Culture Consumption: October 2021

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

Books

The Book of Accidents by Chuck WendigI’ve been following Chuck Wendig’s blog for a long while, and I have loved his wild, cuss-heavy way of discussing writing and the writing life. Now, I’ve finally come around to buying and reading one of his actual books — and I can definitely say I’m a fan.

The Book of Accidents is a richly told horror novel about a family moving to a small town to get away from the violence of the big city — only to quickly experience strange, disturbing events in their new home.  The story draws in a variety of horror tropes — local legends, creepy mines, strange rock formations, ghosts, and others — and yet some how brings all these disparate things into a single cohesive whole. It even uses one of my favorite science fiction tropes, which I won’t mention here, because it’s kind of a spoiler. The short version of all this is that I loved this book and its assortment of characters. I’m looking forwards to reading more from Wendig.

I read two fantastic, but very different poetry collections. The Sign of the Dragon by Mary Soon Lee is a novel in poems, relating an epic fantasy about a young king trying to defend his kingdom against a number of outside forces, both human and terrifyingly dark. King Xau is a wonderfully mythic figure, one of honor, nobility, and subtle magic  — reminding me of some of the things I love about Arthurian legend from a fictional Chinese perspective. I really loved this tale, which completely captured me with its beautifully clean lines of poetry. I’ve recorded an interview with Lee for the New Books in Poetry podcast, which I hope to edit and have out soon.

Another great collection was Amelia Gorman’s Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota, a gorgeous chapbook that pairs botanical illustrations with poems exploring ecological dangers and human nature. Highly recommended.

I also enjoyed another Junji Ito manga. Sensor is about cults and ancient beings hidden in the depths of the universe, one of which is extremely terrifying. Like most of Ito’s writing, Sensor features terrifying cosmic events and gorgeous artwork. Unlike his other work, it has an almost hopeful ending, which I rather enjoyed.

Books Finished This Month:
1. Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota by Amelia Gorman
2. The Sign of the Dragon by Mary Soon Lee
3. Sensor by Junji Ito
4. The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Total Books for the Year: 34

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Little Weirds by Jenny Slate and The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel

Short Stories & Poetry

Femme and Sundance” by Christopher Caldwell (Uncanny Magazine)  — “I was 19 when I met Tommy. A day and a bit into a two-day Greyhound trip from bumfuck, Nevada to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Going to meet some trick from the internet. Thought it was true love.”

What the Time Travellers Stole” by L.X. Beckett (Uncanny Magazine) —

“It was a knife, that first time we noticed, the old one that fitted
so well to my hand. These things happen, you said, thinking it merely lost.
I worried the landlord’s kid broke in, took it for kicks.”

Domesticated Animals” by Emma Bolden (Bear Review) —

“Perhaps what I have been wanting is after all
a great stirring, the feeling of being moved if not

the movement a tree carries its trunk, stubbornly
ringing each year as if it were a luck, like any thing

that surprises you: a penny on a walk, a mouthful
of feathers, a fistful of song.”

Symbiosis” by Michelle Menting (SWWIM) —

“We all doubt the real magic of this world.
For so long I questioned the insistence of beauty
in planted peonies, why so many maintain it’s there.

How some might see a flower so wondrous of pink
and puce or heart-blossomed red, and I’d repulse,
reject those petals of tottering globes as full baubles”

Movies

I’m a huge fan of Dune. I’ve read the book multiple times and have watched nearly every version of movie or TV adaptation (of which, there are not a lot, but still). When I learned that Denis Villeneuve (director of one of my favorite scifi films, Arrival) would be doing a new adaptation, I was cautiously thrilled.

Short version is I loved it. The movie hit all the right marks for me (and I’ll probably write more on this later). Though, I will warn you that this is only Part I of the story, with the second half to come hopefully soon.

DUNE
Dune (2021).

I’m not entirely sure how to talk about A24’s Lamb. I kind of loved it, and I also kind of didn’t. My feelings are weird and complicated — and that’s perhaps because this was a weird and complicated film. In the story, a wife and husband work as farmers in the isolated Icelandic countryside. When one of their sheep gives birth to a strange, hybrid sheep creature, they bring it into their home and raise it as their own child. This is a quiet movie, using sound and beautiful cinematic imagery of the mountains and the family’s work to evoke a sense of surreal beauty and eerie isolation.

One of the challenges for me in watching Lamb is that the experience of the movie was misaligned with what I expected from the trailer, which portrayed the film as an intense thriller, if not horror movie. While there were some unsettling moments, the movie felt more like folk lore or magical realism than horror — at least until the last ten minutes, when there was a sudden shift that didn’t quite feel fully connected to the rest of the movie. I would love to know what others thought about this one.

A woman sits in front of a lamb wearing a flower crown. A24 Lamb
Lamb (2021).

New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. No Time to Die (2021)
2. Venom (2018)
3. Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed (2021)
4. A Star is Born (2018)
5. Dune (2021)
6. Halloween Kills (2021)
7. Free Guy (2021)
8. Lamb (2021)

Television

After fracturing both of my elbows last month (I’m healing well, by the way), I had a few days in which I could do little but sit and watch television all day. Rather than pulling up some old favorites, I dug up something I’ve been meaning to watch for a while. High Score is a Netflix documentary miniseries that explores the history of video games and their development — from Atari to the rise of Nintendo to the present day. It’s an excellent introduction to the history of games, utilizing interviews, film, and digital animation to illustration the points being discussed. I especially liked that this doc made an effort at including diverse perspectives, including women, POC, and other marginalized voices.

Another Netflix documentary series (all of season two and some of season one) I watched during my recovery was Abstract. Each episode highlights the perspective of different designers, from artists to toy makers to those who create environmental architecture. It’s fascinating to see how each designer approaches their own process, and I like that a number of the creators emphasize the importance of collaboration and teams in their work.

I’ve also dipped my toes into Squid Game, having watched the first two episodes. I’m currently watching it alongside my roommate, so progress is dependent on both of our schedules aligning.

Games

For spooky season, I jumped into Layers of Fear, an indie horror game in which the player explores a family home to gather materials for their master art piece and uncover the truth behind the dark events that occurred there. The story and game is psychological in its design, as the house twists and bends back on itself in impossible ways, reflecting the way the mind often does the same. Less focused on jump scares than on mood, this is fantastic piece of storytelling and gameplay, with the art, exploration, sound design, and script all building on each other to create an immersive experience.

Layers of Fear
Layers of Fear.

Podcasts

My podcast listening dropped quite a bit last month. As always, I’ve been keeping up with What’s Good Games and Scriptnotes.

I also discovered one new-to-me podcast, Script Lock, which focuses on storytelling in video games. I listened to a fantastic interview with Leslee Sullivan and Cassandra Khaw about their careers as writers in the games industry.


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

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