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Finder is a science fiction comic book series written, drawn, and published by Carla Speed McNeil since 1996, currently appearing free online at McNeil's website [74285] and collected annually for sale in trade paperback editions. McNeil describes Finder as "Aboriginal Science Fiction" and her storylines throw together recognizable aboriginal and industrial societies found side-by-side in a far-future Earth whose inhabitants tend to struggle with issues of authenticity and freedom, when not with each other. The recipient of numerous awards and award nominations, Finder has met with profound critical acclaim.

Setting

The series is set in a vastly depopulated Earth of a far distant future with room for numerous aboriginal cultures, both human and nonhuman, to live outside - and in varying levels of contact with - densely overpopulated city-states of recognizably modern urbanites functioning at a high technological level. Our own civilization and vastly more advanced societies following it are lost to prehistory but evidenced in the unfathomably advanced domed cities the urbanites have inherited, and the occasional pop cultural artifacts (nearly all from late-20th century America) routinely and conveniently recovered by telepathic sensitives.

The cities are dominated by wealthy and exclusive clans self-selecting for physical and psychological homogeneity, with lower social niches taken up by half-clan citizens, slaves, visiting nomads (some non-human), and genetic "constructs" with animal features, all generally suffering considerable persecution. The rural societies (which include various aboriginal human cultures, all-but-matriarchal bands of lion-women, cow-horned farmer-pirates harvesting enemy crops in militarized combines, and others) are constantly in low-grade conflict with each other and with the cities, and are themselves rigidly hierarchical in at times unpleasant ways. Large corporations and a decentralized infotrader/media network both wield considerable and at times nefarious influence. The glaring injustices found in the world of Finder are noticeably omnipresent and yet generally pass without comment in stories whose characters realistically can't do anything about them, and are making their own way.

Characters

Most stories involve one of two aboriginal protagonists and/or their urban associates.

Jaeger

Chief of these (and the central figure of the narrative) is "Jaeger" (Royle Sudamer) Ayers, who is half-"skin:" a half-member of McNeil's stand-in for Native American culture, the Ascians. Jaeger is the series' main protagonist, although McNeil omits him almost entirely from several story arcs which focus instead on his friends or associates. She says she plans to continue the series without him at some future date, when his story is completed. Jaeger is the son of an Ascian mother of whom he knows nothing and an independent rural white father. After his father's (apparent) death he was collectively raised by one or more nomadic Ascian camps. He now divides his time inside and outside of cities, making his living as a resourceful scavenger and fighter.

Among the urbanites he is half-redneck and half-Indian, of no social value but of considerable fascination, especially to the strings of intrigued women he cohabits with in order to have a place to sleep and to make himself useful. Among Ascians, Jaeger is both a "Sin-eater" (an outcast and ritual scapegoat) and a "Finder." Finders are a secret fellowship of hunter-trackers obliged to give requested aid, as he does generously and resourcefully whenever directly asked. Finders exist in many cultures.

His personality is best characterized by his astonishing self-sufficiency and ability to travel nearly anywhere, relate to nearly anyone, and survive nearly anything. He's assisted by a nearly miraculous physical healing ability for which he himself has no explanation. These gifts of independence are balanced by a need to sustain (or self-inflict) serious physical injuries to remain healthy, and a corresponding (and seemingly connected) inability to remain in any one social situation permanently. There are hints that he is aging slowly or not at all.

Vary

Vary L. S. (Lakya Sagarananda) Krishna, who is protagonist of only one story collection thus far, has come to the big city from a Hautami (Indian (Asian)) community. She's in love with the anthropology professor she works for and studies under, who's constantly trying to tell her what her culture is. She's joint-majoring in prostitution, which is recognized in the world of Finder as an art form (artists in all other fields being alike expected to perform amorous services for wealthy patrons), but her love object is resigned to celibacy. She's also in love with her professor's closest colleague, a giant plumed lizard.

Grosvenor-Lockhart family

Jaeger's chief acquaintances in the city of Anvard are Emma Lockhart, Brigham Grosvenor, and their three daughters, one of whom is biologically male. Brigham, Jaeger's sergeant from army days, comes from a stoic clan of cops and soldiers, but glamorous Emma's clan self-selects for theatricality and feminine gender characteristics in both sexes. Their union, which is held as anathema to both of their clans, has contributed to Brigham's derangement, the handling of which is Jaeger's primary task in Sin-Eater.

Of the three children, the eldest child Rachel's attempt to gain admittance to her mother's clan (and to perhaps do something by herself for once in her life) appears ongoing on McNeil's website for collection in 2008 as Finder volume 9; youngest child Marcie's quest to find a certain lost book if only by writing it is the subject of volume #4; while the story of middle-child Lynne has yet to be written but may complete a hypothetical "three sisters" hardcover McNeil has speculated about releasing.

Others

  • a celebrity virtual reality artist named Magri White;
  • Grazie Maugheri, who studies (often quite intimately) and also discusses (on pirate TV) the subject of healing the sick as a sexual fetish;
  • Brom, Jaeger's closest and oldest male friend seen thus far, who Jaeger won't sleep with and who once beat him near to death with a chair leg;
  • Vary Krishna's professors and fellow students in Xenology/Anthropology and The Art.


Themes

Finder tends to focus on the primarily Western/liberal social norms of and media consumption habits of its urban characters, seen from the viewpoint of their aboriginal neighbors, and on all her characters' strategies, chiefly through travel or artistic endeavor, to escape the often quite intractable limits their societies (and others) place on them.

The series makes allusions to various genres of science fiction and fantasy; apparent influences include Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delany, and cyberpunk for thematic content, and a wide range of work for the visual aspects, from old horror comics and simple line cartoons to the science fiction work of MÅ“bius.

Awards

McNeil and Finder have been nominated for seven Eisner Awards and won in 2009 for best web comic, and one Russ Manning award. Finder has won one Kim Yale award and two Ignatz awards.

Publication

McNeil publishes the series through her Lightspeed Press imprint and on its website. She began the series in the customary comics format of 24-page magazine/pamphlets, which she soon began collecting on a roughly annual basis in trade paperback editions containing extensive footnotes explaining particulars of the story and of the richly detailed world the characters are moving through. In 2005, prompted both by low profits on the single-issues and by the format's implicit limitations on story pacing, McNeil ended the pamphlet format of the series with issue #38, and moved regular publication of the story online, with two fresh pages a week appearing free at www.lightspeedpress.com. The solidly profitable trade-paperback collections have continued to appear annually in time for the summer convention season, although in 2007 "Finder Book 1," a hardcover collection of the first two volumes, was issued as that year's book and Volume 9's release pushed ahead to summer 2008. With a few additions, the volumes have presented the single issues (and then the webcomic) in their original order of production, except for issue #22 (included with vols 1 & 2 in the hardcover "Book 1"), issue #30 (batched with issue #38 (and its online continuation) in Volume 8); and the two issues of McNeil's connecting side project "Mystery Date" which, with issue #31, form the bulk of Finder Volume 6. The collections have included short stories such as "Counting Coup," "The Model's Artist," and "Brief Wake," while rare shorts such as "Free Trade" have appeared on the website, and there is apparently a Jaeger "pillow book" desultorily in production.

Volumes

  1. Part 1 and
  2. Part 2 of Sin Eater. Introducing Jaeger, the city of Anvard, and the Grosvenor-Lockhart family. Emma and her three daughters. All are terrified their father will someday get out of prison. What Jaeger can't tell them: he already is. (issues 1-7 and 8-14. volumes available separately in trade paperback (ISBN 0-9673691-0-X and ISBN 0-9673691-1-8) or collected as '"Finder Book One" in digest-sized hardcover (hardcover includes expanded version of otherwise-uncollected issue 22) (ISBN 978-09673691-9-8).
  3. King of the Cats. Jaeger plays messenger between a disapproving tribe of his own people and a clan of warlike lion-women as they strive to make peace while stuck in the nightmare territory of their shared enemy, the Finder-verse version of Disneylandmarker. (issues 15-18. Paperback - ISBN 0-9673691-2-6)
  4. Talisman. Emma's young daughter Marcie, "the kid with the book," grows to adulthood in three chapters. (issues 19-21. ISBN 0-9673691-3-4)
  5. Dream Sequence. The series timeline leaps forward. A hapless Internet celebrity, his mind the mainframe for his own wildly popular virtual reality environment, finds a monster inside it that's eating the guests: a monster who resembles Jaeger. (issues 23-29. ISBN 0-9673691-4-2)
  6. Mystery Date. Vary Krishna is majoring in prostitution, but minoring in anthropology with a crush on the world's crabbiest professor. Jaeger has a cameo. (collecting Mystery Date issues 1&2, Finder issue 31, add'l material. ISBN 0-9673691-5-0)
  7. The Rescuers. There's a kidnapping at the manor house. Jaeger knows who did it but that's just not going to help. (issues 32-37. ISBN 0-9673691-6-9)
  8. Five Crazy Women. Jaeger returns to town and gets entangled with various women. Introducing Grazie Maugeri. Cameo by Grosvenor-Lockhart family. (issues 30 & 38 with web serialized material. ISBN 0-9673691-7-7)
  9. A Voice. Rachel Grosvenor struggles with claiming her birthright, clan membership. (serialized on McNeil's website in rough form, completed in November 2008)


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