Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games.
If you’re not into horror, or specifically slashers, then this book is not for you. Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart Is a Chainsaw is a love song to slasher films, with its main character Jude being entirely enamored with them. Slasher films, for her, were an escape from her sh*thole of a life, and there is a part of her that longs for a slasher event to occur, so that the people of her community can get their comeuppance.
When a young woman moves to town — beautiful, smart, and charming — Jude thinks that this young woman is the type who would be become a Final Girl. After Jude start seeing a number of signs that a series of killing is soon to occur (according to the rules of the movies she watches), she tries to convince the new girl of her destiny.
Jude is angry and acidic and all sharp edges — and I love her so much, because she is also vulnerable, lonely, and (deep down) caring. Her passion for slasher films swims off the page, as does her underlying desire for companionship. Her journey in this book is brutal and terrifying and somehow, in the end, manages to find a sense of hope. And it’s beautiful.
Odessa by Jonathan Hill is a graphic novel about an apocalyptic future following an earthquake that tore apart most of civilization. The Crane family scratches by through scavenging and other odd tasks, which the barter for their food and needs. When Virginia Crane suddenly receives a letter and gift from her mother (whom the family has long assumed was dead), she begins a journey traveling across the Western U.S. looking for her — along with her two younger brothers. The siblings face violence, but also find support and kindness — and they face the dangers of the world together. It’s a beautiful story with gorgeous two-tone artwork. I’m definitely going to be continuing the series.
I’ve returned to the Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, having read In an Absent Dream (#4, in which a young woman travels repeatedly to a goblin market with its own ideas of fairness), Come Tumbling Down (#5, in which two former students of School for Wayward Children in desperate need for help), and Across the Grass Green Fields (#6, in which a young girl travels to a world ruled by horselike creatures). This novella series is full of charming portal fantasies with fun, interesting characters — all of which can easily be read in a single sitting.
Both Absent Dream and Grass Green Fields can be read on their own without knowledge of the previous books, but Tumbling Down is continuation of the main storyline, requiring prior knowledge of the characters from previous books to understand.
Of the three, Absent Dream is my favorite — and possibly my fave of the series thus far. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, with the kind of terribly sad ending you expect from fairy stories.
The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell is a fantastic book, providing an overview of the game development process, from ideation to prototyping to design to monetization. There are so many insights that I’ll probably be returning to it again and again. However, the one area in which I felt the book was lacking was in regards to narrative design and storytelling — which I have thoughts on and will be discussing in a full essay later.
Books Finished This Month:
1. My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
2. In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
3. Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
4. Across the Grass Green Fields by Seanan McGuire
5. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell
6. Odessa by Jonathan Hill
Total Books for the Year: 24
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Siren Queen by Nghi Vo and Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton
Short Stories & Poetry
“The Bear Across the Way” by Emily Rigole (PseudoPod) — “I paid no more attention to the bear than I would have any new neighbors. Despite what my husband might tell you, the fact that he was a bear played into my curiosity very little. It was his behavior that concerned me.”
“Licking Roadkill” by Richard E. Dansky (PseudoPod) — “Cole was licking the highway when the cops picked him up the night before Thanksgiving. Reckless endangerment, they said, and obstructing traffic, and whatever else they could come up with to get him out of the road and into a holding cell.”
“The Fairy Godmother Advice Column” by Leah Cypess (Lightspeed) — “Dear Fairy Godmother, I work as the housekeeper for a collective of seven men. It’s a non-normative living situation, but it works for me.”
“To Be a Woman” by Theodora Goss —
“To be a woman is to be always holding
the tears of others, the fears,
the dreams and hopes and desires
of others, as a jar holds water.”
“An Urge to Create Honey” by Martin Cahill (Clarkesworld Magazine) — “You’re so new to the hive, young one. Our memory is long; sometimes, we forget the now, that you are so new to being one of us, your connection to us fragile as spun sugar. If we’d had our way, you would be cradled still, connected by dandelion tendrils to the heart of home, growing, learning. We would not have let you go so easily.”
“drunk poetica” by Samantha Fain (Peach Mag) —
“holy shit when the heat hits me
i kiss every warm body
& whitman the shit out of the grass.”
“Dark Matter” by Cynthia Marie Hoffman (SWWIM) —
“Anything cold is not fear. This is the rule of the night. The quilt pulled tight against your lips, warm kiss of armor.”
“The Truth the Dead Know” by Anne Sexton (Poets.org) —
“My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.”
“Unlove Poem” by Franny Choi (American Poetry Review) —
“If I call myself unloveable, I am, practically; if I say it
enough times: unloveable. Then, like practical magic,
I’m hollow as old garlic; I’m distance-skinned.
I’m a long, mean package, a terror-dyke, a nag, a squinting,”
“Comma” by Diane Seuss (The New Republic) —
“To never be touched again. That line
has a sound. Hear it?
I don’t want to bring a story
to it. Not even an image.
It has a sound. Listen.”
“I Visit the Museum and Make It About Me” by Nina Parmenter (Atrium) —
“I stand by a stone sarcophagus
roughly the length of my femur
and I decide I have lived too long.”
“Mana” by Katerina Neocleous (Corvid Queen) —
“I reasoned it away at first
imagining I’d glimpsed
a flitting shape, a flickering
—the way a lighter
or a glinting flick-knife
in an undecided hand might.”
Not much to say about Jurassic World Dominion or Doctor Strange. Neither of them blew my socks off, but they weren’t terrible either. Both of them were acceptably entertaining, with moments here and there that I genuinely enjoyed.
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Jurassic World Dominion (2022)
2. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Horizon II: Forbidden West is a massive game, but I feel as though I’m getting closer to the ending (in all likelihood, I’m about two-thirds in). The game continues to be fantastic. In particular, the gameplay is fun and challenging — and the story continues to evolve in new directions, expanding the world in interesting ways.
I especially love the way Aloy gathers companions and brings them into her new found family. It’s beautiful to see her putting trust in other people and accepting help after having gone it along previously.
Although I haven’t played it yet, Stray came out recently — and I’m enamored with the idea of being a cat in a beautiful cyberpunk world. I may have to take a break from Horizon, so that I can play it.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?