Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, and games.
Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones is the second book of the Indian Lake Trilogy. Four years after the deadly events of the first book, Jennifer “Jade” Daniels is released released from when her murder conviction is overturned. She returns to her home in the rural lake town of Proofrock a different person. After the trauma of surviving the Independence Day Massacre and the years being ground down by the prison system, Jade has revert to her birth name of Jennifer and is more reserved. She has let go of her obsession with slasher movies and attempts to let go of the past.
But fate does not allow her to go free — and just as she is released, convicted serial killer Dark Mill South escapes from a prison transport near the town and he takes up his role of murderer at large, beginning to kill off teenagers in a way that replicates classic horror movies. In order to survive, Jade is going to have to team up with old friends and find the new final girl in order to prepare her for what’s coming.
Don’t Fear the Reaper is another fantastic story from Jones and I particularly love Jade’s journey in this book, as she regains her courage, anger, and forthrightness. Along with working through her trauma, she allows herself to grow connected with, care about, and in some cases forgive the people around her (something she wasn’t able to allow for when she was younger). She has learned that these connections matter and her care for them is a driving force of her regained strength.
I also really liked seeing from the perspectives of multiple people throughout the town, which revealed how the traumatic events really affected everyone. It also provided increased tension as the body count slowly rose, since seeing through other characters eyes brought us face to face with the horrors as they unfolded.
Coincidentally, Jade Daniels (especially with a third book on the way) represents a final girl who can’t seem to escape the ongoing saga of violence that surrounds her — makes for a nice companion read to my essay “The Never-Ending Tedium of Survival” about final girls who are caught in franchises that force them to struggle to stay alive again and again.
Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop is an excellent read for anyone looking into understanding the full scope of the game design process. The book carries the reader through every step of the process, from ideation to prototyping, development and iteration, QA testing, and publishing. In addition, she provides Exercises at the end of most sections that provide the reader with an opportunity to further explore the concepts in a practical way, which also offers a means of building a portfolio of work as you follow along (a step that I skipped at this time, but intend to pursue down the road).
Another great aspect of the book is that it is peppered with personal perspectives and anecdotes from various game designers, producers, writers, and creatives who make games. They expand on some of the information that Fullerton provides and also share their journey into games, what inspires them, and how they approach problems during the development process. It’s a fantastic way to expand the scope of the discussion.
My copy was the 4th Edition, published in 2019, so some of Fullerton’s perspectives in regards to the status of the games industry (in Chapter 15) are a bit outdated, since the nature of the industry is constantly changing. So, I would imagine that a new edition could be due soon. However, the bulk of this book remains valid — as it provides valuable insights and perspectives on how to approach making games.
Books Finished This Month:
1. Galatea by Madeline Miller
2. Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones
3. Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games (4th Edition) by Tracy Fullerton
Total Books for the Year: 35
Still in Progress at the End of the Month: 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
“Ba’alat Ov” by Brenda Tolian (PseudoPod) —
“In the night, the spirits spoke with hisses and gurgles like serpents wrapped around my head. I awoke covered in sweat, barely able to breathe, so afraid of what they would ask me to do. They whispered things over and over, crying out for understanding. There was never a choice in my action, only the act itself or madness.”
“Now, When the Waters Are Pressing Mightily” by Yehuda Amichai, translated by Leon Wieseltier (Inward Bound Poetry) —
“Now, when the waters are pressing mightily
on the walls of the dams,
now, when the white storks, returning,
are transformed in the middle of the firmament
into fleets of jet planes,
we will feel again how strong are the ribs”
“Destierro Means Exile” by Yaddyra Peralta (SWWIM) —
Come lift me
bodily, in hopes
that my soul too
“The Half-Life of Hope” by Maria Popova (The Marginalian) —
“Walking beneath the concrete canopy
I find myself thinking about
Charles B. Kaufmann
just after the end
of the Second World War
invented bird spikes
thought it a fine idea
to fang the roofs
of hospitals and banks,”
“The Keeper” by Alysse Kathleen McCanna (SWWIM) (Note: text does not reflect the formatting of the original) —
“I stay in skeleton light:
the quiet thrill of undressing
in the lantern room. Times I knew
you were watching, or not.
I lit the lamp, for you had come.
Your glance was shoal, was shade,”
I ended up binging a lot of horror movies in my preparations for writing “The Never-Ending Tedium of Survival,” and mostly movies from the Halloween series, so that I could catch up on the life and times of Laurie Strode. Out of the Halloween films I watched Halloween II was my favorite, possibly because it echoed the vibe of the original while upping the body count and intensity.
I also appreciated Halloween Ends for taking a unique path through the story, portraying the evolution of a killer, as well as the struggles of the survivors trying to work through their trauma. Did it hit all the targets it was going for? No. But it was a massive improvement over the previous one and I generally enjoyed it.
Scream VI was another one I watched for the purposes of my essay — and I totally dug it. First, I love the found family, the way the survivors pull together as a way of bolstering each other against the trauma of the past and providing support and strength as they fight against a new killer. Second, Ghostface is unwaveringly brutal in this one. They are straight to the point and offer no hesitation, resulting in tense moments and solid kills. Great fun.
New-to-Me Movies Watched Last Month:
1. Scream VI (2023)
2. Halloween II (1981)
3. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
4. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
5. Halloween Ends (2022)
6. Elemental (2023)
7. Lightyear (2022)
9. Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023)
The Fall of the House of Usher is the latest mini-series from horror master Mike Flanagan. The story revolves around the Usher family, including a mix of children (both “legitimate” and “bastards”), who suddenly begin mysteriously die in gruesome ways. In many ways, these deaths feel like comeuppance — since every member of the Usher family (save the granddaughter) is utterly awful in unique and interesting ways, reflecting the way greed and the desperation for approval can corrupt. As a result, the show lacks much of the emotional weight found in Flanagan’s other series. Nevertheless, Usher provides a sort of brutal elegance in the way it dispatches its litany of characters and the acting (particularly Carla Gugino as Verna and Bruce Greenwood as Roderick Usher), production design, and artistry are captivating. One of the things that I particularly love about this series is the way Flannagan and the writers weave together elements of Edgar Allan Poe’s fiction and poetry into the narrative. For me at least, the bleakness of the series reflects the dark tone of Poe’s original works. I enjoyed this immensely, and now i want to read or reread a bunch of Poe and compare it to the series to see details I missed.
Another great series — though on the opposite spectrum tonally — is the live action adaptation of One Piece (based on the long-running anime of the same name). Luffy, a young man with a very stretchy body (due to the consumption of a devil fruit that turned his body to rubber), is determined to find a famous treasure, known as the One Piece, and become the King of the Pirates. On his journey, he befriends a number of misfits, who he invites to join his crew and together they take on other pirates and the militia as they all pursue their dreams. Iñaki Godoy brings a delightful joy to the role of Luffy, who’s endless optimism could otherwise be grating. In addition, the show manages to capture much of the thrills and exciting action of an anime experience. In particularly, the fight sequences feel great, with the constantly moving camera bringing a sense of drama to the outlandish and fun fights. A super fun show — and now I’m probably going to have to delve into the 1,000+ episodes of the anime series.
Old Man’s Journey (developed by Broken Rules) is a gorgeous puzzle adventure game about a man who receives a letter that sends him on a journey across the countryside. As he wanders closer and closer to his destination, he reminisces about the past and the family he became estranged from. The gameplay involves an simple, yet innovative puzzle mechanic, in which the player changes the height of the hills and landscape in order to allow the old man to traverse through the stunningly created landscapes. And I mean it, the art is phenomenal. This was such a chill and lovely experience — albeit a short one at only an hour or two long.
I’ve enjoyed sudoku for years and began with physical books full of puzzles. However, I don’t always remember to or am able to have a physical book with me, so I have downloaded and deleted a few sudoku apps over the years. Out of all of them, Good Sudoku (developed by Zack Gage and Jack Schelsinger) is the best that I’ve ever used. The app not only provides a litany of puzzles, but also provides guidance and insights aimed at helping the player become a better sudoku player. I’ve found it rather helpful in learning how to suss out and solve particularly challenging puzzles.
Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy continues to be an ongoing struggle, but one I refuse to put aside. True, in the past month, I have managed to make it to the infamous orange — however, I have not manages to progress beyond that point and every time I fall off the mountain, it’s a frustrating slog getting back to the orange. I will, however, surpass this obstacle . . . eventually.
That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?