A Collapse of Horses
By Brian Evenson
Published by Coffee House Press, 2016
I can only guess at what Brian Evenson is compared to, having never seen a review of his work (because I haven’t sought one out, i’m sure there’s plenty of terrible writing about him), but it’s hard to imagine it being names one finds alongside Stephen King in the airport section at whatever imaginary bookstore nobody but example-makers goes to anymore. Evenson’s work doesn’t telegraph reality in the way that what gets categorized as horror so often does—it’s just too weird a place for one to pretend that the people who populate his stories are the sort of people you might meet in life. They’re too determined to stop and talk to you, for one, they’re not readers, for another. They’re not “likable” in any sort of use of that term, but that isn’t to say that they’re hateful rogues—they’re just there, human detritus in full grown skin. It’s not often that you come across them expressing concerns about jobs, love, money. It’s all survival and fear, but most of all, it’s confusion: that’s the one most salient thread that binds these stories together, a confusion with the situations that the characters are presented with or drowned in, confusion that kills them, confusion that terrifies them. The language the stories are written in—an English that feels cut in leather and shape, sentences that end with a Beckettian immediacy and paragraphs that pulse with worry—is fast and muscular, but it isn’t masculine. These are stories that read like they were written by an animal, something with speed, a creature whose body evolved by design to perform a function. Nothing is left to decay by its leavings, the bones rest in the sun, stripped and ready to be bleached by time. It’s not a narrative. It’s an archive. Excellent work by someone who seems incapable of producing anything else.
-Tucker Stone, 2016
Sean Witzke: So congratulations on 10 years, man. History wise, do you want to talk about why you started the site? Like Dane Cook, you emerged out of Myspace in the mid-00s with plans to conquer the world, is that correct?
Tucker Stone: I was working at an interior design firm and the guy was obsessed with the idea of it being a real office, even though he was living in it illegally and paying the cleaning lady to hand wash his underwear in the bathroom. What that obsession meant for me was that I had to be there everyday for regular work hours, even though it was a total feast or famine type job in terms of workload. I thought Myspace was semi-moronic--but I started blogging on there at some point about 24, and then I graduated to writing about whatever I had read or watched in these short, enthusiastic attempts to emulate the Wire magazine. At some point it just became clear to me that I should move it off Myspace, but I couldn't tell you why. I think I probably did it just because I thought of the name Factual Opinion and liked the idea of having Factual Opinions about things.
SW: From the start you were always writing about things other than comics, which I think is how you kept the thing alive for so long. In the beginning you were writing about Batman but also music, books, tv, and movies. And doing interviews... but I think you're most associated with how you approached superhero comics the same way you took on Bloodsport or whatever in the post before that. And all of that was mutating from what you say is a pretty formal tone in the beginning to what is more identifiably your voice. Did you have a moment where it clicked?
TS: It's because my job changed and I stopped trying to be an actor. I went from auditioning for commercials and doing these little indie movies and weird plays to being a guy who worked at an advertising agency and nothing else. I would go home and smoke cigarettes and be upset with myself for what I was doing, and all that leftover creative energy went into this idealized version of a person who engages with culture and has these semi-impossible to meet standards. It was initially just a joke, this thing I did in fits and starts, and then it just became a voice that was really easy to slip into. I published them, they made the blog popular, but the real version of them was the way I would read them out loud to Nina each week. They were performative.
SW: That's always been my favorite thing about the site is that you wrote all of this because you wanted to read it to Nina.
TS: I spent a lot of time early in my life and even more so in my early 20's confused and angry, and when I met Nina it felt like it was the first time I understood that I could be a good person and have a good life. I felt like if I just supported her and followed her lead that things would make sense. She showed me a way out of hating myself, of hating being alive. The reading-comics-reviews thing out loud to her probably sounds a little weird, but that was the frame for it. Doing things that were silly but that I was passionate about. Making each week special by having this kind of laborious production. Having the deadline of getting it done so I could read it to her before she had to go to sleep.
SW: That's really sweet. And Nina's always been a major presence on the site, whether it's you having her write about some issue of The Sword or having her hop on the podcast to talk shit about The Intern.
TS: Yeah, if we had time I wish we could get back to that stuff--at one point she was getting sent actual review copies, which would have made things more interesting. I definitely miss being able to talk to non-comics readers on a regular basis, they were always so much weirder and honest in their responses to comics. There's so many things that get taken for granted in comics that it always fascinated me how you'd talk to somebody outside of the art form and they'd have zero patience for it.
SW: That's one of the hallmarks of TFO, was it wasn't just you who didn't have any reverence for this shit but you would show again and again that regular people outside the bubble didn't understand that there was any reverence for it. I think that's partially approaching stuff from a wider cultural context -- like I remember in our first face to face conversation you mentioned that you always get to the Mad Max scene in Watchmen and it stops you cold. It feels like a more honest way to engage with everything. And you've always brought in as many voices as you can from the beginning, which I've always admired.
TS: The thing that makes a lot of comics arguments (especially the ones driven by the comics blogosphere) so fucking absurd was that it takes a solid 20 minutes to explain what drives them. You have to go so deep into the woods, explaining the subject matter, explaining why you dislike this one person and the website they write for, how that old irritation infects the current conversation you're imagining having with them--it makes you sound crazy. The jump that I think I had to make--that I still have to make--is that is IS crazy. It's fucking lunacy, completely, to act as if those little battles have any bearing on anything at all outside the bubble. Nobody outside this thing is ever going to comprehend what the hell you're talking about if you try to explain why you don't like the person who handles press releases about books they've never read at some website they've never heard of. I think that's what makes it a little more fun and crazy (albeit very gross) right now, because you don't actually have to read the comics anymore, you can just go after some assholes for the way they treat women. Nobody has to read DMZ anymore or The Massive or whatever bullshit, you can just all band together under the umbrella of thinking that it's fucked up to get handsy with some lady at a bar under the pretense that you'll get her an inking gig somewhere. I think that's great! Nothing in comics was ever going to change for the better when you kept demanding people read these dopey things that come out infrequently, look like shit, cost too much, aren't as entertaining as the most bottom rung television show, etc. We got rid of that barricade. Hell yes, I say!
The wider cultural context thing that always got me was the way digital comics was gonna save something--that idea that you could put these things in a device capable of showing off the top tiers of media. What kind of lunatic is going to choose the New 52 version of Booster Gold over watching million dollar movie trailers?
SW: So that brings the question up: how do you feel about Comics Of The Weak as a whole? On TFO, when it moved to the Comics Journal — it's not your whole body of work but it is a significant part of it. It's also a relatively broad space -- you were doing rigorous 3 sentence max reviews-as-jokes for a while, but you've also gotten very personal under the same banner. I know reading the column it was always great to see stuff dismissed or savaged but when you hit something that you admired, those were always the writer's clinic because I feel that's the hardest thing to do well and still have a brain.
TS: I feel pretty okay with it. It became somewhat of an albatross at times, because my desire to write them eventually outlasted my desire to read comic books on a weekly basis, but I imagine I would still be doing it now if I hadn't just abandoned that particular ritual. The only thing that ever bothered me about writing about stuff that I liked is how tiresome it became to hear about how mean I was from people who weren't actually reading what I wrote all those times I liked stuff. I would've loved it if I had a great time every week. Who wouldn't want to have guaranteed enjoyment every Wednesday? That sounds fantastic to me. That whole line of argument was just a lie. It's not hard to write about stuff you like. It's easy. What's hard is to write about stuff you like without being a total fucking shill.
SW: Outside of comics, how do you feel about all the other places you took the thing? Economist vs Idiot and the tv column (BAD GIRLS CLUB 4EVR) and everything else? I think it's always been a pretty great place for interviews -- like when you'd do an interview for some other site and have a way more interesting side-feature show up with the same person on the Factual.
TS: I wish I had more time. I would've done Econ Vs Idiot for me and the two other people that liked it every day if there was a way to make that happen. Interviews too. I would've loved to have been able to continue any and all of those things. I miss the guy who did that.
SW: I think of the Factual now, and it's this community you've built -- and not a bullshit community but one where you've built relationships with everyone who writes (or now podcasts) on the site. And many of those people who I think make that a little difficult (at least I know I did). I know you have the "he's mean" rep but pre-social media you were always in comments sections and sending emails -- I think a lot of our class of people who wrote about comics, we were very strident in developing a point of view in exclusion to other people, and you've always had other people here. There was an unspoken thing that everyone had to attempt to write above their level because of where you'd set the bar for TFO but you treated this thing like a showcase, always.
TS: I appreciate you saying that, but it was always vanity and obsession and a desire to be around all of these people who were so much smarter than me. I loved the way people like Joe and you and my friend Marty and all these other people (Tim, Abhay, David, Matt, Chris) talked about stuff and I wanted to badly to be alongside those people, you know? Just to leech off what they were doing. I'd resort to wikipedia and the imdb page for a movie in the end, but there really wasn't anything better in my eyes than to finish reading a comic and then read what Jog wrote about it, or to watch a movie and finally look at that bookmarked piece Abhay had dropped a few weeks prior. And then to meet those people--jesus. The Joe Casey Fanclub and all two of our meetings! Experiencing Kinokuniya with Joe McCulloch and Chris Mautner! I couldn't imagine anything better than that.
I found it easiest just to pick like five people to be really strident with and then focused all my disdain and irritation. But in recent years I've gotten to know most of those people and now that number is down to three.
SW: So do you have any pieces or series or whatever that stand out to you as the best? Or the most TFO? I think for the movie podcast it's gotta be James Cameron on top of Tower 2. Do you think you shit the bed with anything? Things you would take down or redo given the chance?
TS: No, I don't really have anything that stands out. I do remember that I used to copy, word-for-word, these particularly idiotic reviews I'd see on CBR, but I would switch out the specific names for indie comics, and then I did some interview with Spurgeon and realized he (and other people) hadn't caught that and thought those were my actual feelings about those comics. I was kind of happy with that. I liked imitating people who i thought were terrible, I remember a period where I always had a little of that each week.
Most of it was shitting the bed. Jokes are hard to do all the time. I lost the plot a lot and went too long, it became too performative. I wish I could meet that guy who did it all in two to three sentences.
I've taken some reviews down in the last few years, but only because I found out the people/person who made the book was a particularly terrible chicken hawk motherfucker and I wanted to do my own little bit of fuck you to them, to their work. I still notice spelling and grammar mistakes and dropped words, which is the casualty of being your own editor, I try to fix those and maybe someday I'll be more constructive and specific. But if I had to do it again, I imagine it would be the same as it was.
SW: So how do you feel about your relationship to comics now, going from a guy who writes about Batman and to a shop owner to a member of the industry to a publisher for guys like Fiffe & Forsman? It wasn't this staged transition for you, though, before the store you were already a pretty major guy-who-writes-about-comics and even now you're still engaging in criticism with the comics podcast. I mean you had the closest thing to The Soup For Comics for a while there.
TS: I feel like i've been extraordinarily lucky. There is almost no money in comics whatsoever, and it is not packed to the brim with extremely nice, charitable people, and yet I have been blessed with the support of more than my share of those people, and they have handed me a career. Joe, Chris, Dirk Deppey and David Brothers legitimized me as a writer about comics and basically handed me an audience through their support. The guys at comiXology reached out to me and gave me a paying gig. They paid me to make those videos and backed me up when I pissed people off. Tom and Amy got me out of advertising and trusted me over and over again and took me on as their business partner. Image Comics flew me out to San Diego and trusted me for, as far as I can tell, no reason at all. Chris Pitzer said "this is the guy" when Nobrow went asking. When Nina and I were struggling with all the shit that came from Piper's birth fiasco, Mike Cavallaro and Tom came to my house and kept us going. All of that was handed to me. All of that came about because of comics.
There is a lot about comics that I hate, that fills me with rage. There are more than a few people who are seemingly bulletproof, who will get out of this thing clean, whose only consequence will be their own, diabolically shitty personalities. But I am getting better about focusing on the good people, the great people who are taking it to a newer, better place. I am not good at that. I am trying to be someone who helps people the way I was helped. I am not good at that either. But I believe I am getting better.
SW: Well I am going to turn this back onto you, because I would say that you've done the same thing for a lot of people. Like, legitimized people, helped people out, trusted them to do things they didn't know they were capable of doing. I mean, leaving comics out of it,, my two real deal writing jobs were offered to me explicitly on the backs of things I wrote on your suggestion for TFO. And I think you asking me to do the movie cast with you forced me to learn how to be a person. Made me more responsible, better at talking to people. It gave me an excuse to better not just our friendship, but develop relationships with a lot of people I only knew through emails and twitter. Pretty much because you trusted me and have been incredibly supportive just because we both liked to talk about Christopher Nolan way too much nine years ago. I want to thank you for that, and I know you haven't just done that for me, but for everyone at the Factual and more besides.
So would you feel comfortable talking about how you feel about the whole endeavor? I think you've done something pretty admirable, man. Worthy of this kind of look back anyway.
TS: The whole endeavor? I started writing a blog with the same two letters that will take anyone to the most popular website in the world. The fact that anyone ever found it and that it gave me the friends I have, the career I have, the life I have is totally absurd. I can't believe it's lasted this long and that there's still stuff happening with it, that people still come and look at it. That's nuts. I couldn't be more grateful.
Back when I got a wild hair up my ass to write about comics I loved and cartoonists I loved even more, Factual Opinion was the only place I envisioned as a home to operate from. The site itself was a relentless source of scathing, hilarious insights from a writer I respected - of course I wanted to be a part of that. Luckily, Tucker felt the same way, or at least enough to welcome my amateur efforts. My best stuff was largely defined by working with him. The man's a sharp, no-bullshit editor, and a better sounding board you can't find. Tucker had my back on many occasions, which is more than I can say about any other institution I've dealt with -- you better believe that goes a long way.
I started writing this draft aiming for “really funny and insightful” things to say about Tucker, The Factual Opinion and the many contributors who have written under it’s umbrella—but then realized there’s ten years worth of writing here that speak volumes. I can’t really fully articulate how much I’ve enjoyed (and learned from) your writing Tucker. Thanks for putting in the the work, and thanks for sharing it.
Joe “Jog the Blog” McCulloch:
The funny thing is, I can't clearly recall a time before the arrival of the Factual Opinion. I mean, you can give me dates and I'll agree. I even remember the first time I read the site, because I read the entire archive that day, including all the interviews Tucker used to do about comics with people in his life who didn't read comics, and I thought "this is fucking genius." But Tucker has been a constant in my life now for long enough it feels like he was somehow there when I was 13 and reading direr and direr issues of Spider-Man, somehow emailing him my cattier thoughts and hoping fervently that he'd fold a line or two into his capsule reviews, those little shocks of standards imposed on books made lazy by sympathy. The underlying fact of the Factual was always that there is a bigger world around us than what media consumption fools us into believing is all we are, and to have shared in its big world is a privilege I can hardly explain. Keep being good, Tucker Stone.
If you’ve listened to Travis Bickle or Comic Books Are Burning in Hell or read any of Tucker’s reviews or articles from the past decade or so then you’ve likely come to appreciate his blunt honesty, sharp analysis (I wish I was half as well-read as he is) and quick wit. What doesn’t always come through over the podcasts and blog posts though, is his kindness, generosity and genuine warmth. Neither Bickle nor CBABiH would be possible without his drive and dedication, not to mention his desire for good, pointed criticism and compelling art. I feel lucky and blessed to call him a friend.
There's a thing that always messes with me, and maybe it's something you know about, too-- which is how a little thing that you don't pay much attention to eventually becomes part of the overall Story of You. Example: you go to some random website because you're groggy in the morning and you like looking at websites while you eat your Captain Crunch-- but then week after week, podcast after podcast, before you know it, there are these extra voices in your head, your own little cavalcade of Jiminy Crickets, little angels and demons to sit on your shoulder and shout at you when you're floundering on something. That's what happened with me and Bodybuilding.com anyway, and I was forever changed, sloots. But sure, this site, too, also. There were jokes and gags. (My favorite week -- I think there was one with audio recordings mixed in with the capsules, of Tucker telling Nina about different comics??). But time goes by, week after week, year after year, and little by little by little, all the people who've written or podcasted for this site-- they just burrowed in somewhere with me, when I wasn't paying attention.
I hear my own personal imaginary Joe McCulloch in my head all the time-- "watch more Bollywood movies! You're missing out on Uday Chopra's entire career!" Or a Fake Sean Witzke-- "Watch a movie where someone's getting slashed. Hey, slash some teens yourself! Slash all the teens-- you'll get away with it and people will love you for it." It's all I hear when I close my eyes. And on and on, and sure, also, more than a little: a What-Would-Tucker-Stone-Say, floating around in there. Built out of different things he's written that've stuck; or just some choices in how he approaches certain topics; or even just the basic thing of his keeping this site going and ring-leading this thing, which has to be some kind of thankless; et cetera. One time, at an airport, I even picked up a copy of The Economist magazine, and stared at it for a while, befuddled, confused like a newborn. I barely know how to read-- what did I even think I was going to do with it?? That was a weird 15 seconds before I put that magazine down and bought a magazine about space-marine video games instead--Imaginary Tucker Stone almost made me into an Economist, you guys! Just like in the old Charles Atlas ads. Anyways, this all might sound creepy and that's because it *is* creepy. But I also hope it's nice...? Nice-creepy? But okay sure: mostly creepy, but it is what it is and it's too late to fix any of this now. "Let's all just keep inspiring each other to be great" -- the last line of Volume 1 of my shonen manga, Fake Versions of All of You Are Nude Inside My Head. Bring on volume 2! And happy anniversary.
The Factual Opinion is probably the only website I’ve read every word of. (I’ve also listened to what must be at least 90% of the podcasts posted to it that I’m not a participant in, but that doesn’t sound as impressive.) It’s tough to describe how important reading TFO was to me when I discovered it around 2009 or so. There was other comics criticism out there that I had a ton of appreciation for, but nothing else that came close to the type of discourse that I appreciate most, those comic shop counter conversations that can either blossom into the discovery of your new favorite book... or just make you laugh along with the off-the-wall shit the dude you’re talking to just said. More than the jokes, it’s the studied way the work Tucker has published here walks the tightrope between casualness and commitment to craft, the balance between fun and effort that’s so apparent in all his writing, that spoke and continues to speak to me. I definitely never would have decided to start writing about comics if I hadn’t first seen a model that was so approachable, and I definitely wouldn’t have written about them as well if I didn’t have such a powerful example to follow. Trust a guy who ran the best comic shop ever to make a website that feels like visiting the best comic shop ever, I guess. What can I say? Even before I was actually friends with Tucker, poring back over his perfectly-put paragraphs always made me feel like I’d been hanging out with one of my favorite people.
Tucker Stone was the first friend I made after moving to New York in 2002. We were in school together – though, honestly, it was acting school so it was really more like camp – and every day after class we post up on a bench outside a Chelsea coffee shop to “decompress.” He’d smoke endless cigarettes while we traded notes on the day and our slow acclimations to the East Coast. It quickly became clear that this dude was one of the more well-informed people I’d ever known; for example, in one of our earliest conversations he detailed for me the differences between the prison systems in America and Japan. I struggled to keep up with him, but fortunately for me I had been writing for a couple of pop culture sites and so was able to recycle for his bemusement my own thoughts from pieces I’d written over the previous year. A few weeks into our friendship, I was surprised to find that Tucker had actually taken the time to track down and read everything I’d written, and was even able to quote some of it back to me. He told me, “I should have known that you’d write about albums just like you talk about them;” and I secretly became nervous that he had caught on to the fact that I only had a finite set of opinions. Nevertheless, we bonded over movies and books and music; Tucker was one of the first people I knew who could talk about art in terms of craft or theory or meaning without losing a fan’s sense of appreciation.
School lasted two years, but as it went on Tucker and I each got sullen and moody. We made the mistake of dating a couple of the same girls, and said some things to and about one another that we’d both probably like to take back. By the time we had graduated, we’d pretty much fallen out completely. We’d see each other at some events, or through mutual friends, and after a couple years of distance we somehow managed to get into a rhythm of seeing live music together. But I was reserved, standoffish, and we never rediscovered the rapport we’d had in our early friendship.
One day, summer of 2006, Tucker asked me to meet him for coffee. Over the last year, he’d been keeping a pop culture journal on MySpace, and he’d grown confident enough in his writing that he wanted to formalize his hobby into a blog. He had a name for it: The Factual Opinion. Beyond that, he didn’t really know what to expect. I think he imagined it almost purely as a place to warehouse stray thoughts on his reading, watching and listening. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in contributing to it. He had a buddy who would write about sports (!); I’d do music, and he’d cover everything else. I hadn’t written anything in years, so I was hesitant at first, but the first project he proposed was super intriguing to me: he wanted to compile and count down a list of the best albums of 1992.
Now, I’m a list guy. In middle school I would make cassette tapes of my forty favorite songs ever and record myself struggling to describe my affection for each of them in between. (#1 was “Dream Operator” by Talking Heads; #2 was “Wind Me Up” from theRad soundtrack; there was a lot of Weird Al after that.) In high school I’d rank my 200 favorite songs, type and format them to fit on a single piece of paper, and hand those out to all the other kids in my class. I continued with these kinds of ridiculous exercises well into my twenties, but over time I’d mostly learned to keep them to myself. And yet, here was a dude—another grown-ass man, no less—who was not only similarly enthusiastic about chasing down the rabbit hole of music-list nerdery, but had managed to top me by suggesting we telescope in on a single random year! After six weeks or so of trading research, Tucker and I spent an entire afternoon arguing about whether anything was better than Slanted and Enchanted; trying to figure out if R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People was actually any good; and wondering whether the Beastie Boys or the Pharcyde deserved placement over Dr. Dre. At one point, I advocated for the inclusion of The Black Crowes’ Southern Harmony and Musical Companion pretty high up in the list. After some incredulity, Tucker relented… though to this day he harbors a grudge about it (which is especially weird because Tucker’s from Georgia and you’d think the Black Crowes would be state heroes down there). Over the next few weeks we published blurbs on each of the 1992 picks on The Factual Opinion, and then repeated the whole process a couple of months late with our favorite albums of 2006. I have no idea who could’ve been reading those things, but in those afternoons of arguing about music—often contentiously—Tucker and I rebuilt our friendship.
I contributed to The Factual Opinion for the first four or five years, mostly inconsistently. My success with writing always depended on how well I could push through my insecurities, and that turned out to be something I was not very good at. So I’d miss deadlines, flake on things I’d committed to, and submit stuff that embarrassed me. Tucker demonstrated more patience with me than I had any right to expect, and because I was a TFO contributor I got to see him in action. Early on, he sort of fell backwards into the idea for Comics of the Weak, which almost immediately became the site’s flagship column. Once he saw that readers were responding to his ideas, he became absolutely tenacious about writing and publishing them. This momentum inspired other regular columns (including one where he would read and react to the entirety of that week’s issue of The Economist; I have friends who have spent years imploring him to bring that one back.) When I’d visit his place, he’d open his computer and have four or five drafts of pieces working all at once, things that were weeks or months away from publishing. If I was lucky he'd test punchlines on me. By this point, he would have already read all his material out loud multiple times to his wife, Nina—who deserves a whole Factual Opinion tribute of her own, if we’re being honest. If I’m remembering right, he’d have to shoehorn his writing time into the hours after Nina would go to bed, and would stay up, chain-smoking and trying to get all of the wording just right.
Because so much of Tucker’s oeuvre was shittin’-on-superheroes, I think it might have been a bit of a secret just how hard the guy worked at it. To me, he seemed relentlessly dedicated. As he slowly built a following for The Factual Opinion, he became equally meticulous about engaging with others’ work, and through emails and comment sections carved out friendships with his peers, most of whom became contributors and collaborators. Other writing work followed, including a chance to interview the owner of a new comic shop in Brooklyn called Bergen Street Comics. Something about Bergen Street excited him—maybe it was the thought and care that had been put into the shop’s creation, its architecture and book selection, which felt revelatory in a comics store at the time. He anxiously quit his day job to join the Bergen Street Comics staff, and quickly became an integral part of the store’s success. Eventually a job in publishing came calling, and by the time he joined up with Nobrow Press he had managed to carve out a career and a life for himself, having started with nothing but his point-of-view, a typepad account, and a relentless dedication to all the small, tedious, and often ridiculous tasks along the way. It is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
One of the hardest things to do in this life is to believe in someone else. It’s even harder to act on those beliefs. Last year, well after I’d written for the site with any regularity, Tucker spent a couple months convincing me to do a music podcast for him. Not only that, but he set me up with Nate Patrin, a music writer I’d followed and admired for years. It might have been a small gesture of friendship for Tucker to repeatedly invite me to be a part of The Factual Opinion, but I do not take for granted that he has continually shared this platform and audience that he built from scratch. He’s consistently encouraged me to write and, now, talk about music, lending me confidence I’ve often been unable to provide for myself. And I’ve gotten to see him make a similar investment in countless other people, from each of the Factual Opinion contributors, to the folks at Bergen Street Comics and Bergen Street Press, to his clients at Nobrow, and also, importantly, to his wife and daughter. He has transformed himself from an advocate for pop culture into an advocate for artists and people, and that is such a special thing in this world. As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of The Factual Opinion, I choose to celebrate a silly little blog where Tucker Stone found his voice and his audience, and moreover had the generosity of spirit to use that voice and audience to support so many others. I am so grateful to have been a small part of it, and I couldn’t be prouder of my friend.
I knew what I wanted to write about as soon as I was asked to write.
And then I sat down and started typing and got overcome with memories and feelings and so many thoughts. Factual was born when Tucker and I were dating, and is closely tied to so many personal memories and experiences. I mean, in the span of these ten years, we got engaged, married, had a baby, bought a house and moved. “Miss Nina” wasn’t even a thing yet. When Tucker and I started dating, he’d talk to me about the plots of comic books and the bigger questions they would tackle (Which I often wondered — “Are those questions really in there? Or is that just your ability to see them in there?”). And he was passionate about wanting the stories and characters in comics to be accessible to new readers — young and old, male AND female — as well as the fans. And something about this drove his writing and reviews and was the basis for the column that I wrote, “The Virgin Read.”
This passionate hobby of Tucker’s, The Factual Opinion, blazed a trail for his current career and was the platform for the blossoming talents of many other careers and lifelong friendships.
And that word “blossom” really sticks out for me. My mother said to me, either right before or right after marrying Tucker, “I think you’re going to really blossom being married to him.” I’m not sure what bought her to say that — but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with me writing for The Factual.
Because you know what? Nothing says Love like someone wanting to know your thoughts and feelings, and really listening. In my life, I’ve found the the experience of not being listened to extremely painful and even hurtful. I think most people would agree.
So - someone listening? Someone being truly interested? That was an exhilarating and amazing feeling!
But not only was Tucker always interested to hear my thoughts and feelings about things — he wanted me to write them down and share them with you. !! Now, I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never thought anyone would care to read/hear what I thought.
Well — y’all proved me wrong! Tucker was so pleased, he encouraged me to write more and more. And, wow, what a ride that was! A lot of fun stuff came out of that including Heidi at Publisher’s Weekly dubbing Tucker and I “the new It Kids of comics”, people sending me their comics to review, and I even have been quoted on the back of few books!!
My main point is, though, that the Factual Opinion is a big part of our Love Story. We fell in love listening to each other. We felt loved being heard by one another -- and all of you. I am so grateful for Tucker Stone and all he’s created and given.
My mom was right.
-- Thanks from all of us, Tucker, for everything --
A startlingly well-received work of balmy tripe, The Luminaries is the sort of book that seems destined to exist so that people who want to claim there’s no difference between literary fiction and decently written YA will have an example of dumb literary fiction to point to. It’s long but rarely tedious, yet it’s pretentious, and dumber than a golden retriever, which it also resembles in the way it implores you for attention, constantly nuzzling your crotch every couple of pages, imploring you to acknowledge how hard it's worked for your attention. After spending 300 pages introducing all of the characters and their various interlocking mysteries in a literal drawing room as they explain themselves to a complete stranger who will later turn out to be an excellent crime solving lawyer prone to genius cross-examinations (luckily, at the exact moment when such a character is required), the book cruises its way towards a giant courtroom scene so that our hero—who, like all the white male characters in the book, is about as human as a drawing of meat, and can only be picked out of a line-up because he has a different name from the other drawings—can whip the town into a frenzy of forgiveness for the by-then-revealed-to-be-star-crossed-lovers, which is followed up by a tedious flashback that takes up the final third of the book. Said flashback unpacks every nook and cranny of the book’s “mystery”, no matter that the mystery had been completely unraveled during the courtroom scene, and mainly serves to institute new, even more juvenile coincidences, like revealing that the star-crossed-lovers share the same birthday, or that one time one of the two chinese guys walked into the sheriff’s office and asked him for a nickel and got a sock full of quarters instead. Did I mention that one of the star-crossed lovers is a whore with a heart of gold? Or that she actually wears clothes filled with secret treasure, like some kind of living fairy tale character? I had hoped I made myself successfully forget that. This is a book for children, but they won't like it as much as they would James Marshall.