Grant Morrison Discusses “Supergods” at Meltdown

Grant Morrison at Meltdown Comics

That's a fine fiction suit you've got there, Mr. Morrison.

Meltdown Comics in Hollywood has been expanding their role as a geek community center in recent months, insuring their business model against the oncoming day-and-date digital-comics reality with a packed slate of D&D games, podcast tapings, and special events. On Thursday night, Grant Morrison stopped by the extremely intimate NerdMelt space at the back of the store to discuss his new book, Supergods. Comics author and My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way, a member of Morrison’s “hippie family” and a longtime fan of the DC author’s work, hosted the discussion with the assistance of G4 host Blair Butler. (Butler has a comic coming out soon herself– the mixed martial-arts series Heart, featuring art by Department pal Kevin Mellon.)

For fans who might have been looking for an in-depth discussion of the upcoming DC reboot, or some exploration of Dan DiDio’s overly-harsh words about female creators during last week’s SDCC panels, this evening wasn’t the discussion they were looking for. Way’s questions led off with Morrison’s childhood in Scotland and went deep into topics like, his legendary drug experimentation (not as gonzo as you’d think), the influence of sunspots on Western culture (prodigious, apparently), and his approach to modern magick (which I’ll get into below). The audience, likewise, stuck to questions about Morrison’s New X-Men run, the next iteration of Seaguy, and whether or not Morrison would ever write an episode of Doctor Who.

(Yes, Xorn was always supposed to be Magneto, in a deliberate callback to the old stories with Magneto in the Savage Land; yes, he’s working on the next Seaguy and has the first issue entirely scripted; as a longtime Who fan, he’d love to, but there are no current plans.)

Way kicked off the evening with some questions about how Morrison came to his current understanding of superhero narratives. Morrison spoke of his father’s membership in the Spies for Peace, an anarchist movement that infiltrated British military installations in the 1960s. As a former soldier himself, Morrison’s father embraced pacifism and activism at the beginning of the Cold War, fearing total nuclear annihilation. His father’s fears formed one pole of the dialectic that would inform Grant’s writing career– the apocalyptic “no future” narrative that infiltrated the zeitgeist during the age of Mutually Assured Destruction and heated rhetoric from world superpowers.

The same American soldiers who brought the atomic bomb to Scotland also brought American comics with them, and it was in those issues of Superman that Morrison found the path to rejecting the fatalistic narratives of the 1960s. Superman, with his invulnerable body and iron will, represented an ultimate refutation of the apocalyptic narrative of the atomic age. In order to move beyond his fear of death and further his own self-actualization, Morrison chose to deny the narrative of “no future” and embrace the narrative power of the superhero. In his paradigm, heroes are created “to save us in case of emergency,” a concept that spans Celtic and British history back to mythical “returned hero” figures like Finn Mac Cool and King Arthur. Just as Finn and Arthur were said to be waiting in the Otherworld to return to Britain in her darkest hour, Superman and other superheroes return in cycles to reflect and refute readers’ greatest fears. Instead of asking “What happens if we all die,” Morrison said, superheroes ask “What if we get better?”

Way broadened that discussion to address the reactionary nature of the basic superhero narrative, positing that the basic approach to telling capes-and-tights stories is encapsulated in a sort of pop-culture religion that discourages provocative new angles on the existing material. Morrison agreed with Way’s premise, but noted that the ongoing work of humanity is to produce mythic narratives (a concept they dubbed “The Human Project”). In service to that project, Morrison fully immersed himself in the anarchic, drug-fueled world he depicts in The Invisibles as he wrote the book; he experimented with shamanism, cross-dressing, voudou, ceremonial magick, and other techniques to summon particular deities, archetypes, and powers he wanted to embody in the comic itself. In so doing, he lived out the book “as an art piece,” identifying so strongly with the character of King Mob that Morrison nearly died himself while writing King Mob’s own near-death experience.

It’s interesting to watch an audience of people who are both Morrison fans and somewhat skeptically-minded confront Morrison’s complete face-value acceptance of the magical workings he describes. Where the average fan might roll their eyes at summoning gods or donning a dress to explore the power of gender transgression, Morrison’s commitment to his own methods remains total and unshakable. At one point, he and Way veered off into a lengthy discussion of Iain Spence’s Sekhmet Hypothesis, a theory about the influence of sunspots on youth culture that informs both The Invisibles and Morrison’s X-Men run. This is a delicious little piece of pseudoscience for folks of a Fortean bent; Spence believes that the 11-year cycle of solar variation creates a corresponding “social chaos” in Western society. In blunt skeptical terms, Spence proposes that low sunspot influences society towards LSD-loving hippie placidity, while high sunspot activity produces a distinct shift towards crank, the Ramones, and Rob Liefeld drawing Lovecraftian human nightmares. It only works on Western society, though, judging by the examples Morrison and Way put forth. (Apparently, the sunspots find it easier to influence white teenagers living in the First World.)

Is it bollocks? Sure. It’s bollocks of the best Art Bell late-night numbers-station kind, the kind that gleefully professes an extraordinary claim without the requisite extraordinary proof. But whether or not Morrison actually believes in it, he firmly acknowledges that he has profited immensely in his personal endeavors by writing books that conform to Spence’s theories. In front of an audience, Morrison’s stated commitment to producing narratives based on utter bollocks is a bit intimidating. You may think you’re hardcore, but King Mob has you beat.

Of course, total, unwavering immersion in one’s own creative work and belief system forms the core of what Western magickal systems call the Great Work– the ability to fully self-actualize, to know your life’s goal and bring it into manifestation. Morrison believes that this power to shape reality through artistic force of will is a uniquely human technology that can be tested, verified, and distributed to everyone. An audience member questioned the ethics of such reality-altering creativity, asking Morrison how he knew when to draw the line as he worked. Morrison responded that all magic is a matter of intent, and that the power of intent is fundamentally egalitarian, available to anyone who puts in the effort to channel it. (This is where you all nod and quote Alan Moore’s encounter with John Constantine, because you’ve been here and you know the drill.) He added that rather than being addictive, the power of focused intent gets “creepier and creepier;” he’d prefer to be thought of as the guy who lives out in the country and watches the crows for omens, and not as some sort of highly-evolved magus possessed of preternatural abilities…

… so it wasn’t more than half an hour later before Morrison blandly mentioned that he really had invoked John Lennon, a ritual depicted in later volumes of the Invisibles, and that Lennon’s glowing, disembodied head had given him a song. The Q&A session and panel ended with Morrison performing that song– “Somebody Loves You”– for the assembled crowd, using a Lennon-branded acoustic guitar Way had given him. Rather like the unexpected five minutes’ meditation at the end of Morrison’s SDCC panel with Deepak and Gotham Chopra, the five minutes’ invocation provided a startling glimpse into parts of Morrison’s work that current-day fans don’t usually see.

Bollocks? Never mind the bollocks, here’s comics’ own John Lennon.

Interview: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick: Iron chroniclers.

It’s no secret that we of the Department are unabashed fans of all things Invincible Iron Man— and that includes the transformation of Pepper Potts into armored heroine Rescue. Pepper’s adventures in her own custom suit have come to a (temporary?) end in the main title, but Marvel tapped writer Kelly Sue DeConnick— manga adaptation specialist, Sif writer, and IIM scripter Matt Fraction’s wife– to fill in some of Pepper’s heroic history in a new Rescue one-shot.

Rescue comes out today, and to celebrate, we’ve asked Kelly Sue a handful of questions about writing for Pepper, working for Marvel, and what might be next on her plate. It was a great chat, and we’ll be reviewing the book tonight.

JC: On the first page of the Rescue one-shot, Pepper Potts says something I’ve been waiting to hear for a long time– “I’m going to do what I do best. I’m going to clean up someone else’s mess.” Pep’s been Tony’s personal assistant, corporate CEO, and, as of recent issues of Invincible Iron Man, lover– but there’s always that tinge of codependency, of Pepper giving up her own desires to further Tony’s agenda, to their involvement. How do you understand their relationship? What experiences have you had that help you bring Pepper’s situation to life on the page?

KS: This is sort of a weird thing to admit, but I probably relate to Tony a little better than I do to Pepper. Not because I’m a wealthy international playboy and unparalleled genius (though… you know…), but because I’m embarrassingly familiar with junkie-brain; the addict’s mindset that I’ve seen best described as “the piece of shit at the center of the universe.” Tony may be a dry drunk, but he’s still a manipulator and an egotist. It’s a little horrifying to say so in a public venue, but I’ve been there, done that. I’ve been, you know, God’s most special snowflake who knew what was best for everybody, played people to suit me and hated myself for it at the same time. I call that period of my life “my twenties.” Not my finest hour. The difference–aside from the playboy thing–is that Tony probably *does* know what’s best on some level. I was just an ass. (Also, I’m not sure Tony’s plagued by self-loathing, you know? He may be an ends-justifies-means guy.)

Anyway, I was lucky enough to have not one but several Peppers in my life–people who cleaned up after me, gently nudged me away from the brick walls into which I was determined to crash and, when I couldn’t be dissuaded, bandaged me up repaired the masonry, you know? I can’t really speak to their motivation–maybe they were broken in a way that made that relationship work for them, or maybe they were just nurturing and generous. It feels like it’s not really my place to speculate with regard to my story, you know? Like, I need to take care of my side of the street and let them worry about them.

For fiction, though? Let’s speculate. As amazing and capable and smart and funny as Virginia is, I don’t think there’s a psychiatrist worth his or her papers who would describe her relationship with Tony as anything near healthy. I absolutely adore her and I get her dedication to Tony but yeah… the woman needs a 12-step meeting like nobody’s business.

JC: What was the genesis of the Rescue one-shot? How did you approach the pitch? Did you have to sell Marvel on the idea, or did they come to you specifically asking for a Pepper solo story?

KS: Both books spun out of the Women of Marvel initiative. Marvel invited me to pitch on Pepper and Sif–I hoped to land one or the other and somehow managed to get lucky twice. As far as how I approached the pitch? First I found out when within the context of the larger story my story was to take place, then I pitched what was interesting to me. I answered the questions I wanted answered.

JC: Ralph Macchio and Alejandro Arbona are the editorial powers behind the Iron Man books, and also behind Sif. We hear a lot about what it takes for people to break in at Marvel, but not much about what it’s like to work within the Marvel editorial process.

What sorts of feedback do you get from Ralph and Alejandro when you turn in a script? How do you work together to improve the final product? How does the give and take between editorial mandate and creative control work– when do you push a creative decision, and when do you accept the editor’s call even if you don’t agree?

KS: My interaction with Ralph has been fairly minimal. I suspect — and I don’t mean this to be at all critical nor particularly self-deprecating; it’s just reality — he’s got his plate full with bigger names, you know? On the other hand, I’ve worked with Alejandro quite closely. He’s given me feedback at every step in the process — from outline to final lettering pass.

I’ve been writing professionally for about 10 years and working in the comics industry for about seven, but I’m brand-new at Marvel. Alejandro has been an invaluable guide, helping me figure out how this genre works and suggesting tips, tricks and rules for how to get the strongest, tightest story down on paper. There’ve certainly been times when we’ve disagreed. I can think of one time in particular when he stood down and in the final lettering pass I realized he’d been right all along. (To his credit, he resisted the urge to say “I told you so.”)

I think we work well together. I think we make a good team.

With regard to when to push a creative decision and when to accept an editor’s call, man… I don’t know. It’s such a tricky channel to navigate. I mean, ultimately, Marvel is my client. My boss. In the end, what they say goes. On the other hand, my name is on the byline. Happily, we haven’t thus far butted heads too terribly much. (Honestly, I’ve seen a few editor-writer relationships that were antagonistic, but I’ve never had that experience personally. With one exception, very early in my “career,” I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who upped my game and made me a better writer.)

Of course, right now I’m being asked to title a story and I have one in mind that I love… and I’m pretty sure my editor hates it. She sort of sweetly told me to, “keep thinking.” Who knows? Maybe I’ll fight for this one! (Seriously, I love this title.)

JC: You collaborated with Jamie McKelvie (Phonogram, Siege: Loki) on a Black Widow short for this week’s Enter the Heroic Age special. Any chance we’ll see more work from both of you in the future?

KS: Jamie is awesome, isn’t he? I would certainly love to work with him again. I suspect that I’d have to get in line, though. (And possibly arm-wrestle my husband.)

JC: Are there any other artists you’d like to work with?

Ha ha! Yes, of course. Here’s the thing though: that’s like saying you have a crush on someone. What if they don’t feel the same about you? Well, that’s just humiliating. I’m going to play it coy and, you know, hang out by their locker until they notice me or something. (This is a technique that didn’t really work for me in high school, but I can’t seem to let it go.)

*cough* Chris Samnee, Tony Moore, Steven Sanders, Emma Rios, Noel Tuazon. *cough*

JC: Any other properties– DC, Marvel, or otherwise– you’d especially like to tackle?

Oh, I’m sorry to do this to you, but I’m loath to answer this one as well. I’ve learned this from watching Fraction — if I name a character that someone else is writing right now, it sounds as though I’m saying I could write that character better. If it’s a character no one is working with, well then, I certainly want to keep that information to myself. Don’t want to give anyone any ideas and get scooped, right?

JC: I’ve seen you talk about Japanese comics that have influenced you– Kazuo Koike’s Lady Snowblood sticks out in my mind– and about American comics and creators, like Walt and Louise Simonson. But what about conventional prose authors? I’ve seen you mention John Irving and Ayelet Waldman in discussions on Whitechapel and elsewhere; what writers really inspire you? What are you reading these days outside of comics?

My taste is all over the board. I am a great lover of Ernest Hemingway and Peter O’Donnell. Neil Gaiman and Anne Lamott. Joe Keenan. Nicholson Baker. Joan Didion. JK Rowling. Sinclair Lewis. Mary McCarthy.

My bedside table right now is mostly stacked with parenting books and research material on the suffragette movement. Oh, and Ellen Goodman’s PAPER TRAIL: COMMON SENSE IN UNCOMMON TIMES.

JC: Thanks so much for talking to us, Kelly Sue!

KS: I’ve really enjoyed this interview. Thanks.

(The Department also thanks Arune Singh, Marvel’s manager of sales communications, for helping us set up and conduct this interview.)

LA Times Festival of Books: New Media Meets Publishing

The second panel we attended at the LA Times Festival of Books, “#book: New Media Meets Publishing,” wasn’t overtly a comics panel. That being said, folks with an interest in process and digital publication will probably want to read my recap anyhow– the processes and networks that allow guys like Wil Wheaton to self-publish are the kinds of things that can be adapted to comics work as well. The panel moderator was LA Times blogger Carolyn Kellogg, who’s covered the publishing industry for the Times since 2008. The panelists were:

First observation: Carolyn speaks LOLcat. Pretty fluently. In addition, she encouraged audience members to tweet from the panel using the “#latfob” hashtag, which was a nice touch. The Times kept that hashtag front and center throughout the Festival; placards posted in vendor areas mentioned it prominently, and every panel we attended made a point of telling us how to tag any tweets we made. That’s good message discipline, and hopefully something other festivals, conventions, BarCamps, and the like will emulate.

The panel opened with Wheaton briefly explaining that he’d come to Twitter after the urging of LA ubergeek Sean Bonner (founder of the Crash Space hackerspace in Culver City, CA), but didn’t really embrace its potential until Warren Ellis directed him to the pithy, pun-filled tweets of Diesel Sweeties cartoonist Rich Stevens. Kellogg then asked Dana about teenagers’ Twitter habits, which, well… it turns out that “teens don’t Tweet,” which is pretty much the attitude my 22-to-25-year-old coworkers display about the service too.

What teens do, though, is write, as Dana Goodyear found out while covering Japan’s keitai shousetsu (cellphone novel) subculture for the New Yorker. Most of the early authors of cellphone novels were teenaged girls in the rural districts of Japan (roughly, “anything outside of Tokyo proper” if you’re a Tokyo resident); these young writers captured their experiences via text message and gained an audience of over 12 million readers. Conventional publishing caught on, and the dead-tree versions of cellphone novels sold well to eager audiences looking for souvenirs of their reading experience. (You can read Goodyear’s original article, “Letter from Japan: I ♥ NOVELS,” here.) Inspired by this experience, Goodyear went on to start Figment, a Web platform where teenagers will be given the tools to express themselves without restrictions on form or content. (Figment will launch later this year; you can check out the prelaunch site now, though.)

Pablo Defendini envisioned a similar community for science fiction and fantasy fans at Tor.com. Instead of being a puff site for Macmillan’s SF imprint, Tor|Forge, Tor.com was designed to be as accessible as possible to people at all levels of interest in science fiction publishing. It’s equal parts group blog and SF/F magazine, open to content from readers, writers, publishers, and editors alike. “Access to guys like Wil Wheaton and Neil Gaiman is easy now,” Defendini said. “[Publishers] need to engage and listen to the readers… and leverage that knowledge with bookstore buyers to get our books on the shelves. The Internet hates middlemen.”

Wheaton concurred entirely with Defendini’s assessment, detailing his own experience with both his content and the works of others. Both Wheaton and Defendini spoke admiringly of author Scott Sigler (Ancestor, Earthcore), who releases multiple editions of his novels in differing formats. The hardcover version of a Sigler novel might have tipped-in additional content, while the paperback has a different plot; Sigler’s audiobooks are released as free, serialized podcasts via Podiobooks. In much the same way as Sigler approaches each narrative as mutable, Goodyear noted, the authors of cellphone novels often take suggestions from their readership as they write; the narrative, delivered in 70-to-100-word installments, becomes a dialog between the author and his or her fanbase.

Like Sigler’s audiobooks and Tor.com’s free PDFs of SF novels, the cellphone novel is given away freely– but free content isn’t the defining feature of digital publishing, Wheaton pointed out, going on to note that digital publication offered new avenues of consumption and interaction for audiences and authors. Defendini likened these new avenues to a Balkanization of publishing, where large houses would eventually fragment into smaller publishing services that catered to and were deeply invested in very specific interests. Wheaton also noted that in such a market, print-on-demand or self-publication should no longer be a taboo topic, unlike pay-to-publish vanity press scams. He emphasized that a book should look and feel good; to that end, aspiring POD/ self-published authors should utilize their personal connections and hire competent, talented people in order to create a professional product.

Of course, that might be a bit easier for Wheaton than for others– he mentioned that, among others, comics artist D’Israeli and White Wolf game designer Jesse Heinig had assisted him with production work on his books. When asked what he would do if he ever needed a translator for his works, Wheaton unflinchingly replied that he’d go to his blog and Twitter and ask for applications from his one-million strong reading audience. Still, even folks less famous than Wheaton can apply that strategy to their interactions with like-minded creators; Kellogg half-jokingly noted that with the current state of the print publishing industry, authors could easily “hire the laid-off” to work production roles on their titles.

When it got down to nuts-and-bolts discussion of best practices for ebook production, though, Wheaton and Defendini brought out their geek A-game; Goodyear was visibly impressed with the amount of work each of them had put into thinking about digital publication. Wheaton called for publishers to standardize on an open ebook format and “take [proprietary formats] out behind the barn.” Defendini agreed, and mentioned that he found PDF an inflexible format for ebooks because “text needs to be more accommodating” to different reading devices; he prefers the open EPUB standard. Goodyear concurred, noting that teenagers are platform-agnostic as long as the reading experience isn’t jarringly different from phone to laptop to digital reader. When asked for specific tips on creating EPUB content, Defendini noted that generating EPUB can be a dirty, hands-on coding process requiring knowledge of XML. Wheaton jumped in to assure the somewhat frightened audience member that “it’s really easy,” while also recommending the ebook formatting services provided by SmashWords and other layout houses.

Defendini further recommended the open-source EPUB creator Sigil as a good starting point for the timid. When asked about covering all the possible format bases, Wheaton mentioned that he avoided some formats (like the Kindle) because the terms of use weren’t beneficial to his bottom line. Defendini reinforced the notion of selectivity with the observation that when you have an idea, the presentation should be chosen explicitly to suit the idea itself– does it work best as a book? as a Twitter feed of crafted content? as an iPad app?– and urged people to pick their shots accordingly.

Certainly, Goodyear, Defendini, and Wheaton are presenting a paradigm for thinking about digital publication that will ruffle some feathers in traditional publishing. I’ve already seen one recap of this same panel that, er, didn’t resemble what I got out of it at all, and I doubt that’s the last one I’ll see. I know, specifically in the comics field, that I’ve seen several creators be quite open about their lack of digital publishing know-how during public appearances– and, well, a guy like Mike Mignola knows that Hellboy fans would buy Hellboy on stone tablets if that were the only distribution channel, so, arguably, he’s perfectly correct in not giving a shit.

Most of the rest of us don’t have Mignola’s considerable professional leverage, which is why we should be listening to folks like Defendini, Goodyear, and Wheaton. They’ve been over this ground. They are working out the paradigms in which many of us will work in the years to come; it would be stupid not to take heed now. If we want to move from “aspiring” creators to creators, we must know our markets. We need to move towards laying out cold, hard cash to like-minded artists to create the most appropriate and attractive packages for our ideas. We need to engage openly and honestly with our audiences… and we need to have the kind of content that compels those audiences to listen.

Read a book, read a book, read a…

amafail

The Amazon/Macmillan mess continues, with Macmillan books still not showing up on Amazon even after they appeared to say they would relist them. John Scalzi has another excellent post up this morning on the matter, and I agree. Don’t let it stop you from buying a book just because it’s not on Amazon. The Department has a few friends working and writing for Tor, who is owned by Macmillan, and we’d certainly hate to see them suffer due to Amazon being stubborn.

Among the writers Department H endorses (besides, obviously, Mr. Scalzi) are Tobias Buckell and Charles Stross’s Merchant Princes fantasy series; we’re more familiar with his Laundry-verse books (The Atrocity Archives, Jennifer Morgue) but I don’t have any qualms with recommending his other works.   If you’re looking for something more comics-related, there’s always Halo: Evolutions, which features a story by Fred van Lente, a writer for Marvel. There’s also a slew of manga and comics-related titles over on the Tor.com store.

Come on, iPad…

Thoughts on Old Man’s War

Old Man's WarI’m especially susceptible to information overload if I’m not careful, and over the last year and a half I’ve been slowly ratcheting up my daily intake through the magic of Twitter- the format lends itself well to slow incremental adjustment- and then Google Reader. I add a few people and sites until I’m almost overwhelmed, and then stay there for a bit. When I start to find myself reloading and wishing there was more content, I know it’s time to add more.  It’s working out pretty well so far.

Janice has followed John Scalzi’s blog for a while now, and keeps sharing the better moments with me. It wasn’t until last November or so, though, that I finally added him to my daily reading. Something felt off, though, and until a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t figure out what it was.

I’d never read any of his damn books. I was a tourist.

Enter all the usual excuses here. Lack of time, other things to read, so on. Never mind that we’ve had several of his paperbacks on the shelf the whole time. Or that I had a .pdf of Old Man’s War I’d gotten for free, for fuck’s sake, courtesy of the fine people at Tor.com. Pathetic.

So I set about to fix that, and as I got to the last page I had one clear and startling thought: Holy crap, that was easy. It was probably the fastest I’d ever ingested a novel,taking less than 20 hours’ reading time (this is unspeakably fast for me, for various reasons). It’s not that it’s a simple novel, far from it, but it’s presented in such a way that the information contained in its pages seemed to leap into my head. Compare this to, say, Heinlein, whom I personally find so dense that I’ve never been able to get too terribly far into any of his books. This is made all the more impressive by the fact that Old Man’s War is something of a love note to Starship Troopers.

I worked at a movie theater my last year of film school. The head projectionist (well, head projectionist until he got transferred to another theater in town and I took his place) was a pre-Internet high-order geek. One of his practices was to have a stack of books up in the booth; there’s a lot of downtime in the front end movie theater business. He never kept anything new to him up there; they were series he especially treasured, like Robert Asprin’s Myth series. He would dole them out and circulate them among the other employees like a drug dealer, cracking the door to the projection room just enough to take the previous book and hand over the next fix. It would have looked nefarious to an outsider, but it’s one of the better memories I have from that job.

I decided upon finishing Old Man’s War that, were I still the head projectionist, it would be my drug of choice. It would be the first book a new usher would get. Moreover, should I ever encounter anyone who had never read any science fiction (or, in the parlance of our times, “speculative fiction”), it would be the first thing I’d recommend. It’s so approachable that I’d bet even my mother, who nodded and smiled and totally didn’t understand a damn thing 5-year-old me was babbling as we came out from seeing Star Wars for the first time, would probably be able to at least get it. It’s like the iPod of sci-fi.

Needless to say, I’m impressed. Also needless to say, I’m already almost halfway into The Ghost Brigades, and while it’s a little slower going, it’s able to be more dense because of the amazing amount of information about the universe Scalzi was able to unpack in the first book.

Amusingly, one of the reasons I might be going a little slower on The Ghost Brigades is because I’m reading the paperback, and not an ebook. This is especially timely given current events in the ebook world. I actually went to look for a Kindle version of the second book before any of this news broke– right after the books had vanished from Amazon, of course– and just thought they were no longer available. I would have happily bought it again, since reading Old Man’s War in PDF was such a pleasure. At this point, though, I might wait for the possible iPad in my future. Amazon’s DRM already makes me a little dubious, and although I’m taking the moderate path Tobias suggests in his own post, I’m wary as to whether or not this is, in the final accounting, Amazon’s fault.