Of Time & Fools

By | Monday, July 26, 2021 Leave a Comment
Bloomsbury Comics Studies: Webcomics by Sean Kleefeld
When I first started thinking about how to write my Webcomics book, one of the first and most obvious challenges was how to keep it from getting dated very quickly. Publishing is notoriously slow to begin with, and academic publishing even moreso. So one thing I tried to keep in the forefront of my mind was that there was a fair chance it was going to start to look dated the second it was printed; there was something that was going to happen between when I turned in my final draft and when people might actually read it. I had no idea what that might be, of course, so I tried to write the book in such a way that avoided discussing the specifics of contemporary tools and processes and such.

I was of course making changes up until my publisher said, "No, we really have to send this off to the printer now; you're done." The last two changes like that I got in were changing a couple verb tenses when I was discussing Andrew Hussie, as he had just announced that he would be starting up a sequel to Homestuck, so the work was no longer so firmly in the past; and I added a footnote that Jay Edidin had recently transitioned and was no longer using the name I had cited in the book. (I had asked about changing all the instances of his name, but they weren't wiling to do that; a footnote was the best I could manage. Sorry, Jay!) It turns out there was one other element I should have changed, and I only discovered it this weekend.

Gary Tyrrell recently asked about when exactly I had written things because I discussed how Tatsuya Ishida had shifted the tone of Sinfest pretty dramatically from pretty sexist male-gaze-pandering to a radical feminist message. I wrote about how that upset a lot of readers at the time, but he maintained a core audience that continued to support him nonetheless. What Gary pointed out, though, was that Ishida had shifted the tone again to an expressly trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) one. Radical feminism but not for trans women. That I didn't mention that part in my book stands out even more because I had it butting right up against my disucssion about Sophie Labelle and Kylie Wu, and their trans positive messages. If you're familiar with Ishida's current work, then it kind of comes across like I'm talking up these great embracing creators only to dash them against an expressly exclusionary one.

I did some digging on the specific timing of Ishida's switch to a more strongly TERF messaging and, while I wasn't able to pinpoint a specific shift, I do see that there were discussions about whether or not he was supporting TERF messaging throughout 2018. From what I can gather, his TERF messaging showed up first in Sinfest message boards before it came to the fore in the strip itself. It looks like there was still a fair amount of "is he/isn't he" debate that continued throughout the time I was writing in 2018. So I don't feel too bad for having missed/not included anything along those lines in the book. Of course, by the time the book actually hit the stands in mid-2020, the verdict had long since been turned in on the matter.

What strikes me as interesting about all this is that, with all the care I took in ensuring that I didn't say anything about the technology that might become obsolete quickly, it was the personal and sociological elements that wound up being the bits that were ultimately thrown out of date. As Gary reassured me: time makes fools of us all.
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