Today's shirt was produced by Isher Artifacts, a company I found by attending science fiction conventions in the 1990s. The proprietor, Tullio Proni, created energy weapons of various kinds that he sold at cons. The name Isher Artifacts comes from A. E. Van Vogt’s science fiction novel Weapon Shops of Isher and is not
to be confused with the terrible movie named Ishtar because of its similar sounding name. Below is a link to an article about Proni's work. According to Proni's own site, linked in a previous sentence, he is no longer producing new ray guns at this time (last updated in 2010).
Strange New Worlds Article
I felt that my Isher Artifacts shirt was a fitting way to collect some random stuff that I want to share today, much of which is science fiction based, as well as this week's weekly comics list.
Today is dedicated to hodge podge.
I am Higgledy-Piggledy.
Time for some nonesuch.
WORD OF THE DAY - I love page-a-day calendars. At the height of my obsession for page-a-days, I had five. Now I have reduced my fixation to two. One gives me a word of the day. Today's word?
Triskaidekaphobia - fear of the number 13Isn't that great?
My brief review of Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley
I just finished reading Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley as part of the Neil Gaiman Presents audio book series and as narrated by John Hodgman. It was a wonderfully rich and rewarding experience. The book was specially selected by Neil Gaiman for his special Neil Gaiman Presents series featured on Audible, the Amazon owned audio book service to which I subscribe. As such, Neil selects his favourite books to share with those fans who choose to download the audio files in his series. As Neil explained in his preface to Hodgman's narration, the book is one of his favourite's though arguably not Sheckley's best (which he claims is Mindswap also on Audible).
The book was everything Gaiman promised. It's smart, sharp, and very funny. It's also quite obviously one of the key inspirations for Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I am not as insane for Hitchhiker's as almost everyone else I have ever spoken to whom has read the book (or books, since it's first in a series). I think Adams is very witty and entertaining, but he is prone to absolute ridiculous silliness and self-indulgence whereas Sheckley (and also Vonnegut) is more focused on social commentary.
Dimension of Miracles is quite obviously a satirical look at our environmentalism, our culture, our politics, our science, and most everything about our human social construct and consciousness. It's a short book and a fun read. The audio version is brilliantly narrated by John Hodgman, and in addition to Neil's preface, the audio file closes with a dialogue between Gaiman and Hodgman about the creation of the audio book, which is quite delightful.
Even non-SF fans would like this book. If he were still alive, I would recommend it to my friend Bob Russell, though I would not be surprised if he had already read it way back around the year of its publication, which was 1968. It's socially relevant much like John Brunner and Philip K. Dick but without all the dark and dire moodiness. It's definitely worth a read/listen.
For those interested in Dimension of Miracles, I think the text featured on the Audible page is very illuminating, and I plan to share it below. But first, a word on why I love audio books, which I do not believe that I have yet explored.
From the Audible.com page (reprinted here without permission but with credit given, so please don't sue me):
Audible Editor ReviewsEditors Select, March 2013 - "With audiobook narration, there are certain voices that fit perfectly with a genre. John Hodgman may now be the go-to guy for the droll-everyman-navigating-his-way-through-the-universe story (already nailing it in 2012’s hilarious Year Zero). Hand-picked by Neil Gaiman (whose charming audio introduction perfectly sets the stage for what’s to come) Hodgman lends the right amount of nerd-cred to this adventure, which was originally published in 1968 and is a clear forerunner to Douglas Adams’ classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.I’ve had a chance to hear an advance excerpt of the audio, and I just have to know how Carmody, the unsuspecting winner of a Galactic Lottery, makes his way back to Earth in one piece." —Chris, Audible Editor
Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
A few words from Neil on Dimension of Miracles: "Dimension of Miracles is probably not [Sheckley's] most famous book…. but I think it's probably his best-loved book. It's about the joys and tribulations (mostly the tribulations) of winning the lottery—the galactic lottery—accidentally. And wrongly. Tom Carmody is awarded a remarkable prize, is taken half way across the universe to collect it, finds himself hopelessly lost, and needs to find his way home again to Earth…to this Earth, not an alternate, weirdo Earth. He's got to get back. And the price is high.
In its style of humor—and even in some of the jokes—Dimension of Miracles is very obviously a precursor of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas actually hadn't read Dimension of Miracles until very shortly afterHitchhiker came out, when people pointed him to it, and he told me that he found the experience almost shocking—it was like reading himself. He was a huge admirer of Bob Sheckley and a huge admirer of this book, and in later life, I had the privilege of introducing both of them.
Now the challenge for me with a book this funny, this strange, this perceptive was to try and find a narrator who was as iconic, somebody who could deliver the goods, somebody who could give you a book like this as it deserved to be given. And the first, and the last, and actually the only person to come to mind was John Hodgman. So I asked John, and he said yes! And he did it; he pulled it off. Listening to John—not just the suave, sensible, sane narrator of this book, but all the peculiar accents and incarnations that he is forced to adopt through here—he does it delightfully, he does it brilliantly, he's really, really funny. And so is this book. Enjoy your journey through a Dimension of Miracles."
Dimension of Miracles is a satirical science fiction novel first published by Dell in 1968. It's about Tom Carmody, a New Yorker who, thanks to a computer error, wins the main prize in the Intergalactic Sweepstakes. Tom claims his prize before the error is discovered and is allowed to keep it. However, since Tom is a human from Earth without galactic status and no space traveling experience, he has no homing instinct that can guide him back to Earth once his odyssey begins - and the galactic lottery organizers cannot transport him home. Meanwhile, his removal from Earth has caused a predatory entity to spring into existence - one that pursues and aims to destroy him. Carmody is on the run, and he ends up transporting from Earth to Earth - different phases and realities of the planet, which of course is not the time or condition he expects.
©1968 Robert Sheckley (P)2013 Robert Sheckley
What the Critics Say
"Hodgman, probably best known to geeks for his appearances on The Daily Show and his role as the PC in those Apple commercials a few years back, has a dryly intelligent deadpan that wonderfully counterpoints the absurd adventures of Thomas Carmody, a mid 20th-century New York everyman who’s invited to a galactic center to collect a sweepstakes prize." (Locus)
COMIC BOOK BLURBY REVIEWS FROM LAST WEEK'S STACK
When it comes to being a geek, to getting my geek on, then comic books are my dominant theme. This is just how it is. I think I have achieved a great deal of variety on the blog in terms of content. It's not all comics. But it's a lot of comics, and I make no apologies. Comic books are a major part of my life. With this disclaimer in place, I feel confident proceeding with a few short reviews of comic books from last week before listing comic books from this week. I will attempt to deliver these reviews in pithy little blurbs. Whether I actually achieve "pith" or "blurb" is yet to be seen.
SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SKIP THE FOLLOWING REVIEW SECTION IF YOU WISH TO AVOID SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!
Forever Evil #1 (DC) - As I already shared, I was wholly unimpressed by DC's Trinity War. In fact, Marvel has been kicking DC's ass lately as evidenced by the three-one review advantage here. As much as I love DC, the mediocre stuff far out weighs the good stuff. And this month with the gimmicky villains books, my level of unimpressiveness has sunk to a new low. But then there is the Forever Evil mini-series.
In part, the success of this comic so far is owed to Geoff Johns, who is definitely my favorite writer at DC (see my lauding of Aquaman repeatedly) and the art of David Finch, who has a lot in common with Jim Lee and his thin, clean line work. I love the return of the evil Justice League from Earth 3. I am concerned of what may become of Nightwing as he's not in a good place in the clutches of Superwoman. As you may recall, I made clear my adoration for Nightwing in T-shirt #61. He was also unmasked before the world, which is never a good thing. Of course, I doubt Batman's identity will fall with this unmasking, but it really should. In fact, the entire Bat family should quickly be compromised. But I will be shocked if the story goes that direction.
Best of all, perhaps, is the four page fold-out of the Crime Syndicate standing before the collected villains of our earth. It's beautiful (seen here, below).
Infinity #2 (Marvel) - Many fans find Hickman's work too dense. I happen to love it. But his books do not always hit the top of my stack each week because they are not easy to read, and I want to take my time. One of the best things about Infinity is the design. Fonts, page layout, cast page, flow chart of the series, and all the other elements that fall into the graphic design arena are ultra-modern and smartly chosen. Art by Opena, Weaver, & Ponsor (as one must add the colorist in a book like this) continue to prove rich and surprisingly cinematic. I love seeing the Inhumans featured in books as they are one of my favorites elements of the Marvel Universe, and they are not often seen on the canvas. Likewise, seeing the Shi'ar Warriors used well is very enjoyable for long-time Marvel fans. I love the Illuminati idea started by Bendis of the secret cartel of Marvel heroes holding the Infinity Gems and trying to decide what to do with them. But like any book, especially a mini-series, it is best judged by its escalation and its cliff-hanger. When Black Bolt reveals at the end that Thanos has come to earth to kill his son, this raises many questions and makes me eagerly await the next issue.
X-Men Battle of the Atom - chapters one and two - X-Men Battle of the Atom #1 and All-New X-Men #016 (Marvel) - As I wrote last week, Frank Cho art alone will draw me to book add an Arthur Adams cover and Bendis' writing (which lately has been beyond superb), and I am hooked. Yet another future group of X-Men coming to the past seems gimmicky and a gimmick that's been used before, but I remained open-minded as the story unfolded. I like that the cause of the time-travelling is the young X-Men who, must at some point, return to the past. The art is gorgeous, and in many ways, a love letter to Neal Adams (whom I have made clear that I adore: see T-shirt #83).
The first chapter featured a good story depiction of the natural complex of two different Cyclopses from two different times existing in the same time. If something happens to young Scott, older Scott will cease to exist. The second issue ends with the revelation of the identity of the person wearing the Xorn mask (Xorn having killed the last incarnation of Jean Grey). And then, no surprise, it's Jean Grey in the mask!! Does this mean Jean Grey will return to the canvas? A tortured future version? With Scott no longer involved with Emma Frost, this is a distinct possibility. Consider me hooked.
Avengers A.I. #003 (Marvel) - I have always been a huge fan of the Vision. Ever since he was ripped to pieces by the She-Hulk in the House of M prelude story line. Though Vision has been back in many forms and returned officially in the Fear Itself story line, he has played a small role.
If not for the Vision, I may not have decided to start buying the new Avengers A.I. comic, but I am glad I did. Written by Sam Humphries and art by Andre Lima Araujo, I am enchanted with a high-tech milieu and an updated Vision as a collection of nanobots. In issue #3, after being seemingly vaporized, the Vision A.I. awakes inside a virtual world known as the Diamond, the housing of A.I.s born of the self-replicating virus that Hank Pym created to defeat Ultron.
This issue confronts the Vision with a choice between his A.I. brethren or the Avengers. Is he Avenger first and A.I. second or the other way around?
This book is smart, sharp, and tech-savvy. Pick it up!!
Cover from the third issue above left, a variant cover to the right, below I am including the panel where She Hulk ripped the Vision in two, and then the sequence years later when they reconciled.
Good stuff, Maynard!
WEEKLY COMIC LIST
Of course, Walking Dead takes the top spot. Somehow, I either missed ordering it or it was not set aside for me. Luckily, there were plenty of bagged issues in stock. I may review it next week even though I read it last night. But I am going to run a week behind on reviews. I LOVE Fantastic Four, and this Fraction/Bagley run continues to earn top spots the week it comes out. I have also been enjoying Kick Ass so much that this one moves up in the stack along with its enjoyable Jupiter's Legacy preview (a book that is slow to arrive and behind schedule, obviously). We shall see how the order shakes out the rest of the way. I did not get to last week's DC villains comics and so those are still in back log near the ones from this week, which take the bottom of the stack. Avengers Arena and Red Sonja both move up as I caught up on each and enjoying them very much.
COMICS FOR THE WEEK OF 1309.11
Walking Dead #114
Fantastic Four #012
Kick Ass 3 #3
X-Men #005 (Battle of the Atom Chapter Three)
Captain America #11
Mighty Avengers #001
Avengers Arena #015
Red Sonja #3
Fearless Defenders #009
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Season Nine- #25
Aquaman - Black Manta #23.1
Justice League of America - Deadshot #7.1
Flash - Reverse Flash - 23.2
Batman & Robin - The Court of Owls #23.2
Superman - Brianiac #23.2
Teen Titans - Trigon #23.1
Uncanny X-Force #011
Dean Motter's Mister X Eviction #One of Three
Satellite Sam #2
Astro City #4
Indestructible Hulk #013
Locus magazine - Vo. 71 No.3
DC Showcase Presents Collected Edition - Aquaman - Volume 1
PS: Coming soon AQUAMAN (hence the special purchase) and also what I think of ULTRON being the Villain of the second Avengers movie and of James Spader as his voice. HUZZAH!
- chris tower - 1309.13 - 10:18