Culture Consumption: February 2022

Hi, lovelies. I am about to head out on a trip for a week, so I’m doing the rarest of things (as in it’s never happened before ) — I’m turning this round up in early.

So, without further adieu, here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

Never Have I Ever by Isabel YapIsabel Yap’s Never Have I Ever is a stunning collection of short stories that range from fantastical to terrifying. Calling upon the legends, spells, and tales from the Philippines, these tales are beautiful wrought and emotionally impactful. 

In “A Cup of Salt Tears,” a woman encounters a kappa (a creature said to drown people) in a bathhouse. Rather than threatening the woman with death, however, the kappa speaks with her and expresses affection for her — resulting in a gorgeous tale about grief and the price we are willing to pay for love.

“A Spell for Foolish Hearts” presents a version of our world in which magic is real and the people who use it represent a marginalized community. Being both gay and a weilder of witchcraft, Patrick moves to San Francisco in order to be a part of a community that is more accepting of these differences. While working as a marketing designer at a tech company during the week and as a retail worker at a witch shop on the weekend, Patrick meets and falls for a colleague — and what results is the sweetest of love stories.

“Hurricane Heels (We Go Down Dancing)” is a dark retelling of the magical girl trope — think Sailor Moon with extreme violence. Selected as teenagers to save their city from ongoing monster attacks, this group of women have grown into adulthood, with no end in sight to their ongoing battles. Every time they come away damaged, but still somehow pull together and face down the monsters of the world. It’s a powerful story.

And these are just three of the amazing tales in this fantastic collection.

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Culture Consumption: December 2021

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

For those interested, here are my favorite books, movies and shows, and games for the last year.

Books

Character Development and Storytelling For Games by Lee SheldonI recently finished Character Development and Storytelling For Games by Lee Sheldon. It was an interesting read and the author draws on his experience in both games and television to discuss ways of approaching character and story development.

Note that what I read was the 1st edition from 2004, so while the book’s talk of characters and story are everlasting, some of the discussions about the future of games felt a little outdated. Apparently, a 2nd edition was published in 2013, which likely provides a more modern perspective

One section in particular presented me with a new way of thinking about story — namely, modular storytelling and how it can help blend gameplay and story into interactive narratives. I wrote a bit about what I learned over here.

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Culture Consumption: September 2021

Hi, lovelies. Coming in late again. Here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.

Books

Cover of Circe by Madeline MillerA friend loaned me a copy of Madeline Miller’s Circe, offering high praise for the book and its feminist take on the ancient Greek myth. Once I opened the first page, I was immediately immersed in the mythological worlds of Ancient Greek gods and goddesses with all their politics and family drama. Reading this book reminded me of how much I loved learning about these myths when I was in school, and I loved the way Miller portrayed Circe and the other gods, illuminating the a sense of magic and power. Some of the gods feel alien and dangerous in how disconnected they are from mortals, while Circe has an inherent sense of humanity in her longing to feel connected with them. I loved the ways in which Miller weaved various classical stories and tales into the text, and I especially enjoyed her feminist take, which presents a more complex view of a powerful woman.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady HendrixAnother great read this month was The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix. Inspired by the slasher films of the ’80s, the story takes place years after the women’s confrontations with brutal murderers. These final girls have faced death and fought off their killers, surviving into middle age while carrying ongoing ailments from their injuries and trauma, including anxiety, PTSD, and other issues. Bound by their shared trauma, the women attend support group meetings, a tether that slowly frays as some members attempt to move on. Things get incrementally worse, however, when it appears that someone is out to kill them.

Hendrix is fantastic at creating fast-paced, action packed stories that leave me wanting to consume a book all in one go. I also like that these women are rough-edged, hard, and strong-willed, with all the complexities that comes with having survived terrible events.

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Culture Consumption: August 2021

Hi, lovelies. Coming in late again, but here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.

Books

Sorrowland by Rivers SolomonTwo of the books I loved this month focus on women finding power through transformation. In Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon, a heavily pregnant Vern escapes from a religious compound into the woods, where she gives birth to twins. For a while she lives wild, raising her children as she pleases, all the while they are being hunted. As time passes, Vern begins to grow in strength, experiencing a physical transformation she doesn’t understand.

Sorrowland was described to me as gothic horror, though considering the extent of Vern’s physical changes, it could almost be described as body horror. The book definitely carried some dark elements to it, some terrible and terrifying things, but throughout the darkness, there was also a light showing through in the way Vern grows and learns to claim her own identity and space in the world, finding pleasure in the ways her body changed. The love she has for her children and they for her is wonderful, complex, and beautiful. And her family grows when she finds people with whom she can connect can care for, while receiving the same in return. That carries with it such a powerful light of hope through all the dark times she experiences.

Goddess of Filth by V CastroThe second book was Goddess of Filth by V. Castro, in which a group of friends perform a play seance, laughing and drinking until their friend Fernanda begins chanting in Nahuatl and appearing to be possessed. As time passes, Fernanda continues to act strangely, “smearing herself in black makeup, shredding her hands on rose thorns, sucking sin out of the mouths of the guilty.” With her mother in a moral panic over the changes, Fernanda’s friends try to find a way to help her in any way they can.

I love so many things about this book, first and foremost the way these five friends are wonderful. They support each other, look out for each other, and do what that can for each other. Another aspect that I loved about is that Fernanda’s possession is not an assault, but more symbiotic. The goddess within her offers wisdom and strength, and Fernanda begins to change, finding strength and confidence in the presence of the goddess. When her friend Lourdes begins to realize this, she works to help Fernanda face this new reality. The story has its terrors, but it is also so beautiful. I’m so glad I read it.

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Culture Consumption: December 2020

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my last culture consumption of 2020, with all the books, movies, television, games, and podcasts that I consumed in December.

I’ve shared my favorite books and media from the year in separate posts.

Books

The Hollow Places by T. KingfisherT. Kingfisher is a fantastic writer, taking fantasy tropes and turning them into pure horror. Portal fantasies tend to lead to wondrous worlds filled with fantastical creatures and adventures. However, in The Hollow Places, when Kara and her friend Simon (both of whom I love) discover a hole in the wall that leads to an abandoned bunker in another world, their curiosity quickly leads them into terrifying danger.

Kingfisher’s characters always seem so well wrought, with the way they dress, talk, and react to situations feeling so real. I believe that these two would make the choices and mistakes they make. In fact, I could almost see myself making the exact same mistakes, which only adds to the horror.

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