I’ve been reading lately (yes of course that’s what a writer should do). I finished House of Chains, the fourth installment in the Malazan Book of the Fallen. It was fine. The ending was a tragic thing, and there were a lot of good character moments, but it didn’t really cohere into something bigger–certainly not like the thrilling and devastating second half of Memories of Ice.

I have read a ton of comics lately. Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing and Batman are exactly the kind of large scale storytelling that superheroes really excel at, and Snyder is a wonderful writer, if a bit wordy in places. He really likes big bits of text sometimes. Jeff Lemire is imaginative, a great horror writer, and extremely good at capturing heartbreaking emotion. Both Animal Man and Swamp Thing together offer up a wonderful epic of body horror and the grotesque in the mode of superhero adventure stories.

I also read Kissinger’s Shadow by Greg Grandin. I’ve long heard the things said about Henry Kissinger, but I’d never actually taken the time to actually look into an accounting of his actions and influence. This short book offers a concise overview of those things, creating a portrait of a man who committed monstrous acts against the world. I will definitely be looking into the man more, because I feel the need to be informed, and as research for future fiction projects.

So that’s that. I’ll maybe have more tomorrow?

Five Things, April 2018

Hey everybody! I’m back. Hopefully I’ll be back to a regular schedule now.

  • Batman, by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo: I decided to read comics again. It was a good decision. Snyder writes a hell of an action/adventure story, showcasing a Batman who is by turns determined, hopeful, sad, and most of all, dedicated to his mission. Greg Capullo also shows off strong storytelling, a mixture of dynamism and moodiness (bolstered by inker Danny Miki) that makes action scenes leap off the page. And they worked on the book together for nearly the entire run, aside from a few fill in artists. That kind of creative consistency is what pushed this book from good to great.
  • The Death of Stalin, dir. Armando Ianucci: If you’ve ever liked Veep or In The Loop, just see it. It is top to bottom amazing.
  • Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner: Why yes, I did need a novel about a bisexual swordsman and his self-destructive male lover.
  • Legion Season 2: I hold fast to my assertion that Legion is more a triumph of presentation than content, but my goodness is it a wonderful show. It’s just the kind of weird sci-fi storytelling perfectly suited to Marvel’s mutants.
  • God of War (2018): Been playing for about eight hours now. I have been a Kratos fan since the first GOW game, and while he did get worse as a character as the series progressed, the fundamental sadness and anger that defined his character was pretty compelling. Foregrounding that, giving him a source of tension in his son, Atreus, shifting the gameplay from its Japanese-style action roots to a more open and rhythmic third-person action game, and simply making the tone one of quiet mourning adds up to an incredible experience so far.

Bad Day Thoughts

Having a rough and busy day today. Thus, bullet points:

  • I’ve been working on how to construct Terminaburg, narratively. It’s a big superhero universe style project, and I’ve been looking for a way to frame it. The idea of reference points is coming up–Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Jean Grey, etc. And pivot points. Something like Neil Gaiman’s plot point in 1602, where the birth of superheroes happens with the emergence of Steve Rogers as Captain America.
  • I finished Perdido Street Station and The Year of Magical Thinking yesterday, within hours of one another. Both incredible, heartbreaking, and beautiful.
  • Buying lots of makeup. Lots of color, lots of experimentation. Enjoying the possibility.
  • Tom King, Scott Snyder, and Jeff Lemire are all very good comic book writers. China MiĆ©ville also wrote a really good one with Dial H.

Today is one of those “not sure what” kind of posting days. I’ve got a lot running through my mind. Lots of little ideas, but too disparate to connect to a larger one. How about some bullet points?

  • I’ve been wanting to get back into playing Magic: The Gathering again. The tricky part is actually laying down the cash to buy a deck. The current Limited formats don’t look very interesting (and probably aren’t, if the current Block Constructed is any indicator), and my Modern decks are unfortunately incomplete.
  • I’m reading Butler again. Her writing is knotty, and her sentences long, but I’m nodding more and more.
  • Memories of Ice was incredible. Read Erikson.
  • Shovel Knight is also great. Each of the three campaigns plays wildly different from the others, and from a lot of the same general level designs!
  • I have Marx on my Kindle. Das Kapital will be read.

Gushin’ Bout Malazan (Book of the Fallen)

Recently, I finished reading Steven Erikson’s Memories of Ice, the third book in his Malazan Book of the Fallen series. It was, I think, the most moving fantasy novel I’ve read in years.

The previous two books, Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates, do a lot of setup. Sure, they have their own narratives, but they’re hidden behind layers of meta-narrative and unexplained information. Erikson quite simply throws you into the deep end, smack dab in the middle of one war, which is smack dab in the middle of an even larger war, which is happening at the tail end or beginning of any number of other conflicts.

Conflicts that are on a scale in the hundreds of thousands of years in their duration.

The narrative groundwork laid by these first two novels–which center on the duration of a single event, with several ancillary characters related to said plot going through their own stories–can feel slightly scattered and unfocused. In some respects, the first two books do sort of trail off, with a whimpering ending, and a few new plot points to set up the next installment.

Granted, that’s not to say they’re bad–on the contrary. Erkison is a confident writer, trusting us to keep up, using a surprisingly small amount of exposition (something easy to do in fantasy), and giving us CHARACTER. In the first three books, we are introduced to well-rounded characters navigating a cruel and uncaring world, getting by in whatever way they can.

They are books filled with the themes of love, loss, suffering, triumphs big and small, the futility of warfare, honor, treachery, mercy, and, most of all, compassion. These books dive into the human spirit, unafraid of what might reside there, and he writes it with abandon.

And there are several laugh out loud funny moments, particularly involving Hetan in MOI.

Overall, I just think these are wonderful books. Memories of Ice had me crying several times at the end–a testament to how thoroughly Erikson had made me care about these characters. Go check them out.