Guest Author

Eight Nerdy Chicago People and Organizations We Love By Matt Peters and Michi Trota (Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter shout out)

Hello everybody!! The Kickstarter for Uncanny Magazine Year 5: I Want my Uncanny TV is up and running and we are more than delighted to be hosting a guest post from Matt Peters and Michi Trota talking about the campaign, specially the new cool thing they have going this year: A POTENTIAL UNCANNY TV! Go support them! We already have!

Now, without further ado, please give it up for Michi and Matt!

What creators are capable of doing with their love of fandom spans a wide range of interests, professions, and genres. That endless creativity and passion for SF/F is what characterizes the community that’s grown around Uncanny Magazine, and why we’re thrilled to continue for fifth year thanks to the ongoing generosity of our Uncanny Magazine Year 5: I Want My Uncanny TV Kickstarter supporters. We’ve spent the last several years at Uncanny celebrating and exploring gorgeous SF/F prose, poetry, and art from countless perspectives and voices, and expanding Uncanny’s mission to explore the wider ecosystem of SF/F creativity with our Year 5 project, Uncanny TV, seems like a natural progression. As cohosts, our goal with Uncanny TV is to highlight how creators are taking their love of geek culture to work in a variety of art forms and projects while also building and nurturing their communities. Through lively conversation and a bit of variety show thrown in, we’re excited to share these stories with Uncanny’s audience.

Our home nerd community in Chicago has countless examples of nerdy groups and individuals using their own geeky passions to inspire and shape incredibly diverse and wide-ranging projects. Their work reminds us why stories matter, and wanting to talk with creators like them and hear their own stories is a primary reason we’re so excited for the potential of Uncanny TV. Chicago is one home among many to geeky creators from all walks of life, and our hope is that Uncanny TV will have a chance to visit as many of those communities as possible. We couldn’t possibly name all of the nerds and geeks we know whose art and activism are fueled by their geeky loves, but here are eight based in Chicago who provide a snapshot of the inspiring work being created in fandom.

Acrobatica Infiniti Circus

“Cosplay” and “circus” aren’t two things we would have thought of putting together before but thankfully someone did! Acrobatica Infiniti Circus, also known as “the Nerd Circus,” was created several years ago by Tana “Tank” Karo, who had a background in dance and design but had wanted to create something that allowed her to merge her love for circus and geekery. The resulting collaboration among extraordinarily talented and undeniably nerdy jugglers, acrobats, aerial artists, contortionists, and object manipulators is delightful and surprising each time: Leeloo performing mind-boggling contortionist poses, Totoro juggling sootballs, Harley Quinn on a trapeze. The fact that the group has a rotating cast allows the performers to stay fresh and provides continuous opportunities for new performers to come in and join the show. And rather than approaching the performance scene as a competition, AIC often works in collaboration with similar performance groups to encourage more artistic development and positive ties within the community.

Bit Bash

Chicago has a long history of being the home to some incredibly talented game developers. While Netherrealm and Wargaming keep us on the map, some ideas are just too big for home PCs and consoles. Bit Bash, an annual event celebrating these creations by brilliant developers, is one of those rare experiences that almost defies explanation. A one-day art festival with a distinctive party atmosphere invites gamers to come and check out these offerings from indie developers from around the world. Jamie Sanchez and Ryan Wiemeyer have organized and run Bit Bash over the past four years, joined by a group of friends who openly admit they had no idea what they were doing until they did it. The events are open to all, any developer is welcome to submit their project for consideration, and proceeds go to the Chicago Foundation for the Interactive Arts. Best of all, kids under 13 and at-risk youth are able to attend for free in order to inspire the next generation of gamers.

I Need Diverse Games

Tanya DePass and her team at INDG have a straightforward goal: bring more marginalized people to gaming. This includes behind the controller, on the development team, and in game journalism. Over the years, what began as a hashtag campaign has blossomed into podcast production, convention presence around the world, and even a scholarship program all in the name of inclusion. The organization has an international reach and works tirelessly to provide marginalized people with opportunities and support in the gaming industry. INDG is entirely volunteer run, depending on grants and donations to continue operations, and is a testament to the passion and commitment of the INDG team to bringing entertaining content and thought-provoking ideas to the forefront of gaming. We’re excited to have Tanya onboard for Year Five as a solicited essayist as well!

Keisha Howard

Keisha Howard has spent more than a decade using her geeky interests, particularly in gaming and cosplay, to create welcoming events, advocate for better representation for marginalized people, and provide support for other nerdy entrepreneurs. She created a group called Sugar Gamers which provides networking opportunities and advocates for under-represented groups in the gaming industry, and uses her platform to encourage other nerds and geeks to explore greater possibilities in taking their own interests and hobbies in a more entrepreneurial direction. What we really appreciate about Keisha though, is that despite having the opportunities to meet fandom celebrities and traveling nationwide, she’s never forgotten her roots as a Chicagoan. She continually provides mentorship and her skills as an event organizer to help Chicago kids and teens find their own geeky talents and passions.

Ladies Night Anthology

Ladies Night Anthology began as a roomful of women, non-binary, and other comics fans of marginalized genders meeting regularly discussing their favorite and not-so-favorite things about comic books. Eventually, they decided to make their own, and have since created five volumes of the anthology, each spotlighting the work of a diverse range of comics writers and artists. Most of the talent working on the books are being published for the first time. Each volume is the result of generous volunteer work by the LNA editors. Over the last several years, they’ve successfully Kickstarted each volume of their anthology, the latest appropriately focusing on sisterhood. LNA is a wonderful love-letter to Chicago, the creators, and the fans.

Pocket Con

Pocket Con is Chicago’s only comic convention for youth featuring the works of artists and writers of color, women, and LGBTQ creators. This local one-day con started in 2011, and in its current form is the result of a partnership with the Chicago Public Library, Free Write and LOKari Productions. Taking place at the Chicago Cultural Center on the Magnificent Mile, the con is in a beautiful location downtown and is free for all to attend. Independent creators are highlighted at the con, which provides a fantastic opportunity for comics fans of all ages to see what marginalized creators are doing in comics outside of the big commercial lines. Young fans are the target audience, with a focus on promoting literacy and creativity through graphic arts, and there are even contests to encourage young comics fans to collaborate with each other and submit their own creations for consideration. We love the fact that the con significantly lowers cost as a barrier to entry, and its emphasis on supporting young fans, especially those from marginalized communities, in their love for comics and providing a warm and welcoming community space that reflects the diverse reality of comics fandom.

Speculative Literature Foundation

Founded by SF/F author Mary Anne Moharaj, the Speculative Literature Foundation was created to encourage and provide support for both new and established writers, expand awareness of grants, scholarships, and other assistive funds available to SF/f creators, and promote a greater public appreciation of speculative literature. The SLF offers four grants: The Older Writers’ Grant, the Travel Grant, the Working Class Writers Grant, and the Diverse Writers/Worlds Grant. For many writers, financial concerns can be a considerable barrier, so the SLF grants provide the opportunity for writers to have some financial support in pursuing their craft. The SLF also does excellent work in creating partnerships with other organizations to provide more visibility and opportunities for writers to share their work. The foundation currently organizes a quarterly reading series at Volumes Cafe (another nerd-friendly and community-oriented space we love!) in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood that’s free to attend, encourages participation from write down your rs of all professional levels, and is co-sponsored by the Science Fiction Writers of America and the Chicago Nerd Social Club (Michi is currently President of CNSC and Matt is a board member).

Ytasha L. Womack

Ytasha L. Womack has traveled all over the world speaking about the possibilities and significance of Afrofuturism. She’s a creator and advocate working in multiple formats: film, novels, nonfiction, dance. Her book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci Fi & Fantasy Culture (2013) is considered a primer on the subject, and was a 2014 Locus Awards Non Fiction Finalist. Ytasha’s Chicago ties are evident in her work, which blends her love of dance and science fiction in exciting ways. Her film “A Love Letter to the Ancestors From Chicago” (2017) is an Afrofuturist dance film celebrating historically Black neighborhoods in Chicago. Ytasha also works with youth dance programs to create Afrofuturism dance therapy programs for teens and adults.

Uncanny TV becomes reality when we hit the stretch goals for our Kickstarter: Uncanny Magazine Year Five: I Want My Uncanny TV!

Uncanny TV will be the launch of our community-based vid channel! Matt Peters & Michi Trota will host a short variety talk show, Uncanny Magazine-style: highlighting creators in SF/F working in a variety of art forms and projects, focusing on people building and nurturing their communities, particularly highlighting marginalized creators. They’ll talk about topics that can be serious, but the overall tone of the show will be to celebrate the things we enjoy and the people who make our communities good places to be in SF/F.

Matt Peters

Uncanny TV Presenter Matt Peters is an enthusiast of all things nerdy. Matt has been a voice in the industry for several years through his website and podcast Since Last We Spoke. He’s contributed to various media outlets both print and digital and has been invited to speak on panels regarding diversity in geek spaces at C2E2 and Wizard World. Matt is also founder of Core/Demo, a belly dance charity event that supports cancer research. You can find him on Twitter @MightyInkMatt where he frequently geeks out over comics, video games, and pro-wrestling. His favorite color is orange and he’s fond of the number “13.”

Michi Trota

Managing Editor/Uncanny TV Presenter Michi Trota is a two-time Hugo Award winner, and the first Filipina to win a Hugo Award. Michi is an essayist who has been published in The Book Smugglers, The Establishment, The Learned Fangirl, Invisible: An Anthology of Representation in SF/F, and Uncanny. She’s spoken at C2E2, the Chicago Humanities Festival, on NPR, and at universities and other organizations. Michi is a firespinner with the Raks Geek Fire+Bellydance troupe. She serves as president of the Chicago Nerd Social Club Board of Organizers and lives with her spouse and their two cats. Her secret mutant superpower is to make anyone hungry just by talking about food. Find her on Twitter @GeekMelange. (Photo by Patricia Wilson)


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