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:


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. 

Better Than The Book: A Look at AMC’s Adaptation of “The Terror” by Dan Simmons

On the left is the cover of "The Terror" book by Dan Simmons and the right is a promotional cover for AMC's "The Terror" featuring Jared Harris as Francis Crozier.

“The Terror” is an AMC show and book by Dan Simmons that is a fictionalized take on what happened to Franklin’s lost expedition. The fatal expedition that we’re still piecing together what happened to. 

When I went looking to read “The Terror” after having watched the AMC miniseries I was greeted by reviews on the Amazon page saying how much better the book was than the show. I then made the unfortunate mistake of reading the book.

“The Terror” book is many times more sexist, racist and homophobic than the AMC adaptation. It is particularly fetishistic towards the indigenous woman character as Dimmons seems to enjoy writing about them nude. There are also two widely unnecessary sex scenes, one uncomfortable to the point of nervous laughter and one just flat out gross. 

While there are only three female character in the show, the show does a much better job of giving them agency. Silna/Lady Silence, the only woman of color, in the book is mute and never speaks, in the show she is given the ability to speak until she becomes mute of her own volition. Furthermore, the racism in the show is predominantly the racism of 1800s British sailors, the actual dealing with indigenous culture in the show is, as a whole, much less unabashedly fetishizing and creepy as comes across in the book. 

On to the homophobia. It really does take a straight man to put two gay couples in his novel and then portray them both in two very different, but still bad ways. The big problem is Cornelius Hickey. He’s a gross little man in the show too, and still gay, but in the book it goes out of the way to note that he is a pedophile and his partner is coded as developmentally disabled and therefore easy for Hickey to manipulate. In the show, a different character is his boyfriend and his crimes reduced to just murder, which was always on the plate anyway. 

The second couple is John Bridgens and Henry Peglar. Their relationship is Soft and Tender, and Dimmons still fucks it up. Bridgens is a “Good Gay” because his and Peglar’s relationship is shown as sexless, they are allowed to be tender and keep their distance stationed on separate ships. In the show, they are allowed to be tender and together. This more platonic nature of their relationship is continued in a sense in the show, but they are allowed to be together much more than they are in the book, which stresses distance as why they’re the “Good Gays.” 

I will briefly mention that I am incredibly grateful to the writers of the AMC miniseries for removing any and all traces of the Crozier/Silna relationship and also that I am very irritated with Dimmons for unnecessarily and irregularly switching tenses between chapters. 

Now “The Terror” book is incredibly focused on Francis Crozier, he’s the main character and is in the show too, though to a lesser extent. One of the major things, outside of the gross shit corrections, that the show does well is to incorporate more historical accuracy. “The Terror” was published not long after “Last Man Standing?” the Crozier biography was published and, while I don’t know if there would have been time for “Last Man Standing?” to have influenced the writing of “The Terror,” it feels like it could have. The show, on the other hand, feels more like a love letter to “James Fitzjames: Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition,” which came out several years later in 2010. In the book the character of Fitzjames is essentially a footnote, he’s there, he does things, he dies. The show gives us the backstory that Dimmons simply did not have when he wrote “The Terror,”  and y’all it’s good. 

Furthermore, the character of  John Irving is virtually unrecognizable between book and show. Again, likely because of new and ongoing research about John Irving, who does not as of yet, have his own biography. But the show again is more accurate in it’s portrayal of Irving. 

When it comes down to it, AMC’s “The Terror” is better in so many ways to the Dimmons book. If you haven’t seen either and are interested, go with the show. If you’ve seen the show and are considering reading the book, don’t. And if you’re like me and have consumed both, I’m sorry. 

If you’re interested in “The Terror” it can be streamed on Amazon and Hulu, and probably other streaming services as well. If you’re really that desperate to read the book you can find it on your own.

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