2011 was a good year. I thought I’d share some of the amazing stories I came across, in no particular order:
For seven months, I challenged myself to read only books by female authors. I’ve tended towards reading mostly white male (hetero?) authors, and I figured if I could pick up some new insta-read authors, I could help change the disparity in publishing (if not literary criticism) with my money. As expected, I found a lot of great fiction by incredibly talented women:
- Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon: Has a different flavor than the movie, but both are equally entertaining. The abridged audio is read by David Tennant, who does all the voices (squee).
- Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett’s Shadow Magic: By far my favorite book from Jones and Bennett. I don’t care for Rook, a protagonist of Havemercy and Dragon Soul, and his absence in this book allowed me to enjoy the worldbuilding and the authors’ trademark ability to play characters off of each other.
- Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness: Classic sci-fi about an ambassador trying to obtain the trust and understanding of a foreign world with a unisex race. The worldbuilding is excellent.
- Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: Positively beautiful, elegant prose. Reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s books, where the magic often occurs in the shadows, just out of the corner of your eye.
- Robin Hobb’s The Farseer: The Assassin’s Apprentice: I bought the trilogy for $3, but these books are definitely worth a lot more. In this, the first book, the bastard son of a prince is given a place to stay and a vocation by his grandfather, the king. The characters give this book heart (and kept me from putting it down).
- Cherie Priest’s Dreadnought: Civil War-era steampunk and zombies. A quick-and-dirty read, with possibly some of the best action scenes I’ve read.
- Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games: I’ve been recommending this to people right and left. It’s like Battle Royale, but not nearly so dark and definitely not as sexual. And even if you’re not normally into darker books with good people dying at the hands of other (good?) people, it’s short, often cheap, and you won’t lose much by picking it up. But really, I don’t expect you’ll be able to put it down until it’s over.
- Melanie Rawn’s The Exiles: The Ruins of Ambrai: Liz recommended this to me years ago, and I finally picked it up when the C-U Borders closed. (I am now kicking myself for not grabbing book 2 in the series as well.) The book follows three sisters, separated from each other early in life, as they take very different political paths. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the primary culture in the book is matriarchical, and that Rawn is very careful to make the matriarchy feel realistic (think power struggles, institutionalized misandry, ‘protecting’ men from the female gaze by having them cover their hair).
- Toni Morrison’s Beloved:
“Paul D did not answer because she didn’t expect or want him to, but he did know what she meant. Listening to the doves in Alfred, Georgia, and having neither the right nor the permission to enjoy it because in that place mist, doves, sunlight, copper dirt, moon – everything belonged to the men who had the guns. Little men, some of them, big men too, each one of whom he could snap like a twig if he wanted to. Men who knew their manhood lay in their guns and were not even embarrassed by the knowledge that without gunshot fox would laugh at them. And these “men” who made even vixen laugh could, if you let them, stop you from hearing doves or loving moonlight. So you protected yourself and loved small. Picked the tiniest stars out of the sky to own; lay down with head twisted in order to see the loved one over the rim of the trench before you slept. Stole shy glances at her between the trees at chain-up. Grass blades, salamanders, spiders, woodpeckers, beetles, a kingdom of ants. Anything bigger wouldn’t do. A woman, a child, a brother – a big love like that would split you wide open in Alfred, Georgia. He knew exactly what she meant: to get to a place where you could love anything you chose – not to need permission for desire – well now, that was freedom.”
I mostly read newly-begun/short-archived webcomics in 2011, because I hadn’t the energy to go through massive archives (with one notable exception). Linkage goes to the first pages of each one.
- Homestuck: What can I say about Homestuck? It’s epic in scope, with amazing worldbuilding. And the characters – Hussie keeps introducing new ones, yet each one is distinct and interesting. And there is so much wordplay, my god, it’s beautiful. (Last link put in ironically.) Check it out, if you haven’t already.
- Power Nap: Go read the first three pages. (Giggle furiously.)
- Monster Pulse: It’s like Pokemon, except that your monster was once a part of your body! Cute art and characters, plus ongoing intrigue as to the origins of the monsters. The formatting and art style made me rethink my plans for Multivers’d.
- Ever Night: Kind of slow going, but definitely worth a look for the worldbuilding, action sequences and beautiful art. I recently reread the beginning narration (as research for a bit of fanart I’m planning), and it wowed me all over again.
- Widdershins: By the author of the recently-completed Darken. This comic pairs a hapless wizard (okay, so he dropped out) with a bounty hunter, and shenanigans ensue. Hilarity!
- Shadoweyes: In a dark and grimy future, a young woman decides to be a superhero and turns into a mutant (in that order). Like most of the webcomics on this list, the art makes me drool in envy. (Bonus: curvy ladies!)
- Leftover Soup: As anyone who has read 1/0 knows, Tailsteak is at his best playing philosophies and worldviews off of one another, while keeping characterization high and strawmen out. This webcomic gives him plenty of opportunity to do so.
- Dumbing of Age: This comic is set in a different universe than Shortpacked!, though the enterprising David Willis fan will enjoy seeing familiar characters in new roles. For everybody else, enjoy four-panel humor strips that might just make you think.
- Adventures of Superhero Girl: A funny take on the superhero genre. Faith Erin Hicks also does Friends With Boys, which is more story-oriented and character-driven.
- Sinfest: I’m linking to the front page, because I’ve been reading this for a few years. Within the last year, however, Sinfest has picked up some enthralling plot – Fuschia’s romance with Seymour, for instance. My favorite development was the introduction (?) of the Patriarchy storyline, which is so dead-on in its Matrix comparison that I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.
- The Secret Knots, “Music for Stray Days“: made me smile. Listen to the song and reread the comic after.
Since I last blogged, I got the Atop the Fourth Wall fancomic started. I also started working as a research assistant at GSLIS, looking at data provenance. And the fall semester started, my penultimate as a Master’s student.
Oh, it went great, at first. But apparently this is what I look like now:
Which is to say, I look positively undead. “Positively,” because, hey! just in time for Halloween! All I need is a Black Lantern ring, a few silver marks on my shirt, and someone’s heart to munch on.
But, seriously, this month has been terrible. I’m sleep-deprived and often nutritious-food-deprived. I’ve been teetering on the verge of being sick for two weeks.
My mental health has deteriorated more slowly, but I’m very close to rock bottom now, which is why I’m blogging about this in the first place. I am spending more and more time detoxing, getting myself to a point at which I can work again. I spend most of my days not feeling much at all besides disappointment in myself. Like a Black Lantern, I’ve been devouring things that make me feel something again, muted though the emotion is under the layers of exhaustion. Sparks of feminist anger or nerd rage are best, but really, I’m just searching for my Fangirl Squee.
But, yes, the reason I’m writing this. I have no energy to spare for other people right now. I’m an introvert – I lose energy in social situations. And I am very low on energy right now. I write this to hopefully excuse myself from people wondering why I’m not posting much on Facebook. I’ve been active on Twitter, but I really haven’t been feeling that either for the last few days. It’s possible I won’t be feeling it for awhile yet. I’ll almost certainly be around if anyone needs to contact me, but please don’t expect much from me until I recover from this month, both mentally and physically.
Yes, my mysterious cooking project was to create a cake inspired by that amazing game, Portal! Doesn’t it look pretty? And pretty yummy too?
The best thing about it? The cake is a lie.
Yeah, that’s right. That’s technically not cake, but meatloaf. Two meatloaves, with mashed potato “frosting” and cherry tomatoes.
I tried out four different meatloaves ahead of time, and settled on Allrecipes’ “Brown Sugar Meatloaf,” found here. While two other meatloaves were tastier (imo), I decided my chosen meatloaf should have some sweetness to it, as an apology for it not being cake.
The mashed potatoes were my own recipe. Also ahead of time, I discovered that a combination of soy sauce and honey would turn the potatoes light brown, as well as providing sweetness.
Originally my plan was to use plain cherry tomatoes in place of the Portal cake’s cherries. At the last minute, I discovered this “Baked Cherry Tomatoes with Garlic” recipe and knew I had to make a batch. The recipe was a gamble, since I hadn’t pre-tested it, but the results were absolutely perfect.
Here’s some pictures of the process:
There’s still room for tweaking, I think. I need to figure out how to make the mashed potatoes a darker brown with food coloring, and I’m not sure the meatloaf is as flavorful as it could be. So I won’t share my overall recipe just yet.
Still, it was delicious, and just about everything I’d hoped. So far as I’m concerned, the “The Cake is a Lie” Cake project is a success. I only wish I’d been able to have people over for dinner. This cake is understandably filling, and then there are all the extra party-appetizer-perfect baked tomatoes… This meal requires hungry friends!
My first pin-up for Multivers’d! Awww yeah!
…What? You thought that with my ratio of 4 ladies to 2 gentlemen, I’d focus on a woman first? Ha ha! You’re funny.
Truthfully, I was going to start with a picture of Ian and Bea making out or post-coital or just being adorable together. They’re the MAIN main characters, after all, and I’d rather show them being sexy with each other than separately. But yesterday, while going through stock art on DeviantArt, I was inspired to go with Damien first. The urge to draw a half-naked man was just too strong. 😄
The AT4W fancomic is on course. The script turned out to be 18 pages long, but it’s done now. Once I’m confident I can consistently draw Linkara, Iron Liz, and Doctor Insano, I’ll be able to start comicking. I expect the comicking process to be time-consuming (being a proto-webcomic), so I’ll probably be posting a page at a time on DA, two or three times a week. It may take the rest of the summer to complete.
Speaking of That Guy With the Glasses, next week the TGWTG 3rd Anniversary mini-series “Suburban Knights” begins. “Kickassia” (the 2nd anniversary event) was just so utterly hilarious and random and fantastic, that it became an instant comfort movie. I had to buy the DVD because I watched it so much, I was getting sick of loading times. “Suburban Knights” looks like it’ll be just as good, if not better. I have a feeling I’ll be sketching a lot of fanart next week. And I can’t wait. 83
It feels like I’ve a ton of projects open at the moment, and it’s been long enough since I’ve blogged regularly that I might as well explain them. Not shown: looking for a graduate assistantship, my Project Management final paper, and all the conceptual ideas that haven’t made it to paper yet.
A nerdy recipe
It involves meatloaf. And that’s all I will say for now. 😛
Green Lantern masquerade dress
The only way I’ll ever be able to cosplay Green Lantern Kyle Rayner is if I do it rule 63 style! I decided on a masquerade costume, so this isn’t quite cosplay, but rather me in a dress that will be reminiscent of Kyle’s old costume. I’m really excited for this. The pic above is an old progress shot – I have since acquired white cloth and a black choker, and soon I’ll make the mask and ring too.
Yes, work on Multivers’d continues, mostly in character sheets, height comparisons and chapter descriptions. Expect some pin-ups and one-shots while I get used to the characters interacting with each other on the page. Progress will be slow for a bit, though, because I’ll primarily be working on…
“Day In, Day Out of Character,” an AT4W fancomic
During Spring finals, I managed to get addicted to Linkara’s Atop the Fourth Wall comic reviews (found here and here). After finals were over, I was free to binge and plow through the entire archive. I may just be a bigger fangirl for Linkara than Doug Walker now, and – ahem. Right. I decided to make a fancomic.
Yeah, a fancomic. A long time ago I swore I’d never go down the dark, addictive path of writing fanfiction. Ah well. The odds were against me keeping that promise anyway. I can justify creating this fancomic because it’s a longer comic than I’ve worked on thus far (current estimate is 15 pages), but not nearly so long as Multivers’d will be. In other words – this is great practice for the comic-creation process. I already feel a lot more confident about being able to pull a script together for Multivers’d (although I may have to script an entire chapter before starting on art duty, so keeping a buffer will be key).
This is also the likeliest project to see fruition before the others, so keep an eye out! More pictures and comics will be up here soon.
I’ve got a few drafts in progress for future posts. In the meantime, here’s an art dump. There will probably be more of these to come, as there are a lot of things I’m determined to learn to draw (feet, people kissing, people fighting, landscapes, better perspective, etc., etc.). This summer is already proving very productive; I can’t wait to see how much I get done.
Doodles below the cut due to nudity.
After a few days without it, I’ve returned to the internet feeling very happy. I had a great time at Christmas celebrations with both sides of the family. My Uncle Pete cooked us a feast on Christmas Eve, and Dani put her chef skills to work on Christmas. I gave out tins of cookies to each family unit, drew a manly chest for the Christmas Pirate, and generally had a great time.
And I can see that the internet has been busy while I’ve been away, having a life like I don’t normally do. While I’m catching up, I’d like to share some of the internet’s awesomeness.
“EXHAUSTION FROM HAVING SEX WITH A MINOR”, by Yahtzee Croshaw: The podcast of the story from the anthology Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die, read by the author. Sarah was unwittingly one of the first to get Machine of Death in stores, rather than off Amazon or Topatoco. While I wish I could have bought it on MOD Day (when it hit #1 on Amazon through pure word of mouth, with the awesome side effect of pissing off Glenn Beck), I was very happy to receive it from my little sister for Christmas. I was also pleased to note that the slip inside the book contained not only my death prediction (“GIFT RECEIPT”), but also the place of said death (“BORDERS BOOKS MUSIC AND CAFE Mt. Prospect, IL”).
My Little NON-Homophobic, NON-Racist, NON-Smart-Shaming Pony: A Rebuttal: I found “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” through the /co/ board on 4chan, and I fell in love with it. Excellent animation, voice-work, and yes, my inner feminist rejoiced to see the female characters as characters first, not stereotypical girls. It embodies feminist ideals without overdoing it – I only noticed because I’ve spent my life reading media as a feminist. (Yes, yes, cue the “feminist =/= /co/mrade” argument.) In the article, Lauren Faust puts forth the ideas she was trying to put into the show, and I do believe she has succeeded.
White Wine in the Sun: Via Neil Gaiman. I’m agnostic, so I sometimes feel embarrassed at how much I still enjoy Christmas. As Tycho put it in Penny Arcade, it feels like going to the party, refusing to acknowledge that they exist, and then robbing their house. But is that my only choice? To be a Tycho or to be effectively assimilated into the prominent religion? Well… no. I played this song to my family on Christmas. My parents were fairly unmoved; Sarah wrinkled up her face and said “It’s weird”. But Dani just looked at me and said, “It’s about Ashley.” And it is.
Oh hell. While I’m at it, I might as well belatedly share my other go-to feel-good Christmas thing: http://lordmookie.livejournal.com/65334.html By the by, Dani got me a GL hat for Christmas. Do I have the best sisters or what? Rhetorical question. I do.