Weekend Music – The Shape of Things to Come

This has been a rough week for a few reasons, but I’ve made it through and am taking pains to make sure some of the bad experiences from the past few days don’t repeat. Here’s to better times ahead with more (and relevant) Battlestar Galactica music.

 

“The Shape of Things to Come” from the Battlestar Galactica season 1 soundtrack composed by Bear McCreary.

Image taken from Pixabay @ https://pixabay.com/photos/death-darkness-dark-hood-hooded-164761/

The Black Company – A Complete Reading Chronology *Updated*

Note: Update(s) at bottom. 

Good day, everyone! With all the new content from our contributors, I thought it was time I released a little something myself while I continued to work on my other column ideas for the Thoughts. For today, I thought another short post about the Black Company books by Glen Cook was in order. I’m not going to stop until I make readers out of some of my followers and friends.

Moving forward from what I started with my post on Croaker awhile back, I wanted to present all of you with an accessible reading chronology for the series, being as I found it difficult to keep straight what order some books should be read in. There doesn’t seem to be that much out there about the series these days, what with it wrapping up over a decade ago.

1. The Black Company (1984) – The first book in the series is a classic unto itself and is a great introduction to Glen Cook’s world.
2. Shadows Linger (1984)
3. The White Rose (1985)

Cover image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/91/The_White_Rose.jpg
Cover image from Wikimedia.

The first trilogy of books, often called the Books of the North, have also been collected in The Chronicles of the Black Company.

4. The Silver Spike (1989) – This one is a bit of a misfit. It chronicles the adventures of a side group of characters after the company parted ways at the end of the third book. Various lists place it as either first or last in the second trilogy. I actually read it in between the following two books.
5. Shadow Games (1989)
6. Dreams of Steel (1990)

The second trilogy of books, often called the Books of the South, have also been collected in The Books of the South: Tales of the Black Company. These stories, generally speaking and avoiding spoilers, explore the adventures of the Black Company as it seeks to return to the lost city of Khatovar far to the south from which its original incarnation emerged centuries earlier.

7. Bleak Seasons (1996)
8. She is the Darkness (1997)

Image courtesy of Wikimedia and comes from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/83/She_Is_The_Darkness.jpg
Cover image from Wikimedia.

These books, the first two of the four-part Glittering Stone, have also been collected in The Return of the Black Company.

9. Water Sleeps (1999)
10. Soldiers Live (2001) – Here’s to hoping the last book is as hopeful as its title suggests.

The last two books of Glittering Stone have also been collected in The Many Deaths of the Black Company.

Cover image from http://jacketupload.macmillanusa.com/jackets/high_res/jpgs/9780765324016.jpg
Cover image from MacMillan.

There are also a few short stories set in the same world. I’ll admit, though, I’m not familiar with them but plan on adding them on after I complete the novels.

1. “Raker” (1982) – Apparently, this is an early version of an early chapter from the first book.
2. “Tides Elba” (2010) – Appeared in Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery.
3. “Smelling Danger” (2011) – Appeared in Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2.

Glen Cook has also talked about two more possible novels in the series if he can get around to writing them.

A Pitiless Rain – Forthcoming with little known.

Port of Shadows – Forthcoming with little known.

I hope this list will be helpful to any of you looking to get into this classic fantasy series. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE (5-24-19): 

I was curious to see an uptick in traffic to this old post, so I wanted to go ahead and make some additions to it on releases since I first wrote this list:

“Shaggy Dog Bridge” was released in 2013 in Fearsome Journeys: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy, and is set between Shadows Linger (Book Two) and The White Rose (Book Three).

“Bone Candy” was released in 2014 in Shattered Shields. It takes place after “Tides Elba,” which takes place after The Black Company (Book One), but before Port of Shadows (Book One-and-a-Half).

“Bone Eaters” was released in 2015 in Operation Arcana, edited by John Joseph Adams of Lightspeed Magazine. It is set right after “Shaggy Dog Bridge” before The White Rose.

Port of Shadows was released on September 11th, 2018. It is set between The Black Company (Book One) and Shadows Linger (Book Two), so feel free to read it whenever!

At this point, we’re still waiting on A Pitiless Rain and any other short stories that may come about. I know this addendum isn’t the most convenient way to absorb this information, so I will be remaking this post in the near future. Either way, I hope this helps out new readers!

 

If you’re a fan of books and hot beverages, check us out at Blue Spider Books. And check out our blog here!

So, Thor is a Woman Now?

To be honest, I'm surprised nobody has complained about this boob armor yet. Art by Esad Ribic. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics and found at http://aggressivecomix.com/2014/07/thor-is-a-woman-now-marvel-announces/
To be honest, I’m surprised nobody has complained about this boob armor yet. Art by Esad Ribic. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics and found at http://aggressivecomix.com/2014/07/thor-is-a-woman-now-marvel-announces/

As many of you likely already know, Marvel announced out of nowhere that Thor is going to now be a woman. I by no means believe this is a permanent change, but I do want to talk about it and what it means, here in my first improvised post in my new column at the Thoughts.

While I am in favor of increasing and improving diversity in comics and all media, constantly switching the identities of and replacing characters is not the way to do it. There are a lot more examples of this that I will return to, but for now the matter at hand.

To truly begin, why? Why make this change? Who is this character? Someone new? Angela? One of Thor’s future granddaughters?

Have we given up on Sif? Valkyrie? Even Dani Moonstar (a Native American mutant) when she became one of Hela’s Valkyries? There are already existing female Norse-themed characters in the Marvel Universe.

Image of Dani Moonstar from http://img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20061025182101/marveldatabase/images/4/49/Danielle_Moonstar_Valkyrie3.jpg
Image of Dani Moonstar from http://img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20061025182101/marveldatabase/images/4/49/Danielle_Moonstar_Valkyrie3.jpg

Why do this instead of further developing already existing female characters? There is a wealth of them at Marvel.

Why revisit an idea that’s been tried before and didn’t really catch on? For those of you who remember the Earth X storyline from 1999, you’ll also remember that Marvel’s answer to Kingdom Come sported a female Thor, transformed by some trickery of Loki’s.

Concept art of Earth X Thor from http://www.tgfa.org/comics/thor/images/EarthX_SpEd_09.jpg
Concept art of Earth X Thor from http://www.tgfa.org/comics/thor/images/EarthX_SpEd_09.jpg

And speaking of Loki, did the female Loki (Loki possessing Sif’s body) from Straczynski’s run on Thor lead to this in some way or influence it at all? Just examining possible leads here.

And again, why get worked up over some change that won’t last past the next Avengers film? The status quo always wins in comics.

I can sort of see the strategy here, but the market doesn’t really work the way Marvel may hope it will in this instance. You can’t take the existing fanbase of a wonderful title, throw a change like this on them, and expect it to be accepted without question just for the furthering of an arguably noble cause. I doubt Thor: God of Thunder will lose a huge percentage of its readership over this, but there is still some alienation that will occur. But I trust Jason Aaron on this one so far.

And this brings us to the circular trap of identifying with a character. When you undo a male, white character so that a non-white, non-male audience can identify with him or her and then expect the white, male portion of the audience to accept the change and see the character in the same light, you’ve basically undone the reason for the change to occur to begin with. Rather, would a stronger course of action be to encourage everyone to simply try to understand someone who is different from them and move forward from there? I think that is a stronger place for creating new characters and building up existing ones.

I leave you all with these questions. Let me know your thoughts below.

An afterthought: people thinking this may be a threat to Chris Hemsworth’s role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe need to think on how much it would likely cost to pay him out of the remainder of his contract. There are also legal concerns with violating such an agreement.

Sentient Animals in Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years

Image of the Cowardly Lion from http://www.imdb.com/media/rm897221632/tt0032138?ref_=ttmi_mi_all_sf_30
Image of the Cowardly Lion from http://www.imdb.com/media/rm897221632/tt0032138?ref_=ttmi_mi_all_sf_30

For those of you who have yet to discover Gregory Maguire’s adaptation of and expansion upon L. Frank Baum’s classic world of Oz,  I invite you to explore The Wicked Years  series.

In today’s post I’d like to explore the use of sentient creatures (called Animals in this series) and the possible connotations associated with this character set. I find it interesting that the differentiation between sentient and non-sentient beings in Maguire’s world begins with the simple addition of a capital letter (animals vs. Animals), but expands farther than that.

In The Wicked Years novels, sentient Animals have the same basic capabilities as humans, meaning they have the capacity for speech and coherent thought, they have the ability to walk upright, and they also possess the moral obligation to clothe themselves. However intelligent these Animals are, they are still hindered by the handicaps of their physicality. Brrr, the Lion from A Lion Among Men, for instance, is described as having difficulty with handwriting due to his paws. Yet, not only can he write, but he is employed (using this word loosely) as a court reporter/investigator. Despite his intellect and the fact that he overcomes his physical “handicaps,” Brrr, like other sentient Animals, is still treated as a lesser species. In fact, one of the main social tensions plowing through The Wicked Years novels is the battle for equality: people and beings viewed as less than equal against those in power who attempt to impose their ideas on the whole of Oz.

Cover image from http://www.amanforallseasons.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/a-lion-among-men-gregory-maguire-book-cover-art.jpg
Cover image from http://www.amanforallseasons.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/a-lion-among-men-gregory-maguire-book-cover-art.jpg

Sound familiar? It should, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few hundred years. In an ever-evolving world, the only constant thread binding generation to generation is the battle for equality— that Us vs. Them mentality.

Not only are the Animals treated as less than human, they are too human for the animal world. Maguire’s series hosts Animals who have retreated into the wilderness to live among animals that look like them, but have nowhere near the capacities they have. A creature who is too intelligent for one group, yet dismissed as unworthy by another group? Well, that should sound familiar, too. I expect that each of us has experienced some feeling similar to this in our lives, some more harshly than others, I’m sure.

Now, I don’t ascribe to overt political notions, but I can safely opine that of all the canonical, classic literature I’ve ever dealt with, most harbor a thematic notion (however vague it may be) of equality or social justice. This construct is the common denominator in the hopelessly obtuse equation of our past, present, and future. Regardless of the “side” you would choose or have chosen in your own battles for equality, a hint of understanding and empathy can be lent to the characters in Maguire’s series.

Whether you are a fantasy junkie or not, check out The Wicked Years series. And if you aren’t sure about it, I know of a certain green-faced character who may be able to change your mind.

Let’s deepen the discussion. Tell me your thoughts on the parallels between Maguire’s Oz and what we know as reality. For instance, what other parallels can be drawn between Animals and their struggles and our reality? Also, how do you feel about the theme of social justice in literature? Do you think that it anchors a novel (or series of novels) in the reader’s mind?  If so, how?

The New Jedi Order

Hello all!  For my first sci-fi post here at the Thoughts, I wanted to tackle the book series from the early 2000s called The New Jedi Order.  I was always under the impression that this book series was not well-written and generally not a good read.  However, some time ago, I decided that it would behoove me to know more about the details of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion.  This seemed to impact so much of the Star Wars galaxy that I felt under-accomplished as a Star Wars nerd for not having read the series.

Image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/51/Vector_Prime.jpg
Image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/51/Vector_Prime.jpg

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

…if you haven’t read any of these books or been on Wookiepedia at any point in time.

The series begins with a book by R. A. Salvatore titled Vector Prime.  This is Salvatore’s first Star Wars novel, and he does a fantastic job.  I doubt very much that this surprised anyone, as Salvatore is the rather successful author behind many of the Forgotten Realms books.  I’m sure what did shock everyone was his choice to kill one of the main cast from the original trilogy movies.  The death of Chewbacca was a hard one to take and affected the tone of the whole series, but the subsequent authors did a very nice job of picking up where Salvatore left off and expounding on the new society he created: the Yuuzhan Vong, a race from a whole other galaxy.

The Yuuzhan Vong are a completely alien entity to every facet of life in the Star Wars galaxy.  They embrace pain as a natural and very important part of life.  They intentionally inflict pain on themselves as a means of worshiping their gods.  Indeed, their creation myth tells them that the first Yuuzhan Vong were cut off of their most revered deity, Yun-Yuuzhan.  His initial sacrifice to bring his children into existence is a big part of why the Yuuzhan Vong practice ritual sacrifice of slaves and captives, as well as personal sacrifice of their person.

Another major differentiating factor is their use of biotechnology, or shaping.  The Yuuzhan Vong do not use any form of technology as we, nor indeed the denizens of the Star Wars galaxy, understand it.  But the Yuuzhan Vong take it a step further to the point that mechanical technology, no matter to what scale it is used, is blasphemous and an abomination to the gods.  This is usually the first thing they set about doing when they have conquered a planet during the invasion.

Perhaps the hardest thing to come to terms with for the Jedi is the fact that the Yuuzhan Vong exist outside the Force.  The Jedi can’t detect them, anticipate their movements, affect them with mind tricks, pick them up and toss them away, none of that.  However, the Jedi quickly become the focus of much of the Yuuzhan Vong’s efforts to splinter the factions of the galaxy by more or less posting a bounty on Jedi.

I will admit that I have not finished the series yet, but I am close to the end.  With only three and a half books to go, I believe I have found the part of the series where some start to take issue with the writing.  There is a trio of books toward the end of the series written by two authors: Sean Williams and Shane Dix.  Admittedly, I know nothing else by either of these authors.  However, they do seem to railroad the story line into a particular direction in their first book, and also have a distinctly different approach to some of the characters.

Jaina Solo is a major player, both militarily and as a Jedi, throughout the entire Yuuzhan Vong war.  She was deeply affected by the Mission to Myrkr with the other young Jedi, including her brothers Jacen and Anakin.  With the death of Anakin, and Jacen’s capture on that mission, Jaina was in a dark place for a while.  She eventually came to the conclusion that Jacen had also died in Yuuzhan Vong captivity.  As such, she closed herself off to a lot of her friends and family.  Her outlook on life became very grim as well, and she fully expected to die before the end of the war.  It therefore made absolutely no sense to me that suddenly, in Force Heretic: Remnant, she is quite jovial and optimistic about things.

I’m not sure which of the authors penned this part of the book, but it is making this trilogy within the series quite difficult to read at times.  However, my overall opinion on the series still stands.  It has been my experience that The New Jedi Order is a vastly underrated series in the Star Wars expanded universe.  I intend to have future posts that return to this series, so please tell me your thoughts on the book series in the comments.  May the Force be with you.

This is me announcing my new column here at the thoughts.

Good day, everyone. I hope your weeks continue to go well. With all of our new contributors working up quality posts for the blog, I thought it was high time I also began working on more substantial content. Currently, I have the germ of an idea for a new column I’d like to work on, and it will be expansive in its scope.

I’ll go ahead and throw out there that I want to begin using my knowledge of the medium and its market(s) to address the growing concerns over the issue of diversity in comic books. My general approach to the topic will tend to follow one of three paths–pointing out and drawing outsider attention to the diversity that is already present, suggesting pragmatic methods for addressing the issue, and discussing why forcing diversity too quickly could ultimately be counter-productive. As time goes on, I’d like to extend this methodology to other media and genres as well.

Before this column even begins, let me be clear on one detail: I am most certainly in favor of encouraging the growth of diversity in Nerd Culture. I recognize, though, that forced change is the most actively resisted, as well as the most artificial form it can take. I want to entertain the idea of strong, persistent growth over time and see how that might solve the problem.

Let me know your thoughts on this idea for a column and its proposed methodology below. Expect the first entry sometime in the next week.

Yoko Tsuno: Smart Women, Science and Space Ships

by Natacha Guyot

When I was eight years old, I remember getting a Millenium Falcon toy (which I still have) that was large enough to have quite a few details included inside and not just outside. The day I got it, I also received another gift: one of the volumes from the Yoko Tsuno comic series. It turned out to be the 20th volume, that included not only a time travel story but also bonus drawings with concepts for the previous books. I had no idea when I got sucked up into The Astrologer of Bruges that I would fall in love with this series and that its female protagonist would become one of my greatest inspirations, right up with characters such as Leia Organa and Mara Jade from Star Wars, Jo March from Little Women or Dana Scully from The X-Files.

The Yoko Tsuno series was created in 1970 by Belgian writer and artist Roger Leloup and it is still in publication, with the 27th volume already announced. Strong, smart, accomplished female characters have always been very important to me, just like diversity in other aspects is. The female protagonist is a Japanese electrical engineer, trained in martial arts and a Buddhist, who moves to Europe in the beginning of the series. She gathered many friends as years went on, starting with her male colleagues, Vic Video and Pol Pitron.

One thing I particularly like about Yoko is that her author never felt the need to reduce her to any kind of sexualized object. She carried on with many adventures and relied a lot on her friends and family as she can’t do everything alone. She also adopted a young Chinese girl, Morning Dew, as a single mother. Her intimate life never had to be brought to the foreground. There are several hints about her and Vic Video being an item, but the author always chose not to confirm the relationship so that readers could see it however they wanted to.

Yoko and Morning Dew. Image from http://www.amazon.fr/. Art by Roger Leloup.
Yoko and Morning Dew. Image from http://www.amazon.fr/. Art by Roger Leloup.

I like the familial dynamic that isn’t so orthodox either. The exact living arrangements of the main characters aren’t a focal point, but Yoko often travels everywhere with Vic, Pol and Morning Dew, and later on with Mieke as well, Pol’s fiancée that the young man met during a journey to the 16th century. So it is likely that Morning Dew grows up with quite the familial circle as they all watch after her. Yoko also befriended one of the Vinean women, who appeared in many stories since then, in the first one: Khany. I like their friendship and how the long distance/online friendship is pictured even years before the Internet as they aren’t able to see each other that often, but are still so close knit. I picture these two as sisters, even more than I do Yoko and the teenager from the future, Monya, that she meets later in the series, no matter how much I also enjoy this other female character.

The comic series gives a lot of room to science and technology, likely because of Yoko’s background. Some stories take place in a contemporary setting while others include time travel or interactions with the Vineans, a humanoid alien species introduced in the first volume. The different directions the series has adds to its richness and keeps it fresh. While regular and recurring characters show up in the books, one never knows what the next volume will be about, because there isn’t a strict order in when to switch from contemporary investigations to time travel to the Vineans’ stories.

Yoko and Khany. Image from http://amazon.fr/. Art by Roger Leloup.
Yoko and Khany. Image from http://amazon.fr/. Art by Roger Leloup.

I love how egalitarian (gender, species, era, etc.) values are so important in the series. At the end of the Titans (8th volume), the Vinean Khany explains that they chose one of Yoko’s lines to be inscribed on an alien’s tomb, because this is the ideal with which Yoko came to them and to others and that such ideas need to be transmitted to the Vinean children. Yoko’s words were the following:

‘The shapes that differentiate matter very little. Beings matter little if their thoughts ally to build a universe.’

Up to this day, only a few volumes were translated into English, and I would recommend to read them in the following order, instead of their order of publication in the USA:

The Curious trio (#1 Le trio de l’étrange), published July 2012
The Devil’s Organ (#2 L’Orgue du Diable), published July 2013
On the Edge of Life ( #7 La Frontière de la vie), published July 2007
Daughter of the Wind (#9 La Fille du Vent), published July 2009
The Time Spiral (#11 La Spirale du temps), published January 2008
The Prey and the Ghost (#12 La Proie et l’ombre), published July 2008
The Dragon of Hong Kong (#16 Le Dragon de Hong Kong), published July 2010
The Morning of the World (#17 Le Matin du Monde), published June 2011

If you can read in French, all the volumes are still available for purchase. One way or the other, if you enjoy solid female characters, diversity and Science Fiction, I highly recommend this comic book series.

And since I saw Pacific Rim, I want a movie or television adaptation made with Rinko Kikuchi portraying Yoko because she would be absolutely perfect for the part!