Half the nerds you know have never read any Guardians of the Galaxy comics, so why are they so excited?
My family and I are counting down the hours until we see Guardians of the Galaxy tonight. Despite the fact that we are hardcore nerds, all three of us, between us we have read only one Guardians comic book, and it was released this year during Free Comic Book Day. So why are we so excited so this movie?
1) We trust Marvel/Disney. After a disappointing Superman movie (good movie, bad Superman movie), a well-cast and -acted Spider-Man with an atrocious script, and an X-Men film that seemed focused on the tradition of killing off characters gruesomely in a “What If” almost more than cared about the actual story (not that I didn’t love it–I cried like a baby!–but, UGH, superheromurderporn), superhero fans are more than ready to give Marvel/Disney a chance with anything they throw at us. Here’s the thing: the big nerds know who owns the rights to which characters, and place their dollars accordingly. Marvel’s been playing a long game with the rights to their films, and unfortunately, the viewers get stuck with movies like The Amazing Spider-Man because of rights issues. For Sony/Columbia Pictures to keep the rights to Spidey, they have to use him or lose him. Having lost Raimi for Spider-Man 4, it was easiest to reboot to get the next picture out in time to maintain the rights. Or so I’ve heard. More about Spidey rights here. But for fans, non-Marvel/Disney movies are hit or miss, whereas Marvel/Disney has hit it out of the park even with their weakest movies. Comic book nerds and geeks are highly territorial, and if you give us something we enjoy, we won’t forget you. Give us a lot of things we enjoy, and we’re yours for life.
2) The trailer looks fantastic. When I first heard they were making a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I was like “…Who?” And this from someone who’s like “My favorite Marvel character is Jessica Jones!” I like to believe I have more than the common pop culture knowledge of superheroes. When I first read an article on the characters, I said, “Oh, THOSE guys.” Although I’d never read a comic book with Star Lord, or Rocket Raccoon, or Groot, I recognized them the same way I would, say, Amethyst of Gemworld or whatshisface, Nova. Sort of in the same way you remember a character actor who pops up here or there. You see them. You don’t retain knowledge of them. But I was still wary. Like many fans, I was appalled that Marvel could say, “Ant-Man? Second tier Marvel characters? A space raccoon? No problem!” while DC still hasn’t made a Wonder Woman movie. What one has to do with the other isn’t much, but there was a part of me that was desperate to rebel against space raccoons and living trees while the big names got sidelined. But I set that aside the second I watched the trailer. I watched the internet light up with people who were saying the same things I was thinking: It looks hilarious. It looks fun. It looks NEW.
3) We’re ready for new now. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe hits its second phase, we’re seeing a Tony Stark with post-traumatic stress, a Captain America who has to deal with the realities of a corrupt government, and Thor–well, Thor’s doing whatever Thor does, being the most forgettable of the characters. But in general, it’s darker, more detailed. Guardians may or may not be the light to balance out this dark, but the trailers are certainly giving us that impression. Although it will tie in with what’s going on with the Avengers, like the first movies of each Phase One character, it can create itself with humor and light before we get hit with the hard stuff. But even if this isn’t what happens, Marvel has banked enough with us with the previous movies and the trailers to prime us for something new. The fans who love the more obscure Marvel characters can gloat about being their favorites on the screen, but for the rest of us, we’re ready for the unknown, because we’re comfortable enough in the universe that something completely unknown can be handed to us and we’re like
4) Nerds love space operas–and, frankly, soap operas. They may mock daytime soaps and CW dramas, but everyone knows that X-Men? Basically a soap opera. Arrow? It’s a CW show, for God’s sake! They spend as much time in the first season talking about their relationships as they do killing people. (Oh, Ollie, if Huntress is crazy, it’s at least partially your fault, considering how many people you kill and then tell her not to kill.) And space operas? We adore them. Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Firefly–heck, there’s even SPACE OPERA in The Fifth Element. Like, the woman sings opera in space. Get it? Set something in space, and nerds perk right up. “Space? Okay!” We like The Future. We like Aliens. We like Space! It may not be an automatic slam dunk, but it’s an attention-grabber. We were raised on Bradbury and Asimov, Card and Heinlein.
So yeah, we’re all going to see a movie with a talking tree and a space raccoon. And we’re thrilled about it. We have hours to go before our show, because we’re going with another family with kids and we had to wait for everyone to be free. What should we do in the meantime? Hmmm, maybe watch Avengers again??
Kristen Simmons’s Breaking Point is the second book in the Article 5 series. I saw it in the library, thought, “Hey, I read the first one!”, and picked it up. I could not remember most of what had happened in the first book. I now no longer remember what happened in the second. Both books were completely unforgettable, lost in a plethora of similar books. With no stand-out lead like Katniss, no creep factor like the photos Miss Peregrine, no hilarious title like Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, Article 5 becomes an average book in a world where the stand-outs are practically running the business. Will I read the third book? No. I just can’t bring myself to care enough.
Carrie Vaughn’s After the Golden Age is my kind of book. It’s a fast read, with superheroes, and an actual novel. The lead, Celia, is the adult daughter of superheroes, but with no powers of her own. As a result, she ends up being kidnapped. A lot. It’s kind of boring after a while, it turns out. She works as an accountant, a power of her own that she uses when her parents’ nemesis is on trial. This is far from being a perfect book–Vaughn really finds her footing in the second book, which I’ll discuss in a different WIB–but it’s entertaining and I really enjoyed it. Good book for superhero lovers who like their capes in novel form.
And then I kept reading Jenny:
For some reason, I thought Vladimir Tod was going to be a darker series. Heather Brewer’s Eighth Grade Bites is fluffy and cute, even if it does perpetuate the myth that it’s blood in rare meat. The writing’s simple and at times sloppy, but it’s a cute read for kids, I think. Late tweens, I guess? I know the series follows him through high school, but I sure won’t be.
Finally, I said We the Living by Ayn Rand, a semi-autobiographical work that explains why she is batshit crazy. A necessary read for people who don’t “get” her. Basically, Communism in Russia sucked; no wonder she embraced capitalism like it was the only game in town. As always, a strong, unshakeable female lead whose high standards exist everywhere but in her vagina—er, choice of sexual partners. For those who are more interested in learning history through novels than non-fiction, this might be a fascinating glimpse into Communist Russia; for Rand fans, it’s necessary; for everyone else, it would probably be painful.
And that was my week in books. Next up: a memoir by one of my favorite musicians, and Christopher Golden writes some winter horror.
Yes, I know how far behind I am. Fortunately for me/you/no one, my sister ignores things like depression and lack of creativity and my whining and says, “Write!” So I am writing. I am going to try to write far more often, because honestly, other than looking for a job, I really have no excuse not to. WIBs are easier than creative writing, and I’m something like seven months behind.
So let’s get to it.
I finally finished Elizabeth Moon’s Deeds of Paksennarion in January. If you remember back when, I said the first book was very military and the second book is very D&D. The third is pretty D&D, and then goes pretty batshit. I could be wrong. Lots of fantasy epics might end in the graphic* and shocking manner that this book does. But I haven’t read one like it, so I was quite taken aback. At the end of the second book, if I remember correctly, Paks had fallen pretty low. But don’t worry, she can go even lower.
My husband swears to me that the end of this book is supposed to be about power and faith and all sorts of geeky stuff. I put an asterisk next to “graphic” because I actually think the book could be far more graphic, and props to Moon for taking it down that path. Let’s call it “uncomfortable for anyone,” but for a reader like me, I maybe could’ve used a bit of a content warning. So for those that are interested in that sort of thing, I’ll say this: Content warning for torture. It was because I am not usually a fantasy reader that I took Paksennarion’s journey so literally; only long after I was done could I see some of the religious intent in the work. Mostly I thought, “Holy hell, I was playing a paladin really incorrectly.”
More Jeanne D’Arc, less Crysania, maybe? And if you don’t get the reference, that’s okay. I still love you. You love me even though my entire knowledge of D&D comes through the Dragonlance books.
Mark Waid, one of my favorite comic book authors in small doses, took over Daredevil and I read five volumes of that while I was sick. Daredevil is a character that I’ve ducked in and out of reading for many reasons. I tried Frank Miller’s run about ten years ago and I could take it or leave it. Then I read some of Bendis’s stuff and enjoyed it, and wanted to read Brubaker but the library didn’t have all of them, so I ended up reading I think the first two and then having to give up on it because it wasn’t as important to me as trying to ILL all the Civil War trades anyway. So I didn’t seek out Daredevil after that, until I came upon these. I saw Waid’s name and picked them up, and I’m glad I did, because Waid lightened the book up and made a strong starting point. Obviously, in comics you can never have control for long, and it’s easy to see where Waid is working by himself and working by committee, but hey, if someone can make me want to read Daredevil, they’re doing something right.
Prudence Shen’s graphic novel Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a forgettable title for a cute book about geeks versus cheerleaders. It takes a while to get going, but once it does, it’s a fun ride. The robotics club and the cheerleaders are duking it out for funds, and that’s pretty much it. A fast read, probably good for reluctant readers of either gender.
To hold me over for the next Dresden Files, I read Ghoul Goblin, one of the graphic novels. If this is a pun, I’m not getting it. It’s a good book for Dresden completionists, but otherwise leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a bit muddled, and it needed someone to pull it together. I don’t know if Butcher had a hand in this one, but if he did, he either can’t do comics or SOMETHING because I’m always like, “Well, that was okay” after I read one. And I love the Dresden Files. Seriously, this should be a slam-dunk. But it wasn’t.
I want to love Hope Larson’s work. But Who is AC? did nothing for me. I had no idea what was going on. I couldn’t bring myself to care. It took me a while to figure out it was a magical girl-style book, except by then I didn’t care. I have literally forgotten almost everything about this book, it was so forgettable.
The problem with being sick is that you read while you’re sick and then everything seems fuzzy afterward. That would be the meds. While I remember that I liked Stephen King’s new-back-then-but-he’s-probably-put-out-more-since Doctor Sleep, I would be hard-pressed to tell you much about it. It’s a sequel of sorts to The Shining, and partially revolves around Danny Torrence, now all grown up and an alcoholic. It’s depressing to think he didn’t make it out of the cycle of addiction, but such is life. Danny, now Dan, has been haunted by his past and the creepy-as-heck things that still follow him around since his childhood. Drinking helps. (I’d drink too, Danny.) He settles into a life he can handle, and meets a girl with even stronger powers than his. Unfortunately, people like them attract creepy-as-heck not-ghost people, and it’s weird and Kingesque and awesome. I’m glad I read this. I always take all this time off from King and forget how much I actually enjoy him.
Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane was something I did not reread for book club, but the discussion helped jog my memory of it. I did love it, but in the way you love something familiar. This work does not deviate far from Gaiman’s other works, and I wonder if as time passes, I may get the details confused with other things he’s written. I told the book club that, to me, it was a grown-up Coraline with a male protag, and that’s a bit unfair and maybe a bit true too? An unnamed narrator goes home for the first time in a long time, and remembers his childhood and the strange women who lived nearby. Gaiman’s work is always creepy, but it’s a samey kind of creepy. The women are powerful, but it’s a samey kind of powerful. The writing pulls you in, like it always does. It feels like an old-fashioned horror story, but so did The Graveyard Book in some ways, and Coraline, and so on. It’s a good starter book for the author, or for those who have read all of them. But I’m hoping for something different in his next work. The way American Gods felt different. I wonder if it would feel different today.
Hollow City, the second book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, didn’t scare the heck out of me like the first one did. I didn’t freak out at the vintage photographs of people doing things they shouldn’t be able to. But I found the book as good as the first. By the time it came out, I barely remembered what had happened in the first (other than my sweating terror-bullets), but the book doesn’t care that you don’t remember, thank goodness. The children head to London, and that’s all I remember, other than bits and pieces of things that aren’t that plot-heavy. And an ice fight? Blame the meds on this one, because I do know I really enjoyed the book.
Finally (whew!), I read Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory, a book about a girl whose father’s PTSD is making their lives miserable. I found the main character, Hayley, a bit difficult to get into compared to Anderson’s other leads, but Anderson quickly finds her stride and pulls the reader along for another painful, beautiful book. There was a girl at a local bookstore who overheard me talking to a friend and asked me to choose a “sad book” for her, and I should have asked her about Anderson, but instead did what I always do and pointed her to Cynthia Voigt. Still, if I ever see her again, we’ll be talking this one. Or Wintergirls. Or Speak.
And that was my sick week. Next up: from superheroes to vampires to Ayn Rand.
No stars here, just the number of tissues I used when watching it. I actually thought it would be more. I thought the movie would skew sentimental, hit the hard stuff harder. And yet I completely enjoyed it, even despite my reservations about the actor playing Gus. Spoilers below, but you’ve probably at least already read the book.
Here are the tissue packets Penguin gave out at BEA. The book cover is on the flip side. I brought two extra packets of tissues to the theater, but never even finished this one.
I’ll be honest: I’ve been wanting to punch Ansel Elgort’s face for a while, ever since the first time I saw the movie trailer. I carried an unnatural rage with me, one that would flare at the sight of his smarmy, smarmy smile. As much as I looked at Shailene Woodley and thought happily, “It’s Hazel!” (happy through my tears, of course), I loathed Elgort as Gus. Every repetition of the trailer had me convinced that I would absolutely hate an otherwise amazing adaptation, that Elgort would ruin it for me. I’d love to see him in something else, I really would. But Gus? Gus, the kid I saw as being jock-turned-rebel, with none of the signs of rebellion on him? A week before the movie came out, after talking to some of the teens at BEA about why they liked the casting, I realized it was a generational thing. Teenage rebels, to me, look a certain way, because rebels looked a certain way when I was a teenager. Now the lines are blurred. The jocks are the geeks. Alternative is corporate. Elgort’s bland preppiness is the opposite of how I see Gus, but I gave it a pass because I am an old lady. I told myself I would give him a shot. But that smarm!
It wasn’t the first moment I saw him when I fully let go of my Gus expectations and let Elgort do his thing. When Hazel bumps into him on the way to support group, the rage flared. Smarm! And then he sat in group and stared at her. And smiled. And adored her. Smarmily. In the way teenage boys do when they think there’s mutual interest. In the way that some teenage boys do naturally, like they own the world. And this kid, Augustus Waters, got a pass for being smarmy–not just from me but eventually from Hazel’s parents too. Because he’s a kid, and we know he’s a kid. And because he had cancer.
You can’t divorce these kids from the cancer. It’s easier with Gus, because he’s preppy and he’s in remission and because he appears able-bodied at first. Then he limps a bit. Or a look passes over the face of an adult in his presence. These kids are only normal to each other. Isaac’s loss of vision, Gus’s lost leg, Hazel’s breathing apparatus is seen as a part of the whole, but only by them. Everyone else pities them, is afraid for them, is afraid for themselves.
Elgort became Gus for me not when he smarmed at Hazel, but when the smarm became something more. As Hazel returns his glances, as she accepts his flirting. He smarms, and it’s part act. He doesn’t quite smoke. This is also an act, although he calls it a metaphor. Adults know better. When Gus drops the act behind the smarm, and smarms because he’s getting what he wants, he’s just being Gus. And I let go.
Hazel’s appalled at his cigarette, and I wanted to cheer, because I’m sick of the media’s perception that every high schooler “experiments.” It’s absolutely selfish on my part, because I want to see more teens like the one I was: straight-edge, to some degree, and smart, and desperate for change. Hazel, Gus, and Isaac are smart. They don’t smoke–why would they? it’s a quicker death sentence for them, likely–and when they Hazel and Gus have champagne they enjoy it but they don’t binge drink. They’re pretending to be adults, except that they are adults, albeit young ones. The change they’re desperate for isn’t the blinders falling off the eyes of the conformists (oh, teenage me), but life on their own terms. They’re lucky in that they have parents who are, to different degrees, willing to let them have it. There’s a sense that Gus’s parents have given up trying to “handle” him, but Hazel’s are thrilled at any experience their daughter can have. Did you see Laura Dern’s face during the scene where Hazel and Gus try to pretend they didn’t have sex?
Most of my tears were spent on Laura Dern and Sam Trammell as Hazel’s parents. They are the parents I see myself and my husband as; the kind who cheer their child’s milestones, no matter how adult they are. There’s a time where a parent can stick their heads in the sand or they can smirk to each other as they, too, pretend their teens aren’t sexually active, or at least heading in that direction. While one could argue that they are being permissive because they believe Hazel is going to die, I’d like to believe that this is how they’d be anyway, because everyone has to grow up sometime. And Gus is a great guy, cigarette and smarm notwithstanding. My heart broke into a million pieces at Mike Lancaster’s sign at the airport and, again, it was all about me, because my husband would totally do that.
As a parent, especially the parents of a teenager, you can’t separate who you are from reading this book and viewing this movie. The adults cry in a very different way than the teens, I think. They cry for the life lost, because we can imagine it so much better than a teenager can. They cry for the parents. They cry for the death of first love more than the loss of the love himself.
The Fault in Our Stars feels like a movie, not a book adaptation, and it’s strong for it, and maybe a little breezier too. Without as much access to Hazel’s head, we can go along and be charmed rather than devastated, so long as the movie lets us. The movie lets us do so much more than I expected. The words that seem deep and heavy on the page come off childish when spoken by actual children. And this is okay. In fact, this is wonderful. Let them believe they are deep and heavy. Let them believe in change, and hope, and life. Let them be without bills, and health insurance worries, and job hunting.
So the movie won me over after all, even if I wasn’t the sobbing mess I hoped I’d be, or the angry smarm-hater I was sure I’d end up. Maybe because I’d never seen them in anything before, the young actors won me over, and I even stopped thinking “Sam!” every time the True Blood guy was on the screen. A good time was had. And I did keep the BEA poster. Sorry, teens at my old library. I want it. I stood in line for it. If I couldn’t have stood the smarm, you’d have one more book-to-movie poster. Now you’ll have to wait for the inevitable READ posters.
I wonder if author John Green will be able to write teenagers when his children are older. I know there’s something about raising a teenager that makes you pull away from wanting to write teens (because I’m there right now), that makes you think, “I’d be a phony just to try. It’s been so long. Things have changed.” Green’s teenagers, however, have never exactly been real teens. They are teens the way Kevin Smith’s characters in Clerks are real people. Everyone is very smart and usually knows exactly what to say. But I love that and obviously the teens that make up a huge chunk of Green’s readership do too.
These are only the things I am keeping or giving to close friends. Everything else has either already been donated to one of the local libraries or is in my trunk waiting to be donated to the library where I used to work in NJ.
Excerpts only (except the Stan Lee one, which is so thick I just put it into the regular pile). A little sad that I didn’t get the full copy of Let’s Get Lost, but this one was signed.
Image, which has proven itself over and over again as a comic book publisher, had all first issues out of some of their popular titles. This isn’t all they had, but these were the ones I grabbed. Some of my favorite authors have titles with Image: Rucka, Brubaker, Vaughan, Kirkman. Some of these, like Saga and The Walking Dead, I’ve already read, but others I’ve been hoping to get my hands on, like Sex Criminals and Alex + Ada.
The books! I got one for my bff, one for his mother, one for a friend who’d just praised an author and I happen to see her new book there, a handful of Kimani titles and a memoir (?) for Mahasin in the Morning, and I do believe the rest are for meeeee! I’ve already read Landline (of course), Afterworlds (whoa, trippy), and the new R.L. Stine Fear Street book (um…). Will be reviewing them soon.
I have a book club read to get to next, and then back to this beautiful pile! I’m thinking Scalzi…
I did NOT bring the iPad. It was too big. So I used the iPod again, which means I had to take about five pictures per person to get a decent one. I really should just get a camera since I have no desire to upgrade my phone to something that can not only take good pictures, but actually get them off of the thing–unlike mine, which can’t even transfer contacts between two of the same model phone, let alone send or receive photos.
All photos are mine unless otherwise noted.
Neil Patrick Harris was signing excerpts of his upcoming autobiography, which has a Choose Your Own Adventure theme and the fantastic cover to go with it. I always joke that I have a shut-down switch somewhere in my body when it comes to gay men, so when I say that he was one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen in my life, that means something. Very nice, and good at moving the line along.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: You know what I loved you in? What was that show you were in with Tony Shaloub?
Him: Stark Raving Mad. Tony’s a genius.
Me: No, YOU’RE a genius.
…I was incredibly surprised by how fangirly I got.
I am a big fan of taking pictures when I’m one person back, but it makes for terrible pictures. This is Ann M. Martin of Baby-Sitters Club game, signing her new book, Rain/Reign.
Me: I feel like I’ve been reading your books forever. [Way to make her feel old, Alana.] But you know what my favorite it?
Me: Sweet Valley Twins #1.
Her, bursting out laughing and turning to her friend: I DID write that one!
Anjelica Huston from afar. I couldn’t not take a picture of Morticia Addams. My daughter would’ve been so disappointed in me.
“Jovial Bob” my butt. No, seriously, RL Stine was very nice, AND I didn’t tell him that Christopher Pike is better (but he is), but the poor man looked exhausted and it was only day one. I got a picture of the two of us as well, but my eyes are closed. Note to self: if no camera next year, remind people to take like twenty pictures with that thing and I’ll just delete the crappy ones next year. Second note to self: Don’t believe someone who says “That’s a good picture!” when they’re using my old iPod.
How goddamn adorable is John Scalzi? I just want to snuggle up with him on a couch and watch nerdy television shows. I want to play board games with him and invite him to be on my superhero team during RPG Sundays.
Jo Walton is what we call “a chatter.” She wanted to talk to everyone. It was one of the slower-moving lines I was in, but she was so sweet. I told her I was there because of a friend, and she signed two books–one for me, one for the friend. Such a sweet lady, I would’ve actually gone back and talked to her again.
Dear Raina (Telgemeier), Remember when I said the picture wasn’t going to be all forehead? I didn’t lie; I was just wrong. See, when I take a picture, there’s a status bar across the top. And that’s where your forehead was. So I cropped the picture. You’re welcome. And adorable. We’re so excited to read your new book!
That is a pile of Fault in Our Stars tissue packs that you got if you lined up for the movie poster. The poster also came with a flyer that says how to get two free tickets to If I Stay. The tissues were probably the best marketing device I saw at all of BEA.
Brad Meltzer, second year. Did not embarrass myself this time. He’s so pale. Can that be healthy? I know part of it is the bald thing, but SO PALE.
Scott Westerfeld, another chatter. I’m reading his new book Afterworlds right now, and it is so good.
The Stan Lee line moved SO FAST. It was really amazing because it meant EVERYONE could stand in front of him and hear that famous voice. You basically got a “How are ya?” and “All the best!” and you were handed the book, and you let the next person have their three seconds. I loved it. Picture by Alison Pitt.
Alison also sent me this great picture of Jason Segel:
who I did not see. But what a great picture!
Terrible picture from the back of the Event Hall of Tina Fey and Jason Bateman on the big screen talking about their new movie, which is based on a book. The two sound very different, both good, and I will probably watch the movie if it gets to Netflix.
David Levithan and Maggie Stiefvater and the nice kid who put up with my babbling in line. Levithan is Stiefvater’s editor, and I talked to him more than her because we read Two Boys Kissing for the book club and I’ve never been able to get a hold of the first of any of her books at the library. Now I have a new one! But I hear it’s a companion and I should STILL read Shiver first. Sigh.
The madhouse around Cary Elwes, who was handing out excerpts of his Princess Bride book. Dude needs glasses to break up the bland sameness of his face. I think I was the only woman over 30 who didn’t have a huge crush on him because of that movie.
And that was it for me Sunday. I didn’t do much, having been annoyed by how BookCon was set up, and I ended up leaving early. But I’ll get into that next post.
One day, this thing will give me a thumbnail where I don’t have my eyes closed or my mouth open.