The webcomics blog about webcomics

Emphasis On “We”

Quick things!

Longer thing!

At the time I was writing yesterday’s update, I did not yet know what was waiting in my mailbox: a gifted copy of We Are The Engineers by Angela Melick. Considering that the book was announced as pre-order on the 11th and arrived from across an international border (and a weekend!) on the 16th, how could I not read it immediately?

A confession — since I met Ms Melick at NEWW last year, I’ve been a faithful reader of Wasted Talent, but I never read back far enough into the archives to cover her college years, when the inspired-by-life strip began (an aside: were this a movie, it would be touted as based on the incredible true story; since Melick is an engineer, it’s probably best described as slapped a linear approximation transform on what actually happened because crap on a stick, have you seen how messy the real data were?).

Turns out that I needn’t have felt guilty about it, as Melick has gone back to redraw the “best of” several hundred strips and distill down the period when she was still cartooning with improvised materials in margins (again, engineer) into her much cleaner and accomplished current style.

I have often remarked on how Melick (and Kean Soo, for that matter) and I share a bond of common experience. It doesn’t matter that it was different times, different countries, or different disciplines — engineers are an odd folk, and we get each other. Being part of an overworked, high-achieving minority within a much larger university was Melick’s experience, whereas I was part of a high-achieving, overworked, all-nerd school across town from a much larger (but entirely unrelated) university. She studied physical stuff, and I the more intangible (ECE511, I still remember you). UBC engineers built an artificial pond to throw people into, we had the natural variety. A decade and a half of technological and cultural change (not to mention a Y chromosome) separate her experiences from mine, and still — every page of WATE resonates like I was there alongside her.

But here’s the thing — much as engineers like to hold ourselves apart (it’s a comfort to us, having long ago realized we could have had a lot more fun and sex in college if we had picked easier majors), we really aren’t that much different from anybody else¹.

The experience of being a student engineer puts a certain sharp relief on certain aspects of college (our experiences were probably more math-intensive than most), but everybody remembers studying too long, working projects too hard, praying for a curve to kick in and rescue everything. Everybody remembers looking down on another major and wondering how they had it so easy, or a first job and wondering if you’d ever get the hang of things. Everybody had idiot traditions and the revered history of those that came before you.

Whatever your experience of working too hard with others sharing the same goal, you’ll find your memories coming back after reading WATE. It took Proust seven books and a cookie to provoke this kind of involuntary recall, and he didn’t even have one psychotic squirrel in there, so screw him; you won’t be able to write a senior thesis around WATE, but you’ll have a hell of a lot of fun reading it.
¹ Nah, we totally are.

[…] 7 My thoughts on her first book, We Are The Engineers, may be found here. […]

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