Inspired | August 2019

Every month, I share the articles and sites that I found most interesting. Here’s what caught my attention in August: on research, learning to love rejection, Art Spiegelman on golden age superheroes, and more.

On the Anxiety of Writing Historical Fiction: A User’s Manual by Caitlin Horrocks: “I think what I really wanted was a visitation from beyond the grave, with each of my characters assuring me that I’d really nailed it, they loved the book, these new versions of themselves were so true! But in lieu of a séance, here are five permissions I wish I’d given myself earlier, and can perhaps give to someone else instead.”

How I Do Research For a Graphic Novel (tips and advice) by Reimena Yee: “Since I’ve done a couple research-heavy historical comics, and am in the process of documenting my process of making another, I thought it would be good to talk about how I personally do research.”

The Occupation of a Woman Writer by Kiley Bense

It is still possible — probable — for students to undergo many years of American education and wind up believing that the majority of great literature in the English-speaking world was written by white men, and that men write books about politics, science, and adventure, while women chronicle the domestic and the lovelorn, the heartsick and homebound. Men can write about anything. Women are supposed to tell stories of the hearth. Our stories are meant to be small and contained, trivial and sentimental.

On Getting Rejected a Lot (and Liking It) by Blair Braverman

Turn applying for big dreams into your hobby. Like, your actual hobby, because once you get over the fear of failure, the dreaming part is fun. Spend a few hours a week looking for opportunities that would literally change your life: Jobs around the world. Massive fellowships—and small ones, too. Piss-your-pants opportunities. Make yourself available. Apply for things on a whim. Forget about them. Maybe you’ll hear back; maybe you won’t.

Freelancers: Stop Feeling Guilty For Not Working! by Erin Scottberg: “Freelancers, especially creatives, often derive much of their personal identity from their work. So there’s not only a sense of guilt that comes from not working around the clock, but sometimes a crisis of self as well.”

Understanding Boredom by Laura Entis

We often rail against the ceaseless stimulus of our digital devices for its removal of boredom from daily life – but the real harm may be its elimination of blank time during which our minds can drift. A period spent in traffic bored out of one’s mind isn’t helpful. The same period spent daydreaming, however, could lead to useful insights. While distinct, the introduction of constant internet connection has threatened both conditions. 

We Can Be Heroes: How the Nerds Are Reinventing Pop Culture by Laurie Penny: “This is a story about stories—and the way technology is changing the scope and structure of the stories we tell. Right now, in untelevised reality, we are in the middle of an epic, multiseason struggle over the territory of the human imagination, over whose stories matter and why. For me, it started with fandom.”

Golden age superheroes were shaped by the rise of fascism by Art Spiegelman

In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America. International fascism again looms large (how quickly we humans forget – study these golden age comics hard, boys and girls!) and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down. Armageddon seems somehow plausible and we’re all turned into helpless children scared of forces grander than we can imagine, looking for respite and answers in superheroes flying across screens in our chapel of dreams.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor: An Anti-Hate Pop Culture Syllabus by Soraya Roberts: Media and entertainment grounded in empathy are a critical part of a saner culture — and we can all help by actively producing, seeking, and supporting it.

The Delectable Neo-Noir of Taylor Swift by Alex Segura: “Swift isn’t just a devilish dame dropped in the narrative to confound the hero. She is the hero of her story. And, like most lasting noir protagonists, Swift is not without flaws.”

A History Of Women In Quentin Tarantino Movies by Alison Willmore

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Tarantino hates women. I think he is sincerely invested in — and likes — writing women characters, and gives more thought to their interiority than some other lauded filmmakers have. But I also think that when it suits him to not think about these things, he doesn’t — that he’s perfectly comfortable rejecting even the possibility that he’s made missteps because he’s so sure of his own authorship and his right to be king of his own cinematic worlds.

‘Self-care’: how a radical feminist idea was stripped of politics for the mass market by André Spicer: “What was supposed to be an invitation to collective survival becomes yet another form of individualism. This happens when self-care becomes nothing more than another word for “me time”.”

Athleisure, barre and kale: the tyranny of the ideal woman by Jia Tolentino

Women are genuinely trapped at the intersection of capitalism and patriarchy – two systems that, at their extremes, ensure that individual success comes at the expense of collective morality. And yet there is enormous pleasure in individual success. It can feel like license and agency to approach an ideal, to find yourself – in a good picture, on your wedding day, in a flash of identical movement – exemplifying a prototype.

NetNewsWire is back!: “NetNewsWire is part of repairing the web we lost, and it’s part of building the web we want. That future web should not include viral hate speech, abuse, massive corporate surveillance, or successful influence operations by hostile governments and entities opposed to democracy.”

6 Ways *YOU* Can Make a Difference in Design by Grace Bonney: “A better understanding of costs and labor doesn’t mean we can all magically afford everything (or that we should be judging anyone for shopping at box/discount stores), but I believe it might lead to greater compassion and understanding, which would go a long way in supporting members of the design community who are trying to go it on their own and produce here in the US.”

How Capicola Became Gabagool: The Italian New Jersey Accent, Explained by Dan Nosowitz: “Italian-American Italian is a construction of the frozen shards left over from languages that don’t even really exist any more.”

What’s the most interesting thing you saw online this month?