I celebrated Banned Books Week (Sept 24 – Oct 1) by reading a web comic. I read Girl Genius from the first page (Nov 4, 2002) through all the Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, to this Monday (Oct 3, 2011). Nine years. There are plenty of reasons to read this web comic, which is one of the best ever written. It’s immersive and suspenseful and funny. It’s won three hugos. I love the writing and the art. I’m a geeky girl who grew up with Dragon Magazine’s Phil & Dixie, and with the Myth Adventures graphic novel. It’s steampunk, or gaslight fantasy — a genre that I write and cosplay. The comic even has a smart likable pudgy blonde heroine with glasses! Seriously, how could I not know and love this comic?
How, you may wonder, have I not read it already?
But, as I said, I read it for Banned Books Week for a reason. This is something I was told not to read when I first found it maybe eight years ago. I was forbidden to read it. Living in America in the 21st century with internet access, there is very little written work that is forbidden to us.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to share this story, because it is bizarre and sad and personal, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are still boxes that we can put ourselves in that limit access to art. If you are in a situation like this, and you happen across this blog, let this be a wake-up call to you.
My first husband told me to not read the comic when I first found it years ago, because it upset him. He didn’t want to see the easily recognized art on my computer screen. I don’t even know if this part is true, but the reason he told me that he objected to the comic is because he said he once dated the author before she was famous and it upset him to think that he let someone so talented “get away.” Yes, we were already married when he said this. Later, as things inevitably got rougher between us, he told me once that he was hesitant to leave me on the off-chance that someone ever bought something that I wrote. That would sting to happen twice, right? This did my budding writer self (and confidence in general) absolutely no good at all. I sent nothing to publishers for years. Because I couldn’t imagine having to wonder if that was why he stayed.
So, long story short, I eventually wised up and left. I’m now living a sweet beautiful life with a wonderful man who is much kinder to me, and has never forbidden me to watch or read anything. And, now, I write. And I do send works out to publishers. And they do sometimes buy them. And the wonderful man that I’m married to is proud of me. But it’s not why he stays with me.
Reading that comic from start to current — watching nine years pass in story — reminds me how much my own life has changed, even as Agatha has experienced her share of crazy romantic ups and downs. But throughout it all, she remains gloriously confident and in charge of her own fate.
I wish I’d had another ten years of her adventures to read this weekend.