Webcomics Wednesday: 5/30/12

There are a lot of webcomics out there. I read ‘em, and if I like ‘em, they end up here. This week I’m talking about Clockworks and Spine.

Clockworks

Clockworks, by Shawn Gaston, is self-described as “a steampunk/fantasy story, set in a world of giant stompy robots, outlawed magic, forgotten and dangerous old gods, ether driven mad science, and goggle wearing heroes who travel the world in search of danger and adventure.” Sounds good! It is also based on Shawn’s actual RPG sessions where he is running a home-brew campaign using the Savage Worlds RPG. Sounds… scary. Why scary? Well, everyone pretty much thinks their RPG sessions would make a great story. Not many RPG sessions actually make great stories, in my experience. So I had some reservations going in.

For the most part, I am glad to say that I needn’t have worried. For one thing, the artwork goes a long way toward making any worries I might have had disappear. The characters look dashing and cool in their steampunk gear, and the city feels gritty and fantastic, with its true immensity only hinted at so far. I really dig the scenes in which characters are tiny silhouettes hopping up and over buildings as they chase or are chased.

There are some clever nods to the RPG world. The main characters are Private Constables who patrol their neighborhood fighting crime that the National Police are not interested in. Private Constables/Player Characters, get it? Oh well, I thought it was funny. There is also a flashback story told by one of the character’s grandfathers about a similar group of adventurers that he used to be a part of, and as Shawn says in the comments, “those guys scream Group Of Player Characters.” That’s okay for me, though. Any group of diverse characters in a team (The Avengers, anyone?) can scream group of Player Characters, since they usually serve specific roles in the larger group.

Where the RPG origins betray the story a bit is in the formula of bad things happen-PCs find clue(s)/trap(s)-PCs confront bad guy(s)-PC is injured and healed by mage-bad guy is taken down-repeat. The healing magic, especially, removes much of the sense of peril from the comic. Perhaps a main character might die if the human player behind them leaves the group, but I suspect most every main character is safe.

In the end, I got past this concern and just enjoyed the story for the fun, steampunk action-adventure that it is. Okay, so maybe our heroes will always survive the impossible odds stacked against them. As long as they adventure in style, I’m in for the long haul.

Spine

Spine, by Cihan Sesen, is a dystopian action-adventure story that mostly focuses on the exploits of the pseudonymous assassin, Spine. The art and story styles remind me of issues of Heavy Metal that I used to read when I was a kid (borrowed from my older brother). As with them, I don’t always understand what the hell is going on in Spine or where the story is going, but I enjoy the journey. In that, and its dystopian themes, it reminds me a bit of Derelict, although the world of Spine feels much more populated than the lonely world of Derelict.

So who is Spine? She is a daredevil assassin with a spiffy pair of goggles that give her a detailed view of the world around her. She is also a baker who works for some sort of covert organization called the Bakery, which is simultaneously a collection of chefs and a socio-political power. I don’t know. I don’t care. It’s fun. The third, and current, chapter of Spine is a flashback to Spine’s origin. It breaks from the high-flying action to tell a more touching family story, and in that ends up being more powerful than the previous chapters.

The world of Spine is one of fossil fuel shortages, raised coastlines due to global warming, and warring world powers. The tech level very much feels like a conglomeration of whatever can be scavenged from the old world, as when Spine is chased by a fleet of converted Beetles. (That sequence is a blast, by the way.) The one truly high-tech device present in the story appears to be the Sundrive that everyone is hunting for, a device that can supply unlimited power.

Cihan’s art has a very rough, loose feel to it, which fits the story well. Most pages in the first two chapters have a predominant color theme for the page. Interestingly, Chapter 3 feels markedly different from the previous chapters, both in the use of cleaner, thicker lines and more colors. Whether this is a natural progression in Cihan’s art or a specific choice for the flashback, time (and more pages) will tell.

Spine, the assassin and the webcomic, is violent, as you might suspect, so if messy deaths aren’t your thing, be warned. I think the action scenes are fun, the world has piqued my interest, and Chapter 3 adds depth to Spine’s story that promises that this will be more than a simple assassin-killing-people type action adventure thriller.

Quick Hits

Ellie on Planet X: What does Jeff look like in full-color? Well, like Jeff, only better.

The Doom That Came To Sarnath, Page 4: Wow. Amazing details on this page. And I am sure that these humans will suffer no repercussions for their actions….

Everblue: I may suffer from a cuteness overload thanks to Luna and Ten. And it’s going to be twice a week again soon, so I’m in even more danger.

Up Next on Lithicbee

Friday: Oh heck, I think I’ll stick with my Fiction Friday theme for the time being. More about what I’ve been reading and enjoying lately outside of the world of webcomics.

Sunday: Part 16 of The Only City Left, my own SF/F serial action-adventure story. In Part 16, Allin’s flashback to the time of his parents’ death continues.

The Only City Left: Part Fifteen

If you are new to The Only City Left, you might want to start with the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part Fourteen, Allin had reunited with his parents and gotten them to agree to return to Glin’s Rising with him to rescue Tyena, the love of his 15-year-old life. Let’s see how that goes for them, shall we?

The Only City Left: Part Fifteen

The sense of wrongness only intensified as we approached. Dad led the way, his gun drawn. I knew then how seriously he took the threat of attack; the gun was down to half-charge on its last power cell and might as well have been locked behind a glass case that read “For extreme emergency only,” for all that I had ever seen him use it. Mom followed close behind, a knife ready in each hand, and I trailed them both, weaponless. Feeling a bit defenseless, I stopped and kneeled down to rummage through my cocoon bag.

“What’s that you’ve got there?” Mom whispered, looking back when I caught up to them.

“Magma stick,” I whispered back, holding it up for her inspection. It was a screwdriver-shaped tool I used when tinkering. The tip was hot enough to solder components together, but at most it would be a minor annoyance to be stung with it. “Better than nothing.”

She nodded and we continued on. We made our way down alleys and side streets rather than use the main road, but all three of us knew that if anyone had been watching closely, they could have seen us already at the top of the utility platform.

Once we were inside the town proper, we stopped a few blocks away from the main intersection where the Glinites held their swap meet.

From a distance, we could see that it was abandoned, tables overturned, produce scattered. My stomach tightened into a fist, tugging on my insides until I wanted to cry out.

“Where did they all go?” I whispered.

Glin’s Rising wasn’t the largest community we had ever passed through, but there had been at least a hundred people making a life here and it had only been a couple of hours since I had seen them last. Now, Glin’s was a ghost town.

“I don’t like this at all,” Dad declared. “Even if they culled Glin’s Rising, they’d have left a group behind to follow us. Let’s keep going, but be careful. It may be a trap.”

I had so many questions for him, but it wasn’t the time to get into a long discussion, so I forced them down and kept quiet.

We slunk along abandoned storefronts, small businesses turned into apartments for the current residents. There was no sound of life in the town, no sense of presence that you get from the inhabited portions of the city. Where is everyone?, I wondered again.

In my darkest moments on the run back to Glin’s, I had steeled myself for the death and devastation I might confront when I returned. This absence of any presence felt much worse.

A firm hand on my shoulder broke into my thoughts. Dad pulled me to a stop around the corner from the department store, a finger to his lips.

He stood still, listening, although I could hear nothing but the stirring of wind from the ventilation system far overhead. He nodded and then turned to me, nearly backing me up against a brick wall.

“They’re in the department store,” Dad began. I tried to interrupt, to ask how he could possibly know that, but he cut me off. “Allin, you have to do exactly as I say. You were right, Tyena’s in trouble. There are four of them with her. When we go in there, your Mom and I’ll deal with them. I want you to get Tyena someplace safe. Someplace you can hole up until we’re done. Can you do that?”

Eyes wide, I nodded. The roof of the department store, Tyena’s hideaway. There was only the one door that let out onto it from inside and Tyena had all sorts of things up there that I could use to block the door.

Dad turned to Mom. “You’re sure about this?”

She nodded, head held high, a wistful look on her face.

“This is the man I remember,” she said, and I had to look away as they shared a moment.

“Let’s do this,” Dad said after that was over. “Allin, prepare yourself. This will not be pleasant.”

We rounded the corner and crept past the ancient ads and decrepit mannequins that filled the darkened window displays. Before we reached the front door, Dad stopped us and listened again.

“They’re… distracted,” he whispered. “Allin, we’ll draw their attention. You get Tyena and don’t look back. Got it?”

I nodded twice and goose-pimples rose on my arm at the thought of what lay in store.

“Allin, we love you,” Mom added, but before I could reply to her, a muffled scream came from inside the store.

It pierced my heart and brain with one shot, erasing all plans, spurring me into action.

I pushed past my parents and tore open the door, which protested with a shriek of metal on metal. Inside, the abandoned store was dim and murky, the only light that which filtered through the grimy glass of the front doors. As I stumbled toward where I thought Tyena’s scream had come from, jumbled silhouettes blocked my path, the detritus of another civilization.

“Shhh, someone’s here,” a man said, his whisper carrying like a shout.

“Those idiots,” said another man. “They probably forgot how to get back.”

And: “Shut up, you,” from a third voice, a woman, followed by a meaty smack and the sound of Tyena sobbing. “We won’t let them have you. You’re all ours.”

While they spoke, I dropped to all fours and crawled closer to where the voices were coming from. Toward the back of the store, I found them. In the tenebrous light, I couldn’t make out their features, but I could see Tyena pinned to the floor beneath someone, and three others loitering around them.

Fountains of rage coursed through my veins and I gripped the magma stick as if it were a sword out of legend. I was ready to throw myself into their midst, despite the odds, when Dad’s voice boomed out across the room.

“Step away from the girl, you mewling pukes. This ends now.”

* * *

See how the mewling pukes react in Part 16, or read my notes below first!

5/27/12 News: Go Allin’s Dad! (Huh-what? Fifteen parts in and Allin’s Dad doesn’t have a name yet? You’ll have to wait one more week to learn it.)

Note: I only today realized that I am losing italics when I copy from Scrivener into WordPress. Wonderful! I’ll have to go back and check all my previous posts to see how often that happened (I know some posts were copied from Word…).

Enjoying The Only City Left? If you could share the link to this story with even one person who you think might enjoy it, I’d be ever so appreciative. Thanks! (And thanks to Jande and Jorine for spreading the word last week!)

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

Fiction Friday: 5/25/12

It is time for another edition of Fiction Friday, that travelogue of my journeys through the fictional realms. So where have I been and where am I going? Let’s take a look.

Blackbirds (novel)

I finished Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig last week. In case you haven’t heard of it, here’s the quick rundown: Miriam Black is a troubled young drifter who, with a skin-to-skin touch, can see your future. Specifically, the moments of your death. When the novel begins, Miriam is using this ability to live day-to-day, arriving at the moment of someone’s death and stealing enough cash and credit from them to get her to the next soon-to-be stiff. She quickly gets in over her head in a story about death, Fate, and violence. Lots and lots of violence.

The violence level got to me, I’ll admit. Miriam, for all she is a strong female lead, spends much of the book getting beaten up. Yes, she gives as good as she gets, but the violence level definitely slowed down my reading speed on this book. Balancing that is the fact that Chuck’s writing and plotting is compelling, so whenever I put the book down because I was wincing too much at what Miriam was going through, I ended up picking it back up to find out what happens next. Also, Chuck’s writing is, for lack of a better word, cool. He wields similes like scimitars and uses a distinctive, world-weary voice that is much closer in tone to his tweets and blog posts than the hammy, pulpy goodness of Dinocalypse Now (which I reviewed in an earlier Fiction Friday post, and which I enjoyed thoroughly.)

Do I recommend Blackbirds? Yes, with a caveat that if dark, violent fare is not your thing, you might want to stay away or at least steel yourself for it before reading. You can pick up Blackbirds at Amazon or DRM-free direct from the publisher.

Nightside on Callisto (short story)

I found Linda Nagata’s short story, “Nightside on Callisto,” at Lightspeed Magazine. It is set in a future where some sort of digital plague called the Red has infected all the humans on Earth, leaving only those humans who are living farther out in the solar system free to fight back against it. The story focuses on a team of four older women who are setting up an ice-mining operation on the Jovian moon, Callisto, to supply the free humans with water. This is a dangerous operation, which is why these tough-but-expendable women were sent to do it. The mission wasn’t supposed to be this dangerous, though.

I liked that the story was packed with all sorts of neat technologies, had good action scenes, and a satisfying, non-kicker ending.

The Paper Menagerie (short story)

I must admit I have never much paid attention to the various SF/F awards out there; I just read what sounds good to me. However, I saw this list of winners and nominees for the Nebula Awards, so I thought I’d check it out. I decided to read the winner in the short story category, Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie,” which first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2011.

Wow, The Paper Menagerie is one emotional powerhouse of a story. It is about a half-Chinese/half-American boy who grows increasingly embarrassed about his Chinese immigrant mother. I admit I was a bit choked up by the end. I do find it interesting that the story contains only the barest element of magical realism. That element is vital to the story, but it is not what springs to my mind when I think of a story that would belong in a science-fiction/fantasy magazine. Ouch. I can feel my horizons being broadened. Now I’m going to have to read the other nominees in the short story category to see what else I have been missing out on.

2312 (novel)

I picked up 2312, the latest by Kim Stanley Robinson, on its release date and will have a review up once I finish it. I am 10% in (per my Kindle), and so far it is reminding me of his Mars trilogy, which is my favorite of his works. (In second place, The Years of Rice and Salt.) As usual, I have trouble getting my head around some of the science, but it is balanced with interesting characters and a mystery to pull me past the parts that make my brain melt.

Up Next on Lithicbee

Sunday: Part 15 of my SF/F serial adventure, The Only City Left.

Webcomics Wednesday: Each Wednesday I review some of the wonderful long-form webcomics that are out there. Not familiar with webcomics? Think comic books by passionate independent creators, released for free on the web. Check them out!

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Photo Credits:

Header photo of rare books (cropped), courtesy of Amelia-Jane on Flickr.

Cover of Blackbirds from the publisher, Angry Robot.

Image of Callisto via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of NASA.

Origami animals image courtesy of Jetske19 on Flickr.

Webcomics Wednesday: 5/23/12

I have two science-fiction webcomics to talk about today: Beardy Bastards and Red’s Planet.

Beardy Bastards

Beardy Bastards,  by T.E. “Teb” van Dijk and Jorine Houweling, pretty much had me at the idea of dwarves in a science-fiction setting. What can I say, I’m easy that way. Luckily, the series delivers on the promise of its premise. The story starts in the middle of a worst-case scenario: aliens are invading a mining outpost and have overrun all its defenses within hours. Thekki (pictured below) is the first dwarf we meet, and as you can see, he’s not taking this alien invasion lying down. He is one of the wise-cracking, tough-talking, hard-drinking dwarves who we will follow as they try to warn their superiors about this unexpected threat.

Beardy Bastards is almost 60 pages in and so far there has been plenty of humor, cool action sequences, some nice misdirection, the feeling of real peril for our main characters, and distinctive personalities for each member of the team. The group of dwarves reminds me of how well the colonial marines are fleshed out in Aliens (which is obviously a touchstone for this story). That’s another thing I like. The creators obviously have an appreciation for some classic SF movies like Aliens, Predator, and The Fifth Element. Sometimes it comes out in the comic itself, sometimes in Teb’s comments below the page. In any case, these shared references make the comic even more fun for me. That, and dwarves with flame-throwers. Can’t go wrong with that.

Red’s Planet

Red’s Planet, by Eddie Pittman, is the story of an orphan called Red (though she can’t stand that nickname), who runs away from her foster home and ends up in outer space. The art style here is very fun and cartoony, especially with all the alien races that we meet. (Check out this page from Chapter 2 (follow the link on the page for a hi-res image) to see a lot of alien and SF in-jokes (let’s play Where’s Han Solo!). I also enjoy the detailed touches on the more everyday parts of the story, like when Red takes her sweater off, it pulls her shirt up, too (don’t you hate when that happens?), or the way her sock flops over at the toes after she loses her shoe. It is Eddie’s keen eye for little details like this that make me pay close attention to each page to see what he has come up with.

I came across Red’s Planet once before but didn’t read it because it appeared to be left unfinished, so when I saw it was up and running again, I was happy to give it another shot and I’m glad I did. (More good news: another Spacedock 7 webcomic returns soon: Cleopatra in Spaaaace! on June 4th.) Red is a fun character and I am looking forward to following her adventures among the aliens.

Quick Hits

The Adventures of the 19XX: I never mind dinosaurs in my pulp fiction. Hmmm, someone should do a dinosaur version of Pulp Fiction.

Hunter Black: I like that the Divine Quintet are not all weapons. Each of these items could have a nice series of stories about its history.

LeyLines: The whole sequence leading up to this scene is great, but this page rocks (and it took me by surprise).

Battlepug: There is a history of cute, oversized animal monsters in Battlepug. Gil is no exception.

Up Next on Lithicbee

Fiction Friday: More of what I’ve been reading lately.

Sunday: The Only City Left Part 15, as Allin’s flashback to the time of his parents’ death continues.

The Only City Left: Part Fourteen

If you are new to The Only City Left, you might want to start with the Table of Contents. Also, in case you missed it, I had a The Only City Left: Behind The Scenes post on Friday that you might be interested in.

At the end of Part 13, Allin started to retell the story of his return to Glin’s Rising, the story of how he killed his parents. Let us enter “flashback mode” for the rest of the story.

The Only City Left: Part Fourteen

It was easy enough to retrace the path we had taken from the utility door. Even if I had not marked the way for Tyena, I was pretty good with directions and landmarks. Mom and Dad had drilled that into me: be familiar with your environment, even if you’re only passing through. The whole time I ran back along our route, I warred between believing I would meet up with Tyena on her way to find me, and worrying that something bad, something really bad, had happened to her and possibly all of the Glinites. With each passing minute, my worry grew stronger.

When I reached the utility door that would open onto the platform that overlooked Glin’s Rising, I put a hand against the wall and leaned over to catch my breath. Frenzied thoughts filled my head. No Tyena. She was right behind us! She’s in trouble. Maybe she got lost. She couldn’t have gotten lost. She’s in trouble. Glin’s Rising is in trouble. I’m in trouble.

My parents had said that the people following us were dangerous. If they had already reached Glin’s Rising and I returned there, I would be throwing myself right into that danger. It went against everything I had been taught. But there was nothing else for it. If Glin’s Rising was in danger, if Tyena was, it was because of us. I had to do something.

Sufficiently recovered from my run, I stood up straight, took a deep breath, and pushed the utility door open a crack. All was silent except for the usual background hum of air being circulated. I half expected someone to be lying in wait on the other side of the door, but the platform was empty when I stepped outside. My growing sense of foreboding did not lessen, though. If anything, the area was too quiet, too still. Which is why I should have heard someone sneaking up behind me, but I didn’t.

All I knew was that all of a sudden a hand was clamped around my mouth and an arm around my chest and arms, and I was lifted up and carried backward into the utility tunnels. Once inside, I saw Mom easing the door shut and I relaxed my frantic struggling, at which point Dad, for it had to be him, loosened his grip on me a little.

“What do you think you can accomplish back there, Allin?” he whispered in my ear from behind me. “If they are in danger, and we don’t know that they are, what can you do except die with them?”

Dad’s voice was cold and hard; I barely recognized this new version of him.

“Lemme go! Tyena’s in trouble,” I spat out from behind the palm of his hand.

“Hon, what makes you think that?” Mom asked gently.

“Let. Me. Go,” I insisted, tired of being restrained by my own father.

He did, but not without moving around to block the door first. Once out of his grip, I stumbled forward and then turned on him, tears in my eyes.

“She was going to follow me. Us. I saw her running, waving. I thought she was excited. But now, now—” I couldn’t finish the sentence. My nose was full of snot and my vision was blurry and my father stood between me and the door, his face set. I could tell I wasn’t getting through to him.

“You think she was running away from someone?” Mom asked, glancing back and forth between my father and me.

“Of course I do!” I yelled, and she winced. “Otherwise where is she?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Dad said. “We’re going. It’s not our problem.”

“How many?” Mom asked.

“What?”

“How many more will have to die so that we can survive?”

“You never complained before. Should I have left you there for him to play with until he killed you?”

Mom gasped as if Dad had struck her, and he instantly looked regretful, but the hard mask returned to his face. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, watching my parents argue like this, hinting at a past to which I had never been privy.

Twin tears glided down Mom’s cheeks. “You don’t get to throw that in my face. You know I’m grateful. But it was your choice. We’ve been on the run his entire life! When is it going to stop?”

Dad started to reply but I interrupted, loudly.

“Shut up!”

Both of them turned to me with shocked looks on their face. Dad started to speak and I cut him off again.

“Enough! Stop! While you’re fighting, Tyena’s in trouble. So get out of my way and let me go help her!”

“Allin, wait,” Dad began.

“No! I’m not a little kid anymore, Dad. You can’t stop me from going back. You can only delay me. And if Tyena’s hurt because you slowed me down, I’ll hate you forever. Both of you!”

I seethed with frustration, not sure what my next move would be when Dad refused to budge, which seemed likely.

Mom moved in close and put a gentle hand on Dad’s shoulder. He closed his eyes and sighed, then re-opened them and stared at Mom and me in turn.
“It’s a bad idea,” Dad insisted. Before I could argue more, he said, “So stay close to me and do exactly what I say. We’ll try to rescue Tyena, but if she’s… if we can’t, we get out of there and don’t look back.”

“Thank you,” I whispered.

I threw my arms around him and squeezed him as hard as I could, and he squeezed back. Mom joined in on the group hug and then we each stood apart.

“Okay, let’s do this,” Dad said, his voice wary.

Together, we made our way back to Glin’s Rising.

* * *

Continue to Part 15, or read my notes below first!

5/20/12 News: Whoa, Part Fourteen almost didn’t get posted on time, not because it wasn’t written but because I forgot what day it was! I blame Diablo III for distracting me.

Thanks to everyone for reading. Comments are always appreciated; I’d love to know who is reading and what you think. For my new readers, welcome! Care to let me know how you found The Only City Left? Finally, if you could share the link to this story with even one person who you think might enjoy it, I’d be ever so appreciative. Thanks!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

The Only City Left: Behind The Scenes #1

Note: This post originally went live between Part 13 and Part 14.

Since this blog is supposed to be about the things I am interested/involved in at any given moment, today’s post is going to be about my own serial SF, The Only City Left.

When I re-started this blog, I set a goal of three posts a week, to push myself to write more and stay on a schedule. I started writing The Only City Left (TOCL) because I figured it would be a good way to take care of one of the three weekly posts.

I started the story with an idea, which was to have a fun, scary adventure through a future Earth where the entire planet is one gigantic layer-cake of a city. The setting would allow me to throw almost any fantasy or science-fiction element that I wanted into the mix. Fun would trump realism as needed. I knew that my main character, Allin, would be alone. Allin, alone, get it? Gosh, I amaze myself sometimes (not now, but sometimes). He would be in danger. And he would be trying to reach the surface of the city and see the Sun. Except for a list of all the cool things I would want in a story (sample: vampires, kung fu, robots), I had no particular outline of what would happen. I like to write this way, to discover the world and characters as I write.

I am now 13 Parts and 14,000 words or so in (Pt 13 was double-sized), with another 5,000 words in the buffer. And while I won’t say it has become more difficult to write TOCL, I will say that I am putting more care into it now. The story has come to life for me and I don’t want to give it short shrift.

So what does that mean for me? For one thing, I had to go back and do a thorough re-reading of my work recently, to take notes on the people and creatures who show up, the plot points that are hinted at, gadgets and technology that are mentioned, that sort of thing. I also discovered pieces of the story that didn’t make sense together. Yikes, only 14,000 words in and I’m contradicting myself already?

That’s okay, though (for me, at least). This is a first draft, for all that I am trying to make it a good one. So what kind of errors have I found? Here are a couple:

In Part 1, Allin narrates: “If I had a last name, I’ve forgotten it.” Ummmm, really? Later on, he is addressed by his first and last name and he doesn’t think, “So that’s my last name!” And it doesn’t make sense for him to have forgotten his last name, actually. It was fun to write at the time, but that little tidbit can and will be removed from later versions of the story.

Part 4: In the original flashback, it starts with Allin saying he was 13. This doesn’t make sense for many reasons, not the least of which is that his love for Tyena, while perhaps naive at 15, is a bit creepy and weird at 13. I’ve already changed this one on the website for any new readers who come along.

(I saw something today that made me feel better about my errors: On Peter F. Hamilton’s Facebook Wall today, he talks about an error that made it into the advanced reader’s proofs before being caught by a copy editor: “It’ll be interesting to see how many reviewers notice a minor character who gets decapitated then turns up driving a jeep a few scenes later.” Of course, his book is 1000+ pages long, but still…)

There are other items that I caught that I would not call errors so much as items that need to be explained at some point. For instance, the werewolf ghost that chases Allin interacts with his environment in a more physically destructive manner than other ghosts in the story, and he doesn’t pass through inanimate objects like the other ghosts. I’ll admit I didn’t really notice I was doing this at the time, but I have since come up with reasons for this and it actually dovetails amazingly well with the plot that is brewing. It is an example of what I like to call a “Thank you, subconscious” (TYS) moment. Yes, I do believe that sometimes my subconscious nudges me in one direction or another or outright inserts something into the story that I don’t think much about at the time, but which makes sense when I look back on it later.

With a little wiggle room going for me thanks to the 5-week buffer, I am starting to outline the “tentpole” moments in the story (a good piece of advice that Chuck Wendig recently tweeted); I am using note-cards and a bulletin board to put events in order (inspiration courtesy of Travis Kotzebue), and most importantly, I am figuring out how I want the story to end (good advice from one of my favorite comic book writers, Greg Pak). Yes, I started the story without knowing the ending. Shame on me.

Finally, I have been reading other serials on the web lately, and one of the ideas I am taking away from them is that a title banner for the story would be nice. I’m no artist, but here’s some concepts I scribbled today.

Letters as buildings, “O” as planet covered in buildings, “C” as crescent moon: 

Thin letters, “O” as planet covered in buildings, “C” as crescent moon: 

Small letters except for planet-city “O”, with crescent-moon “C” in orbit around the “O”: 

Just some ideas; not essential to the story but it might catch the eye more than the current wall of text.

Okay, so that’s a look into my TOCL-ized brain at the moment. I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you Sunday for Part 14 of The Only City Left!

Webcomics Wednesday: 5/16/12

Today’s Webcomics Wednesday focuses on webcomics that offer digital issues of their comic. I like reading comics on my tablet, and for webcomics it is: 1) faster to read many pages in a PDF than it is clicking page-to-page on my monitor, 2) more portable, and 3) a great way to support the creator. In case you’re curious, I have a 10″ Toshiba Thrive tablet and I use an app called Perfect Viewer for reading PDFs.

Valkyrie Squadron

Valkyrie Squadron by Jules Rivera is a science-fiction action-adventure webcomic set in a universe where humanity is at war with machines. Yes, a familiar concept, but a fun one. The year is 2495 and the humans fighting the machines are broken up into female and male squadrons. The story focuses on the all-female 4th Valkyrie Squadron, but the bros from Odin Squad 4 also play a role. The story has humor, action (both close-combat and space dogfights), and intrigue, and I won’t say much else for fear of giving anything away. I can say that by the time I finished Book One, there were multiple hooks to keep me reading, so I purchased Book Two right away. Books One and Two are available at the Valkyrie Squadron store for $2 and $3 respectively. Book Three is currently being serialized at valkyriesquadron.com.

Jackie Rose: The Treasure of Captain Read

The  Treasure of Captain Read, by Josh Ulrich, takes place before the first Jackie Rose story (Legend of the Sixth Seal) but after The Amazing Eddie Ripcord, and finds Jackie and Eddie in High School. In issue #1, Eddie faces his most dangerous mission yet: asking Jackie to the Prom. Well, okay, there’s a bit about air pirates, too. Specifically, the titular Captain Elizabeth Read. She is a not-very-nice thief with a bounty on her head. Will high-school-aged Jackie Rose be the one to bring her in?

I actually snagged a copy of  issue #1 for free through a contest on Josh Ulrich’s Twitter feed, but at $1.50 it is a good deal and I’ll be picking up the rest of the issues as they come out. Josh is releasing pages from issue #1 for free during the run-up to the release of issue #2, so now would be a great time to catch up.

Lilith Dark

Lilith Dark, by Charles Dowd, is a fun look into the imagination of one fierce little girl (or is it more than that…? Time will tell.) Lilith is a sort of Calvin without a Hobbes to be her moral compass, so she gets into all sorts of trouble as she fights devil-dogs, mysterious beasties, and in a laugh-out-loud scene in issue #1, a uni-horn. Both issue #1 and #2 are available in the Lilith Dark shop for 99 cents each. Charles is also releasing pages each week for free, but as issue #2 has just started being shared in that format, it is well worth it to buy the issue to read the story in one go. Plus, you will get to see the special moment at the end of the ninth page that much sooner. I dare say no more.

So there you have it, three webcomics I was able to enjoy on my tablet. Are there any more you can recommend? Creators, what are your thoughts on releasing digital compilations of your webcomics? For me, it seems like a great idea, but I get the sense that not many people want to go this route.

Quick Hits

Modest Medusa page 200: An epic panel of Medusa-osity to end the chapter!

Little Guardians: Check out this monster splash page. Awesome.

LeyLines: Whereas this monster is as suave as he is scary.

Xander: Oh no, Xander has fallen into my least favorite type of anxiety dream. (Speaking of anxiety, I just read that Xander is ending in 20 pages or so. Bummer.)

Ellie on Planet X: Such a beautiful splash panel.

Aedre’s Firefly: It’s Aedre vs. the outhouse. I can feel the stench rising off the page.

Up Next on Lithicbee

Sunday: Part 14 of The Only City Left, my SF/F serial about Allin Arcady’s adventures through a planet-sized city called Earth! In this episode, we return to Allin’s past to find out what happened when he fled back to Glin’s Rising.  How did his parents die? Did he really kill them? Was it all that teen angst that did them in? Be here on Sunday to find out!

The Only City Left: Part Thirteen

You can find the Table of Contents here if you need it.

As a quick reminder, Part 12 ended with Emperor Banshee dropping this bomb on Allin: “There is much your father kept secret from you, Allin.”

The Only City Left: Part Thirteen

Despite my tired, aching body, the Emperor had my complete attention. At last, I would get answers to questions that had been running laps in my mind for the past three years.

“Tell me everything,” I demanded. Then, remembering who I was speaking to, I added, “Please.”

“My boy, I know you are eager to learn these things, and you deserve to know of them, but you are shaking with fever,” Emperor Banshee said.

It was true, I was in a bad way and the long journey here had only exacerbated it. The more I tried to stop the shakes, to hold myself still, the worse it seemed to get.

“You need rest, food, and a cleaning. You are safe here. Let us care for you. When you are recovered, there shall be a feast and we shall speak of events past, present, and future.”

“No, I want to know now!” I insisted.

Banshee raised an eyebrow but otherwise ignored me. He turned to Tumble and said, “Arrange for him to be tended to, and get that bite looked at before it festers.”

“Yes, your majesty.”

I continued to protest as Banshee turned his back to me and ascended to his throne. I even went so far as to push myself to my feet and start to follow him.

Two guards blocked my path, halberds crossed before me, and Tumble tugged insistently at my elbow.

“Come, Allin, all in good time,” he purred.

I looked up at Banshee, who now sat stoic and silent above me. If he held the answers I needed, I could not afford to anger him with a tantrum, but I didn’t need to be happy about it.

“Fine,” I managed to spit out, my teeth clenched. “Let’s go.”

“Ahh, splendid,” Tumble replied nervously. “This way, please.”

I didn’t pay attention to where Tumble led me from that point. It all looked the same to me and my eyelids kept drooping closed anyway, making the trip a series of images interspersed with darkness.

Spiraling ramps, rope ladders, narrow bridges, and then an entrance into an old-world building through a window. That’s all I remember about the trip from the throne platform.

Next thing I knew I was waking up in a bed, a real bed with real sheets and blankets. It was a first for me and I rolled around under the covers simply to feel the play of the smooth fabric on my skin. I never wanted to leave.

Other than the bed, there was a chest of drawers across from me, a table beside the bed, and a light in the ceiling overhead that glowed bright and strong. The floor was covered in a thick, brown carpet and there was a framed triptych of paintings on the wall depicting some nature scene from ages past, with clear blue sky above a dark, foreboding forest. There were two doors leading off the room, one closed and one open to a bathroom, and an open, uncovered window. All in all, it was the most luxurious room I had ever slept in.

As I moved around in the bed, I realized that my body didn’t ache anymore, and my muscles felt fresh and relaxed. I sniffed the air and smelled perfume, ducked down to check my armpit and realized it was coming from me. I marveled at all the cats had accomplished while I had been passed out. I had no idea how much time had passed since I had arrived in Pudlington, but I was clean, rested and healthy, all of which put me in a much better frame of mind.

My clothing had been laid out on the table next to my bed, not the tan set I had worn on the trip to Pudlington, but my original clothing, all clean and dry. My cling-tight boots and cocoon bag were on the floor in front of the table. It looked like the cats had returned all my belongings to me. But what about…?

My hand shot up to my chest and gripped my lantern coil where it hung at the bottom of my necklace. Still there! For a moment I had feared that it might have been removed by someone who didn’t understand its value to me. I squeezed it and let it fall back to my chest.

As good as it felt to lie between clean sheets on a soft bed, I was more excited about the prospect of meeting with Emperor Banshee again. Now that I felt better, he had no excuse to not tell me about Dad and his history with the werewolves. My heart rose into my throat at the thought that I would finally learn why they had been after us. And why they were apparently still after me.

I got up and dressed, put on my cocoon backpack, and stuck my head out of the window. I was not at all surprised to find Tumble on a narrow ledge next to the window, leaning against the building. He was polishing his claws with a cloth.

“Feeling better, I hope?”

“As good as new. How long was I out?”

“Over a day.”

I saw that Tumble’s shoulder was wrapped in a bandage and nodded at it.

“You all better?” I asked.

“Indeed,” he replied, and tucked his polishing cloth away. “Dinner is in two hours. Care to explore Pudlington a little until then?”

I grinned. Climbing through the cat city seemed like a perfect way to keep my mind off of the questions parading through my head.

Pudlington was immense, and so tall I thought for sure that its ceiling had to be the limit of the city’s height. Tumble quickly disabused me of this notion.

“You could fit five or six Pudlington’s on top of one another before you scratch the roof of the world,” he explained.

Besides that minor letdown, crawling through, over, and around Pudlington was a treat. Between my boots and getting used to the sway of the city, I was able to keep up with Tumble and traverse the city like a native.

Everyone we passed seemed cheerful and friendly and engaged in some activity or another. There were hunters chasing down birds, farmers tending hanging gardens, craftsmen repairing and adding on to the city’s network of support ropes, and my favorite, a group of school-kittens led by an exasperated teacher. Pudlington was the most alive place I had ever been in my life and I was the only human present. It didn’t speak well for the future of humanity, I suppose, but I couldn’t help but have my spirits lifted by the vitality of it all.

Soon enough Tumble called a halt to our circumnavigation of the city so that we could head over to the Emperor’s dinner. It was held in a long, rectangular hall, its floor supported by ropes and accessible by ramps and ladders, like most rooms in the city. There was a low railing on three sides of the floor, and at one of the short ends, a full wall covered in fronds and vines, with a waterfall that crested over the top and gathered in a small pool below. It was impressive given that we were untold stories above the ground.

Tumble led me to the low table that filled the hall, around which twenty or so cats were engaged in chatter in small groups.

“The Emperor will sit there,” Tumble explained, pointing to the end of the table by the waterfall. “I will be on his right hand side and you shall sit across from me. It is a place of honor but it means I will not be able to assist you during the meal. Follow the cues, speak when spoken to, be polite.”

“I’ll be a good boy,” I assured him while rolling my eyes.

He arched an eyebrow in return, then gestured that I should take my place.

Banshee dropped in to the room between the table and the waterfall, going down to one knee and then standing back up. The floor perceptibly shook but settled down within a few seconds.

The hum of conversation in the room faded to silence as all the cats turned and acknowledged their Emperor’s presence with a bow.

Without a word, Banshee took his seat, and only when I saw everyone follow suit did I sit down also. The table was so low that I had to kneel in order to be near it.

“Welcome, guests. Tonight we are honored by the presence of this young man who sits beside me,” Banshee addressed the room. “He is here at my request and I wish you all to accord him the highest respect. There is much he needs to learn from us, and likewise much I need to know from him, but first: food and drink in honor of this day!”

With that pronouncement, a line of servers strode into the room bearing the first course, a soup. From that point on it seemed like there was always a line of them snaking around the table, bringing out new dishes, refilling drinks, and clearing the emptied plates away.

It was the most extravagant meal I had ever eaten, and for all I could not recognize some of the courses, everything was delicious, even the rat that Tumble had caught and which was served solely to Banshee, Tumble, and me. It sure as heck beat a steady diet of nutri-bulbs.

As the evening progressed, however, I became more and more antsy to speak with the Emperor, to wring from him every drop of information about my family that he had to give, to find out about my supposed uncle. Keeping silent and answering polite questions might have earned me Tumble’s appreciative smile, but my veneer of pleasant sociality was wearing thin.

Finally, Banshee appeared to be done eating, which signaled the end of everyone’s dining. Servants cleared the remainder of the plates and dishes and set out tall, fluted glasses full of a bubbly, pink liquid in front of each guest.

I must have looked askance at it because Tumble explained from across the table, “Gerrybrook Juice. From the flower of the same name. Never tried it? A delicacy, I assure you, but it packs quite a punch so tread lightly.”

I took a tentative sip and found it to be delightful, not too sweet but with a fizzy kick.

The Emperor quaffed his glass in one gulp and a server immediately refilled it. Glass in hand, he focused on me and said, “You have been exceedingly patient, Allin, for which I thank you. I must ask you to extend that patience further before I answer the questions so plainly written on your face.”

Not again! I thought, but kept my face emotionless. I sipped at my drink to keep from saying anything rash.

The room fell silent as everyone hung on the Emperor’s words.

“You will learn all that we know by evening’s end, I assure you. But first it would be helpful if you could tell us what you know of your parents and their involvement with the werewolves, so I know what gaps in your knowledge need to be filled in.”

That took me aback. To buy some time, I took another sip of that wonderful, frothy nectar and set my cup down carefully before me.

My parents and the werewolves? There was only one story I had to tell on that subject, and I had never shared it with anyone before. Not only because it was too painful, but who would I have told?

Well, now I had an audience and the story needed to be told, even if it shamed me in the process.

I had to force the words past the lump that had formed in my throat, but after a slow, halting start, the story began to pour out of me. I needed to tell this tale.

“We arrived in Glin’s Rising to trade for food,” I began. “And that’s when I met a girl named Tyena.”

As I described her and our instant connection, the cats around the table exchanged curious glances. Perhaps human customs of love sounded strange to them.

I went on to tell of how I wanted to stay in Glin’s Rising, and how Mom and Dad insisted we move on. Of the plan Tyena and I made for her to secretly follow me. Of the fight I had with Mom and Dad when I realized that our visit had put the Glinites in danger. And how I had run away from my parents to go back and make sure Tyena was safe.

I stopped, took another gulp of my drink, and held the glass up to be refilled. I would need a lot more of that heady stuff to give me the courage to finish my story. The story of how I killed my parents.

* * *

Immediately enter “Flashback Mode” with Part Fourteen, or read my notes on this week’s episode first.

5/13/12 News: Part Thirteen is double-sized because I did not want to break it up into two segments and delay the next part even longer. As it is, I had to rush through a few scenes to fit in everything I wanted and keep it to 2,000 words or so. Allin summarizes some details of his story at the end here. Astute readers will recognize it as the Cliff’s Notes version of the flashback sequence that began in Part Four and ended in Part Seven. The rest of that flashback sequence will unfold over the course of the next four weeks.

Thanks to everyone for reading. Comments are always appreciated; I’d love to know who is reading and what you think. For my new readers, welcome! Care to let me know how you found The Only City Left? Finally, if you could share the link to this story with even one person who you think might enjoy it, I’d be ever so appreciative. Thanks!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

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Fiction Friday: 5/11/12

For today’s Fiction Friday, I have a graphic novel adaptation, a novel that mixes gambling with magic, and a cyberpunk short story.

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath & Other Stories

I have mentioned it more than once before, so now it is time for my full review of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath & Other Stories, Jason Bradley Thompson’s adaptation of dream-related stories by H.P. Lovecraft. I was very excited to get my hands on this graphic novel and it certainly lived up to my expectations.

Immediately inside the cover is a wonderful map of H.P. Lovecraft’s dream realms that I am tempted to use as the basis of the next RPG I run (someday, someday). This is followed by the short stories “The White Ship,” “Celephais,”, and “The Strange High House in the Mist,” and the main attraction, “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”

The illustration is black and white and intricately detailed, with each panel filled to the brim with details both mundane and fantastic. Each story except for “Strange High House” involves the main character entering the dream realms. Once there, the dreamer is represented as a simplistic “mock man,” a simplistic, cartoony character with a large flat face, expressive eyes, and knobbed sticks for hands and feet. This is a neat way to set the dreamer apart from the fantastic world they are adventuring in; at a glance, you always know where the dreamer is in any given panel.

Jason’s architecture is a strong point. His dream realms are filled with incredible, gargantuan cities with building stacked upon building, spires, statues, domes, minarets, and residences both grand and decrepit. Likewise, the inhabitants of the dream realm are well thought-out and -depicted, from ordinary human inhabitants to divine and semi-divine beings to the slimy-faced, turbaned merchants whose wide, crooked-lipped smile succeeds in evoking menace and disgust. There are also monsters galore, with ghouls, gugs, night-gaunts, and plenty of tentacled, slobbering nightmare creatures.  And let’s not forget the cats. I’m a sucker for well-drawn talking cats, and the adventurous kitties in these pages add just the right light touch to some dark proceedings.

I think the best parts of the GN are when Jason is filling in background details that are not part of the original text, for here you can really see his imagination at work and how he did not skimp on any page. There is a two-page spread (pgs 20-21) of Kuranes searching for the dream-city Celephais that includes panels of him searching through industrial-looking wreckage, having tea with a dragon, speaking to birds big and small, fleeing monsters up a spiral staircase, and standing on a flying carpet, to name a few of the scenes, all on a page that evokes a Candyland-ish journey through the dream realms. In the center of the page is the actual human dreamer, at the same time asleep in bed and part of a mountainous landscape. Some of these scenes are suggested in the original text, but most are not. It shows the care with which Jason decided when to narrate straight from the stories, and when he let the art speak for itself.

To sum up: great art and a wonderful adaptation of some classic H.P. Lovecraft stories: what more could you ask for?

Vegas Knights

Matt Forbeck’s Vegas Knights is a book I had to read once I saw its premise of magic users in Las Vegas, because it’s a story that’s been plaguing my mind ever since I first drove away from the city of sin with no money in my pockets. With each visit, I would entertain the same daydream: What if I could have used magic to tilt the odds in my favor? Vegas Knights answers that question.

It is the story of Jackson and Bill, two college students who have learned enough magic to get themselves in trouble with it, and who decide to make some money at the blackjack table by using their magic to make sure they are dealt the cards they need. Whenever I thought of writing this story, I would get stuck at the next logical point: if you can use magic to cheat in Vegas, you can be sure that the casinos use magic, too, and they won’t look kindly on your activities when they catch you. Needless to say, Matt did not let that be a sticking point; rather it is the starting point for Jackson and Bill’s excellent adventure. The story spirals out from there as these two college boys experience the highs and lows of Vegas life and learn what’s underneath the surface and who’s really in charge of Vegas.

Vegas Knights ends up being a fun adventure story with a surprisingly personal through-line for one of the main characters. I tore through it and had a good time. It is available from the usual e-tailers, or you can buy a DRM-free version from the publisher, Angry Robot.

Love in a Time of Bio-mal by Colum Paget

This dystopian, cyberpunk short story is a fractured tale of a tempestuous relationship, set against the backdrop of a world in which neuro-bio-warfare has ravaged the land. The rich live behind hermetically-sealed walls, while the poorest suffer the worst after-effects of the war, such as rogue bio-mal that can make you age prematurely. The narrator has lost his place in the higher ranks of the society, and with it, the woman who was using him to climb the social ladder. The story starts with an emotional punch as we see the lengths the narrator is willing to go in order to win back his former love, and it does not let up from there.

I enjoyed the whole story, especially the bits about rogue Artificial Intelligence, which I won’t ruin for you by getting into here. Love in a Time of Bio-mal can be found in Electric Spec, Volume 7, Issue 1. Links to more stories can be found at Colum’s blog, The Singularity Sucks.

Diane Duane E-Book Sale

There is a 60% sale on Diane Duane and Peter Morwood’s e-books at their website. It started on 5/8/12 and is going to run until an unspecified time. Their books are DRM-free and you can’t beat this deal. I highly recommend the So You Want to Be a Wizard books.

Up Next on Lithicbee

Sunday: Part Thirteen of The Only City Left. Will the secrets of Allin’s family history be revealed at last? Was the werewolf ghost who was chasing him really his Uncle? Be here on Sunday for Allin Arcady’s adventures through a planet-sized city called Earth!

Webcomics Wednesday: This time around I’ll be focusing on webcomics that sell digital issues you can read on your tablet.

Webcomics Wednesday: 5/9/12

For this Webcomics Wednesday, I am sharing my thoughts on The Wormworld Saga and Amya, and then I’ll bring you my Quick Hits of webcomic pages I especially liked this week.

The Wormworld Saga

First up is The Wormworld Saga, which I only discovered with the recent release of Chapter 3. This full-color webcomic by Daniel Lieske is unlike any other I have read so far. It is released in whole chapters, and each chapter is one continuous vertical panel. To read through the comic, you simply scroll down. The result of this is that The Wormworld Saga feels less like a traditional comic and more like a movie, as scenes naturally blend into one another. Take this example from the very beginning of Chapter 1 (I have no way of linking to specific sections, but this is right after the dedication; also, if you haven’t read it yet, you might just want to go and do so; it beats any description I could possibly give it. Still with me? Okay then):  The story begins up in the blue sky, with the narrator talking to the reader. As you follow the narration bubbles down, sky meets land as we see a city in the distance (note the tall Orion building) and silhouetted trees in the foreground. We move down further into the darkness of the trees and the screen is black except for the blue narration bubbles. Keep rolling down through the black and light begins to appear, light through the trees, which are now close up in the foreground, the leaves and branches framing The Wormworld Saga title and logo. Scroll down past the foliage and we see out of a gap between two trees. Now we are on ground level, looking at the nearby Michael Ende Elementary School (catch the reference?). In the background, the Orion building looms, reaching the clouds.

I cannot explain how moving that first section is. It flows together so nicely and sweeps the reader into and along the story. As the story continues down, there are “pages” of panels interspersed with larger set pieces, and it almost reads more like a page-to-page comic, but every once in a while, that magic flow returns and drags you along in its wake. Check out the scene about halfway down after our  protagonist, Jonas, enters his Grandma’s house and runs into a room he is not supposed to enter. Incredible.

Okay, enough about the delivery vehicle, the vertical panel. It’s amazing and well used. ’Nuff said. How about the story and art that the vehicle delivers? First, the art. The Wormworld Saga is digitally painted and it looks brilliant and beautiful, photo-realistic with a soft edge for the environments and a little more loose and cartoony for the characters. Daniel is equally comfortable drawing the mundane and the fantastic, and the story calls for both.

So what about the story? Well, it starts off with our narrator and protagonist, Jonas, as an adult, wondering how you can tell the difference between true memories and the memories of dreams and fantasies (a thought trail I have also wandered down). He is wondering this because of the fantastic adventures he recalls from when he was a child in the summer of 1977. These adventures involve traveling to another world, a fantastical place full of wonder and danger. I won’t give away more than that. For one, the story has barely started, so there’s not much to tell. But also I wouldn’t want to ruin a second of it for you.

I will say that The Wormworld Saga can be seen as a loving homage to Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, with the school being named after Mr. Ende and there being quite a few similarities between Jonas and Bastian’s stories. As a fan of the movie (and the first half of the book), I don’t have a problem with that. Daniel is certainly doing his own thing with the same basic premise, and in a different format, to boot. There are more Easter eggs in the comic as well, with references to Ender’s Game, to Jason Brubaker’s reMIND (how did that poster fall back in time? aw, who cares, it was fun to see), and more I have probably missed.

Bottom line, The Wormworld Saga wowed me. If you haven’t done so already, go check it out!

Amya

My second webcomic today is Amya, whose creative team is Savannah Houston-McIntyre (Producer/Writer), Andrew Hewitt (Co-Writer), and Rebecca Gunter (Artist). Amya is in black-and-white with the occasional color splash page, usually at the beginning and end of a chapter. I would define it as a fantasy adventure (magic, divine beings) in a low-tech (trains, pistols), highly-politicized setting. I actually gave Amya a look because I saw that Michael Sexton of Everblue was doing guest pages for it; of course, I was drawn in to the story and art of the original team as well.

The story starts out with one of our main characters, Faye Eolande, dreaming of the end of the world. I’m sure this dream will come back to haunt Faye and the rest of continent of Amya, but don’t expect its portent to be realized within the first three chapters of Amya that currently exist. Instead they are more about getting to know our main characters and the land of Amya itself. There is Faye, a noble’s daughter who is mute and communicates through written notes, but who also is spell-touched, meaning she can perform magic. Then there is Accel, a charming rogue who is on the run from his own noble family. Faye gets caught up in Accel’s troubles and ends up on a train heading out of her home land of Perennion, but in this highly-contentious world, Faye’s disappearance could lead to war between Perennion and its neighbors. That’s the premise of the beginning of the story, and it spirals out from there. As Faye and Accel try to make their way back to Faye’s home, they end up picking up more members of their adventuring party.

If that sounds a bit like a video game, that was my intention. Similar to Little Guardians, Amya pays homage to classic RPG video game tropes. At one point, the characters end up in a town with an inn, an apothecary, a general store, and a little problem with the townsfolk being murdered each night! The characters haggle on the price of needed goods, healing potions, and rooms for the night, and have to decide whether or not to take the side-quest (mysterious murders) or continue on their main quest (return to Perennion). It isn’t stated that explicitly, but it definitely has that video game feel to it.

The number of characters and their different motivations can be overwhelming at times, specifically in Chapter 3, but upon closer reading and re-reading of a couple of pages, I got the gist of what was going on. By the end of Chapter 3, the cast has been pared down again to a more manageable level.

Amya is currently delving into some characters’ backstories, with art courtesy of Michael Sexton, as I mentioned earlier. If the main story has to be delayed, at least we get Michael’s art in exchange. I do not mean that to be a slight on the regular series artist, Rebecca; her style is clean and clear in black-and-white and in color (I love those color pages, especially), and serves the story well. But I did visit Amya in the first place for Michael’s art, so I am happy to see he is sticking around for a while.

There is plenty of adventure and inventiveness on hand in Amya. I am enjoying the different magic wielded by various spell-touched, and the hints of a greater threat and a larger role for Faye. There is also plenty of action to keep me entertained and mysteries to keep me coming back for more. I say, check it out if you haven’t already.

Quick Hits

Derelict has a new page up. This is a great comic but pages go up infrequently, so I am excited each time this mysterious dystopian action story has one more piece of the puzzle added to it.

Hominids, Chapter 3, page 12: The art, action, and story combine for a fun page. And, is that a Lord of the Rings reference in the last panel? Warning: Boobs.

Xander, page 101: Xander and crew face the prospect of being split up upon entering the Valley of Nightmares. This page strikes the right heroic, hopeful tone for me. Here’s to another 100 pages.

The Adventures of the 19XX: Montezuma could get a job as a wrestling announcer.

Birth of Venus: “Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself!”

Delilah Dirk: Did you see the preview for the new (physical) comic book, now available for purchase? I can’t wait to get this in the mail!

Kickstarter

Holiday Wars could still use a little love from the webcomic community to reach 100%. I’m in for a copy of the graphic novel; pretty reasonable at $15. Just sayin’.

Up Next on Lithicbee

Friday: Because no one but me demanded it, my review of Jason Thompson’s Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.

Sunday: Part Thirteen of The Only City Left. Will the secrets of Allin’s family history be revealed at last? Was the werewolf ghost who was chasing him really his Uncle? Be here on Sunday for Allin Arcady’s adventures through a planet-sized city called Earth!