Friday, December 30, 2011

A Good Read

Ramblings Post #176
I am a reader. But I think I've said that. I read to make me a better writer. I read things I don't always find interesting, or things that I think maybe boring, if only to find out why so I don't replicate them. Which is how I ended up reading those Blaine McCraken novels by Jon Land (And no, I am not linking to those). Let's just say you need to read what you're not going to write, so you know not to write it. That, and I have a lot of free time since I'm off from school.

I love a good read. I started reading when I was young, with the typical for the time Hardy Boys and other fare. I lived in a fairly small town, and there was a time when my mother would let me and my older brother walk...across a major highway, the railroad tracks, a housing project and cut by the the county library. Unsupervised. This might have been when I was in the first grade, but I'm not sure. It was a while ago.

But I read everything. Historical novels, biographys, fiction, science fiction, fantasy, romance, westerns...most things written on paper. It has to be horrible for me not to read it, but if I get too far into it I'll finish it just because. But once I find something good, it pains me that I can't read all of it or that there isn't enough of it to satisfy me. In need something like Terry Prachett's Discworld series, now at thirty or more books or Battlefield Earth, which clocks in at a thousand plus pages. If the writer is good enough, and the story long enough you grow to like the characters and see them grow and mature which makes for a better read.

Lately, I've taken to reading webcomics. If you look around, what you get are basically graphic novels of a sort, comic books really, minus a lot of the reaching for the masses editing, while still giving enough of a story to read. And because they're webcomics...a lot of them go on for years, so as long as you're willing to hit next for a few while...okay, days...they get to be interesting.

The ones I'm going to list here are science fiction mostly, but the genre covers all areas, including Mary Worth style drama to High School Angst. I don't really read those, but I understand they are out there.

It might have been Monday when I started reading Schlock Mercenary, a series that once the art picked up has actually turned into something pretty good...and has enough width and breadth to amount something fairly intricately plotted. It started in 2001 and has run fairly regularly, with more than 3,000 strips since inception. It's a got a huge cast and continually oddly expanding storyline that just reads like one of those thick novels that has to list all the characters in the front so you can keep track.

Another I've been working my way through is Quantum Vibe, which posts five days a week. I only started a year or two again, and the art isn't as sharp as it could be, but then the author is on a tight schedule. I'm still trying to figure out where the story is going, but so far it's been readable. Mostly.

A new find of mine is Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, a swashbuckling epic. The heroine is... "a master of forty seven different sword fighting techniques, and has fought Sikh warriors, Conquistadores, a small pride of lions and a very large Mongolian man with a large sword, a small brain and a bad temper. " It's been an good read, with great art so far. I'm looking forward to the end.

Another one that only started in the last year is Spacetrawler, a story of seven people abducted by aliens to save an enslaved race...and that story just keeps taking odd turns. The characters are memorable, and extremely flawed however, which makes for great writing. It only publishes twice a week, so I'm getting a little anxious.

I also check in from time to time on one called Endtown, another where the hero is a cross dresser called Skin Horse (don't ask), and the positively existential Sinfest.

May all time favorite however is Girl Genius, the creation of Phil Foligo one of my favorite authors. The book, which I've discussed on here follows the adventures of the title character as she reclaims her family throne. The interesting part is that the story, which posts three times a week, has been at this for years and only recently has gotten to what I guess is the meat of the story.

Two things about the stories that I like is that the characters don't fall into the normal characters that show up in every other story. They tend to move outside normal archetypes. Because the internet is such an inexpensive way to produce the stories outside the norm are possible. And the other thing I like is that the authors tend to embrace the new media of the internet properly. The sites generally don't charge for access. That's right, they give away the product for FREE. But Girl Genius and Schlock sell books of the collected comics...ala Doonesbury.. which actually sell well. I imagine most of the others will eventually if they don't already.

Their leveraging the product to build an audience for the merchandising. It's like when they sell books on Amazon for .99 cents. It's to build an audience.

Most of these I'll wait week to check out so I have a couple of days worth of work to read. And they usually post on a pretty good schedule. My latest interest is Drive, where the author was nice enough to tell you he had another project and the schedule was going to be off. It's a certain closeness to the product. The new medium makes that possible.

Barkeep, a bowl of Rice Krispies. I got some reading to do. Leave the box.

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