Winter 2021/2022 Behind the Scenes Reading

Hello, hello! I have returned with another recommended reading list, this time covering what I read behind the scenes from December 2021 through February 2022. 

Finished: 

SM 101: A Realistic Introduction by Jay Wiseman – In progress last time, now finished! This is a really, really excellent introduction to the basics of BDSM. It goes into thorough detail without being overwhelmingly technical and discusses a wide range of practices while also acknowledging that it is only the tip of the iceberg. If this book interests you, there is plenty more reading out there. The back of the book has several lists of organizations, books and other publications where a person could get more information. 

That said, this second, revised edition was published in 1998, so contact information has likely changed in the 20+ years since. My general recommendation is, if something in the resources looks interesting, google it, because chances are it may still exist in some form, even the old urls. Other areas of the book impacted are the chapter on meeting people, discussions of internet resources, and HIV/AIDS safety. This revised edition came out right at the advent of online dating and chat rooms, so they aren’t covered in depth, and long before the advent of PrEP and PEP pills for pre- and post-exposure to HIV. 

Eat Prey Love/“Bambi” is Even Bleaker Than You Thought by Kathryn Schulz – This article is a really interesting look at the original “Bambi” story before Disney butchered it, now rediscovered as it entered the public domain this year. It caught my attention because, as I was skimming the article, it mentioned that there was a reading of it that saw the book as an allegory for the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe prior to World War 2 and that was more than enough to get me to read the whole thing. It wasn’t quite enough to get me to pick up an English translation of the book, but it was a fascinating read nonetheless. 

Marauders, issues 26-27, by Gerry Duggan and Marauders: Annual by Steve Orlando – We reach the end of an era with a major team swap. Bobby and Christian are going off for a romantic vacation, Pyro’s got a book tour and a horrible mullet (I still can’t get over Pyro as a romance novelist), and there’s a corporate shake up at Hellfire Trading. That’s said, while I’m sad to see my faves leave the team, I am excited to see that the new team isn’t going to be any less gay, as we’ve got Daken and some dude named Somnus who I’m not familiar with, but is in love with Daken, so I will be continuing to subscribe to the series. 

Harley Quinn The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour issues 4-6 by Tee Franklin – There’s so many wlw y’all, just oodles. On top of Harley and Ivy, these three issues give us Livewire and Nightfall, who are admittedly broken up atm, but still were a thing; Vixen and her girlfriend Elle, who is disabled and has a prosthetic leg; and Peaches, the stripper with vitiligo who gives Harley a lap dance and would really like to give both Harley and Ivy a private show. Anyway, from the queerness to the general diversity of background and side characters, I’m utterly thrilled and sad to see the series end, as I will not be watching the animated series anytime soon. 

Tut-Tut/Why King Tut is Still Fascinating by Casey Cep – An interesting article about the history of King Tut and the field of Egyptology, why King Tut still captures the imagination of people around the world, and how to grapple with the colonialist origins of Egyptology and decolonizing the field today. I would love to read something, article or book, that goes more in depth, because the colonialism inherent in the discovery of Tut’s tomb always horrified me, even as I was interested in learning more about the history. What Carter did to Tut’s mummy always makes my stomach turn.

Close Encounters/A Holocaust Survivor’s Hardboiled Science Fiction by Caleb Crain – I was fascinated by the conceit of Stanislaw Lem’s “Solaris” when I saw it used as an au setting for a fanfiction and further fascinated when I started reading it properly. It was dark and haunting, which is how I like my science fiction, frankly, and discovering that Lem was a Holocaust survivor made an awful lot of sense in terms of the book’s themes and musing on humanity and this article digs even more into that. This is a really great biographical sketch of Lem and his works and if you have even a passing interest in Lem’s books I’d recommend it. 

In Progress: 

The Wilds Beyond the Witchlight – My players have made it through the first chapter! We have left the Witchlight Carnival and moved into the Feywild, specifically the first splinter realm within Prismeer, Hither. This chapter is more complicated than the first, but is also a bit more guided, which is good for me the DM, because it means that I can actually make proper session plans now. The first chapter was very much a free for all exploration time at a carnival, so there was minimal prep I could do, which drove me a bit bonkers.

Sealed with Honey by the Magpie Artists’ Ensemble – This should have been included with the last list too, but it completely slipped my mind, due, in part, to it’s nontraditional story telling method. “Sealed with Honey” is a completely epistolary queer romance set in the 19th century. Simon Ward and Gabriel Shaw, two young men, one in England and the other in France, strike up a correspondence after an introduction from Simon’s sister. The story is entirely told though letters that get mailed out on a twice monthly basis. The first letters went out late last year and it’s been a delight getting the letters in the mail and seeing new and tantalizing details revealed. 

There’s no way to pick up the story at the moment, but I believe there was talk about offering the story as a bundle once the initial run was completed. Information about the ongoing story can be found on the “Sealed with Honey” Kickstarter page.  

Different Loving: The World of Sexual Dominance & Submission edited by Gloria G. Brame, William D. Brame and Jon Jacobs – This book is an interview collection about, as the title implies, more BDSM stuff. It’s another older one, so, as with “SM 101,” certain aspects have changed. I’ve only just made it through the introduction though, and it does look promising, but I have had to put the book on hold while I do some other research reading for a short story I’m working on. 

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – A classic detective novel that I have long wanted to read. I love the movie and I love the old Sam Spade radio drama. I wasn’t prepared to be punched in the face on page four by the line “Her body was erect and high-breasted, her legs long, her hands and feet narrow.” I was expecting some sexism because it’s typical of the genre and of 1929, but this really just sent me.

Fall 2021 Behind the Scenes Reading

Welcome to the first post of what I am calling “Behind the Scenes Reading,” where I discuss my bookshelves and what I’m reading when I’m not working on reviews for this blog. As a reminder, if you didn’t read the end-of-the-year wrap up post, this post will feature books/comics/articles I read from September through November 2021 and patrons will get a spicy little extra section of anti-recommendations. Let’s dive in:

Finished:

Franklin’s Passage by David Solway – This is a poetry collection thematically concerned with Franklin’s lost expedition. The poems are stunning and haunting and deeply impactful. I think poetry is honestly one of the best mediums to try and capture the legacy of the Franklin expedition, as there are so few concrete answers about what happened. Poetry doesn’t need answers, and can be open ended in a way that narrative fiction can’t always be. This book was very hard to get ahold of, but if you’re interested in poetry and the Franklin expedition and willing to take a gamble on a book that appears to only exist in a nebulous state of “perpetually on backorder,” you can order it directly from the publisher.

Harley Quinn The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour issues 1-3 – Tee Franklin of “Bingo Love” fame, has been writing a limited Harley/Ivy series for DC that picks up where the animated series left off, which I’ll admit I haven’t seen, but issue one of the series gives you a brief recap, so no worries there. I adore Tee Franklin’s writing and how she approaches queer relationships and when I found the first two issues at my local comic shop I was thrilled. It is ongoing, with the next issue coming out on December 14, so there’s still time to add it to your pull list.

Marauders, issues 23-25, by Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto – I’ve never really kept up with current X-Men comics cause it can just get so confusing, but I have a local comic shop now and I saw from the issue 23 preview that Banshee (my beloved dad/son) was in it, and I like the Marauders team (Kitty Pryde, Bobby Drake, St. John Allerdyce etc etc)… and issue 23 turned out to be a really good place to pick up the series actually. It gave a good summary what had been going on for mutants, and was a good quick one-shot feeling story, before it switched tune for the next two issues, which also had their own self contained arc. The last issue came out on December 1st and will certainly be appearing in the Winter 2021/2022 list.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel – A Hanukkah classic, featuring the Jewish folk character Hershel of Ostropol. This has been my favorite Hanukkah book since I was a child who didn’t even celebrate Hanukkah. Despite not being from a Jewish family my mother got me holiday books from a wide variety of cultures and “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” was always my favorite. I cannot recommend this book enough, between the wonderful story and the stunning illustrations courtesy of Trina Schart Hyman it’s just a gorgeous look at what the holiday of Hanukkah means. 

Love in the Time of Scurvy: A Terror Fanzine and Brave New Worlds: A Terror AU Fanzine – You might be asking why I’m including fanzines here, well that’s because the first is 152 pages, proper book size in my opinion; the second has four discrete volumes; and it’s not like I haven’t discussed fan works before. I have a whole post about fan content for “The Terror” already, a post about fusion fanfiction, and I’ve even reviewed published fanfiction of works in the public domain. Fanfiction isn’t a lesser form of fiction and fanart isn’t a lesser form of art, and there are a ton of incredible writers and artists in the Terror fandom and they deserve appreciation.

Extras of Love in the Time of Scurvy are still for sale (as of December 3rd). Sadly the sales for Brave New Worlds, ended on December 1st. However, there is an Ao3 collection for Brave News Worlds that has some of the fanfiction in the zine and there’s a collection for Love in the Time of Scurvy too that I’ve linked here in case sales have ended by the time this goes live. All the profits from Love in the Time of Scurvy went to the Arctic Eider Society and Brave New Worlds supported Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

In Progress: 

SM 101 by Jay Weisman – I have spent a lot of time delving into queer theory and queer history and there has always been kink and BDSM present in the background during those studies and I figured it was about time that I delved into that area properly. “SM 101” came to me as a highly recommended introductory book, and so far it has lived up to the hype.

The Wilds Beyond the Witchlight – This is the D&D campaign book for the game that I am running for a handful of local friends + my brother. This is my first time running a D&D campaign, though I have run/moderated games for other systems before, so I’m reading through the book slowly, carefully and repetitively, with “The Dungeon Master’s Guide,” “Player’s Handbook,” and “Monster Manual” at my elbow to cross check things. It’s a really exciting campaign though and takes place in the Witchlight Carnival and the Feywild, and supernatural carnival + ethereal fairy world are like… two of my favorite fantasy tropes. 

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero, written by E. Lockhart

[Image ID. The cover of Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero. A young girl with curly brown hair stands next to a white great dane in front of the Gotham skyline in blue and orange. Up the left side of the book in large lettering is the title "Whistle" and above that sits the subtitle "A New Gotham City Hero" To the right of the subtitle the author's name is listed as "New York Times Bestselling Author, E. Lockhart." Below the title is "Illustrated by Manuel Preitano." The snapchat caption reads "The first explicitly Jewish superhero in 44 years LET'S GO." End ID]

“Whistle” is a fantastic introduction for a fantastic new superhero. It is at once a classic origin story and a breath of fresh air. Willow Zimmerman and her mother have struggled to makes ends meet as her mother’s (presumably adjunct) job as a professor doesn’t give them health insurance and she hasn’t been able to work as much because she is battling cancer. At the very beginning the mother mentions stopping treatments because of medical debt and I almost had a heart attack that she was going to hold the same narrative place as Uncle Ben. She doesn’t, but that is ultimately the catalyst for what eventually lands Willow in the annals of superherodom. 

In my personal opinion, Willow was activist minded enough that I think she would have found her way into the superhero conversation eventually. I think there’s a lot to be said for those superheroes who really do stand for community, activism and change even before they get their powers, and that’s Willow in a nutshell. She’s fighting for her community from page one. 

[Image ID: In the first panel, Willow, a teenage girl with long curly brown hair, approaches a deli counter with a friend, Garfield, a Black teenage boy. Willow says to the man behind the counter "This is my new friend Garfield. We desperately need Reubens." Transition to the second panel, Willow and Garfield are sitting at a table biting into their sandwiches. Mouths full Willow intones "Grhmmm?" and Garfield replies "Umm hmmm!" The caption reads "Show interest in a girl's activism and you've got a friend for life."

What takes her from activist to superhero, however, is one Edward Nigma, former friend of her mother’s, who offers Willow financial help when he hears that her mother is ill. Whether this was truly altruistic or if there was an ulterior motive there from the beginning isn’t entirely clear, but, regardless, Willow winds up working for Nigma as a runner for his less than legal poker games, which leads to a whole lot of guilt when she finds out who Nigma is and when Willow realizes that he and Poison Ivy are targeting her community with intent to buy up all the local property to gentrify the area. 

[Image ID: A comic panel of Willow's hands working open a puzzle box with the onomatopoeia "Twist!" The narration box reads "My mom's best childhood friend, Eddie Nachtberger, renamed himself E. Nigma in high school." The snapchat caption at the bottom of the image reads, in all caps, "Welp." End ID]

However, it was none of this that first drew me to “Whistle.” I picked it up because Willow Zimmerman is the first explicitly Jewish superhero to be created by DC in 44 years and her Judaism is important in a way that clearly impacts her worldview, something we don’t always see even with the existing Jewish heroes—I’m thinking specifically of Kitty Pryde of the X-Men whose Jewishness only recently started to play a larger role in her character again. 

The only thing that gave me a very brief moment of pause was when it was stated that Willow wasn’t particularly observant, which is a trope that is frequently used as a cop out to not have to deal with any actual aspect of Judaism, but that isn’t the case here, quite the opposite actually. Willow may not be as ritually observant as her mother, but she is still undeniably Jewish and her story deals in Jewish guilt, history and community. When she is conflicted about her work for Nigma, who gave her the money to save her mother, but is also the Riddler and involved directly with the destruction of her community, she seeks solace at her local synagogue, and it is the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, repairing the world, that influences why and how she operates as a superhero once she gains her powers. 

[Image ID: In the foreground Willow is rummaging through her dresser drawer for something to wear. Behind her, in the doorway to her room, is her mother, who looks gaunt and is wearing a headscarf indicative of chemotherapy induced hair loss. Her mother says, "I think you can lie and be a good person. You know the phrase tikkum olam?"  Willow replies, "Hebrew for world repair. Kinda like social activism." Her mother continues, "So, the key thing isn't truth or lies. It's that a person feels some responsibility for fixing what's wrong in the world." The snapchat caption is a drawn out "Yes." End ID]

This is a young adult graphic novel, but it’s very enjoyable for adult adults too and I would say probably also a decent read for kids as young as middle school. I would definitely recommend it if you need more Jewish heroes in your life. You can get it directly from DC here. 

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All Your Faves Are Trans! Part Two: Lex Luthor

The second and final episode of All Your Faves Are Trans! Once again featuring comics expert Murphy Leigh.

This episode goes into the reading of Lex Luthor as a trans man particularly in the Smallville television series and his portrayal in the 2016 Batman V. Superman film.

TRANSCRIPT:

Continue reading “All Your Faves Are Trans! Part Two: Lex Luthor”

Superman: Birthright written by Mark Waid

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[Edit: Originally published January 14, 2017]

This is the first actual Superman comic I’ve ever read. My media consumption up until this point has mainly been, “Smallville” the TV show, “Man of Steel” and “Batman vs Superman.” It was interesting to see how Superman’s origins in Birthright compared to Smallville and MoS. 

I really love that it (like Smallville) had Lex and Clark in Smallville together, however, in Birthright they’re the same age and in school together. Every time it flashed back to their friendship I wanted to cry. It was pretty clear to me that Lex was abused and Lex has a shitty dad in both Smallville and BvS, but I think the abuse Lex went through in Birthright, is probably more along the lines of the “daddy’s fists” in BvS than Lionel’s manipulations in Smallville. 

I would say that this is a definite must read for fans who are into the Lex/Clark relationship, because, along with Lex being the villain of the comic, we get a lot of really great flashbacks to Clark and Lex in Smallville too. 

Seeing Clark emerge as Superman and form his identity as “mild mannered reporter Clark Kent” was interesting too. It’s also interesting to note, that it’s because of Lex that Clark finds out about his Kryptonian heritage.

I would also die for Lois Lane. Like, wow, what a woman. She is fabulously written. Fans of Lois will not be disappointed by how she’s portrayed here. She’s the intrepid reporter we all know and love.

Birthright is all around I think an excellent introduction to Superman comics. I’ve always struggled with entry points when reading something as nebulous as comics and from what I’ve been told, DC tends to get more confusing that Marvel. I wouldn’t really know, I found Marvel just as confusing to find an entry point for. As far as Superman is concerned I would highly recommend Birthright as a place to start.  

You can find it here.

Related Reviews: Smallville: City

Snaps:

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Smallville: City by Devon Grayson

[Edit: Originally published on March 31, 2016]

Possibly the gayest tie-in novel for a show I’ve ever read. The flirtations of Lex Luthor have literally no bounds. It reads like fanfiction. Though I suppose it kind of technically is. It’s just sanctioned by the show and published. 

The plot: Lex Luthor and Clark Kent spend a week in Metropolis together and shit gets fucked up. The Japanese mafia, a “professional alien-hunter” (Spoiler alert: it’s a guy who’s watched way to much X Files and thinks he’s Fox Mulder), and dates that go abysmally. You have to wonder if it’s possible for Clark and Lex to go a week without shit going to hell. 

Now, obviously, there is no canon gay stuff. Clark is still living life through a Lana Lang filter, and Lex is still using sex as a filler for physical affection. Not to mention that Clark is six years younger than Lex and a teenager. 

As far as where the book fits in to the Smallville TV show. I’d say probably somewhere in season two. Clark is listed as being 16, so season two would make a lot of sense, but I couldn’t give an exact location between episodes. It’s been a while since I watched season two.  

If you like Superman and you like Smallville, I would highly recommend checking out at least this one tie in novel. (I have not read and there for cannot recommend any of the others.)

For interested parties the book can be purchased here.

Related reviews: X Men: Evolution Vol 1 and X Men: Evolution Vol 2

Below are some of the snaps from my live-snapping of the book.