15 July 2009

Up too late

So it's half past one in the morning and I should really be in bed. Not that I have anywhere to be tomorrow, but I like my sleep. Anyway, I was going to go to bed much earlier, but I had to look up movie showtimes for this weekend and then the ThinkGeek newsletter came and I've just spent at least half an hour refreshing that damn fortune page.

I've borrowed a copy of Twilight from a friend. I don't really want to read it, per se, but I dream of someday becoming a published and extremely rich and popular YA author myself. I doubt I'll get where Stephanie Meyer is, but I might as well at least do some research on what sells. So far, from what I've seen from working in a bookstore, what sells is sophomoric crap, and this is distressing to me. But hopefully I can figure something out.

In other news, Steve Buscemi thinks my little brother is a pretty good dancer (seriously, no joke) and I've just applied for a job at my favorite video game company, assuming I don't end up as a nanny, which wouldn't be so bad. And I slipped into character leaving a ThinkGeek comment of my own and spent a paragraph or two ranting on about how difficult life is as a fish god, which I'm definitely not. I am a lady. I've spent the past few days intermittently reading Jacqueline Carey and knitting the first of three Hogwarts house scarves for three of my numerous cousins. Honestly, it's like rabbits. Whenever I look I have more cousins.

My life just keeps getting weirder. I suspect I'm going mad. At least if I go mad I'll have a really good excuse for babbling like this. Of course, some people would say I'm already mad, because I'm a writer and thus mad by definition. Other people would say that that's not the definition of writer at all, and that the people who define it as such are mad. Still other people wonder why everyone else is fussing about definitions and go back to reading their P.G. Wodehouse Edwardian school stories. I am also going to do that, though I'm in none of those categories. I think maybe I'm just mad.

I think I should go to bed now. I don't feel quite so sane.

19 June 2009

Four-Color World returns!

So it's eleven at night and I've got the house to myself, which is to say that my brother is in bed and my parents are out for the night. And I'm doing what seems reasonable with this comparative freedom. I'm sitting on the couch, watching the Sasuke marathon on G4 and reading The Traitor's Manual, a Paranoia supplement I picked up in the rush to get all the Mongoose books I wanted from DriveThruRPG before the new edition of Paranoia drops. On the table in front of me is the Scion Companion, which I just bought today, and a copy of Endless Things, the last book in John Crowley's Aegypt cycle, signed to me. Behind me is the immense cage I bought and erected today for my pet degus (Doom Engine and The Month of July). I've named it "The Edifice."

And it hits me. I'm a huge nerd. This blog is meant to be about hugely nerdy things.

Why haven't I been keeping this thing up?

I suppose it's because I'm lazy. And also once it stopped being homework I had other homework to do.

But, luckily for you, my viewing several, I just graduated a few weeks ago, so I don't have any more homework to hold my attention. Hopefully I'll have a job soon to take up some of my time, but I think I should get back to this too. It seems like a good idea.

So then, ladies and gentlemen. I apologize for the massive lacuna. (Is that I contradiction in terms?) But now, I promise, Four-Color World returns, unrequired, unassigned, and with no goddamn tags unless I want them. ^_^

25 May 2008

Little Brother

Little Brother
Cory Doctorow

Whoo! Class is over! I mean, I liked it a lot, but now I can write about things that aren't comics!

So it's been, like, a month, and I return triumphant, having been out of school for a week and a half and back in the workforce for a day total. Not that I started working just today. It's Memorial Day weekend. That'd be silly. No, I started yesterday at my regular summer job at the local bookstore, a glorious Nirvana if ever there was one. Well, at least in that incredibly-materialistic-I-love-books-not-Nirvana-at-all kind of a way.

Anyway, one of the perks of my job is that we've got a whole table full of advanced reading copies of books all stacked up in the back room at the store. They come, they sit around, sometimes they get read. As an employee, I get to take home any of these books that I'd like, a policy that I take liberal--sometimes absurd--advantage of. To start things off, I found a couple of books that looked interesting and wafted them away with me, and one was Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow.

Now, I had a copy of Little Brother already. I downloaded it in PDF from Cory Doctorow's website, because that's the sort of thing he likes. And I suppose I proved part of his point in doing this, because did it stop me wanting a print copy? No! Reading long books on the computer sucks. Trust me, I know this for a fact. I've been known to spend days at a time on Project Gutenberg and come out, more well-read, but with a splitting fucking headache. Man, seriously. You have no idea of the pain. ...well, probably you do. Not relevant. Whatever.

So, I started on the book this morning. Finished it this evening. It's a quick read. Partially that may be because it's a YA book and thus was written more simply than I'm used to, but I wouldn't really buy that as a full excuse. Mainly it took me so little time because I couldn't put it down. Well, ok, I put it down to drive to the movie theatre and watch Prince Caspian, but those were special circumstances. A Narnia movie was available to me. Far be it for me to not indulge myself in a personal childhood obsession.

I'm babbling. It was a great book. It's solid, and scary, and it doesn't talk down to anyone. If Marcus (the narrator) says something weird, he explains himself, and he does it well. The tech was real (or realistic, if not all strictly real), the hacks were definitely real, and the story was real in a way that warmed a diffident dissident like myself to the core. I finished the book and it made me want to poke around online for hacks for my PSP. (Yes, I own a PSP. And a DS. Consumer whore? Maybe so. But mainly I like games.) But seriously, for gods' sake, this kid takes out Homeland Security with an Xbox! That's a glorious feat!

Neil Gaiman says in his wonderful blurb that he wants to get this into the hands of every thirteen-year-old he knows, in the hopes that it'll change the way they think for the better. I agree. Shit, I want to give copies of this book to my cousins. Then when they take over the planet they'll remember me as the person who showed them the way.

Have I not let out the basic plot yet? Well, here. Hacker kid in San Francisco is near the site of a terrorist attack, gets arrested by Homeland Security and interrogated, and then is released into a USA that's like Franz Kafka had a baby with George Orwell's worst nightmare. So he decides to do something about it using only a hacked Xbox and pure, unadulterated rage.

It's super cool. I feel the need to program now. Actually, I think I need to go take a look around, see if anyone's programmed a Clockwork Pirates game yet.

Read this book. Give it to your kid sister and every single one of her friends. If they don't want to buy it and you don't want to lend it to them, get them to Cory Doctorow's website and have them download a copy. If they don't have Internet access and can't have the book, read it to them, over the phone if necessary. Spread it like a plague. Spread it like an Internet meme.

This book kicks ass.

22 April 2008

Things You Might Enjoy, If You Enjoy This Sort Of Thing: Episode Nine

Doom Patrol Volume One: Crawling Out of the Wreckage
Grant Morrison

This is an addendum to the con edition of Four-Color World, because I picked up the first volume of Doom Patrol there. I've been looking for it for a while, but previously I've only ever managed to find volumes two through four, never one.

Doom Patrol is a comic about a group of superhumans who are not superheroes. They've got superpowers, but you can't look up to them. They're weird and fucked-up and depressed. One of them is a human brain in a robot body. One of them has sixty-four distinct personalities, each with its own superpower. They're pretty bizarre. And they fight the enemies too freaky for the normal heroes to take care of.

They got a few different comics, and the one this volume is from had been running for a while when Grant Morrison got hold of it. Before he started writing it, however, he persuaded the previous author to kill off a number of characters, so that he could build the cast himself. Crazy Jane, the one with multiple personalities, is one of his creations.

In short: this comic is intensely disturbing. The nature of reality is frequently fluid, and several of the monsters are based on things from that horrifyingly delightful children's book, Struwwelpeter. I read it in the van on the way back to Maine, and it gave me the wiggins, enough that I didn't want to let my feet hang off the seat into the place where it was dark.

At the same time, though, it was really cool. The writing was fantastic, of course, the art was fairly cool, and the creepiness added. The characters were also amazing--they were well-developed and interesting. Crazy Jane's multiple personalities added depth without being an irritating stereotype. Rebis, Negative-Man, was intensely bizarre in a way that was genuinely unnerving.

Anyway, it's really worth reading. Creepy, but cool. I'd recommend it.

Four-Color World: The (Slightly Belated) Con Edition

Hello, everybody! Today, your lovely Miss Becca is reporting to you on New York Comic Con.

My classmates and professor and I drove to New York City on Friday. Because we're in central Maine, we started out at three in the morning. The drive was long and cramped and mildly horrible, but when we got there it was cool.

Highlights of the con:
  • On Friday evening I went to Neil Gaiman's reading. He was very funny and charming, and he read chapter three of The Graveyard Book, which was awesome. Afterward I got to see the Christmas special of the latest season of Doctor Who. It was dreadful. But in a fun way.
  • On Saturday there was shopping, and my boyfriend and I went to the "Spotlight on Grant Morrison" presentation. I got to ask him how he felt about being a character in the DC Universe. He's pretty cool with it.
  • Later, there had been plans to go see the previews for Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and The Spirit. However, they were ditched in favor of waiting in line for Grant Morrison's signing. He signed my copy of Arkham Asylum and gave me a hug. It was the pinnacle of my con experience. ^_^
  • Met many exciting people, including Jon Rosenberg, the author of Goats. It is one of my favorite webcomics. I bought the first volume and he signed it.
  • Sunday had a bit more shopping, and the Final Crisis panel. I didn't pay too much attention, because I don't keep up with current comics, but it was fun listening to Grant Morrison's lovely accent.
All in all, a very good trip. I came back with lots of swag. Very fun.

16 April 2008

Rorschach the Optimist

Alan Moore

To the winner goes the SPOILERS

Whoo! This is the week I've been looking forward too. My dad got me a copy of Watchmen when I was in high school, and I've loved it ever since.

Anyway, with this latest reread I noticed something sort of odd. Rorschach, probably the scariest character in the entire comic, is actually kind of an optimist. But not happy. Just an optimist. I mean, I'd be hard-pressed to think of a less cheery comic book character. But he really believes in what he's doing, and he believes it in a good way.

Witness this. In the second issue of Watchmen (I have to go by issue--my trade has no other page numbers), Rorschach goes to visit the Comedian's grave. He is busy pondering the case of the Comedian's murder, and provides us with this really amazing quote:

"So many questions. Never mind. Answers soon. Nothing is insoluble. Nothing is hopeless. Not while there's life."

Think about that. Rorschach is sketchy and violent and has a lot of prejudices. He does not get along well with others and never smiles. But he's the one who believes in the human race. Dan Dreiberg can't decide what he wants, let alone figure out what he wants for other people. Laurie Juspeczyk always hated the hero business. Ozymandias can only help people by doing things for them, and Dr. Manhattan doesn't care.

But Rorschach...he thinks things are going to work out. He thinks that things are probably going to work out all right. Which is kind of weird, given how much he dislikes most people.

I think I like Rorschach a lot more now.

13 April 2008

Things You Might Enjoy, If You Enjoy This Sort Of Thing: Episode Eight

The Book of Ballads
Charles Vess and various others

Hey, look! It's not a webcomic!

Not only is The Book of Ballads not a webcomic, it's also nothing like really any of the comics I've reviewed here so far. It doesn't have a continuing story, and nothing in it connects to any other comics. It's a fully standalone book of short pieces. I figured it'd fit into this week's set of post because all of the stories in it are, as you may have guessed from the title, taken from ballads.

Charles Vess is one of my favorite comic book artists. You may have heard of him, particularly if you're a fan of Neil Gaiman. He did the Fairyland section of the original Book of Magic and was the other half of Stardust--not the recent movie, but the illustrated novel it's based on. He does extraordinary work, and The Book of Ballads is one of his babies.

Basically, what Vess did was get a bunch of awesome comics writers to do scripts based on various traditional English ballads, and then he illustrated them. The first one, "The False Knight on the Road," is actually by Neil Gaiman. Other ballads used are "Alison Gross," "Barbara Allen," and "King Henry," among others.

They're all well-written stories, and of course the art is beautiful, but the little thing that makes this book even more awesome is the appendix. At the end of the book, Vess has included a list of all the ballads used, with information about where you can find various recordings of them. For example, Steeleye Span, one of my favorite music groups, recorded an amazing version of "Alison Gross," and that is listed.

It seemed right to include this review in this week's posts because of the whole icon theme. A ballad is not necessarily iconic, but ballads and their themes are in the same family as icons. They're songs because it's easy to remember songs, and they tell stories that people felt, for one reason or another, should be remembered. Ballads are part of the collective memory of the English and Celtic cultures.

If you'd like to dispute the important of ballads, I will tell you do one thing. Find the old Loony Toons episodes where they did Robin Hood stories. One of them has Porky Pig in it as Friar Tuck, and what is he doing when we first see him? He's singing "Barbara Allen," probably one of the most famous English ballads and also one of the ones used in this book.

This is a cool book. You should read it. It may not be like anything you're used to, but it's interesting, and makes for good bite-sized bits of reading.