Culture Consumption: August 2019

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

Books

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-GarciaSet in the 1920s, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, is about Casiopea Tun, a young woman who works as a servant for her rich family while dreaming of life beyond her grandfather’s house. She gets her chance to escape and travel, when she opens a chest in her grandfather’s room and awakens the Mayan god of death who has lain captive. Bound by blood and bone to help the god regain his throne or meet her own death, Casiopea and and the god travel across Mexico to regain his power.

I love stories of accidental adventure, of someone discovering a secret that lay buried and find themselves drawn into a dangerous adventure. Casiopea is a perfect such adventurer, sassy and brave and hungry for more in her life. Although she dreams of escape and running off to discover the world, she’s faced with her own insecurities when finally finds herself on the road — and it’s the journey that helps her to grow into her own strength. This is a fun and charming adventure, full of magic, humor, and romance. It’s delightful.

I read two phenomenal horror short story collections this month. The first, The Houseguest and Other Stories by Amparo Dávila is a beautifully unsettling collection of horror short stories (which I talked about at length in another post).

Books of Blood by Clive BarkerThe second is Books of Blood, Vol. 1-3 by Clive Barker. I’ve known about Barker through his work in movies, but had never read any of his fiction up until this point. I honestly should have jumped on that train sooner. Barker’s stories are rich in character development and unique in their portrayal of horrors, from the depravities of human making to sympathetic and terrifying monsters of most unusual origins. Entire cities might enact ancient battles by constructing giants made from the bodies of their citizens (“In the Hills, the Cities”). A women wakes in a hospital after an attempted suicide wakes with the power to grotesquely reshape the men who try to control her (“Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament”). A charity race turns out to have greater stakes than anyone knows, with the racers literally running for their lives (“Hell’s Event”). A monster rears up from the dark of a movie theater, born from the desires of years of movie goers (“Son of Celluloid”). These stories are fantastic across the board, and I just learned that there are many more volumes of Barker’s stories, so I’ll definitely be picking those up as well.

I also read three wonderful poetry collections this month. The first was Deborah L. Davitt’s The Gates of Never, a beautifully accessible collection of poetry that explores and blends history, mythology, and magic with science and science fiction. These poems morph between being moving, irreverent, and erotic — a great collection of work. (I interviewed Davitt for the New Books in Poetry podcast, which I’ll be able to share soon.)

little ditch by Melissa Eleftherion and The Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning by Michelle Scalise are two stunning poetry chapbooks. little ditch looks at the intersections between the body and the natural world in order to examine issues surrounding sexual abuse, rape culture, and internalized misogyny. Dragonfly is a beautiful exploration of the horrors of mourning and childhood abuse.

In quick reads, Quince is a charming graphic novel about a young woman who received super powers during her quinceañera, which she gets to have for one year. The powers are exciting at first, but quickly disrupt her life in unexpected ways. Meanwhile, Art Matters is a compilations of wise words from Neil Gaiman and lovely black and white illustrations from Chris Riddell.

Books Read Last Month:
1. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
2. The Gates of Never, poetry by Deborah L. Davitt
3. little ditch, poetry chapbook by Melissa Eleftherion
4. The Houseguest and Other Stories by Amparo Dávila
5. Books of Blood, Vol. 1-3 by Clive Barker
6. Quince, created by Sebastian Kadlecik, written by Kit Kadlecik, illustrated by Emma Steinkellner, and translated by Valeria Tranier
7. Art Matters Because Your Imagination Can Change the World, written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
8. The Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning, poetry chapbook by Michelle Scalise

Total Books for the Year: 37

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Short Stories & Poetry

Still Life With January” by Sandra Meek (Shuffle) –

“Measure the heart by obsession, and the tablets click
in their plastic sheath like a shaker

of salt, crystals fused to small stones
absent the rice grains that would have held

back the weeping as attendant to southern air”

Tiny Teeth” by Sarah Hans (PsuedoPod) – CW: Horror – “I risk walking to the doctor’s office from my workplace, because it’s only a few blocks, and I think the fresh air will do me some good. I don’t tell anyone I’m going alone, or that I’m walking. I know what they’ll say. Outside without an escort, without the safety of an enclosed vehicle, my heart thrums like a tap dancer’s quick steps.”

Five Scenarios for Three Sisters” by Joanna C. Valente (Rhythm & Bones) –

“Easy to imagine them as horses:
storm jaws eclipse, grass cools on their hinds;
they momentarily forget how to stand.”

The Happiest Place” by Kevin Wabaunsee (PsuedoPod) – CW: Horror – “Everyone knows the edge of the Kingdom of Fun out near the wall is the riskiest place to work. So of course, that’s where they put me on my first day. But it’s OK, I’ve trained for this. I have been thoroughly tested on my knowledge of the rules and th­­e procedures involved. I’m well-equipped to handle a shift in Cartoon Town or the Forests of Delight, or yes, even Magic Mainstreet.”

“Night Work” by Ed Bok Lee (Poetry Foundation) –

“All summer, the city engine’s low
roar capsizes our bodies into sleep,
groans,
evacuation—”

How the Trick is Done” by A.C. Wise (Uncanny Magazine) – “How many people can say they were there the night the trick went wrong and the Magician died on stage?”

This is Not the Dawn: Poetry of Partition, poems by multiple authors (Asian American Writers’ Workshop)

Movies

In the new horror movie, Ready or Not, a woman marrying into a wealthy family is told she must play a game in order to be accepted. The game of choice: hide and seek. What she doesn’t know is that the game involves hunting her down, maiming, and then sacrificing her in a ritual before sunrise. In other words, in-laws are a bitch.

The premise and plot of Ready or Not are pretty straightforward horror fair, but that doesn’t stop the movie from being rather fun. The action unfolds at a quick pace, and the family is bumbling in their attempts to pursue the bride, which lends an air of believability regarding there chance of survival. The story provides makes for a brilliant blend of humor and bloodshed, which is quite entertaining.

Bonus: My friend’s analysis upon the conclusion of the movie: Well, that’s another reason not to get married.

New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Ready or Not (2019)

Television

Other than doing some comfort rewatching of Leverage and Stranger Things, my main watch of the month was the first season of Farscape (available on Amazon Prime). I fell in love with this show when it first aired on the SyFy channel when it was still the SciFi Channel, in part due to its gorgeous use of puppetry and makeup designed and created by the Jim Henson Company and in part due to its storyline.

John Crichton is an astronaut who accidentally gets shot through a wormhole while testing experimental spaceship technology. Lost on the other side of the universe, he finds refuge on a living ship housing a group of escaped prisoners. This show thrives on the relationships between these characters, who must overcome their general distrust of each other in order to survive in the uncharted territories while being relentlessly pursued by Peacekeepers. The group slowly builds deep bonds as they navigate their cultural differences and become a kind of misfit family — and, combined with the brightly colored worlds they explore, it’s so lovely to watch. AK Larson presents a great analysis of season one on Tor.com.

Games

It’s been a big gaming month. I polished off the last little bit of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. While I was a little thrown off by the sudden appearance of zombie-like undead creatures popping up out of the ruins, the storyline ended in fantastic adventure-movie flare — all the explosions and action you could ever ask for. I’m looking forward to returning to the series and playing through the rest of the games.

I also replayed The Last of Us, because I missed the storyline and wanted to experience it all over again. I think this is the fourth time that I’ve played the game — it’s just that good. I tend to treat games in the same way I treat movies and books: if I love the story or experience enough, I’ll return to it over and over again as a kind of comfort, something that makes me happy even though I’ve already experienced it before.

My biggest amount of gaming time, however, was definitely consumed by LEGO Tower on my phone, based on recommendations from Andrea Renee at What’s Good Games. LEGO Tower is a casual game in which you build a tower bit-by-bit, adding a mix residential and business floors to earn money. Mini figures then take up residence in the tower and can be assigned to various businesses (with more money being earned if they’re working at a business they enjoy). You can give your tower personality by changing out the colors and features, as well as dressing the mini-figs in different outfits. There’s no real end goal to this, except to get to a total of 50 floors, at which point you can start the tower over with a shiny gold brick that provides special perks. The casual gameplay makes it perfect to pick up during an idle moment, such as when you’re waiting in line for your coffee. It’s free to play with optional micro-transactions that help to speed up the tower building process (and which I’ve avoided using entirely). I’m having fun with it, and if you’d like to join me, you can add me as a friend with this code: 2FJZX (please comment if you do add me).

Finally, because I was in the mood for some horror I started in on Man of Medan, which is kind of an interactive horror movie, in which the choices you make affect the character’s personalities and determine whether the characters live or die. Since I’ve just started, I’ll hold off on talking about it until next month’s culture consumption.

Podcasts

Switchblade Sisters keeps consistently putting out great episodes. This month, I particularly liked April Wolfe’s discussion with Mary Lambert (director of Pet Semetary) about the horror movie Herditary and / Liza Mandelup (director of Jawline) about the cult classic Heathers.

Scriptnotes putting out a fantastic episode on Writing About Mental Health and Addiction, looking at both how these issues are portrayed on screen and addressing how they may affect the writer in their everyday life.

Writing Excuses is continuing their discussions of worldbuilding, with a look at Writing Imperfect Worlds and Worldbuilding Gender Roles.

The Imaginary Worlds episode on The Booj will make it so you can never watch movie trailers the same way again.

On Annotated, the hosts dive into the creation of Esperanto and how it represented the Dream of a Universal Language.

The Outer Dark presents a panel from WoldCon 76: Petrified Trees, Enchanter Mirrors: The Gothic Universe of Female Maxican Horror Writers.

On The New Yorker Poetry podcast, Natasha Tretheway reads and discusses the work of Charles Wright, as well as reading one of her own poems.


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


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