I’ve made no secret of how much I adore Avatar: The Last Airbender. I didn’t discover it until a few years ago (after a friend bugged me endlessly to watch it) and my eventual experience bingeing it was life-changing. I wrote at length about what I think makes Avatar: The Last Airbender so magical, but the gist is that Avatar was able to imbue levity and colour into every facet: from its humour and character building, to its plot, worldbuilding, and visual design. It’s an absolutely delightful show, which makes it so much more effective when it hits you with an emotional hammer. I discovered Avatar at a difficult time in my life, and it helped me through a period of (what I now recognize as) depression.
My praise was high:
Avatar: The Last Airbender is a remarkably consistent piece of storytelling that retains its quality from the first episode to the last. In fact, even if pressed, I’d find it difficult to find a point in the entire series where pacing is ever an issue. Every episode, even the sidestory episodes that don’t directly involve Aang’s plot against plight against the Fire Nation, like the previously mentioned “Tales of Ba Sing Se,” all serve a purpose in the tale, revealing more about the characters and their world. There’s not a wasted frame, not a wasted word, and that’s something that can be said about so few pieces of fiction, no matter the medium.
A season of The Legend of Korra (a follow-up set in the same world with some of the original creators involved) was already out when I finished Avatar, and I unabashedly jumped on board, expectations unfairly high. Korra did many things right (and its third season is particularly good), but it’s much more of a roller-coaster in terms of quality compared to its predecessor. Though I enjoyed it in its entirety, and appreciate many of the elements it introduced to the series (Korrasami <3), it failed to capture me in the same way as Avatar. In a lot of ways, Korra was missing the heart and soul that made Avatar so special. It took itself a bit too seriously at times, its storytelling was fraught with melodrama, and thanks to never quite knowing if it would get another season, the pacing of the overall narrative was rocky.
One notable exclusion from the Korra staff was Aaron Ehasz, and now, with hindsight, I realize how many elements of Avatar likely originated with him. Ehasz (along with Justin Richmond) has returned to the world of YA fantasy with a new show on Netflix, The Dragon Prince. In many ways it’s the follow-up to Avatar that I’ve been waiting for.
Since finishing Sam J. Miller’s incredible debut novel, The Art of Starving, a few weeks ago, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve often found that the best way to let go of things, or, rather, to move on, is to talk about them out loud.
The Art of Starving is the story of Matt, a gay teenager who mistakes his anorexia for super powers. As we follow Matt along a path that threatens to tear him apart, the relationships between him, his family, and fellow students become ever more complex, layered, and interesting.
I’ve long been a fan of Sam J. Miller’s short fiction. All authors write about other people, but Miller is one of the rare breeds of writer, the best of the best, who pours himself into every word he writes. Not just because some of the elements and story beats from The Art of Starving match experiences from his own adolescence, but because each word, each phrase, every theme seems to reveal a piece him. There’s so much passion, energy, and emotion packed into his stories. The Art of Starving is no different. It’s not always an easy book to read—in fact, most of it is heartbreaking, gut-punching—but you feel so keenly attached to Matt that it’s impossible to put down.
I’ve been a big fan of Felicia Day since Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and admire Geek & Sundry for the effort and energy they put into creating geek culture content, but, I’ll admit, I’ve stopped keeping track of both of them over the past couple of years. Day’s autobiography/memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), came out a couple of years ago, and I recently snagged it during an Audible sale. It’s Delightful. With a capital-D (see, not a typo in the previous sentence).
Narrated by Day, it follows her from her small-town, homeschooled roots in Alabama to her place atop geekdom. Admittedly, Alabama is not the first place I think of producing a geek culture icon, but it makes a lot of sense once Day’s story begins to unfold. She does a wonderful job of showing how isolating communities/situations impact children and the way we all use speculative fiction to escape to somewhere more exciting. It’s sort of hard to believe now that she’s an Internet sensation and accomplished businesswoman, but every step of the way was a challenge for Day. Midway through her journey, I’m impressed by her strength, perseverance, and tenacity. And, of course, her, humour. But, I already knew she’s funny!
Memoirs like this, especially ones that aim to entertain, are a fun, relaxing way to realize how little we really know about the celebrities we admire.
For the first time in a long time, I’ve been making excuses to listen to my audiobook (which I almost exclusively do during once-a-week work commutes), and I’m at the point where I’m addicted to the book, but also dreading it being over.