The problems with the best of lists

I have been looking at new lists as of late, to try and find something new to read. I looked through the great google for support but the lists that come up were always the same kind of lists. One factor in it was that I wanted something good and not the same old drivel that people put out. The other factor is what is considered good or the best, is always limited and this is where the same things always pop up. The worst in all of these is comic books. I love comic books and consider them to be an essential part of modern literature. However, there is so much garbage out there that it is hard to find really good ones. And when you take the time to actually go through the sites and review and so on you find the same names over and over again. It is always watchmen is the greatest single work of art in existence and bla bla bla. I am getting tired of everyone being such a frank miller fan or an alan moore junkie. Sure they were great at their day but its not like no new comics are coming out. More importantly there are so many other things out there that are great that the whole fetish with the older gen, is frankly getting a little old and mundane.

This is why there should be a site setup with some recommendation database basics. Where users could just put their favorite comicbooks or graphic novels and a list with what other users liked would be given or similar categories. I wait impatiently for such a site to come, interestingly things like that already exist for the world of manga. Which is a great way to discover new manga, if you are into manga that is.

So if there are people like me out there that are looking for good tpbs and cant find them here is my short list of things to read (and its not marvel or DC! because let’s face it they really are a one trick pony. A good trick, but still only one). So let us begin with Image which shows the most promise there are several really good books out. Chew, morning glories, witch doctor, luther strode, todd the ugliest kid, whispers, end of time…, grim leaper, saga, whispers and thats all i can think of at the moment. Dark horse is another great publishing house and from them I would really recommend colder, the secret, rex mundi and the goon. Now here is to hoping a recommendation site will actually find its way into existence.

End of a dream

As many have probably heard by now, Terry Pratchett, the master of discworld and one of the most loved and best known authors around the world, has passed away. He was fighting with Alzheimer for a while now and it has finally after a struggle won. Alzheimer, however did not mean that Terry Pratchett stopped writing, not by a long shot. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007 Terry Pratchett wrote making money, unseen academicals, I shall wear midnight, snuff, raising steam and the shepherd’s crown all in the discworld series. Next to those he also wrote: Nation, Dodger and with Stephan baxter: the long earth, the long war and the long mars.

The reason I list all these books (and its not even all of them), is to show one simple yet prominent characteristic of Terry Pratchett. The incredible stamina and perseverance he had. The incredible strength that made him such an incredibly witty, funny, dramatic, and simply amazing writer. Think about it, how many people do you know who can write so many books consistently, while struggling with Alzheimer. Naturally the disease progressed slowly, but still to be able to write at such a pace with such vigor, is simply perplexing to me. I know enough people that struggle to write one book in a year or two, and here is the great terry Pratchett putting every single one of us to shame. His quality never really diminished, certain books you enjoyed more than others but the quality of his work was always there and although I didn’t really like Nation, I loved Dodger.

I grew up reading his books and they taught me everything about a world very different from our own, where the world is flat and carried by four elephants on top of a giant turtle, across space. A world unlike anything I have ever read previously and yet so familiar I could almost taste it.  It is this familiar feeling that I so associate with the discworld. This feeling of knowing its a strange world and yet everything in it is as though it was just in my back garden. That is the charm and wisdom of Terry Pratchett. To me he was the greatest fantasy writer and now the world is poorer for his loss. I am poorer, and more than that I will always treasure the memories and the legacy he has left. It somehow feels slightly unreal because there was always a new book coming out, always a discworld fix to fill my need and now that he is no more there is a hole that will for quite some time remain empty…

Ego of a shithead

What’s so special about a writer? I mean let’s face it there are millions of them, anyone with a pen is a writer and if we really come around to it only a handful are any good. Only a handful will be remembered as truly great and even less as groundbreaking. I know this sounds bleak but it is intended to.

Why you might ask well the answer is very simple. To put a writer’s ego back where it belongs, just because someone can write or got published or whatever reason it does not magically mean that you are better than those around you. The same goes for any and every profession.

I don’t understand why it is that certain people believe themselves to be god’s gift to humanity? Even if there is some mighty strong evidence to support this shouldn’t humanity have a say in this? Is a person who is down on his luck worse than someone who has just won the lottery say? Or is it all an exercise in fate conjunction and we are pawns in a game of chance where whoever rolls the dice can win, we don’t know who or what but we believe in something there… Ok so it’s becoming a ridiculous exercise in philosophy but I still think there is a valid point here somewhere.

Why should one person be better than another, why should one be a leader over another. In most cases there is an element of luck but most often there is ambition and next to ambition there is an eagerness to succeed without any regard to the way it is done. It is this eagerness that does tend to work and a wise man once said if you really want to succeed make from miracles a reality. But I digress.

Everyone of us was a complete and utter annoying little shit. This is the way the world turns no one is brilliant all the time no one is always nice. I am sure that some of the nicest people I know were absolutely shitheads when they were teenagers for example. Maybe that’s something to keep in mind when you are doing well. I once was a shithead let’s make sure that I don’t turn into one again. 

History is in the eye of the beholder

We are taught that history is a fact and that what happened is what ultimately shapes us. We as humans are as much part of history as it is part of us. We base our culture on history, our hopes and dreams are based on history and it is history that guides us in a very fundamental manner. For example parents that survived through a certain horror will do everything in their power to save their children from that horror, this is logical and still this is history. History teaches us there was a horror and we learn from it, and make adjustments for the next generations.

However, history that is not directly related to us, is an interpretation of said history, and very much one sided. Next to that little fact we conveniently forget the history that adds shadows to our history, and makes us look much less of the self proclaimed heroes we naturally think we are.

There are many countries that conveniently forget aspects of their history. I’ll give you two examples of two European countries (and not a more obvious example) just to show how things change. France had a war with Algeria (back then it was a French colony that fought for its freedom) that started in 1954 and ended in 1962. Everyone that wants to can go through Wikipedia, or other source and look at the details of the war and what happened, what you may not know is that French children to this day know just about nothing about this war. It is not taught in schools and it is shoved aside for more (arguably) important aspects of French culture.

The second example involves Belgium. You may know Belgium as the country of the waffle or Belgium beer and good chocolate but there is a whole aspect that is never really mentioned. This aspect involves the atrocities afflicted by Belgium (under the rule of king Leopold the II) against Congo. This in some respects is similar to the Dutch who started slavery. In 1885-1908 King Leopold II acquired Congo (privately) and started exploiting it for its natural resources (rubber). He erected a force labour camp and used public brutality to deter the public fighting back, and get them to work. He used murder and mutilation as part of his methods to motivate the people and during his reign millions were killed. Finally in 1908 due to an international outcry against the brutality, Belgium stopped the force labour camp and annexed Congo as a colony (although it kept it as a colony until 1960 when it gained its freedom). Now do you think there were any penalties? Was there anything done to the Belgians? Or to the King? No, there was nothing done and the Belgians received no repercussions and would like nothing more than just forget this little piece of history which is what is happening now.

History is part of who we are, for better or worse it is what has led us to this point. Not just me but all of us. If we forget one little piece of it then how can we ever be sure it won’t happen again? History lessons are not to be forgotten or teach as suited to us, so that we emerge as the strongest, nicest or whatever. It is there so that the truth comes to light, and we learn that we like everyone else make mistakes. Making mistakes is human; not learning from them is stupid.

As children we are always taught the difference between right and wrong, and as we get older the boundaries of the two get blurred. We see more grey when at first we only saw black and white.  This is not because we don’t know the difference anymore; it is usually because we are confused, from the information being incomplete or because people are unnecessarily complicating things. I always see bureaucracy as the perfect example for that. Something that starts as a tool to help becomes an unnecessarily complicated machine that lacks any flexibility and is at the end a stupid struggle against the system.