Guards! Guards! By Terry Pratchett
It should be a surprise by now that I am a fan of discworld and of Pratchett’s writing. Honestly, how can you not be? He’s an English “fantasy” writer who has long been able to infuse that British wit with some really profound views on life. On top of that, he’s been battling a form of Alzheimer’s for about the past five years and is still cranking out two books a year. Writers: fuck that cliche of trying to write like such and such writer. Take a page out of Pratchett’s notebook and carve your own path.
Guards! Guards! Serves as an introduction to the intrepid Night Watch. There’s always some evil afoot in Discworld and in this volume, another attempt is made on Lord Vetinari’s life. It would seem that a rather shady group of ellucidated brethren have got it into their tiny little heads that a king is needed (instead of a benevolent tyrant). As such, they have come to the conclusion that in order for the true king of Ankh Morpork to come forward, a dragon needs to be summoned so that this king can slay said dragon.
Suffice it to say this little plan worked to a point.
As with any Pratchett’s books, this one is well worth the investment as all the others.
Last Days of an Immortal by Gwen De Bonneval & Fabien Vehlman
I like graphic novels. It’s no secret. I happen to think that they have come a long way within the past 20 years. A good graphic novel packs the emotional intensity of a great poem with the strict cadence and sense of self a short story has.
In Last Days of an Immortal, Bonneval and Vehlmann tell us the story of a man called Elijah. Elijah lives in the distant future that we were all promised during the nuclear age of the 1950’s: the cloning, teleportation and sense of immortality that science would bring. As a means of employment Elijah is a philosophical cop: since death has been rendered irrelevant by cloning (here, clones are referred to as echoes) the actual act of murdering of someone (a thing that still happens) is not as important as why someone would do it.
Life in this future seems pretty good on the surface but Elijah soon learns that this type of life will soon have its drawbacks when he is assigned to a case between two semi-primitive cultures that have been warring with each other over a “double murder” between them.
This has been by far one of the weirder and more interesting graphic novels that I have read. There’s a certain thing about science fiction that a lot of people (non writers especially) don’t realize: if the science fiction is done write the story regardless of how it ends will leave you hopeful for the future. If its done wrong, it will drag you down and inundate you with gobbledygook that the writer pulled out of his ass.
Last Days… rode this fine line. But if you stick with it the pay off will be worth it.
I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura
At some point, every man was a young boy who collected and read Comic Books. I have yet to meet a fellow male who has missed out on that right of passage. Comic books or graphic novels are that perfect marriage of visual arts and intense storytelling. For the short of attention or for those who are short on time you can not go wrong.
My only regret is that I strayed away from this particular storytelling form for a large chunk of my life. It wasn’t until the last ten years or so that I came back to the medium and I haven’t regretted a minute if it.
Right around the time that I came back to the flock, I began seeing the trade paperback version of I Kill Giants.
I Kill Giants tells the story of Barbara, a giant killer. Of course you find this out within the first couple of panels BUT then the story line takes off and it goes in the opposite direction every time you think you know where the story is going to go.
Allegory through and through, I Kill Giants is one of the more surprising stories that I have read in a long ass times. Go forth, and procure!
Orbiter - by Warren Ellis, Colleen Doran with Dave Stewart
I have favorite authors. Everyone does. Once you find one who tells a decent story, one who speaks to you in no other way that anyone else can, it’s only natural to want to read more of their work.
Warren Ellis seems to be the more underrated of the trio. Don’t know why that is though either. He’s been on the Internet longer than the other two. You’d figure that his following would be more vocal about his talents.
Warren Ellis is a science fiction junkie. While I don’t know much about his personal life, that much bleeds through his work. There’s no fault in it though.
In Orbiter, Ellis and team present their love letter to space. In his forward, Ellis explains at length how this love affair with space was born and why all of his hopes growing up (as well as an adult) were and are pinned on the U.S. space program.
Orbiter tells the story of a future in which there is no US space program. The program was abolished after the disappearance of the shuttle Venture. As a further result of this disappearance, Kennedy Space Center has been turned into a shanty town, destroying all hopes of cultivating the “last frontier”.
One day, The Venture returns from it’s voyage with only it’s captain, John Cost. Things progress to down right mind boggling when the team assigned to examining the space shuttle discover Martian Soil in it’s landing gear.
At some points science heavy, Orbiter is a love story written and created by people who have been in love with space their entire lives.
Read this book and read it now.
A Dirty Job - Christopher Moore.
Christopher Moore is perhaps one of the more underrated authors alive today.
With “A Dirty Job”, we are told the story of Charlie Asher, (a second generation) second hand shop owner who unknowingly witnesses the death of his wife (After the birth of their first child; and this was only in the first chapter!) and the collection of her soul by one Mr. Fresh. Since Charlie has witnessed a “Death Merchant” (a person responsible for ushering the dying into the Great Beyond). in action he has unwittingly become a Death Merchant himself.
From there Moore takes us along the ride that Asher has to complete: collecting souls, finding his way through this world as a single father and coming to terms with the fact that there are dire consequences that occur when he doesn’t fulfill his obligations as a death merchant.
While this may seem like a really “heavy” fucking book, I assure you that it’s anything but that: Moore, as always, manages to balance the tear-jerking-piss-drizzle-down-your-leg moments with equal parts of hilarity.
I mean at one point it has an animal army made out of dead animal remains and ham! Who wouldn’t want to read about that?
Feet of Clay - Sir Terry Pratchett
I am a Terry Pratchett fan. This is not uncommon knowledge. How can you not be a fan of an author who kicks out two novels a year AND has motherfucking Alzheimer’s disease? That alone ought to peek your interest.
A brief word on Sir Terry: Pratchett is typically referred to as a science fiction writer. That is a bit of a misnomer. Way back in the day, Sir Terry got the idea to create Discworld (this is where the sci-fi piece comes in) a flat planet that exists on the backs of some elephants that are in turn, on the back of a turtle. It’s heady, I know. But it’s one of those things that pay off when you hang in there.
Discworld is the main “setting” of the majority of his novels. There, vampires, werewolves, humans, trolls, dwarves, golems… They all exist amongst each other. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but given the caliber of Pratchett’s writing as well as the scope of his stories, there is something for everybody.
The story begins with a couple of murders that have happened in Discworld’s capital city, Ankh-Morpork. Given the normal operating state of Discworld, this really isn’t news. That is, until its discovered that the murders are at the hand of a golem. A golem who was created to be the King of the Golems. From there, Pratchett very ably shows us that things are much more tangled than that.
As with all of Pratchett’s work, there’s so much more waiting for you beneath the surface. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up!
Wonder Woman: Volume 1 Blood by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins
Like most children from the 80’s, I can remember the times when I was a wee tot and television shows like The Hulk, Spider Man and Wonder Woman were on the air. Sure I wasn’t much older than 5, but I still have dim recollections of being left with my babysitter (aka the television) to watch these shows.
I still remember the day when I realized that the actor who played Bruce Banner on television was the same actor who played on My Favorite Martian and I still remember the day when I realized that the lady selling contact lenses was the same woman who played Wonder Woman.
Of course the days of popular super heroes being on the small screen are long gone. Sure we had Heroes but that was about it. Unless I’m missing something.
As I have made mention before, I frequent my library fairly regularly. On one particular trip, I picked up the current collection of Wonder Woman: Blood because it looked intriguing.
I also came to the conclusion that half the comics I have read in my life are male dominated as far as the character goes and I needed to change that.
In Blood, we learn a shit ton of new info about our favorite Amazon. While I don’t read singles anymore, I think that I can safely say that this collection paints a broad enough picture to get the uninitiated completely interested in WW.
All ready established in the outside world, Diana is charged with the task of protecting a woman who has gained the scorn of Hera, Queen of the Gods. If you’re up on your Greek mythology, Hera is Zeus’ wife and Zeus is the “king of the gods”. Also, he can’t keep his dick in his toga. Suffice it to say, this woman Diana is protecting was “bedded” by Zeus. This is a fact that Hera is reasonably pissed about.
Along the way we find out Wonder Woman’s true origins and the price she pays for alienating the family that raised her. Yes, this collection drops you at the tail end of a story arc but it is still worth it’s weight in blood.
The Wintersmith by Sir Terry Pratchett
In The Wintersmith, Sir Pratchett reacquaints us to young Tiffany Aching, a new witch who has been “making her bones” on her side of Discworld.
Tiffany while under the care of the witch Miss Treason, has found herself in the middle of certain Goddesses and Elementals. The main elemental being the Wintersmith and as a result of Tiffany’s interference, she has gained the affections of said Elemental. This further results in your usual slew of Discworld shenanigans.
While I have only been introduced to Ms. Aching through this book (her previous books being A Hat Full of Sky and I Shall Wear Midnight) I still enjoyed the hell out of this book.
Terry Pratchett has that rare gift that most fantasy writers lack: He’s able to write a book series that you can drop down right in the middle of and still be able to figure out what’s what and who’s who without having to consult Wikipedia. Suffice it to say, I didn’t know who half these “regular” characters were and I was still able to catch as catch can.
An added bonus of this book (at least for people who are new to Sir Pratchett and who either don’t like the mythology behind Discworld or else they just don’t get it) is that there is very little Discworld geography included in this book at all. In the previous books of his that I have read, I have found it a bit hard to understand all of the places and turn’s of phrases that he has created because they were originally brought up in other books of his that I haven’t read yet.
This isn’t the case with The Wintersmith. Pratchett doesn’t disappoint. If you are new or if you are a regular reader, do yourself a favor and go out and pick this up.
Podcasts and keeping gas in the tank.
Writing, like most creative endeavors, can get really fucking lonely.
Sure, it’s easy to be dismissive and say “Boo fucking hoo! Go find a group of like-minded individuals”. But what if there aren’t any? What if you don’t have the circumstances in your life that will permit that? Sometimes, going out and finding those individuals, isn’t that easy.
What makes things worse is that (in my opinion…) most creative peoples (my self, most definitely included) are socially retarded. This certainly doesn’t make for very good socializing. Speaking for myself (I won’t go into the “whys” and “wherefores” about this…), I have always found it easier to communicate through what I create.
The only problem with this method of communication is that your creative tank can run out of gas really fucking fast. To combat this (especially since all three of my kids are in school now and I have the house to my self) I have discovered the glory of podcasts.
Podcasts certainly don’t take the place of human interaction but they do serve as a nice reminder that loneliness goes with the job.
This post is something that is going to be a constant work in progress (AKA I’MA GONNA BE ADDING MORE LINKS TO IT AND REPOSTING WHEN APPROPRIATE).
- The first link will take you to the actual podcast
- The second link will take you to any sort of relative info about the person you’re listening to
- The third link will take you to anything that I have about the person (where and when appropriate)
Night Vale (A podcast in the form of community updates. The twist is that this community is a place where all of the conspiracy theories you have heard are true. More on this to come).
Got a podcast that should be added? Leave a link in the comments section!