Thursday, May 28, 2009


So let me say I think it's shameful, but I've never been to WisCon. I've lived in Wisconsin my entire life, the entire time of which this con has been up and running, and yet I've never been. And now I really question why I've never gone. It was the most relaxed and organized con I've ever been to, and I've been to some badly organized cons, including a Buffy one in the Catskills where the waiting staff only spoke Italian and the hotel hadn't been renovated since Frank Sinatra stayed there some 30 years previously. For the uninitiated WisCon is "The World's Leading Feminist Science Fiction Convention" which celebrated it's 33rd year this past weekend. They have a wide range of authors and other media types that converge on the Concourse to discuss, hang, meet and generally have fun, all for the low price of $45 (not including all that you'll spend in the dealers room). They have face painting and magical knitting and panels and dinners and award recipients.

Due to events of the past week I didn't feel like interacting too much with people so I just went to a few events of the authors I wanted to see, but I'm planning on returning next year to be a more active versus passive participant. When I arrived I was given a packet which had a wonderful circa bound program of events with all the information I could possibly need from guest biographies to maps of the hotel. From there I attended the Gathering, there primarily for the event Galley Ho! But the Gathering also had a wide range of events from more carnivalesque games, like a cow throw and balloon animals to a vintage clothing exchange. I also attended the dealer's room, which besides having independent publishers selling their fare, they also had a few bookstores from DreamHaven Books to Madison's own, A Room of One's Own. I walked away with a slightly lighter wallet after getting a few great books and two Coraline action figures.

On Saturday I found out that an author I like was there, and I didn't know it, so that was a nice surprise to find Catherynne M. Valente present and willing to sign my books. I attended a panel with Patricia C. Wrede entitled "Kick Ass Moms" which discussed the trend in fantasy and sci-fi to not even mention women as mothers, where they either don't have children or they time lapse the series to skip the child rearing years to pick up after they are grown. Some good kick ass moms that were discussed are Piper Halliwell from Charmed, Sarah Connor, Allison DuBois from Medium as well as the totally awesome Nanny Ogg, who really should have a panel all her own just on the hedgehog song. On Sunday I attended a panel with Caroline Stevermer on wish fulfillment, which was good but odd to say the least, with half the panel being more young adult and discreet and the other half talking a lot about slash and men on men action. I liked the summing up of wish fulfillment with a a nod to Calvin and Hobbes, where Calvin wishes for his own continent but Hobbes wished for a sandwich, and Hobbes is the one who's wish is fulfilled.

Finally on Monday was the SignOut, this is the designated time where you can get all the books you've been accumulating and hoarding signed. As you can probably guess from me attending the Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer panels that they were the authors I was here to see, due to their wonderful Kate and Cecelia books, Sorcery and Cecelia, The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician (with Magic Below Stairs hinted as a prequel coming next summer!)They were very nice and gracious, I could tell that Patricia C. Wrede doesn't seem to like the signings as much, being a "To_____" and "Patricia C. Wrede" person, whereas Caroline Stevermer would add a little comment, which I just love. But to give them their due, they signed everything I brought, which was all the Kate and Cecelia books, as well as the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, the new Frontier Magic Series, the Scholarly Magic Series and River Rats.

So all in all a great con, low stress, low cost, high interest and definitely repeatable. Plus who knows who will be there or who has been there and will make it big down the way, as Caroline Stevermer said to me. With past names like Charles De Lint, Ursula Le Guin, Terri Windling and George R. R. Martin, anyone could stop by so go see what I'm talking about now!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reaper's Demise?

So tonight was the second season and possible series finale of Reaper on the CW. This makes me once again sad for the fate of television, but not exactly surprised, because television execs seem unable to understand clever witty dialogue or concept shows that don't revolve around humiliating some poor bastard in some reality type setting. If you've never watched Reaper, the show is about Sam Oliver, a 20 something slacker (he dropped out of college because it made him sleepy) who works at the Work Bench with his best friends Sock and Ben and the love of his life Andy. The twist is his parents sold his soul to the Devil and now he works as a bounty hunter in various dangerous situations recapturing souls that have escaped from hell. The show could have gotten worn out really fast, despite the cleverness and obvious "Supernatural" Clerks feel to it (Kevin Smith was involved in this series) but it was able to remain fresh and reinvent inself and grow. The show really started to get good when they broke away from the monster-a-week (or in this case soul-a-week) pattern and concentrated on creating a mythology, the same way Angel did. The show brought in subplots of demons working to overthrow the devil and Sam being Satan's son, not just his employee.

So here's my ode to Reaper, the best and the worst (possible spoilers if you haven't watched both seasons yet).

The Monkey Dance - Love Sam in that little fez.
College - It DOES make you sleepy.
Ray Wise - Sheer genius casting this man as Satan, he knows how to balance humor and horror, watch Twin Peaks for further proof, if you should need it.
Steve and Tony - Ken Marino and Michael Ian Black, enough said!
The Way of Steve - Cancun all the way! Plus those karaoke videos.
Nina - I thought I'd hate Ben's new girl, but I really ended up liking her.
Ben's Family - They didn't talk to the uncle that lived with them, priceless.
Gladys - DMV demon I love you.
Patton Oswalt - Surprisingly not annoying.
Ted - Awesome, total loser, and he dressed up as Captain Jack for Halloween. Almost wish he was still a grunt at the Work Bench.
Sock laying the beat down on the old lady - Wrenchy Bench rules!
Satan giving Sam a pony - The first real fatherly thing he's done.
Morgan's death - And the cult of Steve did eat the son of Satan, awesome.
Andy sells her soul - Finally putting her on an even keel with Sam, now she has nothing to be squeamish about, they are in this together.

Sock's Mom's house - It just didn't work having the guys living there.
Ben's Grandma - Changing actresses is totally stupid, we are not dumb, so don't treat us like we are.
Mitch Peleggi - His career has been over for years, please don't make him play X-Files esque characters on other shows.
Sam's Dad post-death - Just lame, I know he served a purpose in the end, but whatever.
Sam's Mom - Why haven't we seen her lately?
Sam's Brother - What ever happened to him?
Gaeta on Reaper - You died on BSG FINALLY, no showing up on my other shows filmed in Vancouver! You've been on this and Smallville, I see you on Psych, and I'm coming to get you!
Ben's dream girl - Sure a demon is fun and I like Nina, but just ditching Cassidy and not explaining it for a few episodes, lame.
Josie's disappearance - Explain please! If you couldn't afford her a line of dialogue would suffice.
Sam as Satan's son - Once it was mentioned it was instantly accepted as truth, I don't quite agree.
Sam and Andy - They lack chemistry, except in the season finale, I really believed them then...maybe it was Andy finally let loose of her inhibitions.

I'm really going to miss this show if it's gone. Yes it was uneven with some episodes falling flat, but overall the show was great, always good for a laugh and it never insulted your intelligence. Also a note, if the only way they can save the show is by doing the syndication deal which would most likely result in the loss of Tyler Labine, aka Sock, there is no way they should do it, without the core three, Sock, Ben and Sam, there is no show.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Elusive ARC

So, due to the fact I always have an inbox full of questions as to how I was able to read a book months before it's out I need to tell people about the joys of the ARC. An ARC is an Advance Readers/Reviewers Copy that is an uncorrected proof of the book that's coming out in a few months. By uncorrected it means there are errors and that anything wrong will be supposedly fixed for the final book (not that I've ever seen anyone fix errors, even one's I've written to them about, yes Lisa Lutz's editors this is you, fix that Doctor Who error please for the mass market edition, you didn't fix it yet for the paperback). Usually the ARC is the finished book. It's always paperback, on kind of crappy paper, sometimes it has the cover printed on it along with all the publicity info you will need to help them promote this book (that is after all WHY you got it early, to help them promote it and get the word of mouth out there). In my opinion, the true joy of the ARC is instant gratification for those who can't stand to wait the 2, 3 or 4 months till the books is released (aka people like me). The ARC comes with a few rules though. Legally you are not allowed to sell them because they are not your property, the ARC is the property of the publisher. Bookstores, ebay, wherever, you can't sell them, though people do, despite the restrictions and you can usually find them, usually for scandalous amounts of money (for a popular author like Shannon Hale or Charlaine Harris expect to see people paying $200-500, which is why people are tempted to sell them). Also you usually have to keep your mouth shut about plot points, caveats to what you can and can't say. For example Shannon Hale has been imploring people to not reveal something that happens in Forest Born, out in September...and sometimes it's harder to keep your mouth shut then to wait the few extra months to read it with everyone else.

I will also mention that this past weekend I hit ARC pay dirt! I was at WisCon, the feminist science fiction convention in Madison, Wisconsin, and they had an event called Galley Ho! This was a charity event where you could get 10 ARCs for $10! Most of the books were already in bookstores or just about to be, so it was more for the cheapness that this was a great find. But also I gotta say it, I love ARCs, even if it's already in bookstores, it's fun to have the pre-book if you will, the shadow of the real thing, a paperback while it's still a hardback. The novelty and specialness that the ARC embraces...the preview of what's to come is what I fully and whole heartily embrace. ARCs I love you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Summer Part 1: This Blog Be About Books

Ok, so summer is finally here (at least that's if you are a college student not taking summer school) which means it's time to catch up on all that reading I've been hording like some sort of treasure crazy dragon. The simple fact is I LOVE BOOKS, I love buying them, sorting them, organizing them and finally reading them, which lets face it, not much time during a design heavy semester. I'm so book crazy I have a computer program to sort and categorize my books, I belong to goodreads, where I can do more sorting, organizing and reviewing (plus I'm a librarian on the site, which means I can edit codes and descriptions, pure heaven, plus invite authors, oh the I mean...all the help I can be to other readers) and now I've started this blog, and lets get one thing straight, it's going to be book heavy, very heavy, like complete works of Shakespeare combined with Trollope heavy, with a side of Austen (and yes she wrote only 6 books, but if you have 10 different editions of every one of her books, you get where I'm going right?)

To start my booktopia I'm creating here I'll start with the thing that draws us to books, otherwise known as the covers. Despite the old adage, never judge a book by it's cover, we all do. The publishing industry spends a lot of valuable time and resources to draw us in (and I should know I'm a graphic designer and book jacket design is a lucrative area to tap into). There are studies done that show teens are more likely to buy a book aimed at them because it has a photopraph of a teen they can identify with versus a painting. Case in point is the Bayern series by Shannon Hale (which everyone should read, just because it's Young Adult doesn't mean it excludes you, more on this in later posts.)

First example: The original covers by the talented Alison Jay

Second example: The new photo covers so the book will sell more

And while I get the decision from a monetary point of view, I'd like all my books to be uniform. I'm not actually against the new covers, I'm against the change at all. But if this means that Shannon Hale will make more money, I'm happy. Another series that irks me is the Charlaine Harris Southern Vampire Series, I like the covers and they have remained consistent, but the size keeps changing! They now have three different sizes, book 4 is medium, books 5-7 and the re-issues of 1 and 2 are smaller, the same size as her Harper Connelly books, whereas books 8 and 9 are huge.

But the final question is while we can be swayed to pick a book up by the cover will you actually buy a book that sounds like total garbage? What really bugs me is when I go to the store and pick up a book cause it has the coolest cover in the world and then I realize, I've picked up this book before, many many times before and each time I go, oh cool cover, sounds like crap though. So to add another adage, buyer beware. Of course though there are those lucky times when a great book and a marvelous design combine into one great whole. I've been reading Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. The paperback re-issues (seen above) for the tie-in with "Michael Tolliver Lives" are by far some of the coolest design work I have seen in years. They all connect together to form a panorama of San Francisco on the covers but also on the spines. They look just gorgeous on your bookshelf:

But not only that, they are witty funny books about San Francisco during the 70s and 80s with a humorous cast of characters. An homage to the city the books so proudly represent (now in design as well as word). I'd give them a strong recommendation any day. If you're interested in more in depth reviews on these books, go over to goodreads and see what others besides me have to say, or you could also read my full reviews, which I didn't include here because this was more about the design then the dissection of the books.

Also interesting final note (due to Pooh being in the picture), the title of the last "official" Tales of the City book was taken from a quote by A. A. Milne, one of my favorites:
"Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. 'Pooh?' he whispered.
'Yes, Piglet?'
'Nothing,' said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. 'I just wanted to be sure of you.'"

My Little Man

On Wednesday my kitty died after being with me for 22 years. I can't really talk about it cause it hurts, he was my best friend since I was in 3rd grade. Spot was funny and sweet and would always make a whirring sound when he saw me. He always wanted to be the center of attention and as I would say, rightfully so. He loved rolling in dirt till his black fur was gray. Sadly he was directionally challenged and could not find his way home and would often get lost, many times on neighbors roofs and once on a chimney. He never liked to have me out of his sight and when he was still an outdoor cat this led to many days where I got out of school before everyone else cause he was blocking the door waiting for me. He was obsessed with rabbits and horses, though I have a feeling he thought that horses were bit-mice-sized. He will never be forgotten, and that collie in our neighborhood should watch out cause I'm keeping an eye on him for Spot.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ode to Ken Marino

Watching "Reaper" tonight I knew it was going to be a good episode just by Ken Marino's name in the opening credits. While fans of the show know him as Tony, the demon life partner of the sadly dead Steve (Michael Ian Black) he's actually been making tv that little bit better for some time (getting Cordelia knocked up with demon spawn on "Angel," "Charmed" - but don't hold that against him, I'm sure he has to eat, and of course Vinnie Van Lowe, now sheriff on "Veronica Mars"). Ken is completely underrated, able to make small roles memorable, and add that little bit of funny every show needs. But don't assume he's just the comic relief, oh no, he does a perfect balancing act of humor and tragedy so well. On "Party Down," he plays Ron Donald, the manager of a group of misfits working at Party Down catering, trying to save up to fulfill his dream of opening a Super Crackers. He brings poignancy to a character that could be totally boring and one dimensional but you feel for him, even as he vomits at the feet of his high school crush at his 20th reunion, where he chose to work, versus attend, because he wanted to show everyone how far he'd come. So my recommendation to you is keep your eye out for Ken (that lovely Ron Donald haircut and all), he's been around for awhile, and I think with his added exposure from "Party Down" (see the Sin Say Shun Awards After Party episode) he might finally be getting the respect he deserves!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gene Genie

Today being Tuesday means last night was a new episode of "Ashes to Ashes." If you aren't familiar with the show it's the spin-off from the popular British TV Show "Life on Mars" (and I'm not talking about the lame-ass American version with the crappy futuristic ending). "Life on Mars" was about a cop being injured in the present and send back to 1973, where he met the wondrous Gene Hunt as played by the fantastic Philip Glenister (who you've probably seen in something, he was in an Andrew Davies miniseries after all!) Anyway, two series of that show, ended it with a cliffhanger, and onto the spin off "Ashes to Ashes," set in the 80s with another cop, played by the wonderful Keely Hawes being sent back from the present.

Anyways, the point of the show isn't really trying to figure out what's going on, it's how awesome is Gene this week. Lets see...he didn't get to drive a boat, so downgraded for that, but he did tie up a criminal, pull over a cargo truck and fling the criminal inside so that he'd be France's problem not England's. Yeah Gene Hunt, you are brash, you do things your own way, and I can't get enough!


So this is it. I'm a blogger. Why a blog you might ask? Well, seeing as I'm not the type to jump off a bridge just because everyone else is doing it, I'm not doing it cause everyone else is that's for sure. I'm doing it mainly for me, to keep track of what I'm doing, where I've been, where I'm going, but a myriad of other reasons as well. So stop by to read about what I'm reading (yeah books), what I'm watching (yeah tv, which has another Alpha, Alan "Hottie" Tudyk) and what I'm working on in general. Cheers!

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