Tagged: party

DC To Leave NYC

DC To Leave NYC

DC Enterprises honcho Diane Nelson released the following message to her New York City staff:

Dear DCE Team,

As I hope you know, I and the entire DCE exec team work hard to offer transparency about as much of our business plans and results as we possibly and responsibly can. In an effort to continue to do that where possible and to ensure you are hearing news from us, rather than a third party, I am proactively reaching out to you this afternoon to share news about our business.

I can confirm that plans are in the works to centralize DCE’s operations in 2015. Next week, the Exec Team will be in New York for a series of meetings to walk everyone through the plans to relocate the New York operations to Burbank. The move is not imminent and we will have more than a year to work with the entire company on a smooth transition for all of us, personally and professionally.

Everyone on the New York staff will be offered an opportunity to join their Burbank colleagues and those details will be shared with you individually, comprehensively and thoughtfully next week. Meeting notifications will be sent tomorrow to ensure the roll out of this information and how it affects the company and you personally.

We know this will be a big change for people and we will work diligently to make this as smooth and seamless a transition as possible.



So if you’re looking for convenient  parking the next time you go to The Ed Sullivan Theater, pretty soon it’ll get easier.

Martha Thomases: Sexual Assault and Cosplay

thomases-131025-150x225-4578334My colleague, Kate Kotler, has assembled a list of articles about the continuing harassment of women at comic book conventions and other gatherings of fans. I’m late to this party, but that’s because I’m conflicted.

There are many more cosplayers at conventions than there were when I first started to go. There are many more women and girls at conventions than when I first started to go. As one would assume, this means there are many more female cosplayers.

And here’s my problem. I don’t really get this. Maybe for Halloween, I’ll pull something together for a party or to answer the door for trick-or-treaters. I have no desire to make costumes, nor to wear them around thousands of strangers.

Let me be clear. This is my problem. The people who cosplay are clearly enjoying themselves, and I have no desire to deprive them of that joy. If anything, it’s my loss that I can’t be less self-conscious when I’m out in public.

And yet, there are many who can’t let cosplayers enjoy themselves, especially not female cosplayers. Some guys think they are entitled to go up to women and say repulsive things to them. Some guys (sometimes the same guys) think they are entitled to assault these women physically as well as verbally.

And some people think this is okay, because if those women didn’t want the attention, they wouldn’t wear costumes.

Because an admiring glance or a respectful compliment, the kind of attention the cosplayed might appreciate, is exactly the same as a guy who rubs his erection against you while describing how much he wants to rape you.

If there are other parts of modern life where men think this kind of behavior is acceptable, I do not know what they are. I would guess that, if they exist, they are other events where men consider women to be interlopers, invading their secret clubhouse, and this is how they let women know their place.

Comic book conventions contribute to this problem in the way they program. Although the female attendance at the recent New York show was estimated to be around forty percent (and looked like more than that from my unscientific observation of the floor), the guest list was less than two percent female. At the recent Harvey Awards in Baltimore, only one presenter was a woman, although Fiona Staple won a respectable percentage of the prizes. It would be easier for women to be taken seriously by convention goers if they were taken seriously be convention planners.

I don’t think we should sit back and wait for others to fix the problem. I think we need to fix it ourselves. Every time we see bad behavior, we should say something, loudly. Every time a convention or industry event ignores women, we should ridicule them for their lack of knowledge about our industry and its future.

This isn’t for my convenience. This is how we save the world. Women are not objects of prey. If, today, we tolerate sexual assault “because look how she’s dressed,” then, tomorrow, they can feel entitled to shop for us on the street, like groceries.

We’re better than that.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: More Emily S. Whitten!

SATURDAY MORNING: Marc Alan Fishman!


Reviews: “Crazy in the Blood” and “Fangtabulous”

A nutty-crunchy cult, a human-gorgon PI, a family fit for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, hot god guys (not a metaphor), Federal spooks, zombie minions, and a dreamy Italian detective… welcome to San Francisco and Lucienne Diver’s second installment of her Latter-Day Olympians series, Crazy in the Blood, which delivers all that and a gaggle of ghouls (Samhain, $15 trade, July 2013). The story picks up at its usual breakneck pace soon after the events of the first installment and Hell (literally) hath no fury like a pissed-off mom—putting the whole earth and human race in danger in this family feud between god parental units with Dionysus, maenads, and health food in the mix for good measure. Shredded dead bodies are showing up and Uncle Christos has disappeared and his fav niece, part-gorgon PI Tori Karacis, is determined to find him and discover the links, if any, even addicted to ambrosia and…well…Apollo (blond, bad-boy god) vs. her Detective Armani.

Conflicted romance! Dark and light hot dudes! What’s a gal to do?

But Tori is not alone—BFF blonde starlet Christie won’t let her go alone and Hollywood’s made her tougher than she looks. Grandma Yiayia plays air traffic control—she never appears in the novels, so far, save for on the phone. Fabulous office assistant Jesus is the…well…fabulous assistance. Hermes wants a front row seat to the chaos, of course.  And then Thanatos, the Grim Reaper, shows up on papa Hades’ orders, slashing his scythe like the boss that he is. But there is a bit of anti-deus-ex-machina when the Three Fates step in and twist the threads of the plot even twistier. Demeter is the eternally spurned mom. Hades can’t get along with the mother-in-law, and he and Persephone have their marital problems. Bring in Dr. Drew or Phil or…nope.  Bring in the gods and the spooks and Tori’s Scooby gang. There is a fair dose of Buffyverse flavor here, still—hey, learn from the best!—which makes it fun and familiar even for those who’re new to the Blood series. The Romance tropes’re still there, all adult-like, so those fans will stay happy, but this is a cross-genre work that many can enjoy at almost any over-13 or so age. Let the party begin!

fangtabulous-663x1024-2730161And speaking of parties… we find Gina, Bobby, Marcy, Brent, and the rest of the vampi-nista gang in Salem, Massachusetts (y’know, home of the witch hysteria and trials of old made famous in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible) on the run from the Feds who want them as experimental weapons, battling the Salem Strangler, in Fangtabulous (flux, $9.99 trade/$11.50 Canadian, 2013) #4 in the Vamped series. And it’s all about the magic…from the stage magician to the haunted tours of Salem to the Goths to…the real Big Bads. This volume has all the fun you’d expect from Diver and her gang, but a bit more grit and angst and a dialogue on racism, government corruption, and child abuse that is present but not so heavy-handed as to spoil the fun for younger readers, but surely to be noticed by most readers with a clue. This is not a bad thing, but it does lend the tale a more serious tone amongst the mayhem and quips that are this series’ hallmarks. This is definitely PG-13, with genuine gore and violence, but not gratuitous…no Tarrantino-ing here. And if you know Salem you’ll have the extra bonus of the veracity of the setting. I enjoyed this, in a thoughtful kind of way. The characters growing up. It’s cool. I won’t say more as to keep this a spoiler-free zone.

Mindy Newell: The Grandfather Paradox Gives Me A Headache

Newell Art 130826Is time travel possible? Can history be changed?

Imagine you had a time machine and went back into the past. While there you meet and accidentally kill your grandfather before he got married and had kids, one of them your own parent. Then you automatically wipe out your own existence, right? But if you have never existed, then how do you go back in time and kill Grandpa?

This is called The Grandfather Paradox, and it is probably the most famous example of what is termed a temporal paradox. This scenario was first described by science fiction writer Rene Barjavel in his 1943 book, Le Voyager Imprudent – translated, The Imprudent Traveler. (I didn’t know that, either. I looked it up.)

The Grandfather Paradox is not exclusive to killing Gramps. The entire plotline of Back To Future depends on Marty, um, “pre”-uniting his parents after he inadvertently interfered with his father, George McFly, being the one nursed by his mom (thus kindling their romance) after dad fell out of the tree into the path of a passing car. Because George did not marry Lorraine Baines, Marty cannot exist, and we see this principle at work as his first-born brother and then second-born sister disappear from a family photograph, until, at the prom (and the penultimate scene), Marty starts to fade away as he plays guitar. But just in time, George (who has saved Lorraine from being mauled – raped? – by Biff Tannen, the town bully) dances with her – they kiss, and suddenly Marty springs back to life and his brother and sister reappear in the photograph.

Marty inadvertently changes history in other ways, because in his efforts to bring George and Lorraine together, he has given his father new confidence in himself. When Marty returns to 1985, he discovers that his sad sack family are now examples of the American success story. George is no longer a stumbling failure, but a successful science fiction writer. Lorraine is no longer a slovenly, overweight, complaining, straight-laced mom, and they are a happy, openly loving couple. His brother and sister are happy, too, and Marty discovers his parents have bought him his long-dreamed of truck.

Is time travel possible? Can history be changed?

Another example of the Grandfather Paradox is Star Trek’s “The City On The Edge Of Forever.” Written by Harlan Ellison, and winner of the 1968 Hugo award for Best Dramatic Presentation, City is the story of Jim Kirk and Edith Keeler, a social worker in Depression-era New York City.

It begins with the Enterprise investigating “disturbances in time” emanating from an unknown planet. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, sick and paranoid from an accidental overdose of cordrazine, transports down to the planet, and a landing party follows him, led by Kirk and Spock. While searching for Bones, the team discovers the Guardian of Forever, a self-aware portal into the time stream. Still delusional, Bones jumps into the portal. Uhura tells Kirk that she was talking to the Enterprise, and now, suddenly, there is nothing, not even static. The Guardian tells them that the past has changed and the Enterprise, indeed the entire Federation, no longer exists. The landing party is stranded and alone in a universe that is no longer theirs.

Kirk and Spock determine that McCoy somehow changed history, and they realize they must follow Bones and stop him from doing whatever it is he did that changed history.

The portal lands them, as I said, in a New York City circa 1933. Kirk and Spock meet Edith Keeler, who runs a soup kitchen for the down-and-out. While Spock puts together a rudimentary tricorder (“I am endeavoring, ma’am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bear skins.”), Jim and Edith fall in love. And meanwhile, unknown to both men, Bones is being nursed back to health in Edith’s soup kitchen.

Spock discovers that Edith is a focal point in time. His machine shows two possible futures for her. Either Edith, a determined pacifist, leads a movement that delays America’s entry into World War II, which allows the Nazis time to perfect the atom bomb and win the war, or she dies in 1933 in a car accident. Kirk realizes that Edith Keeler, the woman he loves, must die.

Jim and Edith are on their way to a movie – “A Clark Gable movie. Don’t you know? You know, Dr. McCoy said…” – Jim tells Edith to “stay right there” and runs back across the street to the mission, calling for Spock. Spock comes out, and so does Bones. Edith, curious and watching this reunion, starts to cross the street; her eyes on the three men, she doesn’t see the truck. Kirk instinctively moves, but Spock stops him, and instead of saving Edith, Kirk restrains McCoy from acting as well. Edith is killed. “Do you know what you just did?” Bones says in disbelief. Spock answers for Kirk. “He knows, Doctor. He knows.

With Edith’s death, history is back on track, and the three men are returned to the Guardian’s planet. Uhura tells them that the Enterprise is there and awaiting instructions.

“Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Is time travel possible? Can history be changed?

The Novikov Self-Consistency Principle, theorized by Russian physicist Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov and American theoretical physicist Kip S. Thorne’s work on wormholes and other astronomical data – can the laws of physics actually permit space and time to be “multiply connected,” as Thorne put it, so that time travel through machines or via wormholes is actually possible? – both rely on the same hypothesis, i.e.,

there is no danger of temporal paradoxes because anything that a time traveler does in the past is (was?) an established and predetermined part of history.

In “Assignment: Earth,” a second season episode of Star Trek: TOS, Kirk and Spock discover that the Enterprise and its crew were actually part of the events of 1968 which led to the failed launch of a nuclear warhead platform into orbit by the United States. If they hadn’t travelled back in time, if they hadn’t interfered, then history (from the 23rd century perspective) would have been changed. But history couldn’t be changed, according to the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle and Thorne’s hypothesis; the Enterprise’s presence was an established and predetermined historical fact.

Can history be changed? Is time travel possible?

In 1937, physicist Willen Jacob Van Strickum proposed an idea he called the “Closed Timelike Curve.” He theorized that if time is linear, you should be able to fold it in on itself, making time travel possible between any points touching each other.

This was the basis of Quantum Leap, although Dr. Sam Beckett, the time traveler in the series, used the term “string theory.”

From the episode “Future Boy”:

Moe: Time is like a piece of string. One end of the string is birth, the other is death. If you can put them together, then your life is a loop.

Al: Hey! Sam, that’s your theory!

Moe: If I can travel fast enough along the loop, I will eventually end up back at the beginning of my life.

Al: He – He’s got it!

Sam: Well, let me ask you what would happen if you would ball the string, right? And then each day of your life would touch another day. And then, you could travel from one place on the string to another, thus enabling you to move back and forth within your own lifetime. Maybe.

Moe: That’s it! That’s it! Then I could actually…

Sam: Quantum leap.

So, according to Quantum Leap, you can time travel, at least within your own lifetime.

But can history be changed?

In Quantum Leap, the only way that Sam Beckett could move on and try to find his way home was to “put right what once went wrong.” Which of course he did. So Sam was changing history.

Or was he simply creating alternate histories?

Alternate histories that led to whole new universes.

Parallel universes.

Parallel universes within the multiverse.

To Be Continued…




REVIEW: The Great Gatsby

Gatsby BlurayWhen I read The Great Gatsby in AP English back in 1975, I knew it was considered a literary classic but didn’t fall in love with it, despite East Egg’s source material, Great Neck, was nearby. It was a world of the wealthy and decadent that didn’t make sense to me. More recently, though, I reread it for the first time in preparation for my teaching career. With some experience, age, and wisdom, I came to see F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose in a new light. I certainly got to appreciate that this was a fresh take class, wealth, and The American Dream.

So, when I heard director Baz Luhrmann was going to bring his visual sensibilities to bringing the novel to the silver screen, I thought this could be a wonderful treat, matching the imaginativeness of his Romeo & Juliet and verve from Moulin Rouge. The casting — from Tobey Maguire’s Nick to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Gatsby – sounded spot on, mixing big names with less familiar ones. That it would be shot in 3-D sounded daring but if anyone could turn a novel into a spectacle, it was Luhrmann.

The resulting film, released last May and out this week on home video, proved interesting but ultimately disappointing. It could be, I and others, expected too much from the director or he just didn’t see the world of Jay Gatsby the way we did. It received mixed reviews and tepid box office for what should have been a box office smash.

Part of the problem could be that he amped things up too much. In what could have been an interesting indictment of the 1920’s one percenters, he chose instead to make things so lavish, so big, so indulgent that it staggered the imagination. Compare the party scenes he shot with the ones glimpsed in the trailer for the 1926 silent adaptation, just a few years after the book’s initial publication. Luhrmann made everything so out of scale, perhaps because of the intended 3-D wow factor, that it felt less like a story and more like a fairy tale (or cautionary tale).

thegreatgatsby8Nick Caraway (Maguire) is the audience’s representative as he slowly gets sucked into the world of the ultra-rich, ultra-secretive Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). More stories exist about him than actual facts but over the course of the story, we learn that he went from rags to riches through nefarious means and intends to reclaim Daisy (Carey Mulligan) who is clearly in a loveless marriage with the rough and tumble Tom (Joel Edgerton). There are parties, fights, flirtations, fast cars, loose women, and gallons of champagne until things suddenly come to a stop with a finality that signaled the end of the Roaring Twenties.

Of course, the novel’s entire story had to be condensed and even the final cut got further trimmed as Luhrmann honed in tighter and tighter on the relationship between Nick and Jay. There are 27 minutes of deleted scenes with the director explaining how delightful they were but needed to go to remain on topic.

The movie looks right with an amazing eye for detail from dresses to jewelry to wallpaper. As usual, the soundtrack is a living thing, a mixture of period era jazz and modern rap, pulsing to a beat that defined a generation. The performances are solid but not revelatory although credit goes to Isla Fisher and Elizabeth Debicki for breathing some life into their supporting roles as, respectively, Myrtle and Jordan.

Gatsby DaisyThe movie is available in a variety of formats but the combo pack with Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet is the one most likely to be purchased and the one reviewed. The bonus features are of course on the high definition disc. The transfer is stunning in its color and clarity, living up to the expectations where Luhrmann rarely disappoints. Similarly, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track properly conveys the aural feel of the era and the music subtly plays away, creating a nice sense of place.

There are a series of short bonus features, mostly Luhrmann talking with plenty of clips from the film and source material. There’s an overview, The Greatness of Gatsby (9:14), then some behind-the-scenes footage called Within and Without with Tobey Maguire (8:41). A highlight is a look at The Swinging Sounds of Gatsby (12:17) as the director, composer Craig Armstrong, Jay-Z, Florence Welch (of Florence & the Machine), Lana Del Rey, Bryan Ferry and The XX discuss how the soundtrack came together. A fine companion piece is The Jazz Age” (15:43), lifting liberally from Ric Burns’ New York documentary.

Razzle Dazzle: The Fashion of the ‘20s (16:22) has Luhrmann’s wife, and the film’s Costume Designer Catherine Martin reveal how they worked closely with Brooks Brothers, Tiffany & Co. and Prada to revive the look, largely thanks to archival designs and pieces in the various archives.

The author gets his due in Fitzgerald’s Visual Poetry (6:55) which also touches on the 3-D process. Then we have four more short behind-the-scenes looks under the umbrella title Gatsby Revealed.

It’s Sword vs. Staff for a Rogue Angel

Graphic Audio has released Staff of Judea, the 41st audio adventure featuring Rogue Angel as written by Joseph Nassise under the house name Alex Archer.

About Rogue Angel 41: Staff of Judea–
After decoding an ancient scroll—one that purports to pinpoint the treasure of the Jewish Temple, lost for two thousand years—archaeologist Annja Creed agrees to lead the party to recover the find in Judea. It’s a perilous desert journey through sandstorms and bandits, and complicated by mysterious sabotage within the group, to arrive at a long-forgotten fortress deep beneath a mountain. Only then does Annja discover that this archaeological expedition is really one man’s quest for the mystical Staff of Aaron, one of the Bible’s holiest and most powerful relics—a weapon they say can do

Also in paperback

incalculable harm in the hands of the wrong individual. She must try everything humanly possible to prevent the staff from being used for selfish purposes. Even if it puts her in the mightiest battle yet—sword against staff.

Approximate Run Time: 5 hours
Release Date: August 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59950-995-2

Learn more about the Rogue Angel book series here.
Learn more about Graphic Audio here.

John Ostrander: Story Teller

South Park tnDespite my thirty odd (sometimes very odd) years as a professional writer in comics, I wouldn’t describe myself first and foremost as a writer. I consider myself primarily a storyteller. You don’t have to be a writer to be a storyteller; in fact, all of us are storytellers. Phillip Wilson, the former rector at the church I attended when I lived in New Jersey, used to describe story as the atoms of our social interactions.

Think of how we use storytelling every day – all of us. When someone asks you how your day has been, you don’t tell them each and every thing you’ve done (hopefully). You select this moment, that moment, and arrange it some sort of sequence. That’s a story. We use story to relay experience to one another.

Denny O’Neil and I were once talking about a particular story on which I was working (Batman: Seduction of the Gun to be specific) and he told me that in comics you can make any point that you want but first you have to tell a story. That’s what gives you the right to make your point. If you want to preach, get a pulpit.

Speaking of preaching – the Bible, itself a fascinating collection of stories, talks about the Great Storyteller, Jesus, this way. Matt 13: 34 “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” (See? Even an agnostic can cite scripture to his purpose.) What is a parable but another form of story?

Taking the verse at face value, why did Jesus speak to them only in parables? Well, the author of Matthew claims it was to fulfill a prophecy but, simply, it was a way to communicate to the masses in a way that would be remembered. It also invites the listener to participate. They have to listen to the story and filter it through their own experiences. It becomes the listener’s story as well as the storyteller’s story.

The lessons that Jesus taught were also less specific and, I think, more applicable to a wider set of circumstances. His Dad had them etched in tablets of stone; very clear and very precise. (Although there’s a lot of later clarification; “Thou shalt not kill” seems pretty clear but evidently you can read between the lines and find exceptions: except in time of war, or self-defense, or a state approved execution and so on and so forth.) The Parable of the Prodigal Son, for example: One Son demands his inheritance and goes off on a bender and blows it while the other son stays at home and does all that is helpful and good for the family. Wastrel finally heads home and Daddy throws a big party for him which he didn’t do for the son who played it straight.

What the hell? How’s that fair?

Again, there’s lot of interps about what Jesus meant with that story but none come from JC himself. Different “authorities” will tell you the official line but, so far as I’m concerned, it’s a story and you’re free to decide for yourself what it means. If you decide it means, “Hey, who said life was fair?” then I think you’re perfectly justified.

That’s the point. There is a bond between storyteller and audience, a one on one situation. We each bring who we are to the equation and what you bring is as important to the story as my contribution.

Like life, story is experienced differently by each one of us and that’s what makes it endlessly fascinating.

(Note: This was supposed to go up this morning. The editor blames this on WordPress Gremlins combined with the indisputable fact that Fin Fang Foom has taken residence in the author’s sewer pipe. I think you had to be there.)




Dennis O’Neil: Going Fourth

O'Neil Art 130704The mailbox is empty, Dad’s cleaning the grill, Mom’s making lemonade and the big flag is snapping and flapping in the wind. It’s a holiday, all right. The one that occurs in the middle of the hot weather – which one is that, again? Oh, sure – the Fourth. And what are we celebrating? Barbecued critter and socializing with the neighbors and, after dark, the big fireworks display down by the river? Well, no. Those are the ways we celebrate, not the reason. Then what? Something about the Declaration of Independence? Patriotism? Yeah, that’s it – patriotism!

Only problem with that is, exactly what does “patriotism” mean in a nation that’s as sadly divided as ours is, maybe more divided than at any time since the Civil War? Can a blue stater and a red stater stop bickering long enough to even agree on a definition of patriotism? Can we even agree on what questions to ask? Oh sure, the cable news channels will be full of marching bands and smiling politicians speaking words, but all that’s like the exploding rockets at the fireworks show, nothing more than flash and noise.

Maybe we should seek a reason for the celebration far, far back, before there was a United States of America, or governments, or what we call “civilization.” We’re patriotic for a reason and it’s not because we were taught that patriotism is a virtue.

No, we’ve got to blame it on evolution. Sorry, but we do. It’s really not too complicated: in the distant past, the prehumans who learned to live with others of their kind, to be mutually helpful, to cooperate, tended to stay off some beastie’s menu. The grouches didn’t last as long as the cooperators,who then had time to…you know – procreate. They had offspring who shared their sociability and pretty soon we had villages and tribes and maybe the beginnings of art and religion. But our early ancestors also learned to mistrust what they couldn’t recognize because their collective experience indicated that what they didn’t know might, in fact, hurt them. The result was us, who not only want to live in groups, but have a powerful tendency to identify with those groups. Cheering a local team, joining a lodge or a sodality or a political party or being proud of a certain citizenship – strip away rhetoric and rationalization and ego, get rid of the flash and noise, and you have a naked hominid suffering terror when he finds himself separated from his group.

Call it patriotism, and be proud of it. A cause for celebration? Sure.  But you might want to remember that it’s about cooperation more than mistrust. Red state, meet blue state, and pass the lemonade.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases


Emily S. Whitten: Neil Gaiman, The Ocean, The Revelry

Whitten Art 1The Review

Neil Gaiman’s latest work, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, began as a short story and unexpectedly grew into a novella and then a novel. Neil also wasn’t sure at first whether it was going to be a story for children or adults, since much of the story, while narrated by an adult, takes place when the protagonist is seven years old. Finally the marketing dial landed on “adult;” and that makes sense, for the most part.

There is a lot of darkness in this book, which is also of a more personal or intimate nature than some of Neil’s more fantastical works. There is more of “Neil” (himself) in it as well; not in that it is his autobiographical experience, but in that it was born more truly from his personal history. This makes Ocean feel more solidly rooted in, not the almost-realistic fantasy world of many of his stories, but an almost-fantastical reality instead. The fantasy elements are tied so tightly into some pretty ugly human truths that it might be easier to view this book as reality through the eyes of an imaginative child now grown into adulthood than as a fantasy adventure.

And yet, despite the darkness and ugliness that are frequently present, there is light in this book as well, and comfort. In the Hempstocks, a solidly reliable family of women who “know things,” and are comfortably situated on the side of all that is warm and good and naturally right; in an adult’s memories of childhood haunts, which can be as bright as they are at other times dark; and in the more lighthearted flights of fancy, such as the discovery of some very unique kittens in a field. This is a book that faces darkness but also “takes pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumble.” It reminds adults of a time when they were children and took a child’s pleasure in the small things.

Yes, this is a book that will be enjoyed by adults; and yet despite, or in fact possibly because of some very intense and disturbing scenes, mostly involving the narrator’s father or Ursula Monkton, this is indeed also a book that I would have enjoyed as a child. Children’s worlds are not always made of sunshine and unicorns, much as we’d like them to be. They are often at least a little dark and twisty – whether that darkness originates in the home, or in the schoolyard, or elsewhere. From experiences like a childhood birthday party which none of our classmates attend; to the frustrations and helplessness of dealing with a controlling adult; to the threatened or actual dissolution of a nuclear family, children often experience darkness without any prior experiences to ready them for it, or guidance on how to deal with it.

For children who read, books can serve as a guide; or an assurance that one is not alone in the darkness, and that there is someone else out there who understands what it’s like to be a child in a world of adult things that are as yet only half understood. Books can be an escape, but they can also help children face realities. And books can be a comfort, when the darkness inherent in the story is balanced by light. This is one of those books that might serve these functions; for the right sort of child.

So is this a story for adults or children? Well, both. It is a book of many layers that can be approached from many angles. It is a thought-provoking story, and one that is worth re-reading and thinking about. It is a book that could be about a wondrous and frightening adventure; or about looking back at childhood through the eyes of an adult and realizing how past experiences have shaped you; or even a reminder to adults of the way our actions will impact our children, who are our responsibilities. It might also be an assurance that even if you’ve been through a childhood that gave you a hole in your heart – in which adults fought children, and the adults won, or in which your kitten was lost to you and any replacement for it was never your kitten again – you can bear it, and gradually heal, and never stop becoming a little more whole again.

There is so much substance to this short novel that I could write about what it is or is not for a long time. Instead, I recommend that you go and read it.

Whitten Art 2 130625The Revelry

As I’ve mentioned before, this is a particularly prolific year in the life of Mr. Neil Himself. Possibly in reaction to all of the busyness, Neil decided to do a massive signing tour for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, after which he plans to take a long and well-deserved break from such events.

Washington, DC was the fourth stop on the tour, and fortunately I was able to attend. It was a great event, organized by Politics & Prose Bookstore but held at the Lisner Auditorium on The George Washington University campus. The auditorium was packed, with somewhere around 1,500 fans in attendance.

Neil took the stage at 7 p.m. and kept everyone enthralled for the next hour-and-some; first discussing the genesis of the book, which contains more “feelings” than some of his other works. “I don’t do feelings very much, being both English and male,” joked Neil. He then read from Chapter 4 of the novel, in which the narrator and Lettie Hempstock meet a very scary Thing. It is quite creepy.

After the reading, Neil answered questions collected from the audience beforehand. Some he answered with humorous efficiency:

“What was it like to work on Doctor Who?”

“It was enormously fun.”

“Do you choose your audience (adults or children) before writing?”


“Once someone has written things, what is your advice for getting published?”

“Sell the things you’ve written!”

Others he devoted more time to. A question about where the idea of the Hempstock family (members of which have also made appearances in Stardust and The Graveyard Book) originated resulted in a story about when Neil was young and his mother told him that the farm nearby was in the Domesday Book, which meant it was about a thousand years old – “and it didn’t occur to me that it would have been a hovel at that time. I just assumed that the red brick farmhouse had always been there, and that the same family would have been living there for a thousand years as well.” Neil named that imagined family the Hempstocks, and in reference to their appearances in other books, said “it just made sense that some of them would have gone off into the world.”

After answering a plethora of questions, Neil closed with a short reading from a more humorous bit of Ocean, and then stated that he would sign for us “until my hand falls off.” And so he would have, I am sure, but thankfully, despite signing well into the night, I believe he still has both of his hands. Which is good, because it’s much easier to write with hands, and I want Neil to keep on writing more amazing stories like The Ocean at the End of the Lane for a long time to come.

If you haven’t read the novel yet, I highly recommend it. And until next time, Servo Lectio!





Mystico the second volume of the Golden Age series by New Pulp Author Jeff Deischer is available at Createspace and Amazon. You can find it here. Jeff posted the first chapter here.

About Mystico:

The Golden Age Vol.1

1940: The Nazis are obsessed with mystical artifacts. Believing one was hidden in America centuries ago by the mysterious Knights Templar, the black wizard Nacht sends a party led by the sorcerer the Baron to find it.

Nacht is as much a mystery to the Nazi hierarchy as he is to the rest of the world. Claiming to be one of the Earth’s “secret masters”, he helped Hitler climb to power after the failed 1923 beer hall putsch, tutoring him in occult ways. He is aided in his quest by Reinhard Heydrich, the infamous “Hangman”, who now controls the dreaded Vril power, becoming Nietzsche’s Ubermensch.

In this exciting prequel to the groundbreaking The Golden Age, the Auric Universe’s mystical heroes must join forces to stop Nazi Germany from gaining one of the greatest prizes of all!