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I have nothing against the photographs. The photos themselves could be enjoyed by anyone (for example, the "Tromette" section is a nice set of convention photos.), but Marsdust.com seems to be aiming the promotion at men, and that's annoying. I'd have NO problems at all if Marsdust.com also included photos of men.

The e-zine's general audience is broader than just "het" men, so maybe they just need a nudge to feature some sexy co-ed pictures.

(Their banner advertiser, Glamourcon, however, is a disgusting example of objectification. There's probably an equivalent event for women somewhere in the world, but it is true that there is far more of this kind of thing available for men.)


I agree with Lisa.


I think those pictures are a bad marketing decision because they don't represent the zine's content very well. If I clicked on that site cold, I would click away pretty quickly, having dismissed the whole thing as trashy and stupid.

I also agree with Lisa about the photos and apparent target audience.

Jason Ahlquist

Hi, I'm the boss at MarsDust. I wrote my 2 cents on this, but it does not fit in the max characters of this box. So I just posted a special link to the site for ya:
Responses encouraged.


Hi Jason et al!

Response didn't fit here either, so that's up at http://www.sff.net/people/jchines/Current.htm

Jason Ahlquist

this is fun! And it's actually very informative. It's the first echo we've gotten back from dropping the proverbial rock down the dark hole on this subject.


Wow! Thanks for posting your thoughts to our blog, Jason and Jim.

I'll keep it brief so that I fits within the space allowed here. I think Jim has some very good points. I also take issue that Xania represents the will of fandom. Whose will? As Jason said about fandom, "every study seems to paint a different picture", so how can one person define the will of fandom?

Sexuality in fandom is *FAR MORE INTERESTING* that pictures of attractive women. There is polyamatory, bdsm, couple-swapping, and of course, the homosexuality and transexuality. One of the wonderful things about fandom is that so many people feel comfortable expressing their sexuality. It isn't that sexual prejudice and harrassment don't exist in fandom, but rather that so much open tolerance and support for alternative lifestyles do exist.

A recent cover of the KoTD comic did a great job of showing typical gaming community reaction to attractive women. The cover was a parody of GenCon, showing various gaming/fandom people cruising the dealers' room. One of the mini-scenes was a woman in chainmail striding through the hall with a gaggle of guys following her. In a sense, the website is doing exactly that thing -- it's a bunch of pictures of attractive women that mostly guys are going to enjoy. It's not even satire.

I'm not saying you shouldn't show this aspect of fandom -- it is, after all, a very prominent aspect at conventions. But if you want to show the full spectrum of sexuality in fandom, you need to branch out from more than just pictures of women. Until you do that, you are showing only one thin slice of sexuality in fandom, and the most common and stereotypical one at that.

(By the way, I do find the glamourcon banner add to be a real turn-off. If it weren't for Catherine's post, I would have cruised on by without looking back because both the banner and the cover model art give the impression that the website content is tailored to appeal to immature men and teenagers, and not fandom as a whole. You can offer up as many reasons for your decisions as you like, but the truth is you will lose women readers based on your current presentation. Maybe you're happy with your current audience profile, but if not, you might want to rethink your e-zine's image.

Catherine Shaffer

I'm really pleased that Jason Ahlquist has taken the time to answer some of our questions about this. Obviously, the people who have commented here and at Jim's blog all have their own opinions. For myself, I think that simply putting the photos in context as images of fandom does a lot to mitigate the objectification issue for me, personally. I would have liked to know that Xania was posing in a costume she designed for herself. That's cool! It's a beautiful costume and she looks beautiful in it! I also like some of the interesting face shots in the Incognito section, but again, I long for context. Why are the women "Incognito?" I didn't like the Trommettes, but Lisa singled that set out as cute and harmless, so obviously it's a matter of opinion. Were these taken at a convention? If so, which one? What does "Troma" mean? I think if there were a blurb some place that the viewer could click on that would put each set of photos in perspective, it would really enhance the site.

I think Marsdust is a different and really neat kind of web zine. All of the web zines I've seen so far are self-consciously literary. They are designed by writers, for writers, often simply as another market for their friends. I laud the presentation of a webzine for, by, and about fans, and I hope you find some young men willing objectify himself a little in the interests of sexual equality.


Well, I went. I saw. The word tawdry immediately leapt to mind, and the Glamorcon banner made me go "Oh, please." I would not submit an article to this site, and would not go back again. I've certainly seen worse, and some of it on the walls at con art shows, but there's nothing in those photos to make me personally feel comfortable, accepted, amused or intrigued, as a fan or a woman.

That said, presenting a "fandom lifestyle" site is a very interesting idea, and yes, sexuality is a large part of human life, and fan life. However, as has been said, so far, there is only a narrow cross-section of sexuality explored here, and it is one aspect of young, male-oriented heterosexuality. In short, the standard, commercial social default. Without any alternate views presented, how am I as a casual reader to know this is an exploration of sexuality in fandom or otherwise? On the face of it, it looks like just one more peep-site.

Interestingly enough, my entry into this discussion comes one day after I was in a conversation with a bookstore owner about why more women don't read SF. Her immedaiate response was the one I keep hearing, "women, on the whole, see SF as written for men and boys." These photos, without any accompanying alternate material does nothing but reinforce that view.


When I first visited the site, I saw the Glamourcon ad and the drawing of the woman and the photo of the running blond woman and the ad with Eliza Dushku, I didn’t even know it was a fan site. I thought it was a bimbo-esque media site with soft porn overtones and wouldn’t have read any further. Whether or not it was the site’s intention didn’t matter--I wouldn’t have surfed any further to find out! The site’s current appeal seems to be solely for young, hetero males.


"Whether or not it was the site’s intention didn’t matter"

Ah...having a grad school flashback now. Authorial intent is irrelevant - what matters is the actual text.

Very cool to see all of the discussion this has spawned. I'm reading through everyone's thoughts, and I suspect I'll be shooting my mouth off some more very soon :-)


"Authorial intent is irrelevent."

Authorial intent is not irrelevent, what it is in most cases is inaccessible, even on the web. All you've got is what you see in front of you and all you have to put it into context is the context you've brought with you to the site, or the book, or what have you. There was no clarifying context for the cover model photos.

Jason Ahlquist

Hey again.
For some of these posts, I would implore you guys to actually read my comments on the link in the previous post and remember them when you comment. MarsDust is trying to cover fandom life - not exclusevly fandom sexuality. We are also only five episodes old. Some of you have picked apart my argument by saying that we should cover all aspects of fandom sexuality at once. I'm sure many of you do your own websites and know that a site like MarsDust with a small, but serious editorial staff can only do so much at once. By branding MarsDust as oppressive to a whole gender when we've only just begun to explore this subject (and learn about it ourselves) is like calling a painting crappy when it is only in the sketch phase.For us to *decide* the shape of fandom sexuality and immediately start portraying it as that whould be -to paraphrase cable news - "faith based journalism". We have started with cover models because we have seen a *lot* of them in the congregations of fandom and assume that where there is smoke there is fire. Some of you have stated that you don't like the model scene, but it is big and it is an influence on fandom. Xaina represents that segment yes. But she is not the only thing MarsDust covers - just the thing you guys don't like. But we *are* digging deeper - yes into the polyamory aspects, the BDSM crowds, Stormtooper fetishes, etc. All of these things are part of it, but you have to give us time - because there is a whole lot to cover and these scenes are not exactly open invitations subjects. We have only so much space, staff and hours in the day to find these people, get them to trust us with their private lives and learn enough to cover them thoughtfully and not with the cliches of the afore mentioned "faith based journalism." All MarsDust writers - with the exception of the pro-rate fiction writers - are %100 volunteer - so that makes it even more difficult to burn these big, detailed and important stories out overnight. If any of you deem it important enough to do investigative pieces on this, please, please contact me. We could really use your ability and enthusiasm.
As for running copy with the shoots - yes, that needs to be done. We started out doing that, but it simply got dropped for various lame reasons. If anything comes of this that will be taken up again.

Jason Ahlquist

A "Troma" refers to Troma Films - the schlocky company that produced Ed Woodesque classics such as "The Toxic Avenger." The pics were taken at DragonCon where producer LLoyd Kauffman was presiding over the DragonCon film festival.


Then you have a presentation problem. As has been said before, there is no clarifying text that shows 1) you're just getting started (where's the volume and issue data?), and 2) that your intent is to go broader. Maybe that's there, too, but I shouldn't have to hunt for it. As it currently stands, we didn't know that it's "only your fifth episode", and neither will most of the people who cruise by and then decide in five seconds or less whether your site is worth exploring.

Running a website that you have to renew on a regular basis is a big effort, and so is going through the slush pile and finding fiction worth publishing. And I commend you for that. But if your site is failing to communicate its purpose, then it's time to reassess how the information is presented.

My own take? I'd find another top-level sponsor. The current one really sets the tone for the issue far more than the cover models link on the left. Also, your other pages have a nice header graphic that does a much better job communicating what the site is about than a banner ad for someone's pin-up convention.

Next, your slogin in title bar, while catchy, just doesn't say anything useful about the site. "SF is the new rock star?" What's that mean? How is this related to fandom? "The Loudest Voice in Fandom" slogan used on the the other pages is also catchy *and* far more descriptive of the site. Maybe use the rock star one for the music section.

And speaking about the music... I'm not sure about the inclusion of Rock and Hip Hop in your header graphic on a site that's about fandom. Sounds like an identity crisis to me. I mean, Rock and Hip Hop are very mainstream and not something that is automatically connect to Fandom. Now, a good number of the albums that are actually covered have some link, small or big, to science fiction, but there are a number that don't, and that may dilute your image as a webzine about fandom.

Finally, I recommend Steven Krug's webdesign book DON'T MAKE ME THINK.


Yeah. For instance, the first Long Beach Comic Con is coinmg up this next weekend. Big question mark for some, I suppose. Apparently the folks running it had been connected with Wizard, particularly in their first attempt at an LA con (which, in fact, was held at Long Beach). But what sold me even more on the possibility that this time it would be gotten right is that they were working with Ryan Liebowitz of Golden Apple in planning. Ryan has maintained a lot of his father's contacts, plus built his own. AND, at the last two Wizard LA cons, GA's booth programming was almost better than the con's!Still rough when a business gets so entangled that it ruins them.

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