“Calliope” by Gaiman et al

Over at NPR’s Monkey See blog, they’re doing an “I Will If You Will” book club, with a handy primer for skeptics. The most recent selection is Dream Country, a graphic novel collection of short stories in the series Sandman. The first story is “Calliope” written by Neil Gaiman, pencilled by Kelley Jones, inked by Malcolm Jones III, colored by Robbie Busch and lettered by Todd Klein.

I have been telling you people for years and years to go read Sandman. It was my gateway comic over twenty years ago, and I still make Wednesday pilgrimages most every week to my comic shop for new releases. It’s a horror comic, and it took a while to get its legs, so it’s not for everyone and easy to put down in the early issues. But those who persevere for all 75 issues plus this and that special will be rewarded. Richly.

I am not an uncritical slavering Gaiman-phile. (He crushed my fangirl worship early on, which I now think was really a blessing. I’ll tell that story sometime. In fact, I can’t believe I haven’t told it before.) He’s done some good stuff, some terrible stuff, some derivative stuff, and some really good stuff. Overall, I like his work and his storytelling. I enjoy how he combines a classical education with modern speculative fiction. And I think the whole of Sandman exemplifies that.

So, if you haven’t read Sandman yet, go get a copy of Dream Country. Read “Calliope”, then check out the long but well-worthwhile conversation in the comments (Neil even liked it). Then read the next story, “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” and wait with me for Linda and Glen post about it.

Then wiggle in geek-joy anticipation for the next story, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” one of my favorite comic issues, ever.

So, I won’t actually talk about “Calliope” in this entry, but will start off the comments with it so as not to spoil for those who haven’t (ahem, yet) read it. I did manage to squeak in one comment but didn’t get to follow up after I’d read the other 108.

One Response to ““Calliope” by Gaiman et al”

  1. girldetective Says:

    A LOT of commenters at Monkey See had problems with the story because of the abducted and raped woman at the center of it. Fair enough. And the comments contain a spirited back and forth about how the story is written, with words, art and how reading the script and the author/artist’s notes influences a re-reading of the story. Many comment, insightfully I think, on how the character of Madoc in the story (who “inherits” Calliope, or buys her with a bezoar) is a deliberate avatar for artists in general and Gaiman in particular. What no one added, though, is how Madoc is also a mirror for Dream/Morpheus/Oneiros/The Sandman. New readers may not get this right away, but I think it’s hinted at in the conversation he has with Calliope at the end. He is not the judgmental, vindictive jerk he once was, especially to women. His own history of imprisonment and abuse has given him a little more empathy and flexibility.

    Flexibility, or its lack, is another theme in the comments, with experienced readers of the series noting a recurring tension about rules (how Calliope is captured, bound and kept), how to bend and break them, and what the consequences are. Some commenters seemed irate at the arbitrary and non-physical aspects of her imprisonment; this seemed like it might be coming from a lack of experience with the conventions of speculative fiction. As the tenth Dr. Who tells Donna at Pompeii, some things can’t be changed at will and whim. Without the constraints of certain rules and convention, we’d have no tension to turn stories on.

    Speaking of stories and muses, Elizabeth Gilbert did an excellent presentation on creativity for the fine folks at TED. If you have a chunk of tiime, I recommend checking it out.