I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite Coming Together stories, which was in Beth Wylde’s Coming Together: For Equality, a book that benefits Planting Peace Equality House.
My story was called “Risk Rider and Dare Take the Con,” and it’s about cosplay at a geek convention. For those who don’t know, cosplay is the name for dressing up in (often astonishingly detailed) costume in honor of favorite characters from books, movies, comics, and video games.
A couple of years ago (and definitely around the time I wrote this story), there was a lot of vocal controversy around cosplayers. The people who cosplay (often women) began speaking publicly about the harassment they experience at conventions and the ways they are treated as sex objects by attendees. Other people claimed that cosplayers are “fake geek girls” (whatever that means) who are attending these conventions to somehow trick or manipulate “real geeks” (whatever that means).
Some good came out of this flurry of blogs, social media posts, and articles. Many conventions improved their policies around harassment and worked to make cosplayers safer. More people recognized the work and devotion that goes into creating these incredible costumes.
I don’t think it’s all solved, though. Despite much tooting of the horn about the accepting nature of geek culture, my experience as a lifelong geek is that it’s accepting in certain ways but quite intolerant in others. For people on the receiving end of sexual harassment, I think geek culture can be particularly dangerous and difficult. Geek culture is typically very accepting of people with poor social skills, a lack of ability to read social cues, and confusion around boundaries. I’m really happy for people with those traits who feel they are able to make friends in geeky places. However, having this set of traits be commonplace can put people in a bind when receiving sexual interest. Behavior that feels creepy can be excused as “person X is just not good at social cues.” Concerns about such behavior can be dismissed as intolerant. Many people fail to see how this shifts the burden onto certain subsets of the community and creates an unwelcoming and intolerant environment for certain people. I think geek culture needs to work out better ways to be accepting of people outside of the social skill mainstream while also being careful of the safety of all members of the community. People are working on this, but there’s still progress to be made.
I’d also point to things like the recent controversy over the movie Ghostbusters, in which a relentless negative campaign against the movie drove one of its stars away from interacting with the public for a while and has likely ensured there will be no sequel. Some people think they own geek culture, and they fail to recognize that lots of people are geeks, too, and have been all along. (I’m glossing over lots of details in this short description. If you’re interested in knowing more, ask me in the comments, or do a few Google searches. Be ready for hours of reading.)
Anyway, when I wrote “Risk Rider and Dare Take the Con,” I was really excited about that story. It’s fun and genuinely sexy, in my humble opinion, but the story also let me express my pent-up anger around the harassing experiences I’ve had at geeky events over the course of my life. As is often the case when I work on charity anthologies, I was the first beneficiary. It was great to get the chance to let out feelings I’d always struggled to express.
I don’t usually do snippets here, but I feel weird talking so much about the story and not giving you a hint of it. It’s one of my favorites ever, so it would be awesome if this inspired a couple more people to pick up For Equality:
They wound up pressed together in a crowded elevator, the smell of leather combined with Dare's clean, hot skin overwhelming any other person's scent. "Dare and Risk Rider, huh?" The guy next to them wore an assessing expression. "You guys realize you got it wrong, right? Dare is the girl." He spoke as if correcting a kindergartener.
"I prefer dressing as Risk Rider," Jamie-Lyn said. She wouldn't normally have engaged, but Dare's body had emboldened her.
Her interlocutor, however, shook his head dismissively. "That's backwards. It's unrealistic to see a girl as Risk Rider. He's got all the martial arts skills, and he's the one who fights people off while Dare works on hacking stuff. Since women's bodies aren't as strong, it just doesn't make sense for the woman to be the physical defender. Sorry." He turned his back.
"She's bigger than me," Dare pointed out, but the guy didn't respond. Jamie-Lyn wasn't sure if she felt irritated or relieved that he'd decided the conversation was over.
The elevator dinged at Jamie-Lyn's floor, and she tugged Dare behind her, doing her best to ignore the sly hands that brushed against the outsides of her breasts or the curves of her ass. She'd dealt with so much at the con already that people trying to cop a feel just felt unfortunately normal. She and Dare stayed silent until Jamie-Lyn let them into her room.
Dare stopped the door before it closed. "Would you feel more comfortable if we propped it open? I know we just met. You don't even know my real name."
Her cheeks heated. Lust and Risk Rider's reflected boldness had led her to take some uncharacteristically reckless actions. She didn't want to stop, though. Gently, she pulled Dare's hand away from the door, allowing it to close. "What's your real name?"
Jamie-Lyn introduced herself, then cut to the chase. "Why did you ask to come to my room?"
"You know why. We both felt it."
"We did," she agreed. Gazing for a moment into his quick, mischievous eyes, Jamie-Lyn decided to take the plunge all the way. Today, with him, she didn't want to pretend to be anything she wasn't. Some of her friends back home might have thought it was ironic for her to feel this way while dressed as a comic book character, but the point had always been that when she dressed as Risk Rider, Jamie-Lyn was expressing her best and truest self. Her bravest self.
She took Dare's hand—Louis's hand—and guided it to her crotch, wrapping it around her soft pack. "I'm not exactly traditional," Jamie-Lyn said. "Do you mind?"
"I like it."
The smile that spread over her face made Jamie-Lyn feel fierce, victorious, and hungry for more. She wrapped an arm around Louis in a grip meant to claim him and kissed him just the same way. She kissed him as a man would kiss, guiding the pace, teasing his mouth open with her tongue, her lips outside his lips, her jaw pressing his open wider, her hands making him submit to her.
And if you’re interested in writing for charity, too, I’m currently taking submissions for my first editing project for Coming Together, Positively Sexy (deadline extended to October 1st). Full details are here. (And I need to work on propagating the deadline extension…)