Secret Base Media Club: John Swartzwelder and, separately, Two Dots

Book: “How I Conquered Your Planet” by John Swartzwelder

How I Conquered Your Planet is one of a series of self-published comedic novels by John Swartzwelder. Who is John Swartzwelder? Well, he just may be the Shakespeare of our time, only way better. Swartzwelder was a Simpsons writer, from the first season through 2003. He’s written 59 Simpsons episodes. It says so right on the cover of his novels.

Now, Swartzwelder is a bit of a recluse and does not like the press. But, I have a feeling he might like me? Especially if this article leads to book sales or book awards with cash prizes.

You may be wary of buying a self published book, but I’m pretty sure Swartzwelder self-publishes solely because of his aversion to people. Which is extremely respectable.

You may also be wary of buying a book associated with The Simpsons if, like me, in childhood you got your hands on every book about the Simpsons from “The Simpsons Rainy Day Fun Book” to “The Simpsons Comics Spectacular!” and found them disappointing. They all lacked the show’s irreverent wit and some of the rainy day activities required A LOT of supplies. But don’t worry. Swartzwelder’s books aren’t in that family.

“How I Conquered Your Planet” is the second book in the Frank Burley series. Frank Burley is a bumbling detective with a heavy everybody’s-wrong-but-me attitude. Through no fault of his own, he ends up on wild adventures that span time and space, and in this book, lead to a Martian attack on earth in which Burly’s on the Martians’ side. Whoops!

Swartzwelder’s novels are jam-packed with go-too-fast-and-you’ll-miss-them jokes. His jokes start out funny and could simply stop after one hit, but instead they twist and keep going and hitting until you can’t believe it. To show you what I’m talking about, let’s take a look at just the first page of “How I Conquered Your Planet”

“It all started off innocently enough about a year and a half ago. I was chasing a criminal through the streets of Central City, honking at him to give himself up. I had spotted him breaking into the National Guard Armory and had taken off after him. He was on foot. I was driving a city bus.

It’s pretty tough trying to run down a criminal at night, but it’s even tougher when all of your passengers are screaming so loud you can’t hear yourself think.

Hey, stop all that praying back there!” I told them. “Can’t you see I’m trying to drive?”

The image of a bus chasing after a pedestrian is funny enough! He could have stopped there! But instead he keeps going with the bit. There are passengers on the bus, they think they’re going to die, and Frank Burly finds that super annoying. That’s like what? A million jokes just on page 1?

If I haven’t convinced you to check out the book yet, consider this: I’ve literally laughed out loud on the New York City subway, the unhappiest place on earth, while reading this book. Can Shakespeare do that? He wishes!

Game: Two Dots

A Two Dots screenshot

Ever wonder what to do with your hands while listening to a podcast? Two Dots has you covered!

It’s a simple puzzle game wherein the user connects dots of matching colors. It’s easy to learn, adds complexities slowly so as to not overwhelm, and uses a pleasing yet ever-changing color palette.

The levels have just the perfect amount of difficulty— you rarely feel frustrated, but when you beat a level, you still feel accomplished. (Please do not mention how “accomplished” and “phone game” don’t really go together. Don’t you dare bring that up.)

It’s free to download and in-app purchases actually function as an anti-addictive measure. You have to pay for extra lives OR wait 20 minutes for a life to refill. I haven’t succumbed to the allure of paying for lives because I am in complete control of my life and impulses. Hey, what do you know, that’s another way this phone game has made me feel accomplished! Thanks, Two Dots!

This is Secret Base Media Club. Every Wednesday, a member of Secret Base staff will talk about what they’re reading and anything else they happen to be enjoying. Feel free to join in the conversation or start your own — books, movies, music, tv shows, sports (hah!) are all fair game.

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