NOTABLE ESSAYS | BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2015
As I belatedly discovered, “The meaning of a machete” was included among other “Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2014” in Best American Essays 2015.
CONFERENCE | AFFECT THEORY @ MILLERSVILLE
Performed my first piece of embodied scholarship as part of Affect Theory Conference’s “Wreck the Format” stream. Titled “The author is in pain,” the piece was a 30-minute narrative that insisted on embodied participation from the audience and bodily interventions of my own, ranging from getting a tattoo to drawing my own blood. Click here for reflections on the piece, and below for the video of the performance itself.
NOMINATION | PUSHCART PRIZE
INTERVIEW | FEATURE IN RKVRY QUARTERLY LITERARY MAGAZINE
Click the image for the full interview, in which my agent Mary Krienke and I have a conversation about empathy, otherness, self-deconstruction, and my inspiration, motivation, and process as a writer.
PUBLICATION | SOLICITED WORK IN THE FANZINE
“This is your key to understanding.
I am giving it to you only once.”
Click the screencap above for “ThisIsMyManifesto.htm” @ The Fanzine.
PUBLICATION | SOLICITED WORK IN THE NEW YORK TIMES ROOM FOR DEBATE
Click the screencap above for “When ‘trolling’ becomes an umbrella term” at The New York Times, and here for the initial, uncut draft.
PUBLICATION| CREATIVE NONFICTION FEATURED IN DIAGRAM
“You would say, Stop seeing patterns that are not there.”
Click the screencap for “Numerology” @ DIAGRAM.
PUBLICATION | CREATIVE NONFICTION FEATURED IN R.KV.RY
“You have a right to your feelings, my shrink says.
Do I? I was never there.”
Click the screencap for the full story @ r.kv.ry quarterly literary journal.
ANNOUNCEMENT | THE JOKER EDITED COLLECTION GOING TO PRESS
The Joker: Critical Essays on the Clown Prince of Crime, the first scholarly book on The Joker, shockingly, is finally in press at The University of Mississippi Press. I wrote this paper at PCA 2012, multitasking between it and my conference paper, and I’m happy to see it finally come to fruition (though I worry, as always, that I’ll suffer a little of the oh-god-it’s-a-deformed-baby-I-swear-I’m-smarter-than-that-now syndrome). I think seeing it in the flesh will make those anxieties disappear, and above all I’m pleased to have united my current interests in the weird Internet (i.e., 4chan) and my love for comics, particularly the Batman universe, which had a great deal of influence on my life, my views on vigilantism, and my writing.
Look out for my chapter, “‘Never give ’em what they expect’: The Joker ethos as paradigmatic of lulz on 4chan’s /b/” some time late this year or early 2015!
CONFERENCE | COMPUTERS & WRITING @ PULLMAN STATE
Reasons I love C&W: I can come here brain-dead after qualifying exams, and everyone I talk to has advice to help me better position myself between rhetoric, especially classical rhetoric, and media studies. My presentation ran a little long, about which I was slightly irritated at myself, and it wasn’t my usual posse in the audience–rather, people who may have been less familiar with 4chan and hence less understanding of the in-jokes—but the few comments I did receive were phenomenal. Someone told me he felt that he’d witnessed his own life and experience as a 4channer narrated back to him, and if I’m able to tap into the subculture that well, explaining without apologizing, then I feel like I’ve done my job.
I also feel like I have a better sense of the questions to ask, or the responses to give, when I’m asked “why rhetoric?” This may be a question I’ll struggle with for the rest of my studies, and perhaps on the job market depending on what I apply for, but I feel better knowing that I’ve at least found a starting point for thinking about it.
ANNOUNCEMENT | PH.D. CANDIDACY UNLOCKED
I defended my qualifying exams this afternoon and passed “with flying colors” despite the whole ordeal being a relatively traumatic process. I’m a little more aware of my ability (and limitations) to think and respond under pressure, on medication, and in pain; conference Q&A’s had already taught me that I need time to kick my brain into working, but where conferences seem fairly routine now, quals were terrifying. I’m not alone in this experience, I’m sure, and the point is to teach me to keep thinking, to point me in directions I’d ignored or overlooked, to recognize my shortcomings as well as my successes, and to help me rationalize my choices.
I think the most compelling lesson I learned is that I can no longer rationalize my choices on the spot, and that I will always feel tugged toward the humanities side of things. But I’ve blogged more extensively about this, how I’ve learned to academically position myself, and other reflections and lessons learned here.
PUBLICATION | CREATIVE NONFICTION FEATURED IN CONSEQUENCE
“We say: Chedi, chedi. First things first.”
Click the screencap for the final proof of “Meaning of a Machete” in the print publication Consequence Literary Magazine.
PUBLICATION | SCHOLARLY ARTICLE ON TROLLING IN FIBRECULTURE
Abstract: The decentralised, anonymous imageboard 4chan is decried for its discursive construction of gender, particularly on its Random – /b/ board. However, /b/’s misogyny demonstrably results from an internal moral panic about cultural exclusivity. New users unbalance 4chan’s anti-normative, anti-celebrity, and anti-leader ethic by posting self-photographs primarily featuring women. These users are strategically targeted and trolled based on their exposed identity aspects. While this practice is untenable offsite, viewing misogynistic discourse as a strategic, regenerative practice onsite is necessary as /b/ occupies an extreme point on the genealogical continuum bridging the transgressive cultures of bulletin-board systems, shock sites, and hacker culture.
Click the screencap for the full text of “Tits or GTFO: The logics of misogyny on 4chan’s Random – /b/” @ Fibreculture Journal
CONFERENCE | AEJMC @ RENAISSANCE HOTEL, WASHINGTON D.C.
I presented a paper titled “The right to bear cannons: Reevaluating DDoS actions as civic protest” at my first-ever AEJMC conference. This was also the biggest conference I’ve attended thus far. Due to my summer teaching schedule, I could only attend on the day I presented, but maybe it’s for the best–there was so much going on, there’s no way I could have decided which panels I wanted to attend. I’m so used to conferences that only have 1-3 tracks simultaneously, and I appreciate even more the luxury of being able to attend almost everything at the smaller conferences I go to (looking at you, C&W).
The presentation itself went well; I was nervous since I’m relatively new to digital media law and policy, but I’ve been thinking about the civic value of DDoS actions for a long time, and researching/writing/talking about them in a legal context gave me a fresh perspective. I’m hoping the experience and the feedback I garnered will help me use this material in a longer work (i.e. the diss) in the future.
CONFERENCE | COMPUTERS & WRITING @ FROSTBURG STATE
I presented a paper titled “Lurk moar: Conducting research in transgressive Internet environments” at C&W 2013. After two grueling years of coursework, this conference was just what I needed to kick off a summer of a light teaching load (1 bridge course at Columbia) and beginning to prepare for qualifying exams, ideally at the end of the fall semester, more likely by the end of spring.
PUBLICATION | LITERARY LIST FEATURED IN THENEWERYORK!
“Pretend you’re socially well-adjusted long enough, and you might actually start to believe it.”
Click the screencap for the full list of “Notes to self” @ TheNewerYork.
CONFERENCE | ILLUSTRATION, COMICS, AND ANIMATION @ DARTMOUTH COLLEGE
I haven’t been back to my alma mater since graduating, so this conference was wonderful for many reasons. Comics and animation isn’t my area of expertise, but I love presenting at these conferences, as I always find them enlightening and enjoyable, even if I experience a twinge of regret that I didn’t pursue it as a career. Geeking out about comics over drinks, and realizing I’m not the nerdiest person in the room, never fails to be an amazing feeling.
I presented a paper titled “Mobius double reacharound: The convergence of comics, animation, and gaming in Homestuck,” the online MSPaint webcomic that complicates notions of authorship, participatory culture, readership and ways of reading, and fandom. The Q&A was unexpected but illuminating, as the question I got stuck on concerned why Homestuck was interesting to readers, and (perhaps) why scholars should look at the text. I think I was stumped because I gravitate to difficult texts that ask me to look outside the text and learn, but maybe ultimately it comes down to that: a self-selecting readership that values difficulty and continually ups the ante.
Like Love and Rockets, Homestuck has a sprawling cast of characters, requires an immense time commitment to fully unpack its universe; it’s different, maybe, in that it requires readers to engage with or at least be aware of the values and quirks of other subcultures, particularly gaming and general Internet culture. Admittedly, I lost interest at the end of Act 5 when new characters are introduced, but I’m always like that—I had trouble making the shift from The Golden Compass to The Subtle Knife because I harbored resentment toward Will for displacing Lyra, and I had a hard time wading through Season 2 of The Wire (my all-time favorite TV show) because of the shifted focus on different characters. But I also know once I get over myself, I can continue reading because I appreciate being tacitly asked to be a smart reader and figure things out for myself if I’m unfamiliar with the material, be it ways of reading, memes, or other pop culture references I don’t immediately recognize.
PUBLICATION | CREATIVE NONFICTION FEATURED IN BLACK CLOCK
“I am anxious when it comes to writing about this in a form that makes it true.”
Click the screencap for the final proof of “White Van Fear” in the print publication of Black Clock.
CONFERENCE | CRITICAL INFORMATION CONFERENCE @ SVA
Inspired by a paper written for Digital Media Law and Policy, I presented on reevaluating digital defacement as cyber-graffiti, comparing the uses of and motivations behind traditional graffiti to those of digital defacement following DDoS actions. Q&A in the video above.
PUBLICATION | SCHOLARLY ARTICLE ON 4CHAN, TROLLING, AND MEMORY IN ENCULTURATION
“The status of users who demonstrate this power through reposting valuable material, organized within the parameters tacitly agreed on by the collective and made explicit nowhere, largely propels the sharing of institutional memory. 4channers are seemingly motivated by the desire for authority in future onsite trolling and gaming events. Thus, their conservation impulse speaks primarily to 4channers’ desire for authority, albeit temporary, within the collective. To obtain that authority, users must be consistently present and well-versed in reading cybertextual discourse. To that end, long-term immersion and cybertextual participation allow 4channers to absorb important evaluation and classification criteria regarding material worthy of being archived.”
Click the image for the full text of “Attaining the Ninth Square: Cybertextuality, Gamification, and Institutional Memory on 4chan” @ Enculturation
CONFERENCE | COMPUTERS & WRITING @ UNC
At my second C&W, I presented a paper on 4chan’s cybertextuality and the gamification of engagement through trolling, titled “‘Meanwhile, in an entirely different thread’: Reading 4chan as cybertext.” The paper was later published in a special issue of Enculturation (see post above).
ANNOUNCEMENT | LITERARY AGENT UNLOCKED
After years of hunting, I discovered my ideal literary agent had been right in front of me all along. I’m now represented by fellow writer and close friend Mary Krienke of Sterling Lord Literistic. She’s interested in literary fiction, creative nonfiction, and realistic YA, and since I work primarily in the first two genres–and her edits and comments always evince a deep respect for the integrity of the work–this agent/client partnership is a perfect match.
Follow her on Twitter @MaryKrienke.
CONFERENCE | POPULAR CULTURE ASSOCIATION @ BOSTON, MA
I presented on bigotry and lulz on 4chan from a subcultual perspective, attempting to explain problematic tactics like “tits or GTFO” without apologizing for them and while recognizing that this ethos is untenable offsite and that, much as 4channers want it to be the case, 4chan is not a post-identity forum.
I also served as panel chair and had to quell ad hominem attacks aimed at another panel member during the Q&A. #awkwardfirsttimes
CONFERENCE | COMPUTERS & WRITING @ UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
I presented a paper titled “I think writing is a pretty cool guy. eh makes meaning and doesnt afraid of anything” at my first-ever C&W. My presentation was about the role of accidental grammatical errors in the selection of memes and evolution of 4chan’s dialect, and the purpose of memes perpetuating grammar mistakes.
I’ve had good conference experiences in the past, but Computers & Writing blew them all out of the water. Granted I’m easily starstruck, but this conference facilitated professional relationships, and everyone was so accepting, welcoming, and critiques occurred with warmth. I met Gail Hawisher. Cynthia Selfe(!) asked me about my research (and remembered it and me later on). I wasn’t brave enough to talk to Katherine Hayles but I did get into a debate with Tim Wu in a Q&A session and while I might have later psyched myself out, nothing about these “greats” was intimidating at all. I’ve made so many IRL and Twitter friends here, and exchanged research and advice with so many people with backgrounds as diverse as mine, if not more so. In short: this conference is love.
Also, Dan Anderson (follow @iamdan) is my new idol. Some day I’m going to create the way he does, because when I see his work, I can’t help but be moved with regards to pedagogy and my own personal way of being in the world.
All of which is to say that C&W has become my new home-base conference, and I will strive to present at it every year.
CONFERENCE | NEW NARRATIVE IV: IMAGE AND SPECTACLE @ UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
I co-authored and co-presented ““We are Sri Lankan civilians plz save our life”: Photography and the spectacle of Sri Lanka’s civil war” with my sister, Anjali Manivannan, a human rights activist pursuing a law degree at NYU, on war photography, spectacle, and the Sri Lankan civil war. I handled the material on photography while she addressed the legal perspective. I was exhausted and unwell for most of the conference, but our presentation was solid, and our Q&A was marked by big questions about journalism, ethics, and the politics of the image in the context of mediating stories that, because they are so awful, may discourage even the very act of looking.
If you’re interested in the human rights law perspective, you can follow my sister at @Anji_Manivannan (JD as of 2014!).
PUBLICATION | SCHOLARLY ARTICLE ON ADAPTATION AND ALAN MOORE’S WATCHMEN
Click the image for the full text of “Interplay Amidst the Strangeness and the Charm: Under-language and the Attenuation of Meaning in the Film Adaptation of Watchmen” @ ImageText.
PUBLICATION | SCHOLARLY ARTICLE ON TRAUMA REPRESENTATIONS IN GURREN LAGANN IN FWLS
A streamlined version of my conference presentation @ Graphic Engagement last year. Click the image for the full text of “‘Later, Buddy’: The Politics of Loss and Trauma Representation in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann” @ Forum for World Literature Studies.
CONFERENCE | GRAPHIC ENGAGEMENT: THE POLITICS OF COMICS AND ANIMATION @ PURDUE UNIVERSITY
Also known as Baby’s First Conference, this will be my first time presenting at an academic conference, possibly marking my temporary departure from teaching and a return to graduate school. I’ll be presenting on trauma representations and semiotics in the anime Gurren Lagann at the first Graphic Engagement conference, held at Purdue University. Like a lot of /b/tards, I was obsessed with the anime, so I’m thrilled to have an excuse to dissect it—which, surprisingly, has yet to be done in a scholarly manner. (It also gives me an excuse to rewatch the series multiple times, zero guilt.)
ANNOUNCEMENT | INVICTUS UNDER FILM OPTION
I’ve signed over Invictus to Torn Sky Entertainment, with the help of an attorney provided by Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA). I know studios have a tendency to sit on the rights as long as they can, so I hope I didn’t make a poor business decision, but it’s not like I’ve signed the rights away in perpetuity and I’m presently neither (a) expecting fame or (b) doing anything else with the book. I’ll be a consultant on the screenplay as well, which is nice because if I already view Invictus as a deformed baby, god knows what it could morph into in the wrong hands.
INTERVIEW | BORN TO WRITE IN DARTMOUTH LIFE
“She’s more than a college student; she’s a force of creative nature.”
Also, infamously, the article that publicized my penchant for rolling out of bed and attending class in my pajamas even in the face of Dartmouth winters. Former professor and dear friend Brenda Silver softened the blow by adding that “Whatever she does, she does intensely and well.”
Click for the full text of the article.
INTERVIEW | A YOUNG WRITER IN A HURRY IN THE VALLEY NEWS AND THE CONCORD MONITOR
I have to say, I think my favorite part of this interview is that I’m quoted as saying “it’s crunch time,” a statement I feel like I’ve never stopped saying, and probably never will. Also, I’m beyond flattered that professor/friend Brenda Silver described Invictus as “an extraordinary work for a 15-year-old, both in terms of its linguistic sophistication and its sense of how narrative works.”
Also, this interview may be the only print mention of the spectacularly failed novel I wrote when I was 11: a behemoth of about 400+ pages that I stupidly sent unsolicited and without an agent to Tor Books. The thing was riddled with plot holes and cliches and what have you, but I received a kind, two-page rejection letter that explained what needed fixing and encouraged me to keep writing.
At the time, of course, I believed that the chief editor himself had actually written it (look, Mom, it’s signed in blue ink!), but now that I’m older and wiser, I know that it was likely an assistant, and I want to say thank you to that assistant who, circa 1994, was compassionate enough to compose and sign a letter to a kid who needed encouragement.
These little moments, they pay off.
Click for the full text of the interview.
PUBLICATION | FIRST NOVEL INVICTUS BY PEARL STREET PUBLISHING
Yes, I realize I wasn’t even blogging in 2004 and only had three years of college under my belt, but for me, all news begins with this news: that I published a novel I wrote when I was fifteen, revised when I was sixteen, revised again when I was eighteen, was published, sans agent, by Pearl Street Publishing Company, who accepted the MS thinking I was a full-grown adult. While I like to say now that it’s a story of hybridity, negotiating otherness, and trying to escape the incessant ranking of identity factors, it’s essentially a sci-fi romp about biological robots. I should cite the Rockman franchise as a major influence.
David Foster Wallace once wrote that the best metaphor for the book-in-progress comes from Don DeLillo’s “Mao II,” in which the work is described “as a kind of hideously damaged infant that follows the writer around, forever crawling after the writer (i.e. dragging itself across the floor of restaurants where the writer’s trying to eat, appearing at the foot of the bed first thing in the morning, etc.), hideously defective, hydrocephalic and noseless and flipper-armed and incontinent and retarded and dribbling cerebro-spinal fluid out of its mouth as it mewls and blurbles and cries out to the writer, wanting love, wanting the very thing its hideousness guarantees it’ll get: the writer’s complete attention.
I’d like to extend the metaphor to the book-published-so-long-ago-it-reflects-nothing-about-the-author’s-current-style. I can’t help but cringe when Invictus is mentioned. I think, please don’t judge me if you read it, I disclaim, “Sure, I’m proud of it, but I was a dumb kid when I wrote it and my writing style has changed a lot since then.” That should go without saying. It also goes without saying that I am fiercely proud that, at age 15, a publishing house saw my work in the slush pile and thought it had enough merit to be shown to the world. I may never coo over this baby in public, but I have a display copy facing outwards on my bookcase at home, and one on my office desk, to remind me when the future looks bleak that this is where it all started, that if I could do it then, I can do it now.