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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Wires and Nerve: Wires and Nerve Vol 1" by Marissa Meyer Art by Douglas Holgate (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Read FBC's review of Cinder (Lunar Chronicles 1) Here
Read FBC's review of Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles 2) Here
Read FBC's review of Cress (Lunar Chronicles 3) Here
Read FBC's review of Fairest (Lunar Chronicles 3.5) Here
Red FBC's review of Winter (Lunar Chronicles 4) Here

OVERVIEW: In her first graphic novel, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marissa Meyer follows Iko, the beloved android from the Lunar Chronicles, on a dangerous and romantic new adventure -- with a little help from Cinder and the Lunar team.

In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new, action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers' leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series

FORMAT: Wires and Nerve: Vol 1 is a YA sci-fi/fantasy graphic novel based on The Lunar Chronicles. It takes place shortly after the events in Winter. The plot focuses mainly on Iko and features adventure and a bit of romance.

Wires and Nerve: Vol 1 stands at 240 pages. It was published by Feiwel & Friends on January 31, 2017.

ANALYSIS: While I wasn't in the whole fan girl club surrounding the Lunar Chronicles, I enjoyed it enough to want to follow up with it when I heard there was going to be a graphic novel spin-off. I wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't have super high expectations, but I wasn't thinking this would be a total flop. What I got was definitely a different, yet surprisingly pleasant, experience.

Wires and Nerve follows the lovely and very charismatic android, Iko. Iko sets out on a mission to rid Earth of the remaining wolf-hybrid soldiers that ignored the call to come back. While on the mission, Iko has a 'come to the light' moment and starts questioning who she is as an android and why she is starting to feel things she never felt before. She is also confronted with the fact that the world is extremely narrow-minded and views her as simply a computer with a personality chip and nothing more.

Iko was probably my favorite character from the Lunar Chronicles. She was funny, outgoing, loyal, and so filled with personality and spunk that she just jumped out of the book. It was a lot of fun to be able to dig deeper and really see Iko shine.

It did take a little while to adjust to the graphic novel format. Partly because a lot – almost all – of the characters were nothing like I pictured them in my head. This wasn't the fault of the author or even the artist, but it had a bit of a disorienting effect on me. It wore off as I continued to read and got comfortable with the characters, but the first part was a bit of a shock to the system.

There was a lot that I enjoyed in Wires and Nerve, but there was a lot that didn't feel right to me. I'll start with what I loved.

I loved the way it seemed like an effortless transition from the books to the graphic novel. Some time has passed, but not a lot. It can sometimes be difficult for books to make this transition, but I think Wires and Nerve did an excellent job. There were plot elements that carried over from the series, yet it felt like it was its own story.

That leads me to one of the downsides – the time spent reliving the past. There seemed to be a lot of time spent reminding readers about what happened in the series of books. This happens in books and it isn't such a big deal, but there was limited time in the graphic novel. It was frustrating to spend so much time looking back and having so many reminders about what happened as opposed to focusing on moving forward.

While other characters, Cinder, Kai, Cress, Thorne, Scarlet, Kinney, Wolf and Winter, are a part of the story, they are pretty much background characters. Cress and Thorne do play a considerable role in the novel, as does Winter and Kinney, but the other characters have very brief camo appearances in the book. In a way it felt like some of these characters (Kai) were just shoved into the novel to give them an appearance and it didn't really fit with the story.

That leads me to my other issue – Thorne. Thorne and Iko were probably my favorite characters in the Lunar Chronicles. Iko is kept the same, but Thorne seems to have had a huge character/personality change. In the novel he came across as cocky, confident and just a character I enjoyed. That changed in Wires and Nerve. In this graphic novel he just doesn't feel right. He feels emo-ish, whiney, or pouty or something. I can't put my finger on it.

Overall, I think it was a well done graphic novel. I wasn't super in love with it, but it was enjoyable. I really think super fans of the series will enjoy seeing their beloved characters brought to life in graphic novel format. However, I think there is a potential for disappointment. Readers going into the novel expecting another Lunar novel could face disappointment. The novel, due to its main focus on Iko, has a very different vibe to it and while there is danger, there isn't the sense of impending doom and urgency that was present in Lunar Chronicle books.

In the end, I was satisfied. It took a while to adjust to the visual representation of characters and even the detailed drawings of actual places, but once that settled down, I was able to enjoy the story. I do look forward to seeing more of Iko and watching her grow as a character.
Monday, February 27, 2017

GUEST BLOG: Steven Brust and Skyler White of The Skill of Our Hands: A Novel

We invited Steven Brust and Skyler White to 'take over' our blog for the day. They are the authors behind The Skill of Our Hands, which was released by Tor on January 24, 2017. Given the opportunity and free reign to take over our blog for the day, they decided to interview each other and talk about everything from their art to anxieties and everything in between!

Before turning the blog over to Steven and Skyler, I leave you with an overview for The Skill of Our Hands.

The Skill of Our Hands Summary:

The Incrementalists are a secret society of two hundred people; an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, a little bit at a time.

Now Phil, the Incrementalist whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has been shot dead. They’ll bring him back—but first they need to know what happened. Their investigation will lead down unexpected paths in contemporary Arizona, and bring them up against corruption in high and low places alike. But the key may lay in one of Phil’s previous lives, in Kansas in 1859, and the fate of a man named John Brown.

Now, I welcome Steven and Skyler! Thank you for joining us today. 



          SKYE:  So the other day, on Twitter, you proposed a new word, "Euphustiphobia." You defined it as the fear of looking pretentious, and blamed it for the fact that "so many of us in the field are reluctant to talk about art." I'll quote myself now using a phrase I didn't realize I relied on so heavily until someone at 4th Street teased me about it, and start by asking you to "unpack that for me."

          STEVE: First of all, and most important, I don't think you particularly use, "unpack that for me."  What I associate with you is, "tease that out."  This is very significant because, um, because something or other.  Let me think about that.
          The reason we talk about art is because we're trying to create it; that is, we want to write things that move people, that delight them, that engage them, and, ideally, that reveal contradictions that are concealed in everyday life.  That's the highest goal--to, if you will, epiphanize; and conversations about how we go about doing that are worthwhile. 

          But we come from a field that, for historical reasons, has been dismissed as worthless by most of those who talk about such things.  It makes us nervous about having the conversation, about using the word "art."  Many of us find ourselves, before venturing on the topic, looking around to make sure only safe people are nearby, the way a bigot looks around before telling a racist joke.  It's sort of humiliating.  It's also not easily fixed, because so many of us really are out of patience with those who appear more interested in how impressive they sound than in the subject. 

          But the reverse is also true: Some of us are out of patience with the aw shucks so humble it's only a story stuff that can sometimes come from the mouths of the writers who move us the most, who have the most to say, who strike the deepest.  Yes, I'm looking at you, Tim Powers. 

          So it's tricky.  I love love love love talking about craft--about how we make our stories better; but the line between talking about craft and talking about art is thin and blurry, and one thing we don't need is to impose artificial restrictions on ourselves because we're afraid of how we'll sound.
          Now, back to the more important topic.  There is an interesting distinction between "unpacking" something and "teasing it out."  What do you think it indicates?

          SKYE: I know I use both, and the even more direct, “talk more about that." It’s a function, I think, of being rather pathologically curious about the way other people, particularly other — yes, I’m going to say it — artists think and express themselves.
          I'm going to match your "Euphustiphobia" with a neologism of my own: "Habsüchtiphobia," the fear of appearing greedy.  Your question about my "tease" and "unpack" raised a pain point for me that isn’t completely unrelated, and has been on my mind recently for other reasons:  I worry a lot that I’m selfish.  I have a tendency to get carried away by ideas that excite me.  I talk too much, or am too blunt and mercenary in my questioning of others when they’ve said something that intrigues me, but which I feel I don’t completely understand. “Unpack that for me,” “tease that out,” and “talk more” all sound so greedy.  And I guess that's because they are. 

          So it makes me the same kind of nervous you were talking about.  It makes me want to impose restrictions on what (and how much) I say because I'm afraid of how I'll sound.  So maybe this is me looking around to make sure only safe people are nearby, prefacing my remarks, “I’m not a glutton, but…”
          You're right, there is a distinction between "unpack and "tease out." I’d like to say I’m deliberate enough in my word choice that I select between them consciously, but I don’t.  It’s more intuitive than that.  I think I use “unpack” when people say something that strikes me as such a dense nugget of ideas so compactly expressed that I want them to take apart what they’ve just said, and show me how they put it together.  “Tease” is for situations where I feel like the mass of the idea is hanging out below the surface.  What they've said is intriguing, but it feels like just the visible fraction poking up out of the sea of their thought, and I want a snorkel.
          So tease out “epiphanies,” for me, and unpack “those who appear more interested in how impressive they sound than in the subject,” or maybe instead, talk more about the “thin and blurry line” between art and craft.  

          STEVE: "Tease out" and "unpack" have to do with how we address metaphor, which, in turn is closely tied to how the Incrementalists manipulate people.  They have to be aware of the subtleties of people's metaphors.  For example, I couldn't talk about story structure with my hands tied--there is an element in it that simply requires me to show the shape; that's how my brain processes it.

          SKYE:  This reminds me of hearing Beth Meacham talk about the proprioceptive dimension of editing.  So cool.

          STEVE:  It is like the difference between, "Do you see what I mean?" and "Do you follow me?" and, "With me so far?" and "Feel me?"  Each of those, and others, provide insight into how a particular person processes the metaphor of thought, which in turn gives the Incrementalists a handle into how to manipulate that person.  For writing in general, it provides an important clue to character.

          SKYE:  Got it. I think this is where my bias towards the kinesthetic shows up.  Both "tease" and "unpack" are physical, as opposed to emotional, auditory or visual metaphors. In meddling with me, an Incrementalist asking the question in your example would say, "does that make sense?"  Or "how does that strike you?"  But you mentioned "epiphenizing."  How do you mean that?

          STEVE:  When I refer to "epiphenizing" I mean what is, for me, the highest goal of writing, and one which, while I may never achieve it, is always worth shooting for: that is to give the reader a moment of, "Oh my God. That is how things work, and I'd never consciously been aware of it." 

          That's what I mean by revealing contradictions concealed within everyday life: to expose, if you will, what is hidden by habituation.  One cannot, of course, say, "the goal of art is...."  But to me, that is one of the important things art can do.  And one of the ways to do it is to use one's art as a vehicle of exploration; that is, rather than entering into a story with a preconceived moral, to use the story in order to explore a question to which one does not know the answer.
          And that's where art requires craft, if you will.  "Art" and "craft" interpenetrate, transform into one another.  When we use all of the tools and techniques of good storytelling in order to be engaging, to delight, to entertain, and then also to explore, and do so honestly, we are placing our craft in the service of art. 

          And it's at that point that the line between the two becomes indistinct; because as we write, at a certain point the various thoughts that inform how we put the story together blur: there is, "That would make a really cool scene," and, "what would happen if this character had to face this kind of decision?" and, "that is a sweet line, that really strikes home"  and "that isn't satisfying, it needs more exploration or it won't feel right." Which of those is art, and which craft?  The distinction, at that point, becomes arbitrary and meaningless.
          You speak of the fear of being greedy, or "Habsüchtiphobia" which I love, even though I'll never be able to pronounce it.  But what I wonder is this: are you aware of times that vanishes?  That is, when the subjective element--your worry about being greedy, my worry about sounding pretentious--vanishes into what I can only describe as a need?  A need to follow the threads, or a need to discover the layers, or a need to see how the story comes out, or a need to find a way to bring the elements of the story--incidents, characters, themes--together to find out what they'll do?  Where does your individuality vanish into the needs of the thing you're creating?
          And yes, by the way, I really am afraid that anyone reading what I just wrote will say, "Jeez.  Pretentious much?"  But to hell with that; I want to know.

          SKYE:  ::Grin:: Yeah, and it's exactly that sort of "hell with that; I want to know" that drives my greediness.  It's when I'm epiphany-hunting.  And yes, there are times when I stop worrying about how it looks. 
          Or maybe how it looks isn't actually my fear.  I'm less worried about appearing greedy than I am about my actual greed.  Are you afraid you're actually pretentious or of just looking that way?   
          My worry is not that someone will say, "that Skyler, she's so greedy," it's that they'll say, "Skye's so greedy I didn't get anything to eat."  I'm worried about taking over the conversation, of squeezing it too hard in my attempt to wring meaning or insight from it, of dragging it down paths that are deeply interesting to me, but not to anyone else.  I'm worrying about it now.
          I've had dinner with families where no one will take the last piece of chicken, and I've eaten with folks where if you don't get in there and fight for your drumstick, you'll get no supper at all.  I'm temperamentally the "dish hits the table and everyone dives in" sort, but I was raised to pass my plate and have my food apportioned. My enthusiasm is embarrassing. It's uncouth.
          That's odd.  Maybe we have opposite fears.  I'm afraid of being ill mannered, and you're afraid of putting on airs?
          Okay.  Here's how this works in real time. I'm very interested in what makes you tick, in why you worry about looking pretentious, in where that anxiety comes from, and in examining that against the worries that make me shy to talk about art.  But I'm not sure it's interesting to anyone but me. I want to keep asking you about you, and I feel like you get bored with that. And this is supposed to be an interview, something we'll send someone for other people to read, and I'm worried that the line of questioning I'm leading us down won't be interesting to any of them. I'm worried I'm eating all the chicken again. 
          How does that strike you? Or for you, maybe, I should say, "what do you think?"

          STEVE: Oh, this is delightful.  It never occurred to me before that we had corresponding fears.   As a side point, I'm not bored by talking about me, I'm just conditioned to be embarrassed about doing so.  I think it's a Minnesota thing. 
          So, am I actually worried about being pretentious, rather than looking that way?  Sure, sometimes.  We do our best work when we focus on the object, not the subject; that is, when our drive is to create the best thing we can, rather than how we're going to look; but yeah, I do catch myself, sometimes, saying things with the intention of, "If I say that, I'll sound really smart."  And yes, that is a pretense.  I try not to do it.  Indeed, the over-worked cliché about, "slaughter your darlings" is mostly, I think, directed at that, and insofar as it is, it's useful.
          But the greed to know, to understand; I have trouble seeing anything wrong with that.  And, once again, we get to craft and art.  Art is driven by our desire to know; craft is how we make it interesting for others to come along for the ride.  And when they start transforming into each other, so the distinction becomes lost in the process of making the thing, or sometimes watching the thing make itself, that's what it's all about.  There many terms for that experience, but I call it "fun."

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