The Extrahuman Union

Archive for the ‘Geek Stuff’ Category

A note–I don’t usually do reviews here. But this one had no other place to go, since it’s not on Goodreads or anywhere else. I also wanted to get this up before the Kickstarter for the book expires. So here it is!

I should also add that I was given a review copy of issue #1 in exchange for an honest review as part of a review exchange.

God, just look at that title. Sgt. Sasquatch: The Bigfoot of Liberty, by Glen Richardson. It’s glorious. It promises pulpy action and a story that is full of unapologetic Golden Age comic book schmalz that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And to a degree, that’s what we get with the first issue.

So, here’s the basic plot. Spoilers ahead!

A bunch of U.S. Air Force guys from central casting are flying a random German scientist and a buxom American scientist somewhere just after WWII. The crate the German scientist is carrying has a weird robot-like thing inside it, and it gets loose to cause havoc. The plane crashes, and the German guy gets into a fight with Bigfoot over an obelisk from Atlantis. One of the Air Force guys gets shot in the struggle, as does the Sasquatch. But then the Sasquatch senses the love of the Air Force guy for the buxom scientist and decides to mingle the guy’s essence with his own–creating the title character!

Yup.

So, the good. I like the action, here–it’s very fast-paced and exciting. It also feels like a nod to all of the batshit-German-discovers-lost-treasures stories that came out after WWII, up to and including the Indiana Jones movies. This is all in that vein. I also thought the art was pretty decent, if still a bit rough around the edges, and the Kickstarter page suggests that future issues will be colored. The art there looks fantastic, so I imagine it’ll just get better from here.

There are some drawbacks. First, this is an origin story, and I am frankly not too interested in origin stories. Origin stories find it necessary to cram all kinds of backstory in without showing the audience why they ought to care about the character after the origin. I looked at the other covers on the Kickstarter site–in one of them, Sgt. Sasquatch is riding a bee! I’d like to read that one a lot more. BEES.

It also took itself a little bit more seriously than I was expecting, which may be a function of having to introduce characters, build the mythos of the world, and get everyone familiar with the basic setup.

However, this is a series that has a lot of potential. Go check it out on the Kickstarter site, and hopefully we’ll see lots more of Sgt. Sasquatch in the future.

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I was thinking today about Wanda from The Sandman. Wanda was one of the first trans characters I ever came across in fiction, but I always felt so sad about how her story ended.

And so I wrote her a poem. I don’t usually write poems, so take that as you will. Here it is:

 

A Poem for Wanda

 

I couldn’t travel the moon’s road, you said.
I wasn’t woman enough for those old rules.
So now I remain behind to wait for you
As the walls shake and the skies open.

Who am I but a lesson waiting to happen,
An awkward funeral, five letters she’ll scrawl
On a prairie tombstone in fading pink,
And a ghost to endure as your story fades?

When I’m gone she’ll dream me pretty.
She’ll remember me reborn, acceptable, new.
But I’ll refuse Death’s consolation prize,
I’d rather have my own breath than beauty.

I have my own magic, ancient witch.
I’ve sailed a dark ocean between worlds,
Ridden bright down the roads of sun and moon
Across lands wilder than any you can know.

My magic is my own heart’s blood
It is the shining sun on my upturned face
The swirl of skirts around bare legs
And moonlit hair falling on my shoulders.

Our magic brings the tide in.
When I die I’ll bring this city down
And write my name on your soul
In letters no storm will ever wash away.

Okay, I’ll start off by saying I don’t watch “Game of Thrones.”

I tried to read the books, but ran out of resolve somewhere in the first one, and never came back.

And for most things, I’d just leave it there. I don’t watch, I don’t read, that’s my choice. Fine.

But GoT is one of those things that’s really hard to ignore, if you’re a fan of fantasy. It’s pretty much the biggest thing going right now. Loads of people watch the show and talk about it. I largely tune those conversations out, much as I tune out conversations about basketball or Eurovision. Not my fandom. Most of my experience with the show is making fun of people melting down on Twitter about the Red Wedding.

(This is actually how I determine Twitter meltdowns now: how many Red Weddings is it? So far only the finale of Breaking Bad has even come close.)

So that’s my interaction with GoT, and I’m usually happy to leave it there. But every once in a while something will pop up that gives me the twitch. Like, for instance, this from George R. R. Martin:

But Martin told the New York Times that although his books are epic fantasy, they are based on history (the series is loosely inspired by the Wars of the Roses). And “rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day”.

“To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves.

Hrk.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time deconstructing this. Others are doing a better job of that elsewhere. The only thing I’ll say is that obviously using “history” as an excuse for perpetrating sexual violence on women is pretty crap; the Middle Ages were no more full of wanton rape and sexual assault as our own day. And in a series where summer mysteriously lingers for decades and there are literal dragons, “history” only applies to women having horrible sexual things happen to them? I see, I see.

Someone asked me today what possible stake I could have in pointing this out, though. After all, I don’t watch. I don’t care. All the Lannisters and Starks (HOW DO I KNOW SO MUCH ABOUT THESE PEOPLE????) can fall into a very large pit and I’ll be fine. So why criticize?

After all, isn’t this a conversation that fans should be having? Where’s my place in it?

I don’t know. I’m not just trying to defend my own right to complain about things, though I do like doing that. For sure! But I think what GoT is doing is doubling down on some very toxic trends I see a lot of in fantasy, like the trope of “history” being used as a cover for graphic and gratuitous sexual violence against women and women mostly existing to provoke the men of the story into feeling or doing something, and that’s the sort of thing I think needs to be pushed back against whenever possible.

When a piece of pop culture gets so big that I can just rattle off “Winter is Coming” riffs without even thinking about it, without having watched a single episode or gotten to the end of a single tome book, and I can point to a fairly vast compendium of online reviews, criticism, and conversation that I’ve been reading and following for years, and I can’t walk into the SFF half-aisle in Barnes & Noble without seeing George R. R. Martin’s name everywhere, then maybe I have a tiny little toehold of a stake in this. Maybe as a member of SFF fandom in general I have a somewhat bigger stake, especially because I want to see us get away such a strong focus on sprawling faux-medieval melodramas where white men whack each other with swords.

So maybe the suggestion that not fully engaging with a piece of culture means there’s no right to criticize it isn’t entirely accurate. And maybe there’s some value in criticisms coming from many places, including from those who for all kinds of good reasons don’t want to watch/read.

Hey everyone!

Well, pre-orders for FLY INTO FIRE are done at last. People who are getting posters are going to be really pleased with them; I hope we use these images again for other things, because MAN they are cool. Just you wait.

It’s very nearly book release time, and I’m trying not to flip out too much. Right now I’m in the netherworld between finishing up all the edits and release day when I have no idea whether anyone will actually, you know, like the book. I hope you all will! The book is officially out on January 24th, which feels both incredibly far away and too soon! I thought this would be less stressful and wild the second time around; if anything, it’s worse!

My publisher had an extra Advance Reading Copy of FLY INTO FIRE lying around, so we decided to try something new. You can head over to this Ask Sky Ranger tumblr right here, and ask a question! Sky Ranger will answer. It can be anything from wondering about the political state of the Confederation to what Sky’s favorite fruit is. Everyone who asks a question gets entered to win that ARC. I’m closing submissions to this next Friday, so get those questions in now.

In other news, I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas! Eeeee! I love it so far. I’ve used it to read a couple of books so far, and that aspect of it works really well. If you have an Android phone with the Kindle app on it, it’s basically the same thing. Since I happen to really like that app, this is a good thing! The screen is just the right size, and although it’s difficult to hold for long periods at a time, it’s not unwieldy. I’ve also been using it to watch movies/TV shows and play games, and it’s pretty great for those, too. It’s not as fast or sleek as an iPad, but it’s also a LOT cheaper, and I like it just as much. I did have a chance to play around with an iPad, and I wouldn’t trade my Fire for it at this point. My only complaint is that it takes a looooong time to charge up, but given how lengthy battery life has been, this is a decent trade-off.

And that’s that for now!

This illuminating post by Jim Hines (as well as a Twitter conversation) got me thinking about a lot of things today.

The post is about the sadly predictable reaction of some people in American “geek” culture to the idea of a half-black, half-Hispanic Spider-Man. I personally love the idea; there are so few nonwhite heroes in the various comic book universes that any new addition feels like an opportunity for fresh and interesting storytelling. I also like the idea that superhero identities don’t have to be tied to a single person; the idea of someone new stepping into the boots and cape of an older hero is compelling. That’s why I liked “Batman Beyond” so much, and why I made Sky Ranger an inherited title instead of something associated with only one individual in the Extrahumans universe.

Some fans don’t feel that way, clearly. The amount of whining and nasty, racist jokes from the geek world is not surprising, though it continues to be disappointing. I used to feel very much at home in geekspace, but these days I feel like I have less and less of a place there. Where are the people like me? And I’m talking just women, not even LGBT folks (though that would be nice, too)!

This isn’t just a comic book problem, but something that SF/Fantasy/etc. in general is just starting to come to grips with. Fantasy was long the domain of Muscled White Guys With Swords doing important things, for example. This is changing, thankfully–I could name you many great books with women as the main characters. Bless urban fantasy with its wealth of strong and interesting female protagonists! I feel like science fiction still lags behind a bit, but there too some strides are being made towards gender equity.

I still haven’t run into a lot of truly racially diverse fantasy or science fiction universes. One notable exception was Zion in the two Matrix sequels, but other than that…? And let’s not even get started on sexuality or ability. Sadly, because we’re trained by our society to assume that characters are white, straight and able-bodied unless told otherwise, diversity can be a bit harder to find in print. I think we want to find pieces of ourselves in our heroes. That’s an awful lot harder when all of the heroes aren’t like you in some fundamental way.

This is something that I struggle with in my own writing. How do I create worlds and characters that really do reflect human diversity? And how do I do that without hitting people over the head with my big Star Trek hammer?

In any event, Marvel is to be commended for letting someone who isn’t a white guy named Peter Parker be Spider-Man. Sort of. This is all happening in the Ultimate Marvel universe, which contains “reimagined” and “updated” versions of familiar characters. Basically, it’s the place where non-canon goes to die. So, Spider-Man can be a half-black, half-Hispanic guy–in a second-class offshoot universe. Yay?

One thing I’ve been wondering about lately is why we’re not seeing the huge level of online social media interaction that we have now crop up much in science fiction (unless it’s the STERN WARNING OF THINGS TO COME brand of science fiction). I think part of it is that the tech is so (relatively) new that authors aren’t sure how to incorporate it into existing worlds, and no one’s sure how pervasive this stuff will be in a few years.

I’m struggling with it, too. There isn’t any in BROKEN, except for passing references to people not using the internet because it’s basically bugged and unsafe for our characters.

And yet, I have to think that in a century, people will likely still be using social media of one sort or another. But what will it look like? A single service? Will there be FutureTwitter where people can send all kinds of quick easy messages all over the place? Will it be text-based? Video? Emotional? Smell-o-vision? Will people have devices that resemble all-in-one gadgets like the iPhone? If they don’t have this stuff, why?

I don’t have answers just yet, but I’m thinking about it.

AOL CD

I still blame AOL for burying me in these in the late 1990s.

So this week we discovered AOL still exists. Great! Good for them.

My memories of AOL are deliberately cloudy. My parents used them as their main way of accessing the internet throughout most of the dial-up era, which meant I spent an awful lot of time listening to modem sounds and swearing. I also had about three dozen AOL IM accounts, as did everyone else I knew. Other than that? My major memory of AOL is the “Try AOL for free! We’re Desperate!” CDs they were thoughtful enough to send me. We actually signed up for AOL briefly using one of the free CDs, but only to get access to the Web for long enough to find a better ISP.

The one I’m holding above is still in the original plastic wrap. They put an ID# and password on the back of the package. The password is “HERMIT-EXAM”, which makes me wonder what a hermit exam would be like. Would there be essay questions on what kinds of caves are nicest? Multiple choice asking how many people it was acceptable for hermits to live with? Hermits may or may not connect to the internet, I suppose.

AOL’s acquisition of the Huffington Post seems like a weird fusion of the old and new internet, though AOL is actually a lot more cutting-edge than I thought. There’s lots of speculation about what it all means, and how our entire world of news and internet will somehow be different. Wow!

But for some reason, I doubt it.


Susan Jane Bigelow’s Extrahuman Union

Hey! Welcome to the Extrahuman Union, home of Susan Jane Bigelow. Prepare to be stripped of all meaningful identity. While you're processing, check out more about me on the about page!

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BROKEN

Extrahuman Union #1

SKY RANGER

Extrahuman Union #2

THE SPARK

Extrahumans #3

THE DEMON GIRL’S SONG

YA LGBT epic fantasy!

Buy my books on Amazon!

Check out my Amazon author page!

Follow @whateversusan on Twitter!

Connect with me on GoodReads!

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