The League of Extraordinary Grade-Schoolers

When eight-year-old Nancy Clancy stepped out the door to visit a neighbor on a Friday afternoon, she wasn’t expecting to be attacked by a giant robot.

Nancy had just come home from third grade, but after dropping off her schoolbooks on the dining room table, she headed out the door again to see Mrs. DeVine, who had invited her for tea. Mrs. DeVine was a severe-looking but kindly old matron who lived in the fanciest house in the neighborhood: she had a front gate of cast iron entwined with roses, and a yard full of flowers. Her house brimmed with the most interesting things—brocaded drapes that hung to the floor, cushions of silk, divans nestled in bay windows, cabinets loaded with eggshell china, paintings of dignified but mysterious gentlemen, and elegant porcelain dolls too delicate to touch. Many children might be afraid of a house so full of breakables, or intimidated by Mrs. DeVine herself, who stood tall and straight, with a down-turned mouth and a head piled high with white hair. For as long as she could remember, however, Nancy had been taken with Mrs. DeVine and fascinated with her ornate and treasure-filled home. The other houses up and down the street were all white and boxy and nearly indistinguishable, and all had neatly trimmed but unadorned yards. Only Mrs. DeVine’s house stood out, beautiful and old-fashioned, and Nancy loved it. She loved everything fancy. She always had, and she was determined that she always would. Continue reading “The League of Extraordinary Grade-Schoolers”

‘Sugar Sugar Rune,’ Volumes 4-8

Sugar Sugar Rune, volumes 4-8. Story and art by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Kaya Laterman. Del Rey Manga (New York), 2007. Rated Y (Ages 10+).

I previously reviewed the first three volumes of this series. Because this was adapted and translated by Del Rey, I speculated that a re-release might come from Kodansha Comics, since Kodansha more-or-less replaced Del Rey Manga. I learned subsequently that the rights now actually belong to Udon Entertainment, which planned to begin releasing the series sometime in late 2016.

That didn’t happen, so the fate of the English translation of Sugar Sugar Rune is currently up in the air. Since the series has been released in Japanese as a colorized web comic, I’m hoping for a colorized English version, but that may be asking too much. Also still in need of a release in North America is the anime, the English version of which, as I understand it, only aired in the Philippines.

More than once, I have seen Sugar Sugar Rune touted as one of the greatest of the “cute witch” magical girl stories—a reputation it probably deserves. But, perhaps because the series was largely ignored during its original North American release, I think it’s also fair to say that some of its fans have over-sold it. Is it good? Yes, but it’s not that good. Is it “the greatest fantasy comic of the last five years,” as Anime News Network claimed? Well, I’d have to survey most of the fantasy comics from the five-year block before its publication to form an opinion on that, but I doubt it. Yes, it’s a fine little manga, but calm down. Continue reading “‘Sugar Sugar Rune,’ Volumes 4-8”

Incoming: ‘Sugar Sugar Rune’

I have managed, with some difficulty, to acquire the rest of the Moyoco Anno’s Sugar Sugar Rune, the first three volumes of which I reviewed previously. So a final review of what some consider the greatest “cute witch” comic is incoming in the near future.

I said before that this series, which originally came out in English through Del Rey Manga and is now out of print, needs to be re-released. Something I missed at the time: apparently, according to Anime News Network, the title has been acquired by Udon Entertainment,  and was slated to see a release in the second half of 2016, though that never actually happened. Perhaps there will be a release sometime this year. It ought to be in full color, though that’s probably asking too much.

Brief thoughts: the premise and introduction, set up over the first three volumes, are stronger than the sword-and-sorcery epic it tries to become in its latter half. It appears to break its own rules a couple of times to bring about its conclusion. Still, I like its stylish goth look, and it brings an unusual attitude to the genre, being saccharine and girlish, but with an unexpected bite.

Book Review: ‘I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You’

So many missed opportunities, it’s not even funny.

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter. New York, NY: Hyperion, 2006 [Disney-Hyperion, 2016]. 284 pages. ISBN: 142310003-4. Ages 12 and up.

This novel, with its clever yet over-long title, is the first book in Ally Carter’s bestselling Gallagher Girls series, which I’d never heard of before about a week ago when it happened to cross my desk. I picked this up because it has a funny premise; since it’s thematically related to the sort of thing I usually discuss here, it seems worthy of a book review.

Upon finishing this novel, my opinion is much the same as the one I started with: it has a funny premise. And that’s about it. Continue reading “Book Review: ‘I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You’”

Jon Del Arroz Banned from WorldCon

It came to my attention early this morning that Jon Del Arroz, author of Star Realms: Rescue Run and For Steam and Country and several shorter works, who is also slated to write two novel spin-offs for the new Alt-Hero comic book series, has been banned from WorldCon, the annual convention that hands out the Hugo Awards, apparently without provocation. WorldCon claims that Del Arroz threatened to engage in some behavior contrary to the convention’s code of conduct, but the only information available indicates that he promised to wear a body cam and record it if anyone harassed him, something that is legal to do in the State of California, where the convention is to be hosted.

In the sci fi fandom—well, actually, it’s more among writers than among fans—there is a long-running political feud over WorldCon and the Hugos. It started a few years back, spearheaded by independently successful sf author Larry Correia, who suspected political bias in the way the awards are handed out. He started what became known as “Sad Puppies,” which grew into a small group of authors writing lists of what they considered the best sf of the previous year, and encouraging people to read those works and consider voting for them, as an alternative to alleged block voting dominated by Tor Books. The write-up on the situation at Know Your Meme is surprisingly even-handed.

Although this is a relatively innocuous activity, the Sad Puppies were labeled white supremacists and smeared in major media outlets including Entertainment Weekly (which retracted) and National Public Radio (which did not). I was an observer rather than a participant in the whole Sad Puppies debacle, but I know the authors involved. There’s a lot of talk lately about media bias and whether it’s a real thing, but for me, that’s not a matter of debate. There is most definitely a problem with media bias: I know this because I have watched the media lie about, smear, and write hit pieces on people I know.

My own opinion on Sad Puppies, if anyone cares, is that the Puppies’ complaints were legitimate if sometimes exaggerated. Hugos and Nebulas have in recent years gone to garbage in short fiction, but that is in large part because the short fiction market is garbage. The Hugos for best novel have remained considerably less awful. Nonetheless, it is certainly true that the social justice cult (and it does deserve to be called a cult) has wormed its way into sf as surely as into every other area of life, and this has affected who can get published, and what authors can say in public, as the present case illustrates.

Complicating the matter with the Sad Puppies was the involvement of Vox Day, who used it to further his personal feud with author John Scalzi and the Science Fiction Writers of America, which had ejected Day in violation of its own bylaws after he finally responded in kind to an authoress who had been insulting him for years. After being kicked out of the SFWA, Day took his ball and went home: living in Italy, he is the one-man show in charge of the Finnish publisher Castalia House, which has gathered a stable of talented yet disaffected authors, published numerous Amazon bestsellers, and is now planning a move into comics. While the Sad Puppies merely encouraged people to read, buy WorldCon memberships, and vote, Day’s “Rabid Puppies” created a voting block that skewed the award’s nominations; his greatest (and funniest) triumph was getting the self-published niche porn “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” by Chuck Tingle on the ballot for best short story. In subsequent years, however, changes to the voting rules largely defanged the Rabid Puppies.

Meanwhile, the Sad Puppies gave up because they have jobs and families and insufficient interest in being repeatedly libeled. Also, the Puppies have largely decided to ignore the Hugos in favor of the new Dragon Awards, given out by DragonCon, which have recognized authors that WorldCon and the Hugos have shunned for their political opinions.

Although the Puppies thing is mostly over, Vox Day has more than one prong to his attack: he has recently published Moira Greyland’s The Last Closet, which chronicles Greyland’s childhood sexual abuse at the hands of celebrated sf author Marion Zimmer Bradley. This publication follows up on several years that Day has spent shedding light on the long-running sheltering of pedophiles in the sf community; see especially the Castalia House blog series Safe Space as Rape Room. Day’s Rabid Puppies got Safe Space nominated for a Hugo, but WorldCon refused to put it in the voting packet on the tenuous grounds that its content might be illegal in some countries—thereby furthering the impression that WorldCon shelters child molesters.

Anyway, Jon Del Arroz is something of a latecomer to all this, as his name wasn’t made yet when Sad Puppies was at its height. Nonetheless, he is is openly right-leaning in his politics, which has made him a target for abuse by other sf writers and high-level fans, as indicated by his feud with File 770, whose creator Mike Glyer seems to have a hate-crush on him. After Del Arroz was banned from WorldCon for no apparent reason, Vox Day naturally followed up with the provocatively entitled blog post, “Worldcon doesn’t ban pedophiles.”

In the interest of Twitter sniping, I made the same the same point in a Twitter thread and suggested that Del Arroz was banned because he might catch someone grooming children on video. After I made the comment, I was within seconds kicked out of my Twitter account, and my comment disappeared—maybe coincidence, maybe not.