Culture Consumption: December 2018

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games. 🙂 I’ll be posting my favorite reads and movies of the year in the next week or two.

Books

A Cruelty Special to Our Species by Emily Jungmin Yoon and Basement Gemini by Chelsea Margaret Bodnar

I read two phenomenal (if very different) poetry collections this month, A Cruelty Special to Our Species by Emily Jungmin Yoon and Basement Gemini by Chelsea Margaret Bodnar. In her book, Yoon reflects on the lives of Korean comfort women of the 1930s and 40s, considering not only the history of sexual slavery, but also its ongoing impact. On the other hand, Bodnar uses imagery from horror cinema in her chapbook to delve into the dilemma of female power.  I also interviewed both poets about their work — Yoon on the New Books in Poetry podcast and Bodnar on my blog.

Another book I loved this month was Ted Chiang’s stunning short story collection, Stories of Your Life and Others. These stories present beautiful contemplations of our world through linguistics, mathematics, architecture, and beauty — with characters who pursue knowledge and understanding. It’s lovely and I’ve written more on this over here.

Exit Strategy by Martha WellsI finished and loved Exit Strategy, the fourth book in Martha Wells’ Murderbot series. All I can do is continue to declare my love for Murderbot each time I read one of the novellas in this series. Without giving too muchaway, I can say that it brings back some characters from the first book that I had been missing and thus, completing an emotional arc that I’d been waiting for. Murderbot and his brilliantly dangerous plans continues to fill me with joy. I would happily read as many of these books as Martha Wells can produce.

Other great novellas that I’ve read this month are Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire, The Barrow Will Send What It May by Margaret Killjoy, and The Twilight Pariah by Jefferey Ford. What do these all have in common? They were all published by Tor.com, probably my favorite publisher at the moment.

Books Read Last Month:
1. A Cruelty Special to Our Species by Emily Jungmin Yoon
2. Basement Gemini by Chelsea Margaret Bodnar
3. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
4. Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
5. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
6. The Yark by Bertrand Santini
7. The Barrow Will Send What It May by Margaret Killjoy
8. The Twilight Pariah by Jefferey Ford

Total Books for the Year: 63

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Books of Blood by Clive Barker, The Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King,  and Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Short Stories & Poetry

Wildlife” by Franny Choi —

“They say the blast was triggered by a passenger pigeon’s ghostly
coo, swifting over the oil fields—at which the grasses stiffened,
shot up a warning scent—which made the beetles shudder from
their beds—which spread a rumor among the earthworms, until,”

Grandma Novak’s Famous Nut Roll” by Shaenon K. Garrity — A beautiful tale told through the sharing of family recipes, one in which there is magic in the art of cooking. Reading this, I wanted to attempt to make some of these recipes (maybe with the magic bits, maybe without). I both love the family portrait that this provides and the mysteries about the family that the story leaves hidden.

String Theory Relationships” by Kelli Russell Agodon —

“The essential idea is this — the man you love is connected to you
no matter what, but he’s also connected to the woman”

Farewell Concert at World’s End” By R.K. Duncan — This story about music and its power is beautifully unsettling on so many levels, especially that ending. Wowza.

Ten Deals with the Indigo Snake” by Mel Kassel — A young girl makes a deal with a snake, then makes a few more. There is costs, there are consequences.

The Grave by the Handpost” by Thomas Hardy — A more literary form of scary tale, the story deals mostly with lost chances and regrets. Beautiful.

The Quiltbag” by Ashok K. Banker — A black woman carries an old, empty quiltbag through an airport. It’s a world thick with restrictions for anyone not white, straight, or male and the woman is pulled aside for questioning. But the quitlbag is more than it seems and so is she.

Movies

I went looking for some Christmas horrors and found Better Watch Out on the Shudder network. The story presents what starts out as a standard home invasion story, in which a babysitter and her young charge are beset by some threat in the night. Then it launches into a surprising direction, which saves it from being bland boosted it into some fun territory. Not a favorite, but worth a watch.

Better Watch Out

Also, saw The Christmas Chronicles in which Kurt Russell makes for a rather badass Santa Claus. Two kids who sneak into the back of Santa’s sleigh end up on a series of misadventures when Santa looses his reindeer and magical hat along the way. Of course, Christmas is at risk and has to be saved. It all has a very Adventures in Babysitting feel to it, including a blues performance in the last third. It’s all pretty darn fun.

The Christmas Chronicles

New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Better Watch Out (2016)
2. The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Television

I was completely absorbed by The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Rather different from the ’90s Sabrina I’ve known so well, this Sabrina deals in dark forces while still maintaining a sense of goodness and optimism. Upon her 16th, Sabrina is a half witch is expected to commit herself to the witch community by signing her name the Devil’s book. When she refuses, wanting to seek her own freedom and hold on to the love she has for her human friends, she is unknowingly pitted into a battle for her soul. Sabrina fights hard for what she believes is right, despite the conflicts it may cause to her Aunties and the risk it presents for herself. For all the dark shadows and demons and dangers that come her way, she continues to stand up for those she cares about — which is its own power.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

One of the things to love about this is how the story complicates morality. The witch community is not inherently evil (for all that they’re aligned with the Devil), and the human community is not inherently good or innocent. The history of witch burnings in the town’s past speaks to oppressions that witches had once faced despite all their power, and yet actions on the part of some of the witches show their disregard for humanity. This play of power (human/witch, masculine/feminine, child/adult, etc) makes for some interesting conflicts for the characters, conflicts that don’t always have easy solutions. The story held my interest all the way through, right up to the ending that made me weep unexpectedly. There better be a season two, because it can’t end this way.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

I’ve also continued watching oodles of Let’s Plays and Twitch. Somehow watching gaming is incredibly relaxing to me.

Games

Bioshock is one of my all-time favorite games. It’s a first person shooter with a mix of RPG elements, in which a man’s plane crash lands in the ocean and he survives by coming upon a city constructed under the ocean, where the people have the ability to gain abilities through splicing and industry is the central core philosophy. As of this month, I’ve replayed Bioshock three times and I continue to love it for it’s incredible, gritty, art deco world, it’s fantastic creative gameplay, and it’s wonderful storyline with all it’s twists. It’s a fantastic game, still worth playing even if it’s a bit older.

Bioshock
A Big Dady protects a Little Sister in Bioshock.

I’ve now started in on Bioshock: Infinite, which is new to me. It’s set in the same world, but instead of a city under the ocean, we journey through a city in the sky run by a religious zealot. It’s beautifully rendered and totally fun so far. I’m digging it.


That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?


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