Culture Consumption: February 2021

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

Books

Network Effect-Murderbot diaries by Martha Wells

I bought Network Effect, the latest book in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries, a while back and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since. When I picked it up this month, however, I realized that I really wanted to reconnect with the original novellas that made me fall in love with the character. So, one by one I ordered and reread each book in the series (in ebook format, because I wasn’t willing to wait) — discovering nuances to the characters I hadn’t noticed the first time around and falling in love all over again.

Network Effect is a beautiful, action packed addition, bringing back beloved characters and introducing new ones. Murderbot (aka Sec Unit) is hired on to protect the crew of a research mission. As the group is heading home after a dangerous encounter on another planet, they are suddenly attacked by a strange ship and dragged through a wormhole. Murderbot is once again faced with trying to keep it’s humans safe against insurmountable odds.

One of the things that strikes me about each of these books is the level of humanity that they bring. Though the story features threats from evil corporations and the danger of death, the focus is on a a variety of characters (both human and otherwise) who are flawed and imperfect, but nevertheless care and love each other, offering compassion and understanding for each other’s differences. They’re smart and work together to work through the dangers they all face. It’s the kind of story that gives me hope for humanity and for what we can achieve if we try to really see and understand each other.

Honestly, these books have been providing the same level of comfort as rewatching some of my favorite TV shows. Even after finishing each of the books, I’ve returned multiple times to my favorite scenes.

As I was finishing the book, I was delighted to discover that the sixth book in the series, Fugitive Telemetry, will be out in April. I immediately preordered the book and I can’t wait to read it. (I may or may not do a second reread of each of these books before reading the sixth.)

Books Finished This Month:
1. All Systems Red by Martha Wells
2. Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
3. Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
4. Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
5. Network Effect by Martha Wells

Total Books for the Year: 9

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Nox Pareidolia, edited by Robert S. Wilson, The Octopus Museum by Brenda Shaughnessy, and The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel

Short Stories & Poetry

Alchemy” by Trivarna Hariharan (Rogue Agent) —

“So when I arose in
a necklace of

blue-green algae,
no one recognized me

save for the ghosts
I had refused to become.”

Eve’s Choice” by Joanna C. Valente (Bedfellows Magazine) —

“i want the apple
i don’t want the apple

there is fruit they tell me
the fruit is meant to be eaten

I do what I’m told because
I do what I’m told”

Overseas” by Abdulbaseet Yusuff (Up the Staircase) —

“I think of seas, & I think of flesh. Sometimes, fish.
Sometimes, man.”

Movies

I still haven’t dived into any new-to-me movies, which is rather odd for me. I think a part of what’s going on is a continued need for comfort, so I find myself rewatching old beloved movies or shows instead.

Television

My roommate and I tuned into Bling Empire on Netflix. Inspired by the concepts behind the movie and book Crazy Rich Asians, the reality TV show presents a cast of wealthy (and one not-so-wealthy) Asians living in the LA area. The show seems to be echoing others of a similar vein (i.e., Real House Wives), and yet it has a softer tone. There’s plenty of drama here and there, but the overall sense of cattiness is less intense, allowing more room for kindness and forgiveness.

Games

I touched upon The Last of Us Part II for a few hours (which I live streamed). I enjoyed jumping back in and I’m eager to finish this game, but am finding it difficult to find much space for playing games (or enjoying new media in general) at the moment.

Podcasts

The Writing Excuses podcast is continuing its series on the business side of writing. I really enjoyed their “Building Your Brand” episode, which provided some new perspectives on branding, especially since it’s a concept that feels weird to me as a writer. However, they pointed out that branding for writers really has to do with how we portray and sell our writing, so that readers know what they’re getting when they tune in. For example, it might not be a great idea to brand oneself to a single series, as it may cause readers to only be interested in works related to that series.

I also thought “Pros and Contracts” was incredibly helpful, offering insights into the kinds of things that are standard and those to look out for in publishing contracts.

Imaginary Worlds has been absolutely stellar this month. “Betty Boop and the Hayes Code” looks at the cultural impact of Betty Boop as a character and how some of the themes in her early animations are still relevant today.

Meanwhile, “This Ain’t No Fairy Tale” talks about the brothers Grimm and the myths that have built up around their process for researching and writing fairy tales.

I’ve been digging back into my backlog of Horror Queers episodes and pulled up Joe and Trace’s discussion of Showgirls with Nay Beaver. This episode is fantastic on several levels, providing not only an overview of how the movie was made and how it came to crash and burn, but also looking at which aspects of the movies are actually really great and which are problematic. It’s a wonderfully nuanced and thoughtful discussion.


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


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