Marc "Half-Life" Laidlaw's gonzo cyberpunk is back in DRM-free ebooks

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Marc Laidlaw, the cyberpunk pioneer who went on to serve as writer on some of Valve's greatest video-game titles -- the Half-Life series, Portal -- has just posted his entire backlist to Amazon as $3, DRM-free ebooks, including his debut novel Dad's Nuke (think Fallout, but with religious extremist militants who subsist on "Host on a shingle," this being the cultured recovered foreskin tissue of Jesus Christ on fortified crackers) and Kalifornia, a brilliant and prescient novel about media, cultural disintegration, and celebrity. Read the rest

Shot in the '70s, North African Villages shows medieval villages unchanged by modernity

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

North African Villages: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia by Norman F. Carver Documan Pr Ltd 1989, 200 pages, 9 x 10.5 x 0.5 inches (softcover) $24 Buy a copy on Amazon

In the 1970s an architectural student drove a VW van around Italy, the Iberian peninsula, and northern Africa, recording the intact medieval villages still operating in their mountain areas. The hill towns at that time in Italy, Spain, Morocco and Tunisia kept a traditional way of building without architects, using indigenous materials, without straight streets, producing towns of uncommon attractiveness. The architect, Norman Carver, later self published a series of photo books documenting these remote villages which had not yet been interrupted with modernity. They looked, for most purposes, like they looked 1,000 years ago. All of Carter’s books are worthwhile, but my favorite is North African Villages. Here you get a portrait of not just the timeless architecture, but also a small glimpse of the lives that yielded that harmony of the built upon the born. It’s an ideal of organic design, that is, design that is accumulated over time. Read the rest

The new Lumberjanes book is sweet and badass, with a hell of a monster

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Books one and two of Lumberjanes introduced us to the characters and setting of the awesome, women-run, girl-positive comics: the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types are Lumberjanes, being trained in the badass arts. Book three -- collecting comics from a kind of victory lap of the title after its amazing success -- turned the series' reins over to some of the best writers and illustrators in comics-dom for a series of vignettes. Now, with Out of Time, the fourth book, the original creative team are back at the helm, telling a long-form story that illuminates the Lumberjane backstory and introduces one of the best, scariest monsters of cryptozoologica.

100 African science fiction writers you should be reading

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Canadian/British science fiction and fantasy author Geoff Ryman, author of the incredible novel WAS, has begun a series in which he profiles 100 working science fiction and fantasy writers in Africa, place by place, starting with Nairobi. Read the rest

Coffee table book of photos of Brutalist architecture: This Brutal World

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Peter Chadwick -- he runs the @brutalhouse stream of loving photos of imposing brutalist monuments -- has teamed up with Phaedon to publish a coffee-table book of the biggest, most uncompromising hulking monsters of the bygone age of concrete futurism: This Brutal World. Read the rest

Kickstarting an indie graphic novel about John Brown and Harper's Ferry

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Wilfred Santiago and Sanlida Cheng are comics pros who've worked for the likes of Marvel, DC and Fantagraphics, but for "Thunderbolt: An American Tale," their dramatization of the life of John Brown and the militant abolitionist uprising at Harper's Ferry, they've decided to go indie and take it to Kickstarter. Read the rest

The Wolves of Currumpaw – A true story about Lobo, a wolf from the Old West

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The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill Flying Eye Books 2016, 80 pages, 9.7 x 12.1 x 0.6 inches $14 Buy a copy on Amazon

In the early 1800s, half a million wolves roamed North America, but by 1862 settlers began pouring in from Europe and the landscape started to change. “These were the dying days of the Old West and the fate of wolves was sealed in it," begins The Wolves of Currumpaw.

The Wolves of Currumpaw, released today, is a true story about a wolf named Old Lobo, and a skilled hunter, Ernest Thompson Seton. Lobo was part of notorious pack of wolves in 1893 who, for five years, raided the ranches and farms of the Currumpaw Valley in New Mexico. Nobody was able to catch the stealthy wolf, and the locals began to think Old Lobo, or the King as they called him at the time, possessed supernatural charms. The locals finally offered $1000 to anyone who could catch him. Expert hunters set out to track him and hunt him down, but like the Terminator, Lobo couldn’t be killed – until Canadian-raised Seton came into town.

SPOILER paragraph: The story ends tragically, and might not be appropriate for more sensitive children. Seton does succeed in taking Lobo down, a section of the book that was hard for me to read. But then Seton has deep regrets and becomes a changed man. As a writer and sudden activist, Seton devoted the rest of his life to raising awareness about wolves. Read the rest

Warren Ellis's "Normal": serialized technothriller about futurists driven mad by tech-overload and bleakness

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In Normal, Warren Ellis (previously) sets a technothriller in a kind of rehab center for futurists and foresight specialists who've developed "abyss gaze" -- a kind of special bleak depression that overtakes people who plug themselves into the digital world 24/7 in order to contemplate our precarious days to come. Read the rest

Out today, "Necessity," the final volume of Jo Walton's Thessaly books, sequel to "The Just City" & "Philosopher Kings"

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The Just City is a gripping fantasy novel based on a thought-experiment: what if the goddess Athena transplanted all the people across time who'd ever dreamed of living in Plato's Republic to a Mediterranean island and set them loose to build that world? Read the rest

Benjamin Frisch's "Fun Family": good old American narcissism

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We're happy to offer this excerpt from cartoonist Benjamin Frisch's graphic novel debut, The Fun Family, "a subversive look at the underbelly of the All-American family through the prism of Family Circus-esque Sunday morning comic strips -- a surreal deconstruction of modern parenting, childhood nostalgia, and good old American narcissism."

Saga Volume 6: Proof that awesome, weird, sexy space-opera can be produced to a schedule

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Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples' comic Saga blew the lid off comics when they started publishing it with the creator-friendly folks at Image, producing two graphic novels' worth of material in as many years; but then there was the long drought while we waited for book three (spoiler: worth the wait), and since then, they've hit a driving, relentless annual schedule, culminating in the publication, last week, of Volume 6, which is all that we've come to love from the series and then some.

A luscious tome of family stories and previously unseen photos to celebrate Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Sinatra 100 by Charles Pignone Thames & Hudson 2015, 288 pages, 11.2 x 13.9 x 1.3 inches $32 Buy a copy on Amazon

Sinatra 100 encapsulates the legendary performer’s life through text and previously unseen photographs from the family archives as well as classic images from various photo shoots. After forewords by two friends who knew him best, Tony Bennet and Steve Wyn, as well as an introduction by book author Charles Pignone, the book is broken into three long sections: The Voice 1915-1952, Chairman Of The Board 1953-1972, and Ol’ Blue Eyes 1973-1998. That leads readers into afterward sections by various family members and other items of interest.

Frank Sinatra, the man who would be known as “The Voice,” was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on December 12, 1915. Singing in his Dad’s bar led to a lifetime in music. The pages of that first section detail in photographs and text how difficult his early career was as well as his personal circumstances. After having some very early success, by the early 1950s Sinatra could have easily been relegated to a brief footnote in history. It was those early days that taught him what loyalty meant to both himself and others.

While the early fifties were ugly, things changed fairly rapidly. Winning the Oscar on March 25, 1954 was a pivotal point in that turnaround and a small taste of what was to come. In Chairman Of The Board 1953-1972, that turnaround is thoroughly detailed. Read the rest

Kickstarting a collection of "Decrypting Rita," a graphic novel about a lesbian robot with reality problems

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Egypt Urnash (AKA Margaret Trauth) is kickstarting a third print collection of her webcomic Decrypting Rita (previously), "about a robot lady who's dragged outside of reality by her ex-boyfriend; she's got to pull herself together across four parallel worlds before a hive-mind can take over the entire planet. It's a slickly-drawn story that plays around with narrative in ways only comics can do; those four parallel worlds run beside each other on the page, twining around each other in various ways." Read the rest

Jughead: Zdarsky's reboot is funny, fannish, and freaky

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For the past couple years, the "new, hipster" Archie has been pushing the envelope on what can be done within the confines of an old, beloved (and outdated) media brand: there was Kevin Keller, a gay character; Jughead coming out as asexual; a seriously scary zombie story; Sharknado spinoffs; a breast cancer storyline; even a guest appearance by Jaime "Love and Rockets" Hernandez: but Chip "Sex Criminals" Zdarsky's run on Jughead, illustrated by Erica Henderson and just collected in a trade paperback shows just how much fun the new normal of Archie can be!

Teri S. Wood's Wandering Star Gets New Omnibus Graphic Novel

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Stop what you’re doing and buy the new omnibus graphic novel of Teri S. Wood's 1990s comic series Wandering Star. It's amazing. Splendtacular, even.

Set in the future, it is the tale of Cassandra Andrews, daughter of the President of Earth, and how she became embroiled in a galaxy-spanning war for freedom from tyranny. Wood takes what could be a generic science fiction trope and creates something new and different by weaving in hard, realistic racism, xenophobia, religion and philosophy (which are shockingly and sadly relevant to current world events) paired with well-defined and incredibly likeable—and hateable—characters. In fact, the characters and story are so strong and relatable the scifi setting becomes a simple backdrop, the room in which the tale unfolds. The plot is tight, marching forward chapter by chapter, without excess or unnecessary tangents. It is humorous, horrific, endearing, and heart-crushing all in equal measure.

The art is just as good as the story. Wood is a master cartoonist who has a command of human anatomy and understands how to bend, squash and exaggerate it to create visually charming characters, both human and alien alike. Her lines are fluid and alive and playful. I marvel at the stippled, hand-drawn pen and ink effects she puts into every page that make the art in Wandering Star so unique. What’s more, Wood knows how to use sequential art and camera angle to deliver both side-splitting comedy and emotional gut-punches. (And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the rad 90’s pop culture and indie comics references hidden in the background details of the art.)

While the series has been collected into graphic novels in the past, those editions are long out of print and nowhere near the quality of this new omnibus. Read the rest

William Gibson's Archangel: intricate military sf, mercilessly optimized for comics

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Archangel is a five-part science fiction comic written by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith and illustrated by Butch Guice; Issue #1 came out last month and sold out immediately, and IDW has only just got its second printing into stores this week, just ahead of the ship-date for #2, which is due next Wednesday. Read the rest

How tragedies of the Great Depression influenced singer Woody Guthrie

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads by Nick Hayes Harry N. Abrams 16, 272 pages, 8.6 x 8.6 x 1.2 inches $19 Buy a copy on Amazon

A graphic novel of the life and early career of singer Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads is a sepia and dusty brown, linocut illustrated graphic novel. It begins with harrowing tales of his youth – his mother burning his father with coal oil, resulting in her being shipped off to the Hospital For The Insane, the collapse of his Pampa hometown as the plummeting price of wheat ruined the local and national economy, and Guthrie traveling roads and hopping trains during the Great Depression. His encounters with snake oil salesmen and carnival acts, hobos, and migrant workers, as well as his exposure to the music of Cajuns, Native Americans, Xit cowboys, and Appalachian folksong performances at barn dances ultimately inspire him to take up the fiddle and write original tunes.

Along with Woody's story, the book provides a powerful backstory on the environmental conditions of the Dust Bowl region, including the displacement of Native Americans through the push of white settlers on native lands, agriculture techniques that resulted in the tearing up of the bluestem grasses to plant wheat, an unprecedented drought, and the glut of wheat causing the exodus of settlers to California. This all brings to life the tragic unraveling of the fragile Dust Bowl ecosystem and brings about the hardscrabble lives and dust-blown landscape that Guthrie integrates into his music. Read the rest

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