​How To Get A Job As a Professional Nerd

Illustration for article titled ​How To Get A Job As a Professional Nerd

Greetings, my stalwart stamp-lickers! Get ready for the dream-crushingest installment of "Postal Apocalypse" ever! It's actually a miracle that this installment got finished, as basically I've been staring at Pretty Guardians Golden Girls for the last two hours.

Top image: Shutterstock/Ollyy. No, that's not me. I don't know how to tie a bowtie.

On the Job

Tim B.:

I've now had three of my questions printed in Postal Apocalypse, which my somewhat egotistical mind interprets as at least a small acknowledgement of my ability to articulate a viewpoint. I have no illusions that you choosing my questions to print makes us buddies or anything of the kind, but I yet hope that you might take the time to answer a question of a more personally significant nature, even though it's not at all the type of question that I expect you'd ever answer in your column.

The question basically is, how can I get to be where you are? I understand that nerd-blogging really isn't the most idyllic profession, and I'm guessing it probably doesn't pay all that well, but I place a much higher value on job satisfaction than money, and I believe that getting paid to share my opinions about geeky stuff would be a satisfying profession for me. Of course, it would be for a lot of other people too, so that makes for a dauntingly competitive market.

Is there any advice you can give on distinguishing one's self above the masses? I feel like I have pretty unique viewpoints on some pretty big nerd-issues, and also that I can rationally explain why I have them, but none of that matters if nobody reads the unique viewpoints I have. I've written a couple reviews and stuff on my personal Kinja page, but without being able to publish them to O-Deck (do you know anything about how to do that?), I'm pretty sure nobody ever saw them. I guess the traditional method is to just start writing and hope that somebody eventually notices it, but I have a deep distaste for doing things that are meaningless or purely academic. If you're writing an essay for the purpose of sharing an opinion and nobody ever reads it, then the opinion isn't really being shared, so it is then rendered pointless to have written. Knowing in advance that there's very little chance people will read something, therefore, makes me not want to bother writing it.

I wouldn't presume you've even bothered to read this far, so if you have, I thank you. Basically, it comes down to this; are there any tips at all you can give for how to slowly level up in the blogging game, without feeling like I'm just writing things that no one will ever read, or is that just the way it is?


The way I started my professional writing career was by basically finding someone who needed content and offering to do it for free. It was my hometown's local alt-weekly newspaper, and luckily they didn't have much money and were happy not to pay people, and I did a decent enough job of that they gave me an actual position when one opened up, which I was able to convey into a position at ToyFare magazine, and so on and so forth. So you can do that.

However, I should probably mention that it would also be helpful to get over your distaste for writing things that are "meaningless or purely academic." When I went freelance and started ToplessRobot.com, I had a little bit of cred from my magazine days, but zero online presence. I started a blog and wrote 5-0 posts every day. And no one fucking read them… until somebody did. And that somebody sent somebody else a link, and so did that person, and over the years I managed to get myself an audience. But it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't kept writing, regularly and often, so that I kept creating content that people would potentially want to read.

I'm no fan of writing things I don't get paid for, but you have to start somewhere, and the truth is no one is going to pay you to write until you have an audience, and you'll never get an audience until you start writing. So it's not meaningless, even if no one reads it, even if it takes months or years. Think of it like sending an SOS signal. Sure, no one seems to be listening — but you have to keep sending the signal in case somebody does.

As for Observation Deck, everything you need to know about potentially joining the Watchers of the io9 universe you can find out here, and I'm sure someone will be happy to answer your questions. However, I should point out two things: 1) O-deck is an independent galactic republic, so it's not like I can decree they have to let you join (although I imagine they would find it deeply funny if I tried). 2) I feel safe in saying that if you have your Kinja blog full of posts — posts that indicate the subjects you want to write about and your style — they would be more helpful than having written nothing. Make sense?


Illustration for article titled ​How To Get A Job As a Professional Nerd

Fight the Future

Holly B.:

This Future's End crap is driving me crazy. All I want to do is read Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman and then all of a sudden come these special issues that take place five years in the future that have nothing to do with the story. I don't care about Future's End and I'm pissed my comics keep getting interrupted for this crap.

I know I'm not the only one who feels like this. Do these comic events really work?


Well, in terms of generating quality content, it can go either way. While you can argue whether DC's actual Future's End event comic is a good read or not, forcing a tie-in into every single other monthly comic DC publishes means some of them will be interesting, some will be crap, and either way if you have no interest in Future's End it's just going to be aggravating to basically have to wait an extra month for your next issue of your favorite comics.

Sometimes writers can make the events work organically with their own comics – I'm thinking of how Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente turned Secret Invasion into the weird but fun Sacred Invasion for The Incredible Hercules, in which Herc and other divinities battled the Skrull gods. But then I think of Marvel's Civil War, which seemed to derail the perfectly awesome Captain America story Ed Brubaker was telling in the CA comics, and felt shoehorned in there. It would be nice if Marvel and DC would just do their event comics and leave their other comics out of it, but they don't and they won't.


That's because they work. Comic fans complain about how both the big two companies do event comics all the time, but that's because they always sell. Always. In fact, Future's End was so popular (admittedly, the special 3D covers some of them had likely helped too) that DC took the lead in U.S. comic sales for the first time since last September, and most of that was through the various one-shots.

So yeah, they're not going anywhere.

Turning Japanese

Duncan S.:

I've had a love and respect for anime and manga for most of my life and have wanted to work in that industry (specifically as a writer) for a good chunk of that. I'm currently in my final year of my University course of Film and TV (I haven't decided on whether to do the post-grad) and have been spending most of my free-time researching the art-forms as well as Shinto & Buddhism, Japanese folklore, the industries influences and inspiration (such as early Disney cartoon and comics) and many mythologies such as Chinese, Slavic etc to get a wide range of understanding. I've been learning to speak Japanese, I watch NHK to keep up on Japanese news and politics, I've been saving my money and discussed it with other fans and people in the industry. I even talked to Shingo Natsume, a successful anime director about working in the industry at the Glasgow comic con.

So as you can see I've really committed to this.

However about four months ago, a Japanese acquaintance of mine said I was cultural appropriating and they didn't need some dumb white boy going to Japan. Though at the time, I argued I wasn't trying to be trendy, I don't wear racist or insensitive clothing and I honestly cared about the art-form, It shocked me and I was scared that I had unwittingly been a dick. I asked people online about it (including Jezebel, io9 and kotaku commenters), the people and in the industry that I know and Natsume about it and they assured me I wasn't. However that incident and a more recent one that's happened to me has made me unsure of myself and I hate the feeling of being unknowingly racist about an art-form and culture I care about.


I can assure you you're not being racist. Unless your love of anime stems from the belief that the Japanese are the superior race to which all other should bow down while wearing Naruto headbands, you're just a fan who wants to work in the industry he/she loves. You're not the first person to do this and you're not the last, either. And unless you're running around in a kimono in non-kimono appropriate places, you're not really appropriating Japanese culture — you're just a fan. Sometimes it can be a fine line between fandom and basically trying to pretend you're Japanese, but it sounds like you're on the non-obnoxious side. So rest assured on that.

But that doesn't mean some people won't accuse you of being a delirious otaku. There are two ways to combat this: The first is to try to identify your professional interest more than your personal interest; or, to put it another way, try to not be an otaku. The more you wear anime shirts or have wall scrolls covering your walls or otherwise publicly exhibit your fandom, the more people will think your interest in anime is personal instead of professional.


Which leads me to my second point: The more you understand about the reality of your venture, the better off you are. People who somehow think their fandom will earn them an awesome job at Studio Gainax are being dicks, and ignorant ones. If you understand how difficult this task is going to be for you, and yet have the perseverance to try anyways, then people should see your desire instead of just some foolish otaku.

The truth of the matter is the anime industry does not need a dumb white boy going to Japan. It also doesn't particularly need a smart white boy going to Japan, either. There are plenty of Japanese people with writing skills — and native speakers as well — who will be applying for these jobs you want. So you need to think about why a Japanese company would want to hire you for a position that they could hire a Japanese person for and have less trouble — especially with a writing position. This isn't impossible, but it's going to be really, really hard. Not only are you going to need to be able to speak conversational Japanese as fluently and easily as any native speaker, you're going to have to have more qualities — more skills, more experience, more works — in order for these Japanese companies to take a chance on you over what seems to be a less risky native hire.


That means trying to get work as a script writer here in America, preferably for an animated TV series, or working in Japan in some kind of writing capacity and trying to work your way towards entertainment writing there. But it's going to be slow, and it's going to be hard. Build your resume slowly but surely, try to make connections in the industry, get your Japanese perfect, and be willing to spend 5-10 years of acquiring the skills and experience you'll need to be the best candidate you can be — maybe longer.

On the plus side, it's not impossible — the Tekkonkinkreet anime was written by a guy named Anthony Weintraub. (He managed to get his connection by working in Hollywood as a story consultant on The Animatrix, because he was working as a script doctor for various Hollywood people and companies.) But don't have any illusions about how difficult it's going to be, okay?



Jason W.:

Hello Postmaster or guy who killed the original Postmaster and stole his clothes,

I have a simple superhero question that only you can answer. If Scott Summers, aka Cyclops of the X-Men, had a lazy eye, would his optic blast be split in two, and veer off into different directions?

I will await your reply with baited breath (that's right, I bait my breath so I can catch the ever elusive bassfly!)


Here's what happens when Cyclops isn't wearing his visor:

Illustration for article titled ​How To Get A Job As a Professional Nerd

You note that the beam just kind of goes everywhere. Unless his eye was pointing somewhere really far out there — so much that the two individual cones wouldn't intersect at all — it would just make a larger, weirder-shaped blast.

But really, any eye blast from Cyclops without his visor is going to be trouble, not least because he can't turn it off. Only the ruby quartz of the visor prevents his eyebeams from shooting out 24/7.


Illustration for article titled ​How To Get A Job As a Professional Nerd

A Perfect Cersei

Ryan S.:

The big Game of Thrones news is about Cersei's "walk of shame" that just filmed and her being naked and how much money it cost etc. It got me thinking what would happen if say Jamie — or even Tyrion!!!! — were in the scene instead of Cersei. What would HBO differently? Would they even have the men characters be naked or would they think of something else? Actually, would the Thrones books even have the scene if it wasn't starred naked Cersei or some other hot chick?


The FCC rule is that you can show male nudity as long as the penis is not erect — an erect penis is evil and destroys good people's minds, while flaccid penises are okay. I'd like to think that if somehow the trial of Tyrion took a turn where Tyrion was paraded through Kings Landing nude the show would also try to portray this moment accurately, presuming Peter Dinklage was cool with a bit of on-screen nudity. After all, this scene is not about sexy times at all — it's about seeing society strip a character literally and figuratively bare for the world to see, and works the same for more or less any character.

Note the more or less. As for your question as to whether the book would have used this scene for another character, a male character, I don't think it would. It seems particularly suited to women, in terms of the social order of Westeros. Cersei is accused of trying to frame Margaery, she's put on trial by the High Septon, and punished by being forced to walk naked through the city. There's a lot of specifics here in that Cersei tried to confess to a crime that wouldn't get her executed, and of course Cersei has spent most of the last few years burning every political bridge and alienating every ally so that most of the Westerosi political system wants her punished more than they want justice.


But I don't think this is a punishment that would be given to a man. It's an exercise in futility to consider, since it's the mootest of moot points, but a guy would more likely be put in jail or executed or there'd be a duel or something. Maybe he'd refuse to accept this punishment, or he'd choose death, or his political allies would rally to his cause. But I don't get the sense that this would be considered an acceptable sentence for a man, while virtually everyone finds it delightful to see Cersei brought so low in this manner. (Obviously, the books are not supporting this gender discrimination as much as they are calling it out for examination.)

Cersei's trial and punishment is about destroying the one thing she has left — her station. No matter what happened to her — no matter whether her children died, she always had the comfort and power of her station as queen and daughter of Tywin Lannister. Forcing her to walk naked in front of the peasants is pretty much the cruelest punishment the High Septon could give her and as a woman, even as the queen, she has no power to circumvent the patriarchy of the church, either. Even if she had preferred to die, I get the sense that the High Septon would have laughed at her, stripped her and then sent her down the road anyways.


It's worth noting that while Cersei is a horrible person, she is so clearly the product of her Lannister upbringing and horrible life with Robert that her horribleness is heartbreakingly understandable. Also, by the time this rolls around, she's genuinely suffering from mental illness, having watched her son and father die, both (she thinks) by her brother's hand. She's not well before this, and even less so after. If you don't think of Cersei as a tragic figure by about A Dance with Dragons, you should possibly give the books a reread.

Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!


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The truth of the matter is the anime industry does not need a dumb white boy going to Japan. It also doesn't particularly need a smart white boy going to Japan, either.


There are plenty of animated series being produced (or at least written) here in the US or in Canada. Why not bring your unique talent and vision to one of those shows?

For example, Teen Titans was a very Anime-esque show, although it was produced entirely here in the US. Although we don't get a lot of epic Anime here, and we really don't see animated series targeting adults (which is a shame), perhaps you can help change that by coming up with ideas for series that Western Otaku would like to watch.