The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrator), Matt Wilson (Colorist), Clayton Cowles
Series: The Wicked + The Divine (Vol. 2)
Published
: July 1st 2015 by Image Comics
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Pages: 168p
Source: library borrow
Rating: ★★★.5☆
The second volume of the award-winning urban fantasy series where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. Following the tragic and unjust death of Lucifer, it takes a revelation from Inanna to draw Laura back into the worlds of Gods and Superstardom to try and discover the truth behind a conspiracy to subvert divinity. Includes issues 6-11 of the series, plus supplementary material.

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

For those unfamiliar with The Wicked + The Divine series, the basic plotline is this: Every 90 years, a pantheon of gods are reborn into the human world. In the modern day, they are treated as modern pop star celebrities. It features a diverse cast of characters, and follows the human Laura, a fan of the gods who encounters this century’s Lucifer early on.

I started The Wicked + The Divine series in late 2015. I never reviewed it, either here or on my original blog, and my Goodreads review of Volume 1 is simply this:

I do love me some deicide. And hot damn it was beautiful!

Volume Two is no exception to this at all. The Wicked + The Divine is beautifully crafted, with exquisite art and interesting character designs. This series has haunted me ever since I picked up page one. Too often do I read a book, rate it highly, and then forget about it entirely until it’s time to go through what I’ve read for the year for a Top 10 list and go “oh yeah, this book exists.” Not so with TW+TD. I have meant to grab Vol. 2 ever since I flipped the last page of Volume 1 – for whatever reason, I just kept missing it.

If second-volume-sag is a thing, I felt that Vol. 2 definitely was a victim. Maybe I just loved Luci a little too much. Volume 2 focuses on Laura’s desire to find out who framed Luci, and find out she definitely does. The plot was there, it was solid, I just found myself drifting off while reading and going ‘Is this it?’. I was invested in the plot but detached in a bizarre way. Perhaps my memory of Volume 1 and my self-hype meant that Volume 2 couldn’t live up to my expectations –

Until the ending. Holy shit, was that an ending. The writer certainly knows how to keep someone invested in the storyline. Regardless, my apathy toward much (if not all) of the volume leads me to a sad 3.5 star rating for the collection as a whole.

La’Ron Readus did an excellent review of Volume 2 not long before I got my hands on my copy. He enjoyed it far more than I did, and I wonder if that’s to the massive span of time between readings for me. His review goes a bit more into depth on the connections between the volumes, something I can’t do quite as well since it’s been so long since I began the series.

Right now I’m off to pick up Volumes 3 and 4.

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How To Write Sci-Fi and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card

How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy
by Orson Scott Card
Published: July 15th 1990 by F & W Publications Inc.
Genre: nonfiction
Pages: 137p
Source: library borrow
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Writing for science fiction and fantasy audiences can be the most exciting writing you’ve ever done. Your readers are curious and want you to take them beyond “”The Fields We Know,”” to help them explore the infinite boundaries of the worlds you create.

Here, science fiction great Orson Scott Card shares his expertise in these genres. You’ll learn:

– What is and isn’t science fiction and fantasy, and by whose standards — and where your work fits in.
– How to build, populate, and dramatize a credible, inviting world your readers will want to explore.
– How to use the MICE quotient — milieu, idea, character, event — to structure a successful story.
– Where the markets are and how to reach them to get published.

The knowledge and skills you gain through this book will help you effectively lead your readers into the strangeness you create — one tantalizing step at a time.

Goodreads | I’m not including buy links, sue me.

One particular quote that stands out to me from this book, on page 19:

Human beings also exhibit this love-fear attitude toward strangeness – for instance, we see the fear in racism, the curiosity in the way people slow down to rubberneck as they drive past an accident on the freeway.

Another, related quote from Orson Scott Card:

The dark secret of homosexual society — the one that dares not speak its name — is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.

[source]

Read more on his disgusting views toward queer people here. Or here. If I had been aware of this revolting attitude, I would not have borrowed this from the library. It wasn’t until I brought it home that my partner said “Oh yeah, that guy can really write. Shame he’s a homophobe.” The thought had never occurred to me. At all. I just enjoyed Ender’s Game, and I was hoping that maybe there would be just one nugget of wisdom in these 140 pages that I hadn’t already read online (spoiler: there’s not).

On the very next page, there is a snide dismissal to genres generally geared towards women and teens. He talks in such a disdainful manner toward people who read the same story over and over again, but says “those of us who don’t enjoy gothics or bodice-rippers or teen romances” might be inventive with our stories. This was red flag number two.

Red flags, possibly flares.

There are 4 specific examples of OSC’s own ideas for stories in the whole of this book. The first is a generic fantasy story, the next is Ender’s Game. Neither are addressed in more than a couple of paragraphs at most. The third (for his novel Hart’s Hope) is the first time any character is described in detail; the first two examples have been largely painted with broad strokes, though this one takes up nearly five full pages:

One sister was staring directly into her twin’s face; after separation, er face would be a blank mask, with no eyes, no real nose, and only a gap for a mouth. The other twin, though, was facing half away, after separation, while one eye was missing and one cheek was a ruin, her profile from the other side would look perfectly normal. Which sister suffered more, the one who would never see how hideous she was[…]? Or the one who, by turning her face just so, could catch a glimpse of how beautiful she and her sister couldhave been and then, bystaring at herself full in the face in the mirror, could see just how hideously deformed she was? [p30]

Example four is equally troubling. It begins with instructing on how to address ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions to build a plot. “Why did John slap Mary across the face?” Over the course of the next full page, OSC delves deep into this psychology. We discover that Mary slapped him first, and that John feels guilty. Then alas, “Even that is too easy.”! “Unconsciously, he’s rather proud of it.” John, we learn, has never hit anyone and gets a big ol’ wank off for his ego because he feels strong. “It […] made him strut a little in his dealings with others.” Then, in his workings out, OSC asserts that  she leaves – or:

Maybe she was raised by a strong father or mother who slapped the family around. Maybe she unconsciously wanted John to act out this physically domineering role, and it wasn’t until she slapped him herself that he actually did what she wanted. […] She stays with him, unconsciously hoping to continue provoking him into violence so she can fear and admire him the way [she feared her parent]. [p35]

Example five is a single paragraph explaining how to handle infodumping about space travel. Example six is on why not to make up words for ideas like ‘bread’ and uses no characters at all. Page 65 gives us our seventh example that uses real characters, this time another pair of sisters who are bitter toward each other over the treatment of an alien species, so one destroys the other’s career only to make up in the desert.

At this point OSC makes a switch to referencing Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed for nearly every example, a work with which I’m not familiar and had little to no clue what the fuck he was on about since I was just expected to know it. Oddly enough, when discussing the difference between “Character Story” and “Event Story” he uses no examples of his own at all and sort of skates over it.

The next real example of his own is more intended to mock early SF than actually instruct. It comes off, as much of this book does, as ‘look how much better we are than these guys who invented this! Ha! Also, fuck Star Trek!’. I’m not counting this.

That makes seven examples. Two of which (the first two) outline SFF heroes in very short order. As much as I would love to punch Ender Wiggin in the face, he is seen as a hero.  Two more are short and include no characters (five and six). That leaves us with three, one of which harps on about a pair of women who are tragic because they’re ugly, one about an abused woman who wants it/deserves it/asked for it, and another about two sisters who fuck each other over and are passingly mentioned to reconcile.

Of five examples involving characters, only three delve into characters that are named at all and each one is a varying type of tragic woman be she catty and selfish, sad because she is disfigured and can never be beautiful, or wants her husband to beat the shit out of her so she provokes him into doing it. The first two examples are more or less glossed over, and Ender is neither described in detail nor is…whoever the first example is about.

There is a common theme here. A troubling theme. I am no big OSC buff – I liked Ender’s Game and it took me two years to get through Xenocide. I can only comment on this text alone, something I wish I had found at the thrift store for a quarter so I could line a hamster’s cage with it.

In Short(er)

This is titled “How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” but focuses almost entirely on SF. Fantasy is only mentioned in passing, not expanded upon in any aspect like interstellar travel is (in which OSC sneers at the term “warp speed” and anyone who uses it). The entirety of this book is steeped in arrogance and superiority. Every piece of advice is given as “this is how this is done” not “this is how I do this” which is incredibly irritating. If someone wants to call something warp speed, let them. It’s dicking about in space. Calm down. Stop jerking off your own ego.

In short, this is almost entirely useless in the internet age. Everything in these pages can be found online for free. Everything. I didn’t find a single nugget of information that I haven’t read online in another fashion.This combined with the fact that Orson Scott Card being a generally shitty person means I don’t feel bad sharing this list with you. Most is geared toward fantasy, so if you feel like picking up HTWSFF for a shallow glimpse into sci-fi writing that you can utilize to write the queerest thing you possibly can, I would encourage you to do so. 🙂

Resources

Below are videos and sites I’ve found helpful for writing basic fantasy stuff. This is by no means exhaustive (my resources number in the hundreds) but it’s a good jumping off point for people who want to start and might not know where to start, which is the same demographic HTWSFF is geared toward anyways. If you have any resources, please do share in the comments below!

Websites

Subreddits

Even searching these or looking through related subreddits and reading through wikis can give you an incredible amount of information. Some shit is… questionable. So use caution and maybe don’t read the comments.

Individual Posts

Videos and Playlists

Youtubers (general fiction writing, mostly YA)

What is the best book on writing that you’ve read?
Do you have any writerly resources to share?

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Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine – review

Bitch Planet Volume 1

Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Writer), Valentine De Landro (Artist), Robert Wilson IV (Artist)
Series: Bitch Planet (Vol. 1)
Published
: October 7th 2015 by Image Comics
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction
Pages: 156p
Source: purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Eisner Award-nominated writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (Pretty Deadly, Captain Marvel) and Valentine De Landro (X-Factor) team up to bring you the premiere volume of Bitch Planet, a deliciously vicious riff on women-in-prison sci-fi exploitation.

In a future just a few years down the road in the wrong direction, a woman’s failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords will result in exile to the meanest penal planet in the galaxy. When the newest crop of fresh femmes arrive, can they work together to stay alive or will hidden agendas, crooked guards, and the deadliest sport on (or off!) Earth take them to their maker?

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Volume One of BITCH PLANET collects the first five issues and it was a treat! This was such an interesting read. Some points made definitely pour salt in fresh wounds. I had to finish this in a series of sitting because, especially in the climate we’re living in today, the tyrannical patriarchy aspect really chapped my ass.

BITCH PLANET features a cast in skin tone, body type, and sexuality (this hasn’t really been touched on much yet but there do appear to be some queer characters). Every main character is a woman. Even better, it’s written by a woman, so this doesn’t have that uncomfortable aftertaste of “I can tell a man wrote this female character because her breasts are mentioned on nearly every page.”

The nudity is not gratuitous, it is secondary to what’s happening even though it’s necessary given their circumstances. Women shower naked. What they’re talking about in the shower, and what it leads to, are far more important that the outlines of average breasts. (This was another favorite part of mine – they look like normal women of all shapes and sizes, including their breasts that don’t sit just beneath their collarbones like skin-colored grapefruits.)

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I could name more than a couple of characters though I do recognize them when they show up. The same thing happens to me with TV shows, and I wind up referring to Eleanor Guthrie as “the blonde lady” for the whole first season of Black Sails before her name sticks in my head. When it sticks though, it does stick. BITCH PLANET has a large cast of characters and I am just used to fiction that reminds you of someone’s name every other paragraph. The characters are definitely intriguing, especially when it’s mentioned what they’re ‘in for’ before they’re really introduced. Sci-fi is normally hard for me to connect with (probably because it’s often weighed down beneath the male gaze) but I had no such issues with BITCH PLANET.

The art has a very typically comic book style. It’s not the most polished thing, but it definitely suits the aesthetic of the story. Let me tell you, this is one of the more aesthetically pleasing, humorous graphic novels I’ve yet put my eyeballs on. The story is hard to follow in some places, especially if you only read the first issue or two. Definitely pick up the volume for a more full story arc if you’re interested.

One of the final pages (possibly an endpaper? my copy is digital so I don’t know) reads:

ARE YOU NON-COMPLIANT?

DO YOU FIT IN YOUR BOX?

ARE YOU TOO FAT, TOO THIN, TOO LOUD, TOO SHY, TOO RELIGIOUS, TOO SECULAR,

TOO PRUDISH, TOO SEXUAL, TOO QUEER, TOO BLACK, TOO BROWN, TOO WHATEVER-THEY’LL-JUDGE-YOU-FOR-TODAY?

YOU JUST MAY BELONG ON

BITCH PLANET

What sci-fi trope are you least fond of?

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Plutona #1

Plutona #1

Plutona #1
by Jeff Lemire, Emi Lenox, Jordie Bellaire (Illustrator)
Series: Plutona (Issue #1)
Published
: September 2nd 2015 by Image Comics
Genre: comics, fantasy
Pages: 31p
Source: purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A brand new heartfelt super-hero series by JEFF LEMIRE (DESCENDER, Hawkeye) and amazing newcomer EMI LENOX! PLUTONA follows the story of five suburban kids who make a shocking discovery while exploring the woods one day after school…the body of Plutona, the world’s greatest superhero. A dark and heartbreaking journey about friendship and coming of age all through the lens of the superhero genre.

Goodreads | Amazon

I’m not normally a fan of superhero… anything. Sorry, Marvel fans (or DC). I like a good Batman or Spider-man film on occasion, but more often than not I am not interested in the typical superhero thing. I like my characters to be way more imperfect than the stereotypical super allows.

While I do like the idea of a glimpse into the world of an average person in a world where there are superheros (I was a massive fan of The Rest of Us Just Live Here, after all), this just didn’t really speak to me. I would’ve rather seen more of how Plutona came to be in the woods instead of 95% of the first issue being about the kids, especially since them finding Plutona in the first place is spoiled by the blurb. If I already know the major thing that happens, what’s the point?

Also, I don’t think the r-slur was necessary. At all. Characters don’t need to fling slurs around to show that they’re grimy people.

The art style is very cute. It reminds me of a webcomic or a 90s Nickelodeon cartoon.

I don’t know. I just really don’t vibe well with single-issue comics because I want much more than they’re willing to tell. I feel like if you’re trying to draw me in with just 31 pages, it better be a damn good 31 pages.

What superhero do you like the most?

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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – review

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

THE BONE WITCH
by RIN CHUPECO
Series: The Bone Witch (#1)
Published
: March 7th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 400p
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

The Bone Witch is a bit of a slow burn, and it’s very good at teasing a future that I am 100% invested in. Seventeen year old girl on a beach of corpses? Heck yes I want to know how she got there! It’s a cliffhanger in that this does not come full circle – the final chapter of Tea’s retrospective storytelling does not match up to her meeting the bard at the very beginning. (I am also a big sucker for rune-based magic systems, especially those with a visible cost. Hooray!)

This is very much an apprentice tale, where badass necromancer Tea tells the story of how she came to be a Dark asha – or Bone Witch. As someone who’s read a lot of geisha autobiographies lately, I really enjoyed even the smallest of parallels between geisha and asha. Tea really comes into her own in the second half of the novel, which is when I first started to truly see present-day Tea reflected in her past self. For much of the first half I found myself worried that past-Tea was a little too passive, but I think that was just a product of her circumstances.

After watching Tea grow into her own throughout the story, as well as seeing what she will ultimately become, it was disheartening to have it all hang on some boy at the very end while having near-zero mention of romance in The Bone Witch at all. I expected it, since it’s YA and it comes with the territory, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I just really hope the story isn’t overwhelmed in book two by the apparent necessity of a romance that overwhelms the (in my opinion, far more interesting) plot. While it’s certainly open to a future love triangle (my god, I hope not), I am definitely in for book two at the very least. Tea and her world are far too interesting for me to let go of. For me, this is four stars only because the implication of a future love triangle.

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Review: Love Vol. 4 – The Dinosaur

Love Volume 4 - The Dinosaur by Frédéric Brrémaud, Federico Bertolucci

LOVE VOL. 4 – THE DINOSAUR
by Frédéric Brrémaud and Federico Bertolucci
Series: Love (#4)
Published
: February 7th 2017 by Magnetic Press
Originally Published: as Les Dinosaures (Love #4) by Ankama November 6 2015
Genre: graphic novel, dinosaurs
Pages: 80p
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

Life in the primordial swamps of prehistoric Earth was a daily trial of survival, especially for the smaller dinosaurs just trying to get by without being trampled, attacked, or eaten. Not even the biggest beasts were safe, as there always seemed to be an even bigger threat looming on the horizon. This exciting tale, written by Frederic Brremaud, is told without narration or dialogue, conveyed entirely through the beautiful illustrations of Federico Bertolucci. A beautiful, powerful tale of survival in the animal kingdom that explores the all-too-identifiable, universal concepts of Life, Courage, Aging, and ultimately Love.

The fourth volume in the lavishly illustrated series of wildlife graphic novels, each following a single central animal through an adventurous day in their natural environment. Each tale depicts genuine natural behavior through the dramatic lens of Disney-esque storytelling, like a nature documentary in illustration.

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

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BINTI by Nnedi Okorafor – review

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

BINTI
by NNEDI OKORAFOR
Series: Binti (#1)
Published
: September 22nd 2015 by Tor.com
Genre: science fiction
Pages: 96p
Source: purchased for Kindle
Rating: ★★★★☆

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Binti is such an interesting, complex character that I’m a little surprised. In my experience with novellas and short stories, I don’t tend to connect with the characters much as they often seem more like a vessel to serve the plot than fully realized people. Thankfully, this was lightyears away from my experience with this novella!

Even more exciting is that Binti is a badass through the sheer strength (and vulnerability) of her character, not by going around and stabbing everyone. I appreciate that in a heroine. Murder and violence has its place, but it was refreshing to have a female protagonist that’s peaceful.

I was left wanting more, and wishing it was longer. I would’ve appreciated a little more detail to some scenes, like the one in the dining hall. Being a bit of a sci-fi newbie, some of the tech I didn’t understand at first – and some of it I’m still not certain if I’m meant to know exactly what’s going on or not. Nevertheless, Binti and her world were very intriguing. I trust her.

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