Culture Consumption: May 2021

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

Books

Murderbot Diaries — Fugitive Telemetry by Martha WellsIt’s difficult to fully express my love for the Martha Wells’ Murderbot series without flailing my arms in the air and shouting its delights at passersby in what could be perceived as a vaguely threatening manner. Fugitive Telemetry, the sixth book in the series, once again puts our beloved, socially awkward Murderbot in the position of having to interact with (horror!) and save humans, when all it wants to do is kickback and watch serials. While this maintains the same wry tone as previous books, it adds an element of detective murder mystery that makes for a fun, intriguing read.

I read two darkly fantastic graphic novels this month — Snow, Glass, Apples and Basketful of Heads. Snow, Glass, Apples is an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman short story of the same name, which retells the story of Snow White with a vampiric twist. In Colleen Doran’s adaptation, the story comes alive in rich, lusciously detailed artwork filled with blood and passion. The story is powerful and creepy and the artwork is so beautiful that I want to just drink it in.

Snow, Glass, Apples, story and words by Neil Gaiman, adaptation and art by Colleen Doran
From Snow, Glass, Apples

In Basketful of Heads,  written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Leomacs, a young woman and her boyfriend are attached. While attempting to defend herself, she somehow manages to cut off the head of her attacker. Much to her horror and surprise, the head remains alive and talking. Carrying the head in a basket, she pursues the attackers in the hopes of rescuing her boyfriend. A brutal, quick, and well told story.

Basketful of Heads, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Leomacs
Fro, Basketful of Heads

Stephen King’s Desperation is a bigger than a brick book that has languished on my shelf, taking up space for more than two decades. I acquired it when I was still in the throws of reading everything Stephen King, a love that is slowly returning (though I’ll never catch up to reading all his books at this point). In this hefty novel, several tourists traveling an isolated highway get gathered up and trapped by a sadistic cop. As they’re violently dragged into town and locked in cells, they have to find a way to work together and survive a situation that grows increasingly strange and deadly.

While this book is certainly long (my arms cramp, just remembering holding it), it gets to the point quickly with a number of quick, vicious, and violent events that draw the reader immediately into the story. And when I say “violent,” I mean graphic blood and gore fitting for the most gruesome of horror novels. Some of the opening sequences were so intense that I had to build time into my evening reading to put the book down, disconnect, and tune into something soothing before going to bed. Overall Desperation is a fast paced horror read, worth the arm workout it will give you.

Books Finished This Month:
1. Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
2. Desperation by Stephen King
3. Basketful of Heads, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Leomacs
4. Snow, Glass, Apples, story and words by Neil Gaiman, adaptation and art by Colleen Doran

Total Books for the Year: 18

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

Short Stories & Poetry

Four Visual Poems by Heather Nagami (Dream Pop)

I dreamed we were married” by J. Freeborn (Dream Pop)

Tara’s Mother’s Skin” by Suzan Palumbo (Pseudopod)— “The heat had been a noose at our throats that day and she was enjoying the late afternoon breeze, a serene expression splayed across her brow. She swayed like a dried banana leaf, twisted and weightless, framed by her doorway as I stood on the cracked earth of her yard talking to her.”

Elicit” by Clifford Parody (Neon) —

“I am the stretch of easement
beneath a stretcher beneath
your broken body, your weight,
and I hate that the last hand you felt
was gloved in blue latex, attached
to a man who detached himself
from the boy who lay bleeding
before him.”

Brightly, Undiminished” by Sarah Grey (Lightspeed) — “Witchcraft is a gift. Imelda would wave her steel spoon at Mercer and insist on this as he measured ingredients for her, whether she was boiling potions or a pot of farfalle pasta. Watch the salt, a teaspoon only, never pour too much. Don’t overheat the sauce. Bottle the hawks’ gizzards separate from the basilisks’.

As if My Flesh was Summer Soil” by Lora Gray (Uncanny Magazine) —

I make the bed as my mother taught me,
smoothing sheets corner to corner, curve to curve,
crisp and white, smelling of bleach
and the flowery sachets
she stuffs into linen closets and cedar chests,
as if she could trick those
cramped and lightless spaces to bloom.

Metal Like Blood in the Dark” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine) — “Once upon a time there was a man who built two enormous machines, and he loved them very much. He called them Brother and Sister and programmed them with intelligences that woke and stretched and tested the limits of their metal bodies. When they did not like those limits, they altered them, nanite scurrying over nanite, tweaking the structure of their steel and carbon bones.”

In The Space of Twelve Minutes” by James Yu (Uncanny Magazine) — “I unpacked my wife’s avatar on a smoggy Beijing morning. She lay naked on the floor of our apartment, her hair fanned out and mingling with the packing peanut afterbirth that had spilled from the box. Not quite the reunion I expected.”

Burn or The Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super” by A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine) — “Sam’s trying not to focus on the things he can’t control. Like the twenty-four people sitting in front of him, watching him impassively. Or that he’s underdressed for his audition. Or that this old community center is impossibly stuffy, with a whiff of sour milk lingering in the air. Or that this might be a terrible idea.”

Television

Based on Leigh Bardugo’s books Shadow and Bone and and Six of Crows, (neither of which I’ve read), the Shadow and Bone TV series is set in a world divided by the Fold, a shadowy scar filled with monstrous creature. When making a disastrous attempt to cross the Fold, it’s discovered that Alina Starkov is a sun summoner, destined to push back the darkness and heal the world. Forced to leave everything behind, she’s taken to the Little Palace to be trained in her powers, and begins to fall for the mysterious Darkling.

Alina Starkov (played by Jessie Mei Li) in Shadow and Bone

Admittedly, this main storyline was the least interesting bit of the show for me. I was far more interested in the Crows — a group of criminals and thieves planning to set off an epic heist. They are all delightfully chaotic with  their own varying moral compasses for what lines they will and will not cross. I loved every moment that they were on screen and would honestly watch a TV series focused on nothing but them. As such, I’m definitely going to have to read the Six of Crows books.

The Crows — Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) — in <i>Shadow and Bone</i>
The Crows — Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) — in Shadow and Bone

I can’t really claim to have “watched” Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace in any serious manner. Essentially, I stumbled across a clip of the series on YouTube and have since proceeded to watch clip after clip after clip for any number of hours. As such, I have only experienced the most dramatic moments without the connecting strings that hold the story together. From what I have parsed together, the dramatic historical series centers on Ruyi, who becomes a royal concubine and navigates the intrigues of the court —which is rife with lies, scandals, and murder — in order to eventually become the Step Empress of China. It’s honestly a delicious amount of drama blended with gorgeous costuming and settings. I may eventually have to watch the entire series, but since it’s something like 80 hours long, I’m not entirely sure when I’ll have time to do so.

Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace
The soon-to-be Qianlong Emperor (Wallace Huo) and Ruyi (Xun Zhou).

Games

Apparently, I like scary games now — which should not really be surprising since I’ve been a lover of horror all my life, and yet still is somehow a surprise for me. I recently completed a play through of Resident Evil: Village, the eighth installment in the Resident Evil franchise. While the majority of the previous games focus almost exclusively on zombies, RE: Village delves into some classic monsters, including werewolves, zombies (among whom is the glamorous Lady Dimitrescu), and other creatures. The story has a fun, B-movie vibe to it, in that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the gameplay is fun and quick-paced with a few genuinely terrifying sections. I enjoyed every second of this game, and if I find the time, I’ll write a more lengthy post on it. If you have any interest in watching me freak out while playing RE: Village, you can check out my Twitch archives.

The lovely, 9-ft-tall Lady Dimitrescu was all that we could have hoped for.
The lovely, 9-ft-tall Lady Dimitrescu was all that we could have hoped for.

Podcasts

Feminist Frequency featured two great episodes that I really enjoyed this month. In the first, the hosts provided a fascinating discussion on the Carrie (1976), revealing how a movie can walk the line of being sexist and feminist depending on how you view it.

The second is a bonus episode featuring Charlie Jane Anders as a guest to discuss her new book Victories Greater Than Death (which I can’t wait to read), as well as her creative writing process.

On Imaginary Worlds, Eric Molinsky looks at how Buddhism has influenced genre books and movies in The Zen of Sci-Fi. He also has a conversation with Andy Weir about his novels The Martian and Project Hail Mary, and the ways in which he weaves hard science into his work.

As I’ve been trying to catch up on past episodes of Horror Queers, I particularly enjoyed the episode discussing Better Watch Out with guest Ariel Fisher. In breaking down the aspects of the movie that works — and those that didn’t — the trio has a powerful conversation on toxic masculinity, consent, and violence against women.

Another series I’m digging through back episodes on is now shuttered Switchblade Sisters. I loved the episode with Jenette Goldstein (actor in Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgement Day), in which they dig into Mandy, a movie that I’d previously felt ambiguous about. It’s amazing how listening to someone express their love for a thing can make you consider it from another angle.


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