Monday, October 23, 2017

Reader's Diary #1684- Lin Jenkinson: Transformation

I prefer flash fiction (all short fiction really) that feels complete, that doesn't make me long for a longer piece. Lin Jenkinson's "Transformation" unfortunately doesn't do that for me.

Which, as insults go, isn't really that bad. The story, of a man becoming a vampire, would work excellently as the opening of a full length novel.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Reader's Diary #1683- J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Esad Ribic (artist): Silver Surfer Requiem

I've been hearing a lot about a great buzz about Dan Slott's recent Silver Surfer run, though it's usually followed up with comments about how sad it is. Unfortunately I've not yet been able to get my hands on these particular comments yet, but my Silver Surfer curiousity has at least been piqued and I was able to get my hands on J. Michael Straczynski and Esad Ribic's Silver Surfer Requiem trade.

I've encountered both of these artists before but was underwhelmed both times. Not so this time around. The story of Silver Surfer making peace with his upcoming death (don't worry, this wasn't canon) was poignant and Ribic's watercoloured art was not only unexpected but added a heft to the story which otherwise ran the risk of cheap and obvious sentimentality.

As there's a lot of soul searching and reflection, it's also a good place for those like myself to get to know the Silver Surfer character; his history and personality.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reader's Diary #1682- Robert E. Howard: Pigeons from Hell

Robert E. Howard's "Pigeons from Hell" begins as a classic ghost story, complete with haunted house, but one that is still genuinely creepy.

It's also uncomfortable in that it deals with slavery in the American south. As many critics of the latest book banning of To Kill A Mockingbird would tell you, that's okay. Not all literature should make you comfortable. It fact, much should challenge readers.

That said, while Howard thankfully calls out slavery for the evil that it is, his story is still racist overall. From what I can gather about Howard (the creator of Conan the Barbarian), he doesn't have any Haitian roots yet he stereotypes and appropriates their culture.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reader's Diary #1681- Nagata Kabi, translated by Jocelynne Allen: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness

Not sure how Nagata Kabi's My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness first crossed my radar, but I'm glad it did.

It begins with Nagata finding herself terrified and in bed with a female prostitute. This is her first time being intimate with anyone. From there the book backtracks to explore how she got there and then the ramifications that followed.

While the title might suggest a focus on the "lesbian" aspect, I'd argue that the book is more about mental health than anything else. It's not just loneliness that's explored, but depression, eating disorders, and imposter syndrome as well.

It's not a comfortable read by any means. For starters, and for me, the way Nagata depicts herself in her art, somewhat deprecatingly, she looks to be a young girl. And as a male reading a book with a naked young girl on the cover, it's something I avoided in public. I should note, however, that in that scene she's actually meant to be 28 years old.

But of course some of the issues are difficult as well and everyone's experiences with mental health and illness is unique. How easily she seems to beat bulimia might seem almost implausible. Her attraction toward her mother as a young girl may be off-putting, though it is rather Freudian and I'd like to think was one of the few times in the book Nagata didn't explain herself well.

That all said, there is a charm to it all and the subtle, dark humour helped me along. I also appreciated the non-sitcom ending: it's hopeful but far from resolved.

The art, while not spectacular, is quirky and sufficiently expressive.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Aviva Contest: A Healthier Library, A Healthier You!

Voting for Aviva has officially begun!

 I hope you will consider casting a vote for the Yellowknife Public Library. We believe our holistically healthy public library idea is the first of its kind in Canada and will reap positive benefits for the entire community: (you will need to register the first time, but you can cast up to 18 votes).

Also, please help spread the word to your friends and through your social media channels. You may use the link above and/or this video:

Monday, October 09, 2017

Reader's Diary #1680: Lauren Schenkman: The Removal

There's the briefest of seconds near the beginning of Lauren Schenkman's "The Removal" when the story approaches horror. A man named Victor is on an operating table, expecting to have everything "non-essential" removed. This is scary and tragic enough as it is. We're thinking cancer, right? Then the IV drip starts to flow and... oh my god, he isn't under and the doctor is starting anyway!

Or wait, maybe he is under and this is a near-death experience. The grotesque objects removed from Victor's cavity he understands to be resentments and jealousies and quite frankly, many of the things that unfortunately define what it is to be a man these days. But even as the doctor removes more organ meat than seems humanly possible, it's, I suppose, a hopeful story in that should Victor survive this ordeal, maybe he won't be such an entitled and sexist prick.

A fascinating story.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Reader's Diary #1679- Mark Waid (writer), Mike Wieringo (artist): Fantastic Four Ultimate Collection

I remember enjoying the first Fantastic Four movie. Sorry, the first official one, not the notoriously bad 1990s version that never made it to theaters but has since leaked to YouTube. I'm talking about the one that had Chris Evans as the Human Torch. Granted it was 2005 before Marvel Studios really proved what a successful superhero movie could be and so I'm curious how much I'd enjoy it now.

I bring it up because it was really my first exposure to the Fantastic Four movie and I've wanted these characters to do well. I really want them back at Marvel Studios. Still, I've not read a lot of their comics beyond their appearances in big event comics.

Mark Waid's Ultimate Collection seemed like a decent place to start as I did enjoy his work on Archie.

Thankfully, in this collection he was able to capture some of the fun and the familial bonds that the Fox Studios producers have so poorly delivered in the wake of that 1st attempt. (I should also acknowledge that I am one of the few to suggest they ever got it right). The stories may not be earth-shattering, but they perfectly highlight the characters' personalities (except maybe Sue Storm who could have been expanded better) while being wildly entertaining.

Mike Wieringo's art is suitable, expressive and fluid, though I did find his approach to hair quite odd and therefore distracting (it looks like people are wearing hairnets).