I wrote this for Goodreads a little while ago, but it stands because... goddamn.
Let's start with: this is the sort of book that breaks your brain a little bit.
Sure, that's hyperbolic. I write that, in part, because this book is so full of awesomeness that I have trouble describing it with my less-awesome skills of articulation. Also, I am crazy envious. Like insane jealousy. Like, were I somehow a sentient book and I were in a relationship with All the Birds in the Sky, only to find that AtBitS was shacking up with another book, I would stab my rival in the spine with a goddamn icepick... OF LITERATURE.
Suffice it to say, I've become a big fan of Charlie Jane Anders overnight.
Why? you ask. Allow me to dispell your ignorance forthwith.
This is witches vs mad scientists.
Even typing that sentence makes me happy on a psuedo-religious level. How long have I waited to put those very letters together into those very words? It's the reader's equivalent of being approached by a man in a fedora who hands you a jet pack and says, "All yours, kid," before lighting a Marlboro and walking straight into the sunset. Okay, maybe not quite that improbably epic, but pretty damn close.
Witches vs mad scientists. With talking animals and global A.I. and superstorms and weaponized gravity and magic schools and amaztastic shit. And yet, rather than being a dripping ball of geek-goop, it remains grounded enough in its protagonists that it doesn't collapse into a singularity of Pynchon-style lunacy. The leads, Patricia (witch-person) and Laurence (science-person) meet, fight, love, and are predicted by their communities to lead the Earth into destruction. Really, I should mention that these two and the supporting characters are the ones who make this book work. They're well-written people, they are amusingly flawed, they are the conduit through which the kick-assitude flows like liquid magma from the veins of methamphetamine-addled elder god.
But I'm not going to tell you about them, because that would ruin the story. Except maybe Theodolphus. I want to be Theodolphus when I grow up, if only for the ice cream.
Does this book have its own flaws? Yeah, sure. The first third takes some patience because we're dealing with the lives of children. Children who might also be the downfall of humanity. Also, parents suck. I say that as a father of two, and when I read the part about the parents of these exceptional kids, I thought, "I'm not that bad... I think." If my kids do, in fact, shatter the planet, this book suggests that's my fault and it's probably right. There is also a huge amount of characters who are identified more by name than by description, which makes their introductions a bit tricky, but that passes soon enough. And yeah, the last 1/6th rushes a bit and there are moments of supreme confusion (at least for me) when it comes to magic schools, but I don't care. At all. Ever.
All of that said, there is the possibility of a sequel here. I hope that never happens. I feel that this story does everything it must, nothing more or less. In fact, like Gregory's We Are All Completely Fine , it is a pretty perfect example of how how great editing and compact storytelling stomps the living shit out of doorstoppers. It does what a book must do, it tells a fine story without excess or author filibusters, and it doesn't leave off at a point where you're absolutely going to shell out the dough for a companion volume simply because marketing gurus are crack dealers.
And it's got witches vs mad scientists.
If that isn't enough for you to open the cover, we can't be friends.
So I've been gone for quite a while. There's been a number of things going on, including illness, funerals, remodeling, etc. Mostly, though, I've been batshit busy.
I'm back. And I've got stuff.
For anyone who has missed my news on Goodreads and Facebook, I have a new novel about to drop on the 19th of April. The Anachronist Girls is a far cry from Movers, part of a different genre entirely. It's a time-travel tale, a road trip story, a romance, a family drama. It's got financial fraud, extra-dimensional locations, giant robots, sexy times, fire elementals in the Indian jungle, and death by ball-peen hammer. All the things I find amusing.
Right now, it's available for pre-order on Amazon (the Kindle version only-- the trade paper won't appear in person until the 19th,) but I'm not just here to shill the damn thing. For the next few days, I'll be giving it away in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF format, totally free. No catch, no commitment, just words on electronic canvas for no money.
Interested in a copy? You can get one by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org along with your preferred format. Again, this only goes until the 18th, so the window is relatively short, but I will send out copies for any requests received by then.
If you want to take a peek at the real thing, it's right here: http://www.amazon.com/Anachronist-Girls-Evan-James-Clark-ebook/dp/B01CWB8TJI?ie=UTF8&keywords=anachronist%20girls&qid=1460479536&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1
Once this is officially on sale, I'll go back to posting actual reviews. Promise.
I'm gonna go ahead and give this one 4 stars, purely out of respect for Gregory's impossibly awesome We Are All Completely Fine. On its own, I think it probably merits 3 or maybe 3.5. It is also hard to discuss without mentioning its predecessor, so I'm not even gonna freaking try. There be spoilers in these waters.
So here we have the origin story of Harrison Harrison, the paragon of paranoid badassitude introduced in WAACF. There are several things you'll have noticed if you, I don't know, read the cover blurb. The first is that, unlike the horror-lite fantasy of WAACF, this is firmly YA fare. That by itself is no bad thing. In fact, it's fitting, given Harrison's broken memory as an adult and the fact that his story had been (in-universe) recorded as a children's book. While this is not that book, I imagine a great deal of the adult Harrison's memory had been influenced by reading his own fictionalized tale, resulting in this account. The details (save for one) which differ between the stories don't really bother me because of that.
The second major thing is that unlike the ensemble cast of WAACF, the myth-cycle here rests solely on Harrison's shoulders. I would say that ought to make it more focused, but instead, it makes the narrative nebulous. That is the first problem I encountered. In WAACF, Harrison was the Lovecraft-expy, a Shadow Over Innsmouth survivor who battled fish people and a half-human monster called the Scrimshander, while the other characters represented separate horror sub-genres. While H2 makes no bones about its influences (particularly in its setting Dunnsmouth,) it pulls in other occult phenomenon, including the nature of ghosts, warring cults, and parasite-gods from across the Lovecraftian spectrum. In doing so, it attempts to jam every Cthulhid aspect into Harrison's story, rather than allow multiple narratives to meet in the ensemble-style. Suffice it to say, shit gets real messy.
That said, the book has strengths. Gregory can pull off YA, and when blending school-days narratives with Hardy Boys hunts, the plot flows as if from a fresh wound. The figures within the local high school as sick, twisted, beautiful riffs on Roald Dahl (also, Nurse Mandi?! What the fuck?!) and the first half of the book centers on them, so for that long I was content. The teachers are psychos, the students are Addams Family rejects, the lunch is alive, PE takes place in a subterranean lagoon, and you absolutely will stay the fuck out of the library. The problem is that so much of the book takes place outside of the school that these episodes seem brief and inconsequential.
Another strength is Gregory's talent with monsters. There is seriously some gnarly shit going on here, from colossal squid deities, to half-human freaks, to things that Lovecraft himself would have called "squamous as bugfuck." Again, this does serve as something of a double-edged sword, as some of these things get humanized to the point of, well, not being scary (the Dwellers are of particular note here.) Which brings me to my three biggest trouble spots with this book:
1) The ending. Yes, I know this is a YA book, and the sort of chaotic, throw-in-every-character battle is expected. I was really hoping, however, that it might be averted to make something unique. Now, I'm not talking about the cliff-hanger/teaser epilogue, which redeemed a few matters by suggesting, if not promising, future closure in some volume that completes the cycle. But the big throw-down, in which everyone showed up but very few actually did anything, just fell flat for me. Sorry.
2) Lub. Or as I thought of him, Lub Ex Machina. Seriously, this guy might have been interesting, but mostly he showed up when Harrison needed something magically done elsewhere. Further, his info dump pretty much ensured there was little tension for the last half of the book, since we already knew most of what was going down. Again, sorry (but not really.)
3) The Scrimshander. Oh, that bastard. You see, for those of you who haven't read WAACF (and if so, why the hell are you reading this? I said there were spoilers, goddamnit,) the Scrimshander was one of the most terrifying things in the book and he never even showed up! He was all backstory, and yet he was more effective than anything else in the book. Even after Harrison said he'd been killed (rather gruesomely, too, in a way that doesn't appear in this novel, probably because you can't put that shit in a kid's book,) the Scrimshander was the stone-cold nemesis of all that is good and natural. This versions was... meh. He was certainly someone to be reckoned with, but he wasn't frightening. Even his scrimshaw work, which was brick-shittingly terrifying in previous mentions, was downgraded to the standard villain hobby of victim-collecting. The fact that he didn't even show up until halfway thought, with an introduction so flat it felt like a Scooby-Doo baddie had just slipped on his mask, made him less than a credible threat.
I realize it appears I'm only complaining about a book I'm giving 4 stars. That's because I am complaining. I wanted 5 stars again, a lean, mean, frightening book, and what I got was an occasionally concise but often fuzzy, fluffy read that wore its influences a little too plainly. If the Harrison Harrison of WAACF is to be believed, the book about his childhood wasn't that good, so maybe this is that book. The trouble is that, for what it is, Harrison Squared is pretty decent. It's just not the out-of-the-park brain crusher of We Are All Completely Fine, and it suffers from the (necessary) comparison. I know one thing for certain: it's going to need a sequel to redeem it.
(Note: also, the fact that Lub not only turned out to be 100% benevolvent, but absolutely not the fishy alter-ego of Lydia, is complete bullshit. Fuck obviousness, Harrison needed a Dweller girlfriend, yo.)
DN-freaking-F. So no stars.
So I didn't make it to the end of this one, or the 3/4 mark. And no, I'm not sorry. Here's why:
Scott Hawkins is a decent writer, to be sure. He's got a knack for dialogue that I envy, and certainly enough imagination to power through genre work, leaving competent material in his wake. Just the sort of thing I find intriguing enough to pick up and potentially be entranced by. And it's clever.
And Mr. Hawkins knows it's clever. That is a problem.
As I read this, I kept recalling Christopher Buehlman's The Necromancer's House. Both books have wonderful concepts and similarly dark and twisted tones. They do start off with cold openings and leave the reader to figure things out, slowly. Sometimes infuriatingly so. And the author knows this, because the author is clever and wants to tease out every iota of plot, one nerve-ending at a time.
Well, suffice it to say, sometimes I don't take teasing very well. On occasion, after reading a hundred pages or so, I feel like grabbing the text by the metaphorical hair and saying, "Look, are we gonna do this plot thing or not?" This is made worse by the narrative style of 3rd person limited, where the details of the plot might be clarified if the characters chose to reflect on them. But, of course, the characters don't. Because they're secretive assholes.
Okay, so that's a little harsh, but therein lies my issue with this title. At the outset, the protagonist Carolyn knows everything we need to know to make sense of things. She knows what is going on, even if she hasn't solved the great mystery of the plot. The problem is that, as a reader, I've had to spend countless pages figuring out what Carolyn already knows, and this does not endear her to me in the slightest. In fact, it makes me hope something drastic and immediate will happen to her, such as a bus accident, and another, more competent central character (such as Steve, who is cool enough,) can take over. I can identify with Steve because, as someone outside of the great mystery, he learns just as I do what the hell is going on. Carolyn, on the other hand, won't tell me jack because the author is hiding that information. The whole affair reeks of artistic interference.
That said, I may be acting a bit unfair, or antagonistic, or childish, or what-the-fuck-ever, but I did just come off of the excellently paced and relatively transparent We Are All Completely Fine. Which, coincidentally, featured characters concealing information from each other, then had the reader follow each one in their discoveries. And it isn't as if Hawkins isn't wildly creative and often funny, because he is both of those things. The problem was simply that this book spent too much time being a puzzle, and that puzzle was not particularly well constructed. It was obviously meant to confound and its mechanisms were not subtle, less smoke and mirrors so much as locked doors with DO NOT ENTER signs, simply because telling the audience what the story was about would have made it clear, perhaps, that there was little story to begin with.
Or maybe there was more story. I don't know, because I walked out when the show was half over. Maybe someday I'll pick this one back up, but it won't be high on my second chances list unless Hawkins's next work provides a little more reason to suspend my disbelief.
So I'd been told to read this for a long time, and because I rebel from the suggestions of others, I responded every time with anything from "I'll check it out... eventually" to "Bite me, sucka." Another Lovecraft-esque recycled horror-fantasy. Lo, I am filled with a mighty scorn, et cetera. Then I actually had time to read books of my own choosing for the first time in several years, and I thought I'd follow through with the list I'd neglected for so long. This one came up near the top.
First things first, this is a less-than-24-hour read. Second things second, it melted my damn face. I am unable, in good conscience, to give it less than the coveted 5 stars.
Trust me, I wanted to give it less. I looked for reasons. I accused it of failing to pick up after itself and being a blatant tease after an expensive first date. I called its mother names, screaming that it was the bastard offspring of bastard offspring. But the truth is that this book did everything I need a book to do. So it's not going to win the Pulitzer, which only makes me think less of literary prizes.
I'm not going to get into the plot, because READ IT. Perhaps the book's greatest strength is its brevity. Gregory never describes a character with more than three sentences, never a location with more than four. Trust me, I went back and counted. The conservation of language resulted in something so horrifically concise that I feel like the writing is part of the puzzle. Unlike other imitators (and I'm looking straight at you, Danielewski,) this truly is bigger on the inside. It's unsettling.
The second strength is the ensemble cast. Some say you can have either characters or plot, but these characters are their own plots. Each one is a story, and the maze goes deeper with each one. They're funny, they're terrifying, they break like real people and they achieve awesomeness each in their own way. There are storylines hidden here that I'm sure I missed.
Suffice it to say, I have not been so impressed by fiction in years. And I didn't want to be, which makes it twice as effective. And yes, I believe I'm going to go on to read Harrison Squared in the next day or so, although I am a little concerned that level of knowing might undo some of the effectiveness of We Are All Completely Fine. I am going to trust that I want to know, and that might get me in trouble, but I will trust all the same.
Daryl Gregory has convinced me to go on into darker water.
This is a book I really wanted to like. After reading McTeer's family history (his grandfather was both a celebrated lawman and self-described hoodoo practitioner, something he believed necessary to counter the influences of other practitioners in his district,) I was fully prepared for a folklore-heavy modern myth set in South Carolina's sea islands. Basically, a story I'd wanted someone to write for a long time, and the opening pages (as well as the gorgeous cover art) convinced me I'd finally get a rich, dark, hoodoo tale that was less Hollywood and more Zora Neale Hurston, whose Mules and Men is still the high-water mark for Afrocentric American folklore.
And then... well, it got slow. Real slow. Like the first several chapters of Lord of the Rings slow, without the epic quest to speed things up. People complain that such fantasy has too much walking, but Minnow, which should have been immune given its short length and concise subject matter, caught that like the plague.
Which is not to say there aren't many redeeming aspects. This is absolutely a pretty novel, with prose that never goes full purple but manages to evoke a kind of fairy-tale mystique. And the folklore, when it does appear, is excellent, particularly when it's personified by the antagonistic Dr. Crow. In fact, despite my disappointment, if there is a sequel piece called Crow (or better yet, one entitled Shrike,) I'll pick that up in an instant, because those parts of this novel shined.
The problem really was Minnow himself, who seemed content to follow orders and wander into half-hearted adventures. For the first half of the book, Minnow did nothing that convinced me he was a real person instead of an automaton driven by other people's demands. I didn't even buy his quest to fetch medicine for a sick father because I couldn't sense a connection between any of these characters. Even when Minnow is menaced by dangers on the road, I felt like "maybe this time something interesting will happen," and then was unsurprised when nothing did. Alas.
I do feel that the language alone in this novel merits the attention it has received and the awards it has won. McTeer undoubtedly knows how to tell a story, but perhaps it's that he had no real story to tell, simply a set of images and ideas stitched together with a singular flat character. The lushness of the setting and McTeer's connection to this culture gives me hope that the next one will really be the big southern gothic fantasy I've been waiting for. Until then, however, I've got to put this into the simply average category, which is all the more disappointing for what might have been.
So I've been off the radar for a little bit. Several months, whatever. No posting reviews, very little commenting. I probably check the thing once or twice a week. But it is not because I don't dig this place. I've just been a tad busy.
Now I'm gonna throw this fucker in a trunk to marinate and have myself a drink. Or two drinks. Or other stuff, but with drinks. In fact, I am drinking right now and I'm not sorry. Hello, Thursday, we are gonna get down today.
Those times when you have spent 7 months working on a manuscript and are maddeningly close to completion when your wise and beautiful significant other says, "Look, I'm not reading this giant freaking novel for you to just kill everyone at the end. Not happening."
And you freeze and think, "Well, shit."
Well played, dearest heart. Well played.
There comes a time for each of us when we need to hear certain words from a certain someone. And for some of us, that person is Paul Frees, and those words are, "When hinges creak in doorless chambers..."
Christmas might sneak by in July, but Halloween starts in May.
There are a select few things I enjoy, regardless of how the rest of my day has been going. Those instant pick-me-ups. Seeing my kids is one. Finding money on the sidewalk. Drinking (I'm an author, right? Kinda? Screw it, drinking is on the list.) And in what might be seen as an odd reversal, reading 1 star reviews.
Whoa, wait a minute, the kind skeptic would say. What about reading? What about writing? Aren't those things that authors love? Well, yeah, but let's face it, writing is work, and sometimes a day has been hideous to the point where even a good book isn't going to fix it and spending time staring at a page I can't get into doesn't help. But for some reason, those 1 stars call me back like sweet narcotic haze.
And not just for any book. It has to be for those books I actively hate, which isn't a long list but it's solidly built from bricks of loathing. For one, to make the list, a work has to be a published book, and not self-published. It must have made its way through a professional editorial and print process with its odiousness intact. A self-published book may be shit sandwich, but I have faith that with an intensive editorial working-over, most would move into the 'mediocre crap' category, and those will not suffice. As a librarian, I come across plenty of awful books churned out by major publishers, yet there are more qualification for a really delicious 1 star review.
The writing has to be lazy. This is possibly the worst part because it means I'll have to have read a not inconsiderable portion of the text to ascertain whether it has this quality. Original thoughts are a no-go, cliches and predictable plotting are the coin of the realm. It helps if the book cover indicates this by including hackneyed blurbs containing the words "epic," "mythic," "saga," or "rip-roaring." These, to me, are words that really indicate "overused," "borrowed (and not acknowledged) from a pre-existing system," "the publishers aren't really sure what these words mean," and "bugfuck boring." The Epic Saga of Rip-Roaring Myth, should it ever be published, will immediately fall under scrutiny (also, can anyone tell me the origins of "rip-roaring," because every time I read those words, I think, "What does a rip-roar actually sound like?") For obvious reasons, this removes media tie-ins, such as Star Wars novels or Doctor Who spin-offs, because those writers are paid to be unoriginal and I can't fault them for doing what will make them the cash to support their cocaine habits. I assume. Sequels, bad as they might be, are also exempt for the same reason.
So we've got professional publishing and lazy writing. Anything else? Absolutely, and for this third factor, I have to go outside of the medium and listen to author interviews. What I'm looking for is the crippling certainty of the writer that their work is the bee's fucking knees. That turn of phrase that indicates the writer believes what they've written is God's gift to literature, making them God in this scenario. That arrogance is really what seals the deal on a fantastic 1 star read. So when I read that a snot nosed twerp has stated, "In my writing, I strive for a lyrical beauty somewhere between Tolkien at his best and Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf,"* I know I've struck gold, a book I can pull up the reviews for and cackled over while sipping bourbon in my smoking jacket before a roaring fire (but not "rip-roaring" I imagine.)
How can I take such pleasure in reading the derision of another author's work? Because it's fun, and because reviewers who go out of their way to show their displeasure with a scathing 1 star are often amusing on their own. It's good writing. It entertains, far more than the book ever could. More than that, it gives me perspective. Just because someone has written a book that is professionally published does not automatically make that book good. It cautions me to not become arrogant in my own writing (I am a pulp writer, a hack, and damn proud of it,) and reminds me that this trade is one that comes with criticism, good or bad. And it also reminds me that regardless of how awesome or accurate a 1 star review might be, there will still be a fistful of entitled jerkasses who must comment and tell the reviewer how wrong they are, completely ignorant of the fact that they are using the same critical method (often with terrible spelling and infantile logic) which they are condemning the use of in regard to their favorite author. Who sucks.
My real point is this: criticism exists for all art forms. It should, it's important. Not everyone will ever love your work, and that's cool. It doesn't mean you shouldn't try. But if your work is crap because you are lazy, incompetent, impatient for publication, and can scam a press into releasing your deformed word-afterbirth upon the masses, then you deserve what you get. Even horrible books can be the source of entertainment, and I am a sucker for the unmitigated lashing of an author who thinks they are better than the reader. I'll even bring popcorn.
*Actual statement by an insufferable hack, a particularly pernicious breed of otherwise honorable hack noted for believing that they are, in fact, above hackery. Found here: http://impishidea.com/criticism/an-hour-with-paolini among other places.
To celebrated the release of the final episode (Episode Ten goes live Sunday, April 12th, 2015), Episode One is free on Amazon this weekend.
A huge thank you goes out to everyone who supported and contributed to the Indiegogo campaign for A Final Act of Cruelty. We reached the end because of you.
Here's your link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FNGA13W
I'm giving this three stars, because I'm honest.
Look, I'm not a graphic novel reader. It's not that I don't appreciate the art form, but because I like self-contained stories and in comic universes, that rarely happens. However, and despite how weird it is this should not come as a surprise to those who've followed me, I'm am a full-on Gerard Way fanboy. My Chem is in my top 5 bands, and Umbrella Academy made my brain melt. So when GW threw down a sequel/tie-in to Danger Days, there was no way in hell it wasn't going to happen at some point.
If it were just me, I'd give this five stars, because I love it, but I must acknowledge its flaws. It is most definitely not a self-contained story. Can you read it without listening to Danger Days first? Sure, probably. Should you? I'm sorry, but the real question to be asked is why the hell haven't you listened to Danger Days?!
A-hem. Sorry, got carried away there. In any case, while True Lives continues the story of the Killjoys, some years after the events of the album, there are plenty of new faces and storylines to follow. Unfortunately, they don't get the kind of development they need to stand on their own. This seems like a two-volume graphic novel that has been slashed and cut down into a single volume, and the story suffers for it. The art is beautiful and the mythos are compelling, but there is a definite lack of coherency that brings down the overall quality. It lacks the inventive lunacy of the Umbrella Academy, and feels more like it was created to finish the cinematic story that was begun in "Na Na Na" and "Sing." Ultimately, it is a sequel that comes off like a lacking standalone.
That makes me sad. But I've got my copy, and that makes my day better.
... didn't people used to write books in order that other people might read them?
I say this because it seems, more and more, like there is some kind of divide between modern authors and the readership, all based on the idea of quality and opinion. Now, I know this doesn't apply to all authors, and that the minority of badly-behaving writers only seem to have such power because they are so vocal (and on occasion they use their supporters to squash dissent, much like our favorite authoritarian leaders have always done,) but it occurs to me that if the author isn't writing for a reader, then what they hell are they doing? Making word sculptures?
If the book in my hand was only meant for me if I liked it, then please someone explain the reason for its existence. After all, if I liked it, the author gets to pat him or herself on the back and do twenty cartwheels to the deafening sound of brass bands and fireworks. But if I didn't, how did it get here in front of me? Was there some kind of mechanism that made it magically appear, just to confound my sensibilities, or perhaps, just maybe, did the author make a drastic mistake and actually publish their work? Because if they did that, then it kind of exists for its own sake now, no longer attached to the author's emotional and mental whims, and in fact, no longer belongs to only them but to the entire public, right?
If I'm wrong about that, please let me know. Until then, I defend my right and the right of every reader (or if you'd rather, customer if you want to get technical, thereby giving the right of critique to the person or institution that paid for the damn thing) to look at any book and ask what the fuck is this shit?
I came across an interesting piece on this earlier this morning, containing a wonderful solution. It said, and I'm paraphrasing, that if some authors demand that only professional reviewers post about their work, then by extension, readers should demand that only professional authors publish their writing at all. This is the crux of it, and the way things really are, if you think about it. Amateurs may write all they wish, hundreds of thousands of pages, and no one shall say an ego-harmful thing to them about it. But if an author allows those pages to be made public (aka publishing), then all bets are off. Professionals are subject to criticism of their work, amateurs are not. Period.
So if you write, keep writing. If you read, keep reading. But if you want others to read your writing, you'll need grace, patience, and an ability to shut the fuck up when someone has the gall to not actually enjoy your work. This is also known as being a grown-up.
Now it's time for my coffee.
Stop scrolling. Don't just like this post and roll on by. I need your attention, please. This is not a promotional message about one of books, and this isn't a review of any kind. Someone needs your help. His name is Steven Beltzer, his son Nick is disabled. The family car, the only vehicle they have, was recently totaled in a hit and run accident. There's more info on the Facebook page I'm going to link you to. I would like to ask all of you that follow me to share this post. Even if you cannot donate to the fund, share this post. Someone is bound to have some money to share or a vehicle to donate or something, anything, to help these folks out. Steven's good people. He's only ever been friendly to me.
Let's make a difference.
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That’s Iowa’s current governor, Mr. Terry Branstad. Right now, his state government is trying to fulfill their promise of cutting wasteful spending and keeping taxes low. Since they just raised taxes on gasoline, there’s something of a show to be made of actually cutting government positions. Luckily for free information, he’s decided to do that by cutting funding to the State Historical Society and their archives.
Yeah, cutting library funding. That is always such a good idea.
Now, I am a California native, but for the last many years I’ve lived, with occasional breaks, in Iowa where all of this is going down. This is where my kids go to school, where my wife teaches literature at a community college, where I’m currently working in a particularly beautiful Carnegie library. Despite the oft-reference ignorance of midwesterners, it’s actually a pretty decent place to access information, whether as a student, an artist, an instructor, or just someone who wants to look up their family history and pick up their tax forms. It’s quiet and its economy is basically sound, and it’s a fantastic place for someone like me to practice the things I do. Even if I’m always a little homesick for warm beaches, real Thai food, and (arguably better, but probably the same quality) live music, there are good people here, spectacular changes in season, and a calmness that you don’t get on the metropolitan coasts, not to mention it’s a hell of a lot cheaper.
So when the local head of state decides to make good on campaign promises, not by regulating actual abuses and streamlining departmental spending, but by kicking the state’s libraries and archives (because again, no modern person would actually use that stuff, right? I mean, historical records are just so, like, old,) it gets pretty fucking annoying. As if they want to reinforce the anti-intellectualism often equated with small town and rural areas.
Here’s my point. At the bottom of this, I’ve linked a petition, asking people to sign in response to this. I’ve signed it and I’m damn proud of it. Now, I know that a lot of you readers don’t live in Iowa, or the Midwest, or even the same country as myself. It’s all good. I’m just curious to see exactly how many names can fit on an electronic document.
It’s not only good for small area libraries, but it’s a fantastic way to stick it to the man. Who again, is this guy:
And here is the mechanism of our civil discontent: