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this week in fandom

This Week in Fandom (1/31/20)

Graphic Novels/Comics

I’m behind on writing this week, but it’s okay, I compensated by reading a lot. In order to meet my lofty 2020 reading goals, I need to count graphic novels and comic books (TPBs not single issues–I’m not a total barbarian). This past week I caught up on some of the comics I had waiting on the shelf. Several upcoming reviews in the queue:

  • Kick-Ass (Mark Millar, John Romita Jr.)
  • Blackbird Vol. 1 (Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel)
  • Trees Vol. 1 (Warren Ellis, Jason Howard)

For now here are reviews of Adventure Time vols. 5-6 (Ryan North) and Captain America, vol. 2: Captain of Nothing (Ta-Nehisi Coates).

On deck to read once I finish the aforementioned reviews:

  • Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl (Millar, Romita Jr.)
  • Adventure Time vols. 7-8 (Ryan North)
  • Watchmen (Alan Moore)–somehow I have never read this
  • Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (Damian Duffy, from Octavia E. Butler)
  • Trees, Vol. 2: Two Forests (Ellis, Howard)
  • Superman: Year One (Frank Miller, John Romita Jr.)
  • Invisible Kingdom (G. Willow Wilson, Christian Ward–I actually have all six issues of this series on order, as the first run was amazing.

I’m always looking for recommendations of great graphic novels/comics. I generally stray from Marvel/DC, but only because of the sometimes sharp learning curve and extended history of certain characters. I will definitely check out mainstream superhero books that pique my interest and seem moderately self-contained (and so Superman above). Have any other suggests? Let me know in the comments!

Books

Otherwise I posted one other review this week–Annalee Newitz’s spec fic time-travel novel, The Future of Another Timeline. Find that here. I enjoyed this book, even more than Newitz’s debut, Autonomous. In both, Newitz weaves together the political, the social, and the personal with technology.

I finished The Hero of Ages this week (my third time through Mistborn Era 1) as part of my reread of the novels in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere. I’m to the Era 1 short fiction (“The Lost Metal,” “Mistborn: Secret History”) from the Arcanum Unbounded collection. This is a bit of a deviation in my Sanderson reading plan, as I typically read the books in more or less published order (though always leading into The Stormlight Archive).

Tor, 2015

I also finally picked up a book that has been on my TBR for a long time: V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. I’m enjoying it so far! My introduction to fantasy was really through magic “systems,” e.g. The Wheel of Time and anything by Brandon Sanderson. While I clearly still dig Sanderson, my interests have been verging more toward the “low magic” side. Not that these types of magics don’t have rules, but the rules are neither necessarily clearly defined nor intricate. I’m thinking of someone like Neil Gaiman here, especially The Ocean at the End of the Lane. As it happens, Gaiman is one of Schwab’s big influences, so. Look for a review of the first in the Shades of Magic trilogy next week!

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Book Reviews comics

Review(s): Adventure Time and Captain America

My wife and I got to have a weekend away recently, featuring Indian food, time to read, free perusal of Barnes and Noble, and time not spent focused on a two-year-old. I made it through some comics from the library that have been sitting on the shelf for a bit: Adventure Time vols. 5 and 6 (Ryan North), and Captain America, vol. 2: Captain of Nothing by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Not sure how large the overlap is between Adventure Time and Captain America readers, but it’s a great place to be!

Adventure Time Vol. 5 by Ryan North

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure what specifically keeps me coming back to Adventure Time. The weirdness and creativity are surely important, but it might just be the colors.

In Volume Five, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline need to save the Candy Kingdom from the bubblegum that has overtaken the brains of its people. The semi-sentient bubblegum was PB’s fault to begin with of course, in all of her mad scientists-ness. PB finally discover the acidic solution to their problems as they employ the help of the um…delightful Lemongrab.

These Adventure Time stories continue to use Finn & Jake as starting points for adventures, but are delightfully exploring other characters. I am specifically enjoying the backstory and development of Bubblegum’s and Marceline’s friendships.

Five stars for another fast-paced, quirky Adventure!

Adventure Time Vol. 6 by Ryan North

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For me the pacing of this book was off, especially in the first few issues. Things finally got rolling though, and overall I found Adventure Time Volume Six to be another delightful Princess Bubblegum-focused story.

Three stars for a decent AT book. Four starts for BMO and Ice King.

Captain America, Vol. 2: Captain of Nothing by Ta-Nehisi Coates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to live in a time in which Ta-Nehisi Coates writes comic books.

His Captain America run remains very engaging as Coates tackles the political and the personal. Steve Rogers is no longer sure what it means to be Captain America. What does that represent? Could the name–the persona–be doing more harm than good?

Steve must navigate the complex dynamics of those out to cheat the system in order to make it and those who are truly evil. People may exist along a moral continuum. Rogers himself may be morally ambiguous, as he is so often opposed to the government that he has perennially served. Though as Sharon Carter points out, Cap doesn’t serve a government but a country.

Steve Rogers may even be discovering a new future not in rogue libertarianism but in mutuality and support as he asks for help from the Daughters of Liberty.

Five stars for another great Marvel book from Coates!

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Book Reviews

Review: The Future of Another Timeline

Tor, 2019

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Five stars for an excellent sophomore novel from Annalee Newitz that is truly “speculative fiction” that deals with some moral and philosophical ramifications of time travel technology while dealing with two satisfying character arcs. I picked up Newitz’s debut, Autonomous, on a whim, and I loved it. As I was excited to read more from them, this book did not disappoint!

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that this book was “about” one thing, as it dealt in many motifs and larger themes. For me, the book was ultimately a look at the way in which the universal and the individual (or perhaps the political and the particular) play with and against one another in the grand scheme of the timeline in which we live.

Tess and Beth, the novel’s two main characters, each consider the Great Man vs. corporate action theories of timeline edits. Great Man theories see key people and places as fundamental to the progress or regress of society and culture. Conversely, corporate action would argue that for instance, if one traveled back in time and killed the infant Adolf Hitler, it would alter the circumstance of the timeline, but not create lasting change. A true edit that erased the Holocaust would consist of influencing groups of people across time altering the waves of white nationalism in many small ways that add up.

In The Future of Another Timeline, the patriarchy of the future teams of with the patriarchy of the past in order to…you know…be the patriarchy. Tess and her feminist geoscientist cohorts discover that certain deplorables are attempting to not only edit the past to maintain the oppression of women, transgender, and non-binary people but also sabotage the ur-time machine in order to inhibit others from reverting their edits.

Though Newitz’s novel is an alternative history to our own, by being only shades different in some ways, it is able to point an accusing figure at elements of our own culture. At one point, Tess thinks about women in the West: “Our place in this nation was still fragile. It was far too easy to edit us out.”

Tess discovers how truly contingent social change is and that while history does not depend on the role of specific people and places, each individual is crucial to the change that collective action brings.

I am not at all qualified to speak to the quality of the science in this book, but the time travel and geoscience were very engaging and I didn’t question it. So…

Overall in this novel that I would truly call science fiction, Newitz brilliantly tackles social and political questions and how they might interact with the advent of new technology in our world.

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this week in fandom

This Week in Fandom (1/24/2020)

This Week’s Reviews

I posted two reviews this week. First up: season two of Matt Groening’s Disenchantment on Netflix (link!) The adventures of Bean, Elfo, and Luci continue in season two, which did what all second seasons should do: improve on season one and leave you wanting more!]\

I also finished Resistance Reborn, Rebecca Roanhorse’s tie-in novel to The Rise of Skywalker. Basically: it was great in every way that a Star Wars novel needs to be. See my review here.

Other Bookish Things

Though the novel primarily follows Poe Dameron and some other Resistance operatives, listening to Resistance Reborn, I was struck by Leia Organa and her place in Star Wars lore. See what I’m talking about in “The Woman Without a Country.”

Currently Reading

Last week I wrote about finishing up The Well of Ascension, book two of the original Mistborn trilogy, as part of my Cosmere reread leading up to book four of The Stormlight Archive in November. This week I’ve leapt into book three, The Hero of Ages. Look for a review soon and some more “Cosmereic Faith” posts too!

Something Else

Each week, I try to breakout of the various fandoms that take up a large majority of my head space and write a bit more generally about life and/or some sort of spirituality. This week I posted a poem I wrote about being an Enneagram Type Nine.

If that last phrase sounded like nonsense to you, the Enneagram is a personal typology with vaguely Eastern spiritual roots that started gaining popularity as it was adapted by some psychologists in the twentieth century. My quick take on why and how the Enneagram can be helpful is that it focuses primarily on motivation rather than on behavior, as opposed perhaps to Meyers-Briggs or other typologies that consider behaviors and mannerisms primarily. It’s a great tool for personal growth, whatever your religious background or persuasion.

I am a Type Nine, often called the Peacemaker. Nines are often more peace keepers than peacemakers, however, as they are driven by the need to avoid. I have a not so nice name for the Type Nine, which I’ll reveal in context in a future post. For now, here’s a poem I wrote about my own aspirations and what might be the aspirations of many Nines out there.

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Book Reviews star wars

Review: Resistance Reborn

Del Rey, 2019

Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Rebecca Roanhorse has been on my TBR for a while, and after reading Resistance Reborn, I am even more excited to get into her work. My point is: this book delivered, and I highly recommend it!

This review contains light spoilers for the entire novel

Resistance Reborn is peak Star Wars tie-in novel. The main story line of the films is interwoven with other novels and new lore from the Disney canon. Having read most but not all of the sequel era tie-in materials, I was delighted to have this story incorporate elements from Chuck Wedndig’s Aftermath trilogy, Christie Golden’s Inferno Squadron, Charles Soule’s Poe Dameron/Black Squadron comics, and probably more.

Beyond all of the fan-satisfying crossover, though, this was a great novel. The plot is driven by our heroes’ main concern at the end of The Last Jedi, i.e., “where the hell do we go, now?” The Resistance is desperate for supplies, allies, and some space to breathe. A disparate group, made up of former Rebels, Resistance-friends, and even an ex-Imperial, comes together in order to reforge the Resistance through acquiring a list of First Order prisoners likely to be potential Resistance allies and leaders.

Resistance Reborn is primarily plot-driven, though the small character arcs throughout are strong. Poe’s story is the most satisfying. The pilot and Resistance commander must deal with his rash actions during the The Last Jedi. Some of Poe’s self-questioning help get the novel started and set the tone for what is to come.

Two moments in particular stood out. First, when Leia and co. are considering recruiting some former Imperials to the cause, Poe is able to put himself in their shoes because of his own mutinous and destructive behavior. Then, when the rag-tag group is first assembled, Poe takes the lead, but his leadership is called into question by Stronghammer, who has heard about his mutiny and betrayal which in part led to Holdo’s death. Poe has to face what he has done both internally and externally, which was a satisfying move on Rebecca Roanhorse’s part. Our heroes often get away with less than ideal behavior. But in Resistance Reborn, readers are forced to sit with Poe, despite the urgency of the hour, as he self-reflects and determines whether or not he can go on.

Five stars for a great Star Wars novel!

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Enneagram Writings

The Nine Anthem

I’m not gonna settle
Not gonna do the same old thing
‘Til I die.
I want to live.
Breathe.
For as long as I can, yes,
But really live in the meantime.
“Peace” is alluring
But it’s not worth the sacrifice
[But isn’t it?]
It’s not worth the self-contradiction
Or the self-effacement
Or the self-loathing
But there is a life that’s worthy.
Worthy of time.
Of devotion.
Of love.
Of sacrifice–not the sacrifice of the self:
Me–the real me–
But of my self-image
Of the self that is an amalgamation of what Dad was or wasn’t
And what I should or shouldn’t be.
What I have, what I do, what other people say about me.
To settle into a lived existence
An experienced existence
Full of contradiction

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star wars

The Woman Without a Country

Listening to Rebecca Roanhorse’s Resistance Reborn, I’m realizing something about Princess/Senator/General Leia Organa. She is truly a woman of the galaxy for the galaxy, in large part due to the destruction of her home world, Alderaan.

Perhaps this should have been obvious to me before.

I was thinking about how until the end of The Rise of Skywalker, it appears that literally no one is going to help the Resistance. Old allies or not, most of the galaxy is looking to take care of them and theirs rather than join up another interplanetary struggle against a maniacal, fascist superpower. On the one hand, I get it. It’s hard to fault people for wanting to avoid entanglement with the First Order when the FO literally destroyed the government.

On the other hand, it’s hard to watch Leia, who has given up everything for the betterment of sentient being across the galaxy, be ignored by those who should rally to her side. It often seems so hopeless.

And that made me wonder about Leia and what really drives her. In the destruction of Alderaan, she becomes a woman of no people and a woman of all people.

Take someone who through whatever combination or nature and nurture has an unquenchable spark of home within her chest and uproot her from her home. What do you get? A badass princess who sees the galaxy as her home and the peace therein as something worth fighting for with every ounce of her being.

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TV Reviews

Review: Disenchantment Season 2

In its second season, Matt Groening’s Disenchantment could have followed either of the two sophomore release paths:

  • Run with the gimmicks of the first season and not further the characters or plot in any meaningful way
  • Take the core of what made the first season attractive, build upon it, and enhance it

Thankfully, Disenchantment followed the later course, and I found it generally better than the first season. The jokes were crisper, the characters felt more real, and there was a good balance between diversion and overarching plot.

Episode eight, “In Her Own Write” is a major highlight of the season. As Bean sets out to process her grief and confused emotions through writing, Luci acts as her writing demon (which all writers have, of course). The jokes here are painfully as Luci “encourages” Bean by prompting her to compare her art to others’, etc.

Disenchantment (Netflix)

Bean remains a somehow-likeable main character despite her many, many flaws.

Bean’s mom, Queen Dagmar, remains the “big bad” as revealed at the end of season one. She remains such at the end of this season, though she was not the antagonist of each episode.

Both Luci and King Zøg do some soul-searching. However, Elfo does not play nearly as central a role here as he did in the first season (I was okay with this…)

The people of Dreamland remain woefully ignorant and delightfully superstitious, though this fact is used to introduce some tantalizing possibilities for upcoming seasons when a steampunk traveler from nearby “Steamland” crashes in Dreamland on a mission to kill Zøg.

Even with season two having a cohesive, single project feeling to it, there are several promising openings for plot development in upcoming seasons, which is a great place to land.

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this week in fandom

This Week in Fandom (1/17/20):

This week, I finished up my third pass through Brandon Sanderson’s The Well of Ascension. See my review here.

For more Sanderson and Mistborn goodness, check out the most recent post in my “Cosmeric Faith” series.

With passing of Rush drummer Neil Peart last week, I opened up the week with a bit of a retrospective of his work and its impact on my own life. For that post, go here.

This week, back at work after a few days off, digging into writing, and life, etc., etc., I have been trying to focus on actually playing when my two-year-old is therefore it. I’ve been startled recently by my own propensity to toward distraction and “what’s next?” while my son just lives *here* in this moment. More on that in What Kids Know.

Speaking of having some time off recently, my wife and I watched A Marriage Story (d. Noah Baumbach, 2019) on our anniversay. Still unclear as to whether it was fitting or not. But I really enjoyed this film. Check out my review here.

I’m still working through Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline, slowly but surely–more on that next week hopefully. Also next week, look for my review of Disenchantment season two!

I’ll leave you this week with a quote from Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse, the main tie-in movel with The Rise of Skywalker which, yes, I am also reading (audio books, man). I have a lot to gush say about this novel, so more on that soon. For now, the book leads with Poe Dameron dealing with the fallout of his boneheaded, mutinous moves in The Last Jedi. Seeing Poe have to deal with the film’s events and his own actions has been satisfying, and I’m excited to finish the book.

“Was he talking about former Imperials, or was he talking about himself?”

Resistance Reborn, Rebecca Roanhorse (2019)

While not wallowing in self-pity, which would have been out of character and nearly unbearable, it is striking that Poe can identify himself with former Imperials. His own experience of shame due to misguided actions has made room for empathy and open-mindedness toward others. He puts it beautifully later on, talking to a rag-tag group of Resistance sympathizers, some with questionable backgrounds:

“Many of us have dubious beginnings. It’s how we end that counts.”

Resistance Reborn, Rebecca Roanhorse (2019)
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Movie Reviews

Movie Review*: A Marriage Story

*I’m not much of a movie reviewer, so this “review” will quickly degenerate into a list of things I really really liked about the movie.*

I thought A Marriage Story was a really great film, though saying I enjoyed it doesn’t quite seem the right way of putting it. This movie absolutely destroyed me, leavening me empty of feeling before giving me a slight hint of hope an its end. And I loved every minute of it.

Directed by Noah Baumbach, A Marriage Story is on Netflix and stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple going through a divorce. They were both great, and really they carried the film. Many shots of one of these two talking is simply focused on their face, deriving the emotional weight up the scene from facial expressions and slight shifts in body language. When Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) first meets with her divorce attorney, Nora, there is a long shot in which Nicole is narrating the rise and fall of her and Charlie’s (Adam Driver) marriage. The scene is captivating, but Nicole is hardly seen. While she gives the details on the broken marriage and tells her story, viewers mostly see the office room they’re in while she steps away into the next room.

The movie opens brilliantly, with each partner talking about what they love about the other. Turns out that these beautiful essays were an exercise given to them my a mediator who will be helping them navigate their separation and divorce. Charlie and Nicole each show their role up front. Charlie is almost too confident and is eager to share his glowing essay with Nicole. But she is conflicted and distraught; she refuses to share.

Charlie’s confidence (arrogance really) greatly contributes to his downfall. As Nicole moves from New York to LA and finds an attorney (played by Laura Dern who is brilliant), Charlie is more and more frustrated as things escalate and do not comport with his vision of their life together.

Neither Charlie nor Nicole are portrayed as “the bad guy,” though there may be some villains in the film. The divorce attorneys are really the only ones who benefit from the whole situation. Though Alan Alda’s character acts as a mediating, tempered voice in the proceedings until Charlie replaces him with another cutthroat LA divorce lawyer who will go toe-to-toe with Nicole’s laywer. Their family and friends on the sidelines are obstacles too, however well-intentioned many of them are.

The tone of this movie is very warm and subdued. The film quality almost seems grainy making things feel comfortable and nostalgic. Despite the emotional weight of what is going on, Driver and Johansson are held back and reserved until a few select moments when they allow their frustration and their pain to breach the surface. We see this again when Charlie sings “Being Alive.” It stuck out to me that viewers could have been given the feeling of the scene by seeing the reactions of his friends as he sings this plea, but instead we simply watch Charlie in one camera view, singing the song with feeling but not overt emotion–somehow pulling the audience along into the sense of longing mixed with hope conveyed by the song.

Somebody need me too much

Somebody know me too well

Somebody pull me up short

And put me through hell

And give me support

For being alive

Make me alive

Make me alive

Stephen Sondheim, “Being Alive” (Company, 1970)

The audience is allowed some measure of hope in the film’s ending, not that Charlie and Nicole might reconcile their marriage, but that they may be able to grow as people. They might continue to love, despite it all.