It’s been over a year since I’ve MOC’d anything. For those who failed their first year Lego Jargon unit, MOC stands for ‘My Own Creation’, and it’s what adults call that thing I used to call ‘playing with Lego’ when I was a kid. For the last year I’ve been on a mission to rebuild all the sets I’ve purchased over the last 3 years, and having finally completed, photographed, broken up and parted out all 100 sets, I rummaged around amongst my boxes and had myself a play.
I’ve not been writing recently. It feels like a chore, like something I have to get through in order to be finished, rather than something I do for the fun of it. Part of it is my day job: I’ve just been through the busiest time of the year, where far-too-few staff and I work our arses off to stage a major open-air sculpture exhibition on the local beach (more of that later), but it’s more than that. I’m between milestones in a major way: the Corpse-Rat King journey is done and dusted, the publication of Magit and Bugrat is something like 9 months away, and with two novels sitting in my agent’s in-tray waiting for him to come out of his coma and notice them I’m a long way from any sort of progress on any sort of front, and frankly, the idea of starting anything new just fills me with a case of the giant whatevers. Be honest, even writing this blog entry is a bloody chore, but then, given I’ve done fuck all around here in ages, you’ve probably figured that one out for yourself.
Then Luscious and I went to see Russell Howard at the Regal Theatre a couple of weeks ago. And as brilliant as he was, the former comedian in me took special glee in watching him riff ten minutes of angry material at a moron in the audience who was ignoring the strict ‘no photography, no filming’ rule, only to realise he’d been starting a fight with one of the floor lights leading to the exit. It was brilliant, off-the-cuff stuff, a spiralling flight of mental fancy that impressed me as much as it amused me.
Then a Facebook link led me to this youtube video. It’s Stewart Lee, possibly the most inventive and intelligent British comedian of the past 20 years, and one of my favourite comic thinkers of all time. And he’s not being at all funny. He’s delivering an address to the Oxford Union on the way writing comedy has changed over the last two decades, and how his own personal evolution has been affected by the changing landscape. It’s basically a TED talk for writers, and it’s wonderful:
And then one of my work mates sat down and blew out a monster sigh one morning, and we had this conversation:
HER: Anyone get the number?
ME: What number?
HER: The number of the truck that ran over me this morning.
ME: Dunno. I couldn’t see it from up in the driver’s seat.
And my little corner of the office broke up laughing. Immediately. And told me how quick I am, and how clever, and all that little egoboo jazz it takes for me drag my increasingly weary bones through the day.
And it’s all rather crystallised: I miss stand-up. I miss the immediacy of it, the jazz-riffing-rim-running skating along the edginess of it. I’m sick of delayed effect, bored with working for months on a piece only to realise it into the wild and watch it sink without a trace. Make no mistake: I was a shit stand-up comic. But I could write a gag, oh I really could. I could write material. I just have no way to make it all fit, anymore.
Dunno what it all heralds, I really don’t. But being halfway between fish and fowl seems to be my way of life. Damned if I know what that means for my writing.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Framed as a DC version of Marvel’s excellent Marvels, there’s no shortage of talent on this book, from writer Len Wein through to a roster of artists that would be the envy of any company: Kuberts ndy and Joe; Dave Gibbons; Walt Simonson; Keith Giffen; Jerry Ordway; Dan Jurgens; Brian Bolland; Frank Quitely; Bill Sienkiewicz… the list just goes on and on. And in the end, it’s that talent that save the book because, really, it’s really just not that good.
DC has great characters and no mistake: right down to the third-tier supports they have a fantastic range of powers, costumes, and personalities. But the ‘everyman’ police officer who fills the role of narrator and his story is pure schlock, and take up far too much of the narrative. Rather than an avenue for readers to view the miraculous workings of the overpeople who populate the DC Universe, it overshadows the narrative to the point that the superheroes become an interruption and a distraction, and what we do see of them constitutes, for anyone who has a passing familiarity with DC’s major storylines, nothing more than a precis of the major events. There’s no angle here, no spin, just a quick precis of the storyline and then on to the next interminable run-down of this average man’s very average life.
Whereas Marvels was a brilliant distillation of the Marvel Universe’s ethos and philosophy, this is little more than a primer: well-written occasionally entertaining, but ultimately little more than an expertly illustrated Wikipedia article in drag.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Thuddingly average book about a group of third-string characters without any depth that even a writer of Busiek’s skill can’t bring to life beyond momentary interest in the narrative twists that occur within the text. Not even the addition of Hawkeye– in the midst of one of his least interesting character turns– and an interesting side-adventure with Captain America (in the midst of one of his least interesting narrative arcs) and a reborn Citizen V can lift this above the very pedestrian.
There was a period when Marvel was so desperate to create any kind of successful team book that they threw characters together like spaghetti strands at a wall, praying that something would stick. This is a classic example of their approach, and notwithstanding their current attempts to cash in on any random collection of masks by slapping ‘Avengers’ somewhere in the title, serves to show why, when the Avengers really works, there is no better team title in print.
One for completists or a very rainy afternoon. Not bad, just incredibly average in every way.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Beautifully sad and whimsical fable about the effects of a nuclear conflict upon a retired pair of typical Little Englanders. Filled with gentle humour and deft characterisation, it’s a wonderful parable of the dangers of trust in authority and the imminent threat of worldwide conflict. The message is from another time, now, and some of the jokes float more towards the nostalgic then the classic, but the sadness and tragedy at the heart of this bittersweet tale are still strong enough to make it a classic example of graphic storytelling.
Real content in the next few days, I promise. I’m only just emerging from the busiest time of my year. But in the interests of keeping you amused:
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Not always a good book, but always a *great* one. There’s nothing I can say that will persuade you to change your mind on it, which is perhaps key to its greatness. This is, simply, one of the iconic books of the 20th century. I read it annually from age 10 until the first movie came out, and hadn’t picked it up since: time has not dulled its impact, scope, and breathtaking ambition (nor, should I add, has it limited its flaws).
One of the great works of modern literature.
Satima’s a fantastic inspiration to anybody who feels like they’ll never achieve their publishing goals: The Dagger of Dresnia is the result of 11 years of hard work, faith, and perseverance, and it’s pleasing that she’s managed to partner with an aspiring press like Satalyte Publishing, who are looking to stake out a permanent place in the Australian publishing landscape. It’s a bold venture, and I’m hoping that both Satima and Satalyte receive the very best of fortune, not to mention sales.
If you can judge a person by the quality of their enemies then Satima must be rubbish indeed, especially if you can get the likes of Juliet Mariller and Glenda Larke to speak at your lunch. Or maybe that just speaks to the quality of your work, and of you as a person, non?
The Dagger of Dresnia is book one of a trilogy, and you can purchase it from the Satalyte website here. I managed to snaffle a few quick snaps of the launch in between talking-type duties:
STEPS FORWARD, SAYS A FEW WORDS
In her wisdom, she’s asked me a few questions, and I’ve told the world to milk cows and have sex. And some other stuff. Go here and read my interview, and catch the rest of her line-up here while you’re at it.
THE BOY IS BACK!
Almost a year to the day ago, Master 9 came down with a mysterious illness that caused him to vomit more than 40 times a day. School quickly became impossible. A normal life became just as impossible. Luscious withdrew him, put her life on hold, and set out to home-school him while she and the medical profession set out to determine what was wrong.
A year later, with a diagnosis of Rumination Syndrome under his belt, a year of the hardest emotional work I have ever seen a parent put into a child paid off. His vomiting has diminished to the point where he can go entire days without vomiting, and generally, if he does, it’s once or twice a day at worst. He and Lyn have battled every step of the way: against the illness, against despair; and against a medical fraternity that couldn’t give a shit about doing anything more than convering their own insurance premiums. They’ve never given up, never taken negative advice at face value. Bit by bit they’ve dragged GPs, specialists and surgeons in their wake, and changed both our lifestyle and environment until this week, for the first time in 12 months, this:
His first day at school in a year. For now he goes back one day a week, under the care of a teacher who is so understanding of his condition she has organised special care and infrastructure to ensure he has a safe space to retreat to should he be unable to stay in class, and coping strategies for when he can. But even one day is a victory, and he’s already talking about how soon that one day can become two, and two become three, and on until he’s back at full time.
I am so proud of them both I can barely find the words.
STUFF YOUR LUFTBALLONS, I HAVE LEGO
Naturally, that didn’t take into account the umpteen set I would buy over the course of what I dubbed The Great Set Rebuild of 2013, because things go better with 1950s Hollywood titles, so that, eventually, it became the Great Set rebuild of 2014 and, finally, the Is This Frigging Thing Not Over Yet of It’s Never Going to be Bloody Finished.
And yet, here we are. 99 sets, in all. It would have been 100, but for an incomplete set that arrived last week with filthy, unusable parts that I’ve had to source from third parties. However, sets were built, photos were taken, and here, for what it’s worth, you can wallow in the glory that is my Set Rebuilding Fu.
I’ll tell you this for free, though: I can’t wait to get back to building bloody MOCs…..
And theme by theme: