Category Archives: literature

Who Did It Better? Coming Out with J.K. Rowling and Overwatch Lead Writer Michael Chu

It’s the Year of Our Lord 2019 and storytelling is still important. In some cases the stories are the same, like the age-old tale of good triumphing over evil, but they’re being delivered in increasingly more novel ways. Comics are drawn and fan fiction is written and YouTube sketches are filmed, and sometimes the collaborators aren’t even in the same city, let alone country. In other cases the stories, while nothing new, are finally being given the opportunity to be told. The idea of finding yourself isn’t an original one, but the narrative of coming out as gay or lesbian or transgender or any other identity has only recently found a foothold in popular media.

rowlingchuStorytelling and identity are crucial building blocks to our culture, and both are heavily intertwined (as are all things, these days) with the internet (it would be remiss of me not to mention that I chose to do so in a podcast I co-hosted). This is certainly as true for a multi-award-winning online first-person shooter as it is for a series of books that wrapped up a dozen years ago. The Overwatch and Harry Potter universes are like ours in that they are populated by a myriad of different characters, some straight and some LGBT+, but I want to delve into how the similarities, and ultimately the differences, of their respective coming out stories (in both cases the term “coming out” feels accurate, as none of the characters discussed were initially introduced as being anything other than straight).

“Yer a Gay Man, Dumbledore”

Before touching on her approach to revealing one of her characters’ sexual orientations, it’s worth making note of how the billionaire author has reentered our collective conversation. Two years ago a BuzzFeed writer was one of the first to report on a shocking revelation found on Pottermore, a site Rowling created for her legion of fans to learn more about the Wizarding World. Most people online will have come across this by now, but the page in question was about the Chamber of Secrets, and explained that wizards once vanished their excrement in lieu of using toilets. It resulted in one of my favourite Tumblr posts:

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The user has since deleted their blog, so no direct link, sorry!

Continue reading

The 2017 Evan Yeong Literary Awards

As laid out in the first-ever Evan Yeong Literary Awards, the purpose of these blog posts has been to provide a retrospective of the books read in the past year. Typically these have been written and published in January, but here we are. Better late than never, as I always say.

2017

This is the first of these awards to be written during my relatively new career in publishing. While I wouldn’t say I have a strong understanding of the ins and outs of what’s hot in the industry, I certainly have a healthier grasp of things, especially compared to past years when I had none whatsoever.

The other notable difference is that the list of books read has been censored in part, due to a number of the books having been unsolicited manuscripts that I was asked to read during my time as an Editorial Intern at Penguin Random House Canada. A handful were also unpublished manuscripts or ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and have been marked as such. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.


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ALMOST AS COMPLEX AS THEIR NAMESAKE

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
Published 2013

Those who aren’t as familiar with the works of C.S. Lewis should know that “Aslan” is the name of the Judeo-Christian-God-stand-in of that author’s Narnia series. The lion is a complex figure, embodying a dichotomy of a being that is “isn’t safe” while also “good”. Aslan himself is a likewise complicated man, having been raised Muslim, converted to Christianity in his teens, then back to Islam, a faith he continues to practice, and did during the writing of this book. A fascinating fact for both believers and nonbelievers alike is his statement that whether or not he was the son of God, the Nazarene definitively performed miracles.

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SHOULD HAVE WON THE 2017 GILLER PRIZE

Brother by David Chariandy
Published 2017

One of many short, powerful works of fiction that I read this year, Brother is as unpretentious and beautiful a novel as you’re likely to find, and a worthy contender for Canada’s loftiest and most coveted literary prize. Shining a spotlight on Scarborough in the 90s, an area that I have (recently) shamefully joked about only “technically being Toronto”, this book would have served as a reminder of the real life stories that are overlooked and underheard.

The actual winner of the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize was Michael Redhill’s Bellevue Square, which I read the ARC of. Brother was longlisted. Continue reading

How To Not Ruin The Silver Chair

I get why it’s so tough to fully adapt the whole Chronicles of Narnia into films.

Sure you can make headway capturing the magic and wonder of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a well-known story with mass appeal and everybody loves Mr. Tumnus.

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Yet when I stand in the woods holding my package, people get all uptight about it. [Source.]

And while it’s nowhere near as popular, Prince Caspian makes for a good, old-fashioned swashbuckling romp.

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My name is Inigo Montoya!

Do it right and you might have the momentum to try The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

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I’M ON A BOAT (the movie)

And that usually kills it.

Not that folks haven’t made valiant efforts. It’s just that Dawn Treader is a much slower story – more of a “travelogue” than an adventure on the high seas. The battles, beasts, and betrayals that mark the other two are noticeably absent here, as are two of the original four Pevensie children, and much of the steam built up by the previous two installments.

And that’s a damn shame. Continue reading

Why Do I Love Graphic Novels (When I Was Never Really Into Comics)?

I was never a big comic book reader as a kid.

This was probably due to my mom’s irritation with any form of entertainment that used a woman’s body as a key selling point.

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Yes, I know, #NotAllComics. Photo courtesy of Public Domain

As an adult, I tried to start reading comics but I ran into the same issue I had with weekly released television: I couldn’t binge it. After finishing one issue of a series I would be suddenly and irrationally angry that I couldn’t read what happened next. By the time I finally had access to the next issue, I was so irritated about being forced to wait that I refused to put myself through the process again.

This problem is sometimes solved by bundled comics, but my few experiences with these generally left me unsatisfied. In some cases, it was because even the bundled versions still left me on some sort of cliffhanger (i.e. The Walking Dead), but sometimes it was because the writing was kinda terrible (Marvel’s Superhero Secret Wars). More than likely, I just gave up too soon (I’m hoping Evan will leave me a few suggestions in the comments that will change my mind), but generally speaking, my brush with comic books has left me wanting more. I wanted more characters who I could relate to, or writing that I could find more inspiring, or a more complex style of storytelling and/or illustrating. Continue reading

Asimov, Vonnegut, & Wendy’s: I For One Welcome Our Robot Overlords

Last week saw an announcement from fast food chain Wendy’s that they’d be rolling out some 6,000 “self-service kiosks” in their restaurants. This follows rulings in California and New York that would gradually raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00 an hour, and as you might imagine the connection has not been lost on people.

Of course, when I say “people”, I mean the ranks of bougie suburbanites who have been gleefully cackling over Wendy’s decision. It is these folks who I’d like to address directly today.

<Ahem>

****. You.

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Seriously, what kind of demented, spiteful people are you?

After decades of stagnant wages and crippling poverty. After years of broken promises and betrayals by their supposed liberal representatives. After months and months of fighting and campaigning finally the poor have a victory.

And your response to Wendy’s giving their jobs to robots is “Serves ’em right?”

Did I say **** you yet?

Well, **** you.

You guys sound like mustache-twirling caricatures from some turn-of-the-century political cartoon.

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“Oh I say, my dear Montressor- that’ll show those filthy proles! Now let us adjourn to the smoking room for cigars and brandy!”

Livable wages?

What are they going to ask for next? An eight-hour work day? Paid lunches and sick leave?

Only for all your cantankerous whinging, you’re probably not some festering slumlord or monocled oil-tycoon. So why are you bent out of shape? Continue reading

A Rather Fortuitous Event

Readers, I want you to picture me.

It’s 10:30 on a Monday, a metric ****-ton past my deadline for this post. I’m weary from a hard day of work (plus overtime). I’m mentally wiped after my past three attempts at creating a post have resulted in thousand word essays, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And in these times, I turn to the near-infinite bounty of the internet for inspiration, and lo and behold readers the internet hath provided:

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Image retrieved from Imgur, fair use

That’s right- it’s a picture of Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, from the upcoming Netflix show A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Because they’re doing that.

 

Yeah, I’m going nuts here too.

Now I enjoyed the hell out of the books, which were impeccably written (“impeccably written” being a Danish term meaning “the best thing ever”). I thought the 2004 movie adaptation was fascinating, funny, and as faithful a take as could be done in the space of two hours.

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There are two kinds of people in the world. People who will say that they want this house, and liars.

That said, I am pumped for the series, and absolutely loving the idea of finally seeing NHP as a villain (yeah, I saw Gone Girl, but I’m not counting that one). And did I mention that the voice of Lemony Snickett will be conveyed to us in the dulcet tones of Patrick Warburton?

Well that’s happening too.

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JK Rowling’s Problem With America

I read Harry Potter.

Liked it.

Didn’t love it.

Which puts me in perhaps one of the smallest minorities on the planet, between folks who’ve been struck by lightning multiple times and folks named “Craig Craigerson”.

Now I, like many, was enthralled at first. Tore through ’em at a lightning pace. But as the series wore on, I found myself drifting away from it. Certain issues I’d have been more willing to forgive as a kid just didn’t hold up. Problems like-

  • Why is the reportedly most powerful wizard in the world a high school principal?
  • Why are these kids not also being taught history, literature, and chemistry?
  • Is Voldemort such a nerdy loser that his plan for domination gets undone by his insistence on conquering his old school?

Also, why not just shoot the guy?

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I mean seriously- he clearly views Muggles [non magic-users] in such low regard that he’d never see it coming. Granted, this is the issue I have with Doctor Who, Sherlock, and most British shows, but I do think that there’s few problems a well-aimed .44 can’t solve.

Yes, that’s a distinctly American attitude, and part of my problem with Rowling’s latest venture.

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