Culture Consumption: June 2019

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

Books

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora GossI loved The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss. The story is about Mary Jekyll, left alone and penniless following her mother’s death. Curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past, she discovers that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be still be alive. With the hope of a reward to solve her financial challenges, she pursues what little clues she has — only to discover Diana, Hyde’s daughter instead. As the mystery thickens, Mary learns of more women who have been experimented upon by their fathers — Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein. Together, the women begin to uncover a secret society of scientist attempting to transmute the human body in order to unleash it’s potential.

A lot of novels, short stories, comics, and movies have taken on the task of presenting new versions of classic horror and scifi — this was the kind of retelling I didn’t know I was longing for. Reading the Alchemist’s Daughter was a delight, presenting a litany of clever, intelligent, strong women who find companionship and support in each other through their trials, while stuggling against cultural norms.  The style of storytelling is also witty and fun — with the girls interjecting into the record with their own commentary and arguments. I love all of these women and I can’t wait to read about more of their adventures in the next volume.

The Strange Bird: A Borne Story by Jeff VanderMeer is about a genetically fabricated bird, which escapes from a laboratory as the world is falling apart around it. The Strange Bird flies into the world with little to guide her but her own internal compass. On her journey, she encounters other strange creature in the world and even stranger and more twisted humans, with all kinds of obstacles attempting to crush her. The novella is the perfect length for this story, reading like a new kind of fairy tale or myth. It’s a beautiful and movies tale.

I have such an abiding love for the work of Junji Ito. Smashed presents another collection of graphic short horror stories — ranging terrifying to melancholy in tone. As I’m come to expect from Ito’s comics, the artwork is both beautiful and deeply unsettling. These are images to stick in your mind and haunt you.

I also read The 2019 Rhysling Anthology, edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel, which contains all the current poems nominated for the Rhysling award hosted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. It’s an honor to have “Pouring the Pennyroyal,” a collaborative poem by Laura Madeline Wiseman and I, included in the collection.

Books Read Last Month:
1. The Strange Bird: A Borne Story by Jeff VanderMeer
2. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
3. Smashed by Junji Ito
4. The 2019 Rhysling Anthology, edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Total Books for the Year: 27

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, #6) by Stephen King and Books of Blood by Clive Barker

Short Stories & Poetry

ultraviolet” and “two if by sea” by Beth Bachman —

The bees can see the blood hosed off the flowers after a killing.

Look at me the way the bee does with its hundreds of eyes.
— from ultraviolet

Yellow” by Annette Wong —

If I said — remembering in winter,
the Japanese maple’s shock of yellow.

What We Wore” by Gemma Cooper-Novack —

In the conversation that made us friends we were painting rouge onto green cheeks
of a four-foot-high head and fashioning dragon scales
from soda cans.

Three Poems by Judson Hamilton

And then by Diana Troi’s cursed tits we
Found ourselves in the purgatory of life’s 7th inning
A stretch that seemed to go on forever…
— from “Over the Hill”

Temporarily Not Available” by Laura Motavasseli

I don’t know
how to part with the dead.
most
just slip away through a back door
when they suddenly
go.

The Iron Man” by Max Gladstone (LightSpeed) — “The boy stopped playing after his Mom and Dad chained the iron man to the Kingdom’s heart.”

The Coven of Dead Girls” by L’Erin Ogle (Pseudopod) — “The key turns in the lock and you step inside. Until you, we have been adrift in waiting, silence heavy in our bones. Time passes slowly inside these walls, dressed in our plastic coffins.”

He Dies Where I Die” by Michael Harris (Pseudopod) — “Dion spun back to the oval of daylight and said a prayer. He didn’t pray to Jesus or Qamata. He prayed to his father, ten years lost and dead in the mines.”

Movies

The Invitation (2015) is one of my favorite horror movies, making me a huge fan of director Karyn Kusama. I’ll pretty much go see any film she puts out at this point, which leads me to viewing 2018’s Destroyer. Haunted by an undercover assignment that went terribly wrong, Detective Erin Bell (played by Nicole Kidman) begins digging up the past, seeking out former members of a criminal organization in order to hunt down their leader. As with The Invitation, Kusama crafts a slowly building tension by degrees, as the character’s actions have impact on the people around her (including her wayward daughter).

Kidman herself is phenomenal. While the fantastic makeup makes her haggard, its Kidman’s performs that truly reveals Bell as being wrecked. Every step, gesture, and expression proves her to be a human being trying to stand up against a past that wants to crush her underneath its weight. This is a woman who rarely expresses her feelings, and yet Kidman is able to express a churning emotional complexity — often without saying a word. While there’s a sense of mystery and pursuit, the main focus of the story is of a woman trying to redeem herself in whatever desperate way she can.

Destroyer (2018)

If you’re looking for a solid horror movie to watch, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is well worth a visit. The story centers on a mortician father and son who are are sent the body of an unnamed woman to autopsy. At first things follow in the standard procedure, with the two working to determine the cause of death — but the longer the examination goes on, the stranger things become and unsettling events begin to occur. I adore the first half of this movie and had fun with the second half, when the tone shifts a bit with the increasing weirdness and fear.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
2. Destroyer (2018)
3. John Carter (2012)

Television

So I love pretty much everything about Good Omens. It’s been years since I’ve read the novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, a story in which an angel and demon become unlikely allies and intimate friends after centuries of walking the earth. When they learn that the antichrist has been brought into the world and the apocalypse is set to begin, the two bumble their way through trying to stop it. There are many more delightful layers to this tale, Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and Crowley (David Tennant) are the shining golden center. They are so perfect and their relationship fills me with joy. This mini-series is already a favorite, one that will be added to my list of comfort watches.

Good Omens (2019)

Games

I’m a hair’s breath from finishing Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and honestly I should have polished this one off already (but I’ve been doing more reading and random TV and video watching than gaming this month). At this point, I’ve been immersed enough in the story and characters that I’m

I continue to Skyrim and am immersed in the massive glowing cavern Blackreach. The place is beautiful, but I’ve been there for a while now so it’s starting to feel grind. I could just move forward with the storyline, but no, dammit, I have to collect all the crimson nirnroot and complete my mission.

Podcasts

Writing Excuses is such a phenomenal podcast for writers, extending immense amounts of valuable advice in bite-sized fifteen minute segments. Two I particularly enjoyed this month were Choosing an Agent and Writing the Other — Yes, You Can!

Scriptnotes — another valuable resource for writers — also had two particularly great episodes this month. In How to Write a Movie, Craig Maizin does a solo episode presenting his theory of screenwriting, looking at the central dramatic argument that leads to the why behind plot points. Meanwhile, in The One with Charlie Brooker, John August speaks with Charlie Brooker (writer and executive producer of Black Mirror) about his career and the opportunities and challenges of writing an anthology series.

Annotated presented a charming episode on the Life Changing Magic of Reading a Book, in which several guests discuss the subtle and dramatic ways books have shaped their lives.

On Switchblade Sisters, April Wolfe discusses “Shaun of the Dead” with “Broad City” writer and comedian Naomi Ekperigin. These two smart women present a fun and witty discussion of what makes the movie great, with a look at some of the ins and outs of the filmmaking process.

In other horror movie podcasts, the Horror Queers gentlemen and guest Ariel Fisher talk about Ginger Snaps (2000), the cult classic coming of age werewolf movie.


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


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