Culture Consumption: May 2020

Hi, lovelies. Coming in rather late this month, because I’ve been rather overwhelmed. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

house of whispers by nalo hopkinsonNeil Gaiman’s The Sandman is one of my all-time favorite comic book series. When I learned that the characters would live on through stories told by different authors, I was both excited and wary. However, with Nalo Hopkinson (who is known for putting a Carribean spin on fantasy and horror), I knew the story would be in good hands. Her take, The House of Whispers is phenomenal, with gorgeous illustrations by DOMO.

When the Dreaming begins to be disturbed by unusual occurrences, it unleashes strange affects upon the worlds — releasing a strange magical pandemic that makes people to believe they are already dead and causing  Erzulie, a deity of voodoo mythology, to crash into the Dreaming. I love all of the characters, all the additions to the world building. I fully appreciate this new perspective. I’ve only read volume one, but I haven’t been this excited about a comic series in a long time. I can’t wait to dive into more.

Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching is the story of the Silver family and their house in Dover, England, which has converted to a bed-and-breakfast. The house, however, has a will of its own — and though it loves the women of the family, it has a malice for strangers.

The youngest daughter, Miranda Silver, developed a pica as a child, an eating disorder that causes her to consume non-edible substances, such as chalk and plaster. After experiencing an intense episode as a teenager, she returns home after a period in the hospital, hopeful of pulling her life together.

Oyeyemi tells the story from multiple points of view, with writing style is rich and lyrical, evoking complex emotional structures of family and home.

Christina Sng’s collection of poetry, A Collection of Dreamscapes, blends dark fantasy, science fiction, and horror, examining the many-faceted aspects of women, from their hopeful dreams to their shadow selves. These lyrical poems offer tale of “women who hide behind the taste of poisoned apples, who set themselves on fire, who weep at riverbanks, the taste of freedom too much to swallow, too heavy to bear.” 

When I learned that a new Dune movie was in the works, I was immediately drawn to rereading one of my favorite books. I’ve read Frank Herbert’s Dune four or five times over the years, and I still love it every time.

Books Read Last Month:
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. A Collection of Dreamscapes by Christina Sng
3. House of Whispers, Vol 1: The Power Divided, written by Nalo Hopkinson, art by Dominike “DOMO” Stanton
4. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Total Books for the Year: 22

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: From the Standard Cyclopedia of Recipes: Adapted Poems by B.C. Edwards and Children of Lovecraft edited by Ellen Datlow

Short Stories & Poetry

Solitary Goose by R.B. Lemburg —

“A wise person once told me
A cure is erasure but healing is growth —
a wise person in my own story, in my own land
to which I will one day be borne
on these winds, but I would like to stay here
for a while yet, and tell you this story.”

Two Poems by Steven Dawson (Hobart Pulp) —

“Mom says Brian doesn’t have a heart
worth scorning, says heroin slipped him
quick through the family’s tourniquet.”

secrets from a telepath by Ashley Bao (Strange Horizons) —

“no one loves a mind-reader,
not one who delights in secrets”

What Witches Be (and two other poems) by Sarah Nichols (Yes, Poetry) —

“We dance as if our ancestors’ bodies
were on fire.

we are the
secret art,

haunted women,
violent,”

American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrence Hayes (The Slowdown) –

“You don’t seem to want it, but you wanted it.
You don’t seem to want it, but you won’t admit it.”

Movies

Everyone probably figured this out long before I did, but Knives Out was a phenomenal, classic take on the mystery story. When a wealthy novelists dies of apparent suicide, a master detective is called in to determine the truth. The movie is witty and fantastically fun.

Knives Out mystery movie

I also rewatched Horror Noire, a fantastic documentary (which is currently streaming for free on Shudder) on the history of Black horror, from the racism presented in early films to the ways in which new directors are reimagining the genre.

New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Knives Out (2019)
2. Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers (2018)

Television

I was utterly captivated by both season one and two of Hellier, a paranormal documentary series. Unlike many other paranormal shows that are episodic in nature (showcasing a ghost or monster of the week), Hellier focuses on a several years-long investigation that begins with a strange case of Kentucky goblins and leads to a greater expansive discussion of synchronicity, the Mothman, and other strange phenomena.

Hellier TV series

With all the out-there concepts and theories that get presented in this show, what grounds the documentary is the focus on long-term research. It’s fascinating to watch these folks dig and dig and dig in to the strange events and coincidences, hitting dead end after dead end — only to then discover some new evidence that keeps them digging. It’s a strange journey and I loved it. If a season three rolls around, I’ll be rewatching the first two seasons in preparation.

Hellier TV series

Games

I played several amazing games in May — two of which provided wonderful emotionally powerful experiences.

Journey is a stunning indie adventure game, in which you play as a cloaked figure wandering through an expansive desert. As you explore, you uncover the hidden past of these lands. The design, colors, music, gameplay, and subtly crafted story all create a profound sense of wonder and a surprisingly moving experience. This meditative journey had me crying by the end — and feeling relaxed and grateful for the experience. (If you want to  share the journey, you can checking out the video of my stream).

Journey - video game

Another amazing game is What Remains of Edith Finch. In this emotionally charged experience (full review), a young woman returns to her family home with the hope of learning the truth behind the secrets and mysteries of the people who lived there. The Finches are either terribly unlucky or cursed, with so many family members meet strange and untimely deaths. One of the powerful things about Edith Finch is the way it uses gameplay mechanics to align with each character’s story, making for more impactful revelations — a number of which brought me to tears. This is storytelling at it’s finest, and I highly recommend it. (You can also watch me cry over this one on my stream.)

what remains of edith finch

Outlanders is a mobile game available through Apple Arcade (full review), in which the player acts as the leader of a small community, building homes , and establishing resources in order to meet certain goals. This game was simultaneously the most relaxing and stressful one I’ve played in a long while. The music, sounds, and setting are all soothing, however, the community abides on a constant presence of possible doom. My favorite challenge involved creating a ritualistic Wickerbread Man as part a mysterious festival.

Outlanders - mobile video game

The one game I ended up hating was Forge of Empires. I was drawn to it based on the idea that it might be similar to Outlanders in the sense that it involves building a civilization. While game does involve civilization building, it’s not particularly pretty and has so many complicated layers designed specifically to get the player to invest money to keep things growing. I confess that I spent money on this game — but regardless of that fact, I found myself so frustrated and angry with the whole design and experience, I deleted the game. Such a relief. I do not recommend.

Podcasts

My podcast listening dropped significantly in May. I listened to most of the episodes of What’s Good Games, my favorite video game podcast.

I also fit in an episode of Switchblade Sisters, in which April Wolfe and Kestrin Pantera (director of Mother’s Little Helpers) discuss the best Star Trek movie (but not really), Galaxy Quest.


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


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