Hi, lovelies. Coming in a little late this month, here are all the books, movies, and podcasts that I’ve enjoyed.
I am a huge fan of Charlie Jane Anders and the stories she writes. Though I haven’t quite read all of her books, I’ve come close, having read her two speculative fiction novels (All the Birds in the Sky and The City in the Middle of the Night), and have already preordered her forthcoming short story collection, Even Greater Mistakes, and her book of writing advice, Never Say You Can’t Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories. Among the many things I love about her writing is how she shifts her tone and style to best suit the story, while still making it feel entirely her own.
Victories Greater Than Death, her most recent book, represents her first foray into writing for young adults, with a science fiction space adventure. Tina Mains has known for most of her life that she was different. As the clone of a famed alien hero, she has ben disguised as a human and hidden away on Earth. She anxiously awaits the day when the the rescue beacon with
in her chest will activate, calling her back into an interplanetary conflict.
I’m tempted to say that Victories Greater Than Death is like cotton candy, because it feels like such a vibrant creation. For all the danger and destruction faced by Tina and her companions, there’s an underlying sweetness to the way the relationships within this story are built on a foundation of respect and compassion. The crew is presented as a diverse group of humans and aliens (representing a variety of genders and cultural backgrounds), who comes together as a found family.
In addition to the wonderful portrayal of found family, the novel features fast paced and exciting action, along the truly impactful consequences. It’s an excellent read and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
After several months, I’ve finished reading Nox Pareidolia, an anthology of strange tales edited by Robert S. Wilson. The tales in this collection explore perception and what lies just beyond our understanding, ranging from the surreal and unsettling to the outright terrifying. On the whole, I enjoyed the vast majority of the stories presented, with a few of those I particularly loved noted below:
- “When the Nightingale Devours the Stars” by Gwendolyn Kiste is about a small town that helps bring a young woman home after she survives the burning of a death cult. The story is beautiful, unsettling, and oddly hopeful.
- “The Little Drawer Full of Chaos” by Annie Neugebauer is a heartbreaking and terrifying story about how life can suddenly and rapidly slip sideways into disarray and utter destruction.
- “Just Beyond the Shore” by Elizabeth Beechwood is a lovely and strange tale about selkies that explores grief and longing.
- “Lies I Told Myself” by Lynne Jamneck is an epistolary story about people getting lost and seeing strange things in the Paris catacombs
- “Gardening Activities for Couples” by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro was stunning in the way it expresses the complexities and little hostilities present within the central relationship of the story.
- “8×10” by Duane Pesice and Don Webb explores perception and identity, when a photo contest takes on a weird life of its own.
- “Immolation” by Kristi DeMeester is a powerful tale of female power and desire. The opening line reads, “The first lesson my mother taught me was how to wash my hair in the silver of moon-rinsed rainwater so a man may never kneel between my legs for inspection rather than prayer.”
Books Finished This Month:
1. Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders
2. Nox Pareidolia, edited by Robert S. Wilson
Total Books for the Year: 25
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon, The 2021 Rhysling Anthology, edited by Alessandro Manzetti, The Source of Self Regard: Selected Essays, Speaches and Meditations by Toni Morrison, and The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel
Short Stories & Poetry
“Perfidious Beauty” by Eugie Foster (PseudoPod) — “Beauty knelt over the cooling body of her husband, the prince. The elegant clock in the foyer, carved from ebony and teak, struck the midnight hour. The twelve tiny peals: the bells of heaven tolling, or the din of hell birds?”
“The Child Feast of Harridan Sack” by Kaitlyn Zivanovich (PseudoPod) — “I plant a whisper in my daughter’s hair when her shoulders shake and hunch up to her ears. It’s only a story, I say. I turn the page; I’ve resolved her fears. It’s only a story. That is what mothers say to their daughters.”
“Tyrannosaurus Hex” by Sam J. Miller (Uncanny Magazine) — “Well of course we fought it,” Hunter said, raising his voice to be heard in the crowded restaurant patio. “Who the hell wants their kid staring off into space seeing God-knows-what all the time, instead of learning how to live in the real world?”
“Medusa Gets a Haircut” by Theodora Goss (Uncanny Magazine) —
“On the one hand, they had been her friends
for so long, whispering
in her ears, telling her stories,
reciting poems, not just the sorts of things
you would expect, Sappho and Hesiod,
but Auden, Eliot, Yeats—they liked the modernists—
and Sylvia Plath, Adrianne Rich—
they were eclectic in their tastes.
Sometimes they had sung to her,
only a little out of tune.”
“If It Bit You” by Donyae Coles (PseudoPod) — ‘“There’s something wrong with the baby,” Selah said to the doctor, a white woman with cinnamon brown hair that floated untamed around her head in contrast to the white of her doctor’s coat, the sterile everything in it’s place-ness of the office.’
“The Salt Witch” by Martha Wells (Uncanny Magazine) — “Juana thought this was bullshit. She had found the broken sailboat in the south wind and tried to pilot it to Hispaniola, but it wouldn’t go in the right direction. You’d think flying would be the hard part, but no, it was steering. And you’d think witches would be born knowing how to sail boats on the wind toward the Caribbean but no, apparently not, and that was…that was bullshit, was what it was.”
“This Wet Red” by Marisca Pichette (PseudoPod) — “I lie listening to a mouse in the wall. Its tiny feet scrabbling across worn boards; its tiny heart beating and beating and beating.”
I honestly can’t believe that it took me so long to finally watch The Old Guard, considering the fact that stories about cool, kick-ass immortals are my jam. And when you combine the weird little found family dynamics of this group, with exhausted immortal being pathos and killer action sequences — well, you end up with a super fun movie.
My only disappointment with the Black Widow movie is that it took so long to finally get it. The story dredges up a past that Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a. Black Widow) would like to forget, when her sister Yelena Belova escapes brainwashing and reveals that the Red Room (a training program that turns young women into assassins) has been continuing on all this time. Needing help to finally put an end to the Red Room once and for all, the sisters call upon their former parents (actually operatives assigned to act as their parents) for help, making for complex and entertaining familial conflict.
I rather enjoyed the scares presented by The Ritual, with its eerie depictions of the uncanny forest in which four friends find themselves and the fantastic and creepy creature design. But even though it’s a solid horror movie, I ultimately had mixed feelings about the ending, which I dive into more deeply on my Once Weird blog.
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. The Old Guard (2020)
2. Black Widow (2021)
3. Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
4. Soul (2020)
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
6. The Ritual (2017)
7. A Classic Horror Story (2021)
I’m so excited that after almost two years, Slums of Film History is back! Slate and Tom kick the season off with a light and fun episode, exploring the history of beach party movies as exploitation films, which spun off an array of beach party massacre films in response.
Working my way through the Horror Queers archives, I really enjoyed Joe and Trace’s discussing of Creature from the Black Lagoon, which they call a movie of dicks. And Sadie Sellers joins the conversation about Alien 3, in which they unpack the portrayals of nihilism and sexual assault in the movie.
On Imaginary Worlds, Eric Molinsky digs into the show archives to released a special edition of the Harley Quinn episode, with a full-length version of his interview with Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner about their work on the Harley Quinn comic book series
On a past episode of Switchblade Sisters, film critic April Wolfe and Kirsten Johnson (director of Dick Johnson is Dead) discuss the antics of Jackass: The Movie. This conversation is surprising in many ways — most notably in regards to the profoundly moving ways they explore mortality.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?