Review: ‘Chronicles of Some Made’ by Felix Tannenbaum
Chronicles of Some Made
By Felix Tannenbaum
Passenger Pigeon Publishing, October 2008, $10.25
Tannenbaum received a 2008 Xeric Award for the two stories collected here – in fact, the way of the Xeric, these two stories are collected because they won the award. The Xeric is specifically and entirely to help self-publishers get their work out; to help get more new, different, interesting comics projects to see the light of day and get into readers’ hands. Because of that aid, [[[Chronicles of Some Made]]] is now available via Amazon, and it will be in comics shops in the spring.
There are two stories here: “[[[The Dent]]],” about seventy pages long in four chapters, and the shorter (just under twenty pages) earlier story “[[[Why Doesn’t My Robot Love Me?: A Cautionary Fable.]]]” Both are stories of robots, but Tannenbaum’s robots are very un-Asimovian: they are deeply emotional and as impetuous and driven by desire as any human. (They’re very much, to use Charles Stross’s term, emotional machines.)
“The Dent” is the story of three robots at war. The story begins as they travel together towards a point where battle rages. They know where they’re going, but not why – though they do know that they’re not supposed to question their orders. Seeing the devastation for several hills away, they’re all silently sure that following their programming will lead to their destruction. And yet, when two of them try to break all three of them free from that programming, the results are not good.
If I wanted to be pretentious, I could easily say that “The Dent” is a story about finding one’s purpose in life; about moving beyond the accidents – or deliberate malice – in one’s creation and choosing to be the person one really wants to be. That, in a small, particular way, that it’s a story about friendship and how even damaged people can find happiness. Luckily, though, I don’t feel pretentious just now, so I won’t say that. It is a gem of a story, though, with real characters who are clear and distinct despite having no names and occasionally changing body parts.
“Why Doesn’t My Robot Love Me?” is a bit cruder, more obvious, but touches some of the same themes, and has a similar skewed iconography, like a They Might Be Giants T-shirt come to life and played as a melancholy near-tragedy. It opens with a robot and a snowman – perhaps lovers? – fleeing across a barren landscape as the sun rises. Their story does not end well, but, later, another robot – or, perhaps, the same one rebuilt – finds love again.
It has a sketchy quality – in both subject and art style – that puts it a little below “The Dent,” but it’s still a touching piece. And it’s even more impressive to read in Tannenbaum’s afterword that it was created as an entry to a scholarship for the Center for Cartoon Studies, that they requested “a comic featuring a Robot, a Snowman, a piece of Fruit, and the Author.” If there was any better comic that came out of those random and arbitrary requirements, I’d sure as hell like to see it.
I hesitate to state definitively that [[[Chronicles of Some Made]]] introduces a great new talent to comics for two reasons – just because I haven’t heard of Tannenbaum before doesn’t mean he hasn’t done anything before, and trying to predict the future is always risky. But this is a lovely graphic collection, with two fine stories, and that’s more than enough for now. If you see that sad little robot on a shelf somewhere, pick him up and take a look; I think you’ll find you have a lot in common. (Or go to Tannenbaum’s website for the first chapter of “The Dent.”)
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
Publishers who would like to submit books for review should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.