Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games.
The opening of Kealan Patrick Burke’s Sour Candy happened in a supermarket. Our main character, Phil Pendleton, goes to the supermarket and witnesses a bizarre and unsettling event involving a women and her child — one of the most uncomfortable scenes that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. When he leaves this moment behind, Phil finds his entire world has shifted sideways, reality rewritten. The horror that follows grows increasingly terrible in the best of ways. As a novella, this is a short, quick read, but it’s one that leaves a satisfying punch.
Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak by Charlie Jane Anders is a sequel to her space opera novel, Victories Greater Than Death. The book continues the journey of Tina and her found family of human companions. Tina continues to figure out who she is while living under the shadow of Captain Thaoh Argentian (the space commander from whom she was cloned). However, one of the great things about this book is how it shifts perspective to two of the other humans — Rachael (Tina’s lifelong best friend) and Elza (Tina’s love). Making this shift expands the universe, allowing readers to learn more about the characters and cultures of this amazing universe that Anders has created. The threats that arise are real, deadly and intense and the ending has me longing to read the final book in the trilogy.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler is one of my all-time favorite books and probably my favorite apocalyptic novel, so when I saw that it had been adapted in to a graphic novel — by Damian Duffy and John Jennings — I knew I had to check it out. The story follows Lauren Olamina, a preachers daughter with hyperempathy (which causes her to feel other people’s pain). Seeing the growing poverty and unrest in the world around her, she doesn’t quite trust the strength of the walls and begins to prepare for any eventuality under her own personal belief system that “God is change.”
Duffy and Jennings do a fantastic job adapting the story with their excellent combination of text and gorgeous illustrations. While the graphic novel can’t quite capture the full depth of Butler’s brilliant words, the adaptation does stay true to the heart of the original tale.
Books Finished This Month:
1. Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke
2. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, adapted into a graphic novel by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings
3. Upon a Once Time (anthology)
4. Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak by Charlie Jane Anders
Total Books for the Year: 39
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton
Short Stories & Poetry
“Rabbit Test” by Samantha Mills (Uncanny Magazine) — “It is 2091, and Grace is staring at the rabbit in the corner of her visual overlay. It is an Angora rabbit, fluffy and white, and when Grace picked the icon out, she did not realize how much she would come to dread the sight of it.”
“Self-Portrait at Midlife as Horror Movie” by Jeannine Hall Gailey (The Indianapolis Review) —
“I am the children, left alone in the house.
I am the phone that rings into darkness.
I am the woman who drops her keys
in the parking lot. I never look in the back seat.”
“The Law of Take” by Isabel Cañas (Gigantosaurus) — “She appeared one way before him: she was his star-given, his blessing and his luck, his raven-haired country bride, clever but never threatening, witty but never cunning. Appeared another way alone before the mirror: hungry, hollow cheeked, gray eyes ravenous as predatory fish of the deep. A girl who lived by the law of take. A girl who could not give. Who feared that if she did, she might lose everything.”
“The Honey Witch” by Kathryn McMahon (PseudoPod) — “My hood and gloves are on the table next to the smoker that, for now, remains unlit. Its charred pine needles quiet the bees and mask their alarm, a perfume that smells, improbably, of bananas. I don’t need the smoker at the moment and if I used it, I wouldn’t be privy to the hive’s secrets.”
“She Works in the Office Where They Died” by Alex Singer (PseudoPod) — “Dezra works in an office where 1000 people died. Well, 1082. People round down. No one’s told the ones who died.”
“The tires hold the road on their rims” by Betsy Aoki (SWWIM) —
“My scars have no brakes.
My scars carve me round.
I want you, like I wanted black rims
and silver spokes, yellow mustard on the tongue
and the blue vinyl seat of things I can’t name.”
“A Pearl as Red as Sin” by R.A. Busby (PseudoPod) — “The baby bit hard into my flesh and held there. It dug into the left side of my womb with a pinprick pinch, sharp and determined.”
“Ode to Lipstick” by Zeina Hashem Beck (SWWIM) —
“Today you woke up anticipating the hours,
smiling in bed like a child excited about
a trip to the beach. Surprised, you asked,
“What is it, again, that I’m happy about?””
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever blew me away. The movie provides a beautiful homage to Chadwick Boseman, while presenting a beautiful exploration of the ways in which human being process their grief. At the same time, the movie presents a compelling new villain with the introduction of Namor (played by Tenoch Huerta) and his underwater civilization. All of this is capped off with some fantastic action sequences, making for a moving and entertaining watch.
I Think We’re Alone Now (2018) is a quiet indie film staring Peter Dinklage, who plays Del, a man who has survived a disease that has left him entirely alone. He quietly goes about his routine, clearing houses in his hometown of the dead and collecting their pictures in order to keep a record of their passing. His solitude is shattered, however, when a young woman crashes into his town, altering the pattern of his days. As with this kind of movie, the acting and cinematography are phenomenal. Even with its quite pacing, the movie is nevertheless captivating.
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
2. Prey for the Devil (2022)
3. I Think We’re Alone Now (2018)
4. Barbarian (2022)
I’ve watched the first few episodes of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, an anthology series of short horror tales. So far, I really enjoyed the comic horror of “The Autopsy,” directed by David Prior. Following a mining accident in which about a dozen men die, a doctor is brought in to do autopsies and determine the cause of death. The way “The Autopsy” sets up the incident and investigation that follows is both fun and disturbing, while the conclusion is terrifying and yet deeply satisfying.
“Lot 36,” directed by Guillermo Navarro, is my second favorite thus far. When a greedy and unsympathetic man purchases an abandoned storage container, he gets more than he bargained for. The story unfolds with a carefully constructed tensions, leading to a wonderfully frightening conclusion.
Although “Graveyard Rats,” directed by Vincenzo Natali, didn’t quite hit for me, it’s nevertheless a solid entry in the anthology. The blend of horrors are satisfyingly scary and the story has some solid, claustrophobic moments of terror.
I finished watching Lupin, the story of a modern-day gentleman thief. In the end, the villain gets what he deserves and our hero makes his escape. It’s very satisfying ending.
My friend and I also watched Dahmer over the course of the month, a show about the infamous serial killer. While the show is well acted and directed, I have mixed feelings about having watched it. This is partly due to knowing that these were real events, and partly due to learning that the family’s with the victims have been upset with the show and how it portrays those events.
The first half of the show mostly follows Dahmer’s life, cutting back and forth between his childhood, youth, and the years leading to him getting caught, while the second half explores a bit more of the stories of the victims and the aftermath of the murders on the community.
One of the elements that’s touched on is how Dahmer became something of a celebrity, with him getting attention from “fans,” media, and society being fascinated by him and the murders. This had a lingering impact on the family’s of the victims and the community around them — and what troubles me is how this show feeds into the same system, stoking a fascination of Dahmer, while sidelining those whom he hurt. As a result, I do not feel right recommending this show to others.
Gris is a gorgeous puzzle-platforming game about a woman journeying bringing color back to a gray world. Told through gameplay, world building, and stunning animations, the game evokes a story about facing depression and anxiety in order to come to a place of healing. The platforming and puzzles present just enough challenge to keep the gameplay interesting, while the character travels through beautiful realms made from watercolor and ink. One of the best games I played this year.
Mini Motorways is a strategy, city building game I downloaded on my phone. The gameplay involved constructing roadways, bridges, and freeways in order to connect drivers from their homes to their destination. As the days pass within the game, the city becomes increasingly complex until eventually the cars become too jammed up for the city to function. Each level is based on a real-world city, presenting unique landscape issues to address, and weekly and daily challenges provide unique ways to play the game.
I started idly playing Mini Motorways — only to quickly loose hours of time in trying to keep my little city flowing. The simple, vibrant art blends well with the soothing and satisfying soundscape. This is one I’ll return to again and again whenever I’m bored.
I’ve continued my playthrough of God of War (2018), but haven’t had much time to advance much. I’m still enjoying the gameplay and gorgeous world, and I can’t wait to get on with the story so that I can jump into the sequel, which sounds amazing.
Another game I downloaded on my phone was Game Dev Story, a strategy game about building up a game studio and deciding which games to develop in order to survive. The game loop (involving spending funds, hiring staff, and using research points to improve was interesting enough to such me in at first. And every time you play through the game, you get to keep the benefits of the previous play, providing the chance to get a higher score. However, the repetition of the loop (with the same “dialog” boxes every time) quickly made things dull, as there were no new challenges in the gameplay. So, I’ve moved on.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?