Happy May the 4th — the internationally recognized corporate, toyetic holiday for all things Star Wars. It's also Free Comic Book Day. I took my son to pick up a couple of comics from the local store here. I picked up some Firefly ones, which I kind of forgot were a thing.
It's been an interesting week or so since last week's announcement. I've been working on the project for a couple of months now — gathering resources, talking with people, taking pictures, but now that the word is out, I've started in earnest. I've conducted a bunch of interviews already, with more scheduled in the coming weeks / months. I'm excited for what I'll find, and I'm really interested in seeing how far this project drifts from what my original expectations are — I'm sure that I'll learn new things that I had no conception of when I wrote up my original pitch and outline.
To allay some worries that I've had come my way from Facebook messages, Tweets, and emails: the book will widely cover the history of fan costuming and cosplay. It'll prominently be looking at the role of women, non-Cis, and non-white fans, questions of identity, and where fans find themselves in fandom. That's been a goal since the start of the project, and that might not have come through in the original PR push. I think the title has caused some worries that it's only looking at the recent history of the movement, and that's also not the case: my starting point is the late 1800s, and if all goes well, it should go right up to the present.
Spoilers (Disclaimer: not really spoilers)
On Tuesday, I went to the store to get a load of groceries, and happened to buy a pack of the Game of Thrones-promoting Oreos. When I got to the check-out line, the young woman at the register asked: "Did you watch last week's episode??"
Reader, I did. I ended up breaking and clicking on a trial subscription for HBO Go and watched caught up on the latest couple of episodes. It was quite the event, even if I'm in total agreement with Angry Staff Officer's assessment of how the 82-minute long battle played out.
It was a weird weekend, because another finale-ish event took place a couple of days before: Avengers: Endgame, the culminating film of Marvel's Cinematic Universe, which took place after last year's devastating Avengers: Infinity War, in which half of the heroes were erased from existence. The film's since gone on to take in ~$2 billion (yes, with a 'B') in its global box office, which is mind-boggling. (It's helped by the fact that it's opened in the most theaters ever, and it opened in China on the same day as the rest of the world).
Those two things together had me thinking about a couple of things. The first is the idea that "No Spoilers!" has become such a mainstream thing — that these are stories that are so universal (or as close as we'll see in the modern day) that merely talking about them will get that hissed at you. And second, the idea that a random store clerk would have struck up a conversation about the events in a fantasy series about magical zombies is so utterly far from how that conversation would have gone while I was in high school is mind-boggling to me.
Not that I'm complaining. Stories are what binds people together, and franchises like Star Wars and the MCU — for all they've been test-screened, evaluated, and quantified for maximum, crowd-pleasing enjoyment — are the things that really transcend all borders — political allegiances, races, nationalities, class placement, generations, etc. That's obviously an overly broad assessment of these specific franchises (and you'll have arguments about each of those items), but the fact remains: you can go to China and find a fan of Iron Man or Captain America, or Captain Marvel. At Star Wars Celebration, I came across fans of all nationalities whilst in a 501st event. It's a wonderful thing, and for all the hay that people make about gatekeeping in fandom, or complaining about SJWs/Feminazis/other nonsense, I like living in a world where people love superheroes, Jedi Knights, and the political happenings of fantastical kingdoms.
At the same time, that broad appeal can be kind of frustrating. Not on a "all these fake fans are ruining the fun for us true fans" sort of way, but just because it's impossible to talk about what we just saw/read/experienced. The official Disney statute of limitations for spoilers is apparently on Monday, but that takes out some of the immediate spark of the fun of seeing the film. Maybe I'm not in the right slack rooms / group chats, or friend groups to experience that right off. Still, I do like seeing that people are at least trying to restrain themselves from impinging on others' enjoyment by not blurting out key plot points.
There are a couple of things worth highlighting that came out recently. This article came out back in March, but it's a good read: an overview of the career of Chesley Bonestell in Discover, a science fiction artist that you might not have heard about, but whose work you've probably seen. Another came out last week on Vox: a fantastic overview of James Tiptree Jr., aka Alice Sheldon, who wrote some of the best science fiction stories of the late 1960s and 1970s, and who is pressingly relevant right now.
Popula published an interesting story earlier this week about the economics of indie bookstores, and it's an intriguing, and slightly depressing read about working for bookstores, and how there's a lot of optimism in owning / running such a store, but like most businesses that are running on thin margins, it's an entirely different thing to work for one. This doesn't entirely line up with my experiences. I worked for Borders / Walden Books pre-Recession, and made enough to keep the rent paid while in college, and working for Bear Pond Books part-time was a supplement to freelance income and a spouse who worked full-time and covered our insurance (and they paid above the $15 an hour rate). But it's certainly something to think about when you talk about them being a moral fixture in a community. At the end of the day, they're businesses.
Finally, I'll point your attention to a new roleplaying game called Quest, created by a co-worker. In particular, take a look at their Community Code of Conduct, which reinforces that people need to be good to one another, tolerate and respect their fellow players, and proactively creating a positive playing environment. It's a breathe of fresh air in a world of gaming / reading / watching that can turn toxic quickly, and it's a good reminder that this sort of environment needs to be tended to, with the examples set from the top. This is a good example of that in practice.
A couple of things I've written in the past weeks.
- It's Star Wars day, which saw the announcement of a new Star Wars novel — written by Rebecca Roanhorse, who wrote the fantastic Trail of Lightning. Very excited for that one.
- Peter Mayhew, a beloved figure in the Star Wars community, and actor behind Chewbacca, passed away. I never met him, but I'm heartbroken at the cartoons, remembrances, and tributes that have come out since.
- I rounded up 10 books coming out this month that you should check out.
I finished A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine — I read and listened to this one — and it's a phenomenal book. It perfectly balances plot, characters, and world-building, and it's probably one of my favorite books of the year. I've read a couple of space operas that I didn't really care for — John Scalzi's Consuming Fire and Ann Leckie's Provenance, both of which have lots of characters in rooms talking at one another, and while this one has a lot of that, it did so in a way that just worked. I'll probably have a review of that coming in the next week or so, so stay tuned as I collect my thoughts.
I also finished Charlie Jane Anders' The City in the Middle of the Night. I have some more complicated feelings on that one, but overall, I liked it. I'm still thinking about and processing it.
Presently, I'm working on reading Chen Quifan's Waste Tide (started while at Star Wars Celebration, have picked away at it since), which is a fantastic, near-future thriller set in China. Ken Liu translated that one, and I'm really enjoying it. Will also likely be reviewing this one.
Up next, I have a short pile, now that I seem to be getting my reading stride back. Rebecca Roanhorse's Storm of Locusts is one I've been meaning to get to, as well as Elizabeth Bear's Ancestral Night and Suzanne Palmer's Finder. Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Ruin hits stores later this month, and that's also a high priority, as I loved Children of Time. I'm also eyeing Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed, because I do love Star Wars books about starfighter pilots. After that, there's the usual long-list of things to get to.
That's all for now. It's been a long day. As always, let me know what you're reading, and what your thoughts are.