Arbitrary Stupid Goal: a memoir of growing up under the tables of the best restaurant in New York

To call Shopsin's "a Greenwich Village institution" was to understate something profound and important and weird and funny: Shopsin's (first a grocery store, later a restaurant) was a kind of secret reservoir of the odd and wonderful and informal world that New York City once represented, in the pre-Trumpian days of Sesame Street and Times Square sleaze: Tamara Shopsin grew up in Shopsin's, and Arbitrary Stupid Goal is her new, "no-muss memoir," is at once charming and sorrowing, a magnificent time-capsule containing the soul of a drowned city.

Shade the Changing Girl v. 1: On sidequels and writing the teenage alien.

This week (and next due to the nature of different release dates for the direct market and the book market) marks the release of the first collection of SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL v.1: Earth Girl Made Easy, which compiles issues 1-6 (previously). It’s a heavy load to recreate a character that giants before you have written. Steve Ditko is a master of the strange. His mind a merry-go-round of experimentation.

Line of Beauty: stunning biography of fantasy artist Wendy Pini

Wendy Pini is most famous for Elfquest (above), but her artistic career spans fifty years of pop culture history, from weird lowbrow surrealism to yaoi pastiche. Line of Beauty isn't just a stunning art book covering decades in and beyond epic fantasy, but a powerful yet curiously tentative biography, drawing together threads from a childhood in the Californian sticks to the poisoned promises of Hollywood.

That it's so mysterious and unjudgmental (of her, at least) is most remarkable for the fact it was written by her husband, Richard Pini. His book is a crafty invitation to the worlds implied by her work, a mythos that seems misty and intangible even as its details take shape.

Born 1951, Wendy was a talent from early childhood, and we learn of the tensions and inspirations that flowed through her to emerge as a personal Elfame: adoptive parents whose emotional abuses hover on the margins of trauma; childhood obsessions and contrasts; and encounters with what were then rare oddities in rural America—manga, weird cartoons, the deeper magics of European and Japanese folklore—which she consumed voraciously.

Richard's access to private artwork and private fact far exceeds what a researcher might get to, but flags his story right off as both authorized and intimate. But while uncritical, the narrative stops short of hagiography: there's much evidence of unexpected turns and some evidence of friction in its creation. The focus is on Wendy's deep fascination with Hogarthian serpentine structures and sequential art (hence the title), and her artistic motivation and development. Read the rest

Tropic of Kansas: Making America Great Again considered harmful

Chris Brown -- long known as a writer of perfect, jewel-like demented cyberpunk stories -- makes his long-overdue novel debut today with Tropic of Kansas; a hilarious, dark, and ultimately hopeful story of a terrible authoritarian president whose project to Make America Great Again has plunged the country into an authoritarian collapse that's all too plausible.

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: DNA, individuals, and species

British geneticist Adam Rutherford is one of the country's great science communicators, an alumnus of Nature whose work we've celebrated here for many years; with his second book, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, Rutherford reveals how the century's astounding advances in genetic science reveal just how little we understand about our genes -- and how our ideas about race and heredity are antiquated superstitions that reflect our biases more than our DNA. (See the bottom of this post for an important update about the upcoming US edition!)

The Private Eye: a supervillain tries to bring the internet back to a world where the press are the cops

Brian K Vaughan and artists Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente started syndicating The Private Eye just before the first Snowden revelations hit, which was a fortuitous bit of timing for them, since their surreal science fictional tale was set in a future where the rupture of all internet security had provoked humanity into banning the internet altogether, replacing it with a world where cable news was so dominant that the police had been replaced by reporters.

No, Italy isn't banning the iPhone

On June 23rd, 2017, a lot of noise was made by an Italian newspaper that said that our new Senate Act 2484 had the potential to "ban the iPhone in Italy" (here's an English article). That's just wrong. This is a "device neutrality" bill, protecting a principle every bit as important as net neutrality, and it won't ban the iPhone, but it will protect and benefit Italians.

Top Secret: New World Order: Merle M. Rasmussen reboots his 1980 RPG classic

The first time Merle Rasmussen played Dungeons & Dragons, he thought it was a Halloween game. “It was October 1975, and I was an 18-year-old freshman at Iowa State University. My roommate got this game filled with skeletons and undead monsters. I had no idea.” The role-playing bug had bitten him, but fantasy wasn’t his genre. So that same year, he started writing a game set in a modern world, the spy game that would become Top Secret.

The Big Bad Fox: hilarious tale of predators, parenting, and poultry

Benjamin Renner's hit French comic The Big Bad Fox isn't just being adapted as an animated feature, it's also now available in English, thanks to the good graces of Firstsecond, whose translation keeps and even enhances all the comic timing of the original.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters: a haunting diary of a young girl as a dazzling graphic novel

Emil Ferris's graphic novel debut My Favorite Thing is Monsters may just be the best graphic novel of 2017, and is certainly the best debut I've read in the genre, and it virtually defies summarizing: Karen is a young girl in a rough Chicago neighborhood is obsessed with monsters and synthesia, is outcast among her friends, is queer, is torn apart by the assassination of Martin Luther King, by her mother's terminal illness, by the murder of the upstairs neighbor, a beautiful and broken Holocaust survivor, by her love for her Vietnam-draft-eligible brother and her love of fine art.

In 1956, Hugh Hefner gave MAD's founding editor an unlimited budget for a new satire magazine called "TRUMP"

Harvey Kurtzman is a hero of satire, the guy who convinced Bill Gaines's mother to bankroll a comic book called MAD, then doubled down by turning MAD into a magazine -- only to jump ship five issues later after a bizarre fight with the Gaineses, finding refuge with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner who gave him an unlimited budget to start an all-star, high-quality satire magazine called TRUMP, which lasted for two legendary, prized issues, now collected in a gorgeous hardcover from Dark Horse. Read the rest

Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland's DODO novel mashes up D&D, time-travel and military bureaucracy

While all of Neal Stephenson's -- always excellent -- novels share common themes and tropes, they're also told in many different modes, from the stately, measured pace of the Baroque Cycle books to the madcap energy of Snow Crash to the wildly experimental pacing of Seveneves. With The Rise and Fall of DODO, a novel co-written with his Mongoliad collaborator, the novelist Nicole Galland, we get all the modes of Stephenson, and all the tropes, and it is glorious.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones: return to the world of Every Heart a Doorway, where gender and peril collide

Seanan McGuire's 2016 novella Every Heart a Doorway was a mean, beautiful, hopeful fairy tale about a boarding school for kids who once opened a door into a magical world, only to return to mundane our earth broken and sorrowing. In Down Among the Sticks and Bones, a prequel published today, McGuire sharpens the tip of her literary spear to a lethal point, telling the tale of Jacqueline and Jillian, twins who opened a door and found themselves upon a moor where they were apprenticed to a vampire and a mad scientist.

The Tories' failed £1.2m social smear ads reveal callouses on our attention’s tender spots

The UK election didn't deliver the increased majority that PM Theresa May was seeking, but it wasn't for lack of trying: the UK Conservative party spent £1.2m on social media smear ads that painted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, a useful idiot for Scottish separatism, and an incompetent.

The Kill Society: Sandman Slim meets Mad Max...in hell

Every time I imagine that Richard Kadrey has run out of ends-of-all-creation to torture his long-running, hard-boiled supernatural antihero Sandman Slim with, he surprises me with a bigger, badder, meaner, scarier end-of-days than the last, and with the eighth volume in the series, The Kill Society, Kadrey pulls out all the stops. Read the rest

Theresa May wants to ban crypto: here's what that would cost, and here's why it won't work anyway

Aaron Swartz once said, "It's no longer OK not to understand how the Internet works."

Crooked: a photo catalog of protest signs to benefit the American Refugee Committee, Planned Parenthood, and Reading Partners

The first time I traveled outside of the United States, I was twelve years old. The destination was that mysterious place my immigrant parents fondly referred to as “back home” whenever they told us childhood stories: Lebanon. We were vacationing there for the summer of 2006 and meeting our extended family. I don’t recall much about the first few days of the trip other than how new and exciting everything had seemed to me. And how quickly it all would change.

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