Something new I've learned about myself (or more likely, something that I knew but have finally accepted):
I am not good at writing things on a consistent schedule unless I'm getting paid to do it. I used to write thousands of words of fiction every week in college and grad school, on top of my actual schoolwork. I also used to read thousands of pages a week on top of my actual schoolwork, but something about having a day job and being a grown up makes this a lot harder. One of my big goals (I'm not super into "resolutions" as such) is to start pulling back from some things that keep me busy in order to dive back into things I really enjoy but haven't been able to dedicate time to. Writing and reading more for myself is a big part of that.
So here's what I've been reading lately:
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. I've actually been listening to the audiobook of this, because I've discovered I'm a lot more likely to "read" fiction if I can do it while doing something else (washing the dishes, cleaning, and for the month of December and into January definitely while packing up Ladies' Night Anthology Kickstarter packages). My friends have been telling me to read this for a long time, they've all (appropriately) raved about how great it is. I honestly just waited until all three books in the trilogy were done because I know me and I know that I wanted to read it all at once. Not only has The Fifth Season lived up to the hype, Robin Miles, the narrator, is one of the best audiobook narrators I've heard in a long, long time. She does a great job with different voices and makes it very clear which character's perspective she's occupying at any given time. The book itself is just astonishingly well done. The chapters not only switch perspectives, but also between points of view (second versus third person). The story unfolds naturally, and the world that Jemisin has built is rich and textured and nuanced and everything I want in my speculative fiction. I honestly put off listening to the last hour of the book for almost two weeks because I wasn't ready to let it go, and then I remembered I could go get the second book right away and blasted through it. (Audible subscriptions are GREAT.)
- Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal). I finished this sometime in December and somehow forgot to write it up. Maybe because I have this weird comics =/= reading thing in my head? That's dumb, I'm gonna stop doing that. Anyway, I've met Mary a couple of times as we have mutual friends and it's very charming to listen to an audiobook narrated by someone you know personally. It's like having a friend that's especially good at telling stories tell you a great story that lasts for hours. I love it. The book is charming and dark in really great ways, and it evoked a lot of the same emotions in me as I felt when I was first diving into really great fantasy when I was 10-13. Lots of rich characters and crazy adventures, and urban fantasy that looks like the kind of city I live in, instead of a bunch of white folks being inexplicably rich and magic.
- Everything is Awful and Other Observations by Matt Bellassai (narrated by the author). I started following Bellassai when he was making "Whine About It" videos while working at Buzzfeed. He would get super drunk on wine and rant about random things and it was hilarious and fun. So I followed him to his equally fun podcast, and purchased the audiobook version of his collection of essays/memoir type thing as soon as it came out. I'm not sure I would enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed listening to Matt read it, if I'm honest. But he talks a lot like my friends and I do when we're ranting, and it felt a little like a love letter from one weird fat Chicagoland kid to another.
- Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith). This is technically a re-read, as Chicago Nerd Social Club's monthly book club is discussing the title in February. I love the Rivers of London books (and the comic books!) so much. Aaronovitch has a really conversational writing style and the main character Peter Grant has one of the most realistic and fascinating arc of character growth over the books that I've ever read. It's another urban fantasy title, complete with a reserved, skinny, older British man (my jam) and a dog (named Toby!). I love the idea that there are gods and goddesses for every single body of water, down to little creeks and offshoots of bigger rivers, and I really appreciate the way Aaronovitch incorporates modernity, immigration, and refugees into the "gods exist where people believe in them" idea. I'm stoked for book club.
- Generation Gone by Ales Kot and André Lima Araújo. I read all of the individual issues as they came out, but my colleague Oliver let me know that my review of the first issue was a blurb on the back of the trade, and I couldn't resist buying and rereading it. I wasn't familiar with Araújo at all, but I like Kot's work a lot, and if anyone else had written a book pitched as "what if millenials had super powers" I would've noped out real fast. But this book explores issues with technology, endless war, the cost of protest, police brutality, medical debt, student loan debt, and BOTH ends of toxic masculinity (the macho asshole and the Nice Guy). It's great. I like this book so much.
- Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston. Black Hammer is one of those alt-universe superhero books kind of like Supreme Power that takes a lot of recognizable superhero tropes and "flips them on their head" partly by making them more human and nuanced, which so far has necessitated making them darker and more difficult to swallow. Lemire's work is good and I'd heard a lot of great stuff about this series, but I'm still a little torn. For what it is, I really like Black Hammer. But in the context of Lemire's other work and the industry writ large, it feels...repetitive? Too familiar? Though the characters aren't exactly big name heroes, it's really clear who they're based on. And SO many of these types of story mirror DC characters more than Marvel, and in doing so kind of shit all over them? I need to check out the second volume for sure, because the execution is really great, I'm just not sold on the core idea I guess...mostly because I've read it before, and a lot of the time it ends up feeling like whoever made it doesn't like superhero comics all that much but feels totally justified ripping into them. I like stuff like Superman: Red Son or Justice League: Gods and Monsters because it re-imagines the characters as someone different without rejecting cannon; it's an attempt to dive deeper into what makes them who they are, instead of mocking who they've always been.
- Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks. I haven't read Hicksville in a couple of years, and it was before I got so involved in the industry as both an editor/publisher and a reviewer. Rereading it now, when I'm part of the very machine that the book portrays, was a different, more personal and intimate experience. But it also reminded me of how much I love about this medium, and why I want it to be as good as it possibly can be. I might need to start a regularly scheduled reread, just to reinvigorate myself and take stock of if I'm really doing what I want to be doing. Everyone should read this book, but especially people who make comics, and extra especially people who are frustrated by the way the industry has been shaped by business instead of art. I honestly can't even start to describe what it's about without getting into really personal stuff about my feelings on capitalism and "selling out" and what art means to people who make it. (Horrocks is also an incredible artist and really genuinely kind person, which only makes me love this book all the more.)
So there's a truncated version of what I've been reading. I also started reading a couple new Webtoons*, and a bunch of fanfiction that's more self care than anything else.
*Super Secret (a werewolf is in love with his human neighbor but won't admit it, hijinks ensue), Sweet Home (horror comic that's just started and feels very internal and meta), I Love Yoo and Green & Gold (random romance comics that are full of shenanigans and familiar but satisfying tropes).