Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ginger Mayerson: New Edge to Women’s Fiction

by Lyn Jensen
 
In the very creative mind of Los Angeles author Ginger Mayerson, Dick Cheney and Condi Rice are collateral damage in a counter-terrorism plot. In another of her feminist novels, a Los Angeles jazz singer named Mabel “Dr.” Hackenbush solves mysteries between gigs. In a third book, a male-male Japanese couple seek romance in the Tokyo fashion and media industries. 

When looking for unique experiences in contemporary women’s fiction, take a trip through the words of Mayerson, who’s creating a new definition of women’s literature. In her Electricland, she twists sideways the formula for macho hairy testosterone-fueled action-packed graphic novels into a sort of prose comic book. Here she tells of female state-sponsored terrorists who commit nightmarish mayhem because they’re obeying orders or disobeying orders or—it’s deliberately vague.

As for the neutralization of Rice and Cheney, it’s in Darkness at Sunset and Vine, a novel-length trilogy of stories that together burlesque the classic anti-Communist novel Darkness at Noon. Mayerson wrote it as a cartoonish sci-fi satire of Bush II’s USA—projected forward to 2016 Los Angeles. At one point a female agent’s boss complains, “You took out Cheney, Rice, and the entire Strag Plans office including the building. It was tough to convince State you made a simple mistake.”

Mayerson now publishes through her own dot.com venture, Wapshott Press, specializing primarily in feminist and LGBT literature. (The name Wapshott has no special significance.) “The big publishing houses are focused on blockbusters and so many little magazines that used to publish fiction have gone out of business,” she observes.

Wapshott Press uses a print-on-demand business model, which Mayerson sees as a way to keep literary and alternative press competitive with major corporations. She says of the current corporate-dominated publishing world, “I don’t think print is dead.  I believe the current publishing model is unsustainable.  Print on demand is the way of the future.  I can’t afford to warehouse 10,000 books but I can do this print-on-demand thing.” She further explains, “When you go online and order this book, a machine prints it out and mails it to you.”  She uses such sites as lulu.com for her print needs. 

 “I got into publishing on a good deed,” she recalls. “We don’t publish things because they’re going to sell, we publish things because they should be published.”   

The good deed:  Mayerson’s Internet friend, Anastasia Whitchhazel, was going through a rough time with her health and finances, and a publisher rejected her short story, “Chase,” after first accepting it. “I couldn't do anything about her life, but I could certainly publish her story.” Mayerson remembers.

So in 2007 she started Wapshott Press. She published Whitchhazel’s story in an anthology called Chase and Other Stories. She themed the collection around male homoerotica written by women. As Tally Keller writes in the Chase introduction, “This erotica playfully thumbs its nose at conventional morality, tastefulness, and all other things proper young ladies are supposed to happily accept.” Mayerson likes to compare the collected stories to Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain.”

What began as a way to publish a single story collection quickly turned into more. After Chase came a follow-up collection, The Tagger and Other Stories. Since then Mayerson’s divided short story collections between two ongoing journals, Storylandia and Erotique. Mayerson says she wanted to make a distinction between works with very explicit adult content and the ones that contain little or no sex. 

She’s currently changing the focus of both literary journals from collections of different authors to collections or novellas by a single author. She published in 2014 the fifth volume of Erotique, which showcases erotic adult literature, and a sixth volume is in preparation. 

The stories in Storylandia are often in a more romantic vein. The first seven issues were published between 2009 and 2012, and included much adult fantasy and sci-fi.  In contrast Storylandia 8, 9, 10 and 11 each feature one novella.

The eighth and eleventh issues offer the third and fourth installments of Mayerson’s own Hackenbush series, in which Reagan-era jazz musician Mabel “Dr.” Hackenbush plays Los Angeles cocktail lounges while managing day jobs, mysteries, and failed romance. 

Dr. Hackenbush Gets a Job, Mayerson’s first novel, was about coping with horrible bosses. In the nineties no publisher would touch it, so in 2010 Mayerson self-published it with Wapshott Press. Next came a sequel, Dr. Hackenbush Gains Perspective, in which the musician provides a last wish for an AIDS patient. 

Between 2008 and 2009 Wapshott published a non-fiction literary journal, Bloglandia, publishing selected blogs from the Internet because, as Mayerson promoted it, “some ideas are too cool to stay in cyberspace.”  Bloglandia Vol. 2, Issue 1, for example, led with a lengthy postmortem by veteran activist Bruce Hahne on what opponents of California’s anti-marriage Proposition 8 did wrong (essentially everything).  Other topics have included sexual harassment in the Department of Defense, and the medical mystery of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (both by this author).

Wapshott Press is now offering Mayerson’s homoerotic novella The Pajama Boy, which may be her best work.  Here she creates an environment where her prose shows superb texture and depth.  She compares it to, “Looking into a lacquered box.  It’s like you’re looking into something.”

Set in contemporary Japan, Pajama Boy is about a romantic relationship between a young newspaper man and an even younger man who’s so good-looking he semi-accidentally becomes Tokyo’s top pajama model.  Old flames, jealous rivals, and a hypocritical family threaten to
break the couple up.  The result’s part Japanese-style pop culture and part American-style pulp romance.

    Mayerson often attends comic conventions, and that sub-culture constantly inspires her prose.  Pajama Boy is one obvious example of comics influencing Mayerson, because it borrows from the Japanese yaoi genre.  Mayerson is a leading example of an American author who’s inspired by comics created by and for Japanese women.

“For those who wandered in from reality, yaoi manga is gay porn comics created by women,” she offers. The genre was invented by Japanese female graphic artists, but it’s since gone international.

She says she got started with poetry and short stories, “but as a teenager I got too swanky for that and switched to music, which I wrote and performed diligently until about 2000 when I finally ran out of things to say with music.”

Writing by Mayerson and other Wapshott Press authors can be found many places online.  See www.wapshottpress.com or search Amazon, Twitter or Facebook.