So one of the gazillion things I do with my life is edit the cartoons that appear on Autostraddle. I have a really light touch on them; I’m really all about letting artists drive and I just try to steer them around potholes when necessary. So truly, madly, deeply, I cannot take credit for the two new things happening with Autostraddle’s art that organically popped up last two months. But I’m really psyched about it and so here we are. This isn’t Autostraddle talking. This is just me personally being excited, my opinions are my own.
First, Pam Buchanam pitched us a new fictional comic series a couple months back—it’s called 3 A.M., and it’s about a very strange job at a very strange drug store. I won’t say more than that. I don’t want to give away any spoilers. Pam knocked it out of the park with her first installment, and her second installment kept the mystery going. Commenters said they were hooked.
Then Megan Praz, one of the Saturday Morning Cartoonists, came back swinging after re-evaluating what it means to make art under a Trump regime. And she came back with fiction. Her new series is called The Force Non Blondes, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But it’s gonna be a delightful, spacey world with (if you’ve a keen eye) some familiar references to nerd culture touchstones.
Before this, every comic on Autostraddle except for Anna Archie Bongiovanni’s Grease Bats was a nonfiction memoir or journal comic. Sometimes stylized, sure, and made fantastical. But they were still mostly memoir in some respect. Now I love a good journal comic. I love the journal comics I edit (Yao, Cameron, Dickens and Alyssa are all GENIUSES). But my degree is in fiction. And in this case, in this community and this time, I feel like so much can be accomplished in fiction that would be difficult to do in nonfiction.
Characters in fiction, because they’re made up, are allowed to be wrong and messy. They’re allowed to do fucked up things sometimes and learn lessons from them or not. And they get away with that because they’re members of the imaginary world. When they act upon the other (fictional) people in their universe, the consequences are just as imaginary. Now I’m not saying fiction completely absolves the author or artist of the responsibility of being a good person and citizen, no. But we can examine warts without crucifying someone for revealing their deepest darkest mistakes in a journal comic. Because we are human people. And we make them. Maybe the artists I work with don’t, though, they’re pretty magic. Anyhow. Fiction gives some breathing room between the author and audience that might not otherwise exist in memoir. Plus fiction pushes back against the notion that, as queer creators, we must offer up our most marginalized experiences for consumption all the time. We can offer truth without offering tiny pieces of our own soul. And make no mistake, sometimes I write a personal essay, but often it’s about a sandwich that made my top three sandwiches list or about falling down while skiing. Though I live quite publicly, what I choose to make known is incredibly curated. I protect myself with fiction. I love fiction for that. And during this really horrid time in American politics? Where I smell burnout everywhere? Heck yeah, fiction. Bring on the fiction.
That’s all. Nothing grand or sweeping. I’m just happy to see fictional cartoons on Autostraddle (and, before that, in my inbox). I’m happy to see, firsthand, queer artists taking advantage of the advantages of the genre. It’s exciting, and it’s good to have things that are exciting in these dark times.