This comic was drawn by Valeria M. (@lunaartgallery on Tumblr) and written by me, Kathryn Hemmann (@kathrynthehuman on Twitter).

Listen, I’m not saying Ganondorf is a good person, I’m just saying that the Legend of Zelda games suddenly become a whole lot more interesting as soon as you stop thinking of him as being mindlessly evil. The way I see it, Ganondorf is an intelligent man who may have started out with good intentions but who was twisted by his experience with the horror lurking underneath the bucolic surface of Hyrule. To me at least, this interpretation makes the stories of the games much richer and more nuanced.

2020 Weekly Writing Log, Part Twelve

– I posted Chapter 32 of Malice on AO3.

– I edited Chapter 31 and posted it on FFN.

– I’ve been simultaneously working on the next three chapters, which will complete the third story arc. I’ve got five arcs planned, and the fourth is where I always imagined this story heading – sex, cyberpunk, magic, and murder. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been working with a few artists on commissioned illustrations for the next arc so that I’ll be able to post them with the corresponding chapters (instead of attaching the images to the chapters several weeks after I post them, as I’ve done with the current arc).

I mentioned before that I was working with an artist on a Legend of Zelda comic, and I remember saying that it was going to be good. The artist is Lunaartgallery, and the comic they created for me isn’t just good – it’s incredible! I was very excited to share this, and I’m happy it received such a positive reaction.

– I wrapped up the production of It Never Happened and sent the file to the printer! I also made a sticker and a bookmark to go with it. I’m taking the “shelter in place” quarantine very seriously, but I did some research and ultimately decided that it’s probably okay to use the postal service. The timing isn’t ideal; but, given that I’ll be moving to Philadelphia in May and living on a reduced income for the rest of the summer, April is the best month for me to print this zine and mail the initial batch of (free) copies to my friends and social media contacts. In any case, I’m going to start on the next set of stories next week.

– I was furiously angry at my university for a solid two weeks, but I’ve more or less gotten over it. I think I’d like to get back into academic writing again. Next week I’m going to finish that Chris Kohler review, return to my Kawakami essay, and submit the Kawakami translation to Samovar.

– My island in Animal Crossing is doing very nicely, thank you for asking.

Comrade Nook Says ZERO INTEREST

From Isolated to Island-Hopping: China Embraces Animal Crossing

A unique feature of the game is the ability to import user-generated digital graphics into one’s personalized island. Within days, some gamers in China had painted their islands a figurative shade of red, adding portraits of communist icons like Karl Marx and Chairman Mao, as well as loud propaganda posters. Consistent with the current zeitgeist, some players have added disease control checkpoints and decontamination areas, or signs in Chinese instructing characters to “please wash your hands.”

Players have outfitted their virtual residences with traditional Chinese decor and furniture, and dressed their in-game characters with hanfu and fancy outfits from China’s most popular period dramas. Widely shared screenshots show one island with huge QR codes printed across them for sending the player money via Alipay or WeChat, while another island featured realistic-looking fruit business advertisements.

I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of people engaging in currency farming for Animal Crossing, but this article has some wild screenshots, and it was interesting to learn about regional subcultures in a game that has managed to become a global phenomenon during the past two weeks.

Let Me Have This Silver Lining

Now Is the Time to Cancel Student Debt

A coronavirus response that includes canceling student loan debt will allow borrowers to purchase the necessities their families depend on: food on their table, a roof over their head, and critical health care. It will eliminate the worry many borrowers will face when they send their last paycheck to the government, instead of using it to keep their families secure.

A broader student debt cancellation plan will ensure that the entire economy remains functional, not just select industries impacted by travel bans and a slump in retail spending. Consumer advocates at the nonprofit Americans for Financial Reform, say, “Cancelling student debt would be a powerful tool to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus crisis on individuals, families, communities and the broader economy.”

The group says that canceling student debt would provide a short-term stimulus to the economy during the most urgent time. They point to a report by Brandeis University that shows student debt cancellation would free up hundreds of dollars each month. Americans freed from student loan debt would use that money for everyday spending and to pay other bills.

I mean, yes, it would definitely help the economy, but it’s also the right thing to do.

Congratulations, I Guess

My first monograph, Manga Cultures and the Female Gaze, was officially released yesterday, on April 1, 2020.

This doesn’t mean much, unfortunately. Amazon currently has the book listed as “out of stock,” and at the moment you can only get the digital version from the publisher’s website.

Last weekend I was supposed to have been giving a high-profile panel, promoting my book, and talking to presses about my second book project at the big conference for my field. I was also scheduled to give a handful of talks at universities up and down the East Coast during April. I’ve been working for the past four years to make this happen, and now it’s all just… gone.

This sounds like an inane thing to say during a global pandemic, but I can’t help but be upset.

I keep thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, which is about why certain groups of people seem to be magically successful while other equally worthy people can never seem to catch their big break. Gladwell’s conclusion is basically this: Sometimes, you’re just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes, entire generations are at the wrong place at the wrong time. And there’s nothing that you or any one individual can do about it.

I’m feeling frustrated and useless right now, and I’m also haunted by a strong sense of being “the wrong type of doctor.” I wish there were something I could do. Not about my stupid book about comics, but about the general state of the world. Given that my personal experience with the American university system has been so broken, I’m starting to think seriously about alternative routes to achieving broader and more accessible public education.

If nothing else, I guess I have time.

A Global Pandemic Is Not the Time for a “Competitive Performance Report”

If you’re wondering how I’ve been handling the pandemic, last week was rough. I got an official letter from my university stating that my tenure case has been denied on the afternoon of the day that the city of Washington DC sent out an emergency warning declaring a month-long citywide quarantine. Even though I’d already given notice in January that I wouldn’t be renewing my contract, the university decided to let the mechanics of the tenure process continue to run so that my position could be terminated. On the day a national emergency was declared. Which is totally what a classy place like my school would do.

This was petty and unnecessary. To make matters worse, my department chair forwarded me the university’s letter along with a smug email. Apparently, I should have already gotten my second book under contract. He knows that this decision is “disappointing” to me, but I should do my best not to allow the anger and fear of the times to “affect my behavior.”

For the moment, let’s set aside the fact that my department chair has tastelessly used a state of national emergency to exert dominance over a junior colleague by suggesting that a normal emotional response to the situation would be immature. Instead, I want to emphasize that it’s absurd for this decision to be based on my second book project. This might be different in different fields, but the sixth year of a tenure-track job is a normal time for people to get a contract for their second book, especially if they (like me) entered a tenure-track position directly after getting a PhD instead of spending several years in postdoc positions. My plan was therefore to get my first book out and then, during the Spring 2020 academic conference season, start talking to academic presses about my book on The Wind Waker, which already has a prospectus and 20,000 words worth of sample chapters.

As it turns out, I did not talk to representatives from any presses. In fact, most of the conferences I was scheduled to attend this spring were cancelled because of, you know, a global pandemic.

I didn’t respond to my department chair, of course. Instead, I set up an email filter to send all of his messages directly to my spam folder. Problem solved.

Still, this hurt, and the silence of my colleagues during my prolonged illness, subsequent harassment, and resulting decision to leave the university has also been difficult to process. There’s never a good time to have to go through something like this, but the timing couldn’t have been worse.

So how am I doing? I guess the answer is that I’m not in a good place, but I’m doing the best I can to support my students and my friends while being kind to everyone going through this mess alongside me.

Next week will be better. And the rest of my career will be better, honestly, because I’ve learned to recognize the red flags of unprofessional academic behavior. There will be no more of this nonsense.

And fuck neoliberal capitalism, seriously. Our labor, experience, and expertise are valuable and should be treated with respect. Our lives are valuable and should be treated with respect. A lot of us are struggling right now, but I hope we’re able to come out of this crisis filled with all the frustration, fury, and demands for justice that insecure people with small minds think it’s “immature” for those of us in marginal positions to express.

A global pandemic should not be used as a means of punishing individuals for failing to deliver “a competitive performance report.” As for the institutions that have failed to perform, however, maybe it’s time for a radical reevaluation of priorities.

2020 Writing Log, Part Eleven

I took some time to re-assess my writing goals, and these are my priorities:

(1) Malice, the fanfic novel I’m working on. It’s getting great feedback, and I’m having a lot of fun.
(2) Original short horror fiction, which I also love writing. Let’s get these stories out into the world!
(3) Teaching my actual classes for actual money. This is all “writing” now, if you’re wondering.
(4) Supporting my friends and communicating with artists I’ve commissioned.
(5) Taking long walks. I’ve started listening to The Magnus Archives podcast, and it’s fantastic.
(6) Animal Crossing. I know you’re playing it too, so don’t judge me.
(7) Academic publications. If I feel like it, which I don’t.

So, with all of that in mind, this is what I did this week:

– I posted Chapter 31 of Malice on AO3. This was going to be a longer chapter, but I’ve found that my attention span has been extremely limited these days. I could have spent a few extra days putting this chapter through another round of editing, but fuck it.

– I edited Chapter 30 (quite substantially, actually) and posted it on FFN.

– I finished all of the page layouts for It Never Happened. I have a list of a few other small things I need to take care of before I send the file to the printer, but this project should be finished by the end of the week. If it isn’t, I’m going to send it anyway. I want to go ahead and get started on the next set of stories.

– I’ve spent the past week writing (and grading) online quizzes, and I’ve really been enjoying myself. I may write an actual post about this later, but I’m starting to seriously think about “the online quiz” as a legitimate narrative form.

– I commissioned Meiaushzz to create a digital painting of Ganondorf from Malice, and WOW. (The rough draft, in which Ganondorf is older and bearded, is also VERY NICE.) The idea is that, as in Breath of the Wild, Ganondorf is able to use magic to manipulate technology, and he does it for all the worst reasons.

– I commissioned Yufei to draw Balthazar and Ceres from The Demon King, and they are both gorgeous. This artist regularly takes OC illustration commissions, and every piece they post on social media is incredible. I’ve been wanting to commission them for a while, and I figured that this week was as good of a time as any. This was also a good opportunity to write very short “elevator pitches” for these two characters that clearly express their personalities and narrative roles without getting too deep into the complications of the larger story.

That sure is a lot of stupid fandom bullshit, you might be thinking. Why doesn’t this person grow up and go do their taxes or something. Well, friend, let me tell you – I filed my taxes this week. I also filled out my census form and my form for jury duty (which isn’t going to happen, but still). As much as I bitch and complain about my university, they’re still sending me paychecks, so I’ve been trying to donate to various food banks and relief organizations as well.

What with everything going on in the world, it’s been difficult to concentrate, but I’m doing my best. I hope everyone reading this is safe and healthy and doing okay!