Every year I tell myself I can’t/shouldn’t rely on the special NaNoWriMo magic to get my deadlines done. Because, you know, what are the odds that I’ll manage to write 50K words in a month every single year?
And yet. Every year that I genuinely make the effort, it comes off well.
If I could do NaNo four times a year, I would. But I’ve tried the alternatives and really, it only works in November. Which is crazy, because November is a terrible time for writing. In Australia it’s the end of the university year, not the middle – I have an annual two week job that overlaps with NaNo. There are so many other things that tend to collide – this year it was the coverage of Jessica Jones for Tor.com. Next year it will be something else. In 2009 I’d just had a baby, it was crazy to even try…
But the secret it, it’s always a bad month for writing. I have kids, I have commitments, I have all manner of things that leap up and demand attention. My email inbox is enough to make anyone cry.
NaNoWriMo works for me, and it works mostly because of a combined magical cocktail of pressure and obligation. The words get written. They get written fast. And (here’s my own personal secret) they get written good.
This week was Leigh Brackett’s 100th’s birthday which makes her a very appropriate SF Woman of the 20th Century to tackle. These days, Brackett (1915-1978) is mostly known to fandom for her screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, the generally regarded “best” of the original Star Wars trilogy. Her screenwriting career (she also co-wrote The Big Sleep and wrote many other screenplays for Howard Hawkes among others) was tremendous, but she remained devoted to a far less prestigious form of writing – that of pulp science fiction.
Like many women in the field (including Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Anne McCaffrey), Leigh Brackett often mashed up science fiction and fantasy traditions, which has been used as a convenient excuse over the years to dismiss or disregard her importance as a science fiction writer…
And then of course, the fun space opera/planetary romance that she loved became hugely vindicated with the success of the Star Wars films! While her contribution to Empire is often downplayed, several key concepts for the films came about because of Brackett and Lucas’ story meetings and her screenplay draft, including the idea that Luke Skywalker would have a twin sister who was also a Jedi (unlike Leia, the version Brackett pitched would actually have been trained fully in her powers separately to Luke).
Brackett’s favourite setting for fiction was Mars – a Burroughs-style, liveable magical kingdom version of Mars with old cities and canals – though she didn’t create a firm continuity between her many overlapping versions of the planet.
The Buzz: A teenage Korean-American Hulk written and drawn by a Korean-American creative team! Amadeus Cho is a fun younger character who actually enjoys a) being a superhero and b) being a Hulk, which is already a fresh take on the old franchise. Check out this interview with Pak and Cho.
All You Need To Know: Amadeus Cho is a teen supergenius who started out as a sidekick to the Incredible Hercules and ended up tangled in all kinds of pantheon shenanigans, eventually replacing Hercules as the head of the Olympus Group, a corporation run by the Greek Gods. Yes, really. I don’t know how he became a Hulk. Shit happens, I guess.
Story: This is a fun ‘Hulk family’ book with appearances from She-Hulk and classic Bruce Banner, though the focus is very much on Amadeus and his sister Maddy who does field support for him via radio and is concerned that he’s not taking his hero business seriously enough. Plenty of banter and humour, this has to be one of the most likeable (non-She) Hulk titles I’ve come across before. As a comics reader who started with DC in the 90’s, I’m a big fan of second generation/legacy characters and this is a great example of that.
The Buzz: Let’s be clear here, I’m only reading this because Wiccan and Hulkling are in it.
All You Need To Know: Roberto DaCosta, former New Mutant, has purchased a formerly evil organisation full of Science! And also an island. Some of the Marvel Universe’s young uns are on the AIM team, and also Hawkeye as the official SHIELD traitor spy. No, not the Hawkeye anyone actually wants on a team with Wiccan and Hulkling (sorry, Clint).
Secret Wars is over, the Marvel Universe is more confused than ever, and that’s all I’ve got.
Story: The team of the New Avengers includes my darling sweeties, Wiccan & Hulkling (most adorable teen gay couple in the Marvel Universe, not that you could really tell that from this issue), the usually hilarious Squirrel Girl, and classic Clint Barton Hawkeye. (The team also includes the next gen versions of White Tiger and Power Man, who previously appeared in the Mighty Avengers, but I didn’t stick with that title long enough to get the hang of them. And someone called Songbird) Apparently they’re going to do science and save the world from an exotic island base and that sort of thing, but this issue mostly consists of some erratic plane flying, shooting and a lot of earnest conversations, plus an attempt at banter.
Jessica Jones is coming to Netflix on November 20th! I’m really excited about this. In preparation, I’ve been writing reread reviews of the original 4-trade Alias series (now available in a single hardcover volume) by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Michael Gaydos, David Mack, Mark Bagley which introduces Jessica as the hardest, grumpiest noir detective scraping a living in a bright, technicolor superhero world.
Watch Jessica track down missing angsty teenagers, catfish straying husbands, and get taken in by a con man so dodgy, he even cons himself! See Jessica isolate herself from her super-friends, her family, and her former life. Marvel as Jessica saves the public face of Captain America, beats J. Jonah Jameson at his own game, teams up with Spider-Woman and hooks up with both Luke Cage and Ant-Man! (the hot Ant-Man, not the original Ant-Man) Witness Jessica come to terms with her past, present and future as she comes face to face with her nemesis, the sinister mind-controlling Purple Man. Also, listen to Jessica swear a lot. Like, a lot.
Jessica Jones is My Hero – a personal essay about Jessica’s post-Alias appearances in the Marvel Comics Universe, her essential connection to the Civil War storyline, and her portrayal as a wife and mother. Revised for republication on Tor.com.
Naoko Takeuchi is a Japanese manga artist and writer. She has a degree in chemistry, and qualified as a pharmacist before submitting her work to manga publishers. Her early work was mostly romance-based, but she wanted to create a manga about female warriors and outer space – and her editor Osano Fumio suggested she put the girls in sailor suits (similar to the uniform Takeuchi had worn at high school).
After testing out the concept with a one-shot manga called Codename: Sailor V (which later become a popular serial in its own right), Takeuchi developed her idea into the science fantasy manga serial Sailor Moon, also known as Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, depending on the translation.
This hugely successful sh?jo (aimed at teen girl readers) manga fused two popular genres: Magical Girl, and Sentai/Superhero Squad. Sailor Moon ran for 52 chapters between 1991-1997, and followed the adventures of Usagi, a teenage superhero who takes on the powers of Sailor Moon thanks to a talking cat, magical jewellery, and destiny. She is surrounded by her team, each of whom has their own magical super identity based on a planet (Sailors Mars, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune Uranus and Pluto, because Pluto is totally a planet).
Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the most popular and celebrated SF writers still working today. She has won the Hugo for Best Novel four times, an achievement only equalled by Robert Heinlein. While she has published excellent fantasy fiction in recent years, it is her epic space opera series based on the Vorkosigan family for which she is best known.
The secret to the Vorkosigan novels is, you don’t have to read them in the right order. I started A Civil Campaign, when it was the most recent, and meandered all over the place in catching up with the characters, based on which books I could source at the time – it was the early 00’s, and Bujold still wasn’t widely distributed in Australia, so my collection included imported paperbacks, library copies and Fictionwise. Remember Fictionwise? Remember mobipocket?
Then I discovered that Bujold herself had written all of the books in the wrong order. It wasn’t just me! For instance, when I read the first two books of the series, Shards of Honor and Barrayar, as the ‘Cordelia’s Honor’ omnibus, I assumed those two books were published close together.