Hi, lovelies. I am about to head out on a trip for a week, so I’m doing the rarest of things (as in it’s never happened before ) — I’m turning this round up in early.
So, without further adieu, here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.
Isabel Yap’s Never Have I Ever is a stunning collection of short stories that range from fantastical to terrifying. Calling upon the legends, spells, and tales from the Philippines, these tales are beautiful wrought and emotionally impactful.
In “A Cup of Salt Tears,” a woman encounters a kappa (a creature said to drown people) in a bathhouse. Rather than threatening the woman with death, however, the kappa speaks with her and expresses affection for her — resulting in a gorgeous tale about grief and the price we are willing to pay for love.
“A Spell for Foolish Hearts” presents a version of our world in which magic is real and the people who use it represent a marginalized community. Being both gay and a weilder of witchcraft, Patrick moves to San Francisco in order to be a part of a community that is more accepting of these differences. While working as a marketing designer at a tech company during the week and as a retail worker at a witch shop on the weekend, Patrick meets and falls for a colleague — and what results is the sweetest of love stories.
“Hurricane Heels (We Go Down Dancing)” is a dark retelling of the magical girl trope — think Sailor Moon with extreme violence. Selected as teenagers to save their city from ongoing monster attacks, this group of women have grown into adulthood, with no end in sight to their ongoing battles. Every time they come away damaged, but still somehow pull together and face down the monsters of the world. It’s a powerful story.
And these are just three of the amazing tales in this fantastic collection.
Books Finished This Month:
1. The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition, Vol. 3 by Kazuo Umezz
2. Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap
Total Books for the Year: 5
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Cosmobiological: Stories by Jilly Dreadful, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell, The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater, and The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel
Short Stories & Poetry
“Blancanieves” by Roy Guzmán (Zoetic Press) —
“They dressed her up as one of theirs,
fed her tostones and arroz con habichuelas,
and Blancanieves’s looks, at least momentarily,
vanished behind sweat she collected
from the overtime hours in which she swept
the entire restaurant, threw out endless bags of trash,
did stacks of dishes, and supplemented her income
as a nanny. She drank rum and coke with the seven
men, who were at least a foot shorter than her.”
“blood garden: burial plot” by Anna Binkovitz (SWWIM) —
“i can’t sleep again but can quiet
the kettle as I would a crying child
by picking it up jasmine blooms
in the glass pot blood halo”
“The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter” by Elaine Cuyegkeng (PseudoPod) — “She dreams of death and rebirth on her mother’s table.The smell of antiseptic: chemicals, artificial cherries and other-fruit. The specimen on the table. Herself, slipping a needle under the specimen’s skin to obtain samples for reconstruction. Finally, the disposal of the body while the new one grows inside her crimson egg, kicking her little amphibian feet. Later, a telepathic matrix imparts an (edited) library of the Prodigal’s memories. This reinforces the desired traits, knitted carefully into the genome.”
“Seance” by Donyae Coles (PseudoPod) — “I have not performed since that evening, and even now I do not know if it is merely psychological or if there is some greater, unseen force at play. I cannot tell, nor do I have the means to explore the matter. It is my hope that perhaps penning a recollection of that evening will cure me. I miss the work. It was mine. I miss that small part of myself, and I have so little left to hold on to now.”
“The Smell of Night in the Basement” by Wendy N. Wagner (PseudoPod) — “They said they were vampires. Sometimes I believed them and sometimes I didn’t, but I didn’t really care. I got enough to eat. There was always plenty of drugs and dancing and people to fuck. The screams bothered me sometimes, but not so much I wanted to leave the basement or Luca. Not that he would have let me leave.”
“Atonement” by Paula J. Lambert (Silver Birch Press) —
“Once, I left a bouquet of flowers on the back seat
of my car, forgotten entirely till the next afternoon
when, out of nowhere, I heard myself shout OH!
and then, Ohhhhh, oh no! It was as if my body had
remembered, before my brain did, what was lost.”
“Not the Discarding but the Cleaving” By Christina Olson (SWWIM) —
“When my father finally packs up his spaceship and returns to his home planet,
I wonder what he’ll take with him. The man was never one for nostalgia,
but these days I think he’s chucked it all, every artifact of the first sixty years
he spent on Earth.”
Spider-Man: No Way Home was a delightful experience, exploring the impact of the events of the previous movie and exploring the fallout of the poor choices we make. This movie was fun and did an excellent job of pulling villains and characters from previous versions of Spider-Man in a way that provided both nostalgia and cohesive, fun, and impactful storyline. Well done.
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
I’ve started playing Disco Elysium: The Final Cut, a game in which you play as a detective who wakes after a night of heavy drinking with no memory of who he is or whey he’s there — and in this state, he has to solve a murder in a small town facing poverty, bureaucracy, and a union strike, among other issues.
This is a game unlike anything I’ve played before. As you play, your character’s thoughts are expressed through a variety of personalities and voices. The way in which the narration and dialog plays out is poetic — to the extent that the flow of mood, characterization, and world building is almost overwhelming. It’s powerful, compelling storytelling — and I’m fascinated to see where this story will build.
I’m excited to play more (which will happen after my trip). If you’re interested in watching me play, I’ll be streaming it on Twitch. I also created a YT channel to store previous streams, including my play through of the first few hours.
Although I don’t often mention Scriptnotes, I listen to it each week as soon as it comes out. The podcast is a must-listen to anyone interested in the craft and business of screenwriting. The one in which John August speaks with Mike Schur about his work on The Office, Parks & Recreation, and (my personal favorite) The Good Place is an especially fascinating episode.
Horror Queers hosts Joe and Trace chat with Gabe & Kat from Ghouls Next Door about Darren Aronofsky’s mother! Along the way they dive into the allegorical aspects of the film, providing (me, at least) a new perspective on the project.
On She Plays Games, host Lauren K. spoke with KawiiFoxita about how she uses building in the Sims as a form of creative expression. It’s an interesting look at how games are able
After a long time away, Script Lock released a new episode, in which the hosts speak with Alyssa Wong and Lauren Mee, both working game writers. The episode is delightful to hear these two women squee in excitement over how cool the other one is, but it also includes some fantastic writing insights.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?