Category Archives: Publishing

Book Review: The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

In the early years of my transition from male to female I was a daily participant on a few select gender identity boards; notably the Transgender Canada Forum and the apparently defunct “GID forum” based in the U.S. I also flirted with “Twitter” and although my account is all but dormant these days (for the morbidly curious I post as CanadaGirl58) it did afford me the opportunity to connect with Jules Vilmur. Under the name of “@Laurustina”, Jules allowed some of us on Twitter to view selections from a book she hoped to publish one day. That book of course turned out to be “The Complicated Geography of Alice”.

Jules’ memoir of her daughter, Alice’s own journey from male to female is a harrowing, out-of-control ride into the depths of drug abuse and chronic addiction. You’ll want a pharmaceutical lexicon to keep track of the seemingly endless list of chemicals young Alice managed to consume. The book is brilliantly written and Jules’ struggle to understand her daughter’s conflicted, and decidedly complex psyche becomes the reader’s own.  There’s a real temptation to try and “fix” Alice and the author’s frustrations with a chronically ill-informed medical profession shackled by assumptions and prejudices too numerous to mention will have you shaking your head.

Despite opposition from various quarters— including members of their own family, Jules and Alice find a measure of support, (some of it simply outstanding) from members of the GBLTQ community. Religious prejudice plays a role here but the author rises above it and treats “spiritual” opposition to her daughter’s transition with a notable lack of rancor and a healthy dose of grace. The book features a colorful cast of supporting characters but at the center of it all is the person of Alice.

Fortunately, you cannot help but love the cocky, stubborn, willful— yet sensitive and fun-loving, mercurial mix of iron and clay that is, Alice. The author masterfully communicates her roller-coaster emotions of rising hope and optimism followed by gut-wrenching fear, concern, and despair.

This is an intensely personal book but one that will resonate strongly with people from all walks of life by virtue of its fundamental humanity. Its essential truth reveals a story fueled by a mother’s unquenchable love for her child. I smiled, I winced and I cried… a lot… but the book is compelling; and yes it will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

A modern tale of a modern family that manages to transcend by far the boundaries of Transgender biography. 

Available for purchase at Amazon.com

TITLE: The Complicated Geography of Alice

Product Details
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1503021769
ISBN-13: 978-1503021761
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

Follow Jules Vilmur on Twitter @Laurustina and on Facebook: Laurustina.com

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A Review of “Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett

"Full Circle: A Father's Journey with a Transgender Child" by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett.

“Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett.

As a post-operative transsexual woman, myself, and as someone who counts Nicole Rundlett amongst her personal friends I can hardly enter a review of “Full Circle” as an unbiased observer. However, Nicole knows me well enough to know that I am lavish on praise where it is due and overtly critical of actions and opinions where they lack merit or validity. See my article on “Passing 101 or The Emperor’s New Clothes (REVISITED)” as an example of my critical edge.

( https://chrysalid58.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/passing-101-or-the-emperors-new-clothes-revisited/ )

I first met Nicole in Montreal at Dr. Pierre Brassard’s  Clinique de chirurgie plastique et esthétique in early November 2009. She was there for SRS (sex reassignment surgery) supported by her then girlfriend, and now, wife,  Arlene (Ar) and I was there for brow work, rhinoplasty, and breast augmentation by Dr. Eric Bensimon. A year earlier I had undergone SRS myself under the skilled hands of Dr. Brassard.

Full Circle is set apart from most other books on the subject as it is told largely by Derry Rundlett— Nicki’s father. The book is in essence a love letter between father and child. Derry chronicles the evolution of his relationship with Nicole from conception through to the birth of son, Nick, and the rebirth of Nick into Nicole. It is at once both moving and profound as the author tackles the issue of his son’s transition from male to female head-on.

Male-to-Female transsexuals can easily fall into the trap of seeing themselves less objectively than the world around them may view them. It was refreshing for me and more importantly, critical to Nicki’s well-being that she largely avoided that common pitfall in the course of her transitioning from male to female.

Both Nicki and her father were keenly aware that Nicole was seen as something “other” during the early phase of her transition. Derry recites an incident where Nicole’s gender was openly questioned. It is generally a difficult period for most male-to-female transsexuals — (I was no exception) and public scrutiny can be intense.

Derry recounts the struggle that both he and other members of the family (both immediate and extended) had in coming to terms with “Nicole”. Some relationships were indeed interrupted if not lost altogether and Nicki’s transition proved the undoing of his first marriage.

There was undeniable confusion and pain for all involved — Nicole included. Derry answers many of the questions raised by those opposed to sex-changes, transgender rights, and the like. A self-identified Christian, Derry recounts the difficulty of trying to apply stereotypical Christian methods of coping to his agnostic/atheist child ( in fairness, I am not sure about Nicki’s stance on the issue of religion).

Many close family and friends of the Rundlett’s are practicing Christians and they are treated with respect and love by Derry despite witnessing many of them failing to embrace Nicole’s new identity.

There are no rose colored glasses here despite an all-encompassing love of a father for his child that trumps any and all arguments that may be leveled against Nicole.

The author is also aware of the high number of suicides committed by gender variant individuals and the book opens and closes with an acknowledgement of that grim fact. No less a personage than Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan is afforded the book’s “Afterword” on the subject.

Full Circle is a fast-easy read despite the subject matter. There is plenty of humor to be found amidst the often controversial subjects of sex and sexuality. The book is especially recommended for parents and other family members coming to grips with the reality of having a gender variant child. Both Nicki and Derry express their shared hope that this book may actually save lives. Their concern is not overstated.

From the publisher’s website:

He had to grieve the loss of a son & welcome the addition of a daughter only to come full circle and find out, in the end, he never lost anything. The essence of his child was still the same person she’d always been.

“Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett can be ordered via aBASK Publishing:

http://www.abaskpublishing.com/full_circle_a_fathers_journey_with_a_transgender_child_by_derry_rundlett__nicole_rundlett_click_here-1

or through Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Full-Circle-Fathers-Journey-Transgender/dp/0996239901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432627761&sr=8-1&keywords=full+circle+derry+rundlett

Also from the Publisher:

This is a 216 page tradepaper, perfect-bound 5.25″x8″ book with photos in living color. The Foreword is by Wayne Maines whose daughter won the highest transgender rights case in the history of Maine. The Afterword is by Jennifer Finney Boylan, reprinted with permission, “How to Save Your Life.”

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Jane Foster… You’ve Come a Long Way Baby!

Thor Issue #8

Thor Issue #8

It’s really no secret at this point since anyone with any real interest in all this will know by now that Jane Foster has been revealed as the new Thor. However, I thought it would be worth commenting on and providing some personal insight into the latest goings ons in the world of Thor and Marvel Entertainment in general.

On some level I’m quite comfortable with Jane assuming the mantle of Thor. Admittedly, the execution of it all is lacking somewhat, for as other’s have pointed out, Thor is the given name of the Odinson and so Jane’s incarnation should have been handled along the lines of Walt Simsonson’s Beta Ray Bill… The power, the mantle is his but not the name.

Interestingly enough, Marvel had Jane assume the Thor identity back in 1978 when she appeared as the goddess of thunder in one of the “What If?” titles, (issue #10 to be exact).

What If Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor

In this “imaginary” story Jane decided to call herself Thordis and performed admirably as a female incarnation of the Mighty Thor. Since, the story was clearly a fantasy and not meant to be seen as part of the Thor canon no one seemed to take umbrage over this representation of Thor (And no, the irony of it being an imaginary tale within an imaginary universe is not lost on me).

However, old timer’s like myself will hearken back a decade earlier still when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby finally resolved the Thor-Jane Foster relationship by granting her the powers of an Asgardian goddess! Yet, within the very pages of that memorable issue, they had her fail so miserably so, irrevocably, that poor Jane was forcibly removed from the cast of Thor’s main supporting characters and immediately replaced with the goddess Sif.

The Mighty Thor #136

The Mighty Thor #136

The transition was awkward and abrupt and not even Kirby’s amazing pencils or Stan’s eloquence could blunt the jolting impact of such a major change in the direction of their golden haired protagonist. It was definitely heavy handed, but fortunately, Sif proved an interesting character in her own right, and her courage, fearlessness, and innate character as a goddess born stood in stark contrast to the timid, gentle, and decidedly human, Jane Foster.

Not Cut-out for God Duty

Not Cut-out for God Duty

But like the old Virginia Slims cigarette ads once noted… “You’ve come a long way baby!” The current Jane Foster not only has become The Goddess of Thunder but in her human form is currently battling breast cancer. Either way, this Jane Foster is a definite bad-ass and possessed of an indomitable spirit.

In many ways the character of Jane Foster is symptomatic of the wider Marvel push for diversity. Canon iterations  (whether as part of the Cinematic or Comic Book Universe) of an Afro-American, Captain America, Nick Fury, and Human Torch among others have become the status-quo. Expect to see further steps in this direction. Certainly, GBLTQ characters are gaining more press and it won’t be long before we see one or more 1st tier characters coming out as gay or representing some other sexual minority.

Thor writer, Jason Aaron may had some creative fun at his critics’ expense when he had Jane/Thor go up against old school villain, Crusher Creel AKA The Absorbing Man is issue #5. The choice of villain was deliberate. Creel is overtly male, bestial, guttural, and to no one’s surprise, misogynistic in the extreme. In facing our female protagonist for the first time he screams out at her:

“Thor? Are you kidding me? I’m supposed to call you Thor? Damn feminists are ruining everything,” he says. “You wanna be a chick superhero? Fine. Who the hell cares? But get your own identity. Thor’s a dude. One of the last manly dudes still left. What’d you do, send him to sensitivity training so he’d stop calling Earth girls ‘wenches’?”

Thor retaliates by breaking his jaw.

“That’s for saying ‘feminist’ like it’s a four-letter word, creep,”

Creel’s scathing contempt echoes many of the sentiments felt by critics of the new Thor and I’m sure Jason Aaron was smiling to himself as he put together this artful and clearly symbolic contest between himself and his critics 🙂

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Forget about “Thor a Woman?!” The Focus should really be on UNWORTHY THOR!

 

The Unworthy Thor

Above: Our First look at the newest incarnation of “The Mighty Thor” Art by Esad Ribic

Fans of Marvel’s “Thor” (and perhaps even the casual observer) may have been apprised of the changes coming to one of marvel’s most iconic heroes. The comic book fandom element of the internet has been all a buzz over the changes foist upon Asgard’s favorite son by writer, Jason Aaron. The shocker headline that seems to be the rallying point is “Thor is Now a Woman” (with or without the added emphasis of WTF!?!).

However, I think the real story here is “Unworthy Thor”. The character has a long and sadly convoluted history but such is the way of comic book fiction. For the morbidly curious check out Marvel Wiki’s entry on Thor:  

http://marvel.wikia.com/Thor_(Thor_Odinson)

At any rate, The simple fact is, Thor has done “something”… been made aware of something that has compromised his integrity or whatever, resulting in his inability to lift enchanted Mjolnir (his trademark hammer). Not only that but somehow his mantle of Thor: The God of Thunder has passed to another… an as yet unidentified woman. By virtue of her ability to wield mighty Mjolnir (or “MewMew” as Kat Dennings’ character refers to it in the movie adaptations 🙂 )  she becomes the de facto Norse God of Thunder.

Now, one would think that as a male to female, post-operative transsexual I’d be all agog over this ersatz change of sex for Thor. But in reality, I’m like “meh”. There’s no story here. The smart money is on “Unworthy Thor” going through a multitude of trials and tribulations before once again proving himself worthy of wielding majestic Mjolnir.

Mighty Mjolnir  

  For the record, there are many strong, interesting, and popular female characters of long standing in the Marvel Universe: Sharon Carter, Susan Richards, Electra, Rogue, Jean Gray, She Hulk, Sif, and so on. So, a female Thor is nothing new. Even Thor’s half-brother, Loki, and the sentient metal monster, Ultron have taken on female forms at various times with no lasting effects one way or the other.

Honestly, the whole thing’s a bit gimmicky and pandering to perceived modern sensibilities… but this is nothing new in comic book fiction either. Besides, they’re getting lots of press coverage and the minders of the Marvel mint must be happy with that. Heck! I was even motivated to blog about it 🙂 

However, what fate awaits our familiar hero? 

For me, this is the real story and has renewed my interest in the character. Even a cursory look at Esad Ribic’s depiction of  “Unworthy Thor” shows a decidedly “bad-ass” character. Okay, his pants look like they were borrowed from Jethro of “The Beverly Hillbillies” fame but that nasty looking axe and that metallic left arm are intriguing.

For what it’s worth, the axe is Dwarven hewn just as Mjolnir was. It’s not a lightweight weapon and is capable of piecing Celestial armor. It even has a nifty Nordic name: Jarnbjorn, so that’s pretty good, right?

The left arm comes courtesy of the Destroyer … a near unstoppable soulless— albeit mystically forged, entity created by All Father, Odin, himself (The big metal guy that appeared in the 1st Thor movie).  Apparently Thor dismantles the thing (not easy to do by a long shot)  and incorporates part of it into his new look.

“Unworthy Thor’s” redefined status poses a number of interesting questions…

Will the new Thor possess a leaner-meaner attitude?  

How powerful is he compared to his hammer wielding persona?

Will his female counterpart prove stronger?

Will the Hulk prove once and for-all that without Mjolnir, Thor’s a light-weight hero?

Personally, I’d like to see him become more of an embittered anti-hero for awhile. I sure hope they don’t weaken him too much. I’d still like to see him more than hold his own against some of Marvel’s biggest heavy-weights. I mean let’s be honest; doesn’t every Thor fan like to see Thor mop the floor with his competition?  

The newly feminized Thor and her beloved predecessor will début in the appropriately renumbered Thor #1 coming this October. And because, some of you just have to see Thor as a woman… below are the first two images of her released by Marvel.

thorwoman

Nuff Said 😉

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Captain America #107 A Look Back at a Silver Age Favourite

Captain America # 107

Captain America #107 is undoubtedly a high-water mark both for Captain America as a title and for Marvel comics as a brand. Published in the year 1968,  issue 107 is a fast paced psychological thriller focusing on Cap’s guilt over the death of his young side-kick, Bucky Barnes.  Nothing world shaking here; no earth devouring menace on the order of Galactus or universe threatening crisis courtesy of the Beyonder or Thanos; rather the book centers on Steve Rogers’ struggle to cope with a rapidly changing world and the challenge of finding his place in it, all whilst wrestling with demons of his personal past.

Stan Lee’s gift for generating  catchy titles is showcased here with the memorable “If The Past Be Not Dead” whilst Jack Kirby’s unsurpassed pencils drive home the point courtesy of a splash page depicting Cap flying into action against a backdrop of helmeted shadowy figures and a suitably nightmarish gaping mouthed Adolph Hitler.

Captain America is a man of supreme integrity possessing a will to fight on against impossible odds; itself a trait that personifies the American spirit. To understand Captain America is to see him as the living embodiment of the United States of America. Yet co-existing with this living symbol of American power is the man Steve Rogers, and Rogers is a deeply troubled individual.

Lee’s dialogue and Kirby’s pencils unite to illustrate a tortured man under relentless pressure.

cap107-2-3

Lee employs a clever, albeit deceptively simple writing device to emphasize the intense psychological pressure assaulting his protagonist, that of repetition. On page 2  we note the words “again! again! again!” and on the following page Bucky’s ringing accusation of “Why? Why? Why?”. The “why” is of course “Why did you let me die?” Why didn’t you save  me?”

Cap’s main antagonist in this tale is Dr. Faustus. No, not the Dr. Faustus of Marlowe’s famous play. However, Lee may have used the name to illustrate the common element of deception and trickery that appears thematically in both works. Certainly, deception is at the root of Faustus’ attack on Steve Rogers.

Somehow the use of hallucinogenics got past the censors at the Comics Code Authority. Perhaps it’s because Steve consumes them unwittingly?  At any rate, the drugs leave Steve susceptible to Faustus’ manipulations and a series of encounters arranged by the nasty doctor are strung together to undermine our hero’s confidence, to make him question his very sanity.

Again, Lee uses repetition to up the intensity level and the blurring of past and present is again perfectly illustrated by Jack Kirby as seen in the panel below:

The Nazi’s are in fact actors/henchmen hired by Faustus to facilitate Cap’s decent into madness—to utterly break him, psychologically. But as is often the case with fictional villains, Faustus overplays his cards and unbeknownst to Faustus (or the reader at this point) Cap has the prescription he’s been taking sent to S.H.I.E.L.D for analysis.

Steve then sets Faustus up for his comeuppance courtesy of some play-acting of his own. It’s a good thing he did too because, Faustus had slipped Cap an aging pill to break him in body as well as mind. Just when it looks like Cap is down and out he rallies like the super soldier he is and puts the hurt to Faustus’ hired goons.

Lee and Kirby save the best for last and I’ll let the closing panels speak for themselves:

Cap107-20

Cap’s revitalization and return to form following a book length adventure where he increasingly doubts his abilities and is at his most vulnerable is welcomed to say the least. Cap’s flying fist sans sound effect graphic is completely satisfying— a one punch knock-out blow redressing the psychological pounding Cap took throughout this tale. The sight of an unconscious Faustus and the haunting ethereal visage of Bucky over a weary Captain America is visual poetry and a suitable ending to this well crafted tale.

Anyone wishing to understand the character of Captain America is encouraged to obtain a copy of this issue. I think it rates as one of Marvel’s finest and is certainly amongst the very best that I ever read.

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Make Mine Marvel—Jack Kirby and Stan Lee: Models of Inspiration

Jack Kirby (left) and Stan Lee (right) are to comic books what John Lennon and Paul McCartney are to popular music

The fan boys n’ girls know better. But to most people the name of Stan Lee—alone—is synonymous with comic books and the spate of superhero inspired movies that have dominated the box office in recent years. But the truth is that Stan Lee worked alongside a number of artists that co-created and influenced, the design, look, and character of the many superheroes that dot the popular landscape to this day. Among these co-creators, none stands higher than the legendary Jack “King” Kirby.

Like so many famous partnerships people tend to line-up behind one or the other. Team Edward or Team Jacob? Well honestly, I’m inclined towards Team Kirby but I well recognize that without Stan Lee’s gift of words and inspired storytelling there would be no Marvel Comics as we know them. Much the same way as there could never be a group called The Beatles without Lennon “and” McCartney (for what it’s worth, I’m more Team Lennon when it comes to that arrangement).

But back to Stan and Jack.

The Avengers, The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, Daredevil, The Black Panther (the first African American superhero in mainstream comics) were all created by this dynamic duo. Spider-Man is a Stan Lee/Steve Ditko creation although Jack Kirby penciled that icon’s first comic book cover. Captain America is a Jack Kirby/Joe Simon creation but Stan helped re-fashion him for his 1960s return.

Marvel Comics’ chief rival has always been Detective Comics (DC) home of Batman, Superman, The Green Lantern, The Green Arrow, The Flash, Aquaman, The Justice League, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, The Teen Titans, and many many more characters. Like most kids of my generation I grew up reading the stories and enjoying the art featured in both brands.

However, in 1967 at the ripe old age of nine, I first discerned the more sophisticated writing evinced in the story-telling of Lee and Kirby. Ironically, it came courtesy of the animated incarnation of the Fantastic Four appearing on ABC television from 1967-1970. Marvel’s superiority was particularly evident in an episode where the FF meet the world devouring entity known as Galactus and his faithful, but naive, herald, the Silver Surfer. I was blown away by the cosmic scale of the confrontation and the staggering implications brought about by a device called the “Ultimate Nullifier”. The story originally appeared in a Fantastic Four comic book  arc spanning three  issues #48-50.

Stan and Jack’s magnum opus issues #48 #49 and #50— featuring the introduction of Galactus and the Silver Surfer

Great stuff to be sure and this arc provided the basis for the disappointing film adaptation Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer that debuted in 2007 as a followup to 2005’s mediocre origins story, Fantastic Four. Honestly, of all the Marvel titles deserving of a reboot this one is it—but I digress.

Stan and Jack created characters I really cared about and the melodrama and interpersonal crises that played out across various comic book titles captured my youthful emotions like few other creative mediums of the period. However, Jack Kirby’s depictions of sheer physical power were an equally attractive drawing card. Think about it. Every child and teenager lacks power. They are constantly told what to do and when to do it—whether at home or at school.

Watch the wonderful Independent film, Napoleon Dynamite. This entire coming of age story focuses on Napoleon’s absolute lack of power and control over every aspect of his life. It’s only after he performs that amazing dance sequence on behalf of Pedro that things start turning around for him. So there you go; if you “didn’t get” Napoleon Dynamite now you do. It’s all about a teenager’s lack of power and how he matures once that elusive power is obtained.  I love that movie!

Some say Jack’s peak creative peak was 1967 but my own bias leads me towards 1968 (for a convincing argument against my opinion please read David Fox’s brilliantly argued “1968: the year Marvel sold out” http://zak-site.com/Great-American-Novel/1968.html . 1968 was not the best (I freely admit) in terms of imagination or the propagation of new characters and ideas but simply in the presentation of his art. Maybe it was the introduction of larger panels that year. One might say of Kirby—“go large or go home”. The larger the panel the more powerful Kirby’s work seemed to be.

Young Adult author, Holly Black recently tweeted that she was surprised at how much she enjoyed the Avengers movie released this past Spring. Honestly, I think many if not most female Young Adult authors would benefit from a crash course in Lee-Kirby story-telling with a particular focus on Jack’s depictions of sheer physical power. In general, it’s something that falls outside the purview of female experience and therefore I feel women writers can greatly benefit from exposure to Kirby’s work.

Stan and Jack certainly left a creative impression on my own writing. I have a tendency towards hyperbole (in a positive sense) and some of that I can attribute to Stan’s influence. By the way, if you want to learn how to create a “virtual” community? Stan’s the man! Back in the 60s’s while DC’s letters pages were simply addressed: “To the Editor” Marvel’s letters were addressed to Stan and Jack or Stan and Steve (Ditko) or Stan and Gene (Colan) etc… For those in the know, Julius Schwartz held that post over at rival DC Comics in the 60s but for many preteens he was a nameless entity and therefore DC lacked the sense of intimacy that Stan’s approach was able to generate.

Marvel called their creative team the “Bullpen”. God! How I wanted to make a pilgrimage to New York and see “the Bullpen”, the creative offices where Stan, Jack and the gang would be pumping out reams of new issues full of adventures featuring my favorite heroes. I pictured “Jolly” Jack in one office, “Smilin” Stan frantically moving about ,”Jazzy” Johnny Romita in another office , “Gentleman” Gene Colan in another, etcetera. But in fact, the Bullpen was mostly figurative, as many of the creative cast worked out of home-based studios, including Jack Kirby.  After some years the Bullpen did manage to accrue more in-house artists but at the time it was more an idea than anything tangible.

My understanding of physical power comes courtesy of Jack Kirby. It makes its way into my writing. Jack passed away in February 1994  and I’m ashamed to admit I was oblivious to the event and only learned of his death some years after the fact. Recently, I happened upon a Youtube video featuring an interview he conducted with my fellow Canadian, Rick Green, on his now defunct Prisoners of Gravity television program.  This show was a real gem aimed specifically at the nerd/geek community of which I am a proud card holding member.

The interview provides us with some real insight to Kirby “the man”. I’d like to leave off with a Kirby snippet from this interview:

Commander Rick (Green): What kind of influence have your wife and four kids been to you?

Jack Kirby: Oh, they’ve been a tremendous influence. They’ve shown me that I know true love. And knowing true love I think is one of the greatest feelings in the world. And it’s something that absorbed my entire being and absorbing all of love I find that I live a wonderful life. You can’t have a wonderful life without love. And in loving my own family my life is even more wonderful. I love my children, I love my relatives, I love my audience. These are true feelings. I’ll never deny them. I suppose I love everybody.

Wow! No wonder I’m such a fan and happily count Jack Kirby as one of my own heroes. So thanks to Stan and Jack and the other members of Marvel’s fantastic Bullpen for making my childhood better than it might otherwise have been; for instilling in myself a love for great storytelling and providing me with the basic tools necessary to make it all happen.

A Kirby self-portrait featuring some of the many characters he helped co-create. Kirby is not out of place here for in my opinion and in the eyes of many others he’s as truly a hero as the many characters he helped create.

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Days of Future Past: Joe Walsh, Prophet, and WarBirds Revisited

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything—this summer has really been about shedding some pounds and engaging in a daily 13k walk around my local area. Since I live in glorious BC, Canada, the view I take in on my walk is spectacular and features a mix of rural pastures, thick forested areas with well worn paths and sweeping views of the majestic Pacific Ocean. But I mention all this as a quick aside to the main topic today which has to do with “outing” myself in order to fill in some gaps left over from my transition which began back in 2005.

From 1995 until somewhere around 2004-05 I was heavily involved in what is considered the Internet’s first  “Massively Multi-player Online Game” (MMOG), WarBirds. The game is basically a WWII flight-simulator that allows subscribers to  engage in virtual air combat flying simulated versions of World War II aircraft, including the likeness of the gorgeous Spitfire IX pictured above.

The call letters, PR P, reference yours truly. Before the World Wide Web took over and Facebook and MySpace beckoned a world of non-savvy computer users to post pictures of their pets, zingoing bingo, bejewelling  themselves, and running virtual farms—online entertainment took the form of BBS systems and telephone access to dedicated networks such as CRIS.

Such was the case for Kesmai’s, Airwarrior, a direct predecessor to WarBirds and out of which sprang the latter’s nascent community. In 1994, I remember calling into Kesmai’s server and talking with a male representative who asked me what my “handle” was (think, username). I had come up with the name “Prophet” as a tip of the virtual hat towards my Christian faith. Well, without missing a beat the voice on the other end of the line said “Ok ‘Prop’, let’s get you started” or words to that effect. He punched in the necessary information and exclaimed with no small degree of surprise “Wow! I can’t believe it’s not taken!” Such a pithy, descriptive epithet huh? And it was all mine! So Prophet was shortened to Prop and that’s how I was known (at least online) for the next ten years of my life. “Prop” was such a cool but friendly sounding name. I think it suited me perfectly—although, I do remember one of the Finnish guys telling me: “I always picture you wearing one of those beanies with the propeller on top” LOL! We actually had, not one, but a whole squadron of those “propeller beanie” guys playing WarBirds. Called the “Dweebs of Death ” they were a “can’t miss em’ ” sight at the many conventions we held.

When my gender crisis exploded in full force during the summer of 2005  I knew it was time to hang up my virtual wings and with the exception of my dear friend “JT”, in Memphis, told no one in the WarBirds community of my impending transformation from male to female. Why didn’t I have a big coming out announcement? Honestly, WarBirds was such a testosterone fueled environment that I simply couldn’t cope with it all. Besides, although I was an active member of the WarBirds community I only saw the guys face-to-face semi-annually at the various conventions we attended.

And so I basically disappeared overnight and that was that—close chapter—close book on WarBirds. However, it doesn’t really end there. Earlier this year when I decided to resurrect my dormant writing skills I rediscovered “WarBirds: The Story so far…”  the book I co-authored back in 1997 which chronicled the rise of WarBirds and the evolution of its online community. A Google search resulted in my stumbling across Librarything, a website dedicated to authors and their work. I was somewhat surprised to see my name and book listed there. In fact “WarBirds: The Storyso far…” has about 3 Google page listings featured for it. Frankly, it was encouraging to see.

So, I generated this blog and updated the entry on myself over at Librarything making mention of the fact that I am in fact a post-operative male-to-female transsexual. In some ways, making claim to my book as “Rachel” was a bit like putting a carrot out in order to trap rabbits. It was only a matter of time till my old “buddies” from the WarBirds community would track me down and learn of my newly minted female status.

Yesterday, a trio of brief messages arrived pending my approval here at this blog. Honestly, I was super happy to hear from them. Their words brought a smile to my face and genuine affection from my heart. In fact, it was those messages (see my WarBirds post under the Publishing section if you are at all curious as to what they said) that prompted today’s post. So a very warm and gratitude filled thanks to my old friends—“Poog, Udie and JT”!

You guys are the best ❤

By the way, Udie (pronounced, You Die) is such a nice friendly guy that I could never equate the idea of a ballsy “you die sucker” attitude emanating from his 4-letter handle. So, somehow I had it fixed in my mind that Udie should be read and pronounced as “OOdee” Lol, That right there tells you a lot about me.

Udie’s note to me references Intellevision’s classic, if not legendary, voice modulated title, B-17 Bomber. Udie, hails from Texas and we both remembered playing this early 1980s “flight-sim” mutually recalling with shared mirth the southern drawl excitedly intoning: “Bandits 3 o’clock” and the game’s title “B-17 Bomber!” Although, with that southern inflection it sounded more like “Bayndaits 3 o’clock” and “BaySayvantaeeen Bawm–ber!”

In a related but entirely different context, I was offered a chance to see Joe Walsh perform here a couple days ago. Another dear friend was promoting the show and had offered me a couple of complimentary tickets (in the VIP section, nonetheless). But you know, the thorns on the vine sometimes aren’t worth the fruit. The catch was that shared acquaintances were to be present who displayed a mocking self-satisfied attitude when word of my transition first reached them and others who simply disapproved of my sex-change and with whom my relationship ended pretty much as soon as word came of my impending operation.

I just didn’t feel like subjecting myself to their scrutiny.

And so, I missed out on what was undoubtedly a great concert. But, I have no regrets as to my decision to pass on the opportunity. Personally, I think a passive approach is best when connecting with old friends and acquaintances.  I don’t recommend an “in your face— I’m here I’m Queer” deal with it attitude. Rather, I like the kind of approach expressed in the sentiment below:

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear

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