5 Reasons a Bibliophile Can Love C2E2

Hey you guys. I can’t lie. My heart’s all aflutter right now. If I didn’t have classes and meetings and so forth filling up my Friday, I might even start to sing, or fly straight to down town Chicago already. C2E2 is here, the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. It’s Comic Con basically, but with more television and entertainment guests. It starts today, Friday, but because I’m an adult that still has stuff to do right now and can’t make it today. I’ll be all over that place come Saturday, though. Now, I’m a bibliophile above all else. I do enjoy reading comics, but I can’t consider myself nearly as hard core fans you find at the average convention center. Cosplaying is entirely out of my expertise or even comfort zone, and even with my developing comic know-how I mostly have to nod and smile through conversations about casting choices for the latest comics to TV project Marvel and DC now seem to be birthing like a bunch of fertile, cash cow rabbits. That’s a hybrid between a cow, money, and rabbits people, an utter abomination. Make them stop!

Sorry, got off topic there for a minute. There are things I’m definitely super psyched about in my little book lover’s heart that might also encourage some other lvl 1 nerds or merely nerd-curious book lovers to check out conventions like these.

1. There are literary guests. I mean, aside from the writers of  comics and stuff, there will be guests that don’t have loads of pictures in there books. Of course. I’m looking forward chiefly to see Jim Butcher, writer of the Dresden files,  an stellar urban fantasy series I’ll probably review later. They’ve also got names like Patrick Rothfuss and Charlaine Harris, big names in the sci-fi fantasy community, by any measure. I’d be excited enough to see them and the other guests I still haven’t mentioned easily enough by themselves, but of course C2E2 has more than that.

2. The Panels. There are plenty of panels discussing the more ridiculously obscure pieces of comics, an the less obscure pieces of TV shows I don’t watch so it still doesn’t help me. This is not to say I’m not planning on visiting some TV stars, like some Agents of SHIELD or Jason Momoa’s, (aka Khal Drogo) perfectly sculpted and tattooed arms, but you don’t have to worry if those aren’t bookish enough for you. They have  have panels discussing issues such as world building in sci-fi/fantasy works, the genre of high fantasy, and how to progress a story’s plot. No joke, Hopeful writers or even readers that feel like getting in an especially nerdy English seminar of sorts should find these panels extremely enjoyable.

3. Bookseller. There will be books, print books. Sooooooo many print books. The booths that cover the convention floor are ripe with just about any type of merch you could imagine, and books are a pretty easy to imagine. I see them every time I close my eyes. Plenty of publishers and booksellers will be there, even my dearly beloved Anderson’s. Even with my books-in-waiting shelf full to bursting, I will drag such a big sack of books out of there that I may or may not accidentally crush an adorable child cosplaying as Finn from Adventure Time on my way out.

4. Game of Thrones! Well, I mean, I’m losing my marbles the most about any Song of Ice and Fire stuff I can pick up and, as previously mentioned, meeting Khal Drogo’s biceps. While it is a popular book series with a hardcore fandom, I should clarify that just about any sci-fi/ fantasy book series fandom can find solace and joy at C2E2. Go ahead and prove to those comic nerds that you are more hard core than them by making their head spin with Harry Potter Trivia when they try to ask you your opinion about Hawk and Dove’s latest story arc. Stuff your tote bag with wands, one rings to rule them all, and House Stark t-shirts. You’re non-comic fandom will most certainly find some kind of representation, if it’s on the more sci-fi fantasy end of the realm.

5. Because it’s nice. Actually, the above scenario, with people angrily quizzing you to see if you truly belong with the coolest of nerds, actually just about never happens. As a general rule, the lore might be obscure and unknown to you, but people are generally very friendly at C2E2. Everyone is there to see their friends, favorite writers, favorite characters, and buy cool stuff. Who’s gonna want to spoil that moment by sniping someone with comments about their poor knowledge of the DC worlds, (yeah, they apparently have more than one.)

Okay, so that last answer proves that just about anyone can have a fun time at C2E2, and bibliophiles are, of course, no exception. It’s a fun time in a great atmosphere with plenty of books, both with and without pictures. Whether you feel like having some really nice people introduce you to a couple super hero story arcs, or just check out the latest stuff from Quirk books, other publishers, and of course bookstores like darling Anderson’s.

Alright, that’s it. I can’t wait anymore! I’m blowing off the rest of my schedule and running over to Chicago on pure fangirl energy, so Loras Tyrell, Khal Drogo, and I can all become the best of friends and have even more bonding time. It’s a great time to be a bibliophile this weekend.

National Poetry Month

Well, if I was really the fine literary mind I believe myself to be  I probably would have thought to say something about poetry before now. Why? because its April, national poetry appreciation month. I can’t say I have a whole month’s worth of things to say about poetry, but at least one entry to recognize this month might be kind, on my part, so here we go.

I suspected that this month was a relatively new construct from the start. Just about anyone that read a bunch of dead white guys in English class might notice that poetry used to be the most highly lauded and respected form of  written expression. Really, you look at ancient Greek poems, the Odyssey and the Iliad and etc. and poetry’s respectability as a medium of expression predates widespread use of the written word. That’s right. People used to compose memorize poems as long as the freaking Odyssey, all without SparkNotes! Heck, it wasn’t til the nineteenth century, with folks like Dickens, that the novel and by extension  prose in general definitively took over as the dominant, most respected form of literature.

Of course, I’d be an idiot to suggest there haven’t been famous poets or great poets since the novel and prose took over peoples bookshelves. I’m saying poetry became highly marginalized, especially compared to its former glory, as opposed to extinct. You might recall I’m a fan of Mary Oliver’s poetry, from my previous posts. She’s getting quite advanced in years but is very much still alive. I suppose the same could be said about poetry in general, on a much wider scale. Older than togas and the Parthenon,and sure it’s living a much quieter life now than before, but poetry is definitely still alive.

So poetry turned into almost an endangered species by the time 1996 rolled around and the American Poetry Foundation decided to set aside a month in recognition of this medium. That means this movement is younger than me. There’s not a whole lot of movements younger than me that didn’t start out as a hashtag or a viral video campaign. How do you celebrate this month then, without a hashtag or embarrassing challenge you have to film yourself doing? Well, reading poetry is a good start. Start with Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss if you genuinely can’t think of anyone else to read. Don’t worry though, you’ll find plenty of people ready to make suggestions about what to read during this fine month. Maybe you have a loving librarian mother that forwards you a poem every other day to bog down your in box in celebration of April. That would be lovely, really. If not, don’t worry. I’ll try to help.

1. My Personal Favorites: Yeah, I read poetry. If you feel like trusting me, I’d recommend people like Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, (of course,) Patricia Lockwood, Anne Carson, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, John Keats, and some Shakespeare, just for good Measure for Measure, (yes, a terrible Shakespeare pun that’ll be lost on a bunch of potential readers and groaned at by people who do get it,  because I haven’t alienated enough of you already.)

2. Check Goodreads: You know I love Goodreads. It’s a great place to look for reading recommendations, especially if you have an account. They do the sort of specialized recommendation Netflix does for its users. If you’re not on GR, they still have lists of popular books of any genre, including poetry, for anyone to look up.

3. Ask the People Who Started it: Like I said, National Poetry month was started fairly recently, by the Academy of American Poets. They’re constantly trying to make sure people, especially students, have access to poetry and the chance to read new and unfamiliar poems. This particular part of their site allows you to browse through a bunch of poems they compiled.

Really, looking for good poetry is just like looking for any other type of good reading, except perhaps that fewer people might be able to name the latest poetry collection worth reading. Just go into a bookstore, library, etc. and head over to the poetry section to try something new, or, in  a way, something very wonderfully old that’s waiting for some friends.

The Long and the Short of it

I looked at the books I’ve been reading and listening to really, and I realized that the last couple books I plowed through all fell under a similar category. I’ve been trying to look at authors I hadn’t read much of before, Dean Koontz and Margaret Atwood being the most recent example. The list of authors acclaimed enough that I should probably read them but haven’t goes on much further than that, but we’ll stick with the ones I’ve got on my plate right now.

Not knowing exactly where to start with these authors, I looked at what was available at the local library. I didn’t even know for sure what books I should read by these authors first, because checking the internet for book recommendations was just too gosh darn hard. It’s not like they have whole sites and networks devoted to that single purpose. (Brief reminder, check out my Goodreads feed on the sidebar to see what books I recommend you try out!)

Anyhow, both times I ended up checking out a collection of their short stories. This was partly because that’s what they had to offer and partly because I do enjoy checking out newer authors I’m not familiar with short stories. Whether it’s one story in an anthology or a whole collection, I guess I feel like a smart shopper investing less time into their possibly crappy writing while still getting a good taste of their style and skill.

Honestly, I started to feel a bit guilty that I considered short stories a somehow easier or cheaper alternative to novels, because I know from both reading and writing them that short stories can be a difficult enough beast to tackle perfectly in there own right, yet my shelves are definitely dominated by novels, especially if you count those of the “graphic” variety. Well, that might have something to do with the novel, or if we want to include nonfiction here too, generally long stories with a bigger story ark and so forth seems to just be generally more plentiful in bookstores, libraries, etc. I mean, look at the last handful or so books you read. How many of them short story collections of one kind or another? I mean, I’d started just two short story collections recently and it surprised me enough that I decided to write a blog entry about it. I can’t say this with the authority of a publisher, but it really seems like novels and longer works are just generally more plentiful in the whole book market despite being, you know, taking longer to write. It seemed a bit illogical to me.

Maybe back in cave days, there were actual production issues that made it more cost effective to only present longer texts, I don’t know, but it seems odd that, in the age of digital media and tiny attention spans, the novel is still a more frequent guest on the average bookshelf than the short story. Things do change, though. Perhaps we’re int he middle of a big change right now. Flash fiction is a thing now, an increasingly popular thing. Yeah, it’s stories shorter than short stories. They’re pretty popular, especially online. Online, yup there’s the magic word. The more I looked into it, the more I realized that while traditional novels are definitely still pretty dominant in the book market, the new possibilities brought up by e-publications and so on means that we should really be keeping a closer eyes on shorter works of fiction. Yes, even the ones that don’t have pictures, like Walking Dead. They have plenty to offer the modern audience besides being a good intro into an author’s longer works.

Walking Dead, Finally!

Alright you guys. I figured I’d best cover this one before the actual zombie apocalypse broke out. Walking Dead, the comic book series, not the TV show. Is it good? Should you read it if you like the show? Do I like the show? I’m here to tell you all about it. Maybe I can steer you guys in the direction of a thrilling series. It’s okay, comic books have pictures you guys. You don’t have to be scared of these like you would be of the Game of Thrones books.

See? Pictures! Nice ones.

See? Pictures! Nice ones.

Okay, I’m going to have to start with a disclaimer here that’ll lead very quickly into the post proper, and I’ll try my best not to get too defensive about anything. I… no longer watch the Walking Dead. I read the books, but stopped watching the series around the time of Laurie’s death. I realize this is not necessarily a popular life choice, and some of you might already by leaving, wondering why I thought I could say anything informative about this whole franchise when I’d have to be mentally impaired to not enjoy the show. Hear me out here guys.

I’m used to books being adapted into film and television. I’m used to certain… liberties being taken with story line and pacing. I’m used to seeing beloved characters altered in a number of ways ranging from arbitrary to unwholesome. I like to think I’ve gotten good at dealing with the disparity between books and their screen adaptations. With the Walking Dead TV show though, I found my self too unfortunately tested.

I obviously recommend the comic series Walking Dead to anyone with a taste for braaaains and gritty apocalypse stuff. The writing is incredibly moving and smart. Robert Kirkman, the writer, is excellent at exploring the human side of the apocalypse; what people are willing to do in dire straits, what they might end up doing, and growing his worlds around that idea of humanity taken to the very edge. Kirkman is not afraid to explore tragedy, nor the happier stuff that comes quietly, in between the monsters, and all within a well paced and thought provoking narrative ark.

I knew the TV series wouldn’t follow the books perfectly. That’s just life. Some exploration is arguably healthy, and I’m not going to be the idiot that argues Darryl shouldn’t exist because he’s not in the books. Sometimes change can lead to a genuinely nice improvement or addition. Sometimes, or with Walking Dead, increasingly this was not the case.

At first, it was the little things. I felt this person was acting out of character, wasn’t sure if she was supposed to die in this part or the next one. Sometimes, fan reactions to certain trends in the series unnerved me, such as the general attitude of disgust for Laurie, a woman who was slut shamed for falling in love with another guy after being told her husband was dead. Maybe I just didn’t hear that when I was reading the series, but the hat was definitely a bit… louder in the TV fandom. Andrea was also made generally not nearly as cool as she was in the books, going from hardcore sniper to emotional wreck who, I think, is dead now, but definitely still thriving in the books.

Sorry for the spoilers for anyone that really wants to read the series, but what ultimately, truly threw me off the series for good was all the premature deaths. With lil’ Sophie getting turned into a barn zombie, I didn’t see a season finale “twist” that surprised no one, but a great character that had a very interesting relationship with Carl and some psychological trauma at the death of her parents, mowed down before her time. Laurie’s death, which still definitely happened in the books, was extremely tragic and allowed for some serious poetic justice for one The Governor.

Really, it seemed the TV show took serious plot points and rewrote them to be less resonant within the overall narrative or just flat out cut them. And no, they did not add nearly enough “Darryls,” or kick-ass awesome changes do excuse those transgressions. Basically, the Walking Dead comics were cut apart like a zombie corpse for the “coolest” elements to smack on a TV screen and I honestly felt like the show suffered from that, enough that I couldn’t watch it anyway.

Sorry if I’m killing your joy over one of your favorite shows. If you like the show though, I encourage you to pick up the books and be wowed by a truly spectacular narrative. The show can’t even completely spoil the books really, especially the later ones because, like I said, the roster of surviving players, not to mention the pacing and plot points fail to match up in many respects. Don’t be surprised if fringe characters become twenty to twenty-five percent more awesome too. A silver lining, I suppose, to my own little party-pooping cloud of doom and gloom. Love the show or not, these books are quick paced, intense, and worth the read.