Popnog 10: Alice In Tumblr-Land Author, Tim Manley, On Internet Vices and Queer Fairy Tales
[Images courtesy of Penguin Books/Tim Manley]
It seems like every day another Tumblr account is being turned into a book, TV, or movie treatment. It's no surprise the same lucky thing happened to Tim Manley, the man behind Fairy Tales For Twenty-Somethings. Started in August of 2012, the site quickly went viral, landing Manley an agent and, by Febuary, Penguin commissioned the book, Alice In Tumblr-land: And Fairy Tales for a New Generation. The Queens-based author answers the Popnog 10, revealing his take on social media, his personal Internet vices, and his take on queer fairy tale characters.
1. These are fairy tales for the Internet age. Did you set out to make a comment on our culture's obsession with online media?
Tim Manley: I consider the book a loving satire. It pokes fun at people's relationship with online media, but it also says, "I know, that video of a cat in a shark costume chasing a duck while riding a Roomba. I know."
2. This book got its start on Tumblr. How much of a part does social media play in your life?
Social media is a large part of my creative life. I like to put work on the Internet because that is where people are. Distinctions between high and low art are not important to me. I'm as delighted by a good novel as I am by @TweenHobo.
It does not play a large part in my personal life. I am a big fan of the real world.
3. Tons of people join Tumblr with the hopes of becoming "Internet famous." Did you ever hope your Tumblr would become as popular as it did or even lead to a book deal?
It seems naive, but I didn't realize that anything on the Internet could lead to a book deal. I just wanted to write the stories in a place where people might find and read them. I've also always worked on the Internet: In 1998, I had a pretty impressive Star Wars fanpage.
I did think from the start that the fairy tales would work as a book. I just figured it would be a book I'd photocopy, staple, and give to friends. This is much more exciting.
4. What was the most daunting thing about turning your Tumblr into a book?
The illustrations. I wanted the book to be something special, and not just a print-out of the tumblr. But I wasn't actually good enough at drawing to make it look the way it did in my head. I'd been teaching high school English for a few years, and I hadn't taken many art classes in college. So, for a few months, I'd wake up every day and draw for 16 hours straight.
5. You mentioned that Cinderella is your favorite fairy tale character. What is it about her that you identify with?
I don't know if I identify with her, but I admire her. She is hopeful despite many reasons not to be.
6. Arthur's unrequited feelings for Lancelot is something we've all experienced. Did the story come from a personal place?
It did, but everything worked out in the end. Sometimes you care about someone and they care about you, but they don't want you to touch their junk. And that's OK.
7. There's a lack of queer fairy tale characters in pop culture. Was that something you thought about when writing the book?
The characters' queerness came naturally. Mulan's transition to male is only logical. My version of Rapunzel cuts her hair short, and it felt true that she'd then be hit on by a girl. And that she'd say, "Why not?" Because, hey, why not? Arthur has a legendary love triangle with Lancelot and Guinevere. It's not so strange to me to imagine that he'd fall for Lancelot instead.
It's inevitable that a certain number of my characters would be queer, because that's what I see as true in life.
8. Little Chick is obsessed with googling her problems, Peter Pan has a Twitter addiction, Cinderella is desperate for her photo blog to go viral. Do you have an Internet vice?
My Internet vice is pretty traditional: Baby animal pictures. My mom still sends me chain emails of baby animal photos, and I will look at every one of those guys and then forward that thing on.
9. In the book, Little Red Riding Hood joins OkCupid. Have you ever tried OkCupid or another dating platform?
I have been on OkCupid. My "You should message me if" was: "You think it's cute when someone has to make a joke as they lean in for a first kiss." I could have written it more accurately as: "You think it's cute when someone has to stutter that they would like to give you a kiss, and then, after you respond yes, they have to take a few seconds to get up the courage to actually do it."
10. Are you finding people are recognizing you on it (or other dating platforms) because of the book?
Nobody, online or in the real world, has recognized my face from the book. Unless they are all creepily watching me on the subway without saying anything.
Alice In Tumblr-land: And Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation (Penguin, $20) is out now.