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May 24th, 2016

The Futurist Congress of Ari Folman and Robin Wright

Filed under: SF Book Covers,SF Reviews — Tags: , , — William Cardini @ 9:15 am

When I first heard that Ari Folman had directed an IRL/animation hybrid adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s The Futurological Congress that replaces the main role of satirical space explorer Ijon Tichy with the actor Robin Wright and cuts the title to The Congress, I was skeptical but intrigued.

The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem, cover by Stanislaw Fernandes
Cover by Stanislaw Fernandes.

The Futurological Congress is one of my favorite books. It’s Lem out-PKDing Philip K Dick at waking-up-from-a-nightmare-into-another-nightmare psychedelic mind-fucks. Tichy attends the Futurological Congress, which is attacked by terrorists armed with weaponized hallucinogens. Trapped in a trip from which doctors can’t sober him up, they cryogenically freeze Tichy until medical science can find a cure. He wakes up in a future where pharmacologicals are aerosolized and distributed to every citizen to satisfy their every desire. Then it gets weird. What could this plot have to do with the failing acting career of fictionalized Robin Wright?

Film still from The Congress
Film still from The Congress.

The movie seems to struggle with reconciling these two threads at well. The animation-less beginning, when Robin Wright is struggling with whether she should let Miramount Studios scan her body so they can use a digital version of her in movies, drags a little. But then we jump forward 20 years to contract renegotiations at the Futurist Congress (an understandable truncation of Lem’s conference title–this would be a better title for the film), which is being held in the animated zone of Abrahama City, and the movies goes all in with zany animation and high SF ideas.

Film still from The Congress
Film still from The Congress.

The writer and director Ari Folman tacks on a story about love and family but otherwise, after Robin Wright attends the Futurist Congress, the plot is surprisingly faithful to Lem’s book, somehow managing to be even more bleak than the very dark and existentially scary book (I’d say more but I don’t want to spoil the finale of either the book or the film, which you should experience for yourself). I really loved the animation and all the sly references to pop culture in the characters and background. The Isreali-based animation studio, Bridgit Folman Films Gang, did a beautiful job. One thing I found interesting in comparing the real-life and cartoon versions of Robin Wright in the same movie is how the exaggerated eyes of cartoon characters work. If they had drawn Wright with eyes in the same proportion as the rest of her, she wouldn’t look as lively. People focus on each other’s eyes so much that it makes sense to enlarge them in a drawing.

Film still from The Congress
Film still from The Congress.

Overall I found The Congress to be a fascinating movie. I’m glad Drafthouse Films picked it up for North American distribution. You should give it a watch (but as always the book is better).

May 17th, 2016

Doris Piserchia: Forgotten SF Psychedelia

Filed under: SF Book Covers,SF Reviews — Tags: , , , , — William Cardini @ 10:34 pm

Doris Piserchia is an interesting and unfortunately mostly forgotten SF writer. She had 13 books published in the decade from 1973 to 1983, mostly by DAW, two under the pseudonym Curt Selby. Then she quit writing and her books fell out of print.

Wayne Barlowe
Wayne Barlowe’s cover painting for Earth in Twilight.

I encountered her work browsing the eye-catching yellow spines of DAW paperbacks at a great used book store here in Kansas City called Prospero’s. The book, Earth in Twilight, had a fantastic monster painting by Wayne Barlowe on the cover. I chose other books that trip but I noted Piserchia’s name for future research. Reviews online and a comparison to Philip K Dick piqued my interest. Then I saw a hardcover of her book Spaceling at a used book store in Lawrence and couldn’t resist the garish Richard Corben cover (Corben is a fantastic cartoonist and fellow Missourian, I get his comics, especially his collaborations with Mignola, regularly).

Spaceling by Doris Piserchia, cover art by Richard Corben
Cover art by Richard Corben.

Spaceling is one of the weirdest books I have ever read. It’s the first-person POV of a teenage girl named Daryl who lives in a post-Peak-Oil, energy-starved Earth where some people can travel to different dimensions via floating rings. These people are called muters because when they travel to another dimension, their body and any items they bring morphs to accommodate their new environment. It’s never quite clear whether these dimensions are other planets in the universe or different universes entirely but it doesn’t really matter. The first two dimensions we encounter are a labyrinthine lava world of vicious monsters called goths, which I found amusing, and a world of endless water and floating mountains. As Piserchia develops the central mystery of her plot, she also ratchets up the psychedelic dimensions by taking us to worlds even further removed from our reality.

Daryl is in many ways a standard SF protagonist, an orphaned amnesiac who gets caught up in events of great import, but the charm of the book is in her meandering, stream-of-conscious narration. It took me a while to get into Piserchia’s prose style, where events are described in a haphazard, piecemeal fashion – some facts are clear at the beginning of a scene but other important details are not mentioned until paragraphs later – but as I relaxed into the story and the setting, I experienced it as a dream, not worrying too much about the underlying logic but just enjoying the journey, and I was happy to discover that the plot resolves satisfactorily.

Spaceling by Doris Piserchia, cover art by George Barr
Cover art by George Barr.

After reading Spaceling, I got Doomtime. It sounded the most interesting to me from reading reviews. Fortunately I didn’t have to hunt it down because Gateway has republished all of her work digitally (and Piserchia is still alive so I feel like my purchase supports her writing).

Doomtime manages to be even stranger (and better) than Spaceling.

What sets Doomtime apart is the flora and fauna of its setting, which may be an Earth of the far future but could also be another planet entirely. By escaping the somewhat-realistic setting of Spaceling, Piserchia really lets her imagination run wild. Somehow it’s easier for me to suspend any disbelief when the world is totally invented. There are two enormous trees possibly many miles in diameter (the geography of the trees gets difficult to comprehend in the final chapters), a bright green tree named Tendron and a deep vermillion tree named Krake. These trees are sentient, want to conquer the world through their expanding root network, and can communicate with their cloned offspring. People discover they can “dip” in these trees, merging flesh and consciousnesses to experience an addictive bliss. Besides these antagonists, there are the charming Dementia, an enormous land-octopus that stands on three powerful legs and loves destruction; the spiky fungus Morchella, who needs a person to dip so she can communicate between her two brains; and the little six-legged flying twirlies that spin into deadly Looney-Tunes-Tasmanian-Devil-style tornadoes.

Doomtime’s protagonist is a red-haired man named Creed. He travels back and forth across the planet, discovers new societies, and battles the trees. His actions and motivations don’t always make sense but he takes us on a fascinating psychedelic experience.

Doomtime by Doris Piserchia, cover art by H. R. VanDongen
Cover art by H. R. VanDongen.

Color features prominently in Piserchia’s prose. There is the contrast between the green and red of the two warring trees in Doomtime. Daryl’s ability to precisely recall colors in Spaceling is an essential skill in navigating the inter-dimensionsal rings, where a slight difference of hue means a different destination. This focus really appeals to my visual imagination.

Piserchia conjures innovative, otherworldly creatures and environments. She lacks some of the polish of contemporary SF but she also doesn’t follow the same formulas for exposition and plot. I intend to explore her other works and I recommend that you do the same.

April 26th, 2016

Skew Part 3 Has Ended; I’m Working on Part 4

Filed under: Web Comics — Tags: , , — William Cardini @ 10:46 am

All of Skew Part 3 is now up on Study Group. Here are four of my favorite pages:

Skew Page 130

Skew Page 141

Skew Page 153

Skew Page 165

I’m working on Part 4. I’m about 30 pages in. Here’s a potential cover:

Skew Part 4 Cover

April 22nd, 2016

Bow Before the Tree-Beetle-God

Filed under: Artwork — Tags: , — William Cardini @ 10:12 am


Happy Earth Day!

December 15th, 2015

Free Domestic Shipping on Vortex Orders Today

Filed under: Events — Tags: , — William Cardini @ 9:03 am

Orders of Vortex placed until midnight tonight (eastern time) are only $13. I will send them domestic priority mail for free. They should arrive before Christmas.

Sorry international friends but this offer is for US addresses only.

Deal over, thanks to everyone who bought a copy! You can order a copy of Vortex from me here (shipping included in prices).


I’ll draw in your order too!

December 11th, 2015

Skew Part 3 on Study Group

Filed under: Web Comics — Tags: , , — William Cardini @ 10:34 am

Skew Part 3 has debuted on Study Group.

Skew Part 3 cover
Here’s the cover for Part 3.

We’ll post new pages every Tuesday.

Skew Page 122
Here’s Page 122.

The first ten pages are already up.

Here’s what the characters are doing at the beginning of Part 3: The Miizzzard, still trapped in the digestive system of a hypermollusc, has subdivided to isolate and destroy an invasive microdrone, planted by an unknown enemy. Meanwhile a Space Yeti named Bya is traveling to the find the Miizzz and a slime-meteor-mech gleefully stomps across the planet.

November 3rd, 2015

Future Shock Zero and Ink Brick 4 Debut at CAB

Filed under: Events,Print Comics — Tags: , , — William Cardini @ 10:23 am

I have comics in two comics collections that will debut at Comic Arts Brooklyn this weekend (Nov 7th): Future Shock 0 and Ink Brick 4. If you can’t make it to CAB, both are also available for preorder.

Future Shock 0 is a full-color astro-psych SF anthology edited by Josh Burggraf and published by Retrofit Comics.

Future Shock Zero cover by Jordan Speer
Cover by Jordan Speer.

My six-page comic is called “Ax the Ship.” You can preorder it here.

Ink Brick 4 is a full-color journal of comics poetry run by Alexander Rothman, Paul K. Tunis, and Alexey Sokolin.

Ink Brick 4 cover by Matt Huynh
Cover illustration by Matt Huynh and design by Alexey Sokolin.

My four-page contribution is called “Mud Mind.” You can preorder it here.

October 30th, 2015

“Factory” for Halloween Haunting 3 on Study Group

Filed under: Web Comics — Tags: , — William Cardini @ 9:59 am

Hi y’all,

I’m participating again in Study Group Comics’s annual Halloween Haunting feature (see my comic for last year’s here). This year I did a longer comic in the style of Skew (one-panel-per-page, seven-color comics).

Cardini Factory Title Page

My comic is called “Factory” and will be posted on the actual holiday, Saturday 10/31. Check out this post on the Study Group site for more info and previews of other spooky comics!

October 14th, 2015

The Star Virus by Barrington J Bayley

Filed under: SF Book Covers,SF Reviews — Tags: — William Cardini @ 8:45 pm

I’m ambivalent about The Star Virus and the other two Barrington J Bayley books I’ve read, The Fall of Chronopolis and The Pillars of Eternity. I like how his protagonists are existentialist anti-heroes who get caught up in psychedelic space operas, but I dislike his characters’s nasty misogyny. I have similar reactions to Philip K Dick, but Dick’s psychedelia is so much more spectacular and he makes his protagonists’ troubles with and disdain for women seem so pathetic, so it’s palatable. Bayley is rough edged. His novels are abrasive and bleak but weird and stimulating. He was praised by Michael Moorcock, published short stories in the New Wave magazine New Worlds, and influenced M John Harrison’s space operas The Centauri Device and Light. This influence on one of the greatest contemporary SF authors is especially evident from The Star Virus, Bayley’s first novel.

The Star Virus by Barrington J Bayley cover by Kelly Freas
Cover by Kelly Freas.

The Star Virus opens with the main character, a rogue named Rodrone, admiring the austere, violent landscape of an airless world. I prefer desert landscapes so I instantly grokked that and expected to sympathize with Rodrone but he quickly turns into an asshole, not caring about the loyalty or lives of his crew. In one scene that struck me as particularly hateful, he takes the evil emotional manipulation of a woman who plays a mind-altering musical instrument and extends her behavior to a stereotype of all overweight female musicians, whom he characterizes as craving and jealously hoarding the undeserved attentions of their audience. I can’t help but think that this is based on Bayley’s personal animosity towards someone, because he gives this villainess a normal-sounding name, Ruby, but all the other characters have otherworldly names like Kulthul, Redrace, and Clave Theory.

Mild spoilers and sexual assault trigger warning ahead. (more…)

October 6th, 2015

SPX 2015 Recap

Filed under: Events — William Cardini @ 10:40 am

My first time at SPX was a mixed experience. I had a blast hanging in the cartoonists concentrate of the Bethesda Marriott, sold a lot of Vortex and my two risograph minis, and brought home a heavy stack of fantastic comics, but I was unable to fully represent Sparkplug due to a shipping snafu.

On Friday, my hotel roomie and I caught a metro ride to join my friend at Fantom in downtown DC for a hot and humid but fun book signing with Farel Dalrymple, MK Reed, Brandon Graham, and others. We checked out Fantom’s inventory – DC is lucky to have such a great shop!

Saturday morning I was dismayed to discover that the box of books that Sparkplug had shipped to the hotel wasn’t at my table. Sam Marx, the friendly SPX Exhibitor Coordinator, and the hotel staff scoured the loading dock but the box was never found. So instead of a table full of books, I had a minimal installation of Vortex, Cold Heat Special #10, and Sphere Fear (which luckily did arrive at the hotel).

Sphere Fear by William Cardini

I hadn’t seen Sphere Fear before the show (published by Yeah Dude Comics). I was a worried about my riso color choices (orange and green – I worried that it would be unreadable but I wanted to expand beyond pink and blue) but Issue Press did a wonderful job printing the minis, they looked beautiful and I sold out of my comp copies. Look for it on the Birdcage Bottom Books distro soon.

After the morning’s disappointment I rallied. I was in an auspicious table location – to the right of Benjamin Marra and around the corner from Frank Santoro, who was selling treasures from his long boxes unearthed from the basements of comics history and promoting the IndieGoGo campaign to fund the embodiment of his school in a physical building, the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency (contribute to this exciting cause if you can), and supporting his table neighbors with snacks.

William Cardini at SPX
Sparkplug Books intern Jenny Flax brought the Sparkplug tablecloth and postcards to the table.

I tried to stay rooted behind my table but I couldn’t help but slip away to check out the rich outpouring of talent at SPX. Since moving to Kansas City I’ve been in a bit of an art comics desert so this was an oasis for me. My favorite book was the Blades & Lazers collection by the aforementioned Ben Marra, fresh off of a successful Kickstarter campaign, including a bad-ass genderbent comic by Lale Westvind and Keenan Marshall Keller, and brilliantly printed in fluorescent pink and metallic blue spot colors, genius choices by the Sacred Prism publisher. I also really dug Mickey Zacchilli’s Venom riso mini, which boils super villain angst and vicious energy down to their viscous essences; the very metal horror-fantasy book Azzuldekkon by Alan Brown; Meghan Goes to McDonald’s, Meghan Turbitt’s hilarious and absurd collaborations with her comics students; and Pat Aulisio’s Infinite Bowman, frenetic psychedelic SF that riffs on 2001. I got a lot of other great books too and I’m slowly reading my way through my pile.

SPX haul

Saturday night I stayed out far too late and got to hang out with a lot of great people. I love how everyone stays close to the hotel, it’s very convivial. I’ve been to enough shows at this point that I have a crew I usually hang with and most of them were there. I didn’t attend the Ignatz award ceremony but it was great to hear that so many skilled women were recognized, especially after this year’s Hugo nonsense.

Sunday was slower than Saturday. Sales were steady but I noticed a definite shift in what people bought – Saturday was all about the risograph minis and Sunday was for books.

Sunday night I took it easy – got dinner with my brother-in-law and his girlfriend; played (and lost) a round of the Magic card game, which was a fun nostalgia trip; and soberly talked with some people at the bar before trying to get some restorative sleep before my early morning flight. When I got up to catch a cab at 5am, a few people were still up, jam drawing. Next time I’ll have to get a later flight!

Despite the lows, I loved SPX and the close-knit atmosphere it emits. And thanks to Alex Hoffman and Matt Moses for being great hotel roommates. Sharing a room made the trip a lot more affordable for me. I can only do one out-of-state show a year and SPX might be my choice in 2016 too.

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