6 min read

#12: Adventurous, dark, and reflective

Hello, one and all to another issue of Extremely Unannoying! This week, we'll do some organizing, enter a multiverse, talk about how a popular author is secretly, actually writing comics, and read a quick note from the podcast mines.

Come with me, it'll be fun!

1) The extremely small, yet extremely satisfying intersection of books, data, and organization porn

I love a good organizational scheme. Heck, I love neatly putting stuff away so much, that a few days ago I had a dream bagging and boarding my comic book collection and it might have been the best sleep I got this month.

Do I maybe have a touch of OCD? Who knows. Not important right now. What's important is to talk about StoryGraph.

If you heard of Goodreads, StoryGraph is like that, but on bookish steroids. Yes, you can log what you're reading, dole out star ratings, and keep track of your ever-increasing TBR list, but that's not the magic part.

The magic is the stats.

See, if you spend some time correctly logging the books you read, StoryGraph will show you all kinds of statistics:

  • What kind of moods do you like to read?
  • Do you like fast-, medium-, or slow-paced books?
  • What are your preferred genres?
  • Most read authors?
  • Favorite formats?

And many, many more things can be figured out by looking at the pretty charts. StoryGraph even describes you in a hilariously clinical, yet surprisingly accurate blurb based on your reading habits. Here's mine:

Mainly reads fiction books that are adventurous, dark, and reflective.

Typically chooses medium-paced books that are 300-499 pages long.

That's not wrong.

Sites and apps that promise you "actionable data" are often useless in my experience, drowning you in a sea of meaningless charts without any context. I was delighted to find that StoryGraph is not one of those apps. I spent almost an hour diving through my data, confirming some beliefs about myself as a reader, but also finding quite a few surprises.

If you like books, analytics, and organizing, I wholeheartedly recommend giving StoryGraph a try. It's an excellent independent alternative to Goodreads for the low-low price of free.

And yes, there is a one-click import for your Goodreads history.

If you end up trying it out and want a buddy, feel free to add me on the site. My username is laszlovad. 😉

2) More spiders than you can count

I'll keep this short: there is a new Spider-Man movie called Across the Spider-Verse. If you have the slightest interest in animation and/or superheroes, watch it. If you haven't seen its predecessor, Into the Spider-Verse, watch that first, it's on Netflix.

That is all.

P.S. Prepare to be blown away.

3) Brandon Sanderson is actually a comic book writer

No, really. I mean that title. Hear me out.

First of all, if you have no idea, who Brandon Sanderson is, here's a quick primer:

He's a delightful nerd living in Utah, writing an absurd number of very popular fantasy books that amassed a huge fandom across the globe. Sanderson's work is the gold standard of modern high fantasy for a lot of people.

Reading his novels can also endlessly delight or deeply frustrate people. Sometimes at the same time.

To explain why, I first have to spoil something about almost all of his books. I think knowing this "spoiler" could actually enhance your experience of them and maybe even spare you some grief down the road, but if you want to get into his works totally blind, I recommend skipping this entire section of the newsletter.

Okay. Ready?

Sanderson writes multiple series simultaneously, which are all very different from each other. They involve different magic systems, take place in different worlds, have different casts, etc.

Yet, the secret is that they actually exist in the same universe: the Cosmere.

This information is not served to you on a silver platter at any point. No, it's something you need to slowly figure out from off-hand, throwaway lines and by closely analyzing the excerpts that open each chapter in every novel. These quotes are always from some in-universe correspondence, journal, or book. They are usually only tangentially related to the core plot at hand, but they always contain important clues for the overarching Cosmere narrative.

There are also certain characters who can somehow hop between the worlds of the different novels, often making short, blink-and-you-miss-it cameos in every story. How do they do that? Who are they? That's another thing you need to figure out on your own.

All this leads to a dual reading experience: on the one hand, you're following the actual story of any given novel, while on the other, you are on the watch for small Cosmere hints to add to your very own murder map.

And those hints are small. If you want to figure out everything by yourself, better set aside some time for re-reading, note-taking, theorizing, etc.

What's the problem with this, you ask? This all sounds delightful! A good story and a meaty meta-narrative, full of easter eggs and hidden clues that reward rereads and careful attention. What's not to love here?

Well, the problem is the size of the thing.

At the moment, the Cosmere "series" includes 23 books. The smaller ones clock in around 500 pages, while the big boys, the Stormlight Archive novels are well above 1000 pages each.

You want to read them all multiple times to catch every Cosmere clue? You better make Brandon Sanderson one of your hobbies.

But, to have my own Sandersonian twist, all of this is really just setup, so I can talk about what I really find interesting in all of this.

See, as we were having a debate around the accessibility of the Cosmere meta-plot with some friends, I realized I have seen the shape of this argument somewhere else before.

The delight of inter-connectedness. The hunt for clues. The slowly building meta-narrative that increasingly points to a cosmic-level conflict and has the potential to pull in all of the beloved heroes from every Cosmere book. But also the exhaustion felt when looking at the sheer amount of media to keep up with. And yes, the occasional anger, because all this feels just a bit too convoluted, a bit too demanding at times.

Does this sound familiar to you too? Perhaps... does it sound like... the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

I think it does. Now, to be clear, I don't think Brandon copied the MCU, far from it—especially knowing that his first Cosmere novels well predate the 2008 Iron Man movie. I do think, however, that as a lifelong fan of fantasy, science-fiction, and storytelling, he is well aware of how Marvel and DC structured their own comic book multiverses that served as the blueprint for their respective cinematic universes.

And yes, I can totally imagine that he might have taken some clues from them.

The Cosmere definitely feels comic book-y if you look at it through this lens.

You have different flavors of fantasy, catering to different needs. The heroes are larger than life, but their magic is hard, bound by understandable rules. Just as Spider-Man falls out of the sky if he runs out of web fluid, Sanderson's protagonists plummet if they run out of fuel, be it metal or stormlight. There are constant callbacks and foreshadowing. Characters from one series turn up in others in minor roles. The threat horizon ever widens, always hinting at a bigger evil just around the corner.

And most of all, just like comic books, the Cosmere rewards dedication.

If you buy all of the books, read Brandon's every blog post, back the Kickstarters, and follow along with the fan theories, you will get a much deeper, richer experience than the folks who only pick up a few books and read them casually. Conversely, if you don't, you will always experience at least some degree of FOMO.

Being a Cosmere fan demands a lot but offers tangible rewards. It also constantly reminds you that you're missing out if you don't go all in.

Just like comic books.

Anyway, this might all just be a case of apophenia, where I see connections and meaning where there is none. Maybe Brandon never thought of the Cosmere as another comic-book universe and maybe he never did take clues from Marvel and DC.

But if he did, that was a very, very clever move. In that case, well done, Mr. Sanderson!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to reading Rhythm of War. There are some clues I just simply cannot figure out where to fit on my corkboard... Yet.

+1) Chugging along

Now that we talked about one of the most prolific writers in the world, regularly delivering 15-20.000 words per day, let me make myself feel utterly inadequate in comparison, and tell you that I made some progress on the next podcast episode's script!

See those three orange flags? Those are completed first drafts! I'm super happy about them and hope to plant much more of those little flags by the time we meet next.

And with that, I'm out. I hope you enjoyed this week's Extremely Unannoying. Have a fun weekend, and I'll see you back here in two weeks!

Bye! 👋