Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Diversiverse: Canadian Women of Colour

A pale red banner that reads A More Diverse Universe 2015, October 4-15, #Diversiverse. An icon beside the title features a brown hand with a star on its palm.

A More Diverse Universe (aka Diversiverse) is now underway. This two-week reading period centres on books by people of colour, and I’ve committed to providing recs lists that highlight a few of my favourite authors.

Today I want to turn the spotlight on four Canadian women of colour. Two of them write SFF. Two of them don’t (or maybe just haven’t yet).

Cover of Warchild, featuring a dark-haired boy in black combat gear emerging from a large yellow-lit porthole. He brandishes a gun.
Karin Lowachee

I discovered Karin Lowachee late last year, thanks to a rec from Kristen. She’s since become one of my most recommended authors.

Lowachee’s first book, WARCHILD [review | Amazon | The Book Depository], is the start of a science fiction series that’s everything my younger, SF-averse self never dared to hope science fiction could be. The settings are rich and complex, whether Lowachee takes us to an alien world or deep into the heart of a human space station that’s a planet in its own right. The characters are as multifaceted as the worlds they inhabit. And the things Lowachee does with narrative; with the sheer possibility she unlocks in mixing first person with second and third, past tense with present... oy. These books are a master class in how technical wizardry can enhance every element of the story.

If you only seek out one new-to-you SF author this year, make it Karin Lowachee. Please be aware, though, that her books travel to dark places and may be triggering for some readers.

WARCHILD is followed by BURNDIVE [review | Amazon | The Book Depository] and CAGEBIRD [Amazon | The Book Depository], with a fourth book, THE WARBOY, to come. The paperbacks are a terrible price, but the ebook editions are fairly reasonable. Lowachee has also written a fantasy called THE GASLIGHT DOGS [Amazon], but I haven’t read it yet and so can't comment on it.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: September 27th to October 3rd

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by posing my tiny and adorable 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.

Not pictured: I read a bunch more JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY last week, and it continues to delight me. There was an entire issue devoted to puppies. PUPPIES.

Thori, who becomes Loki's particular puppy, reminds me of Murchie.

I also pushed through to the end of A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY, which has emerged as my favourite Vernor Vinge novel to date. While the first two I read (A FIRE UPON THE DEEP and THE CHILDREN OF THE SKY) started beyond strong but slowly lost me as they wound towards their conclusions, A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY kept me fully engaged the whole way through. I'm so, so glad I read it, and I recommend it to those of y'all in search of some epic science fiction.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lays within a red blanket cave so only his head his visible. His eyes are almost slits, and one of his ears is askew. Two comics lay in front of him. On the one closest to the viewer, a white man in a red jacket points a gun at someone laying on the ground, who points one back at him. On the other, a jumble of people mill around a stand mirror with an elaborate, humanoid frame.

I'm less than pleased I've had to put another blanket on my bed, but Murchie's thrilled. It makes his traditional morning blanket cave all the comfier.

He spent last Sunday sleeping, as per usual, while I gleefully wallowed in a few hundred pages of Marvel Cosmic via the second volume of LEGENDARY STAR-LORD and the collected edition of THE BLACK VORTEX.

Both volumes basically boil down to, "Ain't Kitty Pryde the greatest?" She is, books. She so totally is.

Hey, I've just realized both Kate Bishop and Kitty Pryde are named Katherine. It's like Marvel rounded up all their writers and said, "How 'bout we pepper this universe with awesome Katherines?" Wise choice, Marvel. Who else you got for me?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Year With Marvel: Writers of Colour For Diversiverse

Banner reading A More Diverse Universe 2015, October 4-7, #Diversiverse. The background is a muted red. An icon of a brown hand with a star on the palm appears to the left of the text.

We’re now mere days away from the start of A More Diverse Universe, a reading event focused on people of colour. Organizer Aarti asks participants to read and review at least one book by a non-white author during the event.

As Aarti always says (and I always quote, because it's always true):

Reading diversely may require you to change your book-finding habits. It ABSOLUTELY does not require you to change your book reading habits.

Book-finding is the kicker in the comics industry, where white creators get a hell of a lot more opportunities--and the press that goes along with them--than their POC counterparts. It's rare for a non-white writer to get as much press as Ta-Nehisi Coates received surrounding his upcoming (and, sadly, limited) run on BLACK PANTHER.

This is at least partly because Marvel, to their shame, has hired relatively few POC writers over their history. (We’ll talk about POC artists next week.) They exist, but you’ve gotta dig through extensive yet unspecific resources like the the Cartoonists of Colour Database or more focused but less search engine-friendly resources like individual bloggers’ recs lists to hunt ‘em out.

And even once you've compiled a halfway decent reading list, the majority of this small minority are men. As far as I can tell, Marvel has never hired a black woman writer, and they’re horribly light on WOC of other ethnicities. Numerous searches gave me far more information about WOC characters than the women who’ve (hopefully) written them, and Marjorie Liu is the only WOC writer I’ve personally encountered in the year since I started bingeing on Marvel.

Which is to say: this wee recs list of POC Marvel writers whose work I’ve enjoyed is no more gender balanced than it is exhaustive. It's a highlights reel designed to reflect some comics that stood out to me, not a comprehensive resource.

In many cases, too, these writers have published a lot more than what I've talked about here. I’ll also point you towards A More Diverse Marvel Universe, my own contribution to the wealth of unspecific information out there, for further reading. Alas, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve had the time or the mental energy to update the list, so it remains incomplete, but I hope you’ll find some more stuff to explore.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Diversiverse: Manga Recs

Banner reading A More Diverse Universe 2015, October 4-17, #Diversiverse. The banner's background is a muted red, while an icon of a brown hand with a star on its palm appears beside the title.

A More Diverse Universe (aka Diversiverse) is a two-week reading period centred on books by people of colour. Organizer Aarti challenges participants to read and blog about at least one qualifying title between October 4-17.

No matter what you like to read, POC write it. As Aarti always says:

Reading diversely may require you to change your book-finding habits. It ABSOLUTELY does not require you to change your book reading habits.

Book-finding is, of course, the kicker. Save for a select few titles, books by white people get far more of a marketing push than books by POC.

Recs lists and word of mouth can be vitally important when you hunt for books by non-white writers and artists, so I want to highlight a few of my favourite titles as we count down to the event’s official start date. Let's start with manga, a form that's become dear to me over the last couple of years.

Manga is Japan's comics tradition, though I'll caution you not to assume every mangaka (manga creator) is Japanese. Many original English language manga are created by white people, so make sure you google everyone before you count them as diverse.

That said, mangka create manga for everyone from high-powered business executives to preteen kids. It runs the gamut from fluffy to horrific, sometimes within the same title. Most manga is published serially in anthology magazines like Sh┼Źnen Jump before it’s collected in numbered volumes, a strategy western comics aficionados are well used to; however, manga story arcs are often much longer than the four- to six-issue runs western comics employ. With some of the more involved series, arcs can stretch across four to six volumes.

This being the case, I recommend you check your local library for manga with several volumes already published in English so you can get a good feel for whether or not you’ll like the story. The following four series all fit the bill and would be a good place to start--and as an added bonus, they’re all written and drawn by women.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: September 20th to 26th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by posing my dog beside every book I read, barring the comics I get as single issues.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday.

Not pictured: I reread the first three arcs of HAWKEYE in preparation for the finale. It was intense.

I also read the second arc of LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD, which continues to delight me with its focus on the power of story. The crossover issues impeded the readability somewhat, but it still covered some interesting territory.

And I read another chunk of A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY. I'm getting pretty close to the end, so I might just finish it off during my next reading session.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, kneels on a red tapestry comforter. Slightly behind him, propped up against a black pillow, is an advance copy of The Scorpion Rules. Its grey cover features the outline of a throne patterned in red scorpions.

I promise Murchie does have paws. He just felt like sitting on his front knees so his legs would look short and jointless.


So my mother won an advance copy of THE SCORPION RULES by Erin Bow, and she raved about it so long and loud that I got her Bow's first two books from the library. (She also loved PLAIN KATE, but she didn't care for SORROW'S KNOT.) Then she lent me her copy, which I proceeded to read rather later than I intended because I'm still in Frustratingly Slow Reader Mode.

I loved it, but I think I'd have loved it a lot more if it hadn't taken me four solid days to finish. Blah.

I want to say something more substantive than that, but the four days thing kind of wiped me out. I am so tired of reading short books this slowly. I think it's largely, though not solely, down to how much more I've been walking this summer. Hopefully my reading pace will improve once I start getting my exercise on my stationary bike again and can read books in print while I'm at it. Audiobooks are great and I'm glad I have access to so many of 'em, but even my slow-ass self can read a book faster than a narrator can say it. And that's with things speeded up to 1.5x, which is the fastest my audio borrowing platforms can go. (I prefer to listen at 2x when it's available.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Cover of The Eye of the World, featuring a young, redheaded white man clinging to a ship's mast. Cover of The Great Hunt, featuring a humanoid monster lurking in a dark hollow while someone on the rise above them raises a horn.

First, I must inform you I’m about to talk about a fourteen-book series in its entirety. There are some implied spoilers for the early books, though I’ve made an effort not to venture into what I’d consider seriously spoilery territory overall. General opinions and observations abound, but I promise I'll never be all, "Lemme tell you the results of so-and-so’s attempt to resolve this vitally important plot point."

Second, this isn’t really a review. It’s a reminiscence; me talking about a story that meant a lot to me when I was a young fantasy fan, and that has surprised me by still meaning a lot to me now I’m a somewhat older fantasy fan. There are subheadings and tangents below, plus footnotes.

The Wheel of Time was with me for almost twenty years, hovering unfinished in the background. It had a huge influence on Young Me, and Current Me looks forward to rereading it now she knows how it ends.

That won’t happen for a decade or so, though. I ain't that eager.

(Okay, I sort of am, but I’ll resist. This latest reread/catch-up took me a solid year. I need time to recover.)

Now that we’re all clear on what this post is...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Year With Marvel: Miniseries Of My Youth Revisited

Last week I shared my recollections of two 1993 miniseries that made a big impression on me when I was a teenager: GAMBIT by Howard Mackie, Lee Weeks, and Klaus Janson and DAREDEVIL: THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. I reread both series right after the post went live, and I’m ready to weigh in on ‘em from an adult perspective.

GAMBIT, as previously stated, changed my life. It taught me the joys of contemporary superhero comics, introduced me to the X-Men, gave me another taste of New Orleans (a city I was already well on the way to loving), foreshadowed my adult preoccupation with (fictional) thieves and assassins, and placed some small emphasis on cards.

And does it hold up?

Surprisingly, yes.