. Terra lives in Seattle with her husband, Randall, and two cats, Han and Chewie. Find her @terrasum.

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08.13.14 // My Year of Reading Women

Written by Jess Downs, Copywriter for GeekGirlCon

It’s a truism among those of my friends who use OkCupid that if a guy fills up his “Favorites” section with Important Male Authors and Classic Dude Rock, it’s a red flag. You’ll probably spend the first date listening to his Deep Thoughts, and if he doesn’t bail when he hears you have every Tori Amos album, it’s probably only so that he can show you the error of your ways.

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Image source: Shanzilla

Similarly, when magazines and websites publish lists of “100 books to read before you die,” they’re overwhelmingly male. (And white, but that’s a topic that deserves its own post. Typically, Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Toni Morrison are allowed into the hallowed halls, so the list-makers can say they did their due diligence.)

Let’s have a quick overview, shall we? (I did the counts here by eye, so I may have missed one or two, but they’re generally accurate.)

 

…You get the picture.

This is a strange turn of events, when you think about it. The first novel ever written was penned by a Japanese woman in 1010. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, women kept alive the novel as a medium, while it was written off as trivial by male intellectuals. Nowadays, genres dominated by female writers are less respected–just look at the common reactions to young adult, romance (on the subject of which we had a panel at GeekGirlCon ‘13 called “Romance is a Feminist Genre”), and urban fantasy. And as that last example indicates, even within science fiction and fantasy the women-heavy subgenres are less well regarded than, for instance, hard sci-fi (which has a scientific or technological rather than social focus).

All this is well-trodden ground; Joanna Russ’ book, How to Suppress Women’s Writing was written in 1983, and sadly much of it remains relevant.

It used to be that I kept a running “to-read” list of things I’d seen mentioned, things friends had recommended, other books by authors I’d enjoyed, and so on. A few years ago, it occurred to me that almost all of these books were from a male perspective–if not from the point-of-view characters, then certainly from the author. I realized that if I just kept reading things that the ambient culture recommended, I could go months without reading a single book authored by a woman. I’m sure this was made worse by the fact that my go-to genres–sci-fi and fantasy, and classic lit–are among the most male-dominated.

I set out to rebalance this situation. I was already running a massive deficit of female authors, so I resolved that for one year, I would not read any books by men.

At first, it took some effort. It wasn’t enough just to pick up the next in the series I’d been reading, or idly browse book lists. Recommendation algorithms on sites like Amazon were skewed by what I’d previously been buying.

Another thing I had to work on was getting over some of my own internalized misogyny that told me certain female-centric fiction was “chick-lit” or “trashy” or somehow not worthwhile reading. Not reading that would improve my mind, as if that’s the only or even main objective of picking up a book.

Some of the stuff I read that year did indeed come under the category of serious or important literature. I read Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Ann Jacobs, and Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi. Both are memoirs by women living under incredibly oppressive circumstances, about the compromises they had to make–and refused to make–as a result. Both describe the specific horrors inflicted on women over and above the general ones; the sexual abuse and rape that enslaved women faced in the antebellum American south, and the massively curtailed freedoms of women in 1980s-1990s Iran.

I finally got around to some of the classics I’d been meaning to read, like The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, Orlando: A Biography, by Virginia Woolf, and Middlemarch, by George Eliot. Again, these novels have interesting things to say about gender, mostly quietly depicted in the characters’ behavior and choices. The Age of Innocence shows the disparate fears that a man and a woman have about their societally-unapproved romance being revealed. Middlemarch features a number of female characters, most notably Dorothea Brooke, who can’t pursue their own dreams, but try to achieve second-hand satisfaction through their husbands. Orlando is a more pointed exploration of gender, being a magical-realist novel in which the seemingly immortal main character inexplicably changes gender mid-way through the book.

Orlando

Tilda Swinton as Orlando in the film adaptation of the novelImage source: The Guardian 

It wasn’t all serious business, though. That was the year I got around to reading The Hunger Games. I devoured several more books by one of my favorite authors, Cherie Priest (of whom I have a cherished memory of meeting at the first GeekGirlCon in 2011). She has a fantastic steampunk series, an urban fantasy series, and a southern gothic/horror series–and I’d be hard-pressed to choose which is my favorite.

I also read the first three books of Gail Carriger’s immensely enjoyable Parasol Protectorate series, which is a sort-of-steampunk paranormal romance.

All in all, it was a very entertaining, enlightening year of reading.

What became of my experiment?

Well, I enjoyed it so much that I rolled it over into a second year. There were so many interesting voices that I didn’t want to stop. In the third year, realizing that what I really wanted was to avoid the endless stream of midlife crisis novels by well-off white men that make up most of what’s considered Serious Literature, I relaxed my restrictions so I could read some books by men of color.

These days, I don’t have any rules about who and what I won’t read, but doing this experiment certainly opened up my eyes, made me more aware of what I’m choosing. When I read a book from which women’s perspectives are completely absent, it feels wrong. Sometimes, I just put it down altogether. Don’t get me wrong; some of those Serious Literature books are genuinely great, and I’ve gotten a lot out of them. It’s just telling that women are missing from so many of them, except as objects of the male characters’ (usually thwarted) desire. I already knew this intellectually, but it took a fairly drastic conscious experiment to get my instincts calibrated with that.

cog_recal_1 cog_recal_2

 

 

 

 

 

Image source: Mycassandra

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08.11.14 // Strong Female Characters: Five Marvel Women Who Need Their Own Movies

Written By GeekGirlCon Copy Writer Jess Downs

As anyone who even vaguely pays attention to comics news has surely heard, Marvel Comics is continuing to broaden the diversity of their universe by spotlighting female characters in their own solo titles–and by making key characters Thor and Captain America a white woman and a black man respectively. Two of the new female solo titles of 2014–Storm and Ms. Marvel–feature women of color. It’s also arguable that the recent Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie run of Young Avengers gave us the first all-queer superhero team in comics history.

Whether you think these developments are part of an ongoing commitment to diversity, or that they don’t go far enough, it’s true that the comics universe is leaps and bounds ahead of the Marvel cinematic universe in terms of representation.

Marvel Studios have been teasing us for a while now with the idea of a Black Widow film that’s supposedly “in development,” and Captain America: The Winter Soldier had a good-guy team backing up Cap that consisted of Black Widow, Maria Hill, Falcon, and Nick Fury (two white women and two black men). But Cap was still in charge, and so far, despite much pleading from the fanbase, there has been no definitive news of a female-fronted film.

So if you’re listening, Marvel Studios, here are my five top picks for women to head up their own movies.

5. Jubilee

Jubilee_Vol_1_4

Image source: Marvel Wiki

Jubilation Lee, a.k.a. Jubilee: former Olympic-qualifying gymnast, former homeless teen, current member of the X-Men. Her mutant powers include the creation of energy globules that she calls “fireworks.” (In the current mainstream comics universe, she doesn’t have her mutant powers, and has vampire powers instead, but for a movie I think she’d be best–and most recognizable–in her classic mutant form.)

Remember the first Spider-Man movie? No, not that one; this one. The 2002 one. As a former nerdy outcast, a part of me was thrilled to see Spidey come into his powers and get his revenge on the bullies. What’s more cathartic and empowering than that? Being a mutant who knows how petty all this is in the scheme of things. Jubes has been homeless. She’s Chinese-American and she’s a mutant. Her old school got blown up. She has much bigger things to worry about than the vagaries of high school cliques.

Her solo title back in 2004 shows her heading back to LA to live with her aunt and attend a regular human school. She immediately strikes up a friendship with nerdy Meg, who cares way too much about her status at school. That changes once she gets sucked into Jubilee’s action-packed adventures.

Lots of superhero stories come across as power fantasies geared toward geeky boys and men who never quite got over feeling lonely and rejected at high school. It would be nice for a change to see a fantasy aimed at women and other marginalized groups that’s not about getting their own back, but about overcoming.

4. She-Hulk

She-Hulk

Image source: Marvel.com

What’s a single, professional woman in New York to do? Rent is high, clients at your law office are few, and it’s expensive to keep replacing all your stuff every time it’s destroyed by a supervillain.

I love so many things about Jennifer Walters (alias She-Hulk). She fights evildoers in the courtroom as often as on the streets. She’s allowed to be–literally and figuratively–strong, without having to be masculine. She has muscles and dresses femme. She forms meaningful friendships with other women, such as Patsy Walker (Hellcat) and her paranormal paralegal Angie Huang.

She’s been on several teams, including the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, but in my opinion she’s more than capable of heading up her own movie, just as she does her new solo title.

 

 

3. Miss America Chavez

Young_Avengers_Vol_2_13

Miss America Chavez, front and center, with her team the Young Avengers
Image source: Marvel Wiki

America Chavez was raised in a dimension outside of time, and is thus the only America Chavez in the multiverse. Her powers involve kicking through star-shaped portals into other dimensions, punching things really hard, and taking no crap from anyone. Especially not Loki.

Oh yeah, and she’s a queer Latina woman who was raised by two moms.

She’s awesome, is what I’m getting at.

Imagine a dimension-hopping adventure with her solid presence at the center to ground it. Some of her Young Avengers teammates could make an appearance as she bounces through their dimensions. (Kate Bishop, I’m looking at you. It would be cool to introduce the female Hawkeye into the cinematic universe for future cameos alongside her hapless mentor, Clint Barton/Hawkguy.)

 

 

 

 

2. Abigail Brand

S.W.O.R.D._Vol_1_1

Image source: Marvel Wiki

Abigail Brand, as a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s extraterrestrial monitoring branch S.W.O.R.D., commands The Peak, a ship in constant Earth orbit as the first line of defence against alien attack. Of course, that also often means being the first point of contact for new alien species, and figuring out when to use diplomacy and when to use a big plasma pistol is one of her most challenging tasks.

A 2009 S.W.O.R.D. series (collected into a book called No Time to Breathe) demonstrated how vulnerable Earth can be when several of these threats arrive at once, and showed Brand scrambling to deal with them, armed with her wits, her leadership skills, and the loyalty of those she commands.

A movie starring Brand, given what’s happened so far in the cinematic universe, would probably be about the formation of S.W.O.R.D. in the wake of various recent alien incidents. Given the excitement around Guardians of the Galaxy, it seems that comics movie fans are ready to see more of what’s out there in the universe, and what Earth’s role in it will be, and I think Abigail Brand is the perfect character to hang it on.

 

1. Captain Marvel

Captain_Marvel_Vol_7_9

Image source: Marvel Wiki

How could this list be complete without mention of Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers? Her 2012 series by Kelly Sue DeConnick was such a breakout success that as soon as it ended they started a new one. Carol fans have organized themselves into a Carol Corps that has its own meetups at conventions and do random acts of kindness for each other.

As a child, Danvers dreamed of being a pilot in the Air Force, and had to fight against all expectations to achieve her dream. Now, having absorbed some of the physiology of an alien species called the Kree, she can fly under her own power, as well as having the super strength and invulnerability to fight villains. She’s an inspiring figure, both in-universe and outside it, and a Captain Marvel movie would make a killing at the box office.

I dream of a buddy movie where Jessica “Spider-Woman” Drew is Carol’s sidekick. Her snarky banter plays off the force of Captain Marvel’s personality perfectly. Theirs is one of the most convincing, funniest, and all-round appealing female friendships in comics today.

 

What do you think? Which Marvel women do you want to see leading their own movies? Let us know in the comments.

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08.8.14 // Creative Corner: Lyle Cox and Evan Munro from Mount Olympus Games.

By Kristine Hassell, GeekGirlCon Social Media Manager

 Lyle Cox and Evan Munro

Ahoy hoy fellow gamers! As a biracial gamer, it is often frustrating to find a video game character that resonates with me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Faith from Mirror’s Edge

Faith from Mirror's Edge

Image source: vg247

…Jade from Beyond Good and Evil

Jade from Beyond Good and Evil

Image source: GamePlayersReview

…and Alexandra from Eternal Darkness.

Alexandra from Eternal Darkness

Image source: Operation Rainfall

I have mad love for my female fighters and can easily school folks as Ayane,Ling Xiaoyu, or Seong Mi-na.

As I’ve matured as a gamer, it can be difficult to enumerate female protagonists in games that don’t immediately fall into tired gender tropes. So when I came across Together: Amna & Saif, it’s an understatement to say that my interest was piqued. Here was a mother and son cooperative team as the game’s protagonists, AND they were persons of color too?

I wanted to know more about the project and the folks behind it. Lyle Cox (programmer, game designer, and owner) and Evan Munro  (game developer and art director) took some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for our GeekGirlCon blog!

Hi Lyle! Hi Evan! Last February, Lyle quit his day job and took a leap into the world of indie game development. Were you always a gamer, Lyle?

LC: Yes, I have always enjoyed games, especially co-op games. I grew up making games too, just not video games. My friends and I would pretend there were Metroid-type unlocks around the neighborhood and the grass was lava. In the back of my grandparents’ house there was a bunch of broken glass which we used as currency for another game. The game ended shortly after inflation introduced from broken root beer bottles acquired from the nearby gas station. I was the oldest in my family so I was frequently making up new things for us to do.

How about you, Evan?

EM: Besides the occasional hiatus, I’ve been gaming since I was 6 or 7.  My grandma had a scary basement with a black-and-white TV and an NES. My sister and I braved many a trip down there just to get a few hours of quality Mario time.

As I’ve gotten older, spending days playing a title has become harder to schedule. In fact, scheduling might be the order of the day if co-op play is required with other friends. Thankfully in Seattle, geeks are thick on the ground. There are a plethora of video game companies in the area, not to mention board game and RPG developers. Has it been harder for geeks to connect in a city like Salt Lake City?

LC: While we don’t have as many game developers as San Francisco or Seattle, it is pretty easy to connect with other developers; we have bimonthly indie game nights where 30-50 people show up. The game design program at the University of Utah was ranked #1 in the country as well. Utah also has a strong board game community, and over 70,000 people attended Salt Lake Comic Con last year, so there are plenty of geeks here.

Wow. I had no idea that Salt Lake Comic Con was the largest first year Comic Con in North American history and the largest convention EVER to take place in Utah. Impressive!

LC: There are a lot of us here that are doing things to build the game dev community in Utah. Hopefully we can make it one of the best places to be an indie developer.

What have been some of the challenges as an indie developer?

LC: Constantly playtesting and finding new people to test the game in a situation where I can observe is a challenge. We have local meetups where I can do some of that, but when I can’t find anyone I have gone to local universities and asked people to play my game while they are there eating their lunch. It isn’t ideal, and you get turned down a few times before you find someone who wants to and has the time, but the game will be better for it in the end.

Maintaining work-life balance, a schedule, and productivity can be a challenge for anyone that works independently. I sometimes overwork myself, which ends up being a net loss because I get burnt out and my body/mind won’t let me work anymore. I am getting better at not doing that.

EM: For me, the hardest part has been making enough money with side jobs to survive, while still having time to devote to development. As I’ve gained experience, paid opportunities have arisen, and it’s been getting gradually easier.  But even so, the market is a fickle beast, and the lack of stability is always daunting.

How did Mount Olympus Games get its name?

LC: I like mythology, and the domain http://mountolymp.us was available. I thought it would be fun to have customer support and such come from Zeus at mountolymp.us or Apollo at mountolymp.us etc. So I bought the domain and Mount Olympus Games became the name of the studio.

Nice! I also like Greek mythology and knowing that Apollo was the patron god of music and poetry makes for a nice tie-in with video games, in my humble opinion.

Let’s talk about the video game you’ve been working on. Together: Amna & Saif seems like a fantastic way to spend an evening. How many hours of game play will Together have?

LC: I want two people to be able to play the game in one sitting. So I plan for the main campaign to take about 2.5 hours, which is close to the upper limit for most people to get in the same room together without interruption. There will be a good amount of additional levels and secrets that will probably double or triple that time. There is a stretch goal on the Kickstarter that will add New Game Plus, where you can play through the game again with more difficulty as well. I will redesign/tweak the levels to make them all more difficult.

The New Game Plus level – will that be available after you’ve completed the game initially?

LC: Yes. After you have beaten the game, you can play through the game again with harder levels.  The exact implementation will be refined and decided later, but in the end there will be a lot more levels to enjoy if we reach that stretch goal.

Two-and-a-half hours seems like the perfect amount to complete a story mode. Were you inspired by any other video games that took about that long?

LC: Yes, I listened to a talk about how Journey kept the game length intentionally short so two people could play through in one sitting.

Journey cover

Image source: thatgamecompany

I mentioned earlier that I was intrigued by the decision to make the protagonists persons of color. What inspired that choice?

LC: There were some talks at GDCthis year that opened my eyes to the fact that there is a large amount of [people underrepresented] in games. At the same time Evan Munro, the art director on Together: Amna & Saif, asked me about trying out different races for the characters. I was passionate about it so I told him to go for it. All credit goes to him for the result.

As a POC, I am glad that you and Evan chose diversity for your game characters. Do you find that once you’re aware of the underrepresentation, you can’t turn it off?

LC: There are people far more qualified to talk about this than I am. But it is a cultural thing and not isolated to games. What we feed our minds affects us whether we admit it or not; that includes racial stereotypes. The world would be a better place if we consumed media with humanized characters rather than caricatures of stereotypes.

EM: For me as a white male, there are thousands upon thousands of lead characters designed to appeal to me. But for a POC not so much, and the characters that do exist are often based on offensive stereotypes.  And even in the indie games scene, there are still overwhelmingly more white characters to choose from than non-white.  So when designing Amna and Saif, I decided that if this were my only chance to have total control over a character design, I’d want to take that opportunity and do something unique with them.

Having POC characters also fits into the overall concept and theme of Together as well. As Lyle has mentioned, we want Together to bring newcomers into gaming, and designing POC characters instantly appeals to new audiences.

Were you inspired by any specific titles?

EM: I was inspired by Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana for a lot of the character proportions and color schemes. Other than that I used references outside of gaming. I researched into people from Iran and Pakistan.

Congratulations on reaching your funding goal on Kickstarter! Was its success a surprise?

LC: Thank you. We are taking a lot of risks with Together, so I was prepared for the game to flop, but hoping it would do what it is doing now. I am very grateful and happy that people have seen what makes Together unique and are supporting us. Thank you to all of our backers, and those who have told others about Together.

EM: This being my third Kickstarter project, in general I knew what to expect and what to plan for.  So I had hoped that my preparation would at least get us funded.  But yeah, it’s always a risk and I’m still amazed by people willing to proactively support indie game development.  And we’re definitely elated with the response we’ve gotten.

I can see why. Checking out the game, I really look forward to playing through the game with my partner. He and I have played through many story modes together but this one seems like it might be more compelling because everything requires two players, working together.

So, what you do when you’re not wearing your indie game dev hat?

LC: I spend time with my wife Rachel, who has been very supportive of the development of Together. I like to read, mostly non-fiction, but I mix in some fantasy and sci-fi as well. And of course I play games.

Does Rachel play video games also?

She plays some, but not a lot. She likes the genesis era Sonic games and she was hooked on Flappy Bird and Threes for a little bit. We played through Portal 2 and some other games together, and she helps me playtest Together: Amna & Saif as well.

How about you, Evan?

Well, I always try to keep drawing and filling up sketchbooks.  I also enjoy watching horror movies and anime with my girlfriend.  And of course playing games!

Awesome! Can you share what we can look forward to for the rest of 2014 for Mount Olympus Games?

Mostly we will continue development of Together: Amna & Saif. We will have a number of beta releases that go to the beta backers on kickstarter. We will be showing the game at SLC Comic Con in September, and if the Indie Megabooth [at Penny Arcade Expo] and/or IndieCade want us, we will be there as well.

I wish you luck at Salt Lake Comic Con, and hope folks respond well to your game!

We here at GeekGirlCon, love sharing our geekdoms. What have you been geeking over lately?

The Hound's Helmet

Image source: Valyrian Steel

LC: For Books: I am a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. The Manderlys make excellent pies you know. I have The Hound’s Helm from the HBO show sitting on my desk. It is my favorite decoration in my office space.

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie was enjoyable. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Danie Kahneman is great if you like psychology.

For Games: I have enjoyed Banished, The Swapper, Flappy Bird, and XCom EU and EW.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuse: Memoirs of a Huntress cover

Image source: Filmaffinity

EM: I recently found an amazing anime film called Fusé: Memoirs of a Huntress. Fusé has great animation, really interesting story, and the main character is kinda badass. I’m also a big fan of synth music. I’m in the market for a korg or something to mess around on.

Any final words of advice would you have for anyone who wanted to follow your lead?

LC: Get out of debt, and study as much as you can. Debt weighs you down and limits your opportunities. Knowledge increases your opportunities. Start creating now–it doesn’t have to look pretty and it doesn’t have to make money. Only make games if it rewards you intrinsically, not extrinsically.

EM: On the art end of things, I’d say, focus on the basics 100%: color, anatomy and composition. Employers are impressed by traditional abilities more so than your handling of a specific program (though they also are good to know).  Also if you can afford it, I had a very good experience at art school. I was able to seek out professors that taught me a lot about different mediums and visual communication.  Additionally, for game development, all of the connections that have allowed me to work in game development came from my involvement at my university.

Thank you to Evan and Lyle for speaking with me today. I’ve really enjoyed their insights on Together: Amna & Saif, and hopefully you have too. I highly recommend this game whether you’re an old school gamer looking for something fresh or if you’re a neophyte to the whole gaming thing. It’s worth noting that the creators have also taken steps to make the game very accessible. You can play this game with one hand, and they’ve crafted the game’s color palette for people with color blindness.

Watch this space for more awesome content highlighting diversity and stories you might not find elsewhere. Support indie games!

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08.7.14 // Mike Madrid: Vixens, Vamps & Vipers

Mike Madrid

Mike Madrid, a featured contributor at GeekGirlCon for three years running, returns this year to bring us a panel inspired by his forthcoming book Vixens, Vamps, and Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics.

 

Whet your appetite for this romp through the seedy side of the Golden Age with Wendy Whipple’s book review.

 

 

Photo source: Heaven4Heroes

By Wendy Whipple of Plastic Heroines

 vixens_cover

Cover image courtesy of Exterminating Angel Press.

Mike Madrid (The Supergirls; Divas, Dames & Daredevils) has a new book due out this October called Vixens, Vamps & Vipers. Written as a companion book to Divas, this book looks at the bad girls in those Golden Age comics, whose stories ran from the late 1930s through the mid 1950s.

I love heroines; that’s certainly no secret – my basement is filled with of hundreds of action figures of heroines from movies and comic books – but I adore the villainesses. In reading Madrid’s stirring introduction, dipping into the psychology of villainy, frankly, being bad sounds like a lot more fun. (At least until the Comics Code Authority ruined all their fun in 1954…) But until that dark time, these were “[w]omen who were bad because they wanted to be.” Being bad was a conscious decision; it was, in fact, agency. These were women who were taking charge of their own destinies. Whether we, as readers, agree with their decisions is an entirely different question.

As in Divas, Madrid splits the comics section into themed chapters:

viragos

From National Comic #30, 1943. Bad girl Idaho digs a bullet from her own arm as henchmen watch helplessly.

Photo source: Vixens, Vamps, and Vipers

queens

From Crimes By Women #14, 1950. Drugs and murder are a family business for this horrid mother-son team.

Photo source: Vixens, Vamps, and Vipers

Aside from the awesome villainesses, the comics do contain some pretty spectacularly awful racial/ethnic stereotypes. Comics of the 1940s, in particular, were not known for their kindness toward Asian people; keep that in mind while you’re reading. The world was in turmoil, and open xenophobia was even more rampant than it is today. The Comic Code Authority banned the practice of making fun of racial or religious groups, but all that really did was erase them from the comics altogether.

My only real criticism of the book is that the comics are reproduced in black and white. Color printing is expensive, and I completely understand the decision, but seeing these villainesses in all their bloody glory would have been even better. (If you’ve read Divas, you’re already familiar with that same publishing decision.)

As always, Madrid’s commentary is insightful and interesting. His affection for the heroines in Divas is readily apparent; so too is his respect for the villainesses in Vixens. “They were in control of their own destinies,” he says. And who doesn’t want that?

As a reader who is still fairly unfamiliar with Golden Age comics, I found some of the selections Madrid used for this book astonishing and eye-opening. The drama is tight, given that the stories are so short and typically not continued on into the next month’s issue like we’re used to in today’s comics. If these are the gems he selected, what else lurks in the dusty recesses of comics history? The heroines in Divas, Dames & Daredevils were exciting and intriguing, it’s true, but my heart is still pounding over some of these very bad Vixens, Vamps & Vipers. Sometimes it just feels good to be bad.

Find Mike Madrid on Twitter, @heaven4heroes.

 

Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics

© 2014 Mike Madrid

Forward by William Kuskin, Ph.D.

ISBN:  978-1-935259-27-5 (print)

978-1-935-259-28-2 (ebook)

Exterminating Angel Press

 

This review is of an uncorrected proof and there may be changes to the book between the publishing of the review and the book; I have no control over that. Please see my reviews of The Supergirls and Divas, Dames & Daredevils. For more Golden Age comics in full color, please visit the Digital Comics Museum.


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08.6.14 // Ask GeekGirlCon: What’s Your Favorite Geeky Song or Musical Artist?

Here at GeekGirlCon, many of the staff members’ passions naturally cross over into multiple genres. Since music is such a huge part of everyday (nerd) life, this month, we explored our favorite tunes or singers with a geeky twist.

Director of Marketing Sheila Sadeghi answered, “My favorite geeky song of all time has got to be ‘Geeks in Love’, written by Lemon Demon and animated by Andrew Keppple.

It was made for Albino Blacksheep back in the day, but you can now watch it [in a slighty NWFW video] on YouTube:”

Susie Rantz, GeekGirlCon’s fearless PR Manager, states, “I will never get sick of the Mo Mo O’Brien parody song ‘LORDE of the Rings’. Any song that weaves in Lord of the Rings is already a winner in my book, but this one has some particularly fun lyrics. ‘We’re going to Mordor (Mooordor).’ So fun!”

Lorde - Susie

Image source

Copywriter SG-1 was happy to share thoughts on her favorite geeky artist as well. “Weird Al Yankovic’s entire album Dare to be Stupid is just a complete classic. It starts with the beeps of a heart monitor in “Like a Surgeon”, goes through “Girls Just Wanna Have Lunch”, and finishes up with a rousing “Hooked on Polkas” that sticks in my head for days. I originally had it on cassette when I was much younger, and then decided I was too grown up for such silliness – and I gave it to my little sister. When I realized I never wanted to be too grown up for Weird Al, she wouldn’t give it back. So now I have it on CD. It lives in my car, and tends to get blasted on the way home from a long day at work. :-)”

dare al

Image source

GeekGirlCon Accounting Manager Karen Hampton weighed in as well. “I love video game music. All the music on my playlists is video game music. I’ve been to some live concerts (Play! Symphony, Video Games Live, the Minibosses, Video Game Orchestra and Metroid Metal.) I like other sub-genres too, like chip tunes, and I’m open to vocals in my remixes.

I must love Tommy Tallarico’s Video Games Live show best, because I’ve been to two of their shows in person and watched their Comic-Con performance live via Twitch. I even backed their Level 3 Kickstarter last year.

After that, my favorite performance is Symphonic Fantasies, a medley of songs from Kingdom Hearts, Chrono Trigger/Cross, Final Fantasy, and Secret of Mana. I couldn’t attend that show in person, but I do have the two versions (from Colonge, Germany and Tokyo) of the performance on CD.

I used to feel very alone in liking game music, but I’m happy to say that the community has really grown in the last 10 years.”

tommy

Image source

Let’s keep the community behind all of these geek-tastic music tastes growing! What’s your favorite geeky song or musical group? Feel free to comment here, and join the discussion at GeekGirlCon ’14!

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08.4.14 // Notable Scientists: Modern Physicists

Writen by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services

In this edition of Notable Scientists, I focus on women working in physics, typically traditional physics rather than astrophysics. There is no particular reason to make this distinction other than it allows me to choose a small group of women to highlight within a parameter set. These women are listed in no particular order.

Vera E. Kistiakowsky spent much of her career as a professor at MIT. Born in 1928, she received her A.B. from Mt. Holyoke College in 1948 and her Ph.D. from the University of California – Berkeley in 1952, both degrees in chemistry. Her chosen career stemmed from advice from her father to support herself and not depend on another person to support her. Her father was a respected physical chemistry professor at Harvard and his support in her chosen activities was instrumental to her success. She entered college at the age of 15, choosing a pre-med major. She changed to chemistry due to Mt. Holyoke’s extraordinary female faculty at the time.  While her degrees are in chemistry, her studies and research were physics intensive.  Graduating with her PhD before her newly married husband hindered her initial job opportunities. She worked in several positions before eventually settling into a professorship at MIT. During her tenure at MIT, she was scientifically prolific with 86 technical publications as well as highly active in feminist activities, including organizing for the National Organization of Women (NOW), Women In Science and Engineering (WISE), the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), and an ad hoc committee in the American Physical Society (APS) on women physicists to name a few.

Helen Thom Edwards is recognized for her work with the Tevatron. She was born in 1936 and received both her B.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1957 and 1966, respectively. Her interest in science was outside that of her family’s interests, so she was used to paving her own way. Her technical and mechanical acumen served her well as a group leader at the Fermilab. Dr. Edwards is a team player and insists upon acknowledging the contributions of her colleagues in her and Fermilab’s success.

Ingrid Daubechies is a physicist and a mathematician known for her work in wavelets. Born in 1954, she received her B.S. and Ph.D. at Vrije University in Brussels in 1975 and 1980, respectively. Her interest in science and math was nurtured by her parents who also encouraged her independence. In 1984, she received the Louis Empain prize for physics for the work she accomplished before the age of 29. The prize was followed by tenure in her position at the Free University Brussels. She moved into a position at Rutgers and also worked at the AT&T Bell Laboratories. In 1992, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship followed by the Steele Prize from the American Mathematical Society in 1994. She has continued to receive honors and ovations to this day.

Janet M. Conrad researches neutrinos. She was born in 1963 and received her B.A. from Swarthmore College in 1985, her M.Sc. from Oxford University in 1987, and her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1993. After a postdoctoral stint at Columbia University, she moved into a professor position there. In 2008, she moved to MIT. She has received many awards, including an NSF CAREER Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, and the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award from the APS. She can be found involved in research and teaching at MIT, as well as communicating science to scientists and general audiences around the country.

Reka Albert blends cross and inter-disciplinary expertise. She received her B.S. and M.S. from the Babes-Bolyai University in Romania and her Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 2001. After a postdoctoral position at the University of Minnesota, she joined the faculty at Pennsylvania State University, where she is currently a professor in the physics department. She has received several awards for her work, including a Sloan Research Foundation Fellowship, an NSF Career Award, and the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award.

 

Prizes mentioned:

 

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07.30.14 // Back In the Day…

By GeekGirlCon Copy Writer Sarah “SG-1″ Grant

It continues to amaze me how far the human race has come technologically in the past 20 years. I was in an interview not long ago, and the interviewer (who appeared to be a middle-aged woman) started talking about the way they used to do things in her office. She mentioned mimeograph machines, carbon copies, and using the actual US Mail to get information where it needed to be.

This got me thinking, way back to when I was just a girl…you know, the 1980s.

My grade school didn’t have computers other than the one in the secretary’s office–and that was just a word processor. Nobody had even heard of the Internet in my Wisconsin hometown (population 21,069) at that point.

My parents bought our first computer (an Apple IIGS) when my mom went back to school, which would have put me in late middle school (we called it “junior high” back then).

The first video game of any kind I ever played was the 8-bit version of Oregon Trail. I died countless times on the way to Oregon with my family. It was a little disturbing.

8-bit death sentence

8-bit death sentence

Photo credit

I learned to type (sort of) on a typewriter. I don’t think it was even electric.

Our telephone was connected to the wall with a twisted-up cord.

The first computer I ever owned was one my dad bought me in 2005 when I decided to go back to school to be a pharmacist. I’m not a pharmacist…and I’ve only bought one more computer since then.

I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 25. Yes, I said twenty-five (25!!).

I knew exactly what this meant as soon as I saw it:

You may or may not get this...

You may or may not get this…

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Now, I am aware that everyone has this feeling (nostalgia, to put it politely) to some extent, especially people my age and older. My parents have told stories of their lives before their families even owned a television–and the ones they eventually had were black and white and weighed A LOT.

This feeling is something I’ve really been dealing with for the past couple of weeks. For the moment, my home Internet is off, so the only access I have to the outside world at home is my cell phone. I can’t jump on the computer and edit a GeekGirlCon blog post, or work on the program book for our upcoming convention. I can usually get some spotty Internet on my phone–just enough to read fanfiction until way too late at night. Of course, inside my apartment, that’s pretty much all my smartphone is good for: I get little to no cell reception in my apartment (which has nothing to do with my Internet connection and everything to do with the age and building materials of my apartment building). I’ve been spending a lot of time at my local branch of the Seattle Public Library, and the coffee shops in my neighborhood are becoming quite familiar as well–but I have to spend money to use their Internet. Although, the Barnes and Noble at Northgate Mall has free wifi–no need to buy anything. (Not false advertising–the poster on the window says it!)

The other good thing about having to leave my house to get Internet (especially in recent weeks in Seattle) is that all these places with Internet also have AIR CONDITIONING. I do not function well in the heat at all, so being “forced” to head to the library isn’t much of a hardship. Going home while it’s still 90 degrees in my apartment? THAT is a hardship.

I have read many insightful articles (mostly via my smartphone) regarding the obsession with cell phones, the Internet, and computers. Most of them come to the conclusion that while all this technology tries to foster connectivity with the rest of our species (Facebook, YouTube, etc.), we seem to be more isolated. Is the Internet the cause of my sense of isolation, or is it the cure? Will I feel better when I can truly get online at home again? If I can’t watch television on my phone or computer, what the heck am I going to do with all my time? Thor knows, I’m NOT going to clean anything! I guess I’ll just find the best spot in my apartment to get the fanfiction on my phone, and read until I fall asleep.

Do you think the Internet isolates us, or brings us closer together?

 

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