Culture Consumption: September 2023

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games.


The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw is a dark and gory retelling of The Little Mermaid. In this story, the mermaid is a creature of scales and teeth. Captured by a prince who attempts to tame her through marriage and the removal of her teeth and tongue, the mermaid gives birth to daughters who consume the kingdom and set it aflame. Leaving the burning kingdom behind, the mermaid chooses to wander with a mysterious plague doctor. The road leads them to a forrest full of blood-thirsty, immortal children and devastating secrets.

The Salt Grows Heavy is my favorite kind of fairy tale retelling, one that holds to the fantastical and bloody nature of the originals while spinning new perspectives. I love the way Khaw writes her characters with passion and teeth and hunger. This was a wonderfully dark and satisfying read for me.

Books Finished This Month:
1. Locke & Key: Heaven and Earth, written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
2. The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

Total Books for the Year: 31

Still in Progress at the End of the Month: Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Wandering Games by Melissa Kagen, and Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton

Short Stories & Poetry

Persephone in Hades” by Theodora Goss —

“Poppies have never been my favorite flowers.
Here they bloom all year long, if one can say
a year in Hades, where no seasons pass,
where summer never fades. Ironic, that —
a land of death where nothing ever dies.”

On the Getting of Husbands and the Spawning of Children” by Sophie Sparrow (PsuedoPod) —

“Deep in the woods, where the sun’s light never reaches to break apart the shadows, through a thicket of brambles and stinging shrubs, there stands a house.”

Etta’s Elegy” by Maureen Seaton ( –

“This is where the poem holds its breath,
where the usable truth sways, sorrowing,

and the people sway with the truth of it,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.”

“The Son (El Hijo)” and “The Feather Pillow (El almohadón de plumas)” by by Horacio Quiroga, translated by Shawn M. Garrett (PseudoPod) —

“It was a powerful summer day in Misiones, with all the sunlight, heat and calm that the season brings. Nature, fully resplendent, feels satisfied with itself.”

Thank You” by Ross Gay (Poetry Foundation) —

“If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,
again, the earth’s great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone,”

A Box of Hair and Nail” by Geneve Flynn (PseudoPod) —

“Little Sister clipped the last nail from Big Sister’s slender toe and carefully placed it in the carved rubberwood box. She made sure she had twenty clippings and, although her club foot made it difficult to crouch, she checked that every piece of hair she had trimmed from her sister’s head was accounted for.”

For Whom Do You Bathe and Make Yourself Beautiful?” by Elizabeth Jacobson (SWWIM) —

“A black widow tends two webs in different corners of my bathroom.

She crawls back and forth on the white plaster wall between her traps,

eats from the abdomen of a millipede first,

head of a pill bug next.”

Thoughts from the Drowning Girl” by Annie Przypyszny (SWWIM) —

“I’d rather sink
than call Brad for help;
better to careen down
the depths of the sea,
past the coral, the pearl,
the mother-of-pearl,
where the diamond
of the sun doesn’t glint.”


In A Haunting in Venice, when retired detective Poirot reluctantly attends a science, he unexpectedly becomes witness to a murder. As the night goes on, others are attacked and killed — and the question arises: are these murders the result of vengeful ghosts or a flesh-and-blood killer. An interesting set of characters, a creepy setting, and a compelling mystery made this a rather enjoyable watch for me.

a group of people sit around a table for a seance
A Haunting in Venice

I’m a huge fan of the first Tremors, which is a perfect horror comedy in my opinion, but I had never quite got around to watching any of the sequels. I’m happy to say that Tremors 2: Aftershocks is just as delightfully absurd and fun as I could have hoped it would be. I loved seeing the return of familiar faces and the transformation of the giant underground creatures, with them finding new ways to be weird and deadly.

A baby graboid rips the engine out of a car
Tremors 2: Aftershocks

New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. A Haunting in Venice (2023)
2. Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996)


Firewatch (Campo Santo) is a beautifully melancholy adventure game. After a short prelude about loosing connection with his wife to early onset dementia,  Henry takes up a post as a fire lookout in Shoshone National Forest with his only contact being with his supervisor Delilah via radio. As the player navigates the beautiful forrest settings, they learn about other lookouts who left notes in various drop boxes and uncover a mystery amid the trees.

silhouette of a forest and lookout tower against a moon in the background
Firewatch (developed by Campo Santo)

Beautiful vistas and some creepy moments are layered into a story of grief and our inability to face loss. Both Henry and Delilah have their own past regrets and traumas, their own poor choices, and their own forms of avoidance. Their connection is in part due to their isolation, and it is both sweet and distant, because they are never in the same place together.

It’s a bit of a slow experience, as the player wanders the beautiful landscape alone, moving toward different points on the map to discover more about the past and what has happened in the park. The slow pace adds to the sense of isolation inherent in the story, though at times I wished I could have picked up the pace some. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful and tragic story, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Storyteller (developed by Daniel Benmergui) is a delightful puzzle game in which storytelling is the mechanic. The player is greeted with an objective (essentially a story ending) and a comic book style grid. By placing the characters together in different settings, the player has to figure out how to complete the story according to the parameters given. Most of the puzzles are straightforward, but some are quite challenging (and one or two I even had to seek help to complete).  The process of dropping characters into various interactions results in some humorously overdramatic situations and some wonderfully comedic surprises. It’s a short game (just an hour or two, depending on how quickly you complete the puzzles), but such good fun.

a screenshot of a game involving comic book slots with character interactions
A puzzle scene from Storyteller (developed by Daniel Benmergui)

I had an issue this month with starting two giant RPGs and then having issues with continuing to play them. The first is Baldur’s Gate 3 (Larian Studios), in which I managed to create my player and played for about an hour before my Playstation account got suspended due to a complicated situation that I don’t want to get into involving my account getting hacked. Anyway, I have enjoyed the tiny bit I’ve played thus far, though I was still getting used to the DND aspects (which I don’t know much about). The characters and world are also fantastic and I can’t wait to get to know them more as soon (as soon as I get my account situation figured out).

I also started in on Starfield (Bethesda), in which I also managed to create my character and play for about an hour. The only thing that stopped me from playing this one was attempting to log in through Xbox Cloud Streaming and encountering a 25 minute wait to get into the game — and I just haven’t been back to it since. I didn’t quite spend enough time in it yet to get a sense of how I felt about the gameplay, characters, or worlds, but I’m looking forward to getting into it more soon.

I’m also still stuck on Bennet Foddy’s Getting Over It. It’s become one of those games that I just come back to again and again when I’m in the right mood. I attempt to get up that mountain a few times, and when I’m tired of being frustrated by my failure to do so, I put it down and move on to something else. I’m going to get up that mountain someday. I am.

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