Saturday, October 31, 2015
Oh wow. Finally. Wow. What a book.
I started reading Yu+Me Dream when I was 18. It was originally published as a webcomic with somewhat erratic updates and at some point (actually pretty close to the end of the story) I stopped reading it. I just got caught up in other things and kind of never came back.
Years later I found Megan Rose Gedris's work elsewhere online and eventually started following her on tumblr. Not too long ago she started putting chapters of Yu+Me up on one of her secondary accounts and I started reading it again from the beginning. But then Gedris had an odd sort of month, decided to sell the backlog of books she had in her basement, and offered the Yu+Me omnibus edition for an incredibly great price and I just bought the whole thing.
Then sat down and raced through the whole story in about six hours as soon as the books were delivered.
It's. Well. It's just great. The art, the story, the characters, the journey. I love it. Gedris describes it as a surreal lesbian romance adventure comic but that doesn't get deep enough into what it is. It's Alice in Wonderland exploded. It's lucid dreaming you can hold in your hands. It's unbelievably beautiful and wonderfully complicated, and I am all about it. There are dozens of threads that intertwine throughout the story, each gently and inexorably tugging you along to the conclusion, calling to you and asking you to go just a little further down this bright, beautiful rabbit-hole to find out what happens.
If that sounds appealing to you you can read the whole comic on Gedris's website. I recommend you do that because holy shit is it amazing. If that doesn't sound appealing to you I don't know what to say to you - this is a great comic that everyone in the world can read for free. But what you should really do is read it then pay for it or buy something from the author's store because Megan Rose Gedris is too good for this world and generates so much wonderful content that she offers up to the world for free that we should do all we can to shower her in money.
Gedris, Megan Rose. Yu+Me Dream. Rosalarian. Grand Rapids: Michigan. 2014.
Everyone knows that SciFi and Fantasy stories are allegorical. And usually they're pretty fucking political too, just in case you wanted to get yanked off about the Hugos. The Beyond Anthology basically says "fuck allegory, we're going to tell our fucking stories."
There have been LGBT characters in SciFi and Fantasy as long as those genres have existed. Look at Frankenstein, for fuck's sake. The relationship between Victor and his creation is way more important than any other relationship in the story, it was written by someone who spent a lot of time hanging out with Byron, and it's about forbidden explorations of humanity. It's clearly a queer novel. But for some reason stodgy folks in classrooms like to sidestep that and talk about god instead. So Beyond is a relief. There's no question here that the characters we're being shown fall under the queer umbrella. There's no room to claim that a character's transness isn't canon because transness is made explicit. So sexuality and gender identity in these stories aren't hidden under layers of outdated pear-clutching, which opens up some fascinating fictional possibilities.
It's also remarkable how little difference something so impactful makes to the stories. These are all great SciFi and Fantasy stories that ALSO allow LGBT readers to see themselves represented. The plot isn't sidelined by the backgrounds of the characters, the characters simply are who they are and the stories are amazing. It isn't labored, it doesn't ring false, it isn't a big deal - it's just great stories that happen to include LGBT characters, which is kind of a big deal.
I'm not making much sense, I know. I'm kind of too excited to make much sense. Beyond is fantastic. It's a joy to read. At least 5 of the stories were so touching they made me weep as I turned the pages. The art alternates between gorgeously realistic and unexpectedly cute from page to page, and it all works. This is a great collection, I love it, and I've gotta go find myself a copy because I borrowed this one from a friend.
So fuck allegory, at least some of the time. We shouldn't have to have straight/cis/white/male as the default in our SF&F anymore, we know those aren't the people reading the stories, writing the stories, or filling up the world. It's time to let everyone shine.
Monster, Sfe R. Ed. Various Authors. Beyond. 2015.
I was lucky enough to be able to contribute directly to the Kickstarter campaign for Smut Peddler 2012 but I just didn't have the cash for the 2014 edition. In spite of that I was able to get my hands on a physical copy by buying directly from Megan Rose Gedris, one of the artists included in Smut Peddler 2014.
Last time I reviewed a Smut Peddler I went through and talked about each story briefly. I'm not going to do that this time because, holy shit, there is a lot of excellent porn in this collection and I'm not going to be able to do each story justice in this format.
But it's super good porn. Just so you know.
The book is full of delightful erotica from a bunch of artists I adore, it's got a wide variety of body types and pairings/groupings represented. There are queer comics, trans comics, straight comics, witch comics, and basically just everything you could ever ask for when you're looking for a fun, slippery wank.
Go find Smut Peddler. Do you like being horny? Do you like to masturbate? Do you like to have pictorial representations of all sorts of horny folks/robots/supernatural beings while you masturbate? Smut Peddler is for you.
And seriously, the art is just fantastic. Everyone puts their best work forward when they're pitching for this collection - the stories are spot-on and the illustrations are staggering.
Various Authors. Smut Peddler 2014 Edition. Iron Circus Comics. 2014.
These are gory, aggressive, and very adult novels. They're packed with dark themes and conflicted characters, there's an underlying sense of cynicism that pervades the big detective's life and work that doesn't seem to mesh with the hopeful, bright-eyed world of Hogwarts. And that's delightful.
I'm stoked that Rowling hasn't typecast herself into writing only one kind of story, and I'm bummed that I have to preface writing about Strike with a brief discussion of Harry. Rowling has done a remarkable thing and written a series of novels that have defined a generation then turned around and written another series of novels that would have no problem standing on their own two feet as excellent mystery novels had they been written by someone entirely else.
So anyway, here's the breaks: I'm never again going to mention that Galbraith and Rowling are the same. These books deserve better than that.
Strike is fantastic. I love the angry fucker; he's an arrogant prick who constantly second-guesses himself and I adore the flaws in the character. He knows how badly he's capable of fucking up. He knows he's far from perfect. But he soldiers on and keeps butting his thick head against the world anyway, and I admire the crafting of that contradictory monster.
I particularly enjoyed the Robin/Cormoran byplay in this novel - some things seemed a bit strained and overemphasized in their interactions but overall they worked well together as developing characters. I DO have a pretty massive problem with something revealed in Robin's background, but since the novel was only published this month I'll leave off on specific criticisms of plot points until I reread it so that I can avoid spoilers.
And here's where I've got a problem: It's really fucking hard to review a mystery novel without spoiling the mystery. So I'll leave it here and say that it was a very fun read that I raced through, looking forward to figuring out whodunnit alongside the characters. I'd recommend it for sure, but I'd warn anyone coming in to it cold that it's pretty impressively violent and to approach with caution if you're sensitive to that sort of thing.
Galbraith, Robert. Career of Evil. Mulholland Books. New York: New York. 2015.
I grew up reading Mad Magazine. It was a lot of fun at the time, though it seems a lot less clever now. But I always liked the art. And I always liked the Spy Vs. Spy comics, with their over-the-top ultraviolence and ghoulish giddiness.
My enjoyment of Spy Vs. Spy may have been influenced by the fact that it was single-serving; in each issue of Mad you could expect to find only one or two pages devoted to the diabolical duo. I recently found (and read) a collection of the comic and the humor palled by the third story.
The art was as good as Spy Vs. Spy ever is - there's a lot to be said for the way that Antonio Prohias manages to ignore and subvert perspective and composition. He can cram an awful lot of information into a single, simple panel and this book may be more useful as reference than as entertainment because of Prohias's impressive command of the page.
I'll probably never read this book again. I didn't enjoy it, it wasn't fun, and I found myself getting angry at the book really quickly. But I've already used it once as a sort of tutorial on black-on-black inking and I'm sure I'm going to end up doing so again.
Prohias, Antonio. Spy Vs. Spy: Casebook of Craziness. Fall River Press. New York: New York. 2014.
One of the reasons I love Cracked.Com is that it's introduced me to a bunch of my favorite authors. Another reason is because those authors are ridiculously cool, aware people. Mad still feels like a boy's club, it's full of jokes made at the expense of women, it plays into stereotypes, and is grounded in bathroom humor. Cracked is way more inclusive while still being grounded in bathroom humor.
So I was delighted, but not surprised, that David Wong's new book Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits is a violent, funny, fart-filled romp that also offers up biting commentary about the alpha-male culture and the dangers of unlimited capitalism.
Now, that might sound like the kind of thing that would make a book be heavy and serious and mournful. It's not.
In addition to the great main plot (full of over-the-top characters and a stinky cat) there are wonderful side characters who are handled with an amount of care and sensitivity that is remarkable while still allowing them to be funny. A butler is still lower class than his employers but he approaches his position with reason, patience, and overwhelmingly impressive sandwich-making skills (as well as a willingness to impart wisdom and snark to the higher-ups in his life, provided they still treat him with the respect that a person deserves). There's an aging sex-worker in the story who isn't treated as trash, who isn't mocked (by the author, at least) for her position. That's fucking remarkable. I love that the humor and sympathy in this book are not only present, but also make a point of always punching up - the kinds of people who get shit on in the real world all the time are respected as important, autonomous human beings deserving of respect and dignity.
And there's more coming! Which is excellent - I love Wong's writing. He's funny and dark and deep and kind and I want to read a lot more from him, so I'm stoked that we're going to not only be getting more from the Futuristic Violence universe but the John Dies at the End world as well.
Looking forward to it, Mr. Wong. Thanks a bunch.
Wong, David. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits. Thomas Dunne Books.
New York: New York. 2015.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
I was really lukewarm on Siddhartha but I think I started to "get" Hesse in my reading of Demian. That novel feels less awkward and more deep - Siddhartha is your classical young man on a journey to enlightenment whereas Demian is a story about a young man whose questions don't really find answers but only more questions.
The characters and their dramas are a lot more digestible too. I mean, that doesn't mean you process their actions or motives in every case but Demian has actions that hit closer to the human and home feelings than Siddhartha's monks and hedonists. It's easier to relate to a confused student than it is to a boy who leaves his father's home to wander the wilderness even if both boys are searching for meaning.
The book is pleasantly creepy too - all those big, sweet, metaphysical dreams of the world and sparrowhawks that fill up the background make the foreground of normal life seem sinister and confusing. Which normal life is! Hesse does a great job of attempting to explain the separation between people, the spaces they can't speak to fill, and appreciating the simplicity of the mundane.
I think what I liked best about this book is that no one really knows what's going on and everyone is a mess. There are no answers, only searching, and I think that's pretty true of the real world as well.
Hesse, Herman. Demian. Bantam Classics. New York: New York. 1960. (1919).