The webcomics blog about webcomics

Ignore At Your Peril

The signs were there, of course. A sale because a webcomic storefront would be moving. Tweets about a trip and veiled references to Montana, and moving a few tons of merch. When the announcement came a few hours ago, all the pieces fell into place:

Had a few ppl ask why I was in Montana a few weeks ago and… Hey now… What’s this… https://store.dftba.com/pages/creators

That from George, Slayer Of Problems, First And Only Of His Name For No Other Person Will Ever Have The Essential Georgeness Of He Who Was Once Surnamed Rohac, announcing a new marketplace titled Don’t Forget To Be Awesome. It’s got some folks you may have heard of selling stuff there, including webcomics Johnny Wander, Atomic Robo, and Check, Please!, but also McElroys, Greens, Brad Meltzer, Anita Sarkesian¹, How It Should Have Ended, Rainbow Rowell, and Star Talk.

Some of them are Rohac’s management-services clients over at Organized Havoc, some are certainly there because DFTBA is a Hank Green deal. In any event, you’ve got some webcomic names sitting in business relationships with — I hate this term — influencer-type folks, and in a number of cases, I’d argue the webocmics folks are bigger deals. Maybe it’s just because George brought his clients over, but did you notice who’s at the top of the client list? And if you’re as widely known as Hank and John Green, how much sway does George’s management/consultancy deal have to have before you’re noticeable?

Rhetorical questions. This is a continuation of a trend that’s been going on for a decade or more where a guy that blows stuff up on TV, nerd musicians, and a pixel-stained wretch can overlap their creative forces, like some kind of latter-day Algonquin Round Table, only if the ART included some experimental chemists, an aviatrix, and some vaudevillians. In this case, it’s an astrophysicist, a gender politics theorist, and some science communicators along with fandom cheerleaders and webcomickers in addition to your writers. Even if you don’t care about all those other folks, webcomics has a seat at the creative community table.

As long as you’re checking out the table, George would also like you to know that Tess Stone is Kickstarting volume 2 of Not Drunk Enough, and all the fancier stuff associated with the Samwell Men’s Hockey Team that was previously only available in Kickstarts is now has ongoing availability².


Spam of the day:

BECAUSE Hillary JUST let Something HUGE SLIP… NOW it’s back DESTROYING her election campaign. THREATENING her with impeachment. HUMILIATING her speechless supporters.

You … you think that Hillary Clinton is in an elected office subject to impeachment? That’s … THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS, YOU FIVELIGHTING ASSHOLES.

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¹ Who, it must be said attracts griefers and CHUDs like nobody’s business. Which means that the store infrastructure is pretty well tested and CHUD-proof, which should be a point of reassurance to any webcomicker that wants to be sure their merch sales aren’t disrupted by whiny manchildren.

² Bitty’s great, but I wonder if the economies of scale work to offer jerseys for other players. I know some Shitty fans³ who’d wear #42.

³ That’s fans of the character named Shitty, not fans who are themselves shitty.

Goings On Across This Great Land Of Ours

Tuesdays often seem to be the busy day in Webcomicslandia; maybe it’s a knock-on effect of how books and magazines release on Tuesdays, or maybe it’s anticipation of comic books releasing on Wednesday. Maybe it’s a figment of my imagination. Whatever the case, it’s definitely busier than Thursdays … Thursdays are dead.

  • Danielle Corsetto might have been somebody you didn’t expect to hear from, what with Boo! It’s Sex wrapping up last week and all. But she’s back with a public Patreon post about BIS finishing, about other projects on deck, and about how she’s about to hit the road and you just might be on her path:

    I’m leaving this Thursday [editor’s note: day after tomorrow, 6 June] (SHIT THAT IS REALLY SOON) to work on “the book” — it still doesn’t have a name — on the west coast, among other talented cartoonists, writers, and illustrators.

    I could’ve flown, but of course I decided to make it A Whole Thing and do signings and camp out along the way. So if you’re on my route between here and Portland and back, I may be stopping at a comic shop near you!

    So that’s a roadtrip from Shepherdstown, West Virginia to Portland, where she’ll be in residence at the famed Helioscope for a month working on a new book that takes place in Shepherdstown. Sometimes, you need distance and place filled with creative friends to really make progress on a project. Along the way, she’ll be making stops for comic shop signings in Madison, Wisconsin (Friday, 7 June), Portland (Saturday, 15 June, along with Lucy Bellwood and Erika Moen), and Omaha (TBD, but probably Tuesday, 9 July).

    If you want one of the big-ass Girls With Slingshots omnibuses, best to drop Corsetto a line so she takes up precious space in her car for it. Every one of those things she packs is going to decrease her car’s fuel economy by about 3.7 MPG, so if you reserve one you better show up to buy it.

    And the best part of this entire trip? She’ll get to spend a month hanging out with Sally the greyhound. I’m so envious.

  • Hey, you know who publishes that big-ass Girls With Slingshots omnibus? Iron Circus. Know what’s going on with Iron Circus these days? C Spike Trotman is more than happy to share. If you missed IC at CAKE last weekend, you should still be on the lookout for:

    Delver is now up to issue #4, with the conclusion due on 26 July. I enjoyed the preview of issue #1 and if there’s any way for me to consume this story on paper¹ I will drop some cash on it. Seeing as how the final issue is due just after SDCC, I suspect we may seen an announcement during the show.

    And taking a cue from the long line of vendors of semi-disreputable merch (we’re talking porn here, people), Spike is celebrating the release of the third volume of Iris And Angel by declaring that the first one’s free. If you like the story about doing’ taxes² and dudes in lingerie, the parts 2 and 3 are five bucks a pop.

    And if you require comics on paper (see footnote 1, below), there’s new print comics including the previously-mentioned How Do You Smoke A Weed? (now shipping after its concluded Kickstart), and Minus, a YA thriller. For lo, Spike has seen the pile o’ money that is YA fiction and has decided to jump in and good for her.


Spam of the day:

The “Go Ahead” Signal That Makes Him Obsessed With Winning Your Love

I can’t tell if this is meant for a woman, or for a gay dude, but I have no need for your love secrets that will make any man desperate for me. Thanks, I guess?

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¹ I resolutely avoid purchasing media that I do not get to own in a physical form. If I needed any further convincing of this, the problems that a student of mine had yesterday trying to attend class with a DRM-protected e-book that would not open would have sealed the deal.

² Not a euphemism, they’re actually doing taxes.

It Has Been A DAY, People.

I’ve got about nothing left in the proverbial tank, so here’s some quick things you might want to check out:

  • Abby Howard’s third Earth Before Us book, Mammal Takeover!, inches closer to release. Age Of Horns, folks — deer and rats and bunnies all with horns, and dog-sized rhinos and house-sized sloths and VW Bug-sized armadillos all over the damn place. Each of the EBU books has been released a bit later than the one before it (start of August 2017, mid-August 2018, next one in mid-September) because it takes time to fit all that awesomeness in. Hopefully Ronnie will get back from the past without bringing every cute fluffy thing home with her in Ms Lernin’s Science Magic recycle bin.
  • Jim Zub has thought more about the logistics of making a career in comics than you; he just has. His primers and data-shares and constant responses to open questions on Tumblr¹ could constitute an outline of how to take a shot at a vocation in a notorious luck-driven and inconstant profession. His latest tutorial tackles that space where you’ve gotten all your shit together and made a comic … and then find yourself asking What now? as the heady rush of accomplishment starts to fade and you realize you’re still at the very beginning of the process. But if you absolutely had to condense it down to a single thought, it would be:

    The first few paying gigs you get will probably be extremely difficult to track down, but with each one you’ll build up your skills and contacts. It really is a creative journey. As stressful as it can be, enjoy the process and celebrate your accomplishments.

    Smart guy, that Zub.

Okay, hopefully tomorrow allows for a more leisurely approach to writing. Have fun until then.


Spam of the day:

Redeem Your Sam’s Club Reward before it expires

Sam’s Club is named for Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, and thus a place I would never do business with on account of my personal interactions with Walmart corporate has led me to believe that they are possibly the most exploitative corporation on the face of the planet. Sure, Amazon screws over a lot of people, but they do it with algorithms; Walmart engages in that in-person, face-to-face artisanally-crafted over-screwing which lacks even the veneer of distant, disconnected people not realizing the import of their actions. Screw your fake offer of accepting something from the worst people in an attempt to steal my info, scammers.

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¹ Including many asked in bad faith by frothing assholes, who always receive a far more polite and meaningful answer than they deserve.

Briefly, Before Bingeing

Good Omens releases today and I need to finish up work and get to the more humorous End Times than the parade of shitbaggery that is foisted upon us daily.

Before I head out to do that, I’ll mention that Christopher “Doc” Hastings has finished is most recent Twitter-hosted webcomic, Harry Potter And The Guy Who Hijacked The Wrong Fucking Plane (starting here), and started a new Twitter-hosted webcomic: Never Enough.

It’s only just started, but promises to be noirish and full of ridiculously over-the-top melodrama and terrible, terrible jokes. Warning for the four people that don’t like [Super] Mario [Noun] lore: you’re gonna want to skip this one.


Spam of the day:

If your 2019 resolutions include saving money or getting healthier, or improving your productivity you’re in luck.

My 2019 resolutions include kicking the ass of anybody that abuses commas like you just did, Spanky.

Delicious, Delicious CAKE

Hey, are you gonna be in the city of Chicago this weekend? I mean, everybody in the midwest is dodging persistent rain, tornadoes, floods, and general End Times events, but if you’re in Chicago you can at least enjoy the last days of Earth with comics at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, Saturday and Sunday, 1 & 2 June, from 11:00am to 6:00pm at the Billie Jean King Recreation Center (the third floor of Center on Halsted¹), 3656 N Halsted Street. It’s free to the public, got a humane scale of exhibitors (one big room plus a hallway entrance, an even 100 tables if my count is right), and an emphasis on the comics part of comics.

Special Guests will include Nicholas Gurewitch, Ben Passmore, Whit Taylor, and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. Exhibitors draw heavily from the middle of the country, and will include Ben Sears, Biance Xunise, Blue Delliquanti, Cathy G Johnson, Iron Circus², John Porcellino, Katie Schenkel, Chris Grady, Patrick Lay, Sage Coffey, Sarah Becan, Tess Eneli Reid, Tom McHenry, and Tony Breed

I didn’t include table numbers because come on — just walk around the room.

Programming is heavily tilted towards the Special Guests — I don’t think there’s a panel until Sunday that features a panelist that’s not a Special Guest. Ones that caught my eye include:

  • The Occult In Comics; Saturday, 11:30am-12:30pm; with Corinne Halbert, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Anders Nilsen, and Isabella Rotman, moderated by Anya Davidson.
  • Looks Good Enough To Eat: Drawing Food and Recipe Comics (workshop); Saturday, 11:30am-12:30pm; with Sarah Becan.
  • The Idea Kitchen (workshop); Saturday, 1:00-2:00pm; with Nicholas Gurewitch and Jackie Davis.
  • Graphic Medicine: Comics as Treatment; Sunday, 1:00pm-2:00pm; with Whit Taylor, Sage Coffey, Bianca Xunise, and Vreni, moderated by Kevin Budnik.
  • Storytelling Flow (workshop); Sunday, 3:00pm-4:00pm; with Tom Hart.

The panel room is apparently the theater off the entrance, but no indication where the workshops are.

CAKE is accessible by the El (Red line to Addison), the #8 Halsted bus, the #22 Clark bus, #36 Broadway bus, or #152 Addison bus. Head for the corner of Halsted and Waveland, and look for the Whole Foods; Center On Halsted shares the block and is just to the north.


Spam of the day:

Live Chat with Asian Women VIEW HER SEXY PHOTOS

Dude, don’t yell. Sheesh.

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¹ Oddly, Center On Halsted’s events calendar doesn’t make mention of CAKE, but it’s there.

² It doesn’t specifically say that C Spike Trotman will be there but come on … it’s right down the street for her.

The Next One

It’s axiomatic with me that for very nearly every creator whose work I enjoy, I have a single answer to the question Which of their projects is your favorite? Because creators grow in skill and the breadth of their worldview, because practice doesn’t ever drag somebody backwards, the answer is generally¹ The next one. And in the last 24 hours, we’ve gotten a couple of The next one announcements that look very good indeed.

Let’s start with the news from Shaenon Garrity (creator of too many good things to list, but presently working on Skin Horse with Jeffrey C Wells), via Twitter:

Guess @chris_j_baldwin and I can officially announce this…

That would be Christopher Baldwin, who also has done too many good works to list them all, but who is presently working on the second series of Spacetrawler. And the this in the tweet is a screencap of a publishing announcement which reads:

Karen Wojtyla at McElderry Books has acquired world rights to the YA graphic novel Willowweep Manor by Shaenon K Garrity, illustrated by Christopher J Baldwin. Teenage Haley is obsessed with all things Gothic, but never imagined she’d experience them in real life, until the day she rescues a drowning young man and wakes up in a 19th-century estate complete with brooding gentlemen, sinister servants, and an actual ghost. But all is not as it appears, as Haley learns she has not been swept into the past, but instead into a strange universe all its own. Publication is slated for fall 2020; Barry Goldblatt at Barry Goldblatt Literary handled the deal.

In no particular order:

  • As much as I love Garrity’s solo comics work, her collaborations are where she really shines. Baldwin is going to design the hell out of the vaguely unsettling characters and scenery.
  • To hit a release date in the fall of next year, that book is already done. It’s on final edit if not already queued for printing in China and the long journey here to hit the late Spring/early Summer festivals and cons for promotion.
  • That description has me hooked. I hope it’s actually book one of a series.
  • Barry Goldblatt (along with Seth Fishman and a few others) are really stepping into the space pioneered by the legendary Judy Hansen. The fact that I can name multiple graphic novel literary agents off the top of my head should tell you that comics are in a damn golden age of quality and variety.

And then earlier today, the entirely essential Oliver Sava at The AV Club brought the news that John Allison has his next series lined up, what with Giant Days wrapping in a few months, and By Night about to publish issue 12 of 12. We knew that Allison was working on something new, given the hiatus announcement in October that put on Scary Go Round/Bad Machinery on an indefinite pause, and the latter-day Bobbins strips bringing the entire Tackleverse to a quiesced state in February.

As recently as this week, Allison promised us new projects post-Giant Days, with fabulous new characters, and mayhap even the return of an old favorite. But it appears that the next Allisonian project will be Steeple, a five-issue supernatural horror series, with Allison on both writing and art duties², with colors by Sarah Stern, letters by Jim Campbell, and at least one cover by current Giant Days artist Max Sarin.

It’s a story about good and evil (and the greys between) and a trainee priest in Cornwall and just maybe a certain inescapable Tackleford regular³. Steeple #1 releases on 18 September from Dark Horse, who’ve been in rather a bit of need for new properties (having lost the Buffy and Star Wars licenses, and seen longtime mainstay Usagi Yojimbo head to IDW and the promise of monthly color), so hopefully they’re giving Allison the royal treatment.

Because after all, what he does next is going to be his best yet.


Spam of the day:

In 3 weeks he lost 27 lbs? In 3 months he lost 84 lbs?

He’s either got a tapeworm or he’s doing irreparable harm to himself. Please stop holding either up as behavior to be emulated.

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¹ With the caveat that this depends on the creator in question having control over their work. I stand second to nobody in my admiration of Gene Luen Yang’s work, but when DC put him on Superman, it was apparent from my POV as a reader that editorial was jerking him every which way from month to month. He had different artists, radical shifts in story, plots suddenly dropped, and it can only be because he was doing work that was changed at the last minute to accommodate something going on in another comic.

Compare to what he was able to do with superhero story forms on The Shadow Hero, or beloved (but corporate-owned) IP on Avatar: The Last Airbender and the conclusion is either his work was severely constrained/interfered with, or he suddenly forgot how to do comics for ten issues of Superman, then went back to being a master of the form again.

² We haven’t had a comic-sized story with Allison on art since the Giant Days Christmas story, and I’ve missed his style on the page.

³ Sadly, not Desmond Fishman. Probably.

That Was A Surprise

Huh. Boo, It’s Sex! by Danielle Corsetto, Monica Gallagher, and Mae Keller wrapped up today. The recent plot exploration (how did Tara become a ghost?) didn’t strike me as a lead-in to a finale (there had been other, light forays into plot, although more related to sexytimes and relationships), but there it is.

The hook is present for another season if Corsetto, Gallagher, and Keller want to take it — the only folks that need more factual information on sex than four ladies that came through underserved public high schools would be the passel of dudes replacing them — but I still wish there was going to be another episode come¹ Thursday. They aren’t leaving us hangin’², though — the last strip ends with a coda of where to get quality information about how sex works, including Scarleteen, Planned Parenthood, Sexplanations, and Oh Joy, Sex Toy, which ain’t going anywhere so long as there are sexy times to be had and information about how sexytimes work to be shared.

In the meantime, show your appreciation to Corsetto, Gallagher, and Keller by a) checking out their other work, and b) refreshing yourself about sexytimes (however you define it) and how to enjoy it properly (with however many other people you wish, including zero, in whatever way you mutually agree upon) by starting again at episode #1. Being smart about sexytimes is always sexy.

Speaking of sexy, let’s check in with the Cartoon Art Museum:

  • On Sunday (that would be 2 June), in the Museum Drawing Room, there will be a talk by Steven Greenberg, editorial cartoonist of the Ventura County Reporter, and previously of the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, Marin Independent Journal, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sacramento Bee, and more. The talk is free to the public, starts at 2:00pm, and Greenberg will sign and answer questions at 3:00pm.
  • On Saturday 15 June, Jon B Cooke, Ron Turner (founder of Last Gasp), and Malcolm Whyte (CAM founder) will be talking about The Book Of Weirdo (edited by Cooke), a comprehensive retrospective of Weirdo magazine, which served in large part as a vehicle for R Crumb.

    I realize that may make it an unnecessary event for some of you, as there is an opinion that no figure in cartooning has been studied out of proportion with their actual influence and terribleness as a human so much as R Crumb. But there’s no denying that Crumb’s managed to be proximal to a bunch of cartoonists who are worthy of discussion and study³, and hopefully those better folks will be centered in the discussion. If you go and it’s mostly Crumb worship, feel free to tell the gentlemen on the riser that they’re jerking off in public.

    Toon Talk: The Book of Weirdo, and Other Weirdos starts at 6:30pm, with a suggested donation of US$10 (members free with RSVP). Copies of Cooke’s book will be available for US$35, and Cooke’s newest book (Art Out Of Chaos: The Illustrated Biography Of Maxon Crumb) for US$25.


Spam of the day:

=> 1 Weird Stretch HEALS Back Pain and Sciatica

Yeah? Cool. How come you need all this personal information to share this free miracle of No Back Pain?

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¹ So to speak.

² So to speak.

³ I was never into Crumb so much as a cartoonist and feel his primary accomplishment was lending art and credence to Harvey Pekar’s work. The fact that this is the first talk at CAM I can recall that’s listed as neither free to the public, nor with a fixed ticket price, may reflect some ambivalence about Crumb on the part of the organizers.

I Got An Email

Possibly unnecessary navel-gazing ahead.

You might notice, if you have especially sharp eyes, a difference in the list of webcomics over there to the right. Truth is, I forget about it most of the time, maybe once a year I make sure that things still exist and then forget about it again. But neglectful or not, it’s a list that I put together and carries my imprimatur.

Also something to know for the purposes of this discussion: I don’t read forums anywhere, and particularly not webcomics discussion forums. Partly this is because I don’t have the time, partly its because I don’t want to inadvertently lift somebody else’s opinion or idea and present it as my own.

Third, I am not exactly a subtlety-seeing guy. It takes me a lot of readings and re-readings of comics to see what’s really going on, which is a bit of a drawback in a medium where much of the work is designed to be read quickly, in small chunks, at intervals.

Put all of that together and I can miss stuff that should be concerning to me; a trend may emerge in a comic that’s for the worse, and it may take a long while for it to sink into my brain, and for longer still I may not change my habits.

For example, I still bring up the links for You Damn Kid, Help Desk, and Horror Every Day pretty much daily even though I know there’s not going to be an update. The first two are notorious for years-long hiatuses, Help Desk’s creator is working mostly in prose these days, and Shaenon Garrity¹ told us that HED would run for exactly one year and then finish, which happened five damn months ago.

The update to the list I’m talking about is not adding the notation [finished] to Horror Every Day, although I did finally do that just now. It’s the removal of Sinfest, which has been delving deeper into TERF/SWERF territory for some time. I got an email from reader Matt, expressing their own thoughts about the strip not being what it was and asking how I felt about its inclusion in my A Good Start list.

Let’s be super clear — this was not an accusation that I am a terrible person, or a demand that I change anything or align myself with any particular viewpoint. It was about Matt’s own changes of opinion about Tatsuya Ishida’s work, and wondering about my thoughts on separating the art from the artist². It made me realize that while I’d been having these discussions internally, I’d not considered that I was still publicly recommending a work that I no longer felt should be recommended.

It was enough to snap me out of my inertia and decide that leaving it on the list would be incompatible with my ideals about how people should be treated. I also decided that since my inertia had potentially caused harm — that people may have gone to the strip who wouldn’t have otherwise, and been on the receiving end of messages that deny their validity and existence — I also shouldn’t remove it quietly like nothing had happened. Not taking into account the weight my words carry was a mistake; I’m sorry, and I’ll hold myself to a higher standard in the future. It’s no longer on the list and now you know why.

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¹ Funk Queen Of The Greater Bay Area, ArchMistress Of Tiki, and one of the three Living Nexii Of Webcomics. She’s rad.

² Which, hoo boy, is a long-ass discussion all by its lonesome. I still have a set of Cerebus phonebooks on my shelves not out of affection for the story (even the part before Dave Sim went full trashfire), but mostly because I’d rather not have them be anyplace where somebody could casually read them without an extensive discussion of Sim’s crappy worldview beforehand to put it all in context³.

Some day, people will possibly remember Sim as a passable draftsman, a groundbreaking letterer, and a shit storyteller and we’ll have the distance to evaluate the work in that context dispassionately. I figure it’ll take about another half-century.

³ That, and I can’t bring myself to destroy a book that’s not in irreparable condition.

Holiday Weekend, Let’s Go

I’m ready to get started on the weekend (and also my favorite nieces are coming to visit), so let this serve as notice for two things:

  • Monday’s a holiday here in the States, and I will (among other things) be parading with my EMS peeps. If you ever get a chance to be in a parade and the folks in your community clap and cheer because they appreciate you? Do that.
  • It’s time for the annual comics creator page rates survey. Particularly given the upheaval being thrown by the Oni/Lion Forge deal it’s worth providing data so that, hopefully, all creators can find a way to better-paying work. Respond if you are able.

Spam of the day:

Lose Weight With An Underactive Thyroid

If I’m reading this correctly, they want to actually impair my thyroid function so I can lose weight? Bozos, I’m barely able to survive winter with the slight insulation I’ve got now. Fuck outta here with this nonsense.

Fleen Book Corner: On A Sunbeam

Like a lot of you, I first became aware of Tillie Walden when she started winning Ignatzen a few years back. The webcomic release of On A Sunbeam occurred in short order — nearly a year before Spinning — and I loved both (particularly the big, chapter-long chunks of story released of OAS, making the wait for updates rewarding and full of meaty story progression). But since :01 Books was kind enough to send me a copy of the print release of On A Sunbeam, and since I heard Walden talk about her relationship with her work at the Alaska Robotics Mini-Con¹, I’ve decided to revisit and share my thoughts. It’s going to be light on the spoilers, but I won’t say there are none.

On A Sunbeam is huge. It’s 500 pages (down from 700, Walden said in Juneau; she may not do much in the way of preparatory design or layout in her straight-to-ink process, but she’ll do a hell of a lot of editing later on²) worth of heavy, with a tactile paper and deeply-infused inks that retain hints of their original aroma long after being produced. To read this story in print is an undertaking, a confrontation of physical heft that lends weight to the story. She may regard the book as an afterthought to the act of creation, but when the book is this substantial before you even open it, you feel the work the story required. It demands your attention.

Walden’s not a fan of science fiction and doesn’t claim it as a source of inspiration, so naturally the book is up for a Hugo. Maybe the most radical departure from all but the most recent Hugo winners, the most speculative part of the speculative fiction is that Walden’s imagined a universe not of life in space and far-flung communities in the firmament, but that every character but one is female. It’s utterly unremarked-upon, there’s no backstory to say and that’s why there are no more men, it just is, a quiet fact lurking in the background until you realize there’s no dudes.

That one character that’s not female? They’re nonbinary.

Sure, much of the story takes place at a boarding school “For Girls”, or aboard a small ship where there don’t happen to be any men, but then the accumulated weight of the story kicks in. So many references to sisters and daughters, and casual reference to your or my moms. Is it a thesis statement or an aspiration? I think it’s more that there’s nothing in the story — school, bullies, love, family, loss — that requires the presence of men, so there aren’t any. It’s not a society that’s set in opposition to men, or defined by its separation from or absence of men, it just doesn’t have any and possibly never did. It sneaks up on you.

And it’s that casual display of the details of this universe that makes the story and the setting so beautiful. Little grace notes like shoes by the entrance of the spaceship and clutter everywhere tell us this isn’t sweeping space opera, it’s just life that happens to take place in space. Sure, the ships look like carp — complete with eyes and mouths and swimmy fins to keep them aloft — and homes, offices, and school campuses are their own, free-traveling craft, but it’s still just life. Live in a community in a weird part of space that may kill you getting in or out? Cool, you still need horses to get between towns. Want to set up a sports tournament between schools? They’ll need rendezvous and dock with each other first.

The story is told initially in two threads, today and five years ago, paralleling the experience of the protagonist as she finds love and creates family. Bits of lore drop in conversation and become important, or are utterly forgotten (there’s an offhand reference to Earth, but it seems to be just another place you can live and not the cradle of humanity or anything). The plot in each time progresses on in the way that life does — often mundane, or frustrating, but rarely full of high adventure — until every hundred pages or so, Walden hits us with a showstopper. These moments come out of nowhere, and pack the emotional wallop that an entire series of comics might be built around³. There’s a character break that’s shocking and utterly earned. An act of bravery. A moment of fear and loss.

And in just about the exact middle of the book, the actual thesis statement for On A Sunbeam, and for Walden’s work as a whole:

Have you ever even considered that something that’s trivial to you could mean … so much more to someone else? You don’t get to take the easy road out and just respect the parts of people that you recognize.

That’s goddamn beautiful. More beautiful than the worldbuilding and imagination and the gorgeous illustrations. The most important thing is being willing to extend respect to somebody who’s different, whether you’re in a universe of fish-ships and schools wafting among the stars or not. You don’t get to decide what’s important for anybody other than yourself.

Take your time with On A Sunbeam; read it, exist in the story, listen to what it has to say. Set it aside for a day, or a month, and come back to it again; new little details will jump out at you, obvious now in ways they weren’t before. Read it again in a year, two, ten, and let it lead you back into that place where respect can be required, and love and family can be the foundation you build upon.


Spam of the day:

But if you’re still stuck on squats and lunges to grow your butt, you need to stop NOW.

Maybe you need to stop now, but my butt is friggin’ glorious.

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¹ And, at various points, we discussed other things, including what winning fuck-you lottery money would mean, desert island books, and Game Of Thrones. She’s really smart and utterly sincere and has become one of my favorite people.

² Which, if you recall our prior discussions of how Mark Siegel prefers to approach editing in :01 releases, is a unique way of working. Add to the fact that the story was done in about a year, including living overseas, and it’s pretty much inconceivable that the book actually exists. Only the most monstrous of work ethics could actually result in this story seeing completion.

³ Think Superman and Regan on the ledge, or Old Doreen and Old Nancy deciding to go back in time knowing it’ll reset their decades-long love, but they’ll find a way to recreate it.