Culture Consumption: August 2022

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

Books

Maw, written by Jude Ellison S. Doyle with art by A.L. Kaplan and Fabiana MascoloNghi Vo’s Siren Queen is a stunning work of art. Presented as the life story of a Chinese American woman, who rises to become a star in Hollywood — but this is not the Hollywood of this world. Instead it is a kind of fairy realm, one that exacts a sharp (and sometimes deadly) price on those who long for fame, a realm in which it is all to easy to loose yourself and the ones you love.

Vo’s prose is rich and lyrical, evoking a sense of magic, menace, and desire on nearly every page. Phenomenal, powerful, and evocative — this is a book I have fallen in love with. one that I’ll want to read again and again. It’s just that beautiful.

I read two phenomenal comics. The first is Maw, written by Jude Ellison S. Doyle with art by A.L. Kaplan and Fabiana Mascolo. Maw is a story of rage and monstrousness. When Marion joins her sister Wendy at a remote feminist retreat, she begins a strange and horrifying transformation, one that leads to bloodshed and a renewed sense of power.

The fantastic writing and art in this comic reflects the dark nature of the story, both in the present and the characters’ past — and the ending is chilling in the best of ways. I seriously hope they continue the series.

Saga series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona StaplesI fell in love with the Saga series from page one. Written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples features a beautifully illustrated and rich scifi fantasy, in which two people from the opposing sides of a multi-generational war fall in love, have a child together, and attempt to escape the conflict — only to be hunted down as outlaws.

In addition to providing powerful storytelling and some wonderfully weird worlds and societies, one of the many things I love about these books is that this story begins with two people already in love with each other. The conflict in their relationship comes not from getting to know each other, but from the struggles of trying to hold on their love in the face of their desperate circumstances.

I’ve read the first four volumes thus far, and I’m completely invested in all of these characters. I cannot wait to continue with the series.

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Culture Consumption: July 2022

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

Books

If you’re not into horror, or specifically slashers, then this book is not for you. Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart Is a Chainsaw is a love song to slasher films, with its main character Jude being entirely enamored with them. Slasher films, for her, were an escape from her sh*thole of a life, and there is a part of her that longs for a slasher event to occur, so that the people of her community can get their comeuppance.

When a young woman moves to town — beautiful, smart, and charming — Jude thinks that this young woman is the type who would be become a Final Girl. After Jude start seeing a number of signs that a series of killing is soon to occur (according to the rules of the movies she watches), she tries to convince the new girl of her destiny.

Jude is angry and acidic and all sharp edges — and I love her so much, because she is also vulnerable, lonely, and (deep down) caring. Her passion for slasher films swims off the page, as does her underlying desire for companionship. Her journey in this book is brutal and terrifying and somehow, in the end, manages to find a sense of hope. And it’s beautiful.

Odessa by Jonathan Hill is a graphic novel about an apocalyptic future following an earthquake that tore apart most of civilization. The Crane family scratches by through scavenging and other odd tasks, which the barter for their food and needs. When Virginia Crane suddenly receives a letter and gift from her mother (whom the family has long assumed was dead), she begins a journey traveling across the Western U.S. looking for her — along with her two younger brothers. The siblings face violence, but also find support and kindness — and they face the dangers of the world together. It’s a beautiful story with gorgeous two-tone artwork. I’m definitely going to be continuing the series.

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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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