delilahDelilah Dirk & the Turkish Lieutenant is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Tony Cliff. Our protagonist is actually the aforementio...moredelilahDelilah Dirk & the Turkish Lieutenant is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Tony Cliff. Our protagonist is actually the aforementioned Turkish lieutenant, a young man named Selim. Selim is a hapless lieutenant in the Sultan's guard in Constantinople. His passion is the brewing and blending of tea, but it isn't something for which he gets much respect. One day, an intruder is apprehended in the Sultan's palace. She says her name is Delilah Dirk and she lists off numerous accomplishments: superior swordswoman a member of three royal courts skilled acrobat, lockpick, and escape artists owner of a flying ship She has traveled and trained all over the world. And she is here to "repatriate" some of the Sultan's antique scrolls. When Delilah inevitably escapes, the Agha blames Selim and orders his execution. Delilah saves him, thus thrusting him into her own life of adventure and intrigue. This was a delightful read. Delilah is, as far as she can be trusted, a runaway English noblewoman turned adventuress. She's very much a Regency-era Lara Croft, as far as I can tell. She reminds me a bit of Gail Simone's version of Red Sonja too. She's tough, irreverent, thoughtless, but also kind. She had nothing to gain by saving Selim, but she did it anyway. On the other hand, she'll burn down a town's only bridge as part of a getaway plan. She's maybe not a great role model, but she is a great deal of fun. Selim, on the other hand, is gentle. He isn't, on the surface, cut out for a life of adventure and intrigue. But he is, if nothing else, a loyal friend. The art is good, but it didn't stand out as unusual to me. In a way, I'm glad of that. If I'd spent more time looking at the craft of the art I wouldn't have had as much focus for the story. If you like adventure books I highly recommend this one.(less)
On the surface, it’s about a girl named Anda who starts playing an MMO. The guild Anda joins is women only, which is interesting. The guild leader com...moreOn the surface, it’s about a girl named Anda who starts playing an MMO. The guild Anda joins is women only, which is interesting. The guild leader comes to her school and gives a rousing speech about showing that girls can be kick-ass and awesome gamers. Anda sells her mom on the game by comparing it to a team sport. It’s supposed to help build her self-confidence. Once in the game, Anda teams up with another player named Lucy to take down gold farmers, players who gather resources and then sell them to other players for cash. However, when Anda actually talks to one of the gold farmers she discovers that the situation is much more complicated. Most of the gold farmers she’s attacking are Chinese workers who support themselves and their families by gold farming. They aren’t exploiting the system to get rich, they’re just trying to make a living. Ronald, the gold farmer Anda befriends, has an injury from a previous factory job. Anda encourages him to try to organize a protest in order to get medical care for all the workers. Ronald gets fired and Anda feels terrible. Some of the other gold farmers tell her to leave them alone, she’s already done enough damage. Anda manages to talk to one of Raymond’s coworkers and things end up working out in a fairy tale ending.
jen_wang_irl_page-600x817I enjoyed the book and I’ll be taking it to the library for my kids to read as well. If you’re interested, i09 has a beautiful book trailer up: here.
Now, the disection. It’s not a perfect book. Some of the things that go wrong are, I think, meant to point out problems both with Anda’s mindset and with our culture. And some of that works better than the rest.
Anda dives in and tries to help Raymond, but ends up getting him fired. So, there’s also an element of are you actually helping? There is a naive assumption that just because we have good intentions that we are actually improving things we stick our noses into. There have been articles for years on the dangers of volunteer holidays; taking jobs away from local workers, wasting already scarce resources, and undermining local development. Encouraging workers to organize in a communist country is also dangerous. The road to hell is often paved with good intentions, but when you’re on the other end of an internet connection you’re probably not the one who is going to face that hell. Things work out in the end for Raymond, but that’s not always going to be the case. This set up also reeks of the “white savior” coming in to help the oppressed Chinese boy. The Book Smugglers has a great review that talks about all of this, so I’m not going to retread the same ground.
The feminist message is present, but not really much of a feature. Anda’s guild is all women and the founder of the guild says she was one of the first women in gaming. And it’s pretty much left there. Anda doesn’t take any flack from anyone either in real life or in the game for being a female gamer. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be proof that things are better now, or if there just wasn’t room in the story to tackle that sort of bullying.
There’s a strong anti-bullying message, which I liked. Anda thinks she’s standing up for people, but she accidentally finds herself in the position of a bully both in the game and IRL. She makes an effort to change and that’s really great.
Cory Doctrow’s introduction is worth reading even without the attached graphic novel. It’s about economics and social organizing. The internet has created a wealth of opportunities to connect with people and organize for social change. It’s thoughtful and interesting.
He also had a quote that struck me:
Most of the people you see going to work today are LARPing (live-action role playing) an incredibly boring RPG (role-playing game) called “professionalism” that requires them to alter their vocabulary, posture, eating habits, facial expressions – every detail all the way down to what they allow themselves to find funny.
Maybe it’s because I’m a gamer or maybe it’s because I find real life hard to cope with, but the notion that it’s a really boring RPG is actually comforting to me. (less)