Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Comics! Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #2 and The Eleventh Doctor #2

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #2 (Titan Comics, 2014)
Talking about individual comics issues is somewhat difficult, for one does not want to spoil the story. However, let me continue to encourage you to look into the two new Doctor Who comics runs for both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors with this brief look.

(For a basic background, do check out my thoughts on the first issues for both Doctors here.)

The Tenth Doctor and Gabriela are still fighting a strange creature in New York that has the ability to take on the warped appearance of familiar people, and Gabriela continues to be a capable woman. The Doctor features consistently in the story now, whereas in Issue #1, he didn't appear until halfway through. Nick Abadzis explores themes of fear and expectations without hitting one over the head with a moral, and Elena Casagrande's artwork continues to be very good: 

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #2 (Titan Comics, 2014)
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #2 (Titan Comics, 2014)

Meanwhile, the Eleventh Doctor has whisked Alice away on an adventure, hoping to help her feel better, but since TARDIS usually has other plans, they land on a planet taken over by a theme park. All of the workers are strangely happy, and none of the patrons are complaining. Rokhandi is supposed to be full of natural splendor, and instead the Doctor is being offered free Rokhandi floss. 

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #2 (Titan Comics, 2014)
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #2 (Titan Comics, 2014)

Al Ewing does a wonderful job writing Alice as a smart woman who is able to remind the Doctor of his gaps in human understanding. She doesn't put up with him patronizing her conclusions, and it's interesting to see the story talk about the unpleasant emotions we all have, playing off the happy-time Rokhandi World with Alice's previously mentioned depression.

After the beauty of Alice X Zhang's covers for both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors' first two issues, I'm still somewhat let down by the artwork within the Eleventh's Doctor's story. I know that the comics are not entirely beholden to getting his face exactly right, but when you have such an iconic figure — especially compared with the job done in the Tenth Doctor's comics — I guess I just expected better. Alice and some of the scenery are drawn well, but I don't know that I have the proper comic-art vocabulary to say what specifically I'm looking for. That said, the artwork could evolve over the story arc, and it's not overly distracting in the meantime.

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #2 (Titan Comics, 2014)

I think this might be the first time I've ever read a comics run starting with the first issue, as they were released, and I find myself impatient for more. How do the rest of you regular comics readers do it?

Full Disclosure: Titan Comics provided me with advanced review copies of these comics. I thank them for the gesture and I will continue to be fair with my reviews.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Internal News as of 8-23-14

 Hello friends! Time for another massive update collecting the things I've written that have not appeared here.

First up, if you're not following me on tumblr, here's where I'm at. Prepare yourself for lots of Peter Capaldi because I don't have problems, you have problems.

ALSO! I've been named Blog Editor at Word Riot, so expect to see more over there that isn't just my Notes From Elsewhere. (There have been a few updates over there since I last did one of these roundups, so do check it out. Lots of good stuff, including the Twitter-published David Mitchell story.)

And with that, here's the Stuff I've Written at Persephone Magazine:

Record Machine

Book Reviews

ALSO! Since today is the day that we finally, finally get a new season of Doctor Who, starring my favorite Scottish boyfriend, it's only right that I wrote a post at P-Mag called "5 Fantastic Moments Since 'The Time of The Doctor.'"

(One of those 5 things is a very mild spoiler, be warned.)

I'm not going to round up every single news post I've made since the last Internal News update, but my most recent has lots of news sources for what's going on in Ferguson, MO, and also stuff on sharks, the ice bucket challenge, and my favorite Simpsons episode. Do click though.

Is that it? I think that's it, unless Quirk Books finally published that Book Arts post I sent them ages ago.... I should look into that. I am taking off September from P-Mag so I can work on both fiction and getting the WR blog looking shiny, but I do have a few book reviews I will be throwing here.

Also, with any luck, this week I'll be writing up some Record Machines that will post throughout September, so fingers crossed that I get myself ahead of the game.

Until next time, friends.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Comics! Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #1 and The Eleventh Doctor #1

Lately I've been dipping into the world of Doctor Who comics with both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, but today I've read the brand new releases from Titan Comics: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #1 and Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1, which are such outstanding first issues that I am already itching for the collected volume.

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #1
The Tenth Doctor's first issue takes place some time after he has left Donna, but before Waters of Mars. Interestingly, he does not appear on a significant number of pages. Nick Abadzis' story focuses on Gabriella, a college-aged New Yorker who works at her family's laundromat and Mexican restaurant, and she takes business accounting classes — all of this at her father's behest. One day, something strange happens at the laundromat, and as this is indeed Doctor Who, life becomes increasingly more strange and chaotic. When the Doctor does appear, he is armed with one of his cobbled together gadgets, and in a nice nod to his lines (and at this stage, his future) in the 50th Anniversary special, he says, “I should have made this go 'ding.' I love it when they ding.”

Elena Casagrande's artwork is leaps and bounds better than some of the other DW comics I've seen, and Gabriella, although confused, is ready to find out what exactly is going on, which is what the Doctor likes. The curious, intellectual sort are his favorites. The issue ends on an excellent cliffhanger, and I'm interested to see how it plays out.

The Eleventh Doctor, meanwhile, has recently left the Ponds to their newlywed life and is having some adventuring time to himself. First though, we meet Alice Obifune, who is having a hard time navigating through life after the death of her mother. On top of that, she's being evicted so her building can be converted into luxury flats, and cuts at work mean she's laid off.

Alice started to wonder if the grayness would ever end. If she would ever feel anything but numb and empty again. Maybe she needed to see someone.

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1
And out of nowhere, a giant, rainbow-colored dog appears in the middle of the road with the Doctor chasing after it. The dog looks like a cross between a Chinese dragon parade costume and Falcor, the “luck dragon”/flying dog thing from The Neverending Story. As companions often are, she's sucked into the madness right away, and for the first time in a long time, she can forget how sad she is. I definitely want to see how her story progresses.

Al Ewing and Robert Williams capture the odd bleakness and surreality of depression, and although I didn't like Simon Fraser's art as much as Elena Casagrande's — for one thing, his Eleventh Doctor face doesn't look quite right sometimes — the rainbow dog looks great.

What's also great about both of these comics is that they featured women of color without congratulating themselves for doing so, something Russell T. Davies would do during his run on the show. Though I'm not a fierce Steven Moffat hater like some people are, I do find it somewhat irritating that when he has, for example, not-straight characters, they are presented in a way that's like, “Oh look, we made a joke because this is just sooooo unexpected. May we have a cookie now?”

I digress.

Both of these first issues offer an interesting, complex backstory that I hope continues to flourish. We need more of these kind of characters in comics in general, and also on Doctor Who, the show proper. Let us hope that with this new comics series and a new Doctor, a little cross-pollination is in order. We could be in for some fantastic results.

Full Disclosure: Titan Comics provided me with advanced review copies of these comics. I thank them for the gesture and I will continue to be fair with my reviews.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Guest Post: The Best(?) Songs Sung By Robots by Mason Johnson

Glorified Love Letters always approves of making playlists, so let's have us a guest post, then:

Despite having written Sad Robot Stories, I am not an expert on robots (or anything else, for that matter). Still, I'm fairly confident I could come up with a decent Side One to a robot-themed mix tape. Not the kind you give to a guy or gal in the hopes they'll sleep with you. This is more of an "I better sit in my room alone and listen to it mix tape."

It will not include the song "Mr. Roboto."

The Best(?) Songs Sung By Robots

Imogen Heap - "Hide And Seek"

To her credit, Heap is a more talented robot than most.

Her voice wasn't changed solely through the work of a computer, it was going through her keyboard which was turned into a vocoder. So at least she has to make sure to kind of hit the same notes as she both sings and plays.

I'm glad the "Hide and Seek" meme, first started by the O.C., has returned thanks to Game of Thrones.

I'm sad that my friends refused my requests to keep this song on repeat as we drove around the summer of '06. Haters gonna hate.

Lastly, it was difficult not to make every song on this list "Hide and Seek," examining it from a different angle several times, as some sort of cruel joke.

The Postal Service - "Against All Odds"

Phil Collins once wrote an amazing song called "Against All Odds" for an amazing film by the same name. It starred a young, bearded Jeff Bridges. He was so hot in it.

So hot.

Years later, a government sponsored robot made to woo 20-somethings with electro-light indie songs that can make hit movie trailers out of awful movies was unleashed by the United States Postal Service. It created an entire album, but it's worst crime was to cover "Against All Odds."

Thanks, Obama.

Kanye West - "Coldest Winter"

For 808s and Heartbreak, Kanye abandoned his signature sampling style for a drum machine and autotune. While I'm sure T-Pain would like to take the credit for this style, it's the popularity of Kanye that created an autotune apocalypse.

Anyway, the use of a drum machine in 808s makes the album sound like a cacophony of robots. Not so much in the tribal "Love Lockdown," but it's definitely apparent in (surprise surprise) "RoboCop."

Then there's "Coldest Winter," the drum machines sounding like a mix of "Love Lockdown" and "RoboCop." There's the almost TV-like static sound interspersed between a driven drum beat. At times, the song sounds like grinding gears and kids beating buckets in the subway station simultaneously. The autotune on "Coldest Winter" finds a similar balance. Clearly Kanye is singing (or trying, at least) with a tinge of pain in his voice, but the autotune is still clearly present (though not as heavy as some of the other songs). Kanye's a lot of things, but he's no singer -- and he knows this. Autotune wasn't only an attempt to hide this fact (if it ever was at all), but is a tool that sets the mood/tone of the album. It offers a needed detachment to a series of heartbreak songs from the point of view of a guy who's not exactly into sharing his feelings.

If there were a "Coldest Winter" in Sad Robot Stories, it was probably when Robot dragged himself to the middle of Lake Michigan. It wasn't technically winter (if seasons still exist, post-apocalypse), but Kanye isn't talking about literal seasons when he raps about the coldest winter or a cruel summer.

Jonathan Coulton - Portal's "Still Alive"

Still lol.

If you're one of the few who haven't played Portal, you're missing out on some of the best dark humor in the past ten years.

Weakerthans - "Virtue The Cat Explains Her Departure"

I have 69 Weakerthans songs on my computer. Coincidence?

Those of you who've read my damn book (sorry) will understand the connection between the book and this sad cat story, however tangential.

Though this song was in no way an inspiration for any part of the book, it's the only song about a cat to ever bring me to tears. For a long time I spaced out during this song on the Reunion Tour album. At some point the words hit me, I obsessed over them and the stupid cat's journey in them, and after that would always be overcome with an immense pain of loneliness. Not like I was out of breath, but like something was physically in my chest holding the breath down against its will in the pit of my stomach, refusing to let it escape.

Seems sorta embarrassing. 

Anyway, I didn't listen to the song for a long time. It was too sad. Eventually I started listening to it again, especially when I was writing something sad and needed to call up some genuine sad feelings (that weren't too sad).

I'm certain I did this while writing Sad Robot Stories. Though, again, it has no real bearing on the plot.

My mother always said that you should never end on a sad note. I disagree.

Mason Johnson is a writer from Chicago who currently works full time writing and editing articles for CBS. You can find his fiction at His novel, Sad Robot Stories, was published by CClaP in August 2013. Also, he pets all the cats.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Massive Internal News Update: Book Tour, Reviews, P-Mag + More

Mea culpa. What an embarrassment to go this long without updating! DECEMBER is the last time I did an Internal News roundup, and that's inexcusable! Especially since I've had a few book reviews published since the last time I did one of these "Writing That Has Appeared Elsewhere" updates. Y'all aren't really interested in excuses, I know, but I've been busy with Electric City Creative events. Also, I was one of the organizers for Great Falls Festival of the Book, and I gave a talk on independent publishing and writing online. (It went okay. I think people left with greater knowledge, which is all one can ask for.)

Also! We went on a book tour for Saif Alsaegh's poetry collection, Iraqi Headaches, which was fun AND productive. We've sold through our first print run of the book, and maybe half the special editions (I don't have the numbers in front of me). The book is now for sale at all our tour stops, and also through our local Hastings, Powell's, Amazon, and of course Nouveau Nostalgia. Saif's on his summer break from the University of Great Falls, so he's traveling around (with books, of course), and he will be part of some sort of theatre-based events in Minneapolis, in August, I think. I don't have the details yet.

{We've also still got around 20 copies of Infinite Disposable by yours truly (and with Tyson Habein's photos) hanging about, and the cover is somewhat different now. Remember, these have hand-painted covers and once the 125 we printed are gone, that's it. This like purchasing both a book and a limited edition art print.}

Alsox2, I got myself a temporary job sorting a stash of old vinyl discovered in the local community college basement. It's mostly 45s from the '50s and '60s, and 10" shellac singles from the late 1920s onto the 1950s, I think. The newest stuff in any of the boxes appears to be from the early '70s. The college library is having me assess the approximate value of each record so they can decide what to do with them. It's my kind of tedious work, especially because I can work on it whenever I want, I can wear whatever I want, and they're paying me more than fairly for my trouble. It's pretty awesome, but I'm still working on finishing up the job.

OKAY! Now then, what have I been writing lately. Let's get into it:

At Persephone Magazine:

Record Machine


Friday News Bites


In February, The Rumpus published my review of Jessica Baran's poetry collection, Equivalents.
I'm also not going to link to 6 months' worth of Notes From Elsewhere posts at Word Riot, but here's the link to all of them, so you can peruse.

I don't think I'm forgetting anything, but please remind me to never let myself go this long without an update again.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 4, 2014

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman

After I'm Gone
by Laura Lippman

The holes in our lives require energy. Everything after must be arranged around that absence, and that effort often continues the devastation. In After I'm Gone, Laura Lippman takes the disappearance of one shady businessman, Felix Brewer, and follows the repercussions on his wife, daughters, and mistress.

Facing a decade of jail time, Felix had his mistress, Julie Saxony, sneak him out of town on July 4, 1976. Ten years later, almost to the day, Julie disappears and later turns up dead. Felix's wife, Bambi, is periodically questioned for both cases, but decades later, both are unsolved. His three daughters — Linda, Rachel, and Michelle — have dealt with losing their father in varying ways, but only Linda and Rachel remember what it was like to have Felix around.

[E]ven as Linda was abandoning herself in the moment, she was also giving in to the pragmatic person she was meant to be. She would have to take care of both of them, she thought, circling her legs around his waist. She had to take care of everyone. That was okay; she was used to it. She remembered walking up the front walk, after the fireworks at the club. Her mother knew before they crossed the threshold How had she known? […] “Will we ever see him again?” Rachel had asked. Linda knew they would not.

We are also introduced to Sandy Sanchez, a Cuban-American former police officer now doing cold case consulting for the department. His own life is built up around absences, and after being reminded of the Felix Brewer and Julie Saxony cases, he feels compelled to work on them again. It's 2012, and memories are fuzzy — sometimes willfully — but he senses that something is the file that will finally solve these disappearances.

The books jumps around time periods and points-of-view, with large sections titled after lyrics to “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” Felix and Bambi also meet at a dance where The Orioles play, a real life R&B group based out of Baltimore, where After I'm Gone is set. In 1952, they had a hit called “Baby Please Don't Go.”

I'm not well-versed in modern crime fiction, but the book is different enough from that “one last case before retirement” trope to keep it interesting. However, I'm still not sure After I'm Gone was the book for me.

It's a bit of a slow-burn, this novel. Not until the last third of the book did it pick up the pace and have me trying to anticipate the ending. Prior to that, it's not as though I didn't care, but I wasn't very invested either. Some of this, I suspect, was having to juggle the different characters and time settings. Because of some health issues, I have trouble with that type of writing sometimes, and while this comprehension problem annoys me to no end, I want to emphasize that this will not likely be the case with most readers. My concentration-fogging issues are irritating for me, in no small part because they alter my perspective so.

And isn't that its own kind of absence? I remember what it was like to read in-depth and to read challenging work without much strain — and to recall details easily! And while I use review writing to exercise that part of my brain, I don't yet know if I'll feel any closure on the matter. For now, I must work around the brain fog, and maybe one day, I'll accept it.

Of course, having trouble with certain novels is not the same as mysteriously losing a father or a partner. After I'm Gone does well with sifting through all that simmering anger, jealousy, sadness and other damages. Every person is fighting to live well and never quite gets there. Perhaps the length of the book and its initially slow pace speak to that struggle. After decades, resolution seems like it might never come.

The more honest you were with yourself, the less you had to worry about the world's opinion. […] Tell the truth whenever possible, and start with yourself.

So while this wasn't one of my favorites that I've read lately, After I'm Gone is still enjoyable. Take stock in what you need in a story, and perhaps you will feel differently. The sum of our experiences influences all.

Full Disclosure: William Morrow provided an advanced review copy, so my pull quotes may differ slightly from the finished edition. I thank them for the gesture, and I will continue to be fair with my reviews.

This review is part of Cannonball Read (now in its 6th year!), a challenge in which participants read and review books in the name of raising money for cancer charities. Do click through for more information.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Giveaway! Win the new paperback version of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma very nearly made it into my Top 5 Books from 2013, but its Honorable Mention status makes it no less significant. To celebrate the book's paperback release today (and that lovely new cover), Penguin Books has very kindly offered me 1 copy of the book for a giveaway.

If you didn't catch my review the first time, here's an excerpt:

"The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards exists within the lies we tell ourselves and the lies others choose to believe. In this stunning first novel, Kristopher Jansma has accomplished a narrative feat by making the reader embrace bewilderment and questions of identity.

To properly summarize Leopards is to run the risk of spoiling its magic, but our young male narrator has yearned for notoriety ever since his flight attendant mother would leave him waiting in the concourse while she worked, depending upon other airport employees to watch him. The boy would write and write, desiring great words that would impress those around him. By impressing them, he wishes to earn their love.

We think we know his name, and then we are not sure. The process continues, and the boy ages — "growing up" is not entirely the correct term, for he still has not quite figured out who he is, or if the love he feels for a special woman is a love for her or just love for love's sake."

Read the rest here.

If you would like to be entered to win The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, leave a comment telling me: What's one "grown-up" thing you have yet to master? Make sure I have some way to contact you (email, Twitter), too.

Mine is definitely cleaning the bathroom. The mister does it because I think it's icky and I don't wanna. So there. Etc.

One entry per person. Winner will be chosen via random number generator on the evening of February 27th.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Story Time: "Carbon" by Dan Rhodes

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. The fine folks at Europa Editions have passed along a story from Dan Rhodes' new collection of short fiction, Marry Me, and I like it a lot. So while I'm continuing to be slow about book reviews and updates and other writing, how about I just leave this here:

"Carbon" by Dan Rhodes

I asked my girlfriend to marry me, and she said yes. I couldn’t afford a diamond, so instead I handed her a lump of charcoal. ‘It’s pure carbon,’ I explained. ‘Now, if we can just find a way to rearrange the atoms . . .'
She stared at the black lump in her palm, and I began to worry that ours was going to be the shortest engagement in history. She smiled. ‘We’ll put it under the mattress,’ she said.  ‘Maybe we’ll squash it into a diamond over time.’
It’s been there ever since. We check up on it every once and a while, and it never looks any different. I think we would be a bit disappointed if it ever did.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Books I Read in 2013: Part 2

(Read Part One here. Includes Top 5 favorites published in 2013, lots of Doctor Who audio dramas, cats, and more.)

Before it gets any further into 2013, I want to continuing documenting the pile of books I read last year. Let us get to the "Not Among the Favorites, But Still Very (or Very, Very) Good."


Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling: Continuing on with my "I am probably the last person of my age to read these," this was the first Harry Potter book where I became really distracted by things like, "said Ron grimacingly" or other stylistic choices that just aren't my writing cup of tea. Of course, it's still a great story, and I'm going to keep reading, but please forgive me for any snobbishness that my criticism implies.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell: The first David Mitchell novel I didn't want to eat (for being so good), but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading. With its realistic young protagonist, it somewhat reminded me of Ciarán West's Boys of Summer, but with less murderin'.

Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream: I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Review here.

The Unseen by Katherine Webb: Also quite captivating, especially for a long book. Review here.

Fobbit by David Abrams: An outstanding novel about the various absurdities surrounding and contained within the Iraq War. I meant to review this awhile back, and never did. Abrams is from Montana, so I gotta let out that obligatory-but-deserved Woo! (We get really excited when people realize that writers do exist in Montana, and no, we don't all write about cowboys and "the range.")

It's Fine By Me by Per Petterson: Petterson does melancholy and lonely so well. Review here.

Father Gaetano's Puppet Catechism: A Novella by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden: A recommendation from a friend I ended up enjoying very much, despite not being all that well-versed in Catholic symbolism. Review here.

A Winter's Night by Valerio Massimo Manfredi: A big, satisfying family saga that extends through both World Wars. Review here.

NW by Zadie Smith: My first Zadie Smith book. I know, I know, late to the literary party again. This was a library book, and I loved the characters and their unapologetic flaws and the various London settings. Right up my alley.

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro: I'm a sucker for heist stories and some portions of art history, so I'm glad that this was not at all disappointing. Review here.

The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman: This is where I was triumphantly fist-pumping over my review copy contacts. Gaiman, of course, writes beautifully, in that full-on heart-swelling way that identifies tricky emotions that one could not previously name. The nightmares of children exist in a language that is often impenetrable to adults, but he writes with such a direct insight to those dreams that we begin to remember what it was like to have them. Review here.

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie Jr.: It's an unusual book, in its way. Review here.

The Golem and The Jinni by Helen Wecker: I guess you would call this a fantasy novel, or maybe in some ways, a magical realism novel, but however you want to classify a story about two mythic beings from two different cultures meeting in Ellis Island-era NYC, it's worth the read.

Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho: I would almost call this a book of philosophy, but if Coelho and his publisher, Knopf, want to call it a novel, then okay. Still quite good though. Review here.

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende: Although the book is nearly 400 pages, it never feels like it goes on too long, and the diary premise never seems forced. Review here.

Grey Cats by Adam Biles: My first-ever Kindle-read novel, which I guess counts for something. Still, I did enjoy this surreal story set in Paris, made even more surreal by reading it in a very warm Florida house.

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy: Not quite as "I WILL HUG THIS BOOK'S FACE OFF" as Everything Beautiful Began After, but still really good.

Girl Afraid by Ciarán West: In the same way readers moved past their shock to read Alissa Nutting's similarly-themed Tampa, I do hope people give this a look. Review here.

Short Stories!

One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses by Lucy Corin: Another one of those "meant to review/got behind/ declared Review Bankruptcy instead." That shouldn't deter you. This is an odd, wonderful collection of little "apocalypses" with a really great cut-out hardcover.

Half as Happy: Stories by Gregory Spatz: You know a book is good if you only stop reading so that you can tell the author, at 1 AM via Facebook, how much you are enjoying it. Review here.

The Girlfriend Game by Nick Antosca: These aren't happy tales, but the confusion, loneliness, and yearning for change feels so authentic to each individual world. Review here.

A Simplified Map of the Real World by Stevan Allred: I wanted to review this for Word Riot because it is a short story collection from a small press, so it would be a good fit, but alas, I didn't write anything. Let this be my recommendation now: Allred writes wonderfully of loneliness, despair, and desire. The history and characters contained within the town of Renata, Oregon make this one of the most connected collection of short stories I've ever read.

NANO Fiction (Vol. 7 No. 1) edited by Kirby Johnson: Their collections of flash fiction are usually good, though this was the best one from them I read last year.


All-American Poem by Matthew Dickman: I first became aware of Matthew Dickman through a New Yorker profile of him and his twin brother, Michael, who is also a writer. In Powells, I purchased this while looking for poetry books in which my husband might be interested. It's very, very good, and he should read it. (She said, staring pointedly.)

Looking For The Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco: 2013 kind of became my year of reading poetry, probably helped tremendously by my well-documented love for Richard Blanco. His work and dem arms. I reviewed this collection of poetry over at The Rumpus. (I also want to read his memoir.)

100 Love Sonnets / Cien Sonetos de Amor by Pablo Neruda: Twas almost entirely full-on love. Review here.

Proxy by R Erica Doyle: Prose poems that are unafraid of the body, of queerness, and the messiness into which one can willingly dive. Review here.

Equivalents by Jessica Baran: I will have a review of this up at The Rumpus soon, so stay tuned, other than to say, y'know, I liked it.


Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation by Tom Bissell: I also meant to review this one, but I also read it around the same time I met Johnny Marr, and that was quite... distracting. (And wonderful. And I'm not going to stop mentioning it.) While I didn't always agree with Bissell's points, his essays were always interesting and gave me something to think about regarding creativity.

Mountainfit by Meera Lee Sethi: A cross between journalism, memoir, and poetry. Review (and a guest post) here.

Sexy Business!

Suite Encounters: Hotel Sex Stories edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel: Probably one of the better erotica collections I've read. Review here.

Sexy Sailors: Gay Erotic Stories edited by Neil Plakcy: Thankfully, it's not only about Navy members. I think maybe this and Suite Encounters might set someone up for false expectations about the general quality of most erotic fiction compilations because this was mostly pretty good, whereas most others are variations on "just okay, with a couple highlights." Review here.

The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners by Charlie Glickman and Aislinn Emirzian: Definitely interesting in a "Huh. So that's how that works," scientific sort of way, but also interesting in a fun way. Review here.


Boo: The Life of The World's Cutest Dog by J.H. Lee and Gretchen LeMaistre: AKA... The e-book went on sale for 99 cents, and how could I (or my kids) resist that? Look at him. He is pretty cute.

The Believer: Issues 99-103: If you like smart, arty magazines that somewhat read like a book, then you should just go subscribe already.


John Varvatos: Rock in Fashion by John Varvatos: Sometimes the fashion-speak is not entirely my thing, but this is a great rock n roll book. I love the Paul Weller inclusions, and seeing Neil Casal's photos of Ryan Adams and Liam and Noel Gallagher (whom I've also met, Obligatory Mention #14353). It's a fun book to look at. More importantly though, SO MUCH BOWIE.

Reporter (Vol. 1, No. 1) by Dylan Williams: Pulled this out of my husband's old comic collection and even bothered to make a Goodreads entry for it, so it's worth a look. Might be a bit of a rarity? I'm not sure.

And that's all for now. In the final installment, I'll go over the good to "meh" to the one book that made me (probably irrationally) angry, and a few I didn't finish. Until then...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Doctor Who: Last of the Gaderene by Mark Gatiss

Doctor Who: Last of the Gaderene by Mark Gatiss
Doctor Who: Last of The Gaderene
by Mark Gatiss

Last of The Gaderene was first published in 2000, five years before the modern era of Doctor Who and ten years before Mark Gatiss increased his workload to include Sherlock. What I'm saying is: Mark Gatiss is a better writer now, but Last of The Gaderene is still a decent Doctor Who story.

Let's get the bad bits out of the way first — In 2000, there wasn't an adjective or adverb that Gatiss wasn't keen to overuse, and the ensuing descriptions and dialogue tags suffer from that bloat. Now, I'm not an “all adverbs are evil” sort of writer/editor, but there are only so many “seemingly” and “nodded confidently” type things I can look past without rolling my eyes. Also, if he could quit emphasizing at every turn that the female villain is fat, that would be great. Cheers.

There are too many characters crammed into the story as well. I know the Doctor is all about everyone being important, but I don't need to hear the personal story and interior monologue of (what seemingly seems like) a dozen villagers in order to care about the village. Some of these characters are important, yes, but not all of them need soliloquy time. We can still have them be useful to the plot through the eyes of someone else.

Still, Mark Gatiss' sense of fun and great love for the Doctor is what makes Last of The Gaderene so enjoyable, despite its flaws (and is also why Gatiss is one of my favorite writers for the TV episodes). Placing us firmly in the 1970s world of the Third Doctor, we catch the Time Lord after his exile on Earth is no longer in effect, but he's still very involved in UNIT. Jo Grant and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart are there too, and I'm quite fond of them both.

'My dear Brigadier,' said the Doctor, stretching back in his chair and folding his hands behind his head. 'Running errands is not my forte. If you want someone to pop round to see your old friends, I suggest you try the Women's Institute.' He put his feet up on the Brigadier's desk, the corners of his mouth turning up until a small smile. 'I believe they make excellent jam.' 
The Brigadier raised an eyebrow and shot a venomous look at the Doctor who had now closed his eyes, completing the look of indifference. 
He was glad the Doctor had returned, of course, and he was certainly looking back to his usual dapper self in an emerald-green smoking jacket, narrow black trousers, and bow tie. However, he was displaying his familiar contempt for the Brigadier's methods and seemed damedly disinclined to get back to work. Or, at least what the Brigadier regarded as work. 
'Perhaps if you could explain a bit more, sir,” said Jo helpfully. 
'Oh very well,' sighed Lethbridge-Stewart. He sat down and leant forward over the desk, crossing his hands in front of him. 'Alec Whistler is an old friend. He was a pilot during the war — ' 
'Which war?” said the Doctor, still with eyes closed. 
'Well, the last one, of course,' cried the Brigadier in exasperation. 
'Oh, yes. I lost track. You have so many.' The Doctor settled himself further into the chair.

The Doctor enjoys winding up the Brig, of course. Eventually though, he and Jo agree to visit the village of Culverton, where some very strange things have been happening. A decommissioned air base is now swarming with workers — foot soldiers, really — clad in identical black uniforms, operating trucks and other equipment at all hours, and all are smiling in a very unsettling way. People have been disappearing, and though no one know what to make of it, something is definitely wrong to any of the residents paying attention, including the aforementioned WWII vet, Whistler.

The Third Doctor is his usual bombastic self, ready to roll up his sleeves and dive into the mystery with his trademark curiosity. Though I'm only semi-familiar with Jon Pertwee's portrayal, it seemed like Gatiss got his (sometimes very patronizing) voice right, as well as the Brigadier and Jo. Jo is feeling like less of a subordinate and like more of a colleague to the Doctor, and the Brig is not as disbelieving as he once was (though he does still favor armed resolution over conversation).

The Doctor enlists some of the villagers to help him gather information, and there's a bit of a domesticity we don't often see with him — playing house guest.

The Doctor was halfway through a plate of scrambled eggs which he'd rustled up when Ted Bishop came downstairs, looking refreshed and better than he had in a long while, except for his hair which was sticking up at the back in a cowlick.

One doesn't see the Doctor eating, much less cooking, very often. He's around people eating plenty, but someone would have to refresh my memory as to how often we actually see him putting anything in his mouth (that he doesn't spit out again).

The level of tolerance one has for the Doctor's occasionally dismissive attitude and “Not now” comments depends on the fondness one has for the Third Doctor himself, and how one feels about semi-campy '70s television. It's not Shatner-levels of Staggered. Dramatic. Dialogue. but it's different from other Doctors' eras. And that's all right, in my viewing/reading.

After the Second Doctor's forced regeneration via the Time Lords, it would make sense that his character would be resistant to any authority other than his own (for he believes his interference throughout the universe to be in the right), and that restless fighting spirit would be amplified after his previous incarnation's silliness. (The silliness, of course, being a reaction to dying of old age on the first go. The current regeneration is always borne from the circumstances of its predecessor.)

One is unlikely to read Last of The Gaderene without already being a fan of Doctor Who, but I'm unsure of how it compares to other DW-novels, except in the case of the Eighth and Ninth Doctors' novels re-released for the 50th Anniversary, which I'll review soon. However, this Third Doctor story, despite its problems, feels very much in the spirit of Jon Pertwee's time on the show. It's interesting to see Mark Gatiss at an earlier writing stage, and it's to our viewing benefit that he's progressed so well. I still recommend Last of The Gaderene to fans of the show, and I'm hoping to further expand my knowledge of the Doctor's literary universe.

This review is part of Cannonball Read (now in its 6th year!), a challenge in which participants read and review books in the name of raising money for cancer charities. Do click through for more information.