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Monday, May 20, 2013

Johnny Storm gives us a black Human Torch--but I'm afraid he's only going to reinforce racial stereotypes

David Willis recently posted this comic, and it was funny. Folks have taken Marvel superhero Johnny Storm (Human Torch) and apparently they're going to make him black. Some people are apparently complaining, because they hate black people.

Detail, cover of Fantastic Four #542[date missing]
Art by Adi Granov, found at wikipedia
I'd be more worried about Johnny Storm doing a disservice to the black comics community at large. He's loud, obnoxious, reckless, and a sleeping-around-cheater--basically every stereotype white people throw at black men to justify racism. While Storm's newly-black sister Sue might be a voice of reason, it's super-easy to stereotype the "mystical black woman" and she might well fit that stereotype, depending on the writing. Better idea: why can't they make Reed Richards black? Oh, is it because the smart scientist isn't allowed to be black? They had to choose the noisy obnoxious loud guy to be black instead? Geez, that's great.

These comic artists cannot get race right. When you pallete-swap an already-established character you're almost always going to fall into some kind of stereotyping--the authors are too old and too white to make a "black version" of an established character without egregious anti-black racism involved in some way or another. In comics, it's better to make all-new characters with fresh storylines. Static Shock, for example, was created based on a black Spiderman, but he became his own character with his own powers, and it was always interesting because he's his own guy. The black Spiderman in Ultimate comics isn't a black Peter Parker--he's his whole new own character and he rocks. See, there should have been more unique black characters to begin with. We don't need the same characters booted over and over. Put them to rest, let the stories end, and get all-new characters so that creativity can flourish and race stereotypes aren't permeated. Creating a "black batman" or a "black superman" is just a way for old white men to point out to black people, "look, we never made any black characters for you--so you can re-use on of our old ones. We're too lazy to actually make good, unique characters for you, we'll just reboot some we've already used to death."

I want new superheroes that actually speak to all races and subcultures, not re-sale, re-used, re-washed pallette-swapped stereotype opportunities. What about some decent Asian superheroes, or mixed race superheroes? If you just keep painting Superman or some other guy all different colors, these different characters don't actually get to interact. Where's the fun in that? The black audience is worth more than reboots and used characters. The black audience is worth fresh characters that span a whole gamut--not just one or two that fit certain stereotypes--with new powers, new costumes, and all kinds of new awesome.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Three Good Ways to Make Money as a Casual Writer...

...because when I first started out I had no idea where to start. I was just googling. Go forth! Read below!

Way 1: Ghost-write an ebook for someone

What: If you're casually writing, and don't have time to market/build an ebook, write someone else's book. You get money, they get the rights. The money can range from $200-$450 for a small, easy book, to several thousand if you're an experienced ghost-writer working on a major project. It's great voice practice (eventually, if you ever write first person POV, you don't want all your characters to sound like you) and you'll learn a ton about whatever topic you're researching. I don't ghost-write fiction, because I think then someone else is stealing all your creativity, which is appalling, but when you ghost-write nonfiction you're essentially helping someone else tell the world something important that you wouldn't otherwise know. So that's cool.

Warning: Whatever you do, do NOT take less than $150 for 50 pages. In the freelancing world there's this huge problem where part-time freelancers will take horrible rates--like a few cents a page--which screws over all the full-time freelancers. Why? We can't make a living earning a $4 an hour or whatever you get for a few cents a page. For you, maybe it's just a fun way to get paid for writing, but for other people you're controlling the Invisible Hand into a stranglehold. Besides, don't you think your work is worth more than a few cents a page? Some people would put the threshold even higher than I've put it here and say don't ever write for less than 3 c a word. For easy projects, and to be realistic--because not all small business owners can afford something like that--I bend that, especially when I'm taking on a project I care about. I helped write this awesome book for about $2 a page, which is about 1/14 what I normally make and a terrible rate, but I'm proud of it because I helped someone--who didn't have a lot of money, or the writing skills to tell his awesome story--say something that makes a difference. That's what ghost-writing is about.

Why is this a warning? If you accept substandard rates on content you don't really believe in, I will send Batman to come strangle you.

Yes, Batman. He owes me one free strangle. I ghost-wrote his best stuff.*

How to get started: Check out sites like odesk.com. I found my best long-term clients through Odesk. Go back and read the warning up above, because there are a frack-ton of people out there buying hard work for nothing. Don't take that crap. Take good rates. Calculate minimum wage, and add and subtract how much a project means to you emotionally, and let that be your guide.

Way 2: Ghost-blog

What: Companies--especially small businesses--need to increase their web presence, and thankfully, google won't let them do that by just spamming keywords onto the internet. With the new google updates (not so new anymore), google looks for good content that people want to read. So what if you've got a small business owner who needs that web presence, but doesn't have time to write a whole buncha good blogs?

That's where I--or you--come in. I love ghost-blogging, because I get to actually use my biomedical engineering and history research experience to, yannow, research. I get about $25 a blog. I don't like taking less than that, because these are pretty darn research-intensive (I do science blogs mostly). Write what you know.

Warning: Voice, voice, voice. Get your voice to match your client. There's a two-way paradigm here. As long as your name doesn't go on it, it's not going to hurt you, so write whatever your client wants. Edit the way your client wants you to. On the other hand, you want to be able to get recommendations in the future, and your writing samples are the best tool you have to get more writing done. So don't write veritable crap.

ALSO, "Fight for the Users" (#tronreference) and don't put out misinformation. People out there will trust you. You want them to trust you. You don't want your client to promote lies, and you don't want your client to look stupid. You want to write with love. Seriously. So keep that in mind--"how will this thing I'm writing benefit my client and my reader"--and don't write crap.

Anything that has your name on it? Don't sacrifice a bit of quality. That's no longer ghost-blogging. Don't let them make you write lifeless stuff, either, or stuff you don't believe in.

How to get started: Scripted.com. I've been "scripting" since 2011 and I really love it. However, scripted is starting to get so many writers now it's hard to find jobs. So it's great for casual money-making. You can find some ghost-blogging jobs on Odesk, too.

Way 3: Write to an online magazine.

What: This is straight-up normal writing. No ghosting, nothing super-fancy or secretive. Usually 3c a word. Check out this awesome list of markets.

Warning: Sometimes it's better not to write the article until after you've gotten the "okay" with the pitch. Check individual market guidelines so you can tailor your tone for a particular magazine.

How to get started: I gave you a link up there. Were you paying any attention?

^_^ Alright casual writers, go make money. I remember when I first started I had NO IDEA where to start, so I think this should help you a lot!

*Batman is not real^

^(Yes, he is.)