Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin is one of my favorite reads of the year. The story centers on Sam Masur and Sadie Green, two friends who bonded over playing video games as kids before having a falling out, leading to them not speak to each other for years. When they stumble into each other while at college, they renew their friendship and love for games and enter into a wild adventure — make their own video game, a wild, risky, wonderful challenge. As the novel weaves through their game development and business successes and failures together, the story beautifully explores the nature of creative processes and partnerships and the ups and downs of close friendships, along with love, ego, grief, and so much more.
A lot of the books I love are well written, but it’s not often that I pause while reading a passage and go, woah. Zevin’s writing style is delicious. The omniscient third person perspective (used through most of the book) allows the author to float between the inner worlds of each of the characters, giving insights that they may not even recognize themselves. This is a genuinely gorgeous book, a new favorite read, and one that I will be returning to again and again.
Recently, This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El Mohtar and Max Gladstone hit the best seller lists and with good reason. The book — about two assassins on opposite sides of a time war connecting through letters — is a quick read with rich lush language illustrating a variety of pasts and futures along the threads of time. I don’t know if I want to say much more than that. It’s fantastic and you should read it.
Geometries of Belonging is a collection of short stories and poems from R.B. Lemberg’s Birdverse, a world said to be created by the mysterious god, Bird. The publisher writes, “The intricate Birdverse has at its core a magic based loosely in geometry, from which comes healing, love, and art. It is a complex, culturally diverse world, a realm with LGBTQIA characters and a wide range of family configurations. Lemberg probes the obstacles behind traditional social boundaries of cultures; overseeing this world is the deity Bird and all its incarnations. Each story and poem, exqusitely crafted, will richly reward long-time fans and newcomers alike.” This was a fantastic collection of stories, and I would love to read more in this universe.
Books Finished This Month:
1. Geometries of Belonging: Stories & Poems from the Birdverse by R.B. Lemberg
2. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
3. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Total Books for the Year: 21
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: The Game Writing Guide: Get Your Dream Job and Keep It by Anna Megill Wandering Games by Melissa Kagen, Wandering Games by Melissa Kagen, Gamer Girls: 25 Women Who Built the Video Game Industry written by Mary Kenney and illustrated by Salini Perera, and Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton
Short Stories & Poetry
“The Night You Swallow the Moon” by Lisa Hosokawa (Kenyon Review) —
“In your dreams, you are a creature from one of your mother’s stories, not your father’s, and having no fire to breathe or wings to beat, you twine freely across the night sky by capturing the wind like spider silk. You have been told for ten waking years you are a girl, but here, you forget. Here, you have whiskers but scales too, up and down the long sweep of your body, across parts resisting proclamation. You are. You are flying through midnight clouds going silver by the gleam of an orb you hold against your underbelly.
This is where your soft hands are braced when you first wake to bloodied sheets.”
“Małgorzata Myk translates Maria Cyranowicz” (ANMLY) —
“to be used specifically
by a sudden supervision adjusted with pieces of equipment to the speech apparatus
inserted into the stem’s flower whose interior
shines in an outline of their organs marked for skin openings”
“Consider” by Linda Laderman (SWWIM) —
“the old women, the crones, the crossed,
the witches, the wise, the weary, the widows who wear
grief like a full-length mink stored in the cool dark.
Consider their wounds, the warnings, the fractures,
their cautious steps, the invisible, the inevitable.”
“The House of Aunts” by Zen Cho (Giganotosaurus) —
“The house stood back from the road in an orchard. In the orchard, monitor lizards the length of a man’s arm stalked the branches of rambutan trees like tigers on the hunt. Behind the house was an abandoned rubber tree plantation, so proliferant with monkeys and leeches and spirits that it might as well have been a forest.
Inside the house lived the dead.”
“The Compulsive Ruminates in Spring Snow” by Chel Campbell (SWWIM) —
“Old snow turns me feral, I’m through, don’t tell me to get cozy when I live
in a land encrusted with icy oil and dirt. I am turning 31 next week, what a silly number,
though I admire its nerve of only being divisible by one and itself. I take myself out
to lunch, overhear a stranger tell a friend she bought 60 bucks of art supplies that
sit in a corner untouched, how she wishes Jerry was better about things, and such”
Considering all the drama and negativity surrounding Don’t Worry Darling, I went in with fairly low expectations. However, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The movie portrays a seemingly idyllic suburban town (set in the ’50s? ’60s?) isolated in the middle of a desert, where the husbands are doing important work and the women act as charming housewives going through their daily routines of cleaning, cooking, and shopping. Despite the cocktail parties and delight everyone seems to be taking in their lives…, there is something off and this discordance grows Alice (played by Florence Pugh who is, to no one’s surprise, phenomenal) uncovers the truth. The tone is Stepford Wives meets Black Mirror, which I found interesting.
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Don’t Worry Darling (2022)
2. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)
I finished watching Outer Banks, season two, in which the group of teens continue to fight a class battle with the wealthy members of this little island. At the start of the season, two of the lead characters are presumed dead and wealthy Ward Cameron thinks he’s gotten away with murder, despite mourning the supposed loss of his daughter. There’s a fight to prove innocence, a search for stolen treasure, a hidden family legacy, and new enemies revealed. It’s entertaining good fun, and I’m definitely curious to see what trouble our group of teens can get into from here.
I caught season three of The Witcher — mostly. I mean, it was one of those experiences when the show was on, I was watching, but I was also distracted by conversations with folks around me, so I only caught bits and pieces. Maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say I watched the season, since I’m going to have to rewatch it all over again to really understand what’s going on. Though at the same time, I feel like I saw just enough that I’m lacking the incentive to jump back in.
In a similar way, I watched Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia, which I saw large swaths of while visiting my niece and nephew. In this animated series, a kid stumbles upon Merlin’s Amulet of Light and becomes the Troll Hunter. He trains alongside a group of good trolls and fights those that attempt to attack humanity. The center of the series is the relationships that connect the friends and family in this group fighting to prevent the world from being destroyed — and at times, I was a little surprised (in a good way) by how bleak they were willing to take the storyline for a kids show. Although, I missed large chunks of the series (since it played in the background while working), I enjoyed the arc of the story, which is no surprise since it was helmed by one of my favorite directors, Guillermo del Toro.
Her Story is an analog-style narrative adventure game written and directed by Sam Barlow. Players open on a ’90s computer screen and are given access to recordings of a police interviews with a woman over the course of several months. As the player watches these clips (ranging from a few seconds to a minute long), they discover new key words about the case, which allows them to search and find more clips — slowly unraveling the events of the case (at least, we learn as much as the woman tells us).
It’s a fascinating narrative mechanic, one that allows for a wide array of player choice. As a result, each player will have their own discovery path throughout the game. Some will wander through videos for a while before getting a sense of what’s really going on behind these interviews, while others may stumble into the deepest secrets right away.
By accident, I played the start of the game twice, because the first time I accidentally broke the game. Basically, the player can move the window around the screen and open the various files on the desktop. When I did this, I moved the window so far down screen that I got it stuck and had to hard-restart the game to be able to keep playing. Anyway, what I found is that the pathways I went down at the start of each game were wildly different, because I was able to follow different inputs each time.
Another narrative game I loved playing last month was First Draft of the Revolution, created by writer Emily Short and artist Liza Daly. It’s a short and charming epistolary narrative where the player is able to rewrite and refine letters back and forth between an estranged wife and husband.
I also loved reading through Emily Short’s author statement after playing the game. She notes:
“By helping to revise their letters, the reader exposes who the characters are. She doesn’t define or change them. Juliette, Henri, and the others are meant to have consistent personalities, and there’s nothing the reader can do to alter this fact. She can, however, see what constraints and concerns affect each character. Juliette and Henri each have things they’re not willing to express to the other. The reader can also how far each one could be pushed (how assertive can Juliette be before her inner censor kicks in? how warm is Henri at his warmest?).”
When I played Signalis in March, I assumed that reaching the credits meant I had reached the end of the game — apparently I was wrong. I learned from other players that to get the true ending, the player needs to restart the game (something that is not clearly indicated in any way while playing (at least as far as I could tell)).
Restarting the game takes the player back through some of the same levels, while also opening up new levels that lead to the final boss battle and the true ending.
Although the game does provide additional cut scenes and narrative bits, I’m still not sure I fully understand the exact details of what happened. I mean, I get the general gist and the overall arc of the characters and plot, but I’m not sure what the ultimate evil really was or why it existed. I’m chalking this up to it being cosmic horror, which is supposed to be mind-bendy and unknowable. Ultimately, I enjoyed jumping back into the game to finish it out.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?