The webcomics blog about webcomics

It’s WordPress Upgrade Day

The most magical day of the year, or maybe two or three days of the year? And I’m being serious — for something that has the potential to bring down the entire site, to be able to log in with the otherwise-unused admin account, press a button, and have things patch to the next release without a hitch? That’s pretty damn impressive, even if it’s not really anything to do with webcomics.

Also only webcomic-adjacent is our main topic today. Longtime readers of this page will recall that one of the many friendships I’ve been privileged to make in my 15+ years of semi-abusive opinion-mongering is that of KB “Otter” Spangler¹, creator (and still writer) of A Girl And Her Fed², person that I can call on if I ever need to make a problem “go away”, and wrangler of the most wonderful words. Let’s be clear about this — I love her for her magnificent mastery of profanity and euphemisms, for her endlessly amusing goofball dogs, for the stash of Thin Mints with which I have been plied, but most of all for her words. She not only writes up a storm, she edits other people³ whose words I love and makes their words (and maybe yours?) better.

But we are here today to discuss Spangler’s words; I think I’ve had an alpha-read of each of her novels and while I have made the odd observation or suggestion here or there, I am usually too engrossed to to nitpick. Her latest series is cosmic sci-fi and features a galactic-level intelligence that is also a child and has discovered humanity. For thousands of years, its favorites (who’ve come to be known as Witches) have been given the ability to ask for galactic-level intelligence skills to be brought to bear, which may as well be magic. Thing is, said child godling is easily distractable, sometimes alarmingly literal, and can’t do everything — think about the most wonderful, eager-to-please Golden Retriever puppy you’ve ever known.

Now imagine it with near omnipotence. Mind that tail underfoot.

By luck and circumstance, the Witches have learned to direct that raw power and potential to shepherd the expansion of hairless plains apes to countless worlds, and mostly oversee shipping and logistics.

What? What else are you going to use near-instantaneous travel across galactic arms for? Stuff’s got to get from world to world, and supply chains are tricky even with a child godling making things just happen. Then there’s the simple fact that people faced with various inhospitable worlds can either try to change the world to fit the people, or they can change the people to fit the world. Because it’s cheaper, a thousand gene-tweaked versions of humanity exist, and where there are obvious differences, somebody is going to decide they’re superior to somebody else. Same shit, different millennium.

In Stoneskin, the newest Witch tries to wrap her mind around the sudden shift in her life — from a backwater, hardscrabble world to one of the galaxy’s political elite in an instant, with very little time to get up to speed. And out today, the followup: The Blackwing War, where it becomes quickly apparent that for every reason the Witches have to prevent a war of extermination on the part of genetic supremacists there may be an equally good one to keep out of it, province-sized extermination camps or no.

Spangler’s writing of the human condition is sharp, her hopes and her cynicism for the potential of humanity brought to bear with words that range from scalpel-sharp to blunt instrument as the situation requires. You’ll hold your breath along with Tembi Stoneskin as she tries to find a way forward that will save everybody, knowing all the while that it simply isn’t possible. There are unknowable minds in the galaxy that cannot be understood, and the worst of them are about 2 meters tall, more or less, bipedal, and like to dress up in black leather uniforms.

Start with Stoneskin, then grab The Blackwing War, and dive into Spangler’s back catalog while waiting for the next one to come out. Whichever book it may be, in whichever series, it’s going to have some fantastic words.

Spam of the day:

Hello, my name is Tyrell , I wanted to personally reach out to you today hoping we could potentially partner together.

I only partner with other Garies Tyrrell, and that’s two Rs, dammit.

¹ She doesn’t really go by Otter any more, but she did when her number first went into my phone so she’s now Otter forever.

² I love all the variations on your art in the strip over the years, Otter, but the smartest thing you ever did was partner up with Ale Presser to do the pictures of Act III.

³ I would pay good money to read a full-length Vernon original draft with Spangler’s edits in situ.

RSS feed for comments on this post.