About halfway through the month, the impact of the novel corona virus became clear, with the Bay Area counties where I live issuing a shelter-in-place order in order to limit the virus’ spread. Everyone I know has been impacted by this. For me, personally, this has meant that I’ve been working from home — with a change in how I interact with media. My reading and podcast listening was down last month, movie watching and gaming was up.
I only completed one book during the month of March — Gwendolyn Kiste’s novella Pretty Marys All in a Row. Each night Resurrection Mary wanders a lonely highway, waiting for a driver to come by and pick her up. Once inside the car, she starts the scares and prepares to feed on their fear. When morning comes she returns home to the other Marys, other urban legends who fill the night with terror — Bloody Mary, Mary Mack, Mari Lwyd, and Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary.
As a family bound together in their ghostly state and need to feed, they gather together and share the scares of the night, supporting each other when the scares are few. But when the scares grow further and further apart, they will have to fight for their own deathly existence.
I loved the idea of bringing together these embodiments of urban legends. They each have their own strong personalities and have created their own powerful bonds with the few people who believe in them. In general, I just love seeing women come together as friends and family, women who stand up and fight for their place and bodies and rights to exist in the world. A fun, quick, smart read.
In other reads, I had been working on White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, which is a complex beautifully written book. However, with the sheltering at home thing and everything else going on, my head has not been in the right space to focus on this story. I would pick it up, read a page and then put it back down again.
Sometimes it’s important to recognize where your head as at and adjust your expectations accordingly. So, I have put White is for Witching down for the time being (I’ll definitely come back to it later) and have moved on to a somewhat less heady book.
I’m currently reading Shutter by Courtney Alameda, a fun YA horror about teenagers battling ghosts and other evils. It’s light, pager turnery reading, making reading a fun escape — just what I need at the moment.
Books Read Last Month:
1. Pretty Marys All in a Row by Gwendolyn Kiste
Total Books for the Year: 16
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, Shutter by Courtney Alameda, From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes: Adapted Poems by B.C. Edwards, and Children of Lovecraft edited by Ellen Datlow
Short Stories & Poetry
“In the dream, Love Interest from years ago becomes physically ill after hooking up w/ me” by Chelsea Margaret Bodnar (Dream Pop Press) —
“I am less poison, more the coffee spoon dripping into sugar
bowl, I’m that kind of bad for you, minor stuff
& carelessness. Discolored clot not hurting anyone.”
Five Poems by Lauren Burgess (Dream Pop Press) —
“This is built like a human but keeping going I animal further, two beasts one body. Hunching and splitting cans of food. Bribing myself with helpings of sleep and new places to do it”
(Honestly, all of Dream Pop Press Issue 9 is fantastic.)
‘Ars (عرص) Poetica by Hazem Fahmy (Asian American Writers Workshop) —
“Let us assume Marx was an incomplete
man: a half-spilled bottle of ink. In this way,
we liberate the mouth, summon back
a voice that has made a home out of rust:”
“The Peace of Wild Things” Wendell Berry (On Being) —
“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.”
“So You Want to Be a Honeypot” by Kelly Robson (Uncanny Magazine) — “When she was a girl, Vasilisa wanted to be a sniper. She’d grown up listening to tales of the valiant Stalingrad sharpshooters who had bolstered the city’s resistance to the German invasion in the Second World War. She enlisted in the army as soon as she was old enough, and trained hard with her rifle, but when she applied for specialty training, that career track was closed. Instead, she was recruited for a new program.”
“A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William Stafford (Poetry) —
“For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.”
“Tend to Me” by Kristina Ten (LightSpeed) — “Nora is a serial becomer. She has become many things in her life, though rarely on purpose. The first time, it just sort of happened. The second time, it was a coincidence. Now, it is a habit she cannot seem to break.”
“Spring” by Rebecca Rainof (The Slowdown) —
“We broke so many glasses that spring,
fingers made slippery with grief.
The cheap ones cracked into cosmic array,
made cuts too small to see.”
“Premonition” by Andrea Hollander (The Slowdown) —
“Dusk, and the trees barely visible
on either side of the two-lane,
west through the Rockies
in our secondhand Rambler
that growled through the landscape
like some hulking animal.”
“The Tunnel Ahead” by Alice Glasser (Pseudopod) — “The floor of the topolino was full of sand. There was sand in Toni’s undershorts, too, and damp sand rubbing between his toes. Damn it, he thought, here they build you six-lane highways right on down to the ocean, a giant three-hundred car turntable to keep traffic moving over the beach, efficiency and organization and mechanization and cooperation and what does it get you? Sand.”
I’ve seen a lot of movies over the past month — some were interesting, some bland, some terrible, some just strange. I’m not going to talk about all of them. In fact, I’m only going to talk about one. However, I wrote about some of the horror movies on my Instagram and I’m happy to share my thoughts on any of the others, if you drop a question in the comments.
Emma. is a fascinating adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, directed by Autumn de Wilde. The movie has a very clear visual style and tone, going for a biting sense of humor more than romance. As in the book, the story revolves around Emma Woodhouse, a young woman from a wealthy family who is the social center of her small community. After her governess marries (at Emma’s devising, or so she believes), Emma believes herself a gifted matchmaker and sets out to help her friends along the way to disastrous results.
As a long-time fan of Jane Austen, I enjoyed this movie, for the most part. In principle, I’m more than happy to see an adaptation that matches Austen’s ability to be wickedly biting in her sense of humor. The style was gorgeous and the acting was great throughout. Emma is sassy and sharp tongued, which is delightful. And it contains some of my favorite representations of the innocent and naive Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) and the chatty Miss Bates (Miranda Hart). — and the romance between Miss Smith and Robert Martin was charming.
The weak point, for me, was the romance between Emma and Mr. Knightly, which didn’t really feel deeply connected or passionate to me. Nevertheless, it’s still a fascinating adaptation, and I admire the ambition of the director.
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Emma. (2020)
2. The Last Airbender (2010)
3. Frozen II (2019)
4. The Other Women (2014)
5. Baywatch (2017)
6. The Perfection (2018)
7. Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
8. Uncut Gems (2019)
9. Under the Skin (2013)
10. Rocketman (2019)
11. The Wizard of Lies (2017)
I finished Avatar: The Last Airbender and MY GOD it’s so good. The entire series is a masterpiece work of storytelling, mixing epic martial arts, emotional weight, found families, and delightful humor. It’s astounding from beginning to ends.
Although my favorites storyline was definitely that of Zuko, who redeemed himself over the course of the show, battling his own inner demons, the expectations of his family, and the demands of honor to get to a place where he really understands himself and begins doing the right thing. This redemption is carefully eeked out over the course of the series, showing his humanity from the start. Even when he was the main villain in the first season, the connection with his Uncle Iroh and the humorous moments provided depth to his character and signs of his future potential. This show is phenomenal.
I’ver started streaming some of my gameplay on Twitch, starting with Fallout 4, a post-apocalyptic RPG action game. Fallout is my favorite game series and I’ve playing all of the games now (except for 76). I’d been wanting to play Falloy 4 for years, and am so glad to be jumping back into the world.
In the story, you either play the husband or wife of a family before the war. You sign up to have access to a fallout shelter, just in case the worse happens, and it’s a good thing you did — because the worse does happen. Atomic bombs start to fall and you are able to escape into the shelter and survive, though not in the way you expected. Turns out the shelter was actually a secret experiment, designed to test the effects of cryogenics on human bodies. You wake hundreds of years in the future, with your husband dead and your child missing. You now have to begin the search for your son, while contending with an apocalyptic world. But at least you get a new doggo friend.
I’ve only just started diving into the wasteland, and thus far I’ve met other survivors and have begun the search for my son, learning that a secret organization called the Institute is responsible. Anyway, the gameplay feels much like it always did, with a lot of exploration and a lot of shooting. Some of the trading, inventory management, and guns and armor functionalities are different than what I’m used to — but it’s still Fallout, the game I love.
The main difference between Fallout 4 and previous versions that I’ve played before it the ability to craft is much more complex — in particular, settlements can be fully customized and constructed with as much simplicity and complexity as you’d like. As settlers come in, you can also assign them to jobs and beds, making for a thriving community. I’m not sure how much I’m going to play around with this — although I’ve been looking at videos of the elaborate settlements that others have done and I’m fascinated by the idea of it.
I also played a couple of demos for forthcoming games — both of which I’m a little behind talking about considering the full games have started hitting the world.
The first was the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo. I was curious to play this one because I loved the original game when it first came out. I even tried to replay the original in recent years, but the constant grinding and repetitive music scores (as much as I love the nostalgia they evoke) kept me from finishing.
However, the remake promises some new gameplay — crossing the turn-based style with live action fighting — which I was definitely curious about. As soon as I started playing the demo, i was in love. The character designs and world details are gorgeous. The voice acting is fantastic. And the gameplay is ridiculously fun. I honestly can’t wait to play the full game.
Next up was the Resident Evil 3: Racoon City demo — another remake, which expands on the previous storyline. Prior to the RE2 Remake, I had never played a Resident Evil game, assuming they would be to frightening for me to get through. However, RE2 proved me wrong, and the game actually turned out to be oddly soothing to me. The frights in the game manageable compared to the anxiety I had been feeling at the time.
The demo for Resident Evil 3 was quite fun, with plenty of scares — including me screaming quite loudly when Nemesis appeared (as you can see in the video below). I didn’t get to explore the world much in the demo, since I stumbled on the solution rather quickly. Nevertheless, I had some great fun playing and I’m definitely thinking of picking up the full length game.
On my phone, I was longing for an interior design game and so downloaded, Design Home — a game I both enjoy and am incredibly frustrated by. The ability to come up with a number of unique interior designs is great. However, you’re restricted to working on “challenges,” most of which require that you purchase new furniture or decorations with the in-game money (either “cash” or diamonds”) — but the game makes it extremely difficult to earn such in-game currencies. This limits your ability to interact with the game, unless of course you want to spend some of your real-world money in order to advance. I’ve been avoiding doing that, but that usually means that I have to wait hours, sometimes a whole day in order to design and submit a new room. I wish they had designed the game less as a money grab and more as a game. And yet, as frustrating as it is, I’m still playing. So, maybe the joke’s on me.
My podcast listening has dropped to almost zero, since I do most of my podcast listening during my commute — so no commute, not time for podcasts. Although, I’ve been able to keep up with What’s Good Games each week by going on runs. I don’t usually highlight individual episodes from these ladies, because they’re news shows and can loose their relevance after a couple of weeks. However, if you’re interested in the gaming world, What’s Good Games is consistently great.
Some of the episodes I loved before the shelter-in-place order came down were:
The Switchblade Sisters episode in which April Wolfe discusses Kill Bill with Raelle Tucker, showrunner of Sacred Lies, represents one of the best examples I’ve seen of how one can love a think while still being critical of it and how it was made. I also really enjoyed the episodes on Willow and Mad Max: Fury Road.
In honor of Women in Horror Month, Double A Horror Highway put together an excellent episode on Alice Guy-Blanché — not only the world’s first horror director, but among the first filmmakers ever. She was an innovator in the film genre as it was just getting started, designing a number of FX techniques that were used by others.
Writing Excuses is consistently excellent. Last month, I particularly enjoyed Choose Your Own Adventurous Publishing Path.
Book Riot put out their Book Nerd Movie Club episode in which they dive into the novel and movie: Jurassic Park. A fun breakdown of the merits of both, reflecting my own love for the story.
What have you been consuming recently?