Culture Consumption: May & June 2022

Hi, lovelies. Once again, I’ve let the task slip by me (mostly because of the amount of creative work I’ve been doing), so I’m blending once again two months together. This time, I’m keeping everything in one place, regardless of the length. So…, this is going to be a long post.

Without further adieu, here are my two months in books, movies, television, and games.

Books

The City We Became is another masterpiece from N.K. Jemisin. I love the concept, in which the city of New York changes a group of ordinary humans into avatars for its various boroughs (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island) in order to combat a great and ancient enemy that would destroy it.

I’ve never been to New York, but I could feel the love Jemisin has for the city in every line and description. I’ve never longed to live in New York more than after reading this book. I cannot freaking wait for the sequel.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher is a gorgeous dark fantasy about Marra, a shy princess turned nun, who begins a quest to save her sister from her abusive husband, a man protected from retribution by his status as a prince. The story begins with Marra in a desolate region attempting an impossible task, which she accomplishes through sheer perseverance. This done, she begins gathering companions to accomplish the final impossible task — murdering a prince.

I’m in love with this book and its assemblage of wonderfully quirky characters, from grave witches to former soldiers to bone dogs to fairy godmothers. Somehow they bring a light to what otherwise would be a grimly dark tale — which is really a testament to Kingfisher’s phenomenal skill as a writer.

Gwendolyn Kiste is a fantastic horror writer and her latest book, Reluctant Immortals, is another fantastic entry. The book a beautifully creepy sequel to Dracula and Jane Eyre, telling the stories of two forgotten women. Set in the ’60s, Lucy Westenra (turned vampire) and Bertha Mason (turned immortal by Rochester via some other arcane means). Facing eternity while fighting off the men who changed them, the two women band together in sisterhood to take a stand for themselves against the dark. A great read.

And finally, there’s Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica (translated from Spanish by Sarah Moses). – Oooh, boy. I picked up this book because it has ended up on a number of lists for horror and most disturbing reads — and man, they were not kidding. Trigger warnings on this one for cannibalism, graphic violence, and r*pe (and possibly more, but those were the ones that stood out for me).

Set in a future in which animal meat has become unsafe to eat, so humanity takes steps to make it legal to consume human flesh, known as “special meat.” As Marcos goes through his ordinary life managing a meat processing plant, we are introduced to the horrors of this world. As much as he wishes the world and his life was different, he feels powerless to change it.

What makes this book so horrifying and disturbing is not the violence in itself, but the way in which it has been so normalized by society that people barely even flinch at the concept. This has been achieved by changing the language around the issue, softening it to make it more palatable. The writing style is matter of fact, and as such, powerful (an effect brilliantly achieved by both the author and her translator).

Without giving away any specific details, the way this book turns out is incredibly bleak — and ultimately made the experience of reading it brutal. I’m not even sure how to feel about this book, really. On the one hand, I respect the writing and what the story is trying to achieve. On the other hand, I can’t really say that I enjoyed the journey.

In this way, it reminds me of reading George Miller’s 1984, which left me angry when I finished it. being also satirical in nature, Tender is the Flesh similarly has no intention of leaving you with good feelings by the end.

Considering how disturbing this book, I’m not sure that I can recommend this book to anyone in good faith. Is it worth reading? Yes, but you’re probably not going to be happy about it afterwards.

Books Finished This Month:
1. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
2. Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste
3. Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
4. Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner
5. Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

Total Books for the Year: 18

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, Upon a Once Time (anthology), The 2022 Rhysling Anthology edited by F. J. Bergmann and Brian U. Garrison, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell, and The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel

Short Stories & Poetry

No One Really Lives Alone” by Lesley Hart Gunn (PseudoPod) — “When the priest comes to your house to vanquish your demons, draped in ancient symbols with pockets of holy water oozing from her like sap, don’t ask who sent her. She’ll mark your doorstep with a small crucifix that she draws in the air with a careful and deliberate flourish, and you won’t be able to stop yourself from staring at the indiscernible thing hanging above your door long after she steps over the place where you used to keep a welcome mat.”

At the Center for Imaging” by Kiyoko Reidy (SWWIM) —

“Stinging nettle mashed or dried, dandelion
leaves with their bitter milk—steep in tea,
add to salad, or prayer. In the waiting room,

all the women are pregnant, and I am
jealous. One moth clings to a lit
bulb, its feet burning with light,”

Two Poems by Beth Bachmann (Granta) —

“You can melt a golden birdcage down into a golden bird:
you can melt a gun into a new gun or many guns into a tool

for the garden or the scaffolding of a house. We thought if
we covered the birdcage with one sheet, the bird would not

repeat what we did on the other. Under the skin, our skeletons
are braided with tendons – roses on an openwork arch”

Road to Labelle, FLA” by Beth Gordon (SWWIM) —

“There is no mortician or used car dealer in the town
where they tested the bomb. No place to bury bodies
without disturbing nuclear dust, Oppenheimer dead
from multiple cellular mutations. We move out of desert”

is time is queer/and memory is trans/and my hands…” by Raquel Salas Rivera (Poetry Foundation) —

“there are ways to hold pain like night follows day
not knowing how tomorrow went down.

it hurts like never when the always is now,
the now that time won’t allow.”

Windswept” by Alexis DuBon (Apex Magazine) — “We plant our feet on the beach, facing the tide. Shallow waters kiss our toes and muddy sand cradles our heels. Frenzied seafoam whips itself into meringue peaks as the wind picks up. The sun sinks to the horizon, drowning in the sea. The last storm has arrived.”

Game Lands” by Lis Moberly (elsewhere magazine) —

“I disembowel a deer in the yard. You watch through the kitchen window. She hangs by her hind legs, her nose pokes the lawn.”

The Four Queens” by James Frierson (Dear Diary Coffee) — “Seeing that you have offered me gin, and are lending your ear thusly, I shall entertain you. But know that I do not require your judgment, nor do I seek theorizing of any sort, for I assure you that I have heard it all. I have made peace with what happened so far as a man can with a phenomena that exists outside the realm of possibility.”

Run-Away Bride — Or the Mermaid’s Lament” by LindaAnn LoSchiavo (The Poet Magazine) —

“Her human limbs are pale, not powerful

Like mermaids’ tails. They can’t kick hard enough,

Return Bree to the deep blue beautiful

Realm underwater, force that made her tough.”

Movies

I watched only two movies over the last couple of months. Ghostbusters: Afterlife was entertaining, with a heavy dose of nostalgia. I liked the kids and how they dug into the past to gather the tools they needed to fight off the apocalypse. It was fun.

The other I didn’t really care about enough to say anything about.

New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
2. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Television

I’m in love with Stranger Things 4 (and since I’m coming in late on this post, I’m referring to both Part I and 2, even though 2 came out in July). My experience with the series has been that season 1 was nearly perfect, while the subsequent seasons dropping in quality — however, 4 has kicked things back into immense gear. The way this season is written, filmed, and edited is just so smart, particularly the transitions, which are *chef’s kiss*.

What I particularly like about this season is how they’ve grown the characters and their relationships with each other, showing the complexities of growing up and how things get more complicated along the way. In particular, there’s Max dealing with the trauma of past events, El trying to figure out her worth without her powers, Lucas battling with the desire to be popular while staying true to himself, and both Steve and Robin supporting each other in figuring out the whole dating thing. Not to mention the addition of Eddie Munson, the charming metal head and nerd, who is so hated by the town that he’s assumed to be a murderer.

Of course, events turn deadly almost immediately, with every group facing harsh realities as they struggle to find out what’s happening and how to stop or escape it. The terrible things that happen are truly terrible and it makes for compelling TV, with at least two of the most iconic on-screen moments that I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Is this season perfect — no. Is it thoroughly, tensely enjoyable — absolutely.

I’m about halfway through with The Boys, Season Three, which is probably my favorite season yet. The group is slightly separated at the beginning, trying to find their own ways of dealing with the problem of the supes. However, as things quickly spiral out of control — particularly as Homelander’s leash continues to slacken — event devolve into blood-splattering chaos. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Games

Holy cow, I’ve done a lot of gaming over the past couple of month — and they were some fantastic games, too.

I finished Disco Elysium, solving the mysteries as satisfyingly as possible. Though, in the end, the specific answers of the murder and not really the point. The journey is the point and the lessons and human connections along the way. I won’t spoil it, but the ending (or at least the ending I achieved) was almost magical in its reveal — and I’m very curious how different choices might lead down different roads and results.

Disco Elysium

Hades is the not the kind of game I’d ever thought I’d play — by which I mean it’s a rogue-lite game where you make attempt after attempt through various dungeons, fighting off a slew of enemies, only to die over and over again. It’s the kind of set up that could be incredibly frustrating. And yet, this game is able to magic a sense of satisfaction in the multiple deaths, and by “magic” I mean the developers were very, very smart in how they designed the game.

Hades

The satisfaction comes from the fact that every death, rather than solely being a punishment for failing to get through the dungeons, also reveals more about the characters and the story. Zagreus, the son of Hades, is attempting to escape hell, and along the way he runs into the other gods and monsters of Greek myth, who decide to either help or hinder him. Each death also provides opportunities to increase your characters stats, helping him get through the next round a little easier. It also helps that this game has some vibrant and stunning artwork. There is a reason why this game is beloved by so many.

With my purchase of a SP5, I received a copy of Horizon II: Forbidden West — and all my gaming time since has been focused on that game. Following the events of the first game, Aloy has come to realize that the threat against the world has not fully been defeated and, if she wants to save life on earth, she is going to have to travel deep into the Forbidden West.

Horizon II: Forbidden West

The game builds on the story and gameplay of the first game to offer and even larger RPG with excellent fighting mechanics, a variety of weapons and great, and (mostly) fun puzzles. In particular, I like that Aloy is building on some of her relationships from the last game. Whereas in the past she was always alone (a fallout of her upbringing), now she is slowly allowing others into her circle and realizing that she doesn’t have to be quite so isolated. She can receive help and support in addition to giving it, and it’s lovely.


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

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