Thursday, October 04, 2018

Lucky Thirteenth Anniversary Post!

This year, I wanted to be on time -- how could I miss my own lucky thirteenth anniversary? And so, after a few years of missed deadlines and hastily thrown-together anniversary posts, I actually planned ahead...and it's still not all that impressive, one more plain-text post in the same creaky style I chose for this blog thirteen years ago.

Oh, well.

This blog was born on October 4th, 2005, as I was preparing to launch a professional blog for my then-employer, The Science Fiction Book Club. The official SFBC blog came and went, as did my employment there, but this odd test-bed kept going, and...well, here I still am, thirteen years later.

Blogs are very much Not a Thing anymore, which is fine with me. This one was never much of A Thing to begin with: it's a place for me to organize thoughts around books (and, in years past, movies and other things) and, more than anything, an external record of things I want to do for myself.

So, if you're reading this: thank you. But I know there are only a relatively small number of you, and that's fine. I'll try not to exclude you, but audience doesn't really seem to be the point of blogging anymore, if it ever was.

Anyway, the style for this annual post these days is to use SEO-friendly bolded keywords instead of headings, and I'll keep doing that until it stops seeming like a joke to me.

I always give the obligatory links back to history at this point, so check out the earlier anniversary posts: one, two, three, four, five (missed entirely), six, seven, eight, nine, ten (belated), eleven, twelve (belated).

Then I need to measure something, which, in this context, means the Counting of Posts. Since I had the lack of foresight to start near the end of year, my "blog years" are disjoint from actual years:
  • 2017-2018 -- 368 posts
  • 2016-2017 -- 263 posts
  • 2015-2016 -- 144 posts
  • 2014-2015 -- 258 posts
  • 2013-2014 -- 434 posts
  • 2012-2013 -- 285 posts
  • 2011-2012 -- 332 posts
  • 2010-2011 -- 445 posts
  • 2009-2010 -- 711 posts
  • 2008-2009 -- 880 posts
  • 2007-2008 -- 834 posts
  • 2006-2007 -- 841 posts
  • 2005-2006 -- 809 posts
Then I have to complicate the matter by throwing in my second blog, Editorial Explanations, which ran for nearly three years (February of 2011 through the end of 2013), since it started as a series of posts on Antick Musings.

Editorial Explanations:
  • 2012-2013 -- 560 posts
  • 2011-2012 -- 802 posts
  • early 2011 -- 760 posts
And that means, when you put all of it together, you get:
  • 2017-2018 -- 368 posts
  • 2016-2017 -- 263 posts
  • 2015-2016 -- 144 posts
  • 2014-2015 -- 258 posts
  • 2013-2014 -- 434 posts
  • 2012-2013 -- 285 + 560 = 845 posts
  • 2011-2012 -- 332 + 802 = 1,134 posts
  • 2010-2011 -- 445 + 760 = 1,205 posts
  • 2009-2010 -- 711 posts
  • 2008-2009 -- 880 posts
  • 2007-2008 -- 834 posts
  • 2006-2007 -- 841 posts
  • 2005-2006 -- 809 posts
As always, that and $2.87 will get you a flat white. (Some locations may allow substitution of a mocha sasprcillamagilla. Please see store signage for details.)

My takeaway? If there ever was a golden era for Antick Musings, you are not in it. Well, assuming volume is the appropriate measurement, and I hope that it is not.

Antick Musings has been different vague things at different times, but it settled into being a book blog most of the time soon after I left the SFBC. And so every year, I link to some of those book posts by using sentences I still like from those posts:

The great thing about history is that it never stops being history.

There are books where you wonder why anyone ever thought they were a good idea -- how they could possibly have come into existence. A fully-painted series of comic books in which a sweaty-looking Superman and Batman trade dreams as part of the schemes of an undead Scottish laird to beat a random female demon would fall into that category for a whole lot of people.

These are mostly pleasant drawings of pleasant young Christians being pleasant and doing pleasant things either vaguely church-related or, at the very least, entirely acceptable to a 1950s church for white people.

And thus the red-hots of one generation come to seem cinders to their children. So sad.

Twenty-some years ago, it was reading a bunch of random Moebius books that convinced me that French comics were all about philosophical bullshit.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of an impressive collection, must be in want of a book to display it in. When push comes to shove, sometimes that man will even write the book himself to show it off. 

This is a depressing book to read at the beginning of 2018. It's nearly a decade later, a decade and a half since the US marched into Iraq to break it apart, and things have continued to get worse. It's almost as if random military adventures do vastly more harm than good!

I'm torn here. I could lead off by talking about the substance or about the style. Both are a little off-putting, for very different reasons, but only one is deliberate.

Note that this is the first sentence in this review not to mention Kings in Disguise. I could have kept it up, if I wanted. I'm not proud. Or tired.

Something can be impressive, even admirable, and still not be the best idea in the world. It can be both a major achievement, and less useful in many ways than the thing it was based on. It can be fun and amusing but also a chore.

There is a lot of sex in this book. There is a lot of chattering in lieu of plot in this book. There is a lot of pseudo-mystic bullshit in this book, generally in the vaguely Satanic category. There is not a lot of sense in this book, but I'm not confident its audience wanted sense at all.

The whole point about teens is that they're not done yet.

The cliche is that you need to spend 10,000 hours doing something to get good at it. But what if you get good, and then realize you don't like it? And what if those hours started when you were five or six years old, before you really had a choice?

As I said above, a lot of people have sex, occasionally by choice, and some of them even live to enjoy themselves afterward. But it's not the way to bet.

It would be nice to have a time machine, but, in real life, "today" is always the earliest anything can be done.

We all regret our twenties. Some of us regret how quickly we settled down and got boring, and some of us regret that we didn't settle down and get boring, at all or quickly enough.

Sometimes, with comics, we forget the value of density. Particularly these days, when the needle has swung far in the direction of deconstruction and the popular models are from manga, with endless pages of the wind blowing evocatively over some landscape or other, we forget the power of a page full of things happening and messages assaulting our eyeballs.

According to the powers of Google, I've used variations of the word "misogyny" only twice before in the history of this blog -- once to talk about an undercurrent in Howard Chaykin's comics, and once about H.P. Lovecraft. This post, I'm afraid, will probably shatter that record.

I am the kind of person who reads a book based on a movie before seeing the movie. Perhaps even instead of seeing the movie. Sometimes without even realizing there was a movie until after finishing the book and looking to research it for a blog post such as this one.

Something can be both an obvious idea and a bad idea. I think we've all had that weird vertiginous feeling when looking down from a great height, like we want to jump off.

None of that makes any sense. You can't explain any of it. And yet it happened. Let that be a lesson to all of you.

It's more coherent and professional than what I was expected, but that's not precisely an improvement. Crazy and genuine trumps professional and dull every day of the week.

Lands of epic fantasy have one big continent, with an irregular coast. There may be islands off the coast here and there, but there's only one continent, only one world. There's one kind of people on one side of the continent and another kind over on the other side. Those groups don't get along all the time, of course -- and, if we're telling an epic fantasy story, it will be during a time when they're spectacularly not getting along. Maybe there's a big wall slicing across the middle of that continent, Robert-Frostly trying to make good neighbors out of warring parties. It won't work, of course. We want our epic fantasy story, and that requires blood and death and devastation, pain and sorrow and misery, and heroic figures that feel all of that pain and yet find ways to transcend and transform their world, in the end.

Books can be based on anything: a random thought, a meme, a movie, a video game, a common saying, some old story the author wants to fix. But this is the only book I know based on a chart.

But, you know, we don't need the author to comb through his books and collate the scattered details of the world he built there. Authors generally are not great at doing that, anyway, and prefer to go on building that world rather than researching what they've already done. That's a job for other people to begin with: dedicated, obsessive people. Fans. You know what I'm saying.

I don't think the purpose of pulp fiction is to enforce public morality, exactly. That implies an official stature and teleology that is completely unjustified. But damn if pulp fiction doesn't enforce the public morality of its day really strongly -- and the way those stories tend to end quickly and violently makes the action of "fate" that much more obvious.

Other people's childhood adventure stories are rarely that impressive when you discover them as an adult. That doesn't mean they're bad -- or any more so than your childhood adventure stories -- it just means that you should have read them at the right time, when you were ten or so and ready for anything.

But we can't choose to like things, can we? I've never been any good at that.

People will tell you that The Ghost in the Shell is a single story, about a cyborg cop in a complex future Japan and her pursuit of a mysterious AI called The Puppeteer. They are lying to you.

I have a weakness for stories that don't go the way the creator expects them to.

I love the idea of this book, though I assume it will never work out quite the way Landers wants: humans are too ornery, cross-grained and stupid to jump onto obvious win-win situations, as has been proved too many times.

I can't prove this is the best strategy, but I tend to read a book first and then research it afterward, when I'm trying to figure out what to write here. As you may have noticed, I can be opinionated, so I try to minimize the chance of having strong opinions about something before I read it -- oh sure, it never entirely works, since you have to know something about a book to even want to pick it up, but I think it helps.

But the downside of being a writer driven by obsessions is that they can leave you vulnerable to making a major work hinge on something really trite.

Pro tip: if you're writing a real person into a story, even under a thin veil, make sure you have their approval if you want to make your fictional version cartoonishly evil. Saves a lot of time and aggravation.

I was slightly surprised to sit down to read two books and then to find that the first of them had the big ending. Not horribly surprised, since I like stories that have endings, but it did seem unusual for the big ending to be, you know, not at the end.

I'm not generally positive about superhero comics here, for the obvious reasons. They're disconnected from reality, providing artificial solutions to artificial problems. They're obsessed with their own continuity and history, and with ringing ever more complicated changes on that history, at the expense of clarity and storytelling. They privilege a dumbed-down moral universe in which punching solves everything and violence can be controlled precisely to keep unwanted damage from occurring. They tell endless and-then sagas, divorced from real stories with beginnings and ends. And they're run by and for the benefit of rapacious multinational corporations, which just want more IP to exploit.

It's a cliche to say we're all alone. It's also not true.

Without getting into the traditional arguments against suicide, I think we can all agree that killing yourself is at the very least generally less bad than killing someone else. But what if every time you kill yourself, you also kill someone else by taking over their body?

If you're going to do an alternate history about the end of the world, there comes a time when you have to crack your knuckles and end it.

But nobody is going to ask his mom if his dad liked to tie her up. And nobody will be upset that the question doesn't get asked.

Dungeon doesn't really aim to have a moral. But that doesn't mean we can't pull morals out of it, if we want to. And this volume, in particular, leads me to postulate "there's always time for hanky-panky, even at the end of the world."

I don't know if superhero conflicts are required to be based on the stupidest possible interpretation of premises, but it certainly seems that way. Subtlety or nuance don't exist in superhero universes; in a world where people can punch each other through brick walls, that's the only way to do anything.

You should read the Alan Moore Swamp Thing, if you have any interest in comics or horror or superhero universes or ecology in literature or spirituality or transcendence. If you're not interested in any of those things, well, it sounds like a dull life, but good luck with it.

Any self-respecting family story needs a flashback. Whether it's a Ross Macdonald novel finally explaining just what horrible thing happened twenty years ago in Canada or a family saga that stops in the middle of Chapter Two to explain just how Sadie McGuffins first came to the Maritimes from Scotland as a teen domestic servant so many years ago, before too long the narrative needs to roll up its sleeves, dive into the past, and dramatize the things that are still casting a shadow over the present-day cast.

There is an inherent sadness in Sunny. These children are all abandoned, to one degree or another -- and they all know that, deep down. They could have each other -- but this isn't a story about friendship. They could have the adult carers at the Lucky Star Home -- but this isn't a story about parental figures, either. They have their dreams, and their hopes, and a broken-down Sunny 1200 slowly rusting in the yard. That's what Sunny is about.

I can't exactly recommend this book. It's so far over the top there's cloud cover obscuring its lower reaches.

The romance of monkeys in tin cans continues to elude me.

If you can read the stories of a whole bunch of women pioneers -- such as the ones in the book I'm about to discuss -- without being at least a little bit annoyed at men in general, frankly there's something wrong with you.

It is pretty hard to have a team-up book where one of the two team members has no way to actually know the other one's name.

This is as good a place to begin as anywhere, since so many of Days's elements recur in his novels: uncertain apocalypses, the power of the movies, obsessive men and the women burdened with them, twins and lost children, and the horribly unrelenting power of what we might as well call "love."

As far as I can tell, Cerebus ended as planned in 2004, but the Sour Years did not. There's a lesson for all of us, as we get older.

The great thing about used book stores is that you find random stuff you didn't expect. Oh, sure, anyone can fire up the Google box these days and get that one book that you know that you want to read, but, without browsing, you'll never know what's two inches to the right of it, or three aisles away, or right behind you as you turn around wondering what that funny-looking bookcase has in it.

Once upon a time, I wrote about things besides books in this blogs -- I did a lot of posts about movies, when I was watching a lot of movies -- but my hobbies have turned into books and video games these days, and blogging about three random hours of Skyrim aren't interesting for anyone.

So, instead, here's a link to my Reviewing the Mail series, which goes up every Monday morning to list all of the new books I got in the previous week.

There were a few other random posts over the course of the past year, and, in past years, I've dug them out and posted links in the anniversary post. But there are so few of them that feels like special pleading this year. Antick Musings, right now, is a book blog -- and the links to the bits of that I want to point out are above.

So, instead, I'll look forward: next, I'll be finishing out this Book-A-Day run, and then posting more stuff into 2019, in the Fourteenth Year of the Blog. Some of the things I post then might not be out books...stranger things have happened.

See you then, I hope.

1 comment:

Melita said...


Post a Comment