Briggs Land: an eerily plausible version of our near future

Briggs Land is a complex, intelligent crime drama that is so American at its core, but a slice of America we rarely get to see. It would be topical at any time, but in our current political climate, it's frighteningly relevant.

If you're not reading Saga yet, Book 7 proves you should get caught up RIGHT NOW

Saga is Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples' magnificent, visually stunning, adventurous, funny, raunchy, complex and provocative graphic novel; the first six volumes of collected comics moved from strength to strength, fleshing out a universe that was simultaneously surreal and deadly serious, where cute characters could have deadly-serious lives: now, with volume 7, Staples and Vaughan continue their unbroken streak of brilliance.

The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History

Superman always left me cold. Virtually omnipotent, unerringly virtuous, and slightly boring, Superman is capable of rescuing kittens from trees, leaping over buildings with a single bound, and routinely saving the entire planet from certain cataclysm. He always wins. Sure, he was sort of killed once, he's been naughty on occasion (usually due to some form of Kryptonite or an alternate reality), and he certainly has a fascist streak in the current movies, but his most recent controversy is whether he's wearing the red trunks or not. Yawn.

I was always fascinated by the C-squad heroes, the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time group just below Aquaman and Elongated Man in name recognition. Red Tornado, the 1940's heroine who fought crime while wearing a bucket on her head, utilizing only her fists and wit. Mr. Terrific, the Golden Age 'Man of 1000 Talents', who rarely used any of them. Phantom Stranger, a mage with omnipotent powers who was merely a narrator in his own book, generally only appearing in the first and last panels. And then there's The Legion Of Superheroes, whose members included Bouncing Boy, who had the ability to inflate himself and bounce around, Ferro Lad, who could turn himself to solid iron, and Matter Eater Lad, who could eat anything, which inspired the indie rock group Guided By Voices to write a song about him. Don't even get me started on the League Of Substitute Heroes, the minor leaguers with questionable abilities not quite up to snuff to join the Legion.

The League Of Regrettable Superheroes examines the careers of a few of the comic book history's least likely heroes. Read the rest

A beautifully illustrated edition of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen

The Hans Christian Andersen classic, The Snow Queen, is a quick and enjoyable read, made all the more so with printmaker Sanna Annukka’s gorgeous illustrations. You’ll likely recognize the textile designer’s aesthetic from Marimekko and, not surprisingly, many of her illustrations make full use of her bold, geometric patterns through the characters’ dress. Her landscapes look like fabrics, too. A panel that shows a wintry countryside looks like it could be a weaving and I wish I could buy another, a garden in full bloom, by the bolt.

The story itself is not what I had expected. In many ways, the titular character is a minor player. The heroine is a young girl, Gerda, who journeys bravely and earnestly, escaping numerous villains by virtue of her devotion to her young friend and playmate, Kay, who has been lured away by the Snow Queen. Kay first fell victim to the heart-numbing trickery of the devil himself, who had accidentally broken an evil mirror crafted to reflect and amplify only the most wicked and ugly things in the world. When the mirror breaks, pieces “smaller than a grain of sand” are sent flying around the word, one of which sticks in Kay’s eye, and another which pierces and chills his heart. As the Snow Queen further freezes Kay’s heart with a kiss, Gerda braves witches, haunts, thieves, and icy winds to save her friend.

Maybe it’s because I’m a mom who is worn out on Frozen, the Disney smash hit (which refuses to die, despite every parent’s best efforts) that was loosely based on the fairy tale, but I wish that the movie more closely echoed the actual story. Read the rest

This book helped me manage my back pain

Abuses in my youth have left me in a lot of pain. Robin McKenzie's Treat Your Own Back helped me more than any doctor.

I was desperately searching for an option other than letting doctors I do not trust operate on my spine. In response, a friend sent me a copy of this book. Spine, neck and lower back expert Robin McKenzie's Treat Your Own Back delivered enough information to let me hold off on the surgery and return to a fairly functional life.

Treat Your Own Back gives a lot of information about why the pain is happening, and what posture can do to alleviate it. Simple exercises that'll help relieve pressure on nerves, and build core strength. Common sense approaches to dealing with back pain, rather than running right for surgery.

Someday I think I'll end up under the knife. I have some good friends who have had wonderful success with it. Until I find I really need it, and I've run out of self-care options, however, I'm going to keep looking for books like this one.

Treat Your Own Back by Robin McKenzie via Amazon Read the rest

Zoë Quinn's book about online abuse gets a release date

Zoë Quinn, creator of punk games, knows more than most about the sharp end of online harassment. But she also knows what it takes to fight back, an important skill now that the same playbook used against her is wielded broadly by abusive reactionaries of all stripes.

So I can't wait to read her book, Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, which is finally available for preorder. The release date: September 5, 2017.

Update: Quinn stresses that it's not just about that one particular campaign:

Here's the blurb, from Amazon:

You've heard the stories about the dark side of the internet-hackers, anonymous hoards attacking an unlucky target, and revenge porn-but they remain just that: stories. Surely these things would never happen to you.

Zoe Quinn used to feel the same way.

Read the rest

Read: chapter two of WALKAWAY, in which buildings build themselves

There's 22 days until the publication of Walkaway, my first novel for adults since 2009's Makers (there's still time to pre-order signed copies: USA, UK); to whet appetites, my US publisher Tor Books is releasing excerpts from the book; last month, it was chapter 1, "Communisty Party"; today, they've released chapter 2, "You All Meet in a Tavern." Read the rest

Astonishing book tunnel entrance to bookstore

Chinese bookstore Yangzhou Zhongshuge has arguably the most breathtaking bookstore entrance in the world. Read the rest

Solid State: Jonathan Coulton's album/graphic novel against nicey-nice fascism

Jonathan Coulton is known for a myriad of distinct accomplishments. The tech professional-turned-musician once conducted a Thing a Week experiment, in which he recorded and published a new song every Friday for a year, produced a cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" infamously adopted by the Fox series Glee, regularly contributes to the NPR quiz show "Ask Me Another" as its very own one-man band, and runs his own fan cruise aptly called the JoCo Cruise.

Ikea vs Superfans: how paranoid trademark lawyers make everything suck

In 2014, IKEA, the Swedish-based global furniture company, sent a cease-and-desist letter to a blogger by the name of Jules Yap. Yap ran the extremely popular website IKEAhackers.net, which helped people “hack” IKEA furniture into new, creative, and unexpected designs. The site was already almost a decade old when IKEA’s lawyers demanded that Yap hand over the URL. What follows is a case study from Superfandom: How Our Obsessions are Changing What We Buy and Who We Are.

A climbable personal library in an old elevator shaft

Studio North was commissioned to refit an old elevator shaft in a converted warehouse loft in Calgary; they built a tall, narrow library with climbable shelves whose hand- and foot-holds retract into the shelving. Read the rest

There is only one man with the gold, and that man is Mr. T

On the infrequent occasion I am asked for life advice I refer folks to Mr. T: The Man with the Gold: An Autobiography. It has all the answers.

Read the rest

Read: "Communist Party": the first chapter of Walkaway

There's still time to pre-order your signed first-edition hardcover of Walkaway, my novel which comes out on April 25 (US/UK), and while you're waiting for that to ship, here's chapter one of the novel, "Communist Party" (this is read by Wil Wheaton on the audiobook, where he is joined by such readers as Amanda Palmer and Amber Benson!). Read the rest

Here's the schedule for my 25-city US-Canada Walkaway tour!

There's 25 stops in all on the US/Canada tour for WALKAWAY, my next novel, an "optimistic disaster novel" that comes out on April 25 (more stops coming soon, as well as publication of my UK tour). Read the rest

The Offworld Collection available to order

The Offworld Collection, presenting the very best features and essays from Offworld, is finally available to buy directly from Campo Santo for $40. I had the pleasure of designing and illustrating this splendid 250-page hardcover volume, but it's the excellent writing, edited by Leigh Alexander and Laura Hudson, that makes it an essential buy. You get the ebook immediately upon purchase. Read the rest

Zelda: Art & Artifacts is an enormous art book for Hyrule explorers

The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts is a mammoth book containing art and errata from practically every Zelda title ever released. Having spent a mere afternoon with it, I feel I've experienced an adolescence-worth of missed gameplay.

I've never gotten around to immersing myself in the Zelda games, but was always struck by the their' precision and economy, a world crafted more than built. There's a mysticism, even a darkness to Zelda that seems out of place in Nintendo's cutesy-poo lineup.

A heroic cycle, with a eternally-recurring hero and nemesis, every generation of the mythos is a strange echo of another, and the star is a stoic mute boy defined by his tools and under fate's control. Hyrule and its hero are less standard RPG fantasy than a uniquely Japanese new wave murmur, an Elric in Arcadia who brings sunshine rather than storm and never has a single brooding thought and gets to live silently ever after.

Published by Dark Horse Books, it's 424 pages long and weighs 6 pounds. It's 12.3 x 9.3 inches long and wide and two inches thick. Notes and other documentation are translated by Aria Tanner, Hisashi Kotobuki, Heidl Plechl and Michael Gombos.

Organized roughly by release date (the canonical continuity seems rather murky), there's early animation-style cels, box art, instruction booklets, and even some work from the latest title, Breath of the Wild, released a couple of weeks ago.

It goes from exquisitely painted concept art right down to detailed sprite sheets from classic 8-bit outings, and the print quality is outstanding. Read the rest

New York 2140: Kim Stanley Robinson dreams vivid about weathering climate crisis

In 2012, Kim Stanley Robinson published 2312, imagining how the world and its neighbors might look in 300 years, loosely coupled with the seminal Red Mars books, a futuristically pastoral novel about the way that technology can celebrate the glories of nature; in 2015, Robinson followed it up with Aurora, the best book I read that year, which used 2312's futures to demolish the idea that we can treat space colonization (and other muscular technological projects) as Plan B for climate change -- a belief that is very comforting to those who don't or can't imagine transforming capitalism into a political system that doesn't demolish the planet. Now, with New York 2140, Robinson starts to connect the dots between these different futures with a bold, exhilarating story of life in a permanent climate crisis, where most people come together in adversity, but where a small rump of greedy, powerful people get in their way.

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