Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Daniel F!

I've known today's subject since 6th grade.  We had a parting of ways that lasted for... 20 years?  But then Daniel and I started working at the same company in April of 2007 and were reunited.

Daniel was a classmate of mine in middle school, and we ran in the same circles, waited for the doors to open in the same pack and ate lunch together and whatnot.  So, lots of the sort of chatting one does at that age.  But, we lost track of each other for a long time.  But, now we know where each other are!
When he's not doing his day job, he takes pictures and creates art in a wide array of forms.  He's a fellow Austin resident, and a bit of a traveler.  Get to know Daniel better!

He's responded to my request for folks to participate in interview fashion, so... here goes!

Your name: Daniel Fu
Your current occupation: User Experience Strategist/Visual Designer
Your current place of residence: Austin, Texas
Your current personal family status: Single

he's on to you

What was ground zero for you getting into comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy? About what year was that? Do you remember what was going on in your life? 

My head's been in the clouds for as long as I remember. Seeing Star Wars for the first time definitely sparked my early interest. I became a voracious reader, but mostly focused on genre books... Sci fi, fantasy, mystery. I started drawing in high school, based on my interest in comics and cinema, investigating how the two related and how they translated story and images into 2 dimensions. Only recently have I started to break this down, a bit. Turns out, I'm drawn to stories with a bit of a mythological bent to them, some aspect that's larger than life. Comics, sci fi, and fantasy tend to fall into this pretty easily. But I also very much enjoy movies like Amelie, Sliding Doors, Blue Ruin, and No Country for Old Men that don't fall into those genres, but have that mythological quality to them. As far as timeline... I think G-Force (Battle of the Planets), Knight Rider, Star Wars, Transformers, and GI-Joe really got me started. So early 80s to mid-80's were formative. Our family had moved around every couple of years at this point, so I wouldn't say I was able to make lasting friendships.

Why did comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy have such an impact on you?

I think maybe it had something to do with the unfettered creativity unlocked by the best of the genre. It was a lens through which society, science, and human nature could be explored, at times to its most extreme, which could reveal some of the underlying architecture of the world without the clutter of reality. I've discovered recently that the kind of stories I've always liked have a mythological aspect to them, and these genres lend themselves naturally to this.

What was it like trying to find the sorts of things you wanted to get your hands on back then? Were comics available? 

 Did your library carry science fiction and fantasy? Not too bad. There was a local comic book store in Westlake that stoked my collection through my high school years. That expanded with a store in Dobie Mall at UT during my college years. The latter had a lot more indie books and definitely gave me more exposure to books outside the mainstream. The Austin Public Library definitely had plenty of science fiction, which I read pretty voraciously.

What was your parents’ or guardians’ opinion of your interest? 

My family, despite being Asian, were actually relatively okay with it as long as it didn't affect my studies. Though I'd be lying if it didn't cause some tensions. At the least, they didn't immediately dismiss it as a waste of time or "evil." My mother was supportive of my reading, no matter what material it was. Spending money on comics, since it was an art and literary form (kind of) was better tolerated then spending on games or toys.

Did you have friends who shared your interest, or was it something you did on your own? 

I didn't have a lot of friends that shared the interest at my level... But there were a couple, and that was enough at the time.

The image of the protagonist in a great deal of comics, science-fiction and fantasy centered on characters that were straight, white and male. You may not fit all or any of these categories. How did you relate to these characters and stories? 

Being Asian, it didn't match me or my size, but then, I never really saw the characters as role models or anything to aspire to, in particular, because I knew they were fictitious. It was more the stories and storytelling techniques that interested me.

To greatly generalize, the media and society at large considered genre media to be the domain of fringe personalities, developmentally stunted people, etc… What did you think of this portrayal then and now? How did you mediate that in your own life? Did it create any issues for you either with authority figures or peers? 

Well, to an extent, they weren't wrong. I'm not sure if being socially awkward was a symptom or result of being interested in the genre, but most people, at least as a youth, that had these interests were definitely socially awkward. However, usually, they had above average intelligence, on some level. So on some level, I agree with the "developmentally stunted" assessment, but it's a narrow use of the word since other parts of the persona typically grew stronger, such as enhanced creative thinking and problem solving, greater visualization abilities, etc. I don't know that I've necessarily mediated it, but I've certainly adjusted my world-view in terms of self-acceptance and acceptance of others. I'll admit to still being timid about it, but this comes more from not wanting to bore those that aren't interested in the subject. That's gotten a lot easier, though, since the genre has become much more widely accepted, especially within the creative field I work in, now. My issues with authority is probably atypical. Being from an Asian background, respect for authority and elders is actually more ingrained. I used to think that doing the right thing meant obeying my parents and authority figures pretty rigorously. This has relaxed tremendously over time, not because of my interest in the genre, though... more from experiencing and understanding that the world's much more gray than those 80's comics and cartoons tended to display!

What impact did comics/ science-fiction and/ or fantasy have on your budding romantic life? Did you share your interests with significant others? Then or now? 

Hm. Never really had much of one. So I'm not sure if it had something to do with it or not? With my one relationship, yes? I actually got her pretty into Firefly, to the point that she ended up using it in teaching her classes on Non-Profit Financing. Don't ask me how that worked.

What is the oddest thing about how comics, superheroes, science-fiction and fantasy have changed in their original form since you got into all this? On the larger cultural stage? What do you think when you hear words like “geek” and “nerd” today? 

Well, comics have certainly gotten a lot bigger than I ever expected it to, thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm also very happy about the shift toward some really good science fiction films in the past decade, several of which actually are incorporating more hard science. As far as cultural impact, hopefully it's leading to a greater interest in science, as a byproduct. With science comes education and hopefully a better empathy for people and planet. Let's say that despite the rise of Trump, I'm trying to remain optimistic. As for the words "Geek" and "Nerd," I definitely think they no longer have the original negative connotations. Happy about that.

What is your greatest joy when it comes to your memories of getting into comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy? 

Hmm.... Creating my own comics, I think. And getting recruited by a dude making his own animated movie. Which was a lot of fun to work on, at the time.

What is your greatest disappointment? 

Not finishing that movie. I can't animate 100 minutes of footage by myself! What were we thinking. The story was pretty awesome, though.

If you could visit yourself as a youth and give yourself some advice - what would you tell yourself back then? 

Eh. I'm not sure I would've listened to myself, anyway. Maybe "Remember that girl that liked you, that you didn't pursue because you liked someone else? Maybe go for it."

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