Eternals 2 is out today, wherein we stretch a few other muscles, and reveal a few cards. I’d be interested by what people most take from the book – it does a lot, in different modes. Some people are going to be into the embedded short story. Others will go for the cosmic level fight. Others are going to be into the debut of several other key members of our cast. There’s likely some other responses too. I’m always quoting Wilde’s “All Criticism Is Autobiography” but I suspect that’ll be especially true here. Not in a bad way.
It goes without saying that Esad and Matt tear things up. Here’s the first two pages…
Sidekick Books have just released a digital version of Over The Line, the introduction to of Poetry comics edited by Chrissy Williams and Tom Humberstone. Alan Moore said “This is that spine-tingling moment when two attractive and sophisticated forms, both admired for their rhythm and sense of timing, eye each other across the cultural dance floor. In Over The Line, at once an insightful introduction and a comprehensive showcase for the emerging phenomenon of Poetry Comics, Chrissy Williams and Tom Humberstone provide the best possible venue for what looks like being a breathtaking tango. I really can’t recommend this venture highly enough, and I’d advise you mark your card immediately.” Get it for £5 here.
I haven’t talked about what I’ve been consuming for a while, have I? Let’s grab some highlights.
It’s A Sin was the best TV show I’ve seen since I Will Destroy You. It’s about death, clearly, but its key ingredient is how much it’s about life and joy – which is why it’s so terrible when it’s stolen. I saw a friend note online that early on the 1980s queer coming of age stuff is so well done that it’s almost possible to forget what’s looming above them all. It tore a literal scream from me in the last episode. I both wept and felt grateful that this got to be made and shared. It’s out in the US on Jan 22nd, I believe.
Black Country, New Road have finally released their debut album, For The First Time. Loving their EPs, I’ve ended up saying things like “Slint meets Art Brut” while knowing that’s not really it – or, at least, not all it. There’s a James Murphy wit to the monologues, but they’re clearly so much angrier – closer to the Pop Group in their haunted delivery, some early Birthday Party, even. I eventually realised that their closest peers in my head are Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia, a band I loved so much I wrote some hugely hyperbolic things that I should be ashamed about, and I know were I still in the writing hugely hyperbolic things that I should be ashamed about game I’d be writing hugely hyperbolic things about that I should be ashamed about Black Country, New Road. Suffice to say, if you even vaguely recognise two of the above name-checks, you should grab this. I also suspect they’re the band with the most strikingly wonderful gap between their image and their music since the Pixies. Sometimes it’s like if a chemistry undergrad D&D group opened their mouths and all of hell’s demons marched out, grabbed you around the throat and dragged you in.
After a Christmas when I found myself inspired to read a lot of comics, I’ve inched back into prose. I finished Magical Folk, a book of essays of region-by-region of fairy lore. I mentioned it before, and how I was charmed by the line between contributors who are “Someone was clearly walking home drunk” and those who are “THERE ARE DEFINITELY FAIRIES!” The charm did wear off. The book took me more time than I’d hope just through the repetition of it – it turns out 75% of all fairy lore in each region is basically slight variations on the same stuff. If I was doing a very deep dive and planning something intensely fairy-centric, it’d be great, but as it is, It was seeing 20-or-so essayists have their own specific takes on changelings. Still – there’s a handful of stuff in here which I’ve filed away, and special kudos to the essayist who took time to talk through criminal histories of travelling charlatans explicitly ripping people off.
After that being something of a battle, I wanted something that energised me. I jumped into the latest Wayward Children Novella, Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire, which once more a magic portal in book form – Seanan’s prose-style and approach is something I find incredibly sadly resonant. We’ve joked on twitter about a Wayward Children/DIE crossover, but there’s something in there, somewhere. I then read my advance of Whisper Down The Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman which does the dual-timeline trick of following a Satanic Panic incident in the 1980s and its fall out in 2013. There’s a lot which resonates with the present day here – QAnon and Satanic Panic’s bear comparison, for example. Formally smart, much like his previous The Remaking, and I liked this too. I’ve jumped straight into Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars, which I’ve devoured 40% of in the last two nights, so I suspect I’m going to be talking about it a bunch next week.
Battling with Magical Folk did crystalise a few things. When I finished it, I put it down and thought “Why don’t I just stop consuming media which I don’t enjoy?” It felt as potentially magical and as impossible as thinking “What if I just started to fly?” I am not good at quitting. I’m trying to give up not giving up.
This was foreshadowed a couple of months earlier, when I was crawling through a French BD. I turned to C and said “If this character gets her boobs out in the next page to distract the bad guys, I’m going to stop reading this”. Cynical me. It was a far better book than that. It took two pages to get to the inevitable boob distraction. Even then, I fought on for another chapter or two before knocking it on the head. I’ve been inching towards doing more of that. The last holiday I went on I was reading a fantasy novel, where I stopped 250 pages in, 100 pages later than I really should, skipping to the end to make sure it was going to do what I hoped it was going to do – I wanted to go away knowing whether the work was merely bad or actively immoral. Thankfully, it was merely bad.
As said, this is not something that comes naturally. The joy of enjoying something is one thing, but there is also a joy in completing something, and I loathe to lose that. Equally, I’m aware that there are things which I need to read, whether I like them or not. There’s also developing my taste – there are things which were not interesting to me once, and now are. You want to leave yourself open to the world. But it is key that it is not that they are hard to read as they are difficult – it’s that I am bored of them. There’s nothing difficult about Magical Folk. I just wasn’t in the mood for that much identical Fairy Lore.
However, the problem is that when I’m abstractly reading something and it’s not encouraging me, I read it slower (or not at all) and so a book which isn’t working is a closed gate between me and something I may actually enjoy. A book I’m not enjoying is an anchor, preventing me going to another destination. I’m going to try to read and hard reject earlier. My reading pile is such that I can likely do this for years and still have books lying around. Equally, we’re thinking about it with TV. Trying an episode of TV and noping out instantly. Why not? You can always come back if you want to give it another shot.
I am thinking of death a lot right now, for obvious reasons. If art does not add to my life in some way, I shouldn’t let it steal those hours out of my own obstinance. We’ll see how it sticks.
DIE compressed is interviewing the whole creative team, and get to me. This is long and intense, with lots of details on both DIE the comic and DIE the rpg and everything else. There’s a bunch of process stuff too. Go listen.
I was in a panel at Metatopia called “Games, Gamefeel, Vocabulary and Umami” with James Wallis, Cat Tobin, and Jacob Jaskov. It was about – I quote – “We all know how certain games feel in play and how they make us feel, but as designers and critics we don't have a set of words to describe it. Do we need an experiential vocabulary of play, and what would one look like?” which we tried to answer, from many angles. I walked away with a bunch of stuff I wanted to look into. You can watch it all here.
Clockwork Elves is an animation that was forwarded to me this morning by a friend, and I love the weird horror acceleration to it. In short: be careful around DMT.
As the length of media download above implies, this week has left me with a little hole in my work schedule, and I’ve been filling it with minor work or a determined effort to try and get some more procrastination later. I’ve also finished off that Deviant Name Generator I mentioned, just in time for Clayton to use it. I still have no idea if we’re going to make it publicly available, but that it exists still seems like intellectual buy in from me.
In terms of new writing, I’ve kept to plan and kept finding my way through DIE’s dungeon. I’m onto issue 20 now, and deep into resolving the climax. I’m saving some of the more emotional final scenes to write last, but the shape is there, and I just solved the last of the plotting problems. I suspect I’ll have it all in a draft form by Friday, which means I’ll be able to work on a polish of 18, 19 and 20 simultaneously. I want to make sure the subplots are properly delineated alongside the main thrust of each issue, which is tricky work, but work I like. I’m pleased with how it’s looking.
I am also back into Someone To Drive You Home after a friend mentioned it on twitter. It remains a glamourous muffled scream of a record.