Farewell to Carrrie Vaughn’s urban fantasy series about a werewolf named Kitty

Poor Kitty Norville. Everyone always laughs at the werewolf named Kitty, even though, as she points out, she had the name first.

I’ve read every single one of Carrie Vaughn’s urban fantasy series staring a werewolf named Kitty. So, of course, just like Mary Robinette’s Glamourist Histories and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, Carrie’s books ended last year.

The best one is book four. It packs a hell of a punch.

Carrie is an extremely smart writer. The urban fantasy books have all the good traits of commercial books–they’re fun, engaging, and easy to read. However, the book also rewards closer attention, with intelligent character development and interaction with genre tropes. (Her short stories are often even more vividly engaging on that level.)

Kitty is an upbeat, optimistic character in a loving relationship with her husband. Carrie says she wanted to prove that happy characters could be the protagonists of interesting stories. The series has a number of unconventional points. Kitty married the “beta” lawyer, whom she chose over the “alpha” assassin. Unlike many urban fantasy heroes, Kitty doesn’t embark on her journey as a bad-ass; instead, she has to take the journey from pack omega to pack alpha, and from victim to defender.

Instead of talking more about that, I’m just going to show off my silly pictures.

I started out wanting to make a scary Kitty Werewolf. I’m sure there’s a graphic somewhere out there on the wide internet, but I wanted to try my own version first. I really like the sketch I came up with (below, left), but I haven’t found a way to finish it that works for me. For instance, in the colored version (below, right), you can see that the feline werewolf has apparently become a floundering stand-up comedian. “Eh? Eh? Get it?”

Feline Werewolf sketchFeline Werewolf

So, I was forced to admit defeat. And really, since Kitty is such a kind-hearted, optimistic character, I thought I should try a different approach.

Kitty werewolf

“On the full moon, I turn into a house cat.”

“Is that a problem?”

“Well, I have pretty bad allergies…”

Thanks, Carrie, for the great books. I’ll miss ’em.

A Toast to Steven Universe

The following two things are true.

  1. I paint pottery at Color Me Mine.
  2. I really love Steven Universe.

If you don’t know what Steven Universe is, it’s this great cartoon show. It’s entertaining for kids, but also exists on a level for adults in which it is more sophisticated and intelligent than almost anything else on TV. If queer anthropomorphic alien superhero gems appeal to you, watch it. What else can I say?

Clearly, I need lots of Steven Universe pottery, mostly various kinds of cups. Clearly. Here are my designs.

Pottery contains spoilers. Do not peruse if you haven’t seen to the end of season 2, and want to do so unspoiled.

A Steven Mug with Feet

Steven Universe mug my ipadSteven Universe mug MH's ipad

I think this was Mike’s idea to start with. I painted a mug in this shape last year for my father, using the Hawaiian shirts he wears as inspiration. All of a sudden, Mike, in the car driving to or from Los Angelos, exclaimed, “You should do a Steven mug with Feet!”

It’s pretty simple to paint. A Steven-flesh color on the stomach and feet, with red for the shirt and sandals. A star marked out on the chest in yellow. A pink gem on the belly–I can either paint one to be shiny or use a gem, but that will affect whether it’s dishwasher safe.

I put in two pictures just to show the difference between the way I was using the drawing program without the stylus (left) and what becomes more possible with a fancy one on the new ipad (right). (I borrowed the latter, alas.)

NOM NOM Amethyst Mug

Amethyst mug

There’s an excellent mug at Color Me Mine that has a big slot in it where you can store a cookie. The paintings I’ve seen other people on it are really cute–monsters, muppets, zombies. I’ve always wanted to make one, but never had quite the right match.

Now? Amethyst. Definitely.

Pearl Wine Glass

Pearl WineWine pearl squiggle smile

Mike picked this one out, too — I kept trying to look for things that were simply tall and narrow, while Mike figured out that Pearl would look adorable as a big funnel-shaped head.

Plan to just paint it white. I’ll likely do the gem with paint, not with a 3D gem — that works better with something like Steven’s quartz than it would with a pearl. (And I’ll probably paint Steven’s too, really.)

I’m not sure whether to use the curve smile, or the wicked wrinkly smile. I *could* do one face on each side, but I think that would be creepy. Mike is a wholehearted fan of the wrinkly smile. I like it, too, although I also like the idea of having a wine glass that just shows Pearl being Pearl.

Garnetini
Garnet Margarita

Something else Mike picked out. I love using the shape of the pottery to influence the designs, and he’s really good at spotting those shapes. Should be pretty easy to do with masking to keep the lines crisp, except for the glasses, which I hope I can make look as shiny and cool as they should.

She Is Made of Love

Sapphire plus Ruby mug

Color Me Mine ALSO has a pair of mugs that fit together like the divided pieces of one of those heart lockets that features in a hundred farces. One side: Ruby and Sapphire. The other: Garnet.

I made this before I was using a stylus or the zoom function on my ipad, so doing a rough line sketch was all I felt able to attempt. I’ll do the cartoons in the colors from the show, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the background yet.

NOM NOM Lion

lion mugI’m not sure I’ll make this because I’m not sure I want to have two NOM NOM mugs in the set, but so far this is the best idea I’ve had for Lion.

She Is REALLY Made of Love

Garnet heart plate

While I’m including ones I’m not sure I’ll do, there’s this heart plate.

I’ll post updates when I have some painted!

Fan art: My Goodbye to Old Man’s War

My favorite part of the Old Man’s War series is listening to Scalzi tell stories and make jokes. He has a clear and polished voice and a great sense of comic timing which are disarming to “listen” to, on his blog or in his books.

Because John’s books are easy reads, and his prose relatively simple, I’ve heard people call his prose “transparent.” I think I’ve said it, too, actually. But on reflection, Scalzi’s prose is not transparent–although it’s easy to read, it’s also calibrated to catch the reader’s attention at one point, distract at another, deliver a punchline at a third. The prose isn’t just a mirror you look through to get to the story. It’s a calculated part of the reading experience.

I think of John Scalzi as belonging to a category of “storytelling” writers–writers whose authorial voices are the disarming strength of their work, like Neil Gaiman and Ursula Vernon.

A few weeks ago, I wrote Scalzi and asked if he had any directions for drawing a picture of Old Man’s War’s main character, John Perry. Scalzi said he’d imagined Perry with Caucasian features, but otherwise, I should go for it. I didn’t even manage to follow that trivial note.

In case you haven’t read the series, the main character, John Perry, is an old man who is uploaded and reborn into a fit young body in order to fight a dangerous space war. A fit, young green body.

That’s right. Kermit said it first.

It isnt easy being green

It isn’t easy being green.

Thank you. I’ll be here all night.

 

Alice’s Tea Party, pottery project in progress

When I was a kid, I took art lessons for a number of years in the garage of the professional artist who just happened to be living in our neighborhood. I’m not great at drawing, but I enjoy working with my hands immensely, and I’m usually happier if I’ve got a regular hobby going that involves making or drawing art.

For a while, that was jewelry-making, and I may post some of my jewelry and sketches online at some point. I got overexcited about making necklaces symbolizing fairy tales and myths which was neat, but expensive, and took a lot of creative energy. At the moment, I’m mostly doing art and comics on my iPad with my fancy new stylus.

I’m also painting pottery. Not making pottery. Painting it. You know, like at the pottery painting places. I go to the Color Me Mine near where Mike works. You buy pieces of unfired pottery and then paint them using on-site supplies.

My current project is a three-part teapot:

three part teapot

The top part is a lid. The middle part is a kettle, and the bottom part is a cup.

I decided to do it up with scenes from the original illustrations of Alice in Wonderland. (Alice was on my mind because of my recently published story about the hatter and hare having a love affair.) On the lid, I’m doing Alice being assailed by cards:

alice cards

And on the middle, I’m doing the tea party.

alice tea party

On the bottom, I’m doing the Cheshire cat, but he’s not so much Tenniel’s as a blend of different interpretations of the Cheshire cat, painted purple. I don’t have any photographs of that part of the kettle yet anyway, so moving on.

I’ve finished the lid and had it fired. The firing process is interesting because of the way that it erases a lot of the shading, while at the same time making things look polished and vibrant. I often like the look of the unfired pottery better than the look of the fired pottery, but that might be because you can make the unfired version look however you want; the firing will still be a surprise. (A relatively predictable one, yes, but it makes some changes.)

The lid, unfired:

Alice lid spinning unfired

The lid, fired:

Alice lid spinning

I did a sketch of the tea party, but I’m still coloring it in. (You can see where I am marking off and painting a yellow tablecloth.) For some reason, the gif we tried to take didn’t work. It left out some angles which makes it kind of trippy. I added in a couple stills:

Alice pot spinning Alice pot showing Alice Alice pot showing hare and alice

I’ll post updates as the work continues. Alas, I am slow and perfectionistic about this, as I am about everything else. 😉

 

Celebrating Mary Robinette’s Glamourist Histories

I wanted to make a post celebrating Mary Robinette’s Glamourist Histories because it is one of the few more-than-three-book series that I’ve read to the end. Actually, all of those series ended last year, so I was going to do tributes to all of them. I still may, but I wanted to start with Mary Robinette because this is her birthday.

So, in honor of Mary Robinette’s birthday, I present a short post about the book.. and some fan art.

The Glamourist Histories take place in an Austen-inspired world where it’s possible to weave illusions out of the ether. The protagonist, Jane (as a nod to Austen), is quite a skilled glamourist, but women’s dabbling in glamour is considered frivolous. Jane is set up in a similar position to the protagonist of Pride & Prejudice — and sure enough an arrogant nobleman shows up. He is one of the most talented glamourists in England, and while he is initially grumpy toward Jane, they eventually follow the P&P path, fall in love, and get married.

One thing that’s true of all the series that I have continued to the end is that the books often improve over the course of the series. Sometimes the first book is still the strongest, but the second book probably isn’t weak, and the third book might be even better than the first. (For me, the real dealbreaker with a series is if the books go constantly downhill, no matter how high the starting point.)

One of the things I like best about the Glamourist Histories in particular is how much the setting, characters, and voice developed over the course of the series. For me, book one was fun, but so heavily like Austen that she seemed to loom over the story. Book two was a radical departure, taking these Austen-like characters and Austen-like setting and shaping them into new things. It’s not that the series loses the sense of or tribute to Austen. It just gains its own charm.

Over the series of the novels, the theme of pride and prejudice continues to be explored. Jane must face a series of prejudices (beginning with prejudice against the Irish, which seems quaint to us now, but.) until, in the final book, she end up at an Antigua plantation owned by her husband’s family. (Spoilers on the treatment of race in rot13: Fur’f abg n juvgr fnivbe. Fur’f n juvgr nffvfgnag, naq n juvgr trnef-ternfre, ohg fur’f abg gur juvgr ynql jub pnzr va gb fnir gur urycyrff fynirf.) In real life, I respect Mary Robinette for her dedication to making our own world better; Jane, too, is learning about her world so that she can dismantle her prejudices and help people where she can.

In a way, the progression of the books can be read as a criticism of Austen–after all, Austen’s heroines are firmly rooted where they are, when they are–and especially in what class they are. I see criticisms of Austen from time to time essentially asking why the ladies from P&P etc. don’t go work in a hat shop or as ladies’ maids because clearly their concerns are frivolous. (I don’t have the feeling that men’s narratives of wanting to succeed are treated the same way, but maybe I’m wrong.) I don’t read the series that way, however. I think this is one of the ways where Mary Robinette is adding her own perspective to Austen’s, thus making it her own. Austen was writing social commentary on her time, within her time, and within those constraints–both physical and ideological. Mary Robinette’s character Jane gains exceptional freedom to travel and move between social circles which would almost certainly not have been available to Austen’s heroines.

The social commentary in the books is also modern. It should be. The books are modern. Mary Robinette is writing social commentary on our time, set in Austen’s.

I’ve looked forward to getting a new Glamourist History on my kindle every year for a while now, and I’ll be sorry to let them go, although there’s a stipulation at the end of the last book suggesting there might be further adventures from Jane in the future. I hope there are.

I’ll close with one my favorite memories relating to the series: When the first book, Shades of Milk & Honey, was nominated for the Nebula Award, Mary Robinette attended the ceremony in a beautiful, handmade regency gown with period undergarments. How cool is that?

Now, some fan art: Jane Austen enjoys reading Of Noble Family.

Austen reads Kowal

(I’m learning what I can do with Paper with my new stylus, so that’s why there are like 8 different techniques in there. Her face is based on the famous portrait. The tea pot and tea cup are shaped like things I found when I google image searched “regency tea pot/cup” and the regency wallpaper was inspired by a similar search.

Not pictured: Karen Joy Fowler’s Jane Austen’s Book Club, waiting by her bedside for a cozy reread.)