|The cover art is, as ever, by the fantastic
James Taylor, who talks about his process
Last War in Albion will run on Saturday this week, in lieu of the usual waffling.
I am pleased to announce that A Golden Thread: An Unofficial Critical History of Wonder Woman is at long last available from Eruditorum Press. It’s priced at $7.99 for the US ebook edition, with all other editions priced to give me the same royalty. You can buy it now at Amazon (Print, Kindle), Amazon UK (Print, Kindle), and Smashwords, which can provide you with ebook versions for any non-Kindle devices. It’s available in most other Amazon stores, and will be on Nook, iBooks, and Sony stores in a few weeks.
The book is a critical history of Wonder Woman, focusing primarily but not exclusively on her comic book appearances. It starts in 1941, as William Moulton Marston, a pop psychologist, creates a female superhero to advance his idiosyncratic goals about the relationship between men and women, through the days when she was more feminist than Gloria Steinem, and all the way to the present day, where the character is stuck in DC’s woeful New 52 relaunch, looking at every era of Wonder Woman in between.
It’s written to be understandable and interesting to audiences who have never read a Wonder Woman comic before, but has enough detail that even the most die-hard fan will learn a few things. It doesn’t just cover the canonical “major eras” like the Marston era and the Pérez era, but every era from 1941 on is there, in varying levels of detail.
Why, one might ask, a history of Wonder Woman? Because she’s simultaneously one of the most recognized figures in popular culture and one of the least well-understood. She’s a wildly popular character, and yet save for three seasons of television in the 1970s it’s hard to point to her iconic or beloved version. There are not stories like The Dark Knight Returns or The Death of Gwen Stacy that everyone points to as the iconic Wonder Woman story. There’s no movie version.
And yet she’s fascinating. Not just because she was designed as propaganda for Marston’s imagined female supremacist bondage utopia, but because she’s spent over seventy years in continual publication by a company that has never seemed to understand the character. Where Batman and Superman feel easy to understand, Wonder Woman is strangely amorphous, resisting an easy definition. This has made her comics often frustrating, but rarely, if ever, boring. And because she is, by her nature, a symbol of feminism and of social justice, the highs and lows of her comics are often fascinating.
Inevitably, a book drifts over two years of being written and produced. When I envisioned the book, of course, it was called Paradise Dungeons, playing off of Wonder Woman’s Paradise Island and the oft-remarked upon bondage components of Wonder Woman. But when I finished the book it wasn’t quite that book.
Much of this is simply because Wonder Woman turned out to be a larger and twistier topic than I’d initially imagined. So much of her history consists of DC clearly trying to run and hide from the sheer radicalness of the character, such that the radical sexuality that defined William Moulton Marston’s original conception of her wasn’t even suppressed so much as denied entirely.
Instead I found that I’d written a book about the history of feminism and of what we mean when we talk about utopianism. It’s a book about how both of these move forward not through anything that might be mistaken for a clear arc of progress, but in a weird and stuttering way. What we call progress is just screwing up in new and inventive ways.
And so the book became about the messiness of progress. It became about the ways in which people who tried to make Wonder Woman more feminist failed, and, equally important, about the ways in which people who tried to strip the social commentary out of Wonder Woman and make her into a generic superhero failed too. It’s about the feminist victories of people for whom feminism was never a goal and about the at times profoundly anti-feminist effects of people who were deeply committed to feminism.
In the end, it’s a book about how progress and feminism are weird. It’s about how a character designed as bondage propaganda became a pop culture icon owned by a major multinational media conglomerate. And it’s about how, when that happens, neither side wins as such, and instead the world grinds on in perpetually strange and unexpected ways. It’s about what material social progress is, in all its glories and disappointments.
I’m very proud of it. It’s my first book written as a book instead of as a collection of existing essays, and I think it’s a really interesting story that hasn’t been told enough. I really hope you’ll buy a copy, and that you enjoy it.
If you have a site where you’d like to review it, shoot me an e-mail with a link and I’ll get you hooked up with an ebook. If you have a good old-fashioned comic book store and would like to stock physical copies, let me know and we can figure something out. Either way, I’m snowspinner at gmail.
Finally, for those wondering, Flood is out on November 14th (I got my advance copy on Monday, and it looks lovely), and TARDIS Eruditorum Volume 4: Tom Baker Part One is set for the end of November/beginning of November.