Thursday, February 28, 2013


Someone with a lot of time, patience, and LEGO on her hands -- if I'm reading it right, her name is Alice Finch -- has recreated the movie version of Harry Potter's Hogwarts School in over 400,000 LEGO bricks.

This thing is absolutely stunning, and seems to be essentially created to scale, as well. I can easily believe that it took a year to build. Very, very impressive.

There are lots of stunning pictures at the link above; this isn't just a big thing, it's an insanely detailed, carefully created big thing, which is doubly awesome.

(via Laughing Squid)

Love From the Shadows by Gilbert Hernandez

This is another one of Hernandez's oddball side projects -- Love from the Shadows is not actually set in the world of Palomar and his other Love & Rockets stories, but it's the retelling of a fictional movie from that world, starring Hernandez's character Luba in a prominent role. (Clear?) It follows the similar graphic novels Chance in Hell and The Troublemakers as well as Speak of the Devil, which has an even more complicated relationship to Hernandez's usual fictional continuity. (If any alt-comicker ever goes full Crisis in his stories, it will be Gilbert Hernandez; he's always had a fascination for metafiction and a willingness to be as complicated as he can.)

So this particular story is meant to evoke a dark, elliptical indy movie -- made by the Hernandez-world equivalent of David Lynch, perhaps -- in which style is as important as substance, and the most important things are never actually said or shown. (Although there's more on-panel sex and nudity than probably any director could get away with.) There's a dysfunctional family -- aged, sour novelist widower father; promiscuous hitting-middle-age daughter; tormented gay nurse son -- a mysterious and vastly symbolic cave, religious scam artists, an odd near-future religious sect of Monitors, and the usual torment, betrayal, and death you'd expect from a small, serious movie.

The plot isn't the point, but the point is opaque -- after all, this is meant to be the print version of a non-existent movie, so the particular artistic point the movie could have made is not quite what the book can convey. Hernandez puts together compelling pages, and creates characters with intriguing   quirks, but the whole thing feels more like an exercise than a creative work.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Batman: Death by Design by Chip Kidd and Dave Taylor

Chip Kidd is a smart guy who does some great work (many of his cover designs, as collected in Book One; his first novel, The Cheese Monkeys) and who also gets in his own way by being too smart all too often (his second novel, The Listeners; most of the books of comics he's designed, like Bat-Manga!, Jack Cole and Plastic Man, Peanuts). So I was somewhat sanguine coming into Batman: Death by Design; I wasn't sure which Chip Kidd would show up.

But Good Chip Kidd is usually in control when he's telling his own stories -- it's primarily when he's packaging someone else's material that Bad Chip Kidd assumes control -- and so Death by Design, though a bit cluttered with Kidd's enthusiasms and not really, at its core, a Batman story, turns out to be an entertaining graphic novel set in a vaguely mid-century out-of-continuity Gotham City obsessed with architecture. It's a quite wordy book, and Batman isn't nearly as central or important as he usually is in a story with his name and face on the cover -- it could almost serve as a launching point for Exacto, the vigilante architect, if DC or Kidd wanted it to.

I was also amused that one of the primary figures of evil here is the union boss who ruined the old Wayne Central Station of Gotham; who says that those effete New York types are all reflexively leftist? But, in the end, it's the usual thing for an out-of-continuity superhero story: set in a romanticized and simplified version of the creator's favorite past era, with lots of appropriate baubles and gewgaws, only as much characterization as is required to keep the story going, some sturdy superhero-ing, and whatever semi-extraneous enthusiasm the creators bring to it: in this case, mid-century architecture.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Carving Out a New Nook in the Market

When Barnes & Noble hints that they're going to slow-track their Nook e-reader business and "focus more on licensing their content to other device makers" -- as reported by The New York Times on Sunday -- what on earth are they talking about?

B&N is a retailer; they don't own the content they sell. They don't even own the relationship with the content providers -- that's all on the publishers. So how can they possibly find a successful business strategy out of trying to shove themselves into the middle of a marketplace that has been aggressively shedding middlemen for several years?

Are they trying to imply that they think Nook technology is so special and unique -- unlike a thousand other e-readers, most of which failed -- that they can live on licensing it to some other company that wants to beat its head against Amazon's predatory discounts for a few years?

Seriously, is there any strategy that could conceivably work behind that quote, or is it just bland waffling to hide the true cluelessness beneath?

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Short Political Comment, In Re the US 2nd Amendment

Directed to whoever needs to hear it:

Look, nimrod, no part of the Constitution gives you the right to rebel against the government. No part of any legitimate country's legal framework could do so, and, in the case of the US, rebellion is specifically outlawed in the Constitution -- Article III, Section 3, under Treason: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort."

If you declare that you need guns to battle against the government, you are not protecting your rights under the 2nd Amendment; you are actually declaring your intent to betray your country. Perhaps it's time to empty the prisons of drug criminals so we can fill them up anew with traitors.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/23

One of the fun things about "Reviewing the Mail" is how the flow of mail is radically different from week to week -- some times I'm buried, and some times (like this week) there are two swell little books to write about.

Either way, the same caveats apply: these just arrived, so I haven't read them yet. Anything I write below could be wrong -- I certainly hope not, but the Vatican hasn't yet approved my application to be Pope Hornswoggler I, so I'm not officially infallible at this point. But here's what I can tell you this week:

Matt Kindt has been recently stretching his talents beyond his original WWII-era spy milieu (see his excellent Super Spy, the nearly as excellent warm-up 2 Sisters, and the sidebar Super Spy: The Lost Dossiers), with the historical but not spy-focused 3 Story, the SFnal multiple worlds puzzle Revolver, and his current ongoing SF saga, Mind MGMT. But he also found time to do another standalone book, Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes, coming in May from First Second. Red Handed is a detective story -- also apparently historical, set in what looks like the postwar era -- following Detective Gould (and I can't believe that name, in a comic, could be accidental) as he traces the eccentric and random crimes of the town of Red Wheelbarrow.

Also from First Second in May is Odd Duck, a graphic novel for younger readers from writer Cecil Castellucci (The Plain Janes, Janes in Love, and other comics work, as well as young adult novels) and artist Sara Varon (creator of the deeply sweet graphic novels Bake Sale and Robot Dreams). It's about Theodora, a perfectly normal duck (she's the one with the teacup balanced on her head), and Chad, who is quite bizarre (he's the other fella). I suspect there may be A Lesson here, but Varon's drawings are so charming I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe

Teenagers are trying to invent themselves, more than anything else: to become who they want to be, just as soon as they can figure out what that is. And how better to do that then to just announce who and what you are? Sadie decided that's what she'd do, when she started her sophomore year at a new high school: she'd start off by telling all of her new classmates about her life-threatening peanut allergy.

There was just one catch: Sadie didn't really have a peanut allergy. It was just something to make her more interesting at the new school, a way to attract attention and new friends. But a peanut allergy doesn't go away, so she was stuck with living her lie -- as long as she could.

Peanut is a graphic novel for teens, written by indy cartoonist Ayun Halliday (East Village Inky) and drawn by illustrator/cartoonist Paul Hoppe -- and, although Halliday's previous comics work (and a lot of her other books) were autobiographical, this one is purely fiction, as far as I can tell. (So many comics aimed outside of the long-underwear ghetto are memoirs these days that I won't be the only one wondering about this.)

Hoppe uses a crisp, entirely realistic style to tell this story -- mostly thin blue lines, with a splash of red for Sadie -- and Halliday's first-person narration lets Sadie tell her story in a similarly clear, direct way. Sadie finds attention -- and a new boyfriend -- with her new peanut allergy, but of course she doesn't know if she'd have those friends, and that quirky boyfriend (he sends her notes in origami and refuses to use a cellphone) without the big fake revelation.

Peanut is a closely observed story of modern suburban teens, with nasty queen bees, friends as devoted as only fifteen-year-olds can be, and one very conflicted teen girl at the middle of it all. It's heavily narrated by Sadie, as focused through her point of view as a traditional first-person novel would be, so the reader stays in her head (and, presumably, on her side) the whole time. The stakes aren't particularly high here -- just Sadie's honesty and happiness, though that's not nothing -- unlike so much of the popular current teen fiction. It's a bit conventional -- it doesn't go in any of the interesting directions that a more fantastical book about a lying teen girl like Justine Larbalestier's Liar does -- but it has a good heart, it tells a good story, and it looks good along the way.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Free Matt Hughes!

Free him from the drudgery of having to do anything else but write his books, by causing immense piles of money to head his way from his massive sales!

How can you do this? It's easy -- first, download the sampler of his new book, Hell To Pay. (You may wish to consult reviews of the first two books in that trilogy, The Damned Busters and Costume Not Included. We'll wait while you do.)

Then, thrilled by the wonder that is Matt Hughes, go out and buy all of his books right away! Buy them for all of your friends and family members! Buy them as gifts for that old codger at the golf club! Buy them to hand out at the next Rotary Club meeting! Buy them until Matt Hughes is rightly regarded as one of our best writers, as he so obviously is!

Yes, you can Free Matt Hughes! All you you need to do to begin is download and read!

Impressing People Who Can't Do Math

I got an e-mail with this message in it some days ago, and it rolled up in my inbox until I had time to properly focus scorn upon it.

Oooh! I'm one of the top twenty million profiles! Let me drop everything and start celebrating.

If your marketing communications assume that your customers can't do basic math, you're doing it wrong.

Oh, and the Nebulas, Too

There was another set of award nominees announced this week -- not nearly as exciting as the Diagram Prize, but pretty swell nonetheless. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (whose acronym is still SFWA, because shut up) have passed through their first round, and brought forth the following nominees, which they will then vote on:

  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW; Gollancz ’13)
  • Ironskin, Tina Connolly (Tor)
  • The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
  • Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
  • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie,” Jay Lake (Asimov’s 10-11/12)
  • “All the Flavors,” Ken Liu (GigaNotoSaurus 2/1/12)
  • “Katabasis,” Robert Reed (F&SF 11-12/12)
  • “Barry’s Tale,” Lawrence M. Schoen (Buffalito Buffet)
  • “The Pyre of New Day,” Catherine Asaro (The Mammoth Books of SF Wars)
  • “Close Encounters,” Andy Duncan (The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories)
  • “The Waves,” Ken Liu (Asimov’s 12/12)
  • “The Finite Canvas,” Brit Mandelo ( 12/5/12)
  • “Swift, Brutal Retaliation,” Meghan McCarron ( 1/4/12)
  • “Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia,” Rachel Swirsky ( 8/22/12)
  • “Fade to White,” Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld 8/12)
Short Story:
  • “Robot,” Helena Bell (Clarkesworld 9/12)
  • “Immersion,” Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
  • “Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 4/12)
  • “Nanny’s Day,” Leah Cypess (Asimov’s 3/12)
  • “Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream,” Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed 7/12)
  • “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species,” Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/12)
  • “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” Cat Rambo (Near + Far)
Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
  • The Avengers, Joss Whedon (director) and Joss Whedon and Zak Penn (writers), (Marvel/Disney)
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin (director), Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Abilar (writers), (Journeyman/Cinereach/Court 13/Fox Searchlight)
  • The Cabin in the Woods, Drew Goddard (director), Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (writers) (Mutant Enemy/Lionsgate)
  • The Hunger Games, Gary Ross (director), Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray (writers), (Lionsgate)
  • John Carter, Andrew Stanton (director), Michael Chabon, Mark Andrews, and Andrew Stanton (writers), (Disney)
  • Looper, Rian Johnson (director), Rian Johnson (writer), (FilmDistrict/TriStar)
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book
  • Iron Hearted Violet, Kelly Barnhill (Little, Brown)
  • Black Heart, Holly Black (McElderry; Gollancz)
  • Above, Leah Bobet (Levine)
  • The Diviners, Libba Bray (Little, Brown; Atom)
  • Vessel, Sarah Beth Durst (S&S/McElderry)
  • Seraphina, Rachel Hartman (Random House; Doubleday UK)
  • Enchanted, Alethea Kontis (Harcourt)
  • Every Day, David Levithan (Knopf)
  • Summer of the Mariposas, Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books)
  • Railsea, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
  • Fair Coin, E.C. Myers (Pyr)
  • Above World, Jenn Reese (Candlewick)
Congratulations and good luck to all of the nominees, though I have to admit that I look at that Norton list and wonder what the hell happened -- was there an 8-way tie for fifth place?

Winners will be announced at the annual Nebula Awards Weekend, starting May 16th in lovely San Jose, California. During the same ceremony, Gene Wolfe will be officially invested with the full power and grandeur of a Grand Master, and may thus ascend bodily into SFnal heaven. You wouldn't want to miss that, would you?

(via most of the Internet, though I saw it first at

Diagram Prize Time Again

There's only one award in the book world that I love with all my heart, and that's the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. So it's great to see that it's that time once again: the indefatigable Horace Bent, "diarist" for The Bookseller (which is too stuffy and British to have a "blogger") and his colleagues have assembled their usual bizarre selection of topics that no one suspected needed to be written about:

My rooting inclinations are horribly torn this year -- my employer distributes Polity, so I like their Was Hitler Ill?, but David Rees comes out the webcomics world, which I also want to support. Goblinproofing sounds like a fantasy book, which is wonderful. But I think I have to come down on the side of How Tea Cosies Changed the World, simply because it is the oddest title of the bunch.

You can go through your own torments, if you like: voting is open to the public, and the results will be announced on March 22nd.

(And, on a personal note, I'm glad to see the odd titles coming back after what I thought was a disappointing outing last year.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Traveling by Map

I'm probably the only one who uses Google Maps to create completely implausible journeys, right?

What I mostly try to do is concoct the longest trip possible, and I think I've got a new high score -- walking directions from "Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa" to "Mataram, Indonesia." Total of 18,120 miles.

For those who like cheating, Google currently has a glitch (or hack, or feature -- take your pick) that allows "kayak across the Pacific" from the US West Coast, so I also worked out a trip from St. John's in Newfoundland to the furthest point in China I could find. (The cross-Pacific hack works for locations in China, but not for anything further West -- I tried to use Beijing as the mid-point of a Kansas City-to-London trip, and Google denied me.)

Oh, like your hobbies are so productive!

Borrowing E-Books

PW today has an article with lots of numbers -- though surprisingly little analysis or thought -- about Amazon's e-book borrowing program, part of its Amazon Prime subscription business. It burbles about how "the monthly pool for borrowed e-books in January grew to $1.7 million, the largest in the history of the program" without ever explaining how this pool is defined, how and why the value of the pool fluctuates, or how it works.

I assume this is because Amazon, as usual, is being deeply opaque, and only releasing a few numbers carefully chosen to make them look as good as possible. As far as I can tell, the "pool" is set by Amazon fiat -- they decide how much money they feel like spending on ebook "borrowing" that month, and then divide it up according to some unspecified algorithm. (There's clearly at least a breakdown geographically, since there's both a "global fund" and a "monthly pool," though their relationship is not made clear.)

I would have to dig into the Kindle Direct Publishing agreement to be sure, but my guess is that Amazon has not promised to give any money to the authors of these ebooks, and that they're papering over that in their ongoing attempt to convert as many of their customers as possible to Prime. (Because subscription revenue is what everyone wants -- particularly when you run a website and no one can call you on the phone to cancel.)

So authors should take note: Amazon may have decided to give you $2.23 per ebook "borrowed" in January, which is potentially higher than you would have made from a sale in that same period. But every piece of that transaction -- and every penny of resulting revenue -- is under Amazon's complete control; it looks like they don't have to pay you a cent for that "borrow" if they decide (after the month is over, like this time) not to.

And don't get me started on "borrowing" ebooks. Do you have a digital file in your possession? Then it only expires and leaves your possession if you (through choice or laziness or ineptitude) let it do so -- once you have a digital file, there are plenty of tools for any of us to copy and save and transmute it. So it's only "borrowing" by courtesy -- or only "borrowing" in the legal language laid out by the people giving you contracts to sign.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Poseidon: Earth Shaker by George O'Connor

I've said it several times and several ways, so I might as well be blunt this time: George O'Connor, with this series, could and should be to the current generation of young readers what Edith Hamilton was to mine and the generation or two before that. He's in the middle of a series of graphic novels about the Greek gods -- so far there have been Zeus, Athena, Hera, and Hades, with Aphrodite promised and, with luck, another half-dozen or so to follow that -- that combine deep scholarship, a thoughtful attention to the core elements of stories, a master draftsman's eye and hand for pages that tell those stories brilliantly, and a narrative voice that speaks straight to younger readers without ever talking down to them.

This time, with Poseidon, he takes on one of the least relatable of the Olympians -- sure, Hades seems cold and distant, but his story is all about wanting some human contact. Poseidon, on the other hand, is a figure of power and distant wrath in the myths, but rarely if ever descends to the human level -- he doesn't chase mortal women like Zeus, or bless a chosen city like Athena. O'Connor turns that around by letting Poseidon tell his own story...and we still don't get that close to him, but that's on purpose.

So Poseidon tells us how he, Hades, and Zeus split the world three ways -- the earth would be common to them all, but Hades had the underworld, Zeus the sky, and Poseidon the seas, as it must be. And then he tells the stories of some of his children -- as he says, "my children have tended to be monstrous" -- from the cyclopes Polyphemos to Theseus, and other stories, of how he contended with Athena for the patronage of the city that would become Athens, of how he and others rebelled against Zeus, of his dream of being free of his father Kronos's belly. And through it all, Poseidon is distant, mercurial, changing -- like the deep sea itself.

This book has a palette filled with deep greens and blues, as it must -- and O'Connor's art is both supple and muscular to show the battles and confrontations of this most contentious of gods. These books are really good -- O'Connor provides extensive annotations to his pages, plus thoughtful afterwords on the sources and stories, plus lists of further reading, plus discussion questions (suitable for book club or classroom), so you really couldn't ask for more. These are some of the deepest, best stories the human race has, and O'Connor is doing a magnificent job of bringing them to new life.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins

Paul Collins is almost exactly my age, has a son with issues in the same spectrum as my older son, and has the kind of career (writing nonfiction books about quirky bits of history) that looks attractive from the outside -- so I sometimes think of him as an alternate-universe me, as if right now on the other side of the Trousers of Time, he's selling books to architects and I'm writing a book about Trollope's favorite trains. This is silly, of course, but if we can't be silly in our own heads, life isn't worth living. So I've read nearly all of Collins's books to date -- Not Even Wrong, The Trouble With Tom, Sixpence House, The Book of William -- and enjoyed them each in their own ways, while following his career with interest.

The Murder of the Century is a more obvious book than any of those, perhaps indicating that someone (Collins himself, an agent or editor or publisher) is getting tired with the sales of those quirky books (a little sleuthing into that well-known book-industry sales-reporting tool shows that Murder is already his second-bestselling book, close behind Sixpence, which has an eight-year head start). Of course, there's nothing wrong with writing books that people will want to read, and Murder is much more commercial than, say Trouble, being the story of a major (but now-forgotten) murder case and subsequent media frenzy in late 19th century New York City.

It's a fine scandal -- a series of body parts (lower torso, upper torso and arms) are found around New York in 1897, and are identified as William Guldensuppe, German immigrant and worker in a Turkish bath in midtown. Guldensuppe was living with a woman, Augusta Nack, who had left her husband for him, and the story is that another man (Martin Thorn) was moving in, and Guldensuppe wouldn't move out. Add the lack of a head -- allowing the defense to claim that Guldensuppe ran away and is not dead -- and the whispered imputations that Nack, a licensed midwife, did most of her work as an illegal abortionist, and the newspaper arms race between Hearst and Pulitzer of the day, and the Guldensuppe murder was front-page material. More than that: screaming front pages, over and over again, with teams of reporters from a panoply of papers doing nothing else and special editions chasing each other and the last scrap of news or scandal or imputation, from the first piece of Guldensuppe was pulled from the East River until Thorn was executed for the crime.

Collins tells that story well, digging into the archives -- as he did in Book of William and Trouble With Tom -- to get lots of details and color. (There's a lot of dialogue in this book, and Collins has a note up front to state that it's all straight out of the papers of the day -- this story was so exhaustively covered that nearly every word of it was written down at the time.) On the other hand, there's less Collins in this book than in his previous work: he's telling a reporters' story this time, in the way a reporter would. It's exciting and interesting and a great window into a world that's both been gone for over a hundred years and still feels very contemporary, with ubiquitous news and blaring scandals.

If you've never read Paul Collins, but like smart nonfiction, Murder is a great place to start -- he has an amazing story to tell, one completely forgotten after the century of shocking murders since. But if you have read Collins before, there's less of him in these pages than you've been used to.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/16

This is one of the periodic "Reviewing the Mail" posts that falls on a holiday -- at least where I live, in the country that low-information voters believe their sky-god gave to them personally -- which means I still do everything exactly the same, but I suspect most of you don't see it for a while. (Because my assumption is that Antick Musings generally falls into the "distract me at work" category, rather than "I must read it right away!")

With that in mind, I wish you a Happy Monday, with local variations.

This week I've got six books to babble about -- none of which, of course, I've read yet. Two of them are impressively large, and so I'll use them as bookends for the novels in the middle. As usual, my hope is that at least one of these books will be something that you (yes, you!) will absolutely love, since that's the whole point of entertainment. If you don't, well, there are millions of other books out there, so keep looking.

On the Ropes declares itself on the cover to be "a novel," though savvy readers will see its large squarish size and poke inside to see panels lurking on the pages and realize that this is the kind if novel usually prefaced with the word "graphic." (If such things give you cooties, run away now, and leave us more evolved types to continue.) On the Ropes is indeed a graphic novel, the long-awaited sequel to 1988's Kings in Disguise, one of that initial mid-80s flurry of Anglo-American stories pushing the comics medium in new and exciting directions. Writer James Vance and arts Dan E. Burr are back, twenty-five years later, to tell another story of Freddie Block, an orphan in the Depression. Block is now almost eighteen and working in a traveling WPA circus in the Midwest as the assistant to alcoholic escape artist Gordon Corey -- while also working secretly as a labor organizer and trying to write a novel. On the Ropes will be published March 11th by W.W. Norton -- which also has an edition of Kings in Disguise in print, if anyone wants to start there.

Homeland is Cory Doctorow's second novels for teens, after Little Brother (to which Homeland is a sequel). It continues the near-future story of teenagers battling an oppressive government seeking to control everyone in the name of "freedom" and "safety" after a second devastating terrorist attack in San Francisco. But Homeland appears to have slightly different targets: it has an afterword by Jacob Appelbaum and Aaron Swartz (yes, that Aaron Swartz) and focuses on a WikiLeaks-style unauthorized release of information to Marcus, the young hero of the first book. I expect Homeland is much like the first book -- see my review, linked above -- in pitting a young, ferociously self-righteous and incredibly resourceful young man against all of the oppressive apparatus of the modern state, with a crystal-clear sense of where the author falls on every issue. If you like your agitprop utterly up-to-date, this the book you want to read in early 2013. Homeland is a hardcover from Tor Teen, and went on sale February 5.

John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen, two of my generation's premier gatekeepers for short genre fiction, have a new anthology from Amazon's 47 North imprint: Oz Reimagined. And, of course, it contains stories about Narnia! No, wait, let me check that again -- it actually has 15 original stories set in the (now solidly public-domain) world of L. Frank Baum's Oz, including contributions from Seanan McGuire, David Farland, Rachel Swirsky, Jeffrey Ford, Jane Yolen, Tad Williams and Orson Scott Card. There's also a foreword from Gregory Maguire, the current leader of the Oz-reappropriation industry. It all hits Amazon -- and possibly some other bookstores that don't mind participating in their own demise -- on February 26th.

Gillian Philip's novel Firebrand -- beginning of the Rebel Angels series and a finalist for the adventure-fantasy David Gemmell Legend Award in 2010 for its British publication -- comes to the US from Tor on February 19th. It's set in the world of the Sidhe, immortal faery folk separated from the world of mortal men by the Veil -- which is, as it must in stories like this, starting to tear at the edges and in danger of failing entirely. Philip is Scots, and her character names (and, perhaps, her plots) reflect this, as Seth and Conal MacGregor are outcast into the mortal world in the 16th century due to political machinations and find themselves chased by witch-hunters.

Also from Tor and also hitting stores on February 19th is Evie Manieri's Blood's Pride, a first novel and the first in the Shattered Kingdoms series. It's a big epic fantasy series set in a pseudo-Mediterranean world, twenty years after the not-Vikings invaded a peaceful country, conquered it, and forged an alliance with the not-Arabs to maintain their power. There's no conquered country that doesn't want to kill its conquerors, so the oppressed Shadari have mustered their forces, hired the frightening mercenary called The Mongrel (I believe that's her in the eyepatch on the cover), and spit on their hands in preparation for the slaughter to come. All the quotes on this one talk about the big cast and widescreen action, so this is big-scale epic fantasy -- the kind that so many of us love.

Last for this week is the new book from quirky cartoonist Ben Katchor, best known for his long-running alt-weekly strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Phototographer. Hand-Drying in America And Other Stories is a large square object, about a foot on a side, with lots of Katchor's loose, sketchy art and elusive stories, in what its publisher calls "a collection of graphic narratives on the subjects of urban planning, product design, and architecture." Well, OK. Katchor's appeal has never quite made sense to me, which has been frustrating -- I know why people like James Patterson and Johnny Ryan and Tom Cruise and Beyonce and Kevin James and Geoff Johns and LeBron James and Rob Liefeld are popular, even if I don't particularly share in that love, but Katchor seems to appeal to people like me for reasons similar to the ones that make me like things, and I don't get it at all. I hope to spend some time with this book to riddle out that mystery; if you want to do something similar -- or you honestly like Katchor's work, which I know many people do -- you can find Hand-Drying in America available from the fine folks at Pantheon Books on March 5th.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Incoming Books: February 16

Yesterday, my two sons -- almost-15 Thing 1 and newly-12 Thing 2 -- and I went into NYC, primarily to catch a show at the New Victory Theater [1]. As usual, we also ate lunch [2] when we got in, and I also pulled them over to Midtown Comics, which was having a big 30% off nearly all book-like objects sale for the Presidents' Day weekend.

The ostensible reason for going there was to replenish my manga drawer (I'm still running the tell-me-the-story-of-the-prose-book-you-just-read, get-a-manga offer to both boys, though Thing 1 doesn't take advantage of it very often), but of course I got a bunch of things for myself, since I was there and there was a sale on and I'm not made of stone:

The Shadow: Blood and Judgment which collects the '80s DC miniseries by Howard Chaykin, which I remember fondly. But I'm also buying this in hopes it leads to reprints of the ongoing series that followed -- written by Andy Helfer with art by Bill Sienkiewicz and then by Kyle Baker -- because that was utterly insane and wonderful, something completely different and unexpected. (And, also, I had copies of the original comics and of the old DC trade paperback, both lost in the flood of '11.)

A book that seems to be titled Attitude Featuring Andy Singer "No Exit", which is a collection of Singer's mostly single-panel No Exit strips, published in 2004. It was on the sale shelves at a truly bargain-basement price, and I love collections of newspaper cartoons.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl, the new graphic novel by Faith Erin Hicks, creator of Friends With Boys, The War at Elsmere, Zombies Calling and others. The concept of this one looked interesting -- very down-to-earth, slice-of-life superheroics -- and Hicks feels like a creator who keeps getting better with each project.

Grandville Bete Noire, the third of Bryan Talbot's "Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard Scientific-Romance Thriller" stories, set in an alternate world where steampunk England only just freed itself from the Napoleonic empire after two hundred years, oh, and everyone is anthropomorphic talking animals. (See my reviews of the first two: Grandville and Grandville Mon Amour.)

Delphine, the new book from Richard Sala, which I hadn't realized existed until two days ago (even though it came out in late 2012).

And Nelson, a giant theme anthology of British comics creators edited by Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix -- it all tells the story of one woman's life in modern London, from 1968 to 2011, with each of the 54 stories covering one day in that life. I heard about this a while ago, but this was the first time I'd seen a copy.

[1] The Mark of Zorro, a very swashbuckling show by the Scottish company Visible Fictions. My sons really liked it, but I found it a bit old-fashioned (the story of Zorro, presented straight, is inevitably very pulpy and predictable in a very just-post-Victorian way, and it particularly annoyed me that Isabella, the heroine, gets to do exactly nothing but be right, be ignored, and be rescued), particularly compared to the same company's Jason and the Argonauts, which we saw a few years back. Zorro is a particularly great show for boys a bit younger than mine, I think -- if you're in the New York area, have sons/nephews/wards aged 7-12 and want an outing in the next week, this is a great choice.

[2] At Schnipper's, which has rapidly become our second-favorite place in the city. (After only A Salt & Battery, which is way down in the Village, so we've only gotten there a couple of times.) Schnipper's has an excellent mac and cheese -- Thing 2 and I share an order of it -- good burgers, fine shakes, and (we've just discovered) quite good cheese fries as well. I am so glad that I've been able to replace McD's -- which used to be our default place to eat before a show when the boys were smaller -- with something better and tastier and right across from the bus terminal.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ve Haff Vays Uf Making You Buy Kindles!

Now, I've been known to pick on Amazon for being a sharp-elbowed company, but not even I would say something so inflammatory as that they used neo-Nazis as guards in Germany to intimidate foreign workers.

Oh, wait -- it's true?!

If you want to support Amazon in this difficult time, the best way to do so, of course, is to buy something.

The Colonial Marines Battle Cry

This image is the best mechanism yet developed by man to measure one's level of nerdiness.

Exactly how angry you are now at it precisely calibrates to your Nerd Rage Level.

And I love it so much for that.

(Source: somewhere in the wilds of the Interwebs)