September 12th, 2011
Being the third of three posts on Carla Speed McNeil’s “aboriginal science fiction” comic Finder…
‘Well, enjoy yourself Lise,’ says the voice on the telephone. Send me a card.
‘Oh, of course,’ Lise says, and when she has hung up she laughs heartily. She does not stop. She goes to the wash-basin and fills a glass of water, which she drinks, gurgling, then another. She has stopped laughing, and now breathing heavily says to the put telephone, ‘Of course. Oh, of course.’
(Muriel Spark, The Driver’s Seat)
I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I hate bildungsromans, but I’m not sure if I hate them because they suggest that life can follow a neatly conclusive trajectory and mine’s hasn’t, or if my life hasn’t followed a neat trajectory because I hate bildungsromans. Either way, I found myself sizing up Finder: Voice and feeling even more cynical than I did when I first encountered the front piece to Finder: Talisman.
Thankfully, from the cover on in, Voice is a little bit more complicated than that:
August 30th, 2011
Being: the second of three posts on Carla Speed McNeil’s “aboriginal science fiction” comic Finder…
He did not want to compose another Quixote —which is easy— but the Quixote itself. Needless to say, he never contemplated a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it. His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide—word for word and line for line—with those of Miguel de Cervantes.
“My intent is no more than astonishing,” he wrote me the 30th of September, 1934, from Bayonne. “The final term in a theological or metaphysical demonstration—the objective world, God, causality, the forms of the universe—is no less previous and common than my famed novel. The only difference is that the philosophers publish the intermediary stages of their labor in pleasant volumes and I have resolved to do away with those stages.” In truth, not one worksheet remains to bear witness to his years of effort.
You find yourself bored and lost in your local comics shop on a crisp Thursday afternoon. You’ve exhausted all your usual favourites, or at least, you’re pretty sure that you’re not paying that amount for that hardcover collection today. Thankfully whoever does the ordering for your local shop has anticipated your boredom, and has made sure that one of Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder comics is waiting there on the shelf for you.
You’ve read a lot about Finder and — your friend Cat’s admonition that you “like music that’s fun to read about instead of music that’s fun to listen to” still fresh in your ears — you have to admit that this counts for a lot for you.
The specific Finder comic that’s in front of you is Talisman:
You seem to remember that this is a particularly well-regarded volume. What was it Douglas Wolk said about it in his Reading Comics? Ah yes:
McNeil didn’t entirely hit her stride until the fourth Finder volume, Talisman, and it’s not a coincidence that it’s her most tightly focused story: it’s about a girl who falls in love with a book, loses it, and becomes a writer in her attempts to find it again.
Well, imagine that–a storyteller inspired by other people’s stories!
August 23rd, 2011
Being: the first of three posts about Carla Speed McNeil’s “aboriginal science fiction” series Finder…
Reading one of Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder comics is like wandering through a strange new city without a reliable guide. Or a map, for that matter, but maybe that’s better in the end. After all, sometimes maps can cause a different sort of trouble:
A map can organize the world according to almost any principle of order…. All classificatory grids are arbitrary. They have no necessary or absolute status. It does not matter what kind of grid is used on the map. Any system of lines or points of reference can be imposed to provide orientation, although different mappings may serve very different interests…. For those who inhabit particular mappings, they are likely to be viewed simply as reality.
Forget maps for a minute. Let’s stick our head in there and see what we see…
Ah, well, as far as broad statements of intent go, that one’s as good a starting place as any for this post. You see, unlike that other master of anthropological science fiction, Ursula Le Guin, McNeil doesn’t pretend to build up her world up systematically in front of your eyes. Instead, find yourself discovering information about the cultures in Finder almost accidentally, by watching the characters interact and keeping your eye on some of the key sights. No wonder Kelly Sue DeConnick compared the book to a shotgun blast! Still, I’ll stick with my ‘strange city’ analogy, if only because of the comic’s pace. Freshly re-released as part of this collected edition, Finder: Sin Eater is a brilliant, wandering introduction to a truly great comic book. It’s a twisted mess of a story, with family ties, military ties and cultural boundaries revealing themselves at a leisurely pace, all the better to fully appreciate the damaged contexts the cast of characters live in. McNeil’s art becomes more and less abstract as the story dictates, sometimes suggesting an expressionistic hybrid of Western alt-comics and manga tropes, at other points snapping into “realistic” focus to give us a better look at the thoroughly singular world she’s created.