Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jawa's Read Too Summer Series Challenge

 In case you've been wondering about the banners at the top and the left of the page, I signed up for the Jawas Read Too Summer Challenge.

The challenge is to read one series a month through the summer, and there will be discussion about the series every week.

Since I'm going to be busy in May reading New Jedi Order and catching-up on other books, I signed up for June, July, and August:

JUNE CHALLENGE: The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
  1. Wizard of Earthsea
  2. The Tombs of Atua
  3. The Farthest Shore

JULY CHALLENGE: Vatta's War by Elizabeth Moon
  1. Trading in Danger
  2. Marque and Reprisal
  3. Engaging the Enemy
  4. Command Decision
  5. Victory Conditions

AUGUST CHALLENGE: Inda Quartet by Sherwood Smith
  1. Inda
  2. Fox
  3. King's Shield
  4. Treason's Shore
...Why, yes, I did copy-and-paste that list from the Jawas Read Too website.

Anyway, I'm really excited about this; I've been meaning to read Earthsea and to check-out Elizabeth Moon's books for a while now.  This looks like it'll be a lot of fun, and I encourage anyone with a smattering of interest and time to join in.  Here's the sign-up form.

Anyway, I need to finish packing.  Later!

    It's Still Going!

    Remember that time I said "hey, guys! Book Love Affair's havin' a nifty lookin' book giveaway oh, wait, never mind"?  It turns out I was right the first time.  I double checked with the one who runs the blog, and it's going 'til May 8th, so you all still have a chance to win if you sign-up.

    I corrected that other post (again), now go check out the giveaway if you haven't already.

    Girl Genius: Agatha Heterodyne and the Return of the Hugo Award!

    Alright: finals are done, I've had some more coffee, and Jethro Tull's playing. Let's get this started:

    Adventure! Romance! MAD SCIENCE! These are the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girl the story of Agatha Heterodyne: Girl Genius!

    As I've mentioned previously, Girl Genius, comic/webcomic series by Phil and Kaja Foglio (colors by Cheyenne Wright), has been nominated once more for the Hugo Awards. This is a Big Deal. Last year Girl Genius won the first Hugo for the "Best Graphic Story" category, and when I say first, I mean ever. This year it's back with Volume 9, Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm:

    Please excuse me for a moment as my joy demands to be released: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!


    Anyway, it is a world ruled by Mad Science! Failed experiments of mad scientists (more commonly known as "Sparks") wander the earth, dirigibles roam the skies, and mechanical "clanks" and Frankenstein-monster-like "constructs" are a common site. This is a world with lost cities, talking cats, rules of royal succession altered to account for reanimation, traveling theater companies that aren't quite what they seem, and cream pies with a strangely soothing effects. This world of brilliant color is also a world of many, many questions. And, of course, regularly twisted laws of science. It's a wacky adventure story (filled with romance and Mad Science too, of course...) set in a wacky, yet amazingly complex world, populated by amazingly fun characters and amazingly ridiculous machines.
    Writer and co-creator Kaja Folio accidentally coined the term "Gaslamp Fantasy" to describe this world, and it fits perfectly. It takes the steampunk aesthetic, adds gobs of Mad Science and elements from fifties-style pulp sci-fi (think "Captain Proton" from Star Trek: Voyager) and buckets of Vernian influence, mix in liberal doses of humor and great characters, sprinkle in just the amount of explanation about the world and it's history, and then hand it over to the colorist for the final touch. For a simplified version of this recipe, see the top of the page (you know, the part that starts with "Adventure!" and then mentions "Romance!").  At ten-and-a-half volumes, this series is going strong, and I really don't see it slowing down anytime soon with so many questions left unanswered (I'm not going to try to list them off; you'll have to read the series and see for yourself)!

    The story focuses on Agatha, a, well, a Girl Genius. A young student who can never get her clanks to work, she... well, she turns out to have a lot more to her than anyone thought. She ends up on a grand adventure spanning, airship cities, maniacal circuses (of doom!), insane talking castles, theater, and situations that only a good death ray (or a carousel) can solve, to avoid being manipulated or killed. Or turned into a "spunky girl sidekick."

    Hi-jinx ensues, and it brought friends.
    Agatha herself is an incredibly fun character, willing to tackle challenges even when her concentration is inhibited at the beginning. What's she do when she's mugged? She hits the attacker with a bottle. And when she's given the impossible task of cleaning the lab before the Baron arrives for a surprise visit in half an hour? She does it. After the story really starts, well, then she goes from great to incredible. As for the rest of the cast, it's tons of fun and filled with great characters. From the lazy Krosp, the Emperor of all cats, to the fun-loving warrior Zeetha, lost princess of the Lost City of Skifander, to insane pirate Bangladesh Dupree to Baron Wulfenbach, the tyrant with very good reasons for his actions, to... well, you get the idea.

    I adore Girl Genius. The characters, the world, the technology, the mysteries, the humor, the art, the visual gags ("Turnips R Us"), the massive eyebrows... the concepts are great and the execution is wonderful, and they get extra points for pulling off a fun love triangle without angst. Now, that's awe-inspiring.  This is a genuinely fun series that I highly recommend to all, though I must add that the Foglios have self-rated the series PG-13.

    I really doubt that I can do the plot justice (at least not without heaps of spoilers and few more weeks of editing), so lucky for us all the Book Smugglers posted their review of the first three chapters less than twenty-four hours ago.  Check it out; maybe the review and my rambling combined can come close to doing this lovely series justice.

    Girl Genius is available to read both in print and as a free online webcomic, updating Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If you're reading this you have internet access and thus no excuse not to check this series out, and if you're not pulled in by the end of the first chapter, you still aren't off the hook. The first chapter's good, in the second chapter it gets even better, and chapter three is when it gets really, really fun.  The series in completely in color with the exception of the first chapter, which is scheduled to be re-released in color soon.  There are currently nine volumes in print, with another volume-and-a-half available for reading online:

    Note to self: add the color version of Volume 1 to my birthday list.

    For more fun, there's also Girl Genius Radio Theater, which is a pod cast of two comedic three-part episodes and one promo, done in the style of an Olde Tyme radio serial.  Oh, and the "Elegant and Finely Crafted Link" phase is commonly used at the Girl Genius website, something that should give you the tiniest taste of the Foglios' brilliance.

    No, I really can't praise them enough.

    Now allow me to leave you all with Phil and Kaja's acceptance speech for last year's Hugo Award:

    Go read.  Now.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    So, this isn't about Girl Genius...

    IMPORTANT NOTE: I was right the first time.  The Giveaway is still going on till May 8.  Feel free to join in!

    ... but Book Love Affair's having had a book giveaway (that's the link to it, by the way) to celebrate having 250 followers.  Two winners were randomly selected, yesterday (it ended early.  Twelve hours before I wrote this post.  Now I feel bad...)  There were ten books to choose from and one "other" option for when you signed up.  I picked Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire, because this review at Jawas Read Too made it look to cool not to look into; if I don't win I didn't win, but I'll probably buy the book anyway.  It looks that fun.

    Anyway, next post really will be about Girl Genius, but I had to spread the joyous news of a free book opportunity, and sadly didn't realize it was too late until after this post... but, on the bright side, I got to share news about a nifty-looking book I just found out about and I learned to check other blogs more often, so it's not all bad!  Go, positive thinking!

    Edit: this post has been altered due to the contest ending early.  As in, before I wrote this post.  Sorry... but that book still looks pretty darn interesting. 
    2nd Edit:  I mixed up a tweet about a different book giveaway with one about the one mentioned here.  I'm not going to rewrite this post again, but I added the note at the top and will write another post about this... after the Girl Genius one.  Any way, I got conformation from Book Love Affair that the contest is indeed still going on before adding more notes to this post.

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Conflict of Hugo Proportions: Brian Versus Agatha!

    I am feeling conflicted.

    Earlier today, I was looking at the news on Marvel's website when, lo and behold, I saw this!

    Captain Britain and MI13 is up for the "Best Graphic Story" Hugo award for it's third volume "Vampire State", in which Brian (aka Captain Britain) and his stalwart cohorts fight vampire.  Who live in a castle.  On the moon.

    This news filled me joy.  The world was filled with chocolate and rainbows, the birds joined me in song, and I promptly got a parody of Captain Planet's theme song stuck in my head ("Captain Britain!  He's a hero!  He'll take pollution down to zero because-he-was-a-Knight-of-Pendragon-and-that's-what-they-do-not-just-because-I-can't-think-of-an-other-line-really.")

    So I decided to check out the Hugo Awards' official website and see what Brian was up against:

    Girl Genius volume 9

    And I stared.

    Why does this awesome news make me conflicted?  I love Captain Britain and MI13, I really do.  I think it a horrible shame that it was canceled.  It would be wonderful if it got a Hugo.

    But I absolutely love Girl Genius.  It may be my single favorite American comic series.  I was overjoyed last year when it was nominated for the category and was overwhelmed with happiness once again when it won, becoming the first graphic novel to win a Hugo.

    And now if one wins, the other doesn't.

    Fortunately, I'm not part of Worldcon and I won't have to choose between the two of them.  As such, I can take comfort in the fact that I love two of the five nominees for the category and can root for both of them, and that the nominations alone ought to bring attention to both books.

    I guess my internal conflict, then, is not which to root for, but which I would rather have win: the winner from last year or the superheroes that were tragically canceled.

    But when I really think about it, it doesn't matter.  I'm happy that both were nominated (and that Fables was, too, but I haven't read that volume yet).  I'll be happy with either one winning.

    So, in honor of these two wonderful comic series being nominated, I shall follow up this rant with one gushing about Girl Genius (which I've been planning on doing anyway) and then another on Captain Britain and MI13.  As the previous post states, I'm rather busy at the moment, so I'm not sure when I'll have these posts completed, but it'll be in the near future.

    Good luck to all the Hugo nominees!  May the Force/Spark/Self-confidence-that-now-fuels-your-powers be with you!

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Absence and Other Blogs To Distract You With

    I had it all planned out.  I would post at least once a week.  The Spider-man post would be a buffer, and maybe split into two parts because it was so long.  Then I got impatient and posted it early and in one piece.

    No problem, I thought.  I've got one, two, make that at least seven rants nearly fully formed and rolling around in my head waiting for me to sit down and write them.  It shouldn't be too hard to find the time to sit down and pound them out, right?


    I didn't bet on my final project taking-up so much time and I haven't posted in over a week.  Thus this post, to break the pattern.  It was originally going to be about webcomics, but that will have to wait.

    The project is due on Friday and next week I have tests and packing and various other hi-jinx to take care of.  And then there will be a week of more hi-jinx and travel and possibly anthropomorphic mice before an intercontinental flight.  So, I don't know when I'll be able to post next.  Hopefully this weekend, but I wouldn't bet the frozen, snowy acres that would be farm in a warmer, more southerly place on it.

    So, without further ado, let me point you to a few other geeky and entertaining blogs:
    • Club Jade - A blog run mainly by women and named after Mara Jade Skywalker, a character from the Star Wars Expanded Universe (or, in layman's terms, the books and stuff).  Lot's of interesting news, reviews, and articles pertaining to Star Wars and other science-fiction goodness.
    • Jawas Read Too - A book review blog, covering all sorts of genres and run by one person who loves both reading and Star Wars.  There's a good amount of science-fiction and fantasy in here, but, as I said, there are a good number of other genres as well.
    • The Adorkable - A Star Wars blog.  Do I sense a pattern here?  This blog covers a variety of things, from reviews to editorials to caption contests.  Some very interesting articles here.
    • Fantastic Fangirls - Believe it or not, this blog is about comics, not Star Wars.  Four women who love comics and possess different tastes and opinions writing about comics.  Reviews, challenges, discussion, insight, this blog has a lot of interesting articles and presents interesting perspectives.  And one of there challenges inspired this post.
    • Wormhole Riders - A news blog about Stargate, Farscape, Sanctuary, and other wonderful sci-fi franchises.  But mainly those ones.  And connected ones.  They do interviews, reviews, and convention coverage and are all-in-all awesome people.
    Now, if you'll excuse my obvious attempt to divert your attention away from my lack of rambling (is it working?), I have a project to revise.  Again.