It’s been a great month. One of the highlights this month was the All Womyn’s Showcase (write up here), which I not only attended but also participated in. I love attending live events (even if they sometimes exhaust me) and I keep telling myself that I want to see more of them.
Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki is such a wonderfully strange graphic novel. For most of the book, each page represents a single vignette, a tiny story about one or more of the characters from the Academy. At the beginning the vignettes jumped between so many different characters, it was difficult to keep track of who was who and what was going on, which made it a little hard to get into. But, as I continued reading and the characters began to repeat, I recognized a main set of characters I could connect and resonate with, allowing me to settle into the odd and beautiful stories at this strange school which features an array of mutants and magic and science.
Some of the vignettes are anchored in ordinary teenage angst (like crushes and school dances and friendship) that makes them easy to relate to, while others are simply, delightfully bizarre (such as the everlasting boy, who throughout the book experiences a variety of deaths and rebirths and eternities). There’s a lot of wit and wisdom present (sometimes beyond what I would expect from a typical teenager, though these are not typical teenagers). Taken as a whole, Super Mutant Magic Academy is really a fabulous book, which doesn’t allow itself to be anchored by any single storyline, but lets itself fall into the chaos of teenage-dom with all its weird wisdom and foolish obsessions.
I also really enjoyed She Walks in Shadows, an anthology of Lovcraftian stories and art created by women and edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles. I especially loved Jilly Dreadful’s “De Deabus Minoribus Exterioris Theomagicae,” which presents the story as a thesis outline, and Pandora Hope’s “Eight Seconds,” in which a bull-riding woman faces off against her own destruction — although pretty much all the stories in the collection are great.
The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms was also pretty great, being an urban fantasy with a mix of super hero, martial arts, dragon
1. She Walks in Shadows, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles
2. The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms
3. Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
Total books for the year: 32
Still in Progress: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott and Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Old black-and-white horror movies have been a focus of my movie watching for the past many weeks. I particularly liked The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen), a silent film from 1921. It presents a somewhat bleak morality tale in which a ghostly carriage appears at midnight on New Years Eve to take the last person who died and make them serve as Death for the coming year. When David Holm is presented with this fate, he is taken on a journey exploring his past sins and misdeeds. The movie very similar to A Christmas Carol, but far more gritty and dark in tone. The imagery is appropriately eerie and unsettling with a great use of shadows. It has realism in setting, costuming, and acting that I don’t tend to expect from silent era films (at least not from the Hollywood ones).
Other classic horror movies that I thoroughly enjoyed was Eyes without a Face (Les yeux sans visage), a strange, beautiful, and haunting movie about a doctor who tried to give his scared daughter a new face (with some cringeworthy depictions of surgery); What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? a wonderfully bizarre psychological thriller starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford; and The Invisible Man from 1933, which stands up well to the test of time and a surprisingly high body count.
Another great movie is The Order of Myths, a documentary presenting the glitter, pageantry, and subtle racism of Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama/. The event is racially segregated with a separate Mardi Gras for the whites and the blacks. The movie explores how local history, including slavery, influences the present and offers a candid look at the city and its people. One of the great things about it is that it leaves space for viewers to come to their own conclusions on the subject and provides an opening for discussion.
New-to-me movies this month:
1. The Order of Myths (documentary, 2008)
2. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
3. Eddie the Eagle (2016)
4. The Invisible Man (1933)
5. Mother / Madeo (2009)
6. Onibaba (1964)
7. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (anime, 2000)
8. Freaks (1932)
9. Eyes without a Face / Les yeux sans visage (1960)
10. The Phantom Carriage / Körkarlen (1921)
11. Wild Strawberries / Smultronstället (1957)
12. Spring (2015)
I finished up Dollhouse, which had some really good moments toward the end of season two, but never quite achieved greatness. There were definitely some giant holes in the ending (which I won’t get into because of spoilers, but feel free to talk with me about them in the comments) and one of the most pointless character deaths that Whedon has ever given (I wasn’t even that fond of the character and I still thought the death was stupid). On the whole, I’ve come away feeling meh about the whole thing. It’s not something I would watch again.
I’m about five episodes (give or take) into Killjoys, which presents new complications for our trio of bounty hunters. So far, it’s just the kind of fun I remember from the first season. Loving it.
There were a number of great podcasts this month.
In short stories, I really loved Wolfy Things by Erin Roberts, in which a young man strives to become a skilled werewolf hunter to proof his worth.
Here Be Monsters offered The Natural State of Hitchhiking, a creative nonfiction piece about a young man’s journey to see whether he would find kindness from strangers as a hitchhiker or get chopped up and left for dead or not.
Slums of Film History presented a great biography about Wiliam Castle, the Godfather of Gimmicks this month. William Castle was an interesting character, rigging movie theaters with a variety of tricks (such as flying skeletons and electrically buzzing seats) — some of which worked and some of which didn’t. He kept trying to make films well beyond the point of when such gimmickry went out of style. Slums finished up their season two of their look at low brow cinema history and it now on a season break again, which makes me sad.
Podcasts I listended to:
Apex Magazine: The Gentleman of Chaos by A. Merc Rustad
Drunk Monkeys Podcast: Ashley Perez Interview
Here Be Monsters 061: The Natural State of Hitchhiking
Imaginary Worlds: Finding My Voice
Lightspeed Magazine: Those Brighter Stars by Mercurio D. Rivera
Lightspeed Magazine: The Assassin’s Secret by Adam-Troy Castro
Nightmare Magazine: Fossil Heart by Amanda Downum
Nightmare Magazine: Whose Drowned Face Sleeps by An Owomoyela
The New Yorker – Poetry: Joyce Carol Oates Reads John Updike
The New Yorker – Poetry: Billy Collins Reads Eamon Grennan
PodCastle 424: Betty and the Squelchy Saurus by Caroline M. Yoachim
PodCastle 425: Flash Fiction Extravaganza!
PodCastle 426: Sweater than Lead by Benjamin C. Kinney
PodCastle 427: Squalor and Sympathy by Matt Dovey
PodCastle 428: Madame Félidé Elopes by K.A. Tempest
PodCastle 429: Wolfy Things by Erin Roberts
Scriptnotes 259: Duly Noted (a talk about the previous episode by listeners)
Slums of Film History 22: Wiliam Castle – Godfather of Gimmicks
Slums of Film History 23: Dead on Set
Slums of Film History 24: Underwater Slaughter
Welcome to Night Vale 92 – If He Had Lived
Within the Wires: Relaxation Cassette #4 & #5
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?