Reading for the Hugos 2016: Now with Space Whale Poop! 9/7

Somehow, until a trip this weekend to the local comic book store, I had missed completely that Craig Thompson not only had a new graphic novel, but that he had a new science fiction graphic novel. The fact that Space Dumplins was written primarily for a juvenile audience may explain why it had escaped my notice, but it would be a mistake to dismiss this merely as a kids’ graphic novel: Very much in the same vein as Adventure Time, Thompson layers juvenile humor with references and subtexts that only an adult would be likely to get, creating a story entertaining enough for any age.

Space Dumplins

Gar and Cera and their daughter Violet are a hardscrabble working-class family, and their life only gets harder when a confluence of bad luck threatens to tear them apart. Violet’s school gets eaten by a rogue space whale, Cera’s promotion from textile worker to fashion designer’s assistant doesn’t quite live up to expectations, and Gar’s departure for a special assignment takes him far from his family. And then, it goes from bad to worse as a space-whale diarrhea disaster displaces millions of asteroid dwellers. It falls to Violet and her two friends – erudite sentient chicken Elliot and loud-mouthed lumpkin Zacchaeus – to save Violet’s dad and reunite the family.

Space Dumplins page 107

As you can likely tell, it’s full of scatalogical humor, dumb jokes, and goofy action, and I loved it. I believe it may also be Thompson’s first full-color graphic novel, and the result is gorgeous. It may be a little lowbrow for more serious SF readers, but if you can enjoy Adventure Time or Powerpuff Girls unironically, then you’ll likely want to check it out.

In other graphic novel news, I also recently finished Warren Ellis’ Trees, Vol. 1: In Shadow, and it too is going on my list of potential Best Graphic Story nominees. Aliens have invaded the earth, landing enormous tree-like structures at various points around the globe and terrifying humanity with the prospect of alien conquest. And yet, the trees do nothing but sit silently, while humanity, reacting in fear and panic, turns against itself. Smart sci-fi with a global cast of characters, volume one of Trees unfortunately ends rather abruptly on a cliffhanger, and it may not satisfy Hugo voters looking for a more self-contained narrative. Nonetheless, I was impressed, and I’m very much looking forward to volume two.

Two other Hugo-eligible works I’ve recently finished and recommend: “The Bone Swans of Amandale,” a new novella published in C.S.E. Cooney’s collection Bone Swans, is very good. I’m not usually a fan of fairy-tale remixes, but this one – a take on the Pied Piper story – really shines. The protagonist, a shapeshifting rat, brings the proper amount of irreverence to a story that might otherwise have come off overly affected, and Cooney preserves the weirdest, most haunting aspects of fairy tales in their raw unsanitized form.

And, in Related Works, I found Felicia Day’s new memoir You’re Never Weird on the Internet to be hilarious and utterly charming. If you haven’t watched her web series The Guild or any of her other work, you might get a little lost in parts, but there’s also plenty in Day’s memoirs about how women are treated in certain corners of fandom – Day’s chapter on her personal experiences being doxed and threatened by GamerGate supporters is particularly tough reading – that I think needs to be heard.

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