It’s my third post in the Women in Geek series. If you’ve missed my first two posts with Sarah Rodriguez and Lindsay Cummings, go here to check out their Women in Geek posts! Today I’m talking with the amazing Christina Janke; you might know her from places like Agents of Geek and Intro to Geek.
What do you do in geek culture?
Currently I act as Editor in Chief and writer at Agents of Geek, an entertainment website (we branched out from Screen Invasion almost one year ago now) that highlights pretty much anything under the geek umbrella such as movies, tv shows, video games, books, cosplay, etc.
However, I first started creating my “geeky” presence 4 years ago as a regular member of a podcast my friends and I started called Shauncastic. It’s pretty much a bunch of friends getting together and talking about the things we love. A lot of the time it’s a love fest, but other times it a brutal barrage of disagreements…in a friendly way, of course. LOL.
From there, the founder of Shauncastic, Shaun Rosado, gave me my own segment titled Intro to Geek. Being the youngest and resident “new geek” in the cast, I was tasked with reviewing essential media in geek culture. This can be anywhere from movies like The Last Starfighter to 80’s arcade games like Tron. The goal of Intro to Geek is to “get myself learned” as well as convey to other new geeks whether or not it’s worth their time. Yes, there are stinkers that were once considered totally awesome and rad, but do not hold up at all.
Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?
I would totally love it if being a geek on the internet gave me some money to make a living! But for now, I work as an office manager at residential care facility for the mentally ill. My family owns it… Actually, they are the only people who would hire me after quitting the local movie theater. The job market isn’t fun, kiddies.
How did you get started in this?
I was always a little connected to the geek world growing up. I watched Star Trek: TNG every week with my dad, played video games whenever my head wasn’t stuck in a Harry Potter book or obsessing over Sailor Moon and Fushigi Yuugi, I read comic books off and on in college…but all of that was more or less a passing fancy. Excluding Sailor Moon, I never went any deeper than what I watched on TV or read in a book. My real plunge into “geekdom” didn’t start until 2010 while I was interning at a local newspaper.
I caught wind of a small comic book expo in my town. The paper wasn’t too interested in covering it, but I was curious enough to check it out anyway. There, I met people who would later become some of my closest friends — one of them being Shaun Rosado and his wife.
After that, I started hanging out at the local comic book shop on a weekly basis, and Shaun introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, a level of nerdy I had once made fun of while I was in high school upon discovering that a friend of mine at the time played it. You can say Shaun was a gateway drug for pretty much everything I’m involved with now. I just love the community, freckles and all, that geekdom creates. Sure, we have our fair share of the occasional troll and butt-hurt fanatic, but that comes with any territory.
In college I studied English as a major with some emphasis in business writing and a bit of journalism. The two programs merged together after losing a couple key teachers and not enough interest from students, so I had to make due with what I had. I knew I love writing; I had a strong appreciation for the written word and the level of understanding one has to put herself through just to be able to convey a thought or emotion. However, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a writer even when I was already an English major, and an editor in school publications. It took a series of unfortunate events to make me realize that I, indeed, want to write for a living — I was homeless during my last semester in college, I could not find a job for a whole year after graduating, and one of my biggest mentors growing up, who supported my wanting to become a writer, died.
In 2012, Shaun had this bright idea to do a high quality calendar featuring geek women in cosplay. That whole story escalated pretty quickly as you’ll see in this documentary:
Soon I found myself hanging out with the likes of Satine Phoenix, Misti Dawn, Brooke “Dodger” Leigh, Jenna Busch, Sandy Bergeron, and Chloe Dykstra. Jenna in particular was/is a bit of an inspiration to me. She’s the kind of geek entertainment writer I aspire to be. She gets to interview celebrities face to face. Hell, she co-starred with Stan Lee on a YouTube channel at some point!
My getting started with Agents of Geek just sort of happened. My Intro to Geek blog caught the Jim Napier’s attention — he’s the founder and managing editor of AoG — and he offered me a writing position on Screen Invasion where AoG was housed at the time. I became Geek Editor the following month. After Jim and I broke off from Screen Invasion to start our own website, I took on the role as Editor in Chief. It all fell into my lap, in a way.
Do you have a goal you would like to achieve with Agents of Geek?
AoG kinda feels its like my baby now even though Jim is the one who started it all, who continues to handle the business side of things. Of course I want it to do well. We’ll never be on the same level as Polygon or IGN or The Mary Sue, because we’re barely a year old and we’re an independent company. My goal (right now) is to just have fun content people will want to read or watch, and to be one of those sites that people go to after they search through those other big sites. I’m working with some fantastic people, and I want as many people as we can get to notice the great work they do.
Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?
I already talked about Jenna Busch, she’s so fun and enthusiastic about what she does. She genuinely loves her job and it shows. I also like to think I channel Tina Fey as another great female writer who has made it in an industry of dominated by men. Most of the time, though, I think I’m emulating Liz Lemon more than anything else.
Do you encounter any negativity based on your gender or your appearance, or find that your readers are more critical of your opinions because you’re a woman? How do you handle, if you’ve encountered it at all, the negativity against women in geek?
So far I consider myself lucky that I don’t get as much vitriol as my other friends and peers. I attribute that mostly to the fact that I’m just not as known yet. That said, I’m not entirely without “criticism” from faceless trolls. A favorite story I like to tell people is when I played on the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer.
I don’t normally interact with other players in multiplayer; I already know what might be in store for me if the guys with microphones knew I was woman. One such gamer, however, found out I wasn’t born with a penis because he correctly translated my quirky yet feminine GamerTag. “Congrats, bro, you know a little German.” After that, he as his buddies ganged up against me, calling me names and making me feel like the most worthless female gamer ever. Never mind the fact I was sniping head shots left and right, making sure they didn’t get fragged. This went on non-stop for three waves. After that I had enough. I managed to attract a small horde of enemies over to where the douche bags holed themselves up. I stepped back and watched the carnage for a few seconds and then logged off. That how I handle things, LOL!
Another time, I had just got done talking about giving my five and six year old nieces their first comic books. Some troll on Twitter made it his mission to send death and rape threats directed at my nieces. That was probably the only time I lost it my mind on a troll. If words could be manifested into fists and then transported through the internet, I’d imagine that guy beaten to an unrecognizable pile of mush.
When I do see my friends come under fire for no particular reason other than the fact that she’s a woman with an opinion, I do get upset. Sometimes I take to Twitter and air out my frustrations, other times I get invited to join a podcast to talk about it.
What is the best thing about your line of geeky work?
My absolute favorite part is when I get to interview actors. I don’t get to do it often because a lot of the opportunities AoG gets are scheduled for the afternoon and I work during the day. But the ones I do get interview are so much fun. The highest profile celeb I interviewed is probably Jessica Chobot. Without meaning to, we talked for an hour. She’s so chatty, it was wonderful. My second favorite interview is with Steve Lund. He plays Nick Sorrentino on SyFy’s Bitten. We bonded over our love for Indiana Jones.
What would you say to someone who would look down on being a geek blogger/podcaster/vlogger? What do you find that is meaningful, special, and/or valuable about what you do?
This is where I become a hopeless romantic. Being a geek blogger/podcaster/vlogger is something I love doing. The community is so huge now, and a huge part of that is thanks to everyone’s willingness to share their passions with other people. Being a blogger, or whatever, gives us the opportunity to share our love of certain things with a lot of people all at once while trying to be as informative as we can. If I can make what I’m doing now into a paying career one day, then it’s definitely something worth fighting for. We geeks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, writing, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them?
I’ll tell you what Jessica Chobot told me. It’s already so incredibly hard to get into any of these industries. You have to keep working, working, and working, improving yourself on where you think you’re lacking. Also network. you’ll have less of a chance making it anywhere if you don’t make yourself known to peers or higher. Putting yourself out there is a vulnerable feeling, but it’s necessary to get yourself out there and talk to people. Plus it doesn’t hurt to expand your horizons with other people in the same boat as you, trade little tips and the like.
There will be people trying to bring you down. You’ll just have to get thick skin and remember you’re doing what you love. And what do you do with things you love? Let it grow and expand.
What inspired you to start with Agents of Geek, and what is the coolest thing that you’ve experienced since you’ve started it?
AoG kind of fell on my lap thanks to Jim Napier noticing my enthusiasm online. It’s become a home to be myself and share all the cool things with the people I like and then some.
We’re only a year old now, so I think the coolest things are yet to come. So far, it’s getting to meet other bloggers and getting the confidence to converse with other writers and artists in the gaming and comic book industries.
Have you always felt at home being a part of and creating in the “geek culture” or “nerd culture”, or was it something you grew into?
I think because of Intro to Geek, I was kind of thrown into a part of nerd culture I never experienced before. I seemed to have taken a shine to it, obviously, and I suddenly find myself being invited to different podcasts, panels at conventions, etc. I don’t know when people started considering me a video game expert, but I like the sound of it. I’m going to hold on to that title for as long as I can. LOL.
What do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?
I face these types of questions all the time with just my uncle. He knows absolutely nothing about geek culture, science fiction, or fandoms in general. Come to think of it, my mom constantly wonders what I do even when she sees me doing it. I try to attribute my work as something they watch everyday. I’m equal parts the news, The Talk, Entertainment Tonight, and the E! Channel, but without all that boring celebrity gossip. I think they get it… LOL!
As for serious business types, well, I’m still learning. I’ve applied to a lot of firms, advertisers, papers, and publishers where I live. I even tried out for police academy at some point. They start turning up their noses once they find out I write about “kiddy stuff.” No joke, that’s a response I got from someone who rejected my application. It’s like no one in the “professional” world likes fun. Or imagination. I wouldn’t be surprised if all they read were inflated memoirs of a CEO or a former president.
Never mind that as JUST an editor and writer I organize and plan assignments and interviews, edit other people’s writing, make sure the website’s layout looks good and is in working order, cover major events, review movies/tv shows/books, network with people online, over the phone, face to face, learn some coding, consult, and work with advertisers. I know there’s more, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head at the moment. The subject matter just happens to be something we’re passionate about, just like other writers and magazines like cooking, politics, and pretentious foreign art films.
Be sure to check out Agents of Geek and Intro to Geek if you haven’t done that yet. Stay tuned here for more amazing women in geek, and click on the pictures below to check out my interview with Sarah Rodriguez and Lindsay Cummings.