FABLES: A Very Short Review

I was going to review the latest issue of BRAVE & BOLD today, but it is the first issue of a two-parter, and not very good to boot.  In four weeks I will hit both parts in one lump, probably with prejudice.

In the meantime, let us turn to more pleasant subjects.  Nearly everybody loves FABLES, a long-running and award-winning comic book that has been gathered into perhaps a dozen graphic novels by now.  The basic premise — characters of fairy tale and legend in our world — is fun and teeming with promise.  The creators spin a good plot and develop fascinating characters, not a given, alas! in today’s comic book market.

Why is this so, when cash cows like SUPERMAN and BATMAN are limp as laundry?  Partly Superman and Batman suffer from Hollywooditis, in which a fatal surge of turgid images and wan themes washes east from California to the offices of DC Comics in New York City.  This happens every time there is a major motion picture, or even TV.  How many years we labored in the wilderness while Batman fought off his Adam West incarnation, and it will be a long, long year before the Joker quits looking like Heath Ledger.  Another factor is control.  Is Batman going to die in this current issue?  Of course not, not with a new movie in production.

But from a writer point of view the other fatal handicap is the serial nature of comics.  Once a character is successful, he really can’t change very much.   He can’t even die — consider Sherlock Holmes, shoved off of Reichenbach Falls by Arthur Conan Doyle and then resurrected due to popular demand.  It was a major deal when Superman finally married Lois Lane some years ago; the marriage between Peter (SpiderMan) Parker and Mary Jane was retconned (retroactive continuity) right out of existence over at Marvel recently.

And here we come to why Fables is so successful from an artistic point of view. Change and development is wide open.  The title has not yet come to the point (although I can see it coming) when it is no longer possible for beloved characters to die.  It is still possible to marshal plot and character towards coolness, rather than towards luring in movie fans.   You want an example?  Coolness is when the wooden warriors of the Fables’ enemies invade the Upper West Side of New York City; the Fables erect barricades in the street and fob off the police with a story about how it’s a quaint ethnic festival from the old country.

In other words, Fables is not yet straitjacketed by its own success.  That means now is a good time to jump on.  (Well, a couple issues ago if you want to start at the beginning of an arc. )  Don’t wait until they cut a movie deal.

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Things I did Today

While Sarah is writing, I’m moving. My office to be exact. I’m three weeks into this move. I’m moving the office from downstairs to upstairs. Why is it taking me so long? I’ll tell you. This move is going to be different. I am not throwing the rules of Feng Shui to the wind. I am going to be ergonomically correct mentally stable. I will live out the rest of my days with peace of mind and body. What that means is that the 20 pounds of shit that used to fit in the ten pound bag of an old office now needs a 40 pound bag. There ain’t enough room. So I’m sticking to my guns and throwing out what I no longer need or use.

Enter the rolodex. The old one. The one from the band. From when I was a band. Thinking I’d keep all the unused cards from the old rolodex to put in my new, currently fabulous rolodex which is running out of cards, I actually went through the thing. Let me tell you something, old rolodexes should not be sifted through; they should be burned. The painful memories, the awkward moments, the embarrassments, the fights, the angers, the tears were all dredged up in that willful move to clean out the rolodex. You can’t believe the volume of contacts I had in that rolodex all there to support the dying effort that was my band: rehearsal studios, recording studios, sound people, amp stores, music stores, drug stores, tuners, luthiers, the flute doctor, vintage and hip clothiers, photographers, Apple downtown (the elevator bongs like the startup charm when you get to their floor), and the hundreds of bass players and drummers that were known as the “thundering herd of the CeLange rhythm section,” not because we were ever reminiscent of the great old Woody Herman, but because we couldn’t keep a single one on board for more than a season. Most of the people in the rolodex are no longer speaking to me. If they are, chances are I don’t want to speak to them. Going through that rolodex unleashed ten years of heartbreak that I had carefully beaten down into a small enough size to fit in a dark corner of my subconscious, never to surface until the after life when surely I would be carried to heaven on the back of St. Peter just for putting up with so much crap, exploitation, and disrespect.

There were some good memories, sure. When Genya Ravan’s card came up, I smiled. The first time I heard Genya sing on a Ten Wheel Drive LP, I was blown away and scared to death. Genya out-Januses Janus. I had no business even being on the same planet with her, let alone in the same business, doing the same thing. A few years later after we had asked her to produce our first CD, she came to see us at one of those horrible clubs on Bleecker Street that have sound restrictions. Putting sound restrictions on a Bleecker Street club is like gentrifying Beale Street in Memphis or closing down Maxwell Street in Chicago. Oh yeah, they did that too.

But you get the picture, I had totally missed the NYC scene. Nevertheless Genya Ravan was in the house and wouldn’t you know it my head was too out of the game to enjoy the mini triumph. I’d had to run down to CB’s to drag the bass player to our gig. He’d been sitting in in a pickup band for no money. In a shithole like CB’s no less. CB’s was even more gone from the scene than the dump I was playing in that night. If that wasn’t a dis I don’t know what is. So my idol is in the audience and I was too steamed to feel a thing. Anyway, I got to work with Genya Ravan and yes, when it was all over, I did fall on the floor to worship and thank her, a memory I dredge up on my own on cold and distemperate days.

G.E. Smith was in my rolodex, an artifact of the transitional period between being a musician and being a writer. Right after everybody got hooked into the Internet, somebody contacted me to do an interview with Little Mike (of Tornado fame) for the Delta Blues web site. The webmaster had asked me to send in reports form the NY scene and so I got on the masthead. Little Mike’s manager contacted me thinking I was an actual writer. I did the interview (I’m sure the manager realized his mistake and my lack of experience when he saw my piece) and decided that I liked writing. I did a bunch more: Popa Chubby, Adam of Satan and Adam. I tried for Susan Tedeschi, but she had the same manager as Little Mike and he hadn’t forgotten me. But I did get G.E. Smith who I have always been fascinated with since way back when I used to watch Satuday Night. G.E. hasn’t been on in about 15 years so you can see how I got the interview. I think I’ll keep that card along with Genya’s.

My rolodex had a card for Miramax Productions. What the h…?

A bunch of people from the new me were in there too: Timmi Duchamp, Ellen Datlow, Wendy Delmater, Matthew Kressel. Guess I was using that old rolodex for a while in my new life, before I got smart and populated the address book that came with the computer. That smattering of current and important people will get moved to the new digs. Count on it. I’m still in the game here. Not disillusioned. Not yet.

Sue Lange
The Textile Planet

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Things I wrote Today

Sometimes I think I’m the only girl in tenth grade who doesn’t have a vampire.
I mean, okay, Marcia Prescott doesn’t, but she’s soooo busy with her AP physics that she probably wouldn’t know a vampire if one, you know, bit her.  And Stephanie Gibbs doesn’t, but she’s president of the Vampstinance society and spends all her time trying to get girls to give up their vamps.  As if.

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You’re never too old to get high on endorphins

by Jennifer Stevenson

Welcome to Book View Café!  I’m Jennifer Stevenson, the person responsible for Trash Sex Magic, The Brass Bed, The Velvet Chair, and The Bearskin Rug, all of which have been banned by right-thinking anti-sex groups everywhere.  My heroines have no shame.  You can get a taste of them at www.jenniferstevenson.com.

 

But I say that on all my blogs.

 

What I want to talk about today is the wonderfulness of endorphins, especially for women of a certain age.

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Toward a Grand Unified Theory of Food Bugs

by Vonda N. McIntyre

Here’s a question I’ve been asking for a while:

In the pre-Columbian Eastern hemisphere, what we used to call in geography class “The Old World,” most of the staple foods are based on the action of microbes: Bread, beer, wine, yoghurt, cheese, sauerkraut, kefir, injira, miso. Fish sauce.

In the pre-Columbian Western hemisphere, this is not true.

Why?

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Intelligent Fish, or Why I’m a Science Fiction Writer, Not a Scientist

Europa

I recently went to a lecture on Jupiter’s Moon Europa by Dr. Don Blankenship of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics. He is part of a team designing a radar system to explore beneath the ice that covers Europa to see what lies below. (The lecture is available as a webcast).

It was fascinating stuff. He explained how use of radar to study beneath the surface in Antarctica and other frozen places on Earth have helped scientists develop the tools so that they know how to use it for Europa. He commented on the competing theories over how thick the ice cover is on Europa. And he told us how much Europa has in common with Earth: seas (albeit frozen ones), a rocky interior, a magnetic core. Because of these similarities, some scientists are speculating that life might have developed in all the ferment under Europa’s ice.

But then he said any results from the radar expedition — the one that will tell us enough about Europa so that we can decide whether to send landers or even a cryobot to burrow beneath the surface — are 20 years off, assuming we get started very soon. It will take 12 years to build the orbiting device that will operate the radar, at least five years for a ship to get it to Europa, and some time to get it up and running, plus some fudge factor.

20 years just to get the basic facts. 40 or 50 years to actually go beneath the surface and see what’s there. By the time anyone figures out if there’s life on Europa, I won’t be around to see it and neither will Blankenship.

I had a sudden epiphany at that point: That’s why I’m not a scientist. Continue reading

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A Long Way Up or Sarah Visits Tintagel

From Sarah’s Travel Journal:

Want to get down my impressions of Tintagel before going through what all I went through to get here.

Tintagel Island and the headland are awe-inspiring. The cliffs nearest the sea are black where the sea pounds them and tan above, and the sea does shake the ground. In at least one place, a waterfall makes a whitel tail for the stream that runs down beside the path.

To get to the island, you walk down a steep ravine, which is a lovely, green walk with that water-fall stream running beside the path, but this seems counter-intutive, because when you get down to the bottom and the beach (and the tea shop), to get to the castle/ruins, you have to climb all the way back up, and then some. Quite a bit of then some.

The climb up is scary. The only thing thing that makes the climb down less scary is knowing you got up there. It’s winding and it’s steep and some of the stairs have been there for a _really_ long time. I’ve seen grooves worn in stone steps before, but never whole basins.


The sea…

BTW, I’m writing this over dinner, and I’d like to state for the record, the butter is better out here. The lovely, thick, vegetable soup is really good too.

Anyway, I was suposed to be rhapsodizing about the sea. The sea is a brighter blue-green here than I expected and it wasn’t even a really sunny day. It pounds the cliffs so you can feel the vibrations through the stone. There are caves and fissures filled with spray and on the way down I heard a boom like a cannon shot that was the echo of a wave hitting one cave.

I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make the climb. I was pretty shaken by my unscheduled roaming around the Cornish countryside and frankly, it was so narrow and so steep and so high, it scared me, more than a little.

But up I went anyway, and I’m glad I did. I’ve never been in such a place and the pictures can’t capture the feel of the wind and the water and the gulls and birds below you, the jumbles of stone at the foot of the cliffs and the constant rush of the water. You get above the smell of the sea at the caste and fortress, but not above the sound of it.

It is really easy to see why someone would build a fortress there.  Like the Edinburgh Rock, there is only one way in, and that way is daunting. Not only that, but you could see anybody coming a mile away. Literally. When you stand on the headland above the castle, you have a perfect view of the sea, and the rolling green downs that rise above the village, over which any army would have to come.

To sit there, with the wind battering so hard at your back that you didn’t want to get too close to the cliff’s-edge, with the sea battering below and streatcing around, watching the scudding clouds making shadows on the grass and stone below the nearest drop-off, seeing a seagull held absolutely motioonless by the wind, and thinking of the things of legend, is wondrous.

The ruins have their own facination. It’s not just on complex. Buildings accreated in the nooks and crannies of that island like barnacles from the sixth century on up through the nineteenth.

The ragged remains of arches, walls, towers, and cellars are to be found on every outcropping flat enough and big enough to hold a human building. But it was the land itself, the stone and sea and sky that caught me the most. It was them that made me understand how this became a land of legend. There is nowhere else on this island of legends like this place.

The cliffs, BTW, do not drop off smoothly.

They drop in a series of steps and overhands and with the noise of the wind and the water someone could be six feet below you, and you’d never know it. I was startled a couple of times on the way down by the sudden appearance of people when I thought I was alone.

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You Say It’s Your Birthday?

By Christie Golden

I am not a big believer in coincidence. So when, a couple weeks ago, I was told that my blog day would be on November 21, I blinked, grinned, and realized I’d gotten a birthday present. That’s right. Today is my birthday.

I know adults, and especially women, aren’t supposed to make a big deal about birthdays. Those are for children. Adults—well, after a certain point, you get the “Over the Hill” birthday cards, jokes about how it will need a force of nature to blow out all those candles on your cake, and so on. When we’re kids, it’s a big deal—cake, presents, parties galore. Now, though, hey, yeah, just another day.

When I was young, as November 21 was often so close to Thanksgiving, and my family drove from Michigan to Florida to see my grandmother for the holiday, my birthday kinda got lost. My chocolate cake (and yes, my grandmother made an amazing one) was fantastic, but it had buddies instead of sitting alone in glorious birthday cake splendor: cookies, pumpkin, and pecan pies flanked it. All those of you out there who celebrate your birthdays on December 25 or thereabouts, I know you feel my pain and then some.

Too, it was a particularly interesting November 21. It was November 21, 1963. We all know what happened the following day. If you don’t know, Google the date. For years, my mother tells me, she was unable to celebrate my birthday on the actual date. (And now you know how old I am, and you know that I don’t care that you know. I don’t look it, I don’t feel it, and I most certainly don’t act it.)

I’m not sure when the transition began, but at some point in my early adulthood, I began to reclaim my birthday. I started writing it on the calendar. I told all my friends in advance. My husband never forgets my birthday because it is nigh impossible to forget it. I told perfect strangers, “Today is my birthday!” And you know what? Everyone seemed pleased. “Well, happy birthday!” they would say, and the smile was almost always genuine. Because birthdays are fun, and we’ve forgotten that, and it’s kinda nice to be reminded of it.

Egotistical? Maybe. I honestly don’t think so. I think everyone should be as delighted about their birthdays. We are living in a rather grim time economically. Everyone has challenges and difficulties. And of course we can’t take the day off, sit back, eat cake till we’re sick and reap in a towering pile of presents any more. (Disclaimer—if you can pull this off, more power to you, but I can’t.) It’s not about presents, or cards. It’s about acknowledgement, and mainly self-acknowledgement. It’s about taking a day to say “Hey…X number of years ago, I entered this world. And that’s a pretty darn wonderful thing.”

So…yeah…45 years ago, I entered this world. And that’s a pretty darn wonderful thing.

Reclaim your birthday. Write it on a calendar. Circle it with a big red marker. Put it in your Google calendar. Tell friends and co-workers and remind family members. Most importantly, tell yourself. You’re in this world. You matter.

And let me be the first to wish you, whatever day it falls on…”Happy Birthday!”

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