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Erica Writes Falling Out of Love with Supheroes. Image is Erica as She-Hulk in 80s cosplay
Me as 80s lawyer and superhero She-Hulk

Falling Out of Love with Superheroes

It’s me, not you?

The Thanksgiving before Captain Marvel (2019), my friends and dinner guests all turned to me and asked, “Who the heck is Captain Marvel?” I spent the next 30 minutes regaling them with the history of Carol Danvers — her high-points and low-points — and answering their many related questions, especially on my movie-focus speculation and which other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) characters might show up.

No pre-game Wikipedia is necessary when you have me for a friend.

My relationship with superhero comic books was intense. From 2007 to 2020, I wrote comic book reviews. I founded GeekGirlCon, a nonprofit that throws an annual convention celebrating women geeks, including those who love comic books. I’ve spent thousands on comic books, movie tickets, DVDs, action figures, artwork, clothing, coasters, blankets, and bottle openers featuring superheroes. I’ve cosplayed as Alice (Batwoman’s sister), the Winter Soldier, Emma Frost, She-Hulk, and Wonder Woman, among others, and attended as many comic cons as I could. Summer of 2007, I was three feet away from Robert Downey Jr. — who then was just my favorite Ally McBeal boyfriend — on the SDCC show floor as security escorted him to his Marvel signing booth.

Superheros and their superpowers delight me because perhaps, like Jen Walters (She-Hulk), I’m just a tiny and non-physically powerful human who desires to become on the outside what I am on the inside. Maybe I wasn’t thinking of that in 3rd grade, as my mom made me and my brother Batgirl and Batman costumes. Yes, Batman Returns (1992), specifically Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, was my sexual awakening. (I’m sure I asked my mom for a Catwoman costume, but that would’ve been rightfully too sexy for a child.)

I sat in theaters in 2008, wondering which Iron Man comic they’d take his story from. I was skeptical that Chris Evans would make a good Captain American when cast. I inhaled the first several phases of MCU films and then the TV shows. I’ve always had a critical eye, so they were never above reproach or even me actively disliking certain ones. But, on opening weekend, I’d still be there with my popcorn bucket in hand, homemade cookies stashed in my bag, and several of my also excited friends.

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Bookworm corner 📚

Better Than People (Garnet Run #1) by Roan Parrish ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: m/m contemporary romance

Let's just say that it's like someone asked me what I wanted and then wrote this book as a sweet and sexy story for me to read. A grumpy sunshine breaks his leg and needs someone to help him with all his pets, and a handsome man with an anxiety disorder shows up at his door, and then they proceed to fall in love. An on-brand read for me.

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (Feminine Pursuits #2) by Olivia Waite ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: f/f historical romance

The slowest of burns with too much hand-wringing over lavender marriage vows. Neither of these women is dealing with queer attraction for the first time, and yet, it takes two gay men to be like...yo, ladies, you love each other.

I liked all the beekeeping and the townspeople, especially the troublemaking queers. It was refreshing to read a historical romance where no one was a titled rich person, and these ladies are middle-aged.

I'm not sure if we needed all the historical explanations around the queen and king to make the action in the last hundred pages happen.

Delilah Green Doesn't Care (Bright Falls #1) by Ashley Herring Blake ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: f/f contemporary romance

Super cute and fun. Bonus yay for a Pacific Northwest setting. Most of the story is predictably sweet, which is often soothing in a Romance, where we go to believe in people again.

The one place Blake pleasantly surprised me was in MC Claire's relationship with her ex and co-parent Josh. No dated tropey bisexual love triangles with him or biphobia from him or the other MC Delilah.

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss and E.G. Keller ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: children’s picture book

This is a very cute and sweet gay satire about former VP Mike Pence’s daughter’s pet rabbit. My partner and I listened to the audiobook version, but the illustrations are too adorable to miss.

FCBD 2020: Stepping Stones & Max & the Midknights by Lucy Knisley and Lincoln Peirce ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: middle reader kids comics

These were cute. Stepping Stones gave me some mild anxiety reminders about childhood social rejection. But neither moved me (an adult, not the audience) to read more.

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: memoir comic

This was a real mixed bag for me. I'm a non-binary person and slightly older than Maia.

I enjoyed eir's art. But the story had moments of high relatability and moments that fell flat.

For example, I loved the part about Maia shopping in the men's section for underwear and getting dinosaur underwear. I grew up with two younger brothers, and my mom always bought me pastel undies with tiny bows that I hated, and they got dinosaurs. I was an adult before I got dinosaur underwear too.

Part of that flatness was Maia's family, which is personal and I find with other millennials who have hippie parents and families. I'm glad other queer people have accepting families, but particularly with hippies, I feel more like an anthropologist instead of a reader empathizing.

The other flatness was some of the information when translating Maia's feelings about being non-binary to facts about non-binary people. Unfortunately, too much was outdated (which this was published in 2019, so it shouldn't be), some harmful (it's important to talk about sexual fantasies and body images, but also not carry forward Blanchard's transphobic bs), and a lot of "born this way" narrative (which oddly never names intersex people, but implies all trans people could be intersex, which isn't correct). I know "born this way" is comforting to some queer people, but it's primarily marketing to make cishet people be like, "well, I guess you can't be anything else, I will be okay with this because I know if you could, you would."

Obviously, there's been loud-mouth TERFs calling for banning this book. You won't be surprised that they haven't read it. The tiny bit of sex in it is between adults and often in service of Maia talking about being asexual. The book's tone is pretty YA and extremely twee in some moments. But it's marketed for high school and above and entirely appropriate for that age group.

(IDK why a TERF would read this review, but if you are, your kid has internet access and they aren't looking at a memoir to find porn, and we know you're actually terrified your kid might be trans and not live in the rigid box of your prescribed gender rules.)

(Cis woman readers, yeah, periods and pap smears do suck, but please stop invalidating Maia's experience by writing that off as the same exact experience as yours.)

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey ⭐ 1/5 stars
Genre: m/f contemporary romance

I'm begging cis authors, especially straight ones, to spend two seconds thinking about gender and gender identity.

I wanted to delete every single usage of masculine/male and feminine/female and any equivalents. In this Romance, they were all used in gross bioessentialist ways that show either how the writer thinks about gender or is generally uninspired writing. Or it could be a combination.

Especially as these cishet characters mostly think about how hot the other is, despite being told that they fall in true love in 5 weeks (when he spends half of it on a boat doing his job). Okay...

I kept checking the publication date to confirm it as 2021. Here is a sampling of some zingers/issues:

"Her super-masculine sea captain now slept under a pink comforter. His aftershave was sandwiched in between nail polish bottles and lipsticks, and he couldn't seem happier at the feminine clutter."

"And also, let's account for the fact that he's a man and there are balls and pride and testosterone in the mix. That's a deadly concoction." Testosterone isn't brain poison that turns you into a monster.

I won't type out the dick descriptions on pages 186-187, but you can make some guesses about the largess and the use of the word "male" in italics as a single-word sentence.

"Her head, her heart, her lady business. Or maybe they were, three bitches hitting the switches of her control panel."

When they only do oral and manual sex on their first sexual encounter: "Okay, they gave good sex. Or...almost sex, anyway. Better than any actual intercourse she'd ever had, though." Cishet people, PIV sex is not the real sex. It's all actual sex.

When they do have PIV sex, she suddenly has constant and consistent vaginal orgasms. Her vulva is described as her "femininity."

He says he's "not a pansy ass" because he's not afraid to face her when she's crying. A little bit of homophobia there no editor caught.

Despite being a widower, he acts like he's never met these weird, mercurial feminine creatures before and has no idea what to do with a lady (except with his tongue and giant dick, of course). He'd definitely never have a female as part of his boat crew.

Romance should definitely play with gender, but the constant overuse and reliance as a shortcut to character and relationship building is tiring and ultimately cissexist and bioessential.

The disappointing thing is how highly recommended this book came, including Tessa Bailey as an author. Her work is known for its explicit sex and characters from blue-collar and working-class backgrounds. Both are of high interest to me. (Here, both characters are rich, even if he has a very blue-collar job.) Additionally, as a lifelong Pacific Northwesterner, I love a book set here. Then I spent the entire book thinking about smashing the gender binary.

The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy #2) by S.A. Chakraborty ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: historical fantasy

I couldn't put this down. Good thing I was listening to the audiobook, and I have lots of chores.

The action and pacing are great. I like the generational critique. The world is fascinating, and the layered ways each player has their own agendas worked perfectly.

I was so worried there would be a dead gay trope.

Ali's nativity is a little too much. My partner says his growth is all in the next book, but so frustrating.

Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: contemporary f/nb romance

Why, yes, I did read a queer romcom about two characters on a reality cooking show where one character is non-binary.

2022: the year of reading books that are my brand.

Seriously cute, delightful, and sickly sweet like London's desserts.

The villain was a transphobe, and the side characters only served the main two and their plot. But otherwise very enjoyable.

Marvel’s Voices – Comunidades #1 (2021) by various creators ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: superhero comics

This was fine. This is Marvel’s focus on their Latinx heroes, and some of these characters, it was nice to see them again and a few nice to meet them. Unfortunately, these anthology-style diversity showcase books don’t leave much space for character complexity.

Moonstruck, Vol. 3: Troubled Waters by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, and Claudia Aguirre ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: fantasy comics

Unfortunately, Julie's toxic relationship seems to be dragging her down and the spirit of this book as well.

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo ⭐ 2/5 stars
Genre: fantasy horror

Bardugo almost wrote a book about class and power, and then not everything got tied together.

Had I not loved other books by her, I would've certainly put this down at the csa ghost rape scene. But also a set down because the book took 300+ pages to get interesting.

Many reviewers have been excited about how different this is from Bardugo's YA books. But Darlington is another version of Nikolai, and he, too, has become a monster.

And you know that I may still read the sequel.

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: YA sci-fi

An interesting premise that's full of adventure and danger and realistic sadness. The two main characters are both disabled, and the story plays with choice, freedom, and limitations in real and fantastical ways.

Patience & Esther: An Edwardian Romance by Sarah Winifred Searle ⭐ 5/5 stars
Genre: f/f historical romance comic

Such a sweet romance between two household staff in the Edwardian era. Searle's art is great, and I loved all the care and details she included to round out all of the characters and the world they live in.

Phoenix Song: Echo by Rebecca Roanhorse, Luca Maresca, and Kyle Charles ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: superhero comics

This series is fun if you’re already familiar with Echo, the Phoenix Force, and (maybe) Forge. Roanhorse avoids every pitfall of prose authors turned to comic book writers, which is impressive. Maresca’s and Charles’ art don’t mess as well as they should.

I hope that River continues in the Marvel comicsverse, but sadly, it’s unlikely.

Polaris Rising (Consortium Rebellion #1) by Jessie Mihalik ⭐ 4/5 stars
Genre: m/f far-future sci-fi romance

A ton of fun with some surprises along the way. If you like both sci-fi and romance genres, you'll enjoy this.

Serial Vol. 2: Cat & Mouse by Terry Moore ⭐ 2/5 stars
Genre: horror comic

Wants to be edgy but ultimately holds no message, only to be shocking. CW for serial killers, csa, and violence, if you’re interested in reading this.

Star Trek: Picard: No Man's Land: An Original Audio Drama by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson and narrated by Jeri Ryan, Michelle Hurd, Jack Cutmore-Scott, John Kassir, and Fred Tatasciore ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: sci-fi

Fun novella with cast audio, especially if you ship Raffi and Seven. 💚

A Thing Called Truth by Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli ⭐ 3/5 stars
Genre: f/f contemporary romance comic

This seems unfinished with some very large plot holes. The story was unexpected, and the romance aspect was definitely the best part. I enjoy this creative team, and I will read future or continuing books by them.

Film Podcast! 🎥

Erica & Friends Talk Stowaway (2021) image is the cast photo in their space suits
Take a rocket ship to space! 🚀 We’re talking Stowaway (2021). Directed by Joe Penna, this film-in-a-bottle is a trolley problem. When an accident means that an extra person is aboard a small ship, they’re running out of oxygen. We cover the original short story that inspired this, how to grow algae in space, and more. This episode’s movie friend is Matt Roney!
How can you listen? Via my Patreon. For $2/month, you get all 30+ previous episodes and new ones.

Things I wrote recently

Book progress:

I’ve started actively querying for The Reclamation Project with literary agents. While there are tools out there to assist in finding agents, finding agents who might take my book — based on their tastes and if they are actively taking new books — is a lot.

That doesn’t even count putting together all the materials in the manner requested by the agents identified. Attach your first 20 pages in a Word doc, copy & paste your first 3 chapters in the bottom of an email, fill out this form where you’ll need to add back in all your formatting, including paragraph spacing. That’s not even making sure you’ve written a 1-sentence pitch, figured out which books to compare yours to (talk about intimidation to compare yourself!), write the book blurb, and write a synopsis of the entire novel. Those should also be compelling and reflect your book’s writing style.

Don’t forget to check for typos.

I think I’ve finally figured out the ending for the sequel. I have some significant writing of new scenes and sharpening up other final scenes left. I need to print out some scenes from 2/3 through the book to do paper edits and read to my partner. (Yes, Jacob’s so lucky!)

Green thumb update

Pests and peduncles in the houseplants.

My Opuntia cacti (prickly pear) have an outbreak of scale. I have no idea how they got there, as the plants have been in my house since 2018, and we’ve never had this issue before. Yes, I’ve been stabbed, including on my thighs, as I sat on the floor and held the worst infected one over the compost and tossed scraped-off scale into the bin.

My Hoya bella has a peduncle! (A peduncle is a little shoot where the flowers form that’s different from a stem.) This is the first Hoya I’ve had trying to flower, and I’m so excited. It’s a cutting from my friend Sheila’s plant. She has peduncles on her Hoya obovata, which means we’re swapping photos instead of annoying our families.

Seattle is finally warming!

I should not look at my photos of previous springs in my garden because it was the coldest April in Seattle since the Ford administration. But finally, my seeds are sprouting. It was so cold, not even my snap peas — usually one of the early birds — hadn’t stuck their heads up.

Of course, I’m having slug and ant problems, including sugar ants in my bedroom. I unloaded a giant bookcase and moved it to see if they colonized it. They weren’t, and they’re probably in my attic. The slugs are nibbling on strawberry foliage and those pea shoots, among other things.

Cactus and succulent club

The Cascade Cactus and Succulent Society had its first in-person meeting since 2020, and I attended. It was at Rori Blooms, a cactus and succulent specialty shop in Seattle's Uptown neighborhood right near Seattle Center. I won a door prize plant: a Gasteria gracilis variegata.

Hoya bella and her peduncle
Side yard with bushes
Erica in their Raise Heck t-shirt and green sweatshirt and plant wall behind them plus Zeta the cat in her cat tree
Gasteria gracilis variegata - green and lemon lime succulent
Top left: The Hoya bella with her peduncle.
Top right: Cleaned up the small side yard: removed and rehomed to Julie some grass bushes, trimmed the lavender, planted marigolds, and mulched.
Bottom left: Me in my rad Raise Heck t-shirt with the plant wall and Zeta the cat in the background.
Bottom right: The newest plant friend Gasteria gracilis variegata.

Other things

[CITIES] Sorry I'm Late, Walking Was a Nightmare by Alex Pareene — People are happier when they can walk, but the entirety of American infrastructure prioritizes cars. The leading cause of child death is cars. It’s entirely backward that we keep making more places for cars. As a non-driver and plant person, this is near and dear to my heart. (When I got those plants from Sheila, it was a 20-minute drive to her house, but an hour and 10 minutes on several buses!)

[GENDER] The Ladies Room by Nancy Powaga — Maybe we should just have non-gendered restrooms?

[FILM] John Waters Is Ready to Defend the Worst People in the World by David Marchese — “I have a thing about who I would cancel: J.K. Rowling. Give her some Preparation H for that transphobia. What’s the matter with her?” Waters remains a king.

[POLITICS] Citations Needed: Episode 157: How the "Culture War" Label Is Used to Trivialize Life-and-Death Economic Issues — One of my “must-listen” podcasts that focuses on critiquing the media, and this issue looks at how by not taking on “Culture War” issues, the Dems are causing actual harm.

[WORK] The many shapes of religious privilege in the workplace by Hannan Bader — Religious privilege is shaped by the general culture and the faith (or lack) of the company leadership and the worker majorities.

[WORK] Missed Fucking Opportunities by Amber Naslund — As someone who fell off the work ambition train around my marketing and community career, this is highly relatable.

[WRITING] This Is Why We Don't Talk About Her Anymore by Ijeoma Oluo — Occasionally, writing can change the world. Oluo did this with her interview with Rachel Dolezal, which she was worried would only give the woman more fame. It’s both a story of what Oluo did differently (compared to those NYT articles doing sexy photos of white supremacists) and the support she had around it (from the incredible Charles Mudede).

[WRITING] What's Up With Daddies? by John Paul Brammer — “I’m also unsure how, as someone who is reading erotic stories in their spare time, ‘daddies’ is the subject that compelled you to write a letter to your local advice columnist. I have read things in the realm of smut that would make the common ‘daddy fetish’ story look like Goodnight Moon. Come back to me when you reach the cold, hard bottom of the slash fic iceberg.” Brammer is a gift.

Drink some water, give yourself a pat on the back, and sing your favorite song,


Erica McGillivray

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