30 May 2004

Manga, Anime, and Graphic Novel #16

I was going to blog about the graphic novel in the last post, but I know I'm about to go on and on about manga and anime, so I thought it should get its own post. So first, the graphic novel:

  1. Shaman King volume 1 by Hiroyuki Takei. I wasn't at all sure I'd like this book, but I ordered it on a whim from my niece's Scholastic Books order--the school gets something as a result of people ordering though them. Books, I think. Anyway, Shaman King was pretty fun. It does have a lot of action--cool fight scenes take up quite a few of the pages (but it's boy's manga, so what can I expect?). The story is a little on the thin side, compared to something like Sandman, but it did have lots of Japanese myth and folklore, and the plot wasn't as much of a thin frame on which to hang fight sequences as a lot of boy's manga has (judging by the latest issue of Shonen Jump, anyway). It won't be right at the top of my list, but I will be watching for volume 2 in my local comic shop.

I also read the aforementioned latest issue of Shonen Jump (shonen = boy's manga). At 360-odd pages, it probably could count as a graphic novel (though technically, it's an anthology, not a novel), but it didn't feel like one. It felt like a big magazine, so I haven't put it on the list.

But I was going to blather on about manga and anime. I think I mentioned something about becoming addicted to anime again (one website I saw says, "Anime: crack is cheaper" and another said, "If you want a cheap addiction, try drugs.") But anyway. Aside from Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, I haven't watched much anime for a while. I used to, though. Once upon a time, my favourite tv show was The Transformers (also indirectly responsible for my comics habit). And before that, I loved Battle of the Planets. Then there was Robotech, all three storylines. But then I didn't watch much for a while. Not until many years later when Tim and I got addicted after watching Space: The Imagination Station's Friday night (or was it Saturday?) anime movies that came on after Lexx. Space doesn't play anime anymore, due to lack of interest, apparently.

More recently, I've been watching Cybersix and Inu-Yasha (it's back on!) on YTV and TeleToon (which our stupid free tv guide doesn't even list). Combined with a returning fascination with manga, it was only a matter of time before addiciton happened.

And as for manga . . . If you're aware at all of the state of the comic book industry (a good place to learn is the archives of Journalista, the no-longer-updated blog of The Comics Journal), then you'll know that kids these days don't care about superheroes; they want manga. And a lot of adults do, too. I can see why. Though there are lots of good independent (and non-superhero) books published in North America, most of the big publishers seem to be recycling the same old superheroes (except they dress them in less clothing and put them in poses straight out of porn--so I am told, and it looks like it), presumably to make them more appealing. Superheroes interest me even less than they ever did. And it seems like a lot of people feel that way.

I've been trying to resist the lure of manga. I've been trying very hard. It wasn't too difficult in the past, when manga (in English) was mostly reprinted in the same format as American comics, and for the same price. Because a lot of manga tends to have less story per page than the stuff I usually like to read (nice, dense, story-heavy stuff) (I suspect the story per page thing may be about the same in superhero comics as in action manga, but I don't know), I always thought manga was too expensive. Not enough bang for the buck as it were (or not enough story, rather). But now that most publishers have switched to the thick graphic novel format--usually around 200 pages a book--for only 2 or 3 times the price of a 24-36 page comic, manga seems to be a much better buy. (I'm speaking metaphorically, of course, and in broad generalizations. I don't actually decide whether or not to buy something based on how much of the story is crammed onto one page.)

I wonder if this is coming out of my brain as logically as it seemed when I was thinking about it.

Anyway, I tried to resist the trend. I hate being trendy. I dislike doing what everyone else is doing. But I try not to avoid something just because everyone else likes it. I could miss out on some really good stuff that way. So the result is that my growing anime addiction is closely accompanied by a new manga addiction. Like I need more comics to spend money on. Luckily, the popularity of manga means that there are quite a few titles at the libary, though volume 1 of just about everything always seems to be checked out. Time to exercise my ability to put holds on books via the library web search page.

I'm sure there was a lot more I was going to say, and probably I was going to say some of those things more elegantly, or more clearly, or in a different order. But I don't wish to bore my gentle readers, so I'll shut up for now.

2 More Books

One more non-fiction and--at last--some more fiction.

  1. The Rat: A Perverse Miscellany (compiled) by Barbara Hodgson. I thought this would be really cool: a little bit of literature, a little bit of natural science, some nice pictures and a bit of analysis to tie it all together. It wasn't a bad book; I did enjoy it, but I was disappointed. There was almost no natural science, and no analysis, and the literature was almost entirely anti-rat or rat-as-evil-dirty-creature. The pictures were nice, though. One of the most disappointing things, I think, was that Hodgson repeated the contemporary legend (aka "urban myth") that cities have 1:1 ratios of rats to humans, without speculating at all on why this perception exists. Anyway, rats are interesting, so pretty much any book about them will have something to offer, even if it isn't as much as one expected.
  2. Child of Faerie, Child of Earth by Josepha Sherman. And after something that disappoints, something that delights. This YA novel is full of the best kind of magic (that the characters have to work for), and yes, fairies. It's also a romance, in the sense that it has a girl and a boy falling in love (not in the sense of "Harlequin romance novel"). True love, too. The best kind. All the way through, I kept thinking, "This would make a fabulous animated movie." Sherman's writing is very visual, which I find appealing, and I found myself picturing the story as a movie while I read it (helped along by the somewhat manga/anime-ish illustrations--of which there could have been many more). (I've got it stuck in my head, too, that Jane Yolen wrote a lovely picture book with this same title.) I notice I've written "the best kind" twice in this blurb. I think that's a good thing (for my opinion of the book, not for my grasp of good writing).

I went to the library a couple of days ago and got a whole pile of fiction: some mystery, some sf, some just odd. I'm also about halfway through Dracula (finally), so once I finish the book on seals that I'm currenly reading, it'll be a long stretch of good, pulpy novels.

28 May 2004

Long Time No See

So I finally found out what my friend Tim's been up to. Cool stuff.

24 May 2004

Comics: New Page of Fey

Well, I still haven't figured out what I did wrong, so it's still jagged, and so far unshaded, but page 1 of Fey, "Drawing Borders" part 1 is up for your viewing pleasure.

Edit: Oh yeah, and I'm using the alias "nico" for my comics work. Because I feel like it.

Book 45 (Plus Another)

I read the wonderful Lyra's Oxford the other night. I very much recommend it, if you've read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. In fact, if you've read His Dark Materials, you really need to read Lyra's Oxford. If you haven't read the trilogy, though, you can go ahead and read Lyra, but there are a lot of things that won't make much sense.

And I haven't added Lyra to the 50 Books list, because it was barely over 50 pages, and I'd feel guilty, even though it is a book (and a very nice hardcover at that). But I do have a new one for the list, and I read all 216 pages of it yesterday. Yesterday evening, in fact.
  1. Murder One: A Writer's Guide to Homicide by Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino. No, this doesn't mean I'm still working on the mystery novel (well, I haven't given up on it, but other things--like Vinland Stories and Three Sisters-- are more important). Murder is interesting, if sometimes too gruesome to really want to think about. I reviewed this one for work.

Now I've got to find some more graphic novels to read. I calculated that I'll have to read 5 per month to get to 50 by the end of the year.

Just Thought This Was Funny

From Snopes (on a page about finding money in hotel Bibles):
There are only so many places one can hide valuables in a hotel room, and the Bible is most of them.

23 May 2004

I'm Jean-Luc!

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Blog Genealogy

I just added a link to my Blog Tree genealogy in the sidebar. It's in celebration of my first blogchild (now I have convince her to add her blog there).

44/50 Books -- 15/50 Graphic Novels

So I finished another of my library books, and 50 grows ever closer. Maybe I will have to make separate lists for fiction and non-fiction. I'll have to get cracking on some fiction, though. Now, where'd I put Dracula? I'm supposed to be reading Dracula.

  1. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life by Stephen Jay Gould. More on science and religion. I kind of have mixed feelings about this book. It was well-written and well-argued, as is usual for Gould. And he does have a point--if religion and science each stick to their own domain, there is no conflict. But I still don't think religion is the place to look for moral guidance, primarily because I don't agree with the moral guidelines espoused by most religions (the big ones anyway). And I find that most religions (again the big ones, anyway) have fundamental things encoded in their scripture that I just can't agree with (okay, my main objection is with Christianity's historical position on women--and yes, misogyny is in the Bible, both Old Testament and New--and the "function" of the planet (as a resource for "man" to exploit). I know, of course, that not all members of all religions suscribe to all their religion's historic hoo-ha, but I can't help but think that with some of those elements being so pervasive in the background that . . . Oh, crap, I can't make this sound like it does in my head. And anyway, none of that's in this book. To be fair, Gould says that religion is one place to look for moral guidance, and not the only one. I just don't think he made that point strongly enough. But then, that wasn't the point of the book. So I should just shut up.

Well, I didn't mean to go off on such a weird tangent (and I especially didn't mean to be unable to put my thoughts into words). There was one quote in the book that really struck me:
We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way.

And I have two graphic novels to add, because I missed one in my last list.

  1. Sei: Death & Legend by Sho Murase. I picked this up because of the gorgeous art. And it really is gorgeous. Not perfect, mind you, but how often do you get perfect art, anyway? The story is lovely, too: a fable of love and death and gods, based on Japanese folklore/mythology. But the writing, alas, was really disappointing. Especially the inane dialogue poor Inari was given. Inari's one of my favourite deities (how can you not like a god/dess who's associated with foxes?). And there were some really cringe-inducing spelling and grammar errors--ones that would have been easy to fix and would have been caught be any halfway competent copyeditor. I wonder if maybe the folks at Image could've given it a read before they published it. I know it's an independent book, which means the creator's supposed to do all that, but it doesn't reflect well on the publisher. But I could even have overlooked that, if it weren't for the criminal font abuse. I could deal with the different fonts for different characters (though it could have been handled a little better; but I don't have the energy to go into detail), but the constant switching in font size was too much. Perhaps the creator meant to indicate different volumes of speech, but in that case there should be one default size, one smaller for (very occasional) whispering, and one bigger for (very occasional) shouting. And maybe that's the case here; I didn't count. But anyway, the creator may have heard the voices at different volumes, but I just found the font size shifts annoying (and it happened way too often). Phew. That said, I did like the book overall, and I will look for more work by Murase. I just wish people would realize that when you're doing words and pictures the words are just as important. Actually, sometimes they're more important. But anyway . . .
  2. Mobile Suit Gundam: Blue Destiny by Mizuho Takayama (created by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yadate). Yup, more manga. I haven't read any other Gundam books, or seen any of the anime, but the library had this one and I thought it looked like fun. And it was. Big robot (er . . . mobile suit) fighting action fun. Lots of shooting and giant swords. I think I finally figured out what was going on, and it was a neat idea, though I could be wrong about the whole thing. But anyway, fun giant robots and stuff.

Comics: Fey

I spent a big chunk of the day working on page one of Fey so I can get it online. My aim is to do a page a week. But I haven't quite got the hang of PhotoShop yet. I ended up with either a really nice page that was way too big, or a page the right size that was all jaggedy. Obviously I went wrong somewhere. I have a few ideas about where I messed up, so tomorrow (or soon, anyway), I'll get back at it and see if I can figure it out. I might put page one up jaggedy anyway, just to have something there.

Plus, I'm working on a new webpage for Fey. If it turns out half as good as I imagine, it'll be very, very cool. Or pretty cool, at least. But first I'll need a host that gives me lots of webspace. And bandwidth. Someday my comic may be the next big thing, though I'd settle for well-thought-of.

21 May 2004

More 50 Graphic Novels

  1. Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships by Eric Shanower. I don't know why I didn't buy this series when it first came out (in individual issues). It's exactly the sort of thing I like: gorgeous art, retelling of old tales (Homer's Illiad in this case), great writing and characterization. I'm very glad the library had it, and I hope they get the next volume.
  2. Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics by Ted Naifeh. Courtney Crumin is cool. I read the first volume (Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things) and loved it, so when I saw this one, I had to have it. Fairies (alias Night Things), a creepy but lovable sorcerer uncle, a big old house, scary and wonderful forest--everything I like best in my fiction (er . . . and non-fiction, for that matter). Plus the art is lovely, even though this volume is reprinted at a smaller size than the original comics (and the copy of Night Things I have).
  3. Nightmares & Fairytales: Once Upon a Time by Serena Valentino. Illos by FSc. Once upon a time. I came across a single issue of this comic, and was so excited I blogged about it. So more recently I found this collection of the first bunch of issues. I like some stories better than others, but it's scary fairytales, right? My favourite (I think it's starting to sound like everything I read is my favourite).
  4. Meridian: Flying Solo (CrossGen Comics). I like most of the CrossGen comics I've read, though I really tried not to (blogged here and here). Meridian is a nice fantasy with a young girl protagonist (who doesn't have huge boobs!). The overall "CrossGen" story bits that are supposed to connect all the publisher's titles were a bit annoying and unnecessary, but otherwise it's a nicely plotted book. It's just too bad CrossGen's been so crappy to their freelancers and has gone down the toilet (scroll to "CrossGen Chronicles" midway down).
  5. Black Jack volume 1 by Osamu Tezuka. This is a really odd book about an unlicensed surgeon who performs miraculous operations. The creator was also responsible for the much more famous Astroboy.
  6. 2001 Nights: Journey Beyond Tomorrow by Yukinobu Hoshino. My manga infatuation has returned, I think. I picked this one up because I felt like a good space adventure. I was expecting something along the lines of Starblazers or Robotech, but the book turned out to be a really nice collection of short stories. Some of them were horrific while others were much more dreamy, but they all sort of added up to something bigger. Unfortunately, this was volume two of a trilogy, and though it was easy enough to jump in (given that they're short stories and not one narrative), I would've liked to read the first one, too.
  7. 2001 Nights: Children of Earth by Yukinobu Hoshino. This is book 3 of the trilogy, and really made me wish I could've read book 1. It continued the short stories, but by the end you realize that there was an overall narrative, too, a story about one possible future for humankind. I've added this series to my "books to look for" list, but comics of any kind, let alone manga, don't turn up in used bookstores very often, alas. Though once the Value Village in Nanaimo had a huge pile of manga, but all in Japanese, so I wouldn't have been able to actually read it. Sigh.
  8. Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adrian Tomine. Classic independent black and white stuff. This book is short stories and, though a few of them are a bit . . . inscrutable? . . . they're mostly very effectively written and beautifully drawn. Makes me wonder why I never got to reading Tomine's stuff before now. Probably because they're not fantasy and I used to have a bigtime fantasy-only thing. Yes, I am a geek.
  9. Faeries' Landing, vol. 1 by You Hyun. Yes, more manga. Yes, it's got fairies in. How could I pass it up. It's kind of a silly urban fantasy, but the art is nice and it's lots of fun. I'll be looking for vol. 2 next time I'm in the comic store. (Collector's Choice in Duncan turns out to have a not too bad selection of manga--for what is essentially a small-town shop. Their selection of independent and small press book stinks, though, but that's not unusual for even a big-city store.)
  10. InuYasha vol. 1 by Rumiko Takahashi. So pretty much as soon as I start watching the anime version of this on YTV, they stop showing it. How annoying. Lucky for me, I found vol. 1 in the comic store so now I am happy. It's got beautiful demons, time travel, magic and of course a school girl in a short skirt. I am going to turn into a manga junkie at this rate.

Looks like it might take me a little longer to reach 50 graphic novels.

Surely Not More 50 Books?

  1. The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. This is another one of my heavy science readings. Except it really wasn't all that heavy. And it has a lot to do with science and religion, or at least with science as an antidote to superstition. Good reading, and food for much thought.
  2. Lucinda's Secret by Holly Black. (Spiderwick Chronicles Book 3) Illos by Tony diTerlizzi. I love Spiderwick! This is a really fun series of kids' novels (really one novel in 5 parts, and probably too short to include on the list, but like I said before, it's my list). There are fairies, of course, and intrepid siblings (twin brothers and an older sister), and really pretty pictures.
  3. Shades of Dracula by Bram Stoker (ed. Peter Haining). This is kind of an odd collection, beginning with the subtitle: "The uncollected stories of Bram Stoker." I suspect that should be "previously uncollected." Anyway, there are, of course, several Bram Stoker stories in it (enough commas there for you?), which range from kinda flaky to really good. There is also a newspaper article (not by Stoker) that Stoker cut out of a paper in the US, and which was probably a major influence for Dracula. And there is a story called "Another Dracula?" (also not by Stoker) which was written by an American writer "based on an idea by Bram Stoker." As I said, odd, but worth the reading. This should also count under my "League of Extraordinary Books" reading. And it made me decide to read Dracula again. Except then I got distracted, as you'll see below.
  4. How to Write a Mystery by Larry Beinhart. I picked this up hoping it'd help me get into writing Reading the Bones (a book which looks less and less likely to happen any time soon). It didn't. You can read my review for CW for Teens to see what I thought.
  5. The Criminal Mind by Katherine Ramsland. Another book I got from the library to help me get into mystery-writing mode. This one was really good, though not all that helpful for the plot I have planned. I also reviewed it for work.
  6. The Dark Place by Aaron Elkins. Now this is what distracted me from Dracula. I went to the used book store looking for . . . actually I can't remember what I was looking for, but I ended up in the "e"s in the mystery section, thought the title looked interesting, discovered the protagonist was a physical anthropologist and ended up buying two of the books. And so I got hooked. Except I figured out the whole "supernatural force" necessary to create the mortal wound by the time I got to the end of the back cover copy. The characters didn't figure it out until several chapters in, which was very frustrating. But I used to live with a guy who made replicas of "stone age" tools. He made one of the things used in the murder (which I won't spoil by telling what it was). I used one myself. Fun with archaeologists.
  7. Old Bones by Aaron Elkins. This is the second Gideon Oliver mystery I got at that used book store (actually, I think it was the title of this one that first caught my eye). This one's set in France where a skeleton is discovered buries in the basement of an old manor house by the workmen who are there to fix the drains.
  8. Skeleton Dance by Aaron Elkins. This one I had to get from the library. I think I read it in one day. Maybe two. Hooked I say. Except I never did figure out what the title had to do with anything (except the obvious skeleton bit).
  9. Murder in the Queen's Armes by Aaron Elkins. After searching two used book stores, I found two more Gideon Oliver book in the same store where I'd found the first two. In this one, Gideon's in England, and there's academic intrigue and thefts of artifacts and a really, really big dog.
  10. Briar Rose by Robert Coover. This is a lush and beautiful book (and it doesn't even have pictures!). Coover manages to fits just about every conceivable retelling of Sleeping Beauty into this novella, all within the context of a single retelling. That makes sense if you've read the book. This is a fantastic example of revisionary/retold fairytale, and I've added it to my "must own" list (alas, the copy I read belongs to the library, and they're going to want it back soon). (I might read it again before then.)
  11. The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde. More retold fairy tales! This time one of my favourite YA authors tries to answer questions like "Why did a creature that cold spin gold from straw want the girl's gold ring and necklace?" and "What would such a creature do with a baby?" in six very different versions of one old story. Besides being a wonderful read, this book is a good example of how one plot can reseult in many different stories.
  12. How to Create Action, Fantasy and Adventure Comics by Tom Alvarez. There wasn't much in here that I didn't know, and the writing ranged from mediocre to cringe-inducing, but I actually did pick up a few tips and ideas from this book, so it wasn't a waste of time to read. Heh. How's that for a glowing review. Partly, I was disappointed because the focus was more on superheroes than anything else. Don't wanna make superhero comics.
  13. Icy Clutches by Aaron Elkins. Another Gideon Oliver mystery, this time to do with the bones of lost hikers melting out of a glacier. These things are addictive. I was going to read Dracula, wasn't I? But I can't stop reading this series. They're like candy. But good candy that doesn't get too sweet after you've had a few.
  14. Animal Bone Archaeology by Brian Hesse and Paula Wapnish. My attempts to write a mystery novel with a zooarchaeologist main character (plus my love affair with Gideon Oliver mysteries) got me to pull out this old textbook. It was really fun to read it again. MNI. TNF. Oh yeah, we zooarchaeologists speak a secret language. I am reminded, though, that I probably should forget my thoughts about maybe doing a master's in zooarch. I'd have to re-learn an awful lot of technical stuff. But bones are cool.
  15. Science Fiction Comics: The Illustrated History by Mike Benton. This was a lot of fun, though perhaps a little light on text. Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, plus all kinds of obscure sf comics. One of the really interesting things covered was the relationship between the sf pulp magazines (that is, the ones with short fiction in) and the sf comics. I hadn't realized so many early sf writers wrote comics scripts as well as stories.

Look, ma, I'm caught up. Yep. That's all the books I've read so far this year (besides graphic novels, of course). Think I'll make it to 50?

Penn and Teller Strike Again

Anyone who's read much of this blog will probably know that my subconscious mind's messengers of choice are Penn and Teller. Well, the other night, my psyche decided to send them into my dreams again. This time they and I were conducting fake funerals as a form of entertainment. It was very bizarre, but also amusing. Except the part where I was trapped in a bikini and couldn't find anything else to put on. And I was chubbier than I actually am. There's nothing like parading around in a bikini while Penn and Teller preside over a fake funeral (complete with "deceased" jumping out of the coffin at the end).

I wonder if I could translate any of these famous magician dreams into webcomics . . .

50 Graphic Novels

Now here's the new second list: graphic novels and comic collections I've read so far this year.
  1. After the Rain by Andre Juillard
  2. My New York Diary By Julie Doucet
  3. Hellboy by Mike Mignola

And now I see how far behind I am in this blogging about books thing, as all those many graphic novels I've been going on about having read aren't actually on the list yet.

New 50 Books

So here's the new "books read so far list" (without the annotations, so you don't have to read them all over again).
  1. Skeptics and True Believers by Chet Raymo
  2. Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer
  3. Eccentric Lives, Peculiar Notions by John Michel
  4. The Ancient Engineers by L. Sprague deCamp
  5. The New Aquarium Handbook by Ines Scheurmann
  6. Bettas by Robert J. Goldstein
  7. Galileo's Finger by Peter Atkins
  8. Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly
  9. Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries? by Martin Gardner
  10. Generation S.L.U.T. by Marty Beckerman
  11. The Queen's Conjurer by Benjamin Wolley
  12. Voodoo Science by Robert Park
  13. The Search for the Giant Squid by Richard Ellis
  14. On Writing by Stephen King
  15. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume 2 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  16. Timeline by Michael Crichton
  17. The Stone Circle by Gary Goshgarian
  18. Shadows in the Sea by Thomas B. Allen
  19. A History of Pirates by Nigel Cawthorne
  20. How We Believe by Michael Shermer
  21. How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen
  22. Monsters by John Michael Greer
  23. West Coast Fossils by R. Ludvigsen and G. Beard
  24. Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons by Christopher McGowan
  25. Contact by Carl Sagan
  26. The Flamingo's Smile by Stephen Jay Gould
  27. Second Act by Barbara Barrie
  28. The Guizer by Alan Garner

As I was cutting and pasting that, I started to think, "Hmm. Maybe I should do separate fiction and non-fiction lists." I think I am insane. Since I've been reading so much non-fiction lately, I'd be hard pressed to read 50 books of fiction. Maybe. Besides, I wouldn't know whether to put The Guizer under fiction or non.

50 Books and Graphic Novels

This whole read 50 books things is occupying way too much of my thoughts. Anyway, I've decided that since I've been reading a lot of graphic novels/comic collections lately, I'm going to divide my book reading into two lists and try to read 50 books and 50 graphic novels/collections this year. Which means I have to re-do my lists and I haven't even caught up yet. Eek.

14 May 2004

Archaeology: Library of Alexandria

Even if it isn't the Library of Alexandria that's been discovered, it's still a very cool find. (Link via Scott McCloud.)

Must Have

Ooh, I really need this ALA Lemony Snicket poster. (Link via Bookslut.)

13 May 2004

Yet More 50 Books

There are going to be a lot of graphic novels in the next few installments. I considered not including graphic novels, since they tend to be on the short side, and usually have more words than pictures. But, since reading a graphic novel properly takes more time than just reading the words, and considering the number of very long and/or very dense non-fiction books I've read recently, I decided to include them. It's my list.

  1. The Flamingo's Smile by Stephen Jay Gould. I think I'll add Gould to my list of the-closest-things-I-have-to-heros. He writes science in a way that's understandable to a curious non-scientist, but still has lots of meat for those familiar with the concepts. Science is cool, and Gould makes that obvious in his essays.
  2. Second Act by Barbara Barrie. This is a somewhat mediocre book in terms of writing, but it was part of my "read about cancer" thing when Mum was diagnosed. So I read it. I learned a few things, but not really much more than I already knew.
  3. The Guizer by Alan Garner. I love Garner's fiction, so when I saw this on the shelf at the library, I grabbed it. It's a nice colection of trickster tales, though I'm not sure I really agree that they are all trickster tales. Not the sort of book for the indifferent reader, though; like many folklore collections, it's as close as possible to the original oral tales, which makes for less-than-easy reading. But if you like that sort of thing as I do (in moderation, though), then this is a good choice.
  4. After the Rain by Andre Juillard. This one I very nearly did leave off since it's really short. But, like I said, it's my list, and this is a book by the usual definition. And anyway, it was really good. Beautiful illustration, neat story (if a little improbable--but then, so is most mystery fiction). I think the author/artist is French, and in France they take graphic fiction much more seriously than North Americans do.
  5. My New York Diary By Julie Doucet. One of the classic independent books. I'm surprised I hadn't read any Doucet before now, but then my graphic novel/comics education has been a bit spotty (I blame the aversion of most comic shops to independent books). I don't really like Doucet's drawing style, though I'll admit it does fit the book.
  6. Hellboy by Mike Mignola. Yeah, okay, I read this because the movie was coming out, and it looked like a good movie so I thought I should read the comic. I still haven't seen the movie, but this first volume of the series was lots of fun. Things paranormal, Nazis, paranormal Nazis, eldritch god-monsters, and a big red demon who fights for good and hasn't got a name--what more can one ask?

11 May 2004

Even More 50 Books

Last time I posted about this, I think I only had 9 or 10 more books to go to get to the end of my list-so-far. I've read a few since then. But I'll try to get close to being caught up.

  1. How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. I read this one when working on a thing to send to Girlamatic. It's much like other books of its type, though maybe better than most. Not exactly a fun read, but I learned a few things. Oh, and I reviewed it for CW for Teens.
  2. Monsters by John Michael Greer. I probably wouldn't have ordered this one if I'd noticed it was published by Llewellyn. Still, it turned out to be rather fun to read. Kind of a peculiar mix of competent folklore research, and an oddly skeptical crackpotism (you'll have to read it to see what I mean; I don't think I could explain without using way too many words).
  3. West Coast Fossils by R. Ludvigsen and G. Beard. I haven't much to say about this one. It's a guide to fossils, and part of my recent science reading binge. It's got lots of neat stuff in, but isn't the sort of book you go around thrusting into people's hands with the words, "You've got to read this." (Not that I do that anyway. Very often. Library stunt from previous post excepted, of course.)
  4. Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons by Christopher McGowan. I don't know what the opinion of the scholoary palaeontological community is on this one, but I really liked it. McGowan talked about reconstructing dinosaurs--posture, habits, etc--from the structures of the bones. Kind of like engineering applied to long-dead but once-living creatures. Er. Anyway, it's just the sort of meaty scientific read I like, with clear explanations but lots of unknowns to ponder. Plus it's about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are cool.
  5. Contact by Carl Sagan. At last, some fiction. Oddly, I actually like the movie version of Contact better than the book. Not that I didn't like the book. I liked it a great deal, it's just that the movie--I thought--was much more successful in getting the point across. By making the setting now instead of a slightly-in-the-future now (which, in the case of the book is now a futuristic near past, though it was slightly-in-the-future at the time) and dispensing with the distracting futuristic sfnal bits and pieces, the movie made everything much more immediate. Instead of a nice speculation on a possibility, it was more like something that really, really might happen. Somehow the movie seemed to have more force because it was smaller. If that makes any sense. I don't think I'm using quite the right words.

Okay, I'm not so close to being caught up, but I'm closer. More soon.

More League of Extraordinary Books

One of the books I've been busily reading in the last little while is a volume of Bram Stoker's short stories (which I'll talk about more when I get to it in my "50 Books" posts). After reading that, re-reading Dracula seemed like a good way to continue my exploration of all books mentioned or alluded to in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. So that's what I'm doing. Except then I got distracted by a newly-discovered mystery author, so I haven't got very far into Dracula yet, though it's a book I like very much. Also, I made Sue read League (by getting it off the shelf at the library and handing it to her and saying, "You need to sign this one out.") She was very annoyed at me on account of she had to stay up very late at night reading it. (I also got her to read Good Omens the same way, with much the same result. Hee hee.)

Hmmm . . .

I'm pretty much a crappy poet, but I think I might submit something (the only poem I wrote that I currently like) to this: Red Giant: A One-Shot of Speculative Poetry.

09 May 2004

Writing Odds and Ends

I'm beginning to think this mystery novel is going to get the better of me. I have a plot idea (to do with historic archaeology), I have a setting (southern Alberta, present day), I have a main character (Grace Cowell, called Gray), and I have a title (Reading the Bones). I even have niggling thoughts about recurring images and subplots. And a short, dark and handsome stranger (a cop, actually) who could be a possible love interest. But there are too many things I don't know. I don't know enough of the plot structure. I don't know much about how the RCMP work, especially in cases where old bones get dug up. And it's taken me so long to just get started (one page so far), that I'm not likely to even have a zero draft by the time the contest deadline arrives. How is it possible that so many people think writing is easy?

I seem to be pretty much stuck everywhere. "Daughters of the Sea King" made it to the one-third point or so, but I haven't got back to it. I think I need to read about seals first, before I can write the confrontation with the seal-folk. Just like I had to read about sharks before writing the Daughters themselves. Possibly I need to read more about fishermen, too.

The rest of Cobblehsore/Vinland stories await revision. Well, "Hollow Bones" is done. I don't think I'll touch it again. "Sealskin" just needs some tweaking and smoothing, I think. "Cobbleshore Knit" needs some serious rewrites, but only because the main character turned out to be Torin, and not Tryv. Kinda messes one up when one writes a whole story thinking the character is one person, then someone who knows one's work points out that really, it has to be someone else. And then one realizes that that someone is absolutely right.

Right, enough of that. Back to Reading the Bones. And later today, drawing Sorcha from Fey from different angles to make a reference sheet, so the she'll be consistent when I do the final pages of the comic. (Did this ages ago for Megan, becuase I thought she had a difficult face to get right. It's helped enormously, and Sorcha's turned out to be the face I can never get to look the same twice.)

06 May 2004

Fantastic Fiction

Need a bibliography for your favourite author? Try Fantastic Fiction. It worked for me. (End sincere, earnest, selling something on tv voice.) (But it is a good place to find books.)

02 May 2004

Io is Bright Yellow!

See Io in true colour. It really is bright yellow. And some of the lava glows in the dark. I am filled with feelings of geeky coolness.