What’s Coming Up This Week

Here’s what’s coming up next for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. For the full list of online writing classes aimed at fantasy and science fiction writers, see http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/upcoming-online-classes/

Writing Your Way Into Your Novel with Cat Rambo, Saturday, January 30, 2021, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time.
Beginnings & Endings with Cat Rambo, Saturday, January 30, 2021, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.
Principles for Pantsers with Cat Rambo, Sunday, January 31, 2021, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time.
Highspeed Worldbuilding for Fiction and Games with James L. Sutter Session II, Sunday, January 31, 2021, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.
Dunking Your Reader in the Details: Toolsets for Creating Immersive Worlds with Cat Rambo, Saturday, February 6, 2021, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time.
Pitches and Synopses Workshop with Jennifer Brozek, Sunday, February 7, 2021, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time.

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What’s Coming Up for the Rambo Academy Next Weekend

Here’s what’s coming up next for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. For the full list of online writing classes aimed at fantasy and science fiction writers, see http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/upcom…

The Ins and Outs of Urban Fantasy with L.L. McKinney, Saturday, January 23, 2021 from 9:30-11:00 AM Pacific Time. http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/class…

The 4th Language of Genre Fiction with M Todd Gallowglass, Saturday, January 23, 2021, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time. http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/class…

Power World Real Name: Upping your Game with Names and Titles with Cat Rambo, Sunday, January 24, 2021, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time. http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/class…

Highspeed Worldbuilding for Fiction and Games with James L. Sutter Session I, Sunday, January 24, 2021, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time. http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/high-…

Enrollments are limited to 15 students per workshop and include three needs-based scholarships, called the Plunkett scholarships. Writers of color, QUILTBAG, and neurodiverse writers are particularly invited to apply.

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Building a Graphic Novel Library: What One Slice of The Hive Mind Suggested

Picture of a bookshelf of graphic novels.I tweeted this image recently along with the tag-line, “What’s missing? Tell me your favorite graphic novel.” I got literally hundreds of replies, and since I’m going through the list to compile one for me in order to fill out my library a bit, I figured I’d do it as a blog post and thus hit two birds with a single stone. I’m still updating and adding as more people respond to the original post. But if you’d like to know what my Twitter following recommended, here’s the list.

Bold = multiple recommendations
Green = I have it and recommend it.
Purple = already on the shelf, but someone recced anyway
Blue = I have it in the original comic form and feel very hip accordingly

So here are the books, arranged alphabetically by author, and with my own notes where pertinent.
Jason Aaron – Thor: The Goddess of Thunder
Alex Alice – Castle in the Stars; Siegfried
Michael Allred – iZombie
Natasha Alterici – Heathen
Sarah Andersen – Fangs
Kevin J. Anderson, Brian Herbert, and Frank Herbert – Dune
Robert Asprin – Myth Adventures
Michael Avon Oeming and Bryan J. Glass – Mice Templar
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso – 100 Bullets (4) (One person said, “Despite the ending.”)
Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon – Daytripper (3)
Carl Barks – A Christmas for Shacktown. This looks super intriguing and got added to my list.
Donna Barr – Desert Peach; Stinz
Mike Barr – Camelot 3000 (2)
Alison Bechdel – Fun Home (4) This has been on my list of TBR for ages; need to get around to it.
Brian Michael Bendis – Powers
Joe Benitez – Lady Mechanika
Marguerite Bennett – Insexts
Enki Bilal – La Trilogie Nikopol
Vaughn Frederic Bode – Cheech Wizard
Archie Bongiovanni – Grease Bats
Dan Brereton – The Nocturnals
Cullen Bunn – The Sixth Gun
Rich Burlew – Order of the Stick
Charles Burns – Black Hole
Kurt Busiek – Astro City (3)
Thierry Cailleteau – Aquablue
Bob Callahan – Perdita Durango
Sophia Campbell – Shadoweyes
Mike Carey – Lucifer; The Unwritten (2)
Emily Carroll – Through the Woods (2)
Donny Cates – God Country
Chris Claremont. God Loves, Man Kills (3)
Brian Clevinger – Atomic Robo (2)

Peter David – Aquaman
Alexis Deacon – Geis
Kelly Sue DeConnick – Bitch Planet (3), Pretty Deadly (2)
Kim Deitch – The Boulevard of Broken Dreams
J.M. DeMatteis – Greenberg the Vampire
Aaron Diaz – Dresden Codak
Juan Diaz Canales – Blacksad
Andy Diggle – Adam Strange: Planet Heist
Colleen Doran – A Distant Soil
Phillippe Druillet – Lone Sloane
Ben Edlund – The Tick
Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson – Lumberjanes (2)
Warren Ellis – The Authority; Global Frequency (2); Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.; Ocean; Planetary 2); Transmetropolitan (7) Warren Ellis has also been revealed to be problematic lately; you may or may not want to poke around to read about that before buying. I have a number of his books and I do not think one can deny he’s been a very strong influence on the field.
Garth Ennis – The Boys; John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits; Hellblazer; Preacher
Emil Farris – My Favorite Thing is Monsters (4) Described as “a great one about a kid investigating a murder in ‘60s Chicago drawn as if they’re sketches in a school notebook,” which I love so I’ve got it on order.
Phil Foglio – Buck Godot, Zap Gun for Hire; Girl Genius (3)
Ellen Forney – Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me (2)
Matt Fraction – Hawkeye; Sex Criminals
Pierre Gabus – District 14
Neil Gaiman – Sandman (5); Stardust
David Gemmell – Legend
Dave Gibbons and Frank Miller – Give Me Liberty
Kieron Gillen – Die; The Wicked and the Divine (7)
Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo – Asterix
Joe Haldeman – Dallas Barr
Joe Haldeman The Forever War
Dean and Shannon Hale – Rapunzel’s Revenge
Larry Hama – A Sailor’s Story
Matt Hawkins – Think Tank
Herge – Tintin
The Hernandez Brothers – Love & Rockets (3)
Jonathan Hickman – East of West
Joe Hill – Locke & Key (4). Great stuff! I don’t have these, mainly because I borrowed them from someone else to read, and I don’t like buying stuff I’ve already read.
Kohta Hirano – Hellsing
Dylan Horrocks – Hicksville
Jody Houser – Faith
Matt Howarth – Changes
Junji Ito – Uzumaki (6)
Alejandro Jodorowsky – La caste des Meta-Barons
Matt Johnson – Incognegro (2)
Nagata Kabi – My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness
Ryan Kelly and Brian Wood – Local
Stephen King and Scott Snyder – American Vampire
Tom King – The Sheriff of Babylon; Vision
Yukito Kishiro – Battle Angel Alita
Peter Kuper – Heart of Darkness
David Lapham – Stray Bullets
John Layman – Chew
Jeff Lemire – Descender; Sweet Tooth
John Lewis – March (3) Added this to my next order.
Marjorie Liu – Monstress (10)
One person called it “the only one I buy for myself.”
Jeremy Love – Bayou
David Mack – Kabuki (2)
Howard Mackie – Gambit and Rogue; Robyn Hood
Larry Marder – Tales from the Beanworld
Julie Maroh – Le bleu est une couleur chaude
Alan C. Martin – Tank Girl (2) I wrote a grad school paper on this one.
Shirow Masamune – The Ghost in the Shell
Taiyo Matsumoto – Tekkon Kinkreet
Scott McCloud – The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln; Reinventing Comics; Understanding Comics (4). I keep this on my shelf of writing books. Definitely picking up the Abraham Lincoln book.
Seanan McGuire – Spider-Gwen
Carla Speed McNeil – Finder (2)
Linda Medley – Castle Waiting
Mike Mignola – Hellboy (3)
Mark Millar – Jupiter’s Legacy
Frank Miller – Daredevil: Born Again; The Dark Knight Returns (4); Elektra: Assassin (2); Ronin (2); Sin City (3)
Peter Milligan – Red Lanterns; X-Statix
Shigeru Mizuki – Showa: A History of Japan
Alan Moore – let’s just assume I have and rec everything Moore has written, and wrote a paper in grad school involving the Watchmen.
Terry Moore – Strangers in Paradise (3)
Pepe Moreno – Batman: Digital Justice
Grant Morrison – Doom Patrol; The Invisibles (2); We3 (3)
Brennan Lee Mulligan – Strong Female Protagonist (2)
Ted Naifeh – The Crumrin Chronicles (2)
Mai K. Nguyen – Pilu of the Woods
Hope Nicholson (editor) – Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection This looks pretty cool, adding to my “next buy” list.
Marieke Nijkamp – The Oracle Code
Steve Niles – 30 Days of Night
Lee Nordling – Once Upon a Time Machine
James O’Barr – The Crow (2)
Nnedi Okarafor – LaGuardia
Bryan Lee O’Malley – Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World; Seconds
K. O’Neill – The Tea Dragon Society
Natsume Ono – not simple
Katsuhiro Otomo – Akira (2)
Kevin Panetta – Bloom
Benoit Peeters – Obscure Cities
Rosalind B. Penfold – Dragonslippers
David Petersen – Mouseguard
Richard and Wendy Pini – Elfquest (2)
Rick Remender – Fear Agent
Jamie Rich – Ladykiller
James Robinson – Starman (2)
Greg Rucka – Lazarus (2); Queen and Country (2); Wonder Woman
Mark Russell – Exit Stage Left: the Snagglepuss Chronicles. Ordered because it looked like it would hit a couple sweet spots for me.
Mary Safro – Drugs & Wires (having trouble tracking this one down online so far)
Stan Sakai – Usagi Yojimbo
Richard Sala – Peculia
Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (6) I loved this, and the film was lovely too. I ended up passing my copy along to a cousin because it felt like a book that should be out there educating people.
Tom Scioli – Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics
Stjepan Sejic – Sunstone (2)
Jason Shiga – Demon
Ray Simon – Habitat
Gail Simone – Birds of Prey; Red Sonja
Jeff Smith – Bone (7); Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil
Charles Soule – Curse Words
Art Spiegelman – Maus (5)
Richard Stark – The Parker Novels
Jim Starlin – The Death of Captain Marvel (2) (The first graphic novel that Marvel did)
Noelle Stevenson – Nimona (3) I have this in electronic form and wish I’d bough hardcopy.
Masayuki Taguchi and Koushun Takami – Battle Royale
Bryan Talbot – Adventures of Luther Arkwright (3); Grandville; Alice in Sunderland (2)
Mariko Tamaki – Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass; Skim
Shaun Tan – The Arrival
Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Doug TenNapei – Earthboy Jacobus (2)
Dirk I. Tiede – Paradigm Shift
James Tynion IV – Something is Killing the Children
John Upchurch – Lucy Claire
Serena Valentino – Nightmares and Fairytales
Brian K Vaughan – Ex Machina; Paper Girls (5); Saga (16); Y: The Last Man (2)
Ursula Vernon – Digger (5)
Charles Vess – Books of Magic (2)
Matt Wagner – Mage (2)
Mark Waid – Kingdom Come (3)
Tillie Walden – Are You Listening?
Jen Wang – The Prince and the Dressmaker
Gerald Way – The Umbrella Academy
Jeremy Whitley – Princeless
Kurtis J Wiebe – Rat Queens (5)
Bill Willingham – Elementals; Fables (6)
G. Willow Wilson – Cairo; Ms. Marvel (3)
Gregory A. Wilson – Icarus
Brian Wood – Channel Zero; DMZ (3); Northlanders
Gene Luen Yang – American Born Chinese
Jane Yolen – Foiled
Skottie Young – I Hate Fairyland
Jim Zubkavich – Wayward

Le Grand Pouvoir du Chninkel, which sadly has no official English release as far as I know.

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What’s Coming Up in the Next Two Weeks for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers

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Cooking with Cat – Steamed Pork Buns are the Food of the Gods by Travis Heermann

Cooking with Cat:
Steamed Pork Buns are the Food of the Gods
by Travis Heermann

Back when I was living in Japan, about 2003-2006, one of the foods that I fell in love with was nikuman 肉まん, steamed pork buns. They could be found in any convenience store, and they made a great meal for someone who didn’t feel like cooking.

They come with various fillings: pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, veggie, even sweet custard. They are particularly comforting when the weather turns chilly and they’re all steamy and warm.

I was planning a vacation to Japan with the family in March 2020. We’d been planning it for years, and it would have been the first time I’d been back since returning to the States. I was excited to show my family, whom I didn’t have then, all the sights.

A secondary reason for going to Japan was professional, as I was in the midst of writing Tokyo Blood Magic, the first volume of my Shinjuku Shadows trilogy. I wanted to visit some important Tokyo locales, refresh my memory, gather some inspiration, but it was not to be.

As you might guess, COVID-19 derailed that, four days before wheels up for Tokyo. I was crushed, and nine months of isolation has not done much to help that state of mind.

Nevertheless, writing the book did assuage some of my disappointment, as I spent a lot of time in Google Street View, walking virtually around the streets of Tokyo. Writing the book was a fun way to reminisce, and also learn about places I didn’t get to visit while I was living there, such as Shizuoka, Ginza, and Roppongi.

There’s a scene in Tokyo Blood Magic where our hero, Django Wong, a ninja warlock, has his bacon saved from a very dangerous monster by a wisecracking alley cat, known only as Cat. Cat, however, is far from normal, and it’s not clear exactly what he is until Book 2, Tokyo Monster Mash.

Amid snarky repartee, Django and Cat venture into a convenience store for some post-fracas grub, where nikuman becomes a big part of their bonding. Cat becomes Django’s supernatural sidekick.

So in this Year of a Thousand Cuts, I wanted some comfort food for the Virtual Book Launch Party, which my wife and I put together over Zoom a couple of weeks after Tokyo Blood Magic was released. So I made some nikuman, and this video tells the tale so much better than text.

This recipe is adapted from Japanese measurements. Credit for the original goes to Namiko Chen.

Nikuman, Steamed Pork Buns

Video: Cooking With Cat – Nikuman



  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose white flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 scant Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, canola, etc.)
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup water


  • 2 shiitake mushrooms (without the stems), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 green onion/scallion, finely chopped
  • 4 leaves cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher/sea salt
  • 3/4 lb. ground pork
  • About 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sake
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp potato starch/cornstarch
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. First, we make the dough. Put all dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, yeast). Add oil and mix. Once the oil is thoroughly mixed in, slowly add the water while mixing. Mix until incorporated.
  2. Flour your hands and knead the dough into a ball. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.
  3. Sprinkle a smooth surface with flour, move the dough onto the surface, and knead for 10-15 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle it with a little flour. After 10-15 minutes, dough should be smooth and silky.
  4. Form the dough into a ball. Grease the bottom of the bowl with neutral flavored oil and put the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Meanwhile, it’s time to make the filling. Remove the thick stem parts of the cabbage leaves, then chop them finely. Sprinkle 1 tsp of salt onto the chopped cabbage. Massage the salt into the cabbage. This will begin to draw out cabbage’s moisture. After about ten minutes, squeeze the excess moisture out of the cabbage.
  6. Add pork, mushrooms, and scallions to another bowl.
  7. Squeeze the excess moisture from the chopped cabbage, then add it to the pork mixture.
  8. Add ginger, sugar, sake, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and starch. Sprinkle on some fresh black pepper to taste. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate until dough is ready.
  9. When dough has finished rising, divide the ball in half. Roll each half into a log shape, then cut each log into five pieces. Then cut each piece in half.

Note: If you like big buns, and you cannot lie, you can cut your dough into larger sizes and use more filling for each one.

  1. Lightly dust the balls with flour, cover them loosely with a damp cloth, and let them rest for ten minutes. (In the video, I missed this step!)
  2. Roll each ball into a flat circle about five inches in diameter.
  3. Cut twenty squares of parchment paper, about 3” x 3”.
  4. Take a circle of dough and place 1 1/2 Tbsp of filling in the center.
  5. Fold the dough into a pouch around the filling. It works well to hold the pouch closed with thumb and forefinger while folding up the next bit of dough. First, it will resemble a taco, then a crab rangoon. As you fold in the corners of the “crab rangoon, ,” you’ll end up with a little pouch. Then pinch these corners together and give them a twist to seal the bun. Put each bun on a piece of parchment paper.
  6. Cover the finished buns with plastic wrap and let them rest for 20 minutes. (In the video, I missed this step, too.)
  7. Prepare a steamer with boiling water. Put buns in steamer, about 2” apart. They will swell during steaming process. Steam for 10-15 minutes, (10 for small buns, 15 for large ones).
  8. Enjoy!

The result: they were delicious.

The texture of the bun was a little bit off, maybe because I missed a couple of steps with letting the dough rest. Another reason might be because I live in the Denver area, and altitude can certainly affect cooking and baking in unexpected ways, which I didn’t account for in my procedure.

Cooking is much like magic and writing. A little here, a little there, bits and pieces of accumulated experience and creative wisdom.

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try for yourself. If you do, let me know how it goes. Going into the Winter of COVID, maybe we’ll all need a little more comfort food.

Author Photo of Travis Heermann.Bio: Freelance writer, novelist, editor, and screenwriter, Travis Heermann is the author of nine novels, including Tokyo Blood Magic, The Hammer FallsThe Ronin Trilogy, and others, plus short fiction in Apex Magazine, Cemetery Dance, and many moreHis freelance work includes contributions to the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Battletech, Legend of Five Rings, and EVE Online.

Find out more at travisheermann.com or follow him on Twitter @TravisHeermann.

If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Rambo Academy Campus Calendar for January 2021

Zoom links will be available on Patreon, pinned in #localannouncements on the Discord server, and available via the !calendar command on Discord.

How do you get access to these events? Details are here, but basically you can subscribe through Patreon or Paypal. There are free scholarships.

Event explanations:

  • Unmoderated co-working. Log on and work with other Chez Rambo peeps. Does not have to be writing. Structure is up to the participants.
  • Moderated co-working. Cat or designated other will lead three thirty minute sprints, with check-ins to say how we’re doing in between. Does not have to be writing.
  • Chillax and chat:. Hang out and craft or clean your virtual or real workspace while we talk about stuff.
  • Story discussion group. Story changes every two weeks; titles and links will be posted on Discord and Patreon. Additional resources will be in #thepanel channel on Discord.
  • Writing Games. Bring a prompt if you like. We all write for 10 minutes to the same prompt, then people who want to share theirs. Then we do that a couple more times. Great jolt of creativity

All days
12-3 AM Midnight co-working (unmoderated)
8:30-10:30 AM Morning co-working (unmoderated)
1-3 PM Afternoon co-working (moderated, weekdays only)

Weekly Events:
6:30-830 PM Evening co-working (unmoderated)

11-12 PM Story discussion or writing games morning session
4-5 PM Story discussion or writing games evening session

10-11 AM Chill and chat

Upcoming Classes

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Fiction Reading: The Coffeemaker’s Passion

This short story about a woman and her appliance was originally published in Bull Spec.

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Goodbye 2020 Sale – All On-Demand Writing Classes $5

All on-demand online writing classes are currently $5 off through January 1, 2021It’s the end of the year that has somehow been one of the longest and shortest in human history. To celebrate, the Rambo Academy is finishing up with a massive sale: all on-demand online writing classes are $5, but only for a limited time!

This has been the 10th year of the school’s existence, and over the course of that decade its students have included some of the best and brightest new (and sometimes established!) voices in the speculative fiction field, while its faculty members has been equally stellar. My thank you to the friends who initially said okay to my “please come teach a class for me,” Ann Leckie and Rachel Swirsky, as well as all the folks who’ve taught for me in recent years. I’ve learned SO MUCH from you, and I look forward to learning more.

Here’s the list of classes that are on sale for $5:
Character Building Workshop
Description & Delivering Information
Dunking Your Reader in the Details
Epistolary Fiction with Jamie Lackey
Getting Your Pod On: Podcasting for Writers with Alan J. Bailey
Literary Techniques for Genre Writers
Moving From Idea to Finished Draft
Old Stories Into New with Rachel Swirsky
Power of Words: Linguistics for Writers with Juliette Wade
Reading to an Audience
Rewriting, Revising and Fine-tuning Your Fiction
To Space Opera and Beyond with Ann Leckie
Writing Flash Fiction
Writing in the Cracks
Writing Interactive Fiction with Kate Heartfield
Writing Steampunk & Weird Western
Writing Your Way Into Your Novel

This is only good through midnight, January 1, 2021, so if you think you want these classes as part of your 2021, book them while you’re thinking about it. 😉

Don’t want to bother clicking through individually? You can grab the entire bundle for $99.

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Fiction Reading: An Appetite for Love

This piece of flash fiction originally appeared in Sybil’s Garage Issue Five.

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Appearance: Read It Again Bookstore, December 17, 2020

I’m pleased to be making a virtual appearance with the awesome Read It Again Bookstore this Thursday! I will be reading a little from Carpe Glitter as well as from the space opera that is coming out in 2021 with Tor Macmillan and will also be answering questions. Come finish out 2020 with me!

Here is the event on Facebook.

Here is the event on the bookstore website.

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