Sep 152013

I received an early copy of this book either because I have some supernaturally hypnotic powers of which I am unaware, or because awesome books are one of the glamorous insider perks of being a writer’s girlfriend. Either way, I was ecstatic to read what had been (accurately) described to me as “The Prestige meets The Avengers.”

Vicious features the finest evil sciencebros in all the land, the keenest little girl sidekick since Penny, and a twisty, darkly animated plot. The story is told through alternating points in time and points of view, but Schwab paints the visuals and nails the characters with the perfect amount of detail, so we’re never left confused by these jumps.

I don’t read many comics and this may be the first novel I’ve read in the–well, are we calling “superhero” a subgenre yet? I found myself visualizing the scenes played out in the typical college and sleek downtown hotel settings of Merit as comic book pages. The dialogue is full of grand pronouncements and villainy while the characters battle and betray each other with knives, guns, and (best of all) cruel insights.

The story has a lot of emotional intimacy, but that doesn’t mean there’s romance. Early on, one of the first sparks that sends the main characters into their self-obsessed descents into madness is the girl who comes between them. However, we quickly see that their possessiveness and bad relationships with their own true natures bar them from sensuality or true passion, and there’s a cautionary aspect to that. Love is really just another weapon, along with friendship and fear. Musings on loyalty and the powerful effects of trauma lend profundity, elevating the whole above the level of entertaining romp; not that being merely that would have been a bad thing, but it is nice to have things to think about when the last page is turned.

Do the ability to make a creepy, pesky kid feel safe and a quirky hatred of absentee parents make up for more than a decade of being a bad man? If you’re saving humanity with superpowers and God is on your side, does that make you a holy tool? Most importantly, how many heroic tropes does a writer need to stab full of holes and then raise from the dead before we go forth and proclaim the work a brilliantly dialectical piece?

Vicious is out September 24. That’s a Tuesday, so if you do yourself the favor of purchasing it, you can stay up all night and finish it before you go to the comic shop for your pulls.


Here are a bunch of links that I had trouble slyly working into this post:
An excerpt on!
Warm Up, an endearing related short story on!
Holy shit, the author has made really cool trading cards and I just drooled a little on my favorite shirt.
And what the hell, why not a B&N link, too?

Sep 122013


2013-08-28 09.04.28

I’ve just – JUST – caught up on Downton Abbey. Like, I had a half hour left when we went to dinner last night, and I fired it up to watch this morning while eating my rice krispies. So Matthew’s dead and Mary’s sitting there gazing pleasantly at the new little heir. Snap, crackle, pop.

Yes, I’m pissed at that ending. Which they aired on Christmas like a bunch of Krampusy grinches. I think, though, that I’m far angrier about Sybil and Branson, dead and de-fanged.

Lady Sybil ran off to elope with Tom Branson, the socialist chauffeur. Her sisters convinced her to come home, tell the family, force them to accept her choice. Which she did, admirably! Branson announced his new career in journalism and the two wed, then left for Ireland. It reminded me a bit of Karl and Jenny Marx, still much on my mind from reading Love & Capital: A proper lady with a noble pedigree marries a working-class revolutionary who attempts to support them by writing.

This can’t be permitted. Eventually, we find out that Tom has been attending revolutionary meetings in Ireland, which is entirely consistent with his politics and values. He was involved in the burning of a house but, after fleeing Ireland for the safety of Downton Abbey, a pregnant Sybil following close behind, he explains that he was pro-violence until he witnessed it first-hand.

Sybil dies in childbirth. Just like in Doctor Who, can’t have a female character with that much agency going around unpunished. Branson grieves appropriately, and stays on the show, becoming upper-class and managing the estate, all his politics washed clean by feeling bad over what we’re supposed to believe was the first violent incident he had been involved in.

In SLC Punk*, there’s a wonderful scene that I shall now quote, courtesy of the internet**:

Stevo: You two are divorced. So love failed. Two: Mom, you’re a New Ager, clinging to every scrap of Eastern religion that may justify why the above said love failed. Three: Dad, you’re a slick, corporate, preppy-ass lawyer. I don’t really have to say anything else about you do I dad? Four: You move from New York City, the Mecca and hub of the cultural world to Utah! Nowhere! To change nothing! More to perpetuate this cycle of greed, fascism and triviality. Your movement of the people, by and for the people got you… nothing! You just hide behind some lost sense of drugs, sex and rock and roll. Ooooh, Kumbaya! I am the future! I am the future of this great nation which you, father, so arrogantly saved this world for. Look, I have my own agenda. Harvard, out. University of Utah, in. I’m gonna get a 4.0 in damage. I love you guys! Don’t get me wrong, it’s all about this. But for the first time in my life, I’m 18 and I can say “FUUUUUCK YOU!”

Dad: Steven, I didn’t sell out son. I bought in. Keep that in mind. That kid’s gonna make a hell of a lawyer, huh?

Mom: Yeah, he takes after his father. He’s a son of a bitch.

Dad: Well fuck you dear.

At the end of the movie, Stevo cuts his hair, goes to Harvard, gets married, and “buys in”.

Rebellious politics are only acceptable in our heroes if the hero encounters something difficult or upsetting about those politics and immediately turns around and transforms into something tamer.

What’s that? A hardcore punk rock lifestyle has elements of danger? I guess now that my friend is dead I better abandon all my youthful ideals and fuck off to school and wear suits!

Oh jeez, I didn’t realize the violence inherent in a war for independence would be icky! Guess I’ll just stop being a socialist and show my true colors as a gentleman farmer!

It isn’t that I think Branson should have abandoned his infant daughter and gone back to Ireland and gotten himself arrested and killed. I’m just disappointed in the writing. They needed his character to fill a particular slot, and cut out his politics to make it happen.


* Remember how good that movie is? Did you know the director is currently in the midst of idiot plans for a sequel? #rageragerage #stopruiningthings

** ETA: right, this is the internet, here it is on youtube:

Sep 102013

While bouncing along in Steve’s wake at WorldCon, I attended the Drinks With Authors event and was therefore permitted the opportunity to do battle with a gruesome beholder who had taken the form of Ann Leckie. I quickly won by rolling something higher than a 7 on the giant inflatable 20-sided die, and she dissolved into pixels, leaving behind a pile of gold coins and a book.

The book was an ARC of Ancillary Justice; I’ve just finished it, and I love it for being original and thoughtful while bringing to mind aspects of my other favorite space operas.* (Because yeah, this is now very much one of those favorites.)

I don’t want to give an overview of the plot, because there’s quite a bit of lovely, slow reveal (Liz Bourke gives some nice overview in this enjoyable review on I really enjoyed feeling the pieces click together. As we gradually learn more about Breq and her past, what she once was and what her goals are now, we also learn about the empire, religious rites, social customs,** technology, and hints of betrayal and tyranny. Unlike in the unabsorbed cultures, the citizens of the empire are genderless and all their pronouns are feminine. I liked that, and enjoyed learning about the characters as people without knowing whether they were male or female (sometimes for several chapters and sometimes not at all).

Disparate parts form together to make a breathtaking whole. The cultures feel colorful and interesting rather than space versions of Earth cultures. As the action plays out, we get a sense that Leckie is playing with the proverb where the kingdom is lost for want of a horseshoe nail, as much as with the narrative potentialities of AI and “greater good” justifications for expansionism. The use of AI shipbrains*** and ancillaries (or corpse soldiers, as some of the common folk call them) allows for omniscience in some parts of the story even with a first-person narrator.

A surprisingly unreliable first-person narrator, actually. Breq’s attention to detail is just what you’d expect from an ancient AI shipbrain: she notes a six-second pause instead of the space of a breath. When subtly encouraging a junior lieutenant, she pours not a little bit of tea, but eleven milliliters. She maintains perfect control of her expressions. Except that as other characters react to her, we realize that she’s become far more human in both behavior and motivation than she knows. Absent-mindedly humming, limping, and making friends through the galaxy, Breq challenges the definitions of humanity and love.

According to the interview in the back of this copy, Ancillary Justice is the beginning of a loose trilogy. Without holding back on us in the first book, I think Leckie has given herself a lot of room to tell stories in this world, and I look forward to reading them.



In Conquest Born‘s harsh ice planet diplomacy, Dread Empire’s Fall‘s deadly social slights amongst space officers

** I did notice what seemed to me like a continuity error in carrying out social customs, but it was a minor and forgivable point.

*** a concept I’m really fangirling lately, having also recently read Scalzi’s short story The Tale of the Wicked, which reminds me to recommend fetching yourselves a copy of this goddamned fabulous anthology.

Sep 062013

Sometimes, for laughs, I read a particular blog about how terrible pick-up artists and men’s rights activists can be. Today, for your amusement, follow along with me! First, read [this buzzfeed item]. Take note of the toy factory owner, and then read [this post], picturing that toy factory owner as the author of the quoted text (instead of Morgan Freeman).

Don’t thank me yet!

Below is some BONUS CONTENT, copy-pasted from one of the finest corners of the internet, to which I cannot actually link because it isn’t public. In answer to all these PUAs straining furiously to have intercourse with the women that they and other weirdos like them consider the most beautiful and pure in all the land:

“hey, guys, if you only want to have sex with nines or whatever, sorry to be the bearer, but what you have isn’t a sex drive, it’s a drive to impress other men, to establish social dominance through their envy of your conquests.  and do you know what we call men who are driven by dominance over other men through sexual means?  gay.  tops, specifically.  so really, dudes, just embrace it.  go fuck a guy.  show him who’s boss.  there are a lot of involuntarily celibate gay bottoms out there who will love you for it.  i’ve heard guys complaining at the gym that ‘the new york scene is like the tupperware in my fridge: all bottoms, no tops’.  go where you’ll be appreciated and get your needs met!  it’s okay.  we still love you as much as we ever did.”

That’s pretty wrong in a couple of directions, but I laughed.

Aug 252013

One of the things that happened to us on the Skagway trip was the pair of really hot border guards at the US-Canada border at Fraser. As part of the ongoing exploration, I present you with the following. (With apologies to Shakespeare.)

Two guardians, both alike in dignity,
Of the border, where we lay our scene,
From ancient fic break to new sexuality,
When a manly kiss makes travelers’ minds unclean.
Within the panting minds of these tourists,
The border-cross’d lovers take off their pants;
The misadventured romantic purists,
Do with these words all their morals supplant.
The fearful passage of their ficus’d love,
And their rock-hard abs being all the rage,
Which, but sweaty sex scenes, nought could remove,
Is now our payment of the devil’s wage,
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall RPS, we cannot mend.