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From Under Mountains
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BotM Discussions > Feburary 2019 BotM - From Under Mountains

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message 1: by Mike (last edited Jan 31, 2019 09:32PM) (new) - added it

Mike Rapin (mikerapin) | 340 comments Mod
What did you think of From Under Mountains by Claire Gibson, Marian Churchland, and Sloane Leong?

WARNING: Spoilers for From Under Mountains!

Tune in to the IRCB Podcast on Wednesday, February 27th for the podcast team's discussion of this month's book, From Under Mountains.

If it's okayto read your comments on the show, please post them before we record on February 24th and include "OK TO AIR" in your post!

You can find the podcast on the iTunes store, Google Play Store, Spotify, ircbpodcast.com, and more.

Oneirosophos | 10 comments I have read many comic books written & illustrated by women.

This is the first I come across that is so disinteresting.

The dialogue is utterly wooden, the characters are disinteresting. The only positive of this limited series is the unique pencil-centric art. It has some nice moments, especially when it gets etheric.

But otherwise, I would put it to the non-recommended list of comics by women, where I had only Mockingbird, by Chelsea Cain & Kate Niemczyk, so far.

message 3: by Tia (new)

Tia | 12 comments Oneirosophos wrote: "I have read many comic books written & illustrated by women.

This is the first I come across that is so disinteresting.

The dialogue is utterly wooden, the characters are disinteresting. The only..."

What does them being women have to do with why you don't recommend it? I do think that there are ways a book might be specifically masculine or feminine (as abstract ideas of identity more than as the identity of specific people). For example, I dislike a lot of Garth Ennis's work because I find that it can get a little steeped in themes of toxic masculinity I find uninteresting, and doesn't do enough to unpack or critique them for my taste. But I read that Mockingbird run, and besides one cover image I didn't find it particularly *feminine* or feminist from a thematic perspective. And of course there are all-male creative teams who do a great job engaging with feminine or feminist themes. Likewise I think there are women who do great stories that revolve around masculinity. I don't want to sound like I'm giving you a hard time here, because there is I think a legit way to categorize and critique books by engaging with gender (there's literally an entire field called Gender Studies in academia that does this), and while the gender identity of the creative teams is one aspect of that, I am just not seeing what it has to do with the books you mentioned and I'm curious what you saw that I didn't.

Personally, I absolutely love this book. I'm an art ho so I tend to gravitate towards comics that lean that way. I find the sparse dialogue is entirely suitable to the rich, lush artwork. It would be too loud and too busy with too much talking. So much of the story is told with visual language, especially the brilliant color work. I would compare some pages to the silent moments in Miyazaki films. They just let the story breathe and are more about tone and mood rather than action. It feels more like a dream than a story, especially in places where the backgrounds are just color washes. That to me is part of what makes the fantasy genre so worthwhile, you can play with reality in that way.

Oneirosophos | 10 comments I mentioned it because it was the theme of the month. ;)

message 5: by Tia (new)

Tia | 12 comments Oneirosophos wrote: "I mentioned it because it was the theme of the month. ;)"

This is the discussion thread for it so...let's discuss! Just because something is the theme of the month doesn't mean it speaks for itself. It's worth unpacking, no?

message 6: by Hermit (last edited Feb 11, 2019 09:57AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Hermit of Bowman Swamp (bowmanswamp) | 14 comments I recommended this for the BotM, and I came away from my reading disappointed. Now the color I loved. Different palettes were used for different scenes, and that made many transitions smoother, particularly when the scene changed mid-page. Otherwise I didn't find much to crow about. I'm intrigued about how it strikes the rest of you.


message 7: by Francis (last edited Feb 13, 2019 08:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Francis | 85 comments So this is quite a long winded post, but the book, and the discussion here in this thread really engaged me, first of all this book is beautifully illustrated, the artwork complimented the magical elements of the storytelling. The symbolism within the art, which told a tale of birth, death and rebirth felt perfectly appropriate for the subject and tone of the story. I was really drawn to the way the art was paired back to essential elements, and was not cluttered with detail. The use of a colour palette which was evocative of beautiful sunsets and sunrises, evoked a melancholic tone and was a reflection of the tragedy of the loss of Marcellus and the grief of his father Lord Crowe, but more so I thought it was giving an insight into Elena’s situation. It told the tale of a capable woman, who was being denied the agency to make her own decisions due to the patriarchal structure of her time and place in this story. I felt a great loss for her as she transformed from a daughter who existed only as a strategic option but who may become a leader in the absence of her Father and Brother, but it appeared to me that she would be unable to overcome the machinations of her fathers advisor and the King’s council, and that she would finally return to that strategic role.

Of course the theme of loss is throughout the story, the king has lost his wife, parents lose there children. Elena loses her Brother, her Father and her home. Tova the thief loses her liberty. Elena will lose Fisher, and the burgeoning relationship between them, before it can become fully defined.

The relationships in the book added depth to the storytelling by contrasting the personal needs of each character with the political duties they had to observe.

I took to the internet to try to find out more about this series and to perhaps get some clarity on aspects I can’t quite make up my mind about and discovered it’s a spinoff from the series 8House, which itself is made up of individual story arcs and "is a collaborative sci-fi fantasy series, and each creative team involved in the project handles one story arc in this burgeoning universe”. To be honest that raised more questions than answers for me and I’m intrigued to read more story’s set in the universe. I’d also be interested what anyone who has read 8House thinks about it, and how it relates to this story, if at all.

My opinion is that this is a great book, and in a similar way to previous book of the month, Nimona it manages to exist in a fantasy environment which borders onto reality closely enough to allow me to enjoy it.

Now, in regard to Oneirosophos and Tia's comments on how this book fits into a category of "female", "feminine" or "feminist", my understanding of why someone might react negatively to the "femininity" of this book is only by taking an uncritical view of a text through the lens of a patriarchal belief system, because any interpretation relies heavily on the preconceptions brought to a text by the reader. Perhaps if one assumes that the way of things in terms of gender roles is "natural", and takes it for granted that men rule over all others, then this story may seem lacking in depth, but in my opinion it was a rich text that warrants analysis. I personally cannot deny that my own reading of this text was heavily informed by my own knowledge that it was created by a female creative team, but also my personal analysis is always informed by Marxist Critical Theory, so I will always look to identify class power structures, and consider the characters behaviour in relation to their position in that structure.

In the case of this text, clearly the story takes place in a kingdom where gender plays a role in the power a person holds in that society. It is a patriarchal society, we know this because the head of state is male, as are the decision makers on the Kings council. Lord Crowe and his advisors are also male. There are three female characters who wield some aspects of power, but none of them hold this power without a struggle. Avisleth the Witch is an outcast, and is polarised for wielding 'feminine' power, she is seen as fitting in to derogatory female stereotypes described as, "High Witch of Akhara, Bane of Iron, Watcher of the High Peak, Slut of the Marsh...". Her only recourse to the murder of her son is revenge through magic, this is because the society she belongs to values a male patriarchal lineage over justice.

Elena only gains any power in this story as a result of the central tragedy of the death of her brother. Prior to his death, she only exists to be married in some sort of peace bargain. In the aftermath of Marcellus's death she only wields the small amount afforded to her due to her Fathers absence from his duties of state after he drifts into depression, in some part this is due to his legacy being lost along with Marcellus as the only male heir to Karsgate. As soon as her father dies all power to make decisions passes to Ares Eudon the kings advisor, who then has the power to dictate Elena's future, which appears to be an arranged marriage to a King who at one point is described as a "propped up corpse", and it is clear that the levers of power are held by the Kings Council.

Lady Ure Estril appears to be something of an exception it terms of a female character with power in the hierarchy of the Kingdom, but that power has come at a cost, she lost her husband and in order to hold power she must remain unmarried. We see through these three characters that woman do not have equal rights with the men in the Kingdom, and that they are restricted in the choices they can make.

When I take all of these factors into account, combined with my knowledge of the creative team, I find it difficult not to conclude that the writer at least is making a comment on gender roles in society and that the fantasy setting is analogous to their real world experience. As comment and debate on these issues is not exclusively reserved to one gender or the other, it would seem odd to me to classify a book as on a list of comics by woman not to recommend, rather than a list of books which present gender relationships in the context of systems of power which I would not recommend. Like Tia, I'm not a fan of most of Garth Ennis's work, and if it was written with the same voice by a woman I would feel exactly the same way. For me it's the subject matter and not the gender of the creator which is important.

OK to air.

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