Autodidact: self-taught


Locke and Key by Joe Hill

by V. L. Craven

Locke and Key Collected

The complete Locke and Key comic written by Joe Hill and drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez is now available in a beautiful slipcase  that would look fantastic beside your Sandman and Lucifer comics (and don’t tell me you don’t have them).

Joe Hill’s storytelling is inventive, his characters are believable and the Locke family are easy to root for. Gabriel Rodriguez’s artwork is beautiful–the attention to detail is particularly noteworthy and Keyhouse feels like a real place. He’s brought Hill’s character’s to life. The partnership is a most complimentary one. The comic is immanently re-readable so the slipcase is worth it.

Locke and Key 1

The first volume, Welcome to Lovecraft, collects the first six issues of the comic and introduces us to the Locke family who relocate to Lovecraft, Massachusetts after the father is murdered by a peer of the eldest child, eighteen year old Tyler. They move into the family home, Keyhouse, a rambling, Gothic pile located on a remote island. As you’d expect from such a house in such a place, the house has secrets, such as, certain doors, if opened with certain keys allow the opener to do different things or go different places.

The youngest, six-year-old Bode, is the first to discover one of these keys and doors. He also discovers someone (or some thing ) living in the well in the abandoned well house. Someone should have kept a better eye on the little one.

Meanwhile, Sam Lesser, the teenage psychopath who killed the patriarch of the Locke clan, escapes the mental institution and makes his way to Lovecraft. He’s not your run-of-the-mill lunatic, you see, he’s been sent on a mission to find a key. A very special key.

Locke and Key 2 Head Games

The second volume is comprised of the six issues in the Head Games arc and is concerned with the powers of the second key, known as the Head Key for marvellous and terrifying reasons, as well as the return of an individual who is the spitting image of a friend of the Locke children’s father. In his previous incarnation he was known as Luke Caravaggio, but now he’s calling himself Zack and has insinuated himself into Tyler’s life. All he has to do is avoid anyone who may recognise him from twenty years ago. Because if someone does, well, he can’t risk being exposed and people die every day, right?

Locke and Key 3 Crown of Shadows

Volume Three is the six issues that make up the Crown of Shadows story arc, where several more keys are discovered. Some that are quite useful and two with powers that are beyond terrifying. Zack uses one to try and find the real key he’s after and the other is used to combat him in an epic showdown.

Sam Lesser, the teenager who murdered Rendell Locke and nearly killed the rest of the family before Tyler put him down returns (as a ghost–this is one of those dead-people-aren’t-always-dead deals) and we learn more about Zack’s homicidal motivation, as well as what happens to people after they die.

Locke and Key 4 Keys to the Kingdom

The fourth volume is Keys to the Kingdom (collecting the six issues of that series) and is much more action-packed than the previous three. The third chapter in this volume is my favourite in the entire series, as it shows how the kids are becoming accustomed to living in a house with supernatural elements. It must be what living in Sunnydale would have been like.

Kinsey and Tyler deal with relationship problems–Kinsey’s stemming from choices she made regarding the Head Key. And we finally learn what is at stake if Zack finds the key he seeks.

Locke and Key 5 Clockworks

Volume five collects the six issues of the Clockworks arc and explains the origins of the magic of Keyhouse, as well as the how Zack/Luke became possessed by the evil entity that makes him impervious to death. Tyler and Kinsey find a key that allows them to travel back in time (as observers) and they witness not only their earliest ancestors’ brutal past, but also learn the truth about their father’s part in the death of a classmate.

Locke and Key 6 Alpha and Omega

Volume six, Alpha and Omega (four issues of Omega and two issues of Alpha), wraps up the series with an epic showdown involving the powers of multiple keys and a battle between darkness and light (literally). The fate of the world hangs in the balance and the Locke children are the only ones who can save us all.

As with most things these days, there is a Locke & Key wiki with all the super-spoilery information you could desire, if you need help keeping up with the sprawling amount of characters and plotlines.

If you (or someone you love) is already a fan of the series Skelton Crew makes physical versions of some of the keys.

Skeleton Keys

There’s also a game . I haven’t played this, but if you have I would love to hear your thoughts.

Locke and Key the Game


Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes

by V. L. Craven

Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes

The hamlet of Ice Haven is home to the typical small town dramas–lovelorn teenagers, neighborhood rivalries, children taking their boredom out on one another, etc–when a young boy goes missing.

David Goldberg from Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes

Ladies and Gentlemen, David Goldberg, life of the party

You’d think this sort of thing would stop the city cold, but, as in real life, most people remain chiefly concerned with their own artistic, emotional or sexual frustrations whilst the Goldberg case played out on the periphery of their lives.

For such a short work, Clowes has given us a vibrant cast of believable characters. There’s the pseudo-narrator, Random Wilder, who fancies himself to be a poet and to be in a feud with Ice Haven’s poet laureate Ida Wentz. Ida’s granddaughter, Vida, is a budding writer visiting from out-of-town and becomes interested in Mr Wilder’s poetry. She publishes a journal no one reads.

There’s Charles, Carmichael, and Paula, who go to school with the kidnapped boy, Mr Life of the Party up there. Charles is a hopeless romantic in love with his step-sister and he only talks to his younger friend George. Carmichael is an unpleasant little boy with a mean streak who gives Charles a book about Leopold and Loeb (there’s an excellent strip about that murder in the book). This leads Charles to think perhaps Carmichael has killed David.

Ice Haven Leopold and Loeb strip

Leopold and Loeb were real people. Real, scary people.

Violet is Charles’ step-sister, they’ve just moved to Ice Haven and she’s miserable. She’s in love with an older boy named Penrod who lives elsewhere.

And Mr and Mrs Ames, the detective’s sent to work the case of the missing boy. Their marriage is not in the best state.

Then there’s Harry Naybors, a comic book critic who is a little meta for my taste, but we live in meta times, my friends.

The entire book is 88 pages of stylistically different comic strips, which combine to make a somewhat linear novel (with a couple detours through the mind of an anthropomorphic stuffed toy and the first human in Ice Haven in 100,000 b.c.)

Daily Writing Will Save Me (Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes)

I have never thought this in my life. Ever.

It’s full of honest moments with very human characters, but the truest section was ‘Seersucker’, which perfectly capture the thoughts of many writers (and probably most humans), with such classic quotes as:

‘Today I must begin a schedule of focused and lucid daily writing. I must clear my mind of all distractions… I’ll never be able to concentrate fully until I finish cleaning the birdbath….After this, I’ll eat a quick dinner, and then straight to work!’

‘My life is fading away. The days speed by in a blur. How can I have wasted so much time? How much could I have accomplished if I had put my time to better use?…I have to fill every remaining second with intensive study and work… Today I will begin with Wells’s Outline of History and Sarton’s Six-Volume History of Science . From there I’ll branch out into various subcategories, like botany and ancient China… As soon as I finish this [household chore] I’ll go straight to the library…’

The ending was both surprising but fitting and gave everyone their moment. Ice Haven is definitely going on the re-readable shelf, I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys off-beat stories that make you think.


Neil Gaiman Comic Adaptations: 3 Reviews

by V. L. Craven

This week, reviews of comic adaptations of a Neil Gaiman novel and two of his short stories.

Neverwhere Comic cover

The comic adaptation of Neverwhere written by Mike Carey (who also did the incredible Lucifer) and illustratied by Glenn Fabry was overseen by Gaiman and was excellent.

Due to being a decent human being, an English everyman schlub is pulled into a parallel dimension that exists below London. The story is of him trying to help a young woman learn who killed her family and to get back to his life in London Above. It’s a bit Wizard of Oz in that way, except it takes a great deal more than clicking his heels together to return home. The story (and illustrations) are incredibly imaginative and entertaining.

It’s difficult to speak to how much was left out, because it’s been a decade since I read the novel and watched the TV miniseries, but all the big points were there and the illustrations more closely captured what was in my head than television could do. It’s nine issues and I highly recommend it.

Only the End of the World Again by Neil Gaiman cover

Only the End of the World Again  was a short story written for Oni Press that was eventually collected in Smoke and Mirrors . Written by Gaiman, it was adapted to comic by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by Troy Nixey and coloured by Matthew Hollingsworth for the collection. It’s a new take on the Elder Gods of Lovecraft and casts a very unlikely hero–in the form of a werewolf–to try to avert world-ending disaster…again. Some of the art was nightmare fuel , which was appropriate for the story. Still … shudder.

Murder Mysteries by Neil Gaiman comic cover

 ‘Murder Mysteries’ began as a short story written for horror anthology  Midnight Graffiti and was collected in Gaiman’s  Smoke and Mirrors  in the late 80s. In 2002, Gaiman and P. Craig Russell adapted it into a graphic novel. Set before the creation of the universe, it’s about the first murder and explains why Lucifer the angel chose such a drastic career change. The illustrations are incredible and definitely helped, in terms of picturing how angels created everything and what the universe would look like prior to that.


Kindle Fire HD 7″ Review

by V. L. Craven

Typically, new technology makes me feel like this, for quite some time:

I don't know who made this, but I thank you


After three days, the Kindle Fire HD 7″ makes me feel like this:

I don't know who Michael Pena is, but he isn't impressed, either

And here’s why.

The Good
(Things that work and are great and yay)

Tux Happy It’s great for reading books (purchased from Amazon) and comics. I bought this in order to read my comics and books. My first Kindle (now called the Kindle Keyboard) was great, but reading e-comics (of which I have a ludicrous amount) on my computer wasn’t cutting it and trying to read them on my iPod Touch wasn’t worth the headache most of the time.
LCD Screen . I can read in the dark now. My previous Kindle had a case with a little light attached, but that sucker drained the battery like mad. LCD isn’t good for reading in bright sunlight, but the sun and I haven’t been on speaking turns since that second degree burn it gave me for my twelfth birthday so that doesn’t affect my life. For people who get eye strain, I highly recommend Gunnar glasses . I love mine.
Watching video . This was the first time I’d seen HD (because I’m a Philistine Technophile hybrid). Wow. Nicely done, technology-makers. If I want to watch Netflix on Virginia (the Kindle’s name is Virginia Poe) it will look and sound great. It’s highly unlikely I’ll want to do so, but it’s up to the task, should it be required.

The Bad
(Things that don’t work and should do)

Tux Sad Lack of Apps . After the embarrassment of riches that is the Apple Apps Store, the Amazon App Store is just embarrassing. Android doesn’t have as many apps, true, but Amazon further whittles down the list by offering a portion of that small number.  Cheers, Amazon. The next person who moans at me about how locked down Apple products are are getting an earful. [I’m not an Apple fangirl, I’m panOS with Windows, Linux, and Mac tech in the house, but damn, the anti-Apple people are obnoxious.]
No way to charge without a computer . I had to buy a charger. Really? If I’m close enough to a computer to plug it in to charge why aren’t I just using the computer? Well played, Amazon. Have another $20USD.
General Organisational Stupidity . I was somewhat prepared for this, as you can have the most well-organised file system of your ebooks, but put them on your Kindle Keyboard and it’s like, ‘Oh, here are all the files in no particular order! You can re-organise them into collections, though, so it’s all right!’ [See next comment]
No Collections . Not so for the Kindle Fire HD. You can sort your books by Title, Author, or Recent. No way to make collections, unlike the several-years-old Kindle Keyboard. How the crap are organised people (the normal ones) supposed to categorise their books? Amazon, find the whitest part of my Anglo-Irish arse and pucker up.
Silk Browser . My only guess about the Silk browser is that Amazon actually holds its customers in contempt and this is the way it shows that contempt. And you can’t download other browsers. Because of course. Oh, there ARE Android apps for Firefox and Chrome, but you can’t have them. Google Play offers them. But does the Kindle allow Google Play? Nooooo. And when I tried to browse the internet, thinking I’d just get used to the thing, it’s effing slow!
The provided document organiser leaves something to be desired . Like all the things. It leaves all the things to be desired. For files I’ve uploaded myself, I have to view them in the document organiser, OfficeSuite, which would be all right if I could organise them once they were on my machine. You can add new folders, but you can’t move files into them. Perhaps that’s a feature if you pay $15 to upgrade to Pro, but that’s not happening. I’m looking into other apps that will allow me to see personal documents and will report back.
No way to organise apps . They’re all just there. In alphabetic order. No way to make menus or even group them by type. I cannot possibly be the only person this makes crazy.
No way to remove unwanted native apps . I do not need IMDB, Kindle Free Time, or Skype, thank you. But there they are. I also do not need the email, calendar or contacts apps, but you can’t even hide them.
The email, calendar and contacts apps don’t work easily.  If you try to add an gmail account from the apps menu you get an error. Follow the directions on this page and do it from the ‘swipe down from the top of the screen’ menu (I don’t know what that’s called.) It took three days to work this out, as, when you search for the error ‘You do not have permission to sync with this server’ you get nowhere.
No way to change the menu on your homescreen . Speaking of things you can’t hide: On your homepage (above the Carousel, more on that later) you have a list of things to choose from including Shop, Games, Apps, Books, Music, Video, Newsstand, Audiobooks, Web, Photos, Docs, and Offers. I will only be using two things (games and books) and would like to edit the menu. Can I do that? Nope. And neither can you. We can be miffed together, friend. You can lock certain things down by using Parental Controls, but that just greys out the option. It’s still visible.

Perhaps I’m just accustomed to Linux, but I would like far more control over my devices than the Kindle Fire HD allows. Hell, my Apple devices have given me more control. But on to the worst part…

THE MOST Annoying Thing
(So annoying it gets its own heading)

Tux Rambo will Kill Your Ass No more MyClippings . This is infuriating. As you can probably tell by looking at the left sidebar of this site, I enjoy keeping quotes from books. The Kindle Keyboard had a MyClippings.txt file that had all of your highlights from both books bought from Amazon, as well as personal documents and PDFs. Now you can only access highlights from books purchased from Amazon here . This conversation says Amazon will keep highlights from personal docs if you email the document to yourself and have Personal Documents set to archive in your Kindle settings, but that didn’t work for me. This one pisses me off more than any of the other annoyances.

The Ugly
(Things that don’t automatically work, but can be made to function…sort of)

Tux cow Dropbox . If you offer Netflix, why the frack don’t you offer Dropbox? To get around this, first: ‘Allow Installation of Applications’ from the ‘Swipe down from the top of the screen’ menu, tap ‘More’ then the option is under ‘Device’. Then go here to get the Android app from Dropbox.
Autocorrect . This has to be the most annoying autocorrect I’ve yet come across. Disable it under Settings > Language & Keyboard > Keyboards > Choose your current keyboard > Choose your capitalisation and autocorrection preferences.
Carousel . The first thing you see when you unlock your Kindle is the above-mentioned uneditable menu and the Carousel, which shows everything on your Kindle. Each app separately, each book separately. EVERYTHING. SEPARATELY. To remove things from your Carousel, press the icon until a menu appears and you can remove each thing. One at a time. It’s fortunate I only have five things on my Kindle. Still, my carousel is tidy now. It’s just the twenty books I’m reading and the two other apps I use (Perfect Viewer & MyBinder). I just pretend all the other tabs and menus are invisible.
Linux compatibility . I could manage my Kindle Keyboard with my Linux box by plugging it in. It wouldn’t charge, but I could move files around and such. No such luck with the Kindle Fire HD 7″. When you plug it into a Linux computer you get a note to go to this site , where they say Linux computers require an Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) USB driver. This post has step-by-step instructions, though you can get libmtp and gmtp from synaptic rather than fiddling with the command line. Then start with step three in that post.
Adding apps not offered by Amazon : According to this post, it’s possible to install Android apps not offered through the Amazon App Store using . I’d love to have Chrome on mine, but am iffy about installing software on something that said software could bollocks up without knowing how to fix it because it’s so freaking locked down. AND I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO HACK CHROME ONTO MY KINDLE. IT’S AN APP. IT EXISTS. OMGWTF, AMAZON.

The Jury’s Still Out On
(I haven’t had it long enough to know)

Battery life . Hard to say if it’s good or bad. Will report back later.

Boobly-Boo, Misc & Other
(Things peripheral to the Kindle Fire)

The Moko case is fantastic. LOVE the case. They’re made for each specific type of Kindle, though, so if you want one for the non-HD 7″ or the HD 8.5″, make sure you’re ordering the correct size.

Evernote.  I wanted a note-taking application and Evernote has been touted far and wide. The free version won’t let you access your notes if you’re not connected to the internet. The notes you’ve just taken on the device. If you pay they’ll let you see your notes. Nice of them. I wound up using My Binder , which is fine. It’s free and lets me make notes and even allows me to see those notes when offline.

Perfect Viewer (and Perfect Viewer PDF plugin ) : I got this thing for reading comics and so the $2.99 for Perfect Viewer was worth it. It automatically scans whatever folder(s) you designate and keeps your file structure. Something the $200 Kindle Fire HD doesn’t even do.

Final Thoughts

Looking over this post, a word that appears a LOT is ‘organise’. Clearly, the developers and testers of the Kindle Fire HD had something against organisation. Their homes are probably cluttered to the degree of  the Collyer brothers  and they probably like it that way and feel oppressed when someone (like me) says, ‘You know, if you put your keys in the same place every time you’ll always know where they are.’ They’d rather live in a hodge-podge of rubbish and their own filth than be able to easily locate important property. And that’s fine. For them. But give the rest of us the option to organise the crap out of our files, m’kay?

The home of a Kindle Fire Developer?

A Kindle Fire developer’s home.


I was expecting an experience similar to the one I had with my iPod Touch, which I got just for music and, while I *do* listen to music on it, that’s probably only 5% of what I use it for. I live my life on the thing. If I’d got the Kindle expecting only to read books and comics I wouldn’t have been disappointed. Fair dues, that’s on me. Still, this experience will apply to others.


What’s your experience been like? Tips? Tricks? Addresses of the people who worked on this thing?


Depression, Misogyny and Albus Dumbledore

by V. L. Craven

People like being bummed. It’s the only guess I have for why my really depressing posts get the most traffic. That can’t be right, though…

Anyway, I’ve been reading more of the Cerebus series by Dave Sim. I’ve done Church and State I & II , Melmoth , and Flights . I’ve also given myself something of a coronary in reading he’s diatribe about feminism, homosexuality and race tangents

Well, the first two parts of it. I had to take a break there. If you get through all of it, let me know what you think.

I’m enjoying Cerebus on the whole and I agree with Sim on some of his assertions about certain portions of feminism (I just wish he wouldn’t paint all women with the same brush). And I find that RS Stephen sums up how I feel much better than I do in her essay “Masculinity’s Last Hope, or, Creepily Paranoid Misogynist”. This bit in particular: “Despite the fact that you champion reason, your writing lacks the factual and intellectual rigor required by even an undergrad English essay, and your arguments aren’t all that logical.”

Melmoth is in interlude about Oscar Wilde, of all people, and is incredibly well-rendered.

As the storyline of Cerebus goes along it gets more complex and interesting, which is only to be expected, and even knowing that he and I wouldn’t be able to have an intellectual discussion over dinner doesn’t ruin that, though it does alter my reading of the text somewhat. It’s a train wreck situation. Where you wish you didn’t know it existed, but once you do, you just have to look. I simply had to know how he felt about women. So I read Tangents. And it altered the way I read his work.

This brings me to something else that’s in the literary news lately–J.K. Rowling commenting off-handedly that Dumbledore is gay. (If you don’t know who J.K. Rowling or Dumbledore are, please return to your rock for the rest of this post.)

Since she outed him there’s been several sides to the conversation. The two most predictable are: ‘What a big pedo! That’s why he liked Harry so much!’ and ‘She should have said it explicitly, Dumbledore was in the closet!!!’

Does knowing he was always gay change the way a person would read the books now? It shouldn’t, as it has no bearing on the majority of the books. But it will to some people. The people who only see the word ‘gay’, no matter if it’s in front of “the gay man who cured cancer”. In The Celluloid Closet Quentin Crisp said, “When you say heterosexual, people focus on the ‘hetero’ but when you say, ‘homosexual’, people focus on the sex.”

I’m a lesbian and a writer and I fully understand why Rowling handled the character as she did. A writer knows all sorts of things about her characters that she doesn’t tell the audience because it’s not pertinent to the story. It wouldn’t have made one bit of difference if Albus (I can call him that because we ride the same bus) had been explicitly gay or not. Who he loved didn’t matter much in terms of the story. And in a kids’ book, what is he supposed to say? If Rowling wanted to be sure everyone knew, at what point was Albus supposed to say he wanted to make the buttsecks with Grindelwald? You don’t address sex in kids’ books in that way. He said he loved Grindelwald. How much more do you want?

At the same time, she handled it beautifully. She said (when the revelation occurred in Carnagie Hall in New York) that if she’d known it would’ve made everyone so happy she would have told them sooner. The way to de-demonize homosexuality is to let people like the gay person first and then say, “Ta-da! I was a big ol’ queer the whole time!” It’s like Suzanne Westenhoefer, a marginally known but always out, lesbian comedienne and Ellen DeGeneres, a closeted until popular comedienne. Now she’s everywhere with her partner and people are cool with it. Sometimes you have to sneak under the radar before you can throw off the invisibility cloak.

[This post is from a previous blog. Original post date: 24 October 2007]


Brief Lives: Webcomics About Geeks

by V. L. Craven

Whilst I have yet to work out what career I would find most fulfilling, there are certain career-paths I find somewhat interesting. Talking to people in those professions would involve, you know, talking to people, and, therefore is out of the question. Luckily, there are webcomics about geeks that illustrate the ins and outs of those professions so I can get an idea of what it’d be like to work in those fields without having to spend years working my way into the career only to discover I hated it.

Join me in a tour of the lives of:

Web designers: .net  by Brad Colbow, Ah, the life of a web designer. You just want to be simultaneously geeky and creative and the people who will give you money to do those things are entirely lacking geekiness or creativity.

The Oatmeal has a hilarious example of this, as well.

Software developers: Not Invented Here  by Bill Barnes and Paul Southworth. Sort of like Dilbert but more tech and less misogyny. And there’s a Goth character.

Internet service providers: User Friendly [this is currently on hiatus, but if you start at the beginning there are daily strips from 1997 to 2009. Hopefully, Illiad will eventually return to us with regularly scheduled strips.]

  Geek Gifts


Video game developers: The Trenches  by Mike Krahulik, Jerry Holkins, Scott Kurtz. The comic itself is enlightening, but the blog posts beneath each comic are written by people in the video game industry and those are…eye-opening.

Librarians: Unshelved  by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum. Books! Books everywhere! And the general public! The general public everywhere!

Grad students: PHD  by Jorge Cham. Sometimes I think that if I excelled at structured learning, I’d enjoy a life in academia. Then I realise I’d have to get through grad school…

fucknogradschool is a Tumblr account (page? blog?) rather than a comic, but it gives an excellent idea of what post-grads feel/think/experience.

On the other hand…

Bonus Content!

In a similar vein, Penny Arcade is about gamers and gaming, written by gamers. I have never played a first person shooter or MMORPG or…most other types of very popular games, but I enjoy learning about them and hearing people’s reactions to them. Their blog is also amusing and informative and helps me keep up with what my gamer friends are on about.

Also, PA is where I learned about 3-D printing, thanks to these strips:

Here is a video of 3-D printing:

Super Extra Bonus Content!

Shapeways is a site with lots of nifty products created by the general public…who happen to know how to design in three dimensions. You can also create your own designs and they’ll print them for you.

Thank you for joining me in this tour of careers-I-find-interesting-but-not-interesting-enough-to-pursue.

And if you know of any web comics about writers or bookshop employees, please leave a comment.


Poe in Fiction (part the first)

by V. L. Craven

Poe didn’t leave us with an inordinate amount of work so rabid fans must look elsewhere for their Eddie Poe fix. Happily, talented writers often include him in their stories. Here are the first two I could find. More reviews will be forthcoming.

Batman Nevermore Batman: Nevermore by Len Wein and Guy Davis: This five issue series takes place outside of the Batman canon and features Poe as a young reporter in Baltimore during a string of horrifying crimes. At the first two of the crime scenes, the police see a figure that looks like a giant raven near the scene and therefore dub them ‘The Raven Murders.’ The victims both belonged to the Gotham Club, an exclusive club for gentlemen (of the smoking room variety, not pole-dancer variety). Poe goes to the club to interview them about an upcoming costume ball (Masque of the Red Death alert) and meets M. Valdemar, Roderick Usher and Arthur Gordon Pym. Also in attendance is a young man named Bruce Wayne. The series incorporates many of Poe’s plots and themes, both from his fiction and poetry. It’s entertaining even for those of us who’ve never read a Batman comic and should please Poe fans, as well. (There’s only one thing that may irk some, which is that our man is portrayed as a weakling, whereas, in reality, he was quite physically fit.) Still, I give it 8/10.

In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe

In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe by Jonathan Scott Fuqua, Steven Parke and Stephen John Phillips
I prefer to review things I enjoyed rather than slagging off something I didn’t, however, since this falls into the category of ‘Poe in fiction’, here goes.:
The only good thing about this…thing is the cover, which is above. The premise is that Poe’s talent came from demonic sources/his dead father and if he leaves Baltimore it fails. It turns out that the demons are all in his head and he could have been creative anywhere. Fuckin’ hell. But that’s only the crap icing on the crap cake, because the plot and graphics are execrable, as well. Rather than a straight up graphic novel, the ‘characters’ of Poe, Mrs Clemm and Virginia, are played by actual people. Poor sods.
The ‘plot’ includes the infuriating idea that Poe was in a love triangle with his aunt and niece. What a load of tosh. Look, I know, when someone says something’s dreadful, it’s human nature to be tempted to see if it’s really as bad as all that, but please, heed my warning: don’t. Just… don’t. 0/10.

Seriously… just don’t.

Wikipedia has a list of  other work  that feature Poe as a character, some of which are on my shelves and will be reviewed upon being read.




by V. L. Craven

Penny Arcade

And lions and tigers, too, probably... but not in the same place because one lives in Asia and the other in Africa



Ink is Black, Snow is White

by V. L. Craven

Which is one of the many reasons Greg Rucka’s artwork in Whiteout is so amazing.

Other reasons are the genuinely unpredictable storyline, well-rounded characters and unusual setting– Antarctica. There are several permanent bases on the ice and each one is run by its own government–US, UK, Russia. Cassie is a U.S. Marshal who was sent down there after she killed a criminal in her custody. It was self-defense but a brutal killing is a brutal killing. Near the end of the season–just before the population at McMurdo drops from 1,200 to 200 for the winter–there are a series of murders that she’s charged with solving before everyone leaves the ice.

She winds up teaming up with Lily, an Englishwoman from Victoria station in order to solve the case. Their relationship is complex and interesting and I learned a lot about Antarctica, mostly that I never want to go there. Four stars.

[This post is from a previous blog. Original post date: 23 January, 2008]


American Virgin by Steven Seagle

by V. L. Craven

I’ve recently come into an abundance of comics and have been trying ones I hadn’t seen before at my local comic shop (no fault of theirs, they have so much I get overwhelmed and stick to the few comics with which I’m familiar). American Virgin by Steven T Seagle is one of those finds.

Adam Chamberlain is a 21 year old hardcore Christian who advocates abstinence prior to marriage. He’s at university to become a minister or preacher–that hasn’t been clarified yet–and is quite charismatic, getting teens to sign virginity pledges. In the first issue his long-time girlfriend (whom God told Adam would be the only one he’d love or be with) is in Africa doing aid work when she’s killed by a terrorist. Adam gets his half sister, Cyndi to go with him to Mozambique to avenge her death. During the trip Adam begins seeing more of the world and learning that not all Christians are as single-minded as he is about their bodies.

Overall themes are spirituality versus carnality–how decisions we make now affect the next phase. The characters are believably complex and the artwork is grittier, though not noir-like. (Sorry, I’m not yet accustomed to reviewing art.) The first storyline is four issues long and I give it four stars.

[This is from a previous blog. Original post date: 25 January, 2008]


Poison Elves: Sanctuary

by V. L. Craven

A friend read a novel I’d written about a person who isn’t naturally violent but also has no empathy and therefore makes the perfect killer; this person is recruited to work for a privately-funded organisation that removes certain people from the general populace. It’s philosophical black humour. My friend said she really liked it and it reminded her of something else she’d read–a comic called Poison Elves . She let me borrow Sanctuary , the fifth volume in the series, and, lo’ amighty, it’s very similar to my novel. The main character is an elf named Lusiphur and he’s brought into a secret organisation of assassins. There’s quite the black humour, but happily, the similarities end there. I say ‘happily’ because I don’t want to get sued by anyone for stealing a character or storyline.

It is nice to read a sort of parallel universe story to my novel since I usually worry that my world is too dark and frightening to appeal to people. [Then again the ball of sunshine known as Hubert Selby was popular so I’m not sure if being too dark is possible.] It’s also nice to be able to experience a world like mine that’s just a bit different–it’s as though the comic were written just for me. I’d also recommend this one to anyone who likes the Dexter books by Jeff Lindsay. Solid four stars.


Geeks Hate Mondays

by V. L. Craven

I had a set of links chosen for today, but the morning of the day I composed this (Sunday) I was happily putting the new English (the country) versions of Harry Potter on my iPod, and had to add Cassandra Clare’s Draco Dormiens trilogy, as well as Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky.

And I realised my geek card was well and truly safe.

So this post is for my compadres in the–sometimes harsh–world of geekdom, as well the people who seek to join us.

From Tech Republic: 10 Geek Sins That Will Get Your Geek Card Revoked. I’m proud to say I’m guilty of none of these.

If any of those apply to you and you need to re-up your cred try these 15 things . And then hit up Think Geek for some useful things of the geek variety. I’ve done eight of these things, but as I’m 0 for 10 on the first list, I’m confident in my geekself.

And the last one from Tech Republic: 75 Must-Read Geek Books
This was a pretty poor showing–I’d read two books and then all seven of the Harry Potter books, however, I’ve 29 in my library/TBR stack. My question for this one was: No Discworld? Really?

If you’re the sort of person that feels this way about technology in Hollywood films: [click to embiggen]

(That’s Penny Arcade . They’re awesome.)

Then the nice people at Cracked have written for you: 8 Scenes That Prove Hollywood Doesn’t Get Technology

From Mental Floss, we have the 11 Geekiest Family Portraits Ever.

And one more Penny Arcade strip because all IT geeks know someone whose destiny appears to be to destroy any and all electronic equipment within fifty feet (without touching said equipment in some cases.)

And if this post has got your geek juices flowing, you may want to hit up RedBubble , as they have some incredible merchandise–for everyone, but geeks, too.


Chicagoland 1: Drained Brains Caper

by V. L. Craven

A romp of a book (appropriate for ages ten and up) that explains the beginning of the Chicagoland Detective Agency, which is run by a talking dog–his story is great–and his assistants, a computer whiz kid and a haiku writing vegan. This comic is great fun and I’m looking forward to the next in the series. Page Tyler’s artwork is somewhere between Manga and Western style comics and is perfect for the targeted demographic.

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