Saturday, January 25, 2014

Blacksad in French and Having Kevin Grevioux's Babies

I mentioned the mind meld over on SFSignal where several talented folks and I picked our favorite graphic novels to take to a deserted island. (I just did a quick scan of mine, btw, and discovered at least once that I wrote "dessert" island, which wouldn't be very lonely probably, but would be HELL on my waistline.) Sarah Arnold recommended "Blacksad" and I remembered how much I adored the art in the issue I had glimpsed years before. The story was as gritty and dark as anything written by Dashiell Hammett, and I didn't need to be able to read Italian to tell that. The art, complete with a hyper-realistic world filled with talking animals, and dusky, muted colors that enhance the emotional impact of every panel, flat blew me away.

I have been, in my copious free time (that's extreme sarcasm for anyone who doesn't know me personally), learning French, with a combination of Rosetta Stone and reading French fiction, with the aid of Google Translate to help me through the difficult parts. I got a book of French dialogue for Christmas that was greatly appreciated. I pretty much suck at holding a conversation, but I'm getting pretty good at reading comprehension in French. Add illustrations or a contextual story I'm really familiar with, and I'm golden. The difficulty has been mainly finding fiction in French that I actually want to read.

So, I bought "Blacksad" the Kindle edition, to save a little money, and splurged on a difficult-to-find used copy of vol 1 in French. The Kindle edition arrived immediately, but wouldn't run on my Kindle Fire, which I have to say was very disappointing. The main reason I bought a Kindle Fire was to read comics. Fortunately, I have an IPAD for work, and the graphic novel reading app works fine there.

They just delivered my French vol 1 of Blacksad!! It is just as gorgeous as I remembered. The Kindle version is great, but there's nothing like holding the book and seeing the art full size. It's as moving and solid as a kick to the gut.

Don't get me wrong. Kindles are nice, and have performed a bit of a miracle for me. I haven't bought episodic comics in years because I would read them in like 5 minutes flat, and they cost almost as much as a novel. I just couldn't justify the expense. I grew up poor as dirt. That still affects my buying patterns significantly, regardless of my current income bracket. Now, I'm reading "Anathema" (which is a dark horror comic I'm loving, even if it is a bit preachy) and waiting eagerly for the next issue. I've also started snagging issues of Dr Who comics and whatever else grabs my eye on Comixology. At $1.99, I'm far less hesitant to splurge, and I can take a big chunk of my comics collection with me on planes and such now.

On the subject of brilliant graphic novels, not the price of them, I went and saw the movie "I, Frankenstein" last night. Wow. Just visually extraordinary. And unlike a fair number of visually stunning movies I've seen lately, this one had emotional impact and great acting, and just wow. It was a bit short on sophisticated plot, but hey, demon prince wants to take over the world, order of holy do-gooders want to stop him, and hapless anti-hero is caught in the middle - it works for me. Add stunning visuals of winged battles between light and fire, and I'm all over that. And Kevin Grevioux wrote it.

It took 2 words off camera for me to recognize Kevin Grevioux's voice, and I knew I was in for a ride. I LOVED Underworld, the first one at least. It leapt a few sharks by the end of the franchise, but had a great starting point. I'd never heard of the "I, Frankenstein" graphic novel, but as I was sitting there, thinking wow a lot at the end of the movie, I remarked to my husband, "This movie looks like it would make one hell of a graphic novel. It looks like it was MEANT to be a graphic novel." At which point, the credits helpfully popped up "Based on the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux" and I said, "Well, there ya go."

Kevin Grevioux. What is with this guy? Did he win the genetics lottery or something? He's huge, powerful, has a voice like a dragon in a well, AND he's insane levels of intelligent and creative, so he apparently hogged all the good genes for an entire small town. Genetics like that need to be spread throughout the human population. Someone should have his babies. Lots of them.

Not that I'm volunteering or anything. Much. But someone should.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SFSignal and on a Deserted Island with Drugs

Three wonderful things happened to me today that I am selfishly delighted about:

1. SfSignal and Rick Klaw published my list of graphic novels I'd have to take to a deserted island:   (Paul Benjamin and Alan J. Porter also put in their lists. Interestingly enough, my list included one of Paul's books, and Alan's list included my number one pick "Strangers in Paradise" plus "Kingdom Come" which I would have added, but wasn't sure if it was kosher under the rules.)

2. Having my personal author website link on said article provided the kick in the pants needed for me to complete at least a first shot at my personal author website Finally! Next, I will tackle that hideous monstrosity I foisted onto Soon, it too, will look like a normal web page. I promise.

3. I had my 6 week post-op checkup for my herniated disk surgery, and the doc took me off most of the mind and body affecting chemicals. I am very much delighted to have most of my brain chemistry be provided by mother nature again, not a collection of pill bottles.

It's a good day for team Paige.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

ALL comics are fantasy - Or Rant, The Sequel

So, the guy on my list comes back with, "ALL comics are fantasy." (To be fair, he does admit a certain ignorance of the medium, and asks if there are any hard sci fi manga or comics, so, here we go.)
(And as a corollary that at least some folks might agree with, he also added that any story with faster than light travel is as much fantasy as if you waved a magic wand to travel. I'll address that one in a postscript)

Gaahhhhh!!! So, now ALL comics are fantasy!! Really?? So, you’ve read them all, have you?

I’m sure the concept that all graphic stories are fantasy will come as a huge shock to the school librarians who stock history books in graphic form, or the writer and illustrator of the gorgeous line of noir mysteries I was reading. I’ve seen graphic westerns, manga instructional how-to manuals, chic lit in comic form, teen angst stories about making the team and having a zit on picture day. I’ve even seen technical documentation done as a comic book.

Comics are a medium, not a genre!!

To quote an outstanding artist friend of mine, Yehoshua Reyez ( to say science fiction can only be written in prose and not in comics or manga, “It's like saying a still life could only be painted in oils, but not acrylics.” It’s ridiculous.

I don’t care where you draw your personal line on what is and what isn’t science fiction, the medium is irrelevant. Only the story counts when determining genre.

Does Isaac Asimov’s work qualify as sci fi?
Like, say, his Robot stories?

Or, the Foundation books?

Or, 2001: A Space Odyssey

How about Phillip K. Dick?
Is “The Electric Ant” science fiction enough for you?

How about “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

Or, “A Scanner Darkly”

How about Larry Niven? Does he write science fiction?
Part one of his “Ringworld” series of graphic novels will be out soon:

And those are just graphic translations of some classic sci fi authors. There’s a ton of them, from Asimov to Zelazny, from Jules Verne’s century old sci fi classics to John Scalzi’s work last year.

Then there’s guys like Alan Moore who create brilliant dystopian near future, hard sci fi stories like “V for Vendetta” directly in the comic medium, because they PREFER it.

To dismiss an entire brilliant medium for story-telling simply because all YOU have ever read in that medium is fantasy is very silly. If all I had ever read was Twilight books, I would certainly hope that I would have more sense than to say, “All novels are clearly just about silly adolescent romantic fantasy and vampires that sparkle.”

At least, I hope I would have more sense than to say something like that on a list full of authors.

Stories that speculate about what might happen when science progresses past its current point is MY definition of science fiction. Whether those stories are written in fingerpaint on the side of a building, created on a not-yet-invented 4 D holographic imager, or told in interpretive dance on a stage is utterly irrelevant.

Only the content matters.


PS. FTL travel is not only possible, it happens on a regular basis on a subatomic level. Making it practical for humans is not possible at this time, but neither was travel by submarine considered scientifically possible or practical in Jules Verne’s day. To limit a sci fi writer, not only to only one medium, but also to only things that are scientifically possible NOW, is to cripple the genius of sci fi writers everywhere, not to mention to slow down the progress of science. If no one ever imagined communication satellites and put them in a sci fi story, would they now be a fact of life?

Several scientific theories exist as to how faster than light travel might be made practical in the future when our technology progresses. Here’s one, for example, which, while at first deemed silly and impossible, then caught on in the imaginations of scientists because of that silly space western (not sci fi of course, by your definition, despite being written by people with no sci fi chops like Larry Niven, Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison) where that scientist and a lot of the rest of us first saw crazy, scientifically impossible concepts like hand held communicators and tablet computers:

So, right now, a scientist is beginning to see that FTL travel with warp technology might actually be possible. Kind of like, not too long ago, someone imagined that it might actually be possible to split an atom. Crazy concept. Insane. Impractical.

It wouldn’t be science fiction then to write a story about someone who used that “warp drive” technology to travel through space back in the 1960s, but now it would be. By those rules, writing a story about an atomic bomb would have been pure fantasy, if it was written in 1910, but would have been science fiction if written in 1920. And Jules Verne never wrote a science fiction story in his life, of course, since none of the technology he imagined was considered possible when he wrote about it, even though most of it now exists.

In 1870, Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In 1876, someone built the first functional model of a submarine. At least in part, the submarine exists BECAUSE Jules Verne imagined it.

Human imagination is where technological advancement comes from. Yes, scientists and engineers have to make it real. But first, someone has to imagine the possibility.

If you limit the imagination of science fiction writers to only what is currently believed possible, then you put one heck of a big stumbling block in the way of technological progress, not to mention good storytelling.

In any medium.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"I don't consider manga or comics to be Sci-Fi"

So, a friend of mine, who happens to be an excellent sci fi writer, but who I will not name so that he doesn't get hate mail from all of my friends who write for comics and manga, made this comment in a recent email to a sci fi and fantasy writer's list I'm on.

"I don't consider manga or comics to be Sci-Fi"

This pushed almost as many of my buttons as the recent comments about how "women are destroying science fiction" that have been going around. (Go to to see my favorite answer to that one.) Here is my answer:

Ack!! Sorry, but you just hit one of my big pet peeves.

<rant> That’s like saying, I don’t consider movies or TV to be sci fi.  I think this is because you are confusing the media with the message. Manga and comics are nothing in the world but another way to tell stories, a way that intermingles art with literature, and uses both to tell the story.

I have read comics about the problems in a lesbian relationship where one woman is sure that she’s straight and the other is an ex-prostitute with mafia connections, a great manga series about a high school for demi-gods, a comic series about a future city where evolved apes and humans co-exist, blood and thunder fantasy with Conan and Red Sonja slugging it out, an alternate past story where dragons and bi-planes regularly do battle, and a noir story about a grizzled private detective who works in a trans-dimensional city. 

That, of course, on top of a hundred different superhero stories, some set in the past, some in an altered version of the present and some in the future, some in an alternate future where a chemical reaction or DNA splicing virus has escaped into the population causing massive mutations, many awful or deadly, but some extraordinary. I’ve also seen stories set on earth, on other planets, or in space involving galaxy-spanning alien empires.

Any genre of story can be told in comic format. Some individual stories lend themselves more to visual media, some not so much. But the format is just that, a format for story-telling. 2001: A Space Odyssey would have been awesome as a graphic novel. I’d love to see someone do Asimov’s Caves of Steel, Robots of Dawn, The Naked Sun as a graphic series. Ringworld would make a great graphic novel. I could totally see Heinlein’s Friday or Stranger in a Strange Land as a manga.

For a few examples, try this list on Goodreads of 100 great sci fi and fantasy graphic novels:

You can argue all day about what is or isn’t sci fi. Everyone has their own opinion about whether space opera counts, or if anything with faster than light travel is “real” sci fi, or whatever. But whether comics or manga qualify as sci fi shouldn’t even be a debate. Sci fi is not about whether the concepts are presented as words in a book, or images with word balloons, or moving images on a screen. The genre definition has to be about “what” concepts are presented, not “how” they are presented.

</end rant>