Pink Raygun is featured as site of the week on Sci Fi Scanner at amctv.com. Carolyn Koo did a very nice write up about the site, but we touched on some things during our Q&A that didn’t make it into the piece for space considerations. So, here is our full Q&A for your enjoyment and/ or snarky comments!
Sci Fi Scanner: When did Pink Raygun hit the web?
February 1st, 2007
SFS: Where are you based, if you don’t mind saying? I see from the FAQ that Juliana is based in L.A.
John and I are in Tucson, AZ at the moment, but are relocating to Philadelphia in about six weeks.
SFS: How many visitors do you get a day or month — or whatever metric you use?
Since January 2008 we’re averaging just under 50,000 visitors per month, viewing @120,000 pages per month. These numbers are from our own internal webserver metrics (and no, we’re not confusing page hits for actual visits, nor are we counting robots).
SFS: Is this your main job, or do you do this in addition to another job?
I’m a high school English and Special Education teacher. Juliana writes for a living. John is an illustrator.
SFS: How many writers does Pink Raygun use?
Including myself and Juliana, there are 15 writers who contribute at varying levels.
SFS: I understand from the FAQ that your interest in science fiction stems from the Battlestar Galactica TV series. What were some of your other early sci-fi influences?
Mostly Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Later I got into Trek and Babylon 5. Sounds weird, but if it hadn’t been for Astronaut Barbie and the movie Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer in 1985, I may well have lost interest in the whole sci-fi thing in the years between Star Wars and Star Trek: TNG. Rainbow Brite was a spunky girl in a super cute costume (I still want to be Rainbow Brite one Halloween) and she had a space adventure – that was awesome to me because I was at that age (9) where it was becoming socially unacceptable for me to be a smart girl with glasses who knew what an FTL drive was. And, of course, Astronaut Barbie wore a shiny pink space suit.
SFS: What prompted you (and Juliana) to launch the site?
Toward the end of 2006, I got extremely frustrated while trying to promote Intergalactic Law to a female audience. I was finding a lot of sites about the hot women of sci-fi and sites about feminist issues in sci-fi, but no place where women seemed to be having fun with it and just enjoying the sheer geekery of it. That’s what John and I set out to build. We met Juliana through the site last summer and she came on board as editor and West Coast rep about six months ago. This year we partnered with Heidi Martinuzzi and Pretty-Scary.net to form a network of girl-oriented genre entertainment sites. We’re hoping to expand that network into other genres in the future.
SFS: Why do you think science fiction has historically been the provenance of men? (Or is that just a stereotype?)
PRG writer and Lost Correspondent Teresa Jusino says it’s due to societal issues having nothing to do with sci-fi, like inequality and imposed gender roles. There have always been women who are interested in science fiction. But a woman who’s interested in things like science, space travel, etc has always been seen as an aberration. Science fiction is then marketed to men, and little boys are introduced to and encouraged in their interest while little girls have to find it for themselves. So, of course a disparity exists. PRG Contributor (Supernatural) Sylvia Bond says, “Women know that sci-fi (and its close companion fantasy) is about the coolest thing there is, and if men are threatened by that, then too bad for them. Get a backbone, guys, and move over. We’re here. Besides, I think it will be more fun if we all play together.”
SFS: Can you talk about about how women have typically been portrayed in sci-fi films?
There are differing thoughts on this around PRG. I thought women had come a long way in their portrayal until recently when the women of Battlestar seemed to simultaneously catch a bad case of the crazies for no good reason. The Torchwood women, however, are inspiring. Sylvia Bond believes that, “with the exception of Ripley and Sarah Connor, women have typically been portrayed as a pair of boobs with legs that needs rescuing. It’s not just sci-fi, it’s all movies. If a woman character doesn’t need rescuing, then she’s a spunky go-getter who secretly longs for hearth and home, and Sylvia’s not sure why this is. If we say it’s because men, who see the world through a male filter, are the ones making movies, is that a stereotype as well? Maybe the stereotypes perpetuate the stereotypes and we should stop examining the issue this way. Teresa loves how women are portrayed in sci-fi. “They’re brilliant, and also hot. Sci-fi is the one place where women are allowed to use every weapon in their arsenals – they don’t have to choose between their intellect or their looks. They can use both, to staggering effect.” She believes it’s sad then that women are allowed to be the fullest version of themselves in science fiction. That really shouldn’t be the fiction part.
SFS: Do you have a sense of how much of your audience is male (vs. female)?
We’re probably pulling 3 women for every 4 men who visit the site. But the women are the ones who tend to be more active and engage with the site.
SFS: How about your writers — what percentage of them are men?
We have one writer who bears a Y chromosome: Brian Thompson, the Amateur Scientist who will astound you with his wit and shrewd analysis of such phenomenon as UFO sightings, the Gas Station Ghost, and Ultrasound Jesus.
SFS: What sets your site apart from other sci-fi fan sites?
Most of the PRG writers were PRG readers first. Teresa thinks that what sets us apart is that it’s not just a news and gossip site. It’s really a place where fangirls can express themselves, covering what they want to cover, writing about what they want to write about, and it serves the entire geeky spectrum. It’s not just about telling readers what they want to hear, it’s about them telling us what they’re into. Rhea Dee thinks many of the articles provide a well rounded view of a geeky TV show/comic book/movie. For example, millions of websites cover the latest episodes of Lost. But only at Pink Raygun can you find a deep analysis of Jack’s chest hair (and how it disappeared). For the record, we miss Jack’s chest hair.
SFS: What is the site’s biggest goal?
Our biggest goal is the advancement of women in genre entertainment, both those who are fans and those who work in the industry. Last year I asked to interview a woman who worked in the art department on a popular sci-fi TV show. She actually said, “Why would you want to interview me? I’m just a set decorator.” I explained that PRG was interested in women behind the camera for two reasons: they contribute to a show that’s loved and reading their stories could inspire young women to pursue something they didn’t even know was out there. The woman declined the interview, replying, “I don’t think I have anything interesting to say.” That saddened me because I think readers were genuinely interested in her job, how she got there, and how others could get there, and for whatever reason, she didn’t see that what she was doing was worthwhile.
SFS: What would you say is the most popular feature of the site? Do you plan on adding any new features?
Based on sheer numbers, the most popular features have been the opinion pieces, such as “8 Simple Rules for Surviving Sci-Fi”, “The Sci Fi Channel Needs Women!” and “You’re Not A Wonder, Wonder Woman”, in which we broke the story on Playboy’s body-painted Wonder Woman cover. Also up there in the “I can’t believe so many people are downloading these” category is and our geeky Halloween pumpkin carving templates. Based on reader interaction, the most popular have been Sylvia Bond’s Supernatural coverage and Wolfen Moondaughter’s Stargate:Atlantis coverage. “Help Me, Obi-Mom!” is a new geek parenting feature we launched this week, but it looks like it’s going to be big. We’re always brainstorming new features – we don’t want to become stagnant.
SFS: Can you explain the Intergalactic Law feature to me? How did it originate?
We got the idea while watching Captain Kirk and Odo on Boston Legal one night. Boston Legal in space was too much fun to ignore. John and I had originally planned Intergalactic Law as a traditional comic book in 2006, then reformatted it as a webcomic to submit to the Warren Ellis Rocket Pirate site (which never got off the ground). As we were getting ready to submit IGL, we learned that Rocket Pirate submissions had been closed early, so we decided to launch it ourselves. We ran 70 episodes in 2006, then went on hiatus while we got Pink Raygun up and running in 2007. IGL relaunched in January 2008.
SFS: Why is it important to be snarky?
Rhea Dee says it’s always important to be funny, and snark is funny. It’s also important because other parade around their brand of “brilliant wit” which in truth, is really just sexism. Yeah, we get tongue in cheek and we know when to take things lightly. But when they rely on that “witty sexism” as their niche, then they earn a gigantic douche sticker. Teresa says snark keeps people on their toes. If you know that your film/TV show/book/whatever is going to get the snarky treatment by fans and reviewers, you’d better make sure you put your best stuff out there! Snark forces people to go big, or go home. According to Sylvia, snark is a proven defense against early heart attacks. If you take things too seriously you’ll die of a heart attack before you reach 30.
SFS: What’s the origin of Pink Raygun as the name of your site?
“Pink Raygun” sounded sassy and kitschy and it’s clear that it’s a girls’ sci-fi site. “Pink Raygun” can also have dirty connotations. We tried to get “Pink Raygun” translated into kanji for a t-shirt idea and wound up embarrassing the hell out of the old Japanese woman who runs the sushi place around the corner. She said it couldn’t be translated without making it sexual. Plus, if I really were an intergalactic space cowgirl, I would totally have a pink raygun in my glitter holster. And rocket spurs (which indicates that I’ve thought about the space cowgirl thing too much).
SFS: Where do you stand on the Capts. Kirk vs. Picard debate?
Lisa: I want to rub soothing balms into Captain Picard’s bald head.
Rhea Dee: I would be clever and say Janeway, but that would be predictable. I’d say Captain Kirk, mostly because he laid the framework for the quintessential homoerotic friendship. Plus, their clothes were so kitsch, I love it.
Teresa: Picard all the way! Don’t get me wrong – Kirk is amazing. He’s a lover AND a fighter, and I like that. But there’s something amazingly cool about a captain who can escape all sorts of danger with the sheer power of his mind and innate badassery. I have one word for you: Locutus. That’s right. Picard escaped the Borg – the BORG! You know, the aliens who could give two craps whether you live or die because they want to assimilate you?! Yeah, THOSE Borg – by the sheer power of thought. I’m sorry, that’s WAY cooler than Kirk punching a styrofoam alien in the face. And to top it off, Picard has class. And is really sexy for a man who’s old enough to be my grandpa.
Sylvia: Capt. Kirk wins hands down forever and for always. Picard just sits in that chair on the command deck adjusting his tunic, wishing he wasn’t going bald. I get the feeling that he thinks if he sits real still like he does, then the hair loss would stop. Kirk now, he’s forever jumping out of that chair, pushing his forelock out of his beautiful hazel eyes, and taking his tunic off. I like it like that. Plus, Kirk is a man of action. He kicks butt and takes down names. And in times like these, we need someone who can protect us against alien invaders.