Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 7)

What is the Fourth of July to a ‘Merican?

t shirt with Abraham Lincoln apparently holding the Emancipation Proclamation, but also riding a bear, holding a machine gunThis weekend, I found myself cranky and apathetic on the fourth of July. I wasn’t feeling it. I stayed home and watched James Earl Jones read Frederick Douglas’ speech, “What is the Fourth of July to a Negro?” I read a reflection on the Fourth of July from a Puerto Rican. I read a reflection on the Fourth of July from a Navajo in Gallup, New Mexico, named “Most Patriotic Small Town.”

I was invited to a traditionally American BBQ party with lawn games and copious quantities of food and alcohol, but I didn’t go. I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate. What would I be celebrating? A colonial entity that split itself from its colonizer, only to go forth and terrorize, and I quote from the Declaration of Independence here, “the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages”?

In a week where black churches are burning in the South…

In a month when a white supremacist murdered nine people and when he was picked up by police the next day, was escorted to jail in a bulletproof vest…

In a month where the white supremacist cell surrounding said mass-murderer was not investigated…

In the year where more than any other year, I see history repeating itself (lynchings, race riots, landmark moments of civil disobedience)…

I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate. I found myself meditating on the failures of America rather than its successes. That might not be fair of me, but so be it. I couldn’t do blind patriotism, not ever, but especially not this year. I couldn’t even buy in to the type of ironic ‘MERICA! patriotism that says “I’m not really participating in my country but look, here’s Ronald Regan riding a Utahraptor firing a machine gun.”

actual t shirt of Ronald Regan riding a raptor firing a machine gun. Text says "Merica!"

Pretty much all of the ‘Merica imagery is this Chuck-Norris-y screaming hyper-masculinity, including violence, red meat, and/or predatory animals.

What is patriotism, exactly? Loyalty to a government? I don’t think so. That’s pretty much the opposite of what the Declaration of Independence states. Many of the anti-government groups active in the US right now are called Patriot Groups. Is patriotism more about supporting and loving your country or threatening your government if you don’t like their choices?

tank top with arrows pointing to arm holes that read "Obama can't control these guns"


For the record, I have felt truly, properly patriotic twice:

1. Age sixteen, watching a parade down the Mall in London. Yes, this was patriotism towards Britain, a country I am not a citizen of. (…and a country that’s been the source of much incredibly destructive imperialism worldwide. I can somehow deal with the cognitive dissonance of being an Anglophile better than the cognitive dissonance of the fourth of July, though, so…??)

2. Age twenty-two, the AmeriCorps launch ceremony at Fischer Pavilion, reciting the AmeriCorps pledge*. National Service in general gave me more faith in this country than anything else I’ve seen or experienced. I wish those who work tirelessly to improve the basic welfare of some of the most vulnerable populations in this country received the kind of recognition and attention that those who do military service get. But that is another tale for another time.


I did find a couple of things to be glad of this month, in regards to my country:

1. The Supreme Court legalized marriage for all.

2. Bree Newsome enacted this century’s iconic civil disobedience by climbing the flagpole at the South Carolina courthouse and taking down the Confederate Battle Flag.

3. The USA won the World Cup of women’s soccer, with a frigging incredible hat trick (three goals in sixteen minutes) performed by Carli Lloyd and a couple of very solid saves by goalie Hope Solo. It was an incredible game, and for once I could be surrounded by people chanting U-S-A, U-S-A and not be creeped out.

So I suppose the essence of patriotism, or at least of my support for my country, comes when I see Americans doing great things to support and represent other Americans.


*It’s pretty good, for reals:

I will get things done for America – to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.


Minor Arcana Press, Minneapolis, and beyond!

I don’t talk about it much here, but I am in fact the Associate Editor of Minor Arcana Press.

MinorArcanaLogoLargeWhat is Minor Arcana Press?

MAP is a small press based here in Seattle. We’re primarily a poetry press, but have done multi-genre anthologies in the past. This year, we released a super-edgy, rad poetry deck called Shufflepoems by Seattle poet/performer/zen badass Lydia Swartz. Later this year, we’ll be releasing an anthology of ekphrastic poetry based on the Tarot, edited by Marjorie Jensen.

What do you do at Minor Arcana Press, Anne?

I have three major functions: I design our books and website, I distribute (mail) the stuff we sell, and I am a second set of eyes on things like contracts and paperwork. (I also enjoy tabling at conferences, see below.)

There are three entire people who are the main bridge crew of the USS Minor Arcana Press. Evan J. Peterson is our Editor-in-Chief, i.e. the Kirk. I’m the Associate Editor, i.e. the Spock. Monica Thomas is the Assistant Editor, i.e. the Sulu. Minor Arcana Press has recently been picked up by Shunpike, a rad arts organization that helps us do the business end of things (taxes, money management, accounts). So I’m gonna say that Shunpike is our Scotty. Right now we need some interns to be the Uhura (social media) and the Redshirt at the Other Control Panels, so please consider applying!

Will Minor Arcana Press be at AWP 2015 Conference and Bookfair in Minneapolis, MN?

Gosh, yes! The bookfair runs from April 8, 2015 to April 11, 2015. I’ll be there! Please come visit us and check out our sexy exciting books! Table 757! If you’ll be at the conference, come say hi.


After AWP, I will be making a mad dash to Port Townsend to participate in the Artist’s Trust EDGE program, which will help me hone my business skills as an independent writer.

Writing Outside Your Demographic: Let’s Talk About Othering

Writing Outside Your Demographic

Things to Avoid: Othering

Picture of otter with text "The power to put otters into discourse while remaining unspoken is a particularly effective form of power

This is ironic because I am talking about writing about people outside of your demographic. Am I full of crap? Maybe.
(quote from John Fiske; pic from Discourse on the Otter)

What is Othering?

Othering is a subtle concept that applies to a lot of stuff. It is related to, but not the same as, the literary theory concept of The Other as an opposite of The Self.  A basic breakdown of othering is this: A person breaks down people into two basic categories in their brain, People Like Me and People Not Like Me. When this is applied on a larger scale world-view level (Not Like Us), this becomes othering.

Othering is not just declaring you are not like me, it’s a you are not like me with an implied and I am better or more normal than you. That I am US and you are THEM.


Othering is a game of assumptions, stereotypes, and microaggressions.

I’m thinking of a time when a I was playing a draft-style Magic: The Gathering tournament. (MtG is a card game produced by Wizards of the Coast, who also make Dungeons & Dragons, i.e. solid geek territory.) This was a fairly casual event in a game store. Folks would hang out and chat between rounds. A man I hadn’t played and didn’t know remarked to me, “Your boyfriend must have taught you a lot about Magic.” Now, Mike and I were both playing the tournament, and were clearly there together, although we’re not big on PDA. This man’s assumptions ran deep. He assumed: 1. Because I was female and there with a specific guy, we were dating. 2. Because I was female, I had been introduced to Magic by my male partner. Underlying this was the otheringest assumption of all: 3. Because I was female, I couldn’t have had the same kind of introduction to Magic that this dude had; I was essentially different than him. Of course he backpedaled pretty hard when I gave him a withering look and said, “Dude. I’ve been playing since I was twelve.” He got all sheepish, of course, and spouted some bullshit about how he knows lots of women who are in traditionally masculine jobs. Because that’s relevant to how I learned to play Magic. OTHER ME HARDER, BRO.

Otter with quote: "Who is allowed to make representatives of this Otter and who has the authority to enforce these representations?

Quote by Jennifer Gonzalez, pic from Discourse on the Otter

Othering is a big deal. People are thinking about it in regards to multiple disciples: medicine, law, politics. In April 2015, there’s a large-scale conference and UC Berkeley about Othering and Belonging.

[Othering] is a process in which we marginalize people; we don’t recognize their full humanity. We make them feel invisible…noticed but not seen.

-John A. Powell, Director, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley


 How does Othering show up in literature?

Othering shows up in books and films when the implied narrator or the camera treats a particular type of people as outsiders, abnormal, stereotypical…in other words, as THEM.


  • In The Tempest, Caliban is the Other to Prospero and Miranda. This is shown not only because he is very different than them, but also that he is specifically gross, dark, and undesirable. (Contrast him to Ariel, who is a magical being, but not set up as Other.)
  • Othering often comes up as gross stereotypes based on a sense of exoticism, such as “Indian” culture in the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
  • In the March/April 2015 Writer’s Chronicle, Krista Humphrey discusses LGBTQ protagonists in mainstream literature. She points out that pre-Stonewall Riots, LGBTQ protagonists were often written as fundamentally unhappy as a result of their orientation. She cites Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar as an example, which ends with one man raping another after he is romantically rejected. This, Humphrey suggests, “echoed the current societal opinions of homosexuality of the time, that homosexuals were second-class, depraved, and in many ways sub-human.”
  • Early English translations of The Arabian Nights fell into some bizarre flavors of othering and exoticism. Modern translator Hussein Haddawy says, “From Galland to Burton, translators, scholars, and reader shared the belief that the Nights depicted a true picture of Arab life and culture at the time of the tales and, for some strange reason, at their own time. Time and again, Galland, Lane, or Burton claimed that theses tales were much more accurate than any travel account and took pains to translate them as such.” (from the introduction to Haddawy’s The Arabian Nights translation which is gorgeous go buy it)
Otter with text: "The Internet facilitates identity tourism, creating a new form of digital play and idealogical work that helped define an empowered and central self against an exotic and distant Otter."

Quote from Lisa Nakamura, pic from Discourse on the Otter

But wait, you cry. Sometimes othering is important! Sometimes characters are bigoted, and that’s important! Sometimes the story is all about one group meeting another that is Other to them. Yes. Those things are important. And yet you, the author, should be aware of how Othering is functioning in your work. Are your characters othering each other, or are you othering them?

I think understanding Othering helps me break down when characters in a work are being bigoted versus when the author of a work (or the implied narrator, or the implied world) is being bigoted.

To contradict myself a little bit here, let’s look at Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. In the novel, the aliens are intentionally Othered really hard up until the end, when Ender is able to connect with them and see their full, well, beingness if not “humanity.” This is a clever, good use of Othering in a novel. Aliens are a great way to talk about Othering in the genre of science fiction. Ender’s Game is a bit ironic as an example, of course, because the author is a notorious bigot who actively campaigns to deny LGBTQ folks equal rights. Awkward.

How to Avoid Othering Your Own Characters

Are you assuming that your reader or audience is a particular kind of person?

Have you fallen into stereotype? Are your characters fleshed out with an appropriate details that make them whole people? This also counts in terms of background characters: of course walk-ons don’t need to be three-dimensional characters with a back-story or anything, but neither should they be lazy shorthand stereotypes.

Are characters outside of your demographic set up as Others? If they are, is that something you wanted to do on purpose? Ask yourself: are you doing anything interesting with that? If this is an US & THEM situation, and the US is like you, and you and your protagonist are say both white heterosexual cisgendered males…well, does your character learn anything about encountering Others? Can you mirror your own growth, if learning how to not Other people is something you’ve learned to do?

Otter pic with text: "The ethical ideal is to increase one's ability to enter into modes of relation with multiple otters."

Quote by Rosi Braidotti, pic from Discourse on the Otter

What have y’all got? Ideas? Experiences of being Othered? Experiences of Othering someone else? Better examples of Othering at work in literature? Put ’em in the comments.

Things To Avoid: Tokenism

This past weekend, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who works in the game industry on the creative team for a well-known fantasy game. He was thinking about how, as a cisgendered, heterosexual white guy, for example, he can write and incorporate all that nifty non-Western/Celtic/Norse fantasy stuff in his work. “It’s something we talk about a lot,” he said.

This is a big conversation and worth more than one post. Today I wanted to carve out a little bit of the negative space around writing good characters outside your own demographic by looking at some things I seek to avoid.



Are they the only type of person with that race, gender, ethnicity, or sexuality in your entire fictional universe?

token-south-parkExample: Token, the only black kid in South Park Elementary is a satire of tokenism.

Sometimes being The Only One is relevant to the plot. That’s okay. But be aware of how often this comes up and who the dominant group is in these stories. Is it always the same?

cast of Angel

This show is set in Los Angeles. I love Joss Whedon. But there sure are a lot of white people happening here. No, the green demon doesn’t count as racial diversity. He’s played by a white actor.
(PS: J. August Richards please please play one of the superheros in my comic No Heroes Today when it gets somehow magically adapted for the screen. kthxbai)


 Did you make a character or pick a skin?

In games this is a mixed bag. In a fantasy game like Dragon Age: Origins where you are literally picking your character’s skin and appearance down to the smallest detail, then it’s vitally important to have a wide range of options.

dragon-age-origins-character-creator-39However, try not to include a character who’s a different color, say, just to have a character who’s a different color without thinking about how that different color would affect them, particularly if they are the only character of that color in your text.

An unfortunately classic trope in cartoons and games is the distaff character, which is the single female member of a team who is distinguishable because she is a girl.


Love you, Arcee. You and Ms. Pac Man and the Pink Power Ranger can form some kind of uberteam of pink.

How has their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality informed their life?

Talk to a black person who was The Only Black Kid at a predominantly white school. You’re damn right that stuff affects a person. Not only that, but everyone’s experience with this will be different. Gosh.

How to Avoid Tokenism

A simple antidote to tokenism is to have more than one (female, queer, black, etc) character in your work.

This can be in terms of significant characters, but also in terms of crowd scenes. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media did some research into crowd scenes on film. On average, they found, crowds consist of 17 percent women. Geena Davis advises actually writing in screenplays “a crowd of 50% women and 50% men” to avoid this.

Let your work form naturally, then look at it with a critical lens. Have you fallen into tokenism? How many of your characters share your demographics? What would it be like to switch things up on a character, write them differently? Think about it. You work won’t be some perfect balance of every single demographic being represented. It won’t. It shouldn’t be; it should contain characters specific to the story you’re telling and the world you’ve created. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about what kind of characters are in your work. Think about it.

Sarcasm, or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Genuine Communication

For two years of my life, I didn’t use sarcasm.

wow-sarcasm-thats-originalI didn’t use sarcasm for two years of my life because it was a job requirement. This was when I served in AmeriCorps; my particular team had two non-negotiable requirements:

  1. Get your time sheets in on time.
  2. No sarcasm.

We were working with vulnerable populations of kids: kids who had inconsistent or non-existent adults in their lives, kids who didn’t trust anyone because no one around them was worth trusting, kids who’d been betrayed by false promises or good intentions one time too many. It’s not that the adults around them were always terrible people or anything, just mostly broke and struggling and yes, sometimes a little terrible, too. But our antidote was to be incredibly consistent (which does not always look the same as “nice”), and sarcasm would have undermined that in a second. Classroom sarcasm is vicious and awful, a resort of tired teachers or jaded teachers, or of people who never learned another method of discourse.

i-hide-behind-sarcasmI still rarely use sarcasm. The articles here, Stock Photo Hell in particular, get snarky, but I try to avoid outright sarcasm. In Stock Photo Hell, for example, I really was describing the world that these stock photos were suggesting. And the photos and I meant it, as weird and awful as it often was.

I’m not wholly anti-sarcasm-ever. I think it has its place sometimes, particularly when used for great justice, or with compassionate intent. Some work situations require sarcasm as self-defense because they are fundamentally toxic environments. Nonetheless, I don’t use sarcasm in my personal relationships. My partner called me out on saying something sarcastic to him the other day; I apologized. I said it because I was hurting, and didn’t know how to express myself in the moment.

I think sarcasm is often held up as a sacred cow, in particular to nerdy communities, because of pain. Being genuine involves risk and hurt and pain. Being genuine, not hiding behind a shield of snark where you can take back anything you said at any moment if it seems to be going over poorly, that’s vulnerable as hell.

So does that mean that I’m descending on a cloud of genuine intent, sitting next to Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson and Agent Dale Cooper*, and staring at you disapprovingly whenever you use sarcasm?

Agent Dale Cooper approves of genuine communication. Even with Albert.

Agent Dale Cooper approves of genuine communication. Even with Albert.


Heck, a lot of sarcasm can be hilarious, fun, smooth. But think about the times you do use sarcasm and ask yourself: What kind of a tool is this? Is it a probe of inquiry? A punching-bag-in-the-box of humor? A shield from pain? A flailing eggbeater of social awkwardness? And are you using it that way on purpose? Some of the least sarcastic, most genuine people I know have been through and are recovering from some kind of addiction. I am still not sure what that means, but I continue to think about it.

So, what to do? Swear off sarcasm like some do with red meat or gluten?

I think there’s a subtler approach. One way to test out other sarcasm modalities is to write characters who use varying amounts of sarcasm. How does Agent Dale Cooper react to situations that’s different from how Gregory House reacts to situations? Look at a character in your favorite book or film. How do they use sarcasm? How often do their actions match their words? Do you always write genuine characters? Or sarcastic ones? Try writing the opposite. See how it feels.


*Captain from the Ankh Morpork City Watch in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books and investigating agent in Twin Peaks, respectively, and two of my favorite incredibly genuine characters in literature.

Study Questions, In Light of Recent Events

One of the things that makes fairy tales last is that they provide a dark mirror to the world. I invite you to examine this short Grimm tale. Please consider the study questions following the text.


Herr Korbes

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

translation by D.L. Ashliman

Once upon a time there were a rooster and a hen who wanted to take a journey together. So the rooster built a handsome carriage with four red wheels, and hitched four mice to it. The hen climbed aboard with the rooster, and they drove away together.

Not long afterward they met a cat, who said, “Where are you going?”

The rooster answered, “We’re on our way to Herr Korbes’s house.”

“Take me with you,” said the cat.

The rooster answered, “Gladly. Climb on behind, so you won’t fall off the front. Be careful not to get my red wheels dirty. Roll, wheels. Whistle, mice. We’re on our way to Herr Korbes’s house.”

Then a millstone came along, then an egg, then a duck, then a pin, and finally a needle. They all climbed aboard the carriage and rode with them.

But when they arrived at Herr Korbes’s house, he was not there. The mice pulled the carriage into the barn. The hen and the rooster flew onto a pole. The cat sat down in the fireplace and the duck in the water bucket. The egg rolled itself up in a towel. The pin stuck itself into a chair cushion. The needle jumped onto the bed in the middle of the pillow. The millstone lay down above the door.

Then Herr Korbes came home. He went to the fireplace, wanting to make a fire, and the cat threw ashes into his face. He ran quickly into the kitchen to wash himself, and the duck splashed water into his face. He wanted to dry himself off with the towel, but the egg rolled against him, broke, and glued his eyes shut. Wanting to rest, he sat down in the chair, and the pin pricked him. He fell into a rage and threw himself onto his bed, but when he laid his head on the pillow, the needle pricked him, causing him to scream and run out of the house. As he ran through the front door the millstone jumped down and struck him dead.

Herr Korbes must have been a very wicked man.

Study Questions

  1. What would have happened if the cat had never jumped on the bandwagon?
  2. Where were the rooster and the hen during the murder?
  3. What happens after the story? Were the rooster, the hen, the mice, the cart, the cat, the duck, the egg, the needle, the pin, the millstone, were they prosecuted?
  4. If a grand jury were to put the millstone on trial, would it be acquitted? If so, would that be because the millstone is a millstone, or Herr Korbes is Herr Korbes?
  5. If the whole incident was caught on video tape, would that make a difference?
  6. What did the egg say, later, on social media? Would it moan to its Facebook friends about how it, too, was broken during the incident?
  7. Why were the wheels of the cart red?
  8. What would have happened if Herr Korbes had been home? Would his life have been spared if he had known his place?
  9. The final line was added in the third edition of the Grimm tales, in 1837. How does that line change the story?
  10. Are you the hen, the rooster, the mice, the cart, the cat, the duck, the egg, the pin, the needle, Herr Korbes, or the Grimm brothers, adding the final line?
  11. What if you are a millstone, what then? What if are were a cat? What can you do differently next time?
  12. What if you look like Herr Korbes? What if your children and parents and aunties and uncles and cousins all look like Herr Korbes? How do you feel? How do you feel about millstones?
  13. Must Herr Korbes have been a very wicked man? Does that justify his death?

APE 2014

I’m on vacation today, so it’ll be a quick post.

Yesterday I went to the Alternative Press Expo, i.e. APE, in San Francisco. It’s been put on by Comic-Con International for years now as an indie comics and zine focused con.

I went with no defined budget and an empty bag which … may not have been the best choice. Or was it?! Anyway, I got a lot of great comics, a sampling of which can be seen here:

books I got at APE

some of my sweet loot

One of the more interesting tables was the collection of RE/Search books, i.e. books compiled from the punk zine of the 70s, Search and Destroy. I got a book on “modern pagans,” which collects interviews and essays by everyone from Starhawk to Margot Adler to Genesis P-Orridge, whom I think of as a punk musician and a performance artist first, but apparently is also pagan. Nifty. I bought the book from the publisher himself, V. Vale, a high-energy man who wanted to take each customer’s picture with the book they bought.

I suppose with all that punk action, it was only appropriate that I also got Henry + Glenn Forever & Ever, an epic, uhh, fanfic, about Henry Rollins of Black Flag and Glenn Danzig of The Misfits as gay lovers in a sort of functional relationship that involves Satanist BFFs, Glenn’s bizarrely cheerful mother brought back from the grave, and such trials as grocery shopping. One of the most delightful things about the book is that each cover is drawn as a riff on some other comic– Archie, Hellboy, Tintin, Romance Comics, and more. A bevy of artists draw the comic itself, and the variety is great. I’m particularly a fan of Tom Neely’s cute 1950s newspaper comic style. In any case, a great series, and well worth picking up.

I also finally picked up a copy of the Eisner-nominated No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, which traces the history of and collects comics made by queer folks about queer folks from the mid 1940s on. It’s a seminal work and I’m excited to dig into it. It’s also edited by my friend and grad school buddy, Justin Hall, who has also worked on Henry + Glenn in the past.

I suppose the last two books I took a picture of sort of balance each other out?! I’ve got Smut Peddler, a yearly anthology of “sex-positive erotic comics. By women, for everyone.” It’s got works from webcomic faves like C. Spike Trotman (also the editor), Jess Fink, and Kate Leth. It’s available, for a limited time, through Iron Circus Comics.

On the less pornographic side, I got a beautiful little book by Yumi Sakugawa called Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe. It’s gorgeous and meditative and has some really lovely advice like “take your inner demons on regular tea and cake dates.” It just came out from Adams Media, and is well worth checking out.

And that’s all I’ve got time to write about today; I’m off to bounce around San Francisco.

Stock Photo Hell: Sorcery!

Stock Photo Hell

This guy was the only false prophet I could find.

This guy was the only false prophet I could find.

Circle Eight: Fraud

Bolgia Four: Soothsayers, Astrologers, and False Prophets, Oh My!

…in the valley’s circle I saw souls advancing, mute and weeping, at the pace that, in our world, holy processions take. As I inclined my head still more, I saw that each, amazingly, appeared contorted between the chin and where the chest begins; they had their faces twisted toward their haunches and found it necessary to walk backward, because they could not see ahead of them.”

-Canto XX, Mandlebaum translation

Apparently anyone who purported to have any kind of future knowledge was naughty, so they were punished with, like, literal hindsight, get it?! Their heads are on backwards. Oh, the contrapasso. Dante talks to a whole slew of famous folks from myth and history, including Tiresias, the soothsayer from that whole awkward Oedipus situation. Tiresias, it’s mentioned in the text, had a seven-year stint as a woman, and then changed back into a man. Dante also sees a sorceress called Manto who seemed to have a pretty sweet deal (living on an island, studying the occult, having Mantua named after her) until the whole afterlife/head of backwards thing.

If all of these people are punished for trying to see the future, then I think a modern version of the Inferno would include stock market analysts, meteorologists, and advertising agencies. Overall those folks are causing a lot more trauma in this world than the odd Tarot card reader or psychic.


Well, thankfully, Stock Photo Land knows EXACTLY what you need to be a soothsayer or a sorcerer. And it’s balls. By which I mean a large crystal and/or glowing ball. Also possibly a hood. Also some intense fashion and/or makeup choices. And DRAMATIC HAND GESTURES. If you have at least two of those things, you’re set. (Shockingly, none of the actual Tarot card readers, psychics, shamans, or occult dabblers that I know look very much like any of the people below.)

My search terms: “sorcerer,” “false prophet,” “astrologer,” “soothsayer” and then for kicks “sexy sorcerer” a related search that the sites suggested. “Sexy sorcerer” turned out to be mostly cheesy Halloween witches, though, and frankly the rest of my findings were more interesting.

In terms of the gendered things I always look for, I found that sorcerers were likely to be portrayed as either male or female, whereas soothsayers were overwhelmingly female. Usually, they were white women with some vague cultural appropriation going on.


“Even I don’t know what culture she’s supposed to be from. Egyptian? ‘Gypsy’? Gosh! She’s so mysterious!”

OMG a picture of an older woman. Since older women can't be sex objects or business multi-taskers, here's a place for them in Stock Photo Land... It's this or "doting grandmother"...

OMG a picture of an older woman. Since older women can’t be sex objects or business multi-taskers, here’s a place for them in Stock Photo Land… It’s this or “doting grandmother”…

"Man, the Balls section of my sorcery final is gonna be rough. I better study."

“Man, the Balls section of my sorcery final is gonna be rough. I better study.”

It's not ALL balls. Sometimes it's skulls. This one is a special skull because it has a tribal tattoo. Which tribe? I dunno. Sort of generally...tribal.

It’s not ALL balls. Sometimes it’s skulls. This one is a special skull because it has a tribal tattoo. Which tribe? I dunno. Sort of generally…tribal.

...and this guy.

…and this guy is actually just having a hard time playing Egyptian Rat Screw. That’s why he’s holding a full hand of cards. His evil eye isn’t making him faster, either, so he’s feeling a little frustrated.

My third favorite result came up under “astrologer”:

I mean, Johannes Kepler was more into astronomy than astrology... although he was trying to map the shape of God as a reflection of the shape of the solar system, so that's pretty hard core. He apparently put a bunch of biblical passages that supported heliocentrism in his text "Mysterium Cosmographicum."

I mean, Johannes Kepler was more into astronomy than astrology… although he was trying to map the shape of God as a reflection of the shape of the solar system, or vice versa, so that’s pretty hard core. He apparently put a bunch of biblical passages that supported heliocentrism in his text “Mysterium Cosmographicum.”

My second favorite result came up for “sorcerer”:

I love how their expressions seem to say "UGH we aren't sorcerers, we're WIZARDS. Get it right, gosh."

I love how their expressions seem to say “UGH we aren’t sorcerers, we’re WIZARDS. Get it right, gosh.” Especially Ron. He has had it with your Muggle crap.

My favorite result, though, has to be the picture of the actual sorcerer that was sort of slipped in between the endless parade of balls. It’s an “editorial” stock photo, which loosely translates to “has more to do with the real world than stock photo land.” But anyway, here’s a sorcerer:

...and his family. Hanging out, with no wacky hand gestures or crazed expressions or anything.

…and his family. Hanging out, with no wacky hand gestures or crazed expressions or anything. Of course, the site didn’t deign to tell me which part of Africa he’s from, but you can only ask so much of Stock Photo Land.

Stock Photo Hell: Fraud

Hello, brave travelers. I have every intention of getting a proper post up later today…we all know what the road to hell is paved with…

In the meantime, here’s a picture of a Cyberwoman Holding Corn, because that is actually a stock photo meme. What. I guess it relates to fraud in a really abstract way? GMOs?!

cyber-woman-corn-11556261Catch you later, travelers.

Stock Photo Hell, Part One

PrefaceDanteBookDante 101:

  • Dante Alghieri, who is one of the few authors cool enough to get the “first name only” Cher/Madonna style treatment, lived in medieval Italy and wrote The Divine Comedy, a three-part epic poem that has profoundly affected Western thought, Christianity, and culture. There were a few pundits who wrote about the afterlife, but Dante’s work gained the most cultural traction, in part because he referred to all those other dudes in his own work.
  • The Divine Comedy tracks a fictionalized version of Dante being led through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven by Virgil, who was pretty much “best poet of antiquity,” sort of analog of Shakespeare would be today. Virgil is not his only companion, because Dante couldn’t go letting Pagan ol’ Virgil very far into non-Hell afterlife places, but Virgil is Dante’s companion through all of Inferno.
  • There are 100 cantos (chapters made of poems) in the Divine Comedy, 33 in Paradiso, 33 in Purgatorio, and 34 in Inferno because Hell is all about excess. Hell is basically a large cone in the ground, with people packed more and more tightly the further you go down. Hell is set up in levels, with each “worse” sin being situated below the next. At the bottom of Hell is Lucifer, stuck in a lake of his own frozen tears, constantly chewing on the three worst betrayers of history. Nobody says Dante ain’t metal.
  • In all of the circles of hell, there’s the idea of contrapasso, or a fitting punishment that’s ironically related to the sin/crime. For example, corrupt politicians are submerged in a lake of boiling pitch, which represents their dark and terrible deeds.

Stock Photos 101:

  • Instead of paying a photographer royalties for use of their images, you can buy a royalty-free stock photo online that’s been uploaded by people who had ideas like “Hey, a photo shoot of this Cyber Woman Holding Corn totally makes sense!”
  • While they may be useful for cheap illustration, book cover images, etc, stock photos are also creepily cliché. StockPhotoLand is a magical land wherein the bigotry of American culture is way more blatant than usual. I am particularly obsessed with how women are handled in stock photos. The women of StockPhotoLand seem to obsess over four things: food, being a sex object, motherhood, and business.
  • Many fine folks have taken note of this: Women Laughing Alone With Salad, Racial Misprofiling, and the epic Francetucky, OH, a whole town made of StockPhotoLand with captions by Drewtoothpaste and Natalie Dee.


So, lovely denizens of Earth, join me as we enter…


(Updates for new circles will be posted every few days….until we reach the bottom!)


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