This time, however, I was asked to come explain manga and graphic novels to a group of library science graduate students, aka future librarians.
It's not like I have zero experience passing myself off as qualified to talk about any number of fannish things. I do it all the time at science fiction conventions, right? But, there's something about this particular subject that oft goes awry (or 'gang aft agley,' as Robert Burns himself would say, incomprehensibly.) I don't know if the Goddess is trying to tell me that it's foolish for me to set myself up as an expert in something that is so decidedly _not_ my culture, or what?
To be fair, I was very, very, VERY clear to these students that I am a consumer of this particular media, NOT an expert. I said that at the start and I reiterated it several times.
I can't say it was an unmitigated disaster, not like that yaoi/yuri panel at WorldCon where I looked out into the audience and realized there were ACTUAL native Japanese EXPERTS in the audience and our panel was a bunch of blathering white chicks. In comparison to that, this was absolutely fine. The talk went... okay. I mean, the instructor promised me that this was a lively group and that I wasn't going to have to stand in front of them and lecture for an hour. And... I didn't? There were several glazed over eyes, but I did field a number of questions. The worst part is that there were slides. And I read them to the class. Which... yeah. I mean, to be fair, it was kind of my own fault. I sent a list of definitions to the instructor and she quite helpfully made me a powerpoint presentation, because manga does have a lot of specialized terminology.
But, I SUCK at powerpoint presentations. I am 150% better at leading discussions--class discussions or panel discussions. Lecturing, particularly on a subject like this, where I don't have all of the information at my fingertips? NOPE.
I wouldn't call it a fail, but it was not one of my better guest spots.
I started the session off asking how many of these future children's/teen librarians (some of whom were already working in middle and high school libraries) read any graphic media: comic books, manga, graphic novels. There was a noticeable lack of hands that went up. I tried casting a wider net, as it were, and asked how many folks had SEEN a Marvel superhero movie... I... I'm not sure I've ever been in a room with so many people who have apparently NEVER seen a Marvel movie. Talk about a bubble that I usually live in. I had no idea there were even a dozen people on the planet who hadn't seen Avengers, much less all of them in the same place.
That might have thrown me a bit. I was at least hoping to connect to this room of 15 graduate students over a shared appreciation of Chris Evans or Tom Hiddleston. It was very weird to me to not be able to look at this room of women and go, "Loki, am I right?"
IT WOULD HAVE FALLEN ON DEAF EARS.
What even! How does?
At that point, I had no choice to start off with, "Okay, so... manga is...." and start reading off the slides. I mean, I think, ultimately, things were learned. We did have an interesting discussion about how difficult it is to judge where certain manga should be shelved. I spent a lot of time explaining the publishing categories, like shounen, seinen, josei, shoujo--but, I realized that none of that was terribly helpful, since a manga like Chi's Sweet Home (literally the most inoffensive, sweet, simple thing--as story about a cat doing cat things, which Americans normally shelve in the juvenile section) is technically marketed in Japan as seinen, which is aimed at the ADULT (over 18) MALE audience. I tried to explain that, really, a lot of this has to do with how much kanji is understood by the audience and sometimes, simple, sweet stories are popular among adult men....which says maybe more about how rigid the West is in its marketing strategy? But, so, as a librarian, knowing that something was originally marketed to adults in Japan isn't often much of a clue as to whether or not it's "kid-friendly" in Western terms, especially since certain expressions sexuality are not nearly as taboo as they are here. (Good example being the masterbation scene in Bleach that was scrubbed for the English-Language release. Newsflash: teenagers masterbate. Americans, however, are too Puritanical to have that KNOWN, I guess. The funny part is that the scene wasn't the least bit explicit, is was much more IMPLICIT, but it was there, and, apparently, that was too much.)
But, anyway, I got an "honorarium" of a twenty-five dollar gift card to my favorite coffeeshop.
I feel like I probably gave them $25 worth of information, so that's probably fair. It's just ironic that at a con, which I do an entire weekend's worth of programming basically for free (minus the price of admission), I would probably have given hundreds of dollars worth of information. On the other hand, most of my audience at con would know what a manga _is_, so we'd already be out of Manga 101 territory.
So, that was my night.
Otherwise, I've been recovering from an extremely wonderful Thanksgiving spent with good friends. Oh, and I had a birthday in there, too. I'm 51 now, everyone! Whoo!