What I'm Reading

Rich Oberg, Max Allan Collins and George Hagenauer. Men's Adventure Magazines in Postwar America. Köln: Taschen, 2008.

You've got to love the classic men's adventure covers reprinted in this book.. Not so much for the art, which is pretty pedestrian, but for the breathless titles — "Ravaged by Wallabies!" "Forty-Seven Days on Hell Island!" "Nympho Slaves of San Juan!" There's a zillion ideas for comics in here, and they're all terrible. And I love every blessed one of them.

Terry Pratchett, Making Money. New York: Harper, 2007.

Most Discworld novels can be summed up thusly — someone tries to introduce a bold new modern concept to the Discworld, and it goes horribly horribly wrong. In this case, scam artist Moist von Lipwig (from Going Postal) attempts to introduce the concept of fiat currency to Ankh-Morpork, stepping on the toes of the existing banking structure along the way, only to have the entire economy threatened by a surfeit of cheap labor. Well, at least that's what's supposed to happen. The paper money plot is dropped about halfway through the book, the big threat to the economy comes out of left field (and is resolved with an equally out of left field deduction), and the Medici-influenced bankers who oppose Lipwig don't actually have anything resembling a real plan.

It's still solidly entertaining, but just be aware that you're getting Moving Pictures and not The Truth.

Also, the man needs to get over his clown obsession fast. They're not even ironically unfunny anymore.

Terry Pratchett, Guards, Guards!. New York: ROC, 1991.
Terry Pratchett, Men At Arms. New York: Harper, 1993.
Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay. New York: Harper, 1996.
Terry Pratchett, Jingo. New York: Harper, 1997.
Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant. New York: Harper, 2000.
Terry Pratchett, Night Watch. New York: Harper, 2002.

Despite its flaws, Making Money was still entertaining enough to inspire me to re-read Pratchett's Watch novels.

I love the Watch but somewhere in the middle of Jingo the novels stop being Watch novels and start being about Sam Vimes, Supercop, and over time he's systematically stripped of his flaws and neutered. If I'd been thinking clearly, I'd have stopped with The Fifth ElephantNight Watch isn't funny, and Thud! (which I didn't re-read, fortunately) is excruciatingly sappy. At this point I'd honestly like to see Vimes honestly retire and let one of the other Watchmen take over — I think they could carry an entire book as an ensemble cast without a strong central character.

Neil Weinstock Netanel, Copyright's Paradox. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

This is the second book of the year that I've been unable to finish.

Now, copyright reform is one of the key issues that all creators need to keep an eye on. The realities of the digital age necessitate a new look at the purpose of copyright, and the existing system is clearly being manipulated in abusive ways by large rights-holders, and there's a lot of interesting thinking being done on the topic right now. Yet somehow Netanel manages to turn a fascinating and vital subject into a joyless slog that only a law professor could love. (Note that the pull quotes on the back cover are all from law professors.) Someone could probably condense this entire book into a really interesting magazine article that would be a thousand times more readable.

Pierre Barbet, Games Psyborgs Play. Translated by Wendayne Ackerman. New York: Daw, 1973.

Now here's a terrible book. The fact that it was translated by Wendayne Ackerman is a tipoff — God bless the Ackermans for all they've done for science fiction fandom, but they just don't seem able or willing to make critical judgments about the object of their affection. Whenever I've seen their name attached to a novel it's always been unreadable crap.

Anyway, Games Psyborgs Play is about an astronaut who's sent to a planet that's like a really bad Dungeons & Dragons game run by a 10-year old. It's ruled by three god-like beings (the titular "psyborgs" though that name comes out of nowhere in the last chapter) who put our hero through a series of nonsensical but lethal tests which he is able to defeat with the superior technology that he pulls out of his ass as needed. Anyway, the psyborgs decide the hero is too much of a hassle to kill, and everything works out in the end, because something something Space Hitler. Honestly, that's what happens — the villains mumble something about Space Hitler, turning into energy beings, and setting up which is supposed to be some sort of parable about nuclear war but makes about as much sense as, well, the aforementioned bad Dungeons & Dragons game. But that's okay. Apparently your one-time opposition to Space Hitler gives you the right to act like the Squire of Gothos forever.

But beware, because Space Hitler could happen to you too! Or something like that.

There are two "sex scenes" in this book — one with a virtuous blonde maiden, and another with an evil raven-haired temptress. I find it amusing that the hero whammies the maiden with his portable orgasmatron, but makes sweet love to the evil temptress. Because despoiling Betty's virtue reflects badly on the hero, and taking advantage of Veronica's lack of virtue doesn't. Hey, if she's giving it away anyway, might as get some, right? Sigh.

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