Jack of Fables: great new Fables collection

Jack of Fables: The (Nearly) Great Escape is the latest collection from my beloved Fables comic-book serial. The Fables books tell the story of the magical creatures of storybooks who were banished to Earth when "The Adversary" -- a brutal conqueror -- enslaved their homelands.

Jack follows the story of Jack (of beanstalk, giant-killing, spring heels, etc fame), a rogue Fable who is banished for the sin of making best-selling movies about his adventures. He is kidnapped by mysterious, ultra-violent "librarians" who are responsible for neutering the old, mean stories and turning them into tame, docile things, and plots a grand escape for he and his fellow captured/forgotten fables.

As with all the Fables books, the writing just sings -- snappy dialog, punchy plots, and the artwork is a great mix of the cartoony and the hyperreal. This is a kind of American comic magic-realism, a blending of the mythical and the real. Link, Link to all Fables collections, Link to free download of Fables #1

See also: Scheherezade meets every fable of every land - comic Read the rest

DMZ: graphic novel, a worthy successor to Transmetropolitan

Once in a long while, a new comic book series comes along that just kicks the hell out of you, melding words and pictures in a way that is impossible in any other medium, telling a story that you can't put down, one that changes the way you see the world.

I've just finished the first two collections from Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli's DMZ, and its really, really goddamned great.

DMZ is set in a near-future America torn apart by a new civil war. The "Free State" army is a band of redneck insurgents, sick of an America in decline, who've brought Iraq-style asymmetric warfare to the streets of America. Starting in small towns and sweeping across the country, they are fought to a standstill in Manhattan, the DMZ, where they face off against the US military.

Matty Roth is a kid journalist in Manhattan, the sole survivor of an abortive attempt to drop a Geraldo-like journalist into the DMZ to get the "real story" for Liberty, a politicized TV network with the ethics of Rupert Murdoch's FOX. Matty is the intern, but he's got the gear, and the guts, and he sets about telling the stories of a Manhattan under siege, where all the rich people have gotten out, leaving the poor behind for target practice by both armies.

DMZ has the guts and verve of Transmetropolitan, and a similar structure, too -- episodic slice-of-life views into a city in glorious, self-devouring ruin, shot through with an overarching plot about the fight of average people and brave journalists to expose official corruption. Read the rest

Scherezade meets every fable of every land - comic

Bill Willingham's Fables is one of the select, wonderful group of long-running graphic novels that I follow religiously. The premise is that all the mythical creatures of our fables have been chased from their homeworlds by the Adversary, a shadowy figure who sends an army of goblin warriors before him to rape and plunder. The Fables have settled on our world, in New York, back in the days when it was New Amsterdam, and they have lived there ever since, hidden in plain sight.

A new volume in the series, 1001 Nights of Snowfall, has just been published. It is set outside of the main action of the series, with Snow White visiting Scheherezade's Sultan to beg his help in rallying the Arabian fables to fight the Adversary, who even now marches on their worlds.

The Sultan imprisons and threatens to kill Snow White, but she charms him with her life's story -- a retelling of the Snow White myth from the dankest, filthiest Grimm rendition, mixed with enough vivid detail to curl your hair. The Sultan spares her life, but promises to kill her the next night if she doesn't have another story. So the next night she tells the origin stories of two more of the Fables whom we've met through the long-running series, and then again the next night, and the next.

I love origins-of comics, Peter Parker and his radioactive spider and all that. But this is absolutely the cleverest frame for an origins story I've ever read, capturing (as all the Fables storylines do) the true feeling of old legends and the odd dissonance of imagining them unfolding today. Read the rest

Rucker's new book: free downloads, upcoming signings

Genius SF writer and mathematician/hacker Rudy Rucker's new book The Lifebox, the Seashell and the Soul: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me About Ultimate Reality, the Meaning of Life and How to Be Happy. has just come out, and Rudy's put half off the book online as free high-rez PDFs. Rudy's also got a book launch coming up.
We're presently in the midst of a third intellectual revolution. The first came with Newton: the planets obey physical laws. The second came with Darwin: biology obeys genetic laws. In today’s third revolution, were coming to realize that even minds and societies emerge from interacting laws that can be regarded as computations. Everything is a computation.

Does this, then, mean that the world is dull? Far from it. The naturally occurring computations that surround us are richly complex. A tree's growth, the changes in the weather, the flow of daily news, a person's ever-changing moods --- all of these computations share the crucial property of being gnarly. Although lawlike and deterministic, gnarly computations are --- and this is a key point --- inherently unpredictable. The world's mystery is preserved.

Mixing together anecdotes, graphics, and fables, Rucker teases out the implications of his new worldview, which he calls "universal automatism." His analysis reveals startling aspects of the everyday world, touching upon such topics as chaos, the internet, fame, free will, and the pursuit of happiness. More than a popular science book, The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul is a philosophical entertainment that teaches us how to enjoy our daily lives to the fullest possible extent.

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Science fiction can make you a better Unitarian

Will Shetterly, the genius author of Dogland and many other fine novels, has written a fantastic article for a Unitarian magazine, explaining how reading science fiction and fantasy can make you a better Christian, by providing a framework for understanding how to digest and comprehend parables and fables.
These implicitly spiritual stories, just as explicitly spiritual ones, can be divided into parables and fables. Mysteries and romances, like Jesus' stories about servants, are meant to be plausible. Because the stories could be true, we can learn from Sherlock Holmes, Scarlet O'Hara, or the Good Samaritan. But fantasy and science fiction, like the stories about Jesus' miracles or divine birth, are meant to be implausible. By asking us to consider something outside our experience, like traveling in time, becoming a monster, or turning water into wine, they ask us to throw off our preconceptions and see the world as if we had never seen it before. Because it's impossible for a story to occur in our world, we know that it's about something more than its details, and we can learn from Santa Claus, Superman, or the Son of God.

As they do for many adolescents and adults, fantasy and science fiction gave me fables that were spiritual and fables that explored the desire to be spiritual. I appreciated the personal and public difficulty of promoting a faith by reading about Paul Muad'Dib in Dune and Michael Valentine Smith in Stranger in a Strange Land. Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light made me think about the nature of pantheons.

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Downloading comics: threat or menace?

A comics fan who thinks downloading comics is immoral posted a long rant to a message board, urging readers to shun comics-trading sites. The debate that follows has several excellent posts -- but the most interesting ones come from fanatical comics-buyers who download books they already own in hardcopy because it's a "good way to be able to go back and reread a book without running the risk of damaging it" and so forth.

The comics industry has been creaking and threatening collapse for as long as I've been reading funnybooks. One thing that's always frustrated me is the incomprehensible lag between the monthly books and the bound collections: if you wander into a bookstore and discover issues 1-5 of Y: The Last Man or Issues 1-5 of Fables (both stone brilliant; run, don't walk) and fall in love, why you can go on to pick up the subsequent collections, three or four books each in all. Now, say you've read up to issue 20 of Fables and you don't want to wait for the next collection to come out: you want to take the plunge and become a regular, monthly comics reader. You go down to your local comics store and say, "Please sell me issues 21 through the current issue of Fables, and put the current ish aside for me every month: I'm hooked!"

What usually happens is the comics person will say, "Sorry, we've got issue 25, which is the current one, and number 24, but that's it -- the older ones are out of print." In other words, you got on the Fables boat too late and you're not going to be able to catch up with the book in comics form without buying issues from collectors or off of eBay. Read the rest

W. C. Privy's Original Bathroom Companion

Jack Mingo is a wonderful pop culture historian. I really emjoyed his book on the origins of different products, How the Cadillac Got its Fins). He has co-written a new book out that sounds good, called W. C. Privy's Original Bathroom Companion. From the release:
It's a thick 480-page collection of diverse, short and amusing articles, quizzes, fact, fiction, and trivia, lavishly illustrated with drawings and photos.

CONTENTS Here's a partial list of the table of contents: History of the Hawaiian Shirt Weird Tourist Sites How to Build an Igloo Prizes: Who were Pulitzer, Heisman, Nobel, Ryder, and Stanley? Strange Tales from the Bible How to Escape From Alligators and Quicksand Ben Franklin's Naughty Writings: "About Flatulence" and "On Choosing a Mistress" Penguin Love True Facts About Pigs, Penguins, Kangaroos, and Lemmings How to Charm a Snake Eyewitness Accounts of the Boston Tea Party and the Lincoln Assassination Bathroom History Stories Behind Mona Lisa, American Gothic, Whistler's Mother & Washington's Unfinished Portrait Latin and Yiddish Quizzes The History of Toasters Optical Illusions How to Milk a Cow What Happens After You Flush Strange Vintage Ads Obscure Aesop's Fables A History of Bathroom Graffiti

I wish it were available as an e-text, because I do most of my bathroom reading these days with a Palm. Link Discuss Read the rest

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