Sunstone Issue 164: Fiction and comics.


Just one of each this time. Let's start with the comics, shall we?

The Book of Mormon by Noah Van Sciver

This is a continuation of Noah's Joseph Smith biography (I think---I didn't ask him . . . maybe I should have) that started in the previous issue. Like that one, Noah's take on familiar Mormon stories are fresh and push me out of my regular understanding. It's tempting to pin this on his own tumultuous history with the Church (splitting, as it did, his family in two, with mom and kids going one way, dad and kids going another), but it might simply be true that he has a talent for finding fresh angles to tell stories that, while important, are often tired.

With this three-page telling of the Book of Mormon, he's in top form. But pause for a second and consider: how would you sum it up in three pages of comics?

Here's how Noah did it:

1½ pages of First Nephi
¼ page of Second Nephi
⅜ page of Third Nephi
⅛ page of Fourth Nephi (v20)
⅜ page of wiping the Nephites out

Interesting, huh?

Good stuff.

In related news, directly behind this month's table of contents is a poem by Paul Swenson (featured in Fire in the Pasture, natch) in response to the first installment of Van Sciver's Joseph Smith series (reviewed here).

It's pretty good. And, perhaps, the first time a significant Mormon poet has responded to Mormon comics. So there's that.

Return of the Native by Levi S. Peterson

To start, I've not the Hardy novel. I can't make connections for you.

So instead let me start by quoting Peterson's first paragraph.
The Phoenix-bound plane was airborne before I allowed myself to consider the negatives of what I was doing. I told my stepdaughter who lives in Seattle and outright lie about my destination, saying I was flying to Corvallis to visit an old buddy from my Navy days. I knew I would have to expand on that lie when my wife, on a cruise with her sisters, got around to calling me. Even worse, I would have to expand on the lie I had been telling myself for a long time, that there was no resemblance between who I'd become and the fifteen-year-old kid who forced himself on his first cousin in a barn back in 1951.
Now that's an opening paragraph.

I'm ashamed to admit how little of Peterson's fiction I've read. If my memory's accurate, this is only the second story of his I've read (the first was "Brothers" in Dispensation), but both have been terrific. This particular story has a very steady pace and is always heading to a certain collision, but whether the collision will happen or what it will mean remain unclear until the closing moments. And that moment has an earned beauty I recommend to all.


Comparing Feinstein with Feinstein


So I was wrong. I did not get an identical form letter this time. Instead, after the blackout, Feinstein's song has changed in some rather significant ways. Check them out, side by side. Original letter is on your left.

A good start to 2012
(which, as we all know, will have a bad end)


005) Hark! a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton, finished January 21

If you have not been following Hark! a Vagrant! online, why the heck not?

The book has a good selection of the best strips (though, naturally, not just what *I* would have chosen) as well as some new ones which match her high standards. Here are a couple early strips before she found her feet that aren't in the book (but which I like; language warning on second):

perhaps five days


004) The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark, finished January 12

Prepare to hear me gush about this novel all year long. It's terrific. Read my full review on AMV.

two days


003) Bucketfoot Al: The Baseball Life of Al Simmons by Clifton Blue Parker, finished January 9

The Big O's friend gave him Dingers!: A Short History of the Long Ball for his birthday in 2010. As I looked at the book I realized that many of the great heroes of the game have been forgotten by the most of us. One that struck me was Jimmie Foxx who a) has a memorable name and b) came darn near to breaking Babe's single-season homer record more than once.

Al Simmons played with Foxx on perhaps the greatest team of all time and, even here in the A's new home, is essentially forgotten. It's a shame.

Nicknamed Bucketfoot because of his bizarre batting stance, Al still had an incredible career as a batter. He was a great fielder. And Parker let's us meet him as a person as well.

The book is almost painfully well researched. Which I do appreciate --- a historian who can show that the contemporaneous accounts don't always agree is my kind of historian --- but sometimes it did get a little much. I think I would have preferred some rollicking end/footnotes.

The book did have some minor editing errors but nothing that would make you doubt the accuracy of the facts.

In the end, if you like baseball history, are an A's fan, are curious about historical sabremetrics, enjoy a bit of tragedy with your sports Olympia, or Poles from Wisconsin, then this is the book for you.

a month or so


002) Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly, finished January 9

What a book! This is meant for, like, ten-year-olds---yet it's a pretty successful work of horror for adult standards as well. In essence, a kid from a timeless (half Victorian/Edwardian, half now) era visits an aged uncle who tells him awful stories which, weirdly, seems to be somehow true. Priestly has nailed the diction and syntax, and the stories themselves are genuinely chilling. Even the ones I thought would fall into old ruts did not. Each provided surprises along the relentless plodding to disaster.

I think it's good for scary kids' books to be scary (an amen).

This one is.

Here are a couple others worth considering: The Graveyard Book. If You Want to Scare Yourself.

Uncle Montague has spawned a couple sequels which also consist of strange adults telling a child or children strange stories. I may well pick one up some time. And I'm sure you can read them in any order.

David Roberts's illustrations are decidedly Goreyesque (and appropriately so, I think, as Gorey has built the visual vocabulary for this brand of out-of-time horror. The primary difference is that Roberts's kids have bigger (and thus cuter) eyes. Here's an example:

about a week


001) What of the Night? by Stephen Carter, finished January 5

Read my review here.

maybe a month max


An open letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein on this issue of SOPA/PIPA


I know you're just sending form letter replies and thus your letter had NOTHING to do with mine, but I said nothing about copyright etc etc. But since you brought it up, now I will.

Copyright as currently constituted is a far stretch from the Constitutional phrasing. Allow me to quote:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.


Congress has been lengthening and lengthening copyright. Part of copyright is to protect creators. Part of copyright is to insure that works enter the public domain and become part of the Great Corpus of Human Thought.

You, as my representative (as well as Hollywood's), need to work on this.

As someone who makes a living through copyrighted work myself, I'm not suggesting we screw the artist. I'm suggesting we don't screw the future.

Looking forward to getting the same form letter a third time,

I am,



The Big O's baptism


The Big O was baptized yesterday. He took it very seriously. And I am left humbled before the holiness of God.

I don't know how to be eloquent on this subject.

I will just say this is right and this is good.

previous svithe


Because everybody else is doing it and because you so totally care about my opinions here's a rerundown on the Mormon books I read in 2011


(Click the titles to read my full reviews.)

Comics and about comics

Jake Parker
The Missile Mouse books have become Thteed family favorites, rereading Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher (book one) and Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 (book two) are brilliant and fun and the best way to introduce kids to science fiction.

Mike Allred
This is a big year for Brother Allred, it being the twentieth anniversary of Madman and everything. I wasn't a huge fan of the Madman New Giant Size Super Ginchy Special, however. But next year's much delayed (and physically huge) Monster looks cool even if it doesn't have much stuff by Mike himself. It's what I'm spending my Christmas gift certificate on.

More fun for me in 2011 were the iZombie books, which Mike drew but did not write. Check them out: iZombie: Dead to the World (volume one) and iZombie: uVampire (volume two).

Red Rocket 7 is the most Allredian thing I've ever read. That may be good or bad, of course.

Finally, I also read Modern Masters Volume Sixteen: Mike Allred (as interviewed by by Eric Nolen-Weathington) which is terribly useful if you're planning on writing a dissertation on him any time soon.

Floyd Gottfredson
I'm still sad how disappointed I was in Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: Race to Death Valley. Watch for a full review in a coming-soon issue of Dialogue.



Moriah Jovan
Magdalene is the best and most explicitly Mormon novel I've read in some time. Even if Moriah doesn't like me trying to sell it to Mormons (it has some sex, you see). Check it out.


Jack Harrell
A Sense of Order and Other Stories. Embarrassingly, I still haven't written my Motley Vision review of this book. I need to get around to it. Suffice it to say that this is as good a single-author collection as Todd Robert Petersen's. Maybe better. It's a close call.

It was a great year for YA book as well, charge led by the Wells brothers.

Robison Wells
Variant was the more propulsive read, but I don't feel like I can pass final judgment on a cliffhanger like this till I read the sequel. However, I have been called to repentance and now tell you to buy and read it without waiting for book two. You won't regret it.

Dan Wells
Mr Monster (book number two) and I Don't Want to Kill You (book three) finished up the best threesome of books I've read in recent memory. Way better, to name just one example, than The Hunger Games.

Also in fiction:

Orson Scott Card
Ender in Exile: I just read an analysis by Wm Morris yesterday that pretty much sums up everything that's wrong with this book compared to Card's earlier work:
[Card] has adjusted his writing style and focus. His fiction of the past 15 years or so is markedly less literary and more transparently ideologically motivated than it was previously. His disdain for psychology and for intellectuals, for example, comes through more strongly in his later work. In addition, he has seriously toned down the “deviance” in his work.

For completists only.


Grant Hardy
Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide. Buy it today. You really really need to. If you're Mormon and care about about literature, you need to read this literary analysis of where it all began.


Kohl Glass
Redcoat: I read this in MS form, so I won't say much except I hope this moves onto screens while it still has major zeitgeist potential.

What a great year! These were all good to great! of course, I was pretty selective and didn't finish the one Mormon book I was hating, but hey! 2011!

Even better, perhaps, this year saw the release of two freaking astonishing book from sǝɓɐԀPeculiar, Fire in the Pasture and Monsters & Mormons.

APPENDIX: A book with significant Mormon content not by a Mormon

James Rollins
The Devil Colony: I pretty much hated it. With a couple notable moments as exceptions.


Is Pujols worth the money?


I'm reading a biography of Al Simmons right now (gift from the publisher) and it's got me to thinking about Albert Pujols and his recent run to Anaheim for lots and lots of money. Now, no question Pujols is a terrific athlete and one of the greatest baseball players of all time, but he's getting old. He failed to tie Al's MLB record of starting a career with 100+ RBIs 11 seasons in a row. Now sure, 99 is nothing to sniff at, but Pujols is slowing down. Simmons's 12th season was far off his previous marks. Injuries start to accumulate (Pujols missed 13 games last season), power gets softer and less consistent----

Now, I'm not questioning Pujols's importance to the Cardinals last season, and on the right team he can still be an important force. But he's like Simmons---one of the best batters of his generation (some said Simmons was better than the Babe) and aging rapidly. He'll still hit some amazing balls, and maybe DHing will keep him in more games, but he's not going to last forever.

I'm not saying anything new here, but reading about Simmons----

Well. Maybe the Angels didn't get such a sure thing.