Concrete Park: apocalyptic, afrofuturistic graphic novel of greatness

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I learned about Concrete Park from Calvin Reid, the pioneering comics critic/reviewer who chaired a panel with Scott McCloud and me at the Miami Book Fair last month; Calvin called it the best new afrofuturistic comic he'd read, and I rushed out to get my own copy.

Krampus trashes the horror potential of traditional mythology in a film that's neither funny nor scary

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In German-speaking Alpine lands, as Americans are increasingly aware, St. Nicholas is accompanied on his gift-giving rounds by the devilish Krampus, who’s said to punish naughty children with stinging blows from birch switches, by stuffing them in a sack and carrying them off to hell, throwing them in a lake, or even eating them -- punishments that all seem infinitely more pleasant than sitting through Michael Dougherty’s horror-comedy Krampus due in theaters December 4.

I am not a film critic. I was invited to a preview screening because of my involvement in co-producing Krampus events in Los Angeles since 2013. Over the course of these events and in writing a book on the subject, I’ve had conversations with dozens of Europeans who don the suits annually. I’ve talked to mask-carvers, and Austrian cultural anthropologists, and gotten close enough to Alpine Krampuses to smell their animal pelts and steamy, schnappsy breath. I know the Krampus pretty well, well enough to say this film has almost nothing to do with that old devil.

Even from the trailers I already knew we weren’t exploring authentic traditions. I expected some creativity with the tradition and wanted to be entertained. I was there as a horror fan. I’ve been one all my life. By the age 10, I could tell you the release date, directors, lead players and usually the make-up artist behind any of Universal’s classic horror films. But sitting in the Carl Laemmle building watching this, I could hear the old man cursing the very first pfennig he dropped in a nickelodeon. Read the rest

Urban Transport Without the Hot Air: confusing the issue with relevant facts!

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Steven Melia's Urban Transport Without the Hot Air joins Drugs Without the Hot Air, Sustainable Materials With Both Eyes Open and Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air as a highly readable, evidence-based look at a contentious and politicised area that offers a refreshing dose of facts in a debate dominated by ideology.

Never Goodnight: a Swedish punk Peanuts

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In 1982, Coco Moodysson was a 12 year old punk in Sweden, along with her best friend and her best friend's sister. They gave themselves spiky haircuts, started a band called Off to the Alps, wrote a song called "Ecco Shoes" and demanded that the adults in their lives take them seriously.

The Paradox: a secret history of magical London worthy of Tim Powers

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In The Oversight, Charlie Fletcher introduced us to a secret history of London and the ancient order that defended it from the creatures of the dark. Now, with The Paradox, a sequel, Fletcher plunges the bedraggled heroes of the Oversight into danger that they may not be able to best.

Randall "XCKD" Munroe's Thing Explainer: delightful exploded diagrams labelled with simple words

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Randall "XKCD" Munroe's Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words arrives in stores today: it combines technical diagrams and wordplay in pure display of everything that makes XKCD brilliant and wonderful in every way.

Blankets: New edition of Craig Thompson's graphic masterpiece

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Craig Thompson's second graphic novel, the 582-page mammoth Blankets, swept the field's awards, taking three Harveys, two Eisners, and two Ignatzes. More than a decade later, and buoyed by his later successes (such as 2011's seminal Habibi), Drawn and Quarterly has produced a beautiful new edition.

The Qwerkywriter: a delightful Bluetooth keyboard based on a manual typewriter

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I blogged the announcement of the Qwerkywriter more than a year ago, when the company was retooling from its successful kickstarter to full retail production. I've had one of the production models in my office for a couple of months now and I've been very impressed! (I wrote this review on it). Read the rest

The final Pratchett: The Shepherd's Crown

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I really tried to make this book last. It's the last Discworld novel, written by Terry Pratchett in the last days of his life, as his death from a tragic, unfair, ghastly early onset Alzheimer's stole up on him. But I couldn't help myself. I read it, read it all. I wept. Then I read it again.

At least Turkey's tragic politics gives material to comics artists

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Today, Firstsecond publishes Ozge Samanci's Dare to Disappoint, a graphic novel memoir of growing up in Turkey. Ms Samanci has favored us with an essay describing the tumultuous relationship between Turkey's authoritarian, thin-skinned president and her fellow cartoonists.

Made to Kill: 1960s killer-robot noir detective novel

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In Made to Kill, Adam Christopher presents us with a mashup of Raymond Chandler and Philip K Dick: the world's last robot (all the others were destroyed after they stole everyone's jobs) and his boss, a building-sized computer, who operate a private detective agency that's a front for an assassination business. And business is good.

Kim Stanley Robinson's "Aurora": space is bigger than you think

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Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora is the best book I read in 2015, and by "best" I mean, "most poetic" and "most thought provoking" and "most scientific," a triple-crown in science fiction that's practically unheard of. I wouldn't have believed it possible, even from Robinson, had I not read it for myself.

Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Between the World and Me" is the next book you should read

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Between the World and Me is the memoir of Ta-Nehisi Coates -- certified genius and author of many seminal essays on race in America. It is a work of rage and beauty, and it should be the very next thing you read.

Fable Comics: anthology of great comics artists telling fables from around the world

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Firstsecond's new Fable Comics is the third knockout anthology in which amazing, hugely varied comics creators recreate some of the world's best loved stories. As with Nursery Rhyme Comics and Fairy Tale Comics, Fable Comics draws from diverse source material and presents it in varied, fresh ways that have something for everyone.

The Welcome to Night Vale novel dances a tightrope between weird humor and real pathos

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Welcome to Night Vale is the spookiest, funniest podcast on the net and now it's a book that manages the near impossible: balancing precisely on the single-molecule-thick line separating weird humor and real pathos.

Secret Coders: kids' comic awesomely teaches the fundamentals of computer science

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Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes's Secret Coders is volume one in a new series of ingenious graphic novels for young kids that teach the fundamentals of computer science.

Zeroes: it sucks to be a teen, even with powers

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Scott Westerfeld's YA canon is huge and varied, from the Uglies books to the excellent vampire parasitology book Peeps to the dieselpunk Clankers trilogy, and the new one, Zeroes, breaks new ground still: it's a collaboration with Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti about teens with powers.

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