Sunday, February 7, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: January 31st to February 6th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog or one of his stand-ins with every book I read, barring the comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: I read My Marvelous Year's 1966 selections in a terribly slapdash fashion; which is to say, I read the ones about people who interested me and saved all the rest in case there was time at the end.

There was a bit of time, so I ended up reading all but a handful of the comics on offer. I'm still enjoying this look at Marvel's early years, but the novelty of assigned reading has worn off. From now on, I'll read what calls to me and ignore what doesn't.

I reread the first six issues of JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, too, and dug into the annual for the first time. Hurray for Jem!

A black mini schnauzer, Duffy, and a silver poodle, Murchie, sit next to one another. Duffy's face is very close to the camera. Between them is a white Kobo with an indistinct image of a gold-hewed statue of a woman on its screen.

Behold! The dogs are now sitting buddies!

They professed themselves willing to pose with DOWNFALL OF THE GODS by K.J. Parker, but only if I didn't make either of them move. (Duffy was on my lap. Murchie was beside me on his beloved sheep-shaped pillow.) I had to pull the book up on NetGalley since my DRC doesn't have a cover, and the angle went funny, and I'm afraid I haven't left you with a terribly good sense of what the cover looks like.

The dogs are cute though, right? Right?

I'll do better with the cover image I attach to my review, which will be up on February 16th.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My Year With Marvel: Uncanny X-Men #1-25

A single panel featuring a bald white man seated in an armchair, a blanket over his legs. The caption reads, 'Finally, his meditation comes to an end! Then, while he remains completely motionless, a sharp, commanding thought rings out, echoing through the great halls of the building!' Thought bubbles emerging from Professor X read, 'Attention, X-Men! This is Professor Xavier calling! Repeat: this is Professor X calling! You are ordered to appear at once! Class is now in session! Tardiness will be punished!'

I always tell interested parties it’s safe to jump into the X-Men at any point they please. The Marvel Universe’s peculiar chronology, Professor X’s predilection for mindwipes, and the entire cast’s refusal to shut up about every major thing that’s ever happened to them ensures the series is ever accessible to any new reader with a fair understanding of comics.

Still, I’ve always thought it might be fun to go back to the very beginning of UNCANNY X-MEN and read the whole thing through in order. So that’s what I’m doing.

Even though My Year With Marvel technically ends this week, I’ll continue to update y’all on my progress every twenty-five issues until I’ve either read everything on offer or my Marvel Unlimited subscription ends1.

Okay, then. Let’s talk about UNCANNY X-MEN (still officially titled X-MEN at this point) #1-25.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Death of Magic

Let’s talk about the Death of Magic.

This is a topic I’ve long resisted writing about. It’s tough to get into without concrete examples and I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone; however, it’s also something I’m keen to discuss because I fucking loathe it. The Death of Magic is by far my least favourite fantasy trope, even above Chosen Ones and contraction-free dialogue, and it had a major presence in my youthful reading life.

It messed me up. To this day, I live in fear that the exciting new series I've plucked off the shelf could end with the Death of Magic1.

But let’s back up a sec. Maybe you’re one of the lucky few who’s never encountered this trope and you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Say you’re a fictional character with a major role in a fantasy novel. You’re either a longtime resident of a magical land or you’ve fallen through a portal and ended up in one. You’re obliged to go on all sorts of adventures, fiction being what it is, and magic is an abiding force throughout. Maybe you’re a magic user your own self, or maybe you face off against an Evil Wizard, or maybe your Wise Old Mentor is also a Good Wizard With Selfish Goals. (Pro tip: Wise Old Mentors always have selfish goals, and they're liable to fake their own deaths.) However your story plays out, magic is a big part of it.

Until the very end, when you’ve defeated the Dark One/Evil Wizard/Pretender King and put the world back on track. Now magic must depart forever to make room for progress.

Because it ain’t like we could progress with magic still in the mix, now is it?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: January 24th to 30th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog with every book I read, barring the comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: I finished off the 1965 selections for My Marvelous Year, then started in on 1966. I may start reading only a selection of each week's picks since it takes me approximately nine hundred years (translation: fifteen minutes to half an hour) to read each vintage issue. I'm struggling to fit in any of the other digital stuff on my radar. We'll see how I feel as I travel further into 1966.

I'm up to UNCANNY X-MEN #26 now, too. That's out of a total of 518 issues, plus the stuff I'll have to read for crossovers once we get into the modern era, so I've still a long ways to go with this read-all-the-X-Men project. I drafted my first post on it the other day, so I'll hopefully have it revised for you by Thursday.

I desperately needed some contemporary comics after the 30+ vintage issues I read last week, so I started CYCLOPS. It's a lot of fun so far. Time-displaced Young Cyclops is so much less mopey than Vintage X-Men Young Cyclops. Plus, he has space adventures.

On the non-comics front, I read a hot Callie Croix novella about a woman who has a ménage with her fiance and his best friend. It was good, but so short I elected not to make Murchie pose with it.

And of course, I listened to the season finale of TREMONTAINE and am now eager for S2. I'll probably keep my subscription as my one USD indulgence, even as I quit buying anything else priced in American funds for the foreseeable future. I look forward it each and every week.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, sprawls partly beneath a red comforter. Beside him is a trade paperback copy of The Fade Out. Its cover features a typewriter splashed with pink ink against a white background.

The internet says Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have been comics collaborators for a good fifteen years now, but the premiere act of THE FADE OUT was my first experience with their work. It definitely won't be my last. This is a tense, atmospheric mystery, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

I hope the women will have a large role going forward to, too. The story begins with a female film star's murder so I feared it'd prove one of those series where the women do little more than die and/or screw the main male characters, but in subsequent issues Brubaker and Phillips introduce two other women who have their own stories and who interact with one another (and with the murdered star, via flashbacks). More of this, please.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Shiny New Books, plus a new story

Jenny and I are back at Shiny New Books today with four recent and forthcoming YA titles we're super-duper excited about. We'd love it if you popped on over there and gave us a read.

Also, I keep forgetting to tell y'all I've got a new story in RUINS EXCAVATION, an SFF anthology centred on WOC archaeologists. It's available digitally or in paperback, the latter format being half price at Amazon as of this morning.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review: Unexpected Art, ed. by Jenny Moussa Spring

Cover of Unexpected Art, featuring an enormous, bright yellow rubber duck floating in a blue-green body of water with brick and steel buildings behind it.
UNEXPECTED ART, ed. by Jenny Moussa Spring, spotlights installations and site-specific works from around the world. Each piece appears alongside an artist’s or curator’s statement (depending, I assume, on whether or not the artist was comfortable writing in English), while two introductions usher readers into public context of installations in general and these pieces in specific.

Said pieces are by more than fifty artists, some of whom work in teams or collectives where not every member is named on the page. Of those I could identify through Google, thirty-four are men, twenty-seven are women, and one appears to be nonbinary. Forty-two of them live and work outside the United States. Twenty-two of them are people of colour.

So basically, the book is geographically diverse both in terms of the artists represented and the locations where the pieces were exhibited. It zips close to but fails to maintain gender parity, though, and I wish there’d been more POC represented.

Barring that, the book is fabulous. Not only did it push a large quantity of excellent art in front of my eyeballs, but it got me thinking about how much I love installations.

"I love installations" is the year’s biggest understatement, so I fear this ain’t really a review. It’s an excuse for me to waffle on about this most beloved of art forms.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: January 17th to 23rd

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by making my dog pose with every book I read, barring the comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: I plugged on through Comic Book Herald's story selections for 1964 and 1965. I found much of 1964 tedious, perhaps because I wasn't in the mood for vintage comics' denser approach to the medium, but things picked up in a big way once I reached the latter part of the year.

I read a bunch more issues of UNCANNY X-MEN, too, and took a break from the 60s with the first four issues of ALL-NEW HAWKEYE after I found Sho Murase's gorgeous Women of Marvel variant of #1 at the thrift shop.

It took me only a teensy bit longer to read all four contemporary issues than to read one 60s comic. Thanks, image-driven layouts.

Finally, I finished to the sky without wings. It was my first 5-star read of the year, and I'm bummed leupagus hasn't written in any other fandoms I'm interested in. I'll just have to hope they produce some more Star Wars fic in the nearish future.

Oh, and I also caught up on TREMONTAINE in advance of next week's season finale. I did a lot of OMGing and dancing around when I realized what's been going on with Dianne, followed by even more OMGing and dancing around when it was confirmed.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, has his fluffball of a face very close to the camera. Behind him is a hardcover copy of Academic Exercises. Its red-bordered cover features a quill pen poised above a piece of parchment, with a map hung on a wall in the background.

Subterranean Press kindly gave me a review copy of K.J. Parker's latest novella, which reminded me I still hadn't read BLUE AND GOLD, which led to me finally requesting ACADEMIC EXERCISES from the library. This hefty tome collects Parker's shorter work, and I'll be reading my way through it over the next couple of weeks.

Please note Murchie's morose expression. He understands how Parker's plots typically play out, and he's committed to providing you with book-appropriate poses.