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Thoughts on Deadpool

So yesterday I was thinking how depressing it is that the top post on my blog is the one about Strange Chemistry shutting down. And yeah, I’ll be going to GenCon in a month and will be posting my schedule for it shortly, but that still means the Strange Chemistry post is second from the top, and that’s not that much better.

Since I can’t come up with blog post topics on my own, I went to Twitter for suggestions. Most of the suggestions involved talking about books I’m reading. LOGICAL. The thing is, I haven’t really read a prose book in its entirety since, like, May, because… I don’t know why? Reasons? I’ve been binging on comic books and graphic novels. Mostly comic books. Superhero comic books. Capes, laser fingers, flying around. Y’know. Comic books.

Probably the character I read the most of is Deadpool, so I’m gonna talk about him. Thanks to the magic of the Harris Country Public Library system, I was able to quickly catch up on his current ongoing series. Originally this was going to be about the entire series so far, but I English majored it up too much and wound up writing a thousand words on just the first volume, Dead Presidents. So…. SPOILERS AHOY!

So the cover for this book shows Deadpool leaping and/or flying toward some kind of monster whilst shedding bullet casings like a cat sheds fur. Oh, and there are actual cats either flying into or out of the monster’s mouth? I’m not sure which. I spent several minutes studying the cover trying to decide which one it was so I could know how to fully feel about it.

Anyway, the ALF-monster isn’t actually the focus of the story. Instead, a shitty wizard named Mike resurrects all of the dead presidents of the United States, with the hope that they will make this country great again. Instead, they come back as zombies who want to kill everybody. Captain America is dispatched. This, however, upsets the public, as no one wants to see Cap fighting Abraham Lincoln. SHIELD realizes they have to bring in a non-hero (an… ANTI-HERO, perhaps?) to take care of the problem.

It’s an absurd premise. I mean, I shouldn’t have to tell you that, you just read the summary, and I didn’t do anything to make it seem more absurd than it really is. This story arc (and the next one) are pretty firmly rooted in the “funny Deadpool” side of things. There are many jokes. Most of them are funny. The teacher in me was especially fond of the presidential-themed jokes, which made this comic feel vaguely educational. For example, Ronald Reagan launches himself into space as a means of attack. Get it? Star Wars?

cover

You also see a lot of Deadpool’s innards, if you are into that sort of thing. And he dresses up as Marilyn Monroe, if you are into that sort of thing. (I am.)

But. BUT. As funny as the story is, it actually lays the groundwork for the emotional complexity that’s always simmering beneath the surface of any given Deadpool comic (not a joke). The premise is absurd but it’s also pretty fucking sad–Deadpool is always striving to be at least semi-heroic, but when he gets the chance to save the world it’s only because the Avengers can’t be seen doing it. He’s doing something good, obviously–those presidents were going to KILL EVERYBODY–but he’s only getting to do it because his reputation has him set up as scumbug who would willingly kill presidents, because, duh, he’ll kill anybody for money. (This moral ambiguity is further wrinkled by the fact that he’s actually getting paid for this job.)

I appreciate that the comic was willing to pull away from the inherent humor in portraying US presidents as murderous zombies (yeah, I said inherent) and the constant exhibition of Deadpool’s intestines long enough to make that emotional darkness explicit. It accomplished this largely through the addition of one of the greatest lady comic characters of all time: AGENT PRESTON.

Agent Preston

Agent Preston is a character created specifically for the new Deadpool; she is ostensibly a foil to his shenanigans, but at the same time she’s an incredibly well-developed, realistic female character of the sort you don’t often find in ANYTHING. She’s the SHIELD agent who’s assigned to deal with the zombie president mess and winds up serving as Deadpool’s handler. Think about that for a minute. She is Deadpool’s handler. DEADPOOL’S. HANDLER. Agent Coulson just has to deal with a couple of science nerds and a secret douchebag. Preston wins.

Anyway, you learn more about her in the later volumes, but even just seeing her in her professional capacity is refreshing. She’s good at her job, which includes respecting Deadpool when he deserves it (something no one else in the Marvel universe seems capable of for some reason)(except maybe Captain America). It also includes calling Deadpool on his shit when he deserves that, too. She’s smart. She knows how to fight. She understands tactical strategy. She’s Coulson only better. I love her to a million billion pieces.

The relationship between Preston and Deadpool is where the emotional core of the story comes in. There’s one scene where she tells him that he’s done a good job in a bad situation–despite SHIELD complaining that he’s mucked everything up (he hadn’t). Deadpool as a character has always been a clown hiding his tragedy behind stupid-ass taco jokes, but in that scene you can see a bit of his facade slipping. It’s touching. There’s nothing romantic between the two of them (Preston is married with a kid and could do better than him anyway), and that’s another touch of realism do an otherwise utterly unrealistic story: the idea of a male-female friendship built on mutual respect. It happens in real life all the time. You rarely see it in fiction.

What’s really great about the comic is that although it recognizes the warmth in this relationship, it resists turning it into some sappy cheese fest, choosing instead to up the ante on the comedic potential. Long story short: Preston’s consciousness gets trapped in Deadpool’s body. I imagine this is a play on the yellow/white box stuff from the earlier comics, since Preston’s thoughts appear in pink boxes, and she and Deadpool have conversations that appear as one-sided to outside viewers. I really haven’t read enough of the older comics to speak intelligently on this–not that that’s gonna stop me–but I do wonder if the Preston head-fellows thing is a way of suggesting that Deadpool’s “craziness” may not be craziness at all, but rather the result of the outside world not seeing him wholly for who he is. Must investigate further!

I also like that you see how Preston’s “death” (her body dies, shitty wizard Mike preserves her soul…COMICS) affects Deadpool in a deep and, dare I say, meaningful way. He blames himself, of course, because he blames himself when anyone he knows dies within a hundred mile radius and not by his hand. It’s a part of the self-loathing that he’s constantly covering up (just like he covers up his scars with a knockoff Spiderman outfit!) and her death is a rather piercing moment of sorrow in, again, an otherwise very funny book. It was a relief to learn that Preston is alive and well and stuck inside Deadpool’s body. Not just for me as a reader (I was gonna be pissed if that was all the Preston I got) but for Deadpool. It’s one more death he can’t blame on himself.

Fake ETA: I didn’t say a single word about the artwork, did I? I really loved it. There’s a intricate indie sensibility to it that fits well with the characters and the story. It doesn’t feel like typical comic book art to me, but rather something brighter and more detailed. Sorry guys, I’ve spent the last ten years of my life studying writing, I’ve forgotten how to talk about pictures. But the art is fantastic.

Newspam: The Strange Chemistry Shutdown Edition

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, my YA publisher Strange Chemistry is no more. (This also affects the Angry Robot crime imprint, Exhibit A.) I spent the end of last week in a listless haze consisting of Deadpool comics and Lana Del Rey’s new album, which probably tells you something about my state of mind. However, it’s a new week, the Clarion West Write-a-thon has started up, and I’m getting back down to work.

I’ve been getting some questions about the fate of my books, so I wanted to clarify a few points:

Will the Assassin’s Curse duology be affected?

Well… yes. Presumably Angry Robot will continue to sell copies of the books still out in the wild, but once they’re gone, they’re gone, at least for now. The future of those books involves a lot of contractual shenanigans I can’t really talk about publicly, but rest assured I am hoping to re-release them eventually.

What about the Hanna duology?

The Wizard’s Promise suffers the same fate as the Assassin’s Curse books, and its sequel, The Nobleman’s Revenge, will not be released. Again, contractual shenanigans and all that, but I’m working out ways to get both books out into the world.

And Mad Scientist’s Daughter?

Since MSD was released by Angry Robot, it’s not affected by the Strange Chemistry shutdown.

What can I do to help?

The fact that people have actually asked me this warms my heart, it really does. I should say here that the outpouring of support for Strange Chemistry, its authors, and its staff has been overwhelming, and I just want to give a big ol’ Internet hug to all the bloggers who’ve volunteered time and blog space to help us out:

Anyway, right now the best thing you can do is buy my books, if you can. If you’ve already bought them, talk about them! Online, to your friends, whatevs. That can help the books not fade off into non-existence. Plus, Captain America approves!

I do have a couple of pieces of other, happier news that I’d like to share. First off, as mentioned, I’m participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon this year! I’m attempting to finish the draft of a novel in six weeks, Nanowrimo-style. My profile is available here. You can sponsor me or any other writer, and your donations will go to help provide scholarships and other necessities for Clarion West. As someone who was only able to attend Clarion West on scholarship, I’d love to see my frantic word count raise some money to help other financially-strapped students.

Also, I will be at Apollocon this weekend! I’m still planning on funning up my reading with bribery so try and stop on by! I’ll be giving away a free copy of The Wizard’s Promise, which is bittersweet for me but supersweet for you. I mean, that shit’s about to get rare.

Reading Report

So I’ve got a couple of one-hour readings coming up at the two cons I’ll be attending in June and July. In order to 1) sway people into attending and 2) make the whole affair more entertaining for everyone involved, I’m going to try a couple of new things as an experiment. As I mentioned on my ApolloCon schedule I am shamelessly ripping some of this off from my friend D.L Young, who will also host a participatory reading at ApolloCon.

Step 1: Everyone gets free cookies.

Step 2: For the first 25 minutes, I’ll read from The Wizard’s Promise, my latest book, and do a bit of Q&A about the writing process and such. Everyone who attends will receive a super-special edition of the Wizard’s Promise sampler zine I hand out at conventions, and I’ll also give away one free, signed copy of the book to a lucky winner! Yay for free stuff.

Step 3: For the second 25 minutes, I’ll let the audience decide what I’ll read from next. Here are your choices so you can start thinking about your vote now:

–My very first published story (as well as the story that got me into Clarion West), “The Cowboy’s Wife”
–My very first professionally published story, “The Space Between Stars”
–A sneaky peek at my Clarion West Write-a-thon novel
–Captain America fanfiction written by me

Step 4: Profit! Just kidding, no one’s getting paid for this.

I’m planning on doing this at both ApolloCon and ArmadilloCon. My ApolloCon reading will be Saturday, June 28, in Room 720. My ArmadilloCon reading will be Saturday, July 26, in Southpark A. I’ll post fliers at the cons as well, for reminder purposes.

ApolloCon Schedule

That’s right, I’m attending another Texas-based convention beginning with the letter “A.” This one’s ApolloCon and will be running June 27-29 in Houston. I’m going to be participating in quite a few panels at this one, so if you’ll be there, be sure to come up and say hi!

Friday

Breaking into the Marketplace
9-10 PM in Scottsdale
Malone, Young, Clarke (M), Swendson

Oh? What’s that? Is that a little M next to my name?

That’s right, I’m MODERATING. Prepare thyselves… for a rousing discussion on how one robs grocery stores gets started on a writing career.

Saturday

The Craft of Writing
1-2 PM in Seattle II
Ritz, Denney, Clarke, D’Aunno (M)

The title is pretty self-explanatory, I think. We’ll be talking about to make your writing SPARKLE!

Reading
3-4 PM in Room 720

It’s another hour long reading.

Fortunately, my friend D.L. Young gave me an idea to make the reading a little more interactive. I’ll post details on the blog soon!

ETA: Reading details are here

ETA Part 2: And after the reading, I’ll be heading over to Board Room 317 for the Houston Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Meet and Greet! Everyone’s welcome.

Sunday

Promotions in the Age of Twitter and WordPress
10-11 AM in Seattle II
Oseland (M), Clarke, Kristopher, Jones

There’s really only one gif that captures the experience of promoting in the age of Twitter and WordPress:

So. Expect greatness.

From Cap to Kitty: Marvel at the Movies
11 AM-12 PM in Scottsdal
Clarke, Bas, Ramirez, Thornton

I love when my latest obsession coincides with a panel at a con! And I love it even more when I manage to maneuver my way onto said panel! All the excited gifs in the world couldn’t begin to express my delight at being included, so here’s one that reveals the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in gif form:

It Learns While You Play: AI in SciFi
1-2 PM in Seattle I
Gerrold, Young, Patel (M), Clarke, Frank

EXACTLY.

What Next? Writing Your Sequel
2-3 PM in Scottsdale
Patel (M), Gerrold, Clarke

Spoiler: Writing sequels is a lot like writing fanfiction. Ie, a lot like this:

ArmadilloCon Schedule

I will be attending ArmadilloCon in Austin. It’s going down July 25-27 at the Omni Southpark. I’m on some panels, so you know what means….

 

GIF SPOILERS!!!

Friday

Tree Creatures
4:00 PM-5:00 PM in Room E
Wells*, Clarke, Oliver, Stanley
Ents, nymphs dryads and more. Discussion regarding the various kinds of tree creatures from myth and legend.

Every time I think about being on this panel I’m reminded of the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, a comic book I didn’t know existed until people started linking the trailer all over the place. And I was like, why’s everyone so interested in that Jack Frost movie all of sudden?

Anyway, this guy:

He’s a house plant/muscle? IDK, that pretty much sums up the idea of mythological tree creatures really.

Beyond the Plunder
9:00 PM-10:00 PM in Room D
Blaschke*, Clarke, Hardy, Leicht, Rogers
Which genre books, movies, shows correctly portray historical pirates?

This is my dream panel. I’m not even kidding. This is a topic on which I have read actual non-fiction.

Probably not historically accurate.

Saturday

Vampires, WTF?!?
3:00 PM-4:00 PM in Room E
Babcock*, Clarke, Downum, Faust, S. White
Vampires were such evil, dangerous creatures. How in the world did they become sparkling so quickly?

Having actually read the Twilight books, I can tell you that vampires were always sparkling, they just hid it from us so they could slip more easily into society.

Reading
5:00 PM-6:00 PM in Southpark A

Dear God, it’s an HOUR LONG.

I’ll definitely mix things up. And probably allow for questions. Maybe we can play some sort of game? I guess I’ve got two months to figure it out.

ETA: I figured out what I’m doing! Details here. There’s free stuff in it for ya.

Anyway, that’s my schedule. I hope to see some of you there!

Comicpalooza Schedule!

I will be at Comicpalooza, the Houston comic convention, over Memorial Day weekend! I’m going to be appearing on a handful of panels, plus I’ll be wandering around the convention staring at stuff in awe, if previous Comicpaloozas are anything to go by.

Saturday

Playing God – Building Your Own World
Panelists: Martha Wells, Stina Leicht, me
10 AM in 360 C

There aren’t official panel descriptions yet, but I suspect this one is pretty much encapsulated by the title. That is, Martha, Stina, and I will reveal ourselves to be members of the Q continuum.

Sci-Fi – Sex in Space! This Isn’t Your Brother’s Sci-Fi
Panelists: Janet Wrenn, E. Jacqueline Patricks, Miranda Kavi, me
5 PM in 360 B

Again, the title pretty much tells you what you’re going to get: the greatest convention panel of all time.

Monday

It’s My Fantasy
Panelists: Raven Raye, Chris Lewis, Martha Wells, me
10 AM in 352 D

Okay, so this one breaks the title-tells-you-everything rule. I suspect it will be about fantasy literature? Or it could literally be about the fantasies of the panelists. Here’s one of mine:

YA Fantasy Panel
Panelists: Miranda Kavi, Rachel Harris, Emily Evans, me
2 PM in 352 B

Should I bring up Harry Potter? I think I might.

I’m local to the convention, so I’ll probably also be around on Friday and/or Sunday, depending on when my entourage wants to go (kidding, I don’t have an entourage). I’m also thinking about curating a Winter Soldier-themed outfit (not cosplay, just an outfit inspired by the sartorial choices of the Winter Soldier). What do you guys think?

Not fans, then? Okay.

The Wizard’s Promise UK Release Day

OMG! The Wizard’s Promise is out today in the UK!

All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.

As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.

You can also read the first chapter here.

The book is currently available in UK bookstores and over on Amazon.co.uk. If you’re in the US/Canada, the book will be available online and in bookstores Tuesday, May 6.

However, if you don’t want to wait, or if you live elsewhere in the world, I’ll let you in on a little secret: You can purchase a DRM-free ebook over at The Angry Robot Trading Company. Happy reading!

I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read and reviewed the book so far, as well as all the bloggers who kindly hosted me for the blog tour. You’re all wonderful!

Angry Robot Live Panel!

The first ever Angry Robot Live Panel went down last night, and I was delighted to be a part of it. The panel’s topic was 21st century science fiction, which led to discussions about futurism, science fiction then and now, the movie Her, and the use of chariots in the Avengers.

The other panelists were AR authors Ramez Naam, Wesley Chu, and Madeline Ashby. If you missed the live hangout, no matter! For it has been archived on Youtube:

I’m sure Angry Robot is planning to do more hangouts in the future, with other authors and at other times, so keep a look out!

A Trio of Things

As the title suggests, I have a trio of things…which I would like to share with you all. First off, the PDK Award Ceremony!

HUGE congratulations to Ben Winters, who won the main prize, and Toh Enjoe, who received a special citation. I got to hear a little smattering of all of the readings during the ceremony, and they were all fantastic! You can watch the awards ceremony yourself, as it’s been posted to Youtube:

I’m so grateful that I was able to attend Norwescon and the ceremony. It was such a phenomenal experience overall. I’m not sure I’ll get to write a proper con report any time soon (I’m pretty swamped right now), but I had a great time presenting on panels (and watching a couple as an audience member) and getting to see Seattle again.

Secondly, I had another short come out while I was attending the convention. I announced it on Twitter, but I wanted to mention again here. The story appears in Superficial Flesh and it’s called “What Little Girls Are Made Of.” A sample:

superficial

One of the girls at the office recommended the witch to Jessica. The girl’s name was Maria and she had lost a great deal of weight after a leave of absence — it was a story everyone at the office loved to tell and retell. Nearly a year ago, at the beginning of the summer, Maria disappeared from the office’s ecosystem. She weighed 190 pounds. Everyone knew this because she didn’t hide her numbers. She wrote 190 in lipstick across the top of the mirror in the ladies’ bathroom the day she left. Jessica found it the next morning, Maria’s weight slashing across the reflection of her face.

 
There are some amazing pieces in this issue, both fiction and artwork, so I highly suggest checking it out!

Finally, I will be participating in a live Google+ panel with three other Angry Robot authors–Ramez Naam, Wesley Chu, and Madeline Ashby. We’ll be talking about 21st century science fiction. The panel is scheduled for 8:30 EDT on Monday, April 28, and I’m going to endeavor not to monopolize the conversation by talking entirely about Captain America: Winter Soldier, even though I am currently obsessed.

(By the way, if you’re like me and get confused by time zones, here’s a handy dandy time zone converter. EDT is New York City.)

If you aren’t able to make the panel live, we will be posting it on Youtube afterwards!

Short Story Available: “Ursula Major, Ursula Minor”

fog_hornA few weeks ago I sold a short story to The Fog Horn, and it’s now available in the latest issue! The story is called “Ursula Major, Ursula Minor.” I wrote it waaaay back when I first found out I had been accepted to Clarion West, and I’m so happy that it’s finally found a home

Luz arrived in the last days of Ursula’s life, slipping as silent as a cat through the clouds of white linen that snapped and fluttered in the sea breeze. Ursula lifted her head a few inches above her pillow and squinted at him. In the cream-colored light, he looked as if he had a full-body halo, like a painting of the Virgin.

You can purchase a subscription to the Foghorn through iTunes, and you can find out more about the other stories featured in the issue on the Fog Horn’s blog. If you’re not familiar with the Fog Horn, they’re a really cool magazine that publishes across genres and is informed by the idea that the short story is a perfect fit for iPhones and iPads. Issues are only $3.99 a month, ie, cheaper than the elaborate Starbucks coffee beverage I’m currently enjoying.

Check ‘em out!