When I went through my journal to log this year’s books, I learned I’d been a bit lazy and had completely failed to record five of this year’s reads. Fixed.
So, here’s what I read in 2010:
The God Engines – John Scalzi. Dark. Bizarre. Innards-tangling. Not for the faint of heart, and a real deviation from Scalzi’s usual writing paths. I liked it.
Sailing to Byzantium – Robert Silverberg. I’ve liked Silverberg since I read Revolt on Alpha C as a kid, and when Kelsey was little, we read Lost Race of Mars together. This collection’s much more for the grown-up science fiction fan, and his take on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer is fantastic.
Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi (re-read)
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (re-read)
The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway. The 100 Stories for Haiti anthology reminded me that I had been meaning to read this, and I loved it. Post-apocalyptic and mind-bendy and still human. Plus it has both Pirates AND Ninjas.
Math, Science and Unix Underpants – Bill Amend
Mainspring – Jay Lake
Cleveland’s Greatest Disasters – John Stark Bellamy II
The Sagan Diary - John Scalzi. Listened to this one on the drive back from Providence in March.
Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks – Ethan Gilsdorf. Couldn’t put this one down: gaming and nostalgia and adventures and explorations galore.
The City & The City – China Mieville. For me, this was 2010’s equivalent to last year’s Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It’s a mental workout to read, especially in the beginning, but absolutely worth the effort.
FoxTrot: The Works – Bill Amend
Wildly FoxTrot – Bill Amend
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Player’s Handbook – Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt
Goblin Quest – Jim C. Hines
Daemons Are Forever – Simon R. Green. This is the second book in a series – it was a freebie from the author’s lit agency – so I started a bit behind the curve, but it was so unlike just about anything I’ve read that I got hooked pretty quickly. And James Bond references tend to go over well with me.
Found – Margaret Peterson Haddix
Locke & Key: Vol. I, Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
My Best Friend Is A Wookiee – Tony Pacitti. A Star Wars memoir from a younger fan’s perspective, growing up when the originals could only be seen on TV or videotape, and coming of age in the prequel era.
Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins. The kick-ass conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Reviewing it for GeekDad earned me some serious bonus parenting points because it meant my daughter had it waiting for her when she got home from school on release day.
Dreadnought – Cherie Priest
The Odious Ogre – Norton Juster. With illustrations by Jules Feiffer, this reunited the Phantom Tollbooth words-and-pictures team for the first time in almost 50 years.
Oddball Ohio: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places – Jerome Pohlen
A Western Journal – Thomas Wolfe. Inspiring me to revisit my cross-country road trip in journal form.
Brody’s Ghost, Book 1 – Mark Crilley
Armor – John Steakley. A different, brain-cramping (in a good way) angle on the space-trooper genre tale.
Bloom County: The Complete Library Vol. 3 1984-1986 – Berkeley Breathed
Dungeons & Dragons Essentials – Dungeon Master’s Book – James Wyatt. As someone who only recently returned to D&D, I hadn’t really begun to think about taking on the DM’s role yet. This book, though, made for a great and encouraging read in that vein – thanks Kato and Wendy! – but I also got an awful lot out of it as a new player still kind of learning the finer points of the game mechanics and structure.
I’ve been a FoxTrot fan since mid-to-late 1989, when my Calvin & Hobbes calendar was nearing the end of its useful days and I tapped FoxTrot‘s “Slug-Man: The Calendar” as its successor.
I don’t think our local paper actually ran FoxTrot at the time – in fact, the calendar may have been my introduction to the strip. That creator Bill Amend not only invented a character (10-year-old Jason Fox) geeky enough to create his own comic book hero, but also turned out a series of illustrations and story panels as done by that character just struck me as incredibly original and fun. And since Jason was a Star Wars fan and a computer nerd and a role-playing game enthusiast, it was easy for me to get hooked.
Back in February, this Avatar-inspired strip sparked a goofy sort of thought in my head about how lucky Jason Fox has been, since he’s gotten to remain a young fan over all these years, and he was as excited about Avatar as he was about the Super Nintendo and the Lord of the Rings movies. And then I started thinking about how I’d love to talk to Bill about the geeky aspects of the comic strip, especially since at the time, all the PAX East news was just coming out, and he was going to be there.
So I sent him an email, and he said yes, and though it took awhile to come together, what with the insanity of planning his panel and traveling to and from PAX, and then the launch of the latest FoxTrot book and all, it finally did happen, and the whole interview is up at GeekDad.
I’ve been awfully excited about this ever since Bill’s initial response, but didn’t want to jinx anything by mentioning it. And the guy was so friendly in both his emails and in person at PAX – I mean, he signed my friend Paul’s D&D rulebook with a drawing of Jason as a DM! – and gave some really fun and thoughtful answers for the interview that it was absolutely worth the wait while this thing unfolded, so it would be very cool of you to go read and and share it.
And as an aside, it’s not very often that as a fan, you have a chance to personally thank someone for the joy their work has brought you, so I’m grateful to Bill for both the two-plus decades of FoxTrot (which my daughter has also come to love) and for making that chance to say “thanks” not only possible, but truly enjoyable.
In February 2006, I was staying with my friends Ivan and Alexa while on assignment to cover Toy Fair in New York. The Saturday night before the show’s opening day, while a snowstorm dumped a couple feet on the whole region, Ivan showed me to the spare bedroom and also pointed out a stack of books he figured I might like. They were the first three volumes of Player vs. Player, and reading page after page after page of 1980s pop-culture references and nerd jokes and geek-tuned humor, I was totally hooked.
So it was very cool meeting PvP creator Scott Kurtz at PAX East on Saturday morning, pretty much just a few minutes after getting Wil Wheaton’s autograph. Scott drew a picture of Scratch Fury: Destroyer of Worlds on the title page of the PvP collection I bought from his table, and when I mentioned that my wife and I happen to share a wedding anniversary with Brent Sienna and Jade Fontaine, he actually knuckled up for a fist bump. (Yes, I know May 4 is also the birthday of PvP itself, and that’s why he made it their wedding day. It’s still cool, like having 1138 as a street address would be.)
And right next to him was Bill Amend of FoxTrot, who helped me complete an awfully neat trifecta that morning, signing both a really worn-out book I brought along, and a print of his own Penny Arcade/FoxTrot mashup.
Both of these guys were very generous with their time and I really enjoyed meeting them and getting the chance to tell them in person how much I like their work.
Paul & Wendy and I had spent this whole morning together, and while they were at Paul and Storm‘s table talking about the upcoming concert that night, I saw a T-shirt I wanted, despite having only a little familiarity with the duo’s musical stylings. It just says “cheese” in sign language, semaphor, and French. Nothing else. And I do like me some cheese. And the shirt was on super-sale, so, Bonus.
After a lunch in the food court, Paul & Wendy and I took a stroll through the Expo Hall for awhile, and then decided to hit the Classic Arcade for a couple rounds before I needed to drive back to Rhode Island. Lessons learned: Free-play games are awesome, even when they suck, so I enjoyed the sit-down version of Buck Rogers – Planet of Zoom despite the fact that the game itself was far lamer than I remembered.
We played some Food Fight, and then Paul and I teamed up for a good round of Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest, even if we couldn’t figure out what the hell good transforming into a Pegasus was. (Turns out you’re heavier and can drop quicker for attack purposes. I looked it up for the next time I’m time traveling to the arcade at Twin Pines Mall.) With the ’80s music playing and my fingers mashing the “fly” button and my desperate attempts to avoid enemies and scoop up giant eggs, I could practically hear the whine of a DeLorean revving in the distance, and it seemed as good a way as any to finish up my time at PAX East.
Though I made a brief note when this was initially approved and there has been some related Twitter chatter, I wanted to hold off on mentioning anything more about it until there was an official public announcement. So, check out this morning’s post over at Wired – Please Join GeekDad at PAX East 2010!
Boston. March 26-28. Be there, because This. Is Going. To. ROCK. \m/
Even with the 11- to 12-hour drive involved, I jumped at this as soon as GeekDad Assistant Editor and Frakking Genius Matt Blum put forth the proposal. And I can make it a totally budget-friendly trip since I’ve got a place to crash nearby, essentially making my costs for the weekend gas and food – and I’ve got no problem whatsoever packing myself a cooler loaded with bread and PB&J.
I absolutely cannot wait to meet and hang out with my fellow panelists and GeekDad writers, in whose mighty company I hope I shall not feel ashamed: Dave Banks, Natania Barron, Matt Blum, Doug Cornelius, Michael Harrison and Corrina Lawson. Sitting down and talking geek stuff and parenting with this crew is just so incredibly loaded with Potential Awesome.
(Penny Arcade? Of course the strip has addressed some of the issues of being a geek parent -just last month, in fact!)
And despite not considering myself a hardcore gamer, I have long been envious of those attending past Penny Arcade Expos out west, because it has always sounded like just a crazy fun nerdfest. While the official Pax East site doesn’t have a schedule up yet, I did find a few unofficial compilations of just some of the stuff that should be going on, like this one, which mentions among others Bill Amend of Foxtrot(!!!) and writer Lev Grossman.
I’ve already got my T-shirt packed.