Culture Consumption: September 2021

Hi, lovelies. Coming in late again. Here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.

Books

Cover of Circe by Madeline MillerA friend loaned me a copy of Madeline Miller’s Circe, offering high praise for the book and its feminist take on the ancient Greek myth. Once I opened the first page, I was immediately immersed in the mythological worlds of Ancient Greek gods and goddesses with all their politics and family drama. Reading this book reminded me of how much I loved learning about these myths when I was in school, and I loved the way Miller portrayed Circe and the other gods, illuminating the a sense of magic and power. Some of the gods feel alien and dangerous in how disconnected they are from mortals, while Circe has an inherent sense of humanity in her longing to feel connected with them. I loved the ways in which Miller weaved various classical stories and tales into the text, and I especially enjoyed her feminist take, which presents a more complex view of a powerful woman.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady HendrixAnother great read this month was The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix. Inspired by the slasher films of the ’80s, the story takes place years after the women’s confrontations with brutal murderers. These final girls have faced death and fought off their killers, surviving into middle age while carrying ongoing ailments from their injuries and trauma, including anxiety, PTSD, and other issues. Bound by their shared trauma, the women attend support group meetings, a tether that slowly frays as some members attempt to move on. Things get incrementally worse, however, when it appears that someone is out to kill them.

Hendrix is fantastic at creating fast-paced, action packed stories that leave me wanting to consume a book all in one go. I also like that these women are rough-edged, hard, and strong-willed, with all the complexities that comes with having survived terrible events.

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TWELVE Honored with an Elgin Award

Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm - poetry book

I’m chuffed and honored and gobsmacked to announce that TWELVE, my short collection of prose poetry, has placed second in the Elgin Awards. I’m so grateful the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) for giving my strange little collection of prose poetry some love.

When I started writing the poem “The First Sister,” I had no idea that this would turn into a series of poems — but each of the women in “Twelve Dancing Princesses” called out to me with their own stories to be told.

As I continued returning to these women over the years, with their words taking on the shape of prose poetry, I had no idea that this collection would ever find a home. And I’m so grateful to Holly Walrath and Interstellar Flight Press for taking a chance and publishing this little book (of which I’m so proud).

I am so honored to be included among so many amazing poets, who also received awards:

Book Award Winners

    • First Place – The Sign of the Dragon by Mary Soon Lee (JABberwocky Literary Agency, 2020)
    • Second Place – A Collection of Dreamscapes by Christina Sng (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2020)
    • Third Place (tie) – Mary Shelley Makes a Monster by Octavia Cade (Aqueduct Press, 2019)
    • Third Place (tie) – A Route Obscure and Lonely by LindaAnn LoSchiavo (The Wapshott Press, 2020)

Chapbook Award Winners

    • First Place – Otherwheres by Akua Lezli Hope (ArtFarm Press, 2020)
    • Second Place – Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Tale by Andrea Blythe (Interstellar Flight Press, 2020)
    • Third Place – Manifest by Terese Mason Pierre (Gap Riot Press, 2020)

Learn more about the Elgin Winners and view a complete list of nominees on the SFPA website.

Culture Consumption: August 2021

Hi, lovelies. Coming in late again, but here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.

Books

Sorrowland by Rivers SolomonTwo of the books I loved this month focus on women finding power through transformation. In Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon, a heavily pregnant Vern escapes from a religious compound into the woods, where she gives birth to twins. For a while she lives wild, raising her children as she pleases — all the while they are being hunted. As time passes, Vern begins to grow in strength, experiencing a physical transformation she doesn’t understand.

Sorrowland was described to me as gothic horror, though considering the extent of Vern’s physical changes, it could almost be described as body horror. The book definitely carried some dark elements to it, some terrible and terrifying things — but throughout the darkness, there was also a light showing through in the way Vern grows and learns to claim her own identity and space in the world, finding pleasure in the ways her body changed. The love she has for her children and they for her is wonderful, complex, and beautiful. And her family grows when she finds people with whom she can connect can care for, while receiving the same in return. That carries with it such a powerful light of hope through all the dark times she experiences.

Goddess of Filth by V CastroThe second book was Goddess of Filth by V. Castro, in which a group of friends perform a play seance, laughing and drinking — until their friend Fernanda begins chanting in Nahuatl and appearing to be possessed. As time passes, Fernanda continues to act strangely, “smearing herself in black makeup, shredding her hands on rose thorns, sucking sin out of the mouths of the guilty.” With her mother in a moral panic over the changes, Fernanda’s friends try to find a way to help her in any way they can.

I love so many things about this book — first and foremost the way these five friends are wonderful. They support each other, look out for each other, and do what that can for each other.  Another aspect that I loved about is that Fernanda’s possession is not an assault, but more symbiotic. The goddess within her offers wisdom and strength, and Fernanda begins to change, finding strength and confidence in the presence of the goddess. When her friend Lourdes begins to realize this, she works to help Fernanda face this new reality. The story has its terrors, but it is also so beautiful. I’m so glad I read it.

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The Illusion of Choice: Lessons from the Writing Excuses intensive course on writing for games

Photo by Justin Luebke on Unsplash.

Hosted by published authors working in a variety of genres and with decades of experience in the industry, the Writing Excuses podcast offers quick 15–20 minute long episodes packed with insightful writing, craft, and business advice. This year, the podcast has shifted its format to focus on eight-episode intensive courses that drill down into a particular subject — in this case, game writing.

Along with regular hosts Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor, the eight episodes on game writing were led by two guest hosts, Cassandra Khaw and James L. Sutter, both of whom have extensive experience writing for games. Kaw has worked as a senior scriptwriter for Ubisoft Montreal and as a freelance writer for various indie video game developers. Sutter is a co-creator of the Pathfinder and Starfinder table-top roleplaying games.

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Falling in Love with Shadow and Light

Sky Cathedral by Louise Nevelson — found wood sculpture at the San José Museum of Art.
Sky Cathedral by Louise Nevelson — found wood sculpture at the San José Museum of Art.

The last time I visited a museum prior to the pandemic was at the San José Museum of Art, where a friend had put together an event featuring mixture of poetry and music. During a break between the sets of performances, I wandered the exhibits, checking out what the museum had on display.

When I wander through a museum, I observe it from my own subjective point of view, not much caring whether the work is considered important or interesting from a cultural or historical perspective. I look for work that speaks to me, that hooks something deep within my chest and tugs.

That night, I found myself standing before Louise Nevelson’s Sky Cathedral, a found wood sculpture comprised of architectural elements, crates, and other pieces, assembled into geometric chambers and painted entirely black. It captivated me immediately.

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