Culture Consumption: November 2023

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

Books

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus enters into the magical world of a circus unlike any other. It’s a beautiful place that feels like entering into a kind of monochrome fairyland, with each and every exhibit dressed in black and white. And indeed, the circus is more magical than it seems — because it lies at the center of a magical competition in which two students of magic are pitted against each other in a years-long competition. The story beautiful weaves through time and explores multiple character perspectives to provide a wonderful

Poetry as Spellcasting, written and edited by Tamiko Beyer, Destiny Hemphill, and Lisbeth White is a beautiful collection of essays and poetry about the ways in which poetry connects to and reflects the sacred, spiritual, and magical — and the ways the author use the act of writing poetry as a sacred practice, a form of healing, a method for connecting with ancestors and community, and a path toward building a better future. In addition to the essays and poetry, the book includes prompts and suggestions to delving into poetry while staying grounded and connected to spirit.

In the essay “Articulating the Undercurrent,” Dominique Matti writes:

“I learned that it was possible to feel what one could not otherwise know. And that I could transmit feeling where rational explanation failed, by using poetry like a lyre — plucking invisible energetic strings. I discovered that where no one would cry for me, my poetry could conjure easy tears. And when my spirit could not represent itself in mundane gesture, it could rise up and shout in verse.”

In “Text of Bliss,” Kenji C. Lui writes:

“There is a time and place for the poetry of comfort and contentment, the poem that pleases aesthetically even if the subject is difficult. Beyond that, I think my poetry goal is to break something. Not in the sense of something broken in my interior, a confession and healing, but instead a methodical attempt to

break certain aspects of

this world.

. . . to bring to a crisis [their] relation with language.

In “Poetry as Prayer,” Hyejung Kook writes:

“Rilke says, ‘Every angel is terrifying.’ But what if you are the angel? What if the power you are afraid to call upon and know is your own power? Consider the possibility that the outward address of poetry as prayer was actually an inner invocation, a tapping into our own divine and enlightened self.”

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Culture Consumption: October 2023

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

Books

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.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: October 2023”

Culture Consumption: November 2022

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

Books

The opening of Kealan Patrick Burke’s Sour Candy happened in a supermarket. Our main character, Phil Pendleton, goes to the supermarket and witnesses a bizarre and unsettling event involving a women and her child — one of the most uncomfortable scenes that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. When he leaves this moment behind, Phil finds his entire world has shifted sideways, reality rewritten. The horror that follows grows increasingly terrible in the best of ways. As a novella, this is a short, quick read, but it’s one that leaves a satisfying punch.  Continue reading “Culture Consumption: November 2022”

Culture Consumption: October 2022

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

Books

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca RoanhorseTrail of Lightning is a fantastic urban fantasy novel by Rebecca Roanhorse. Set after flooding and natural disasters caused by climate change, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) is surrounded by a massive wall that protects it from the outside world. However, the survivors face not only the aftereffects of natural disaster, but also the reawakening of witches, monsters, and old gods. Fighting these monsters is Maggie Hoskie, a supernaturally gifted monster hunter and killer, who must face her past in order to defeat them. This is a powerfully fun read, one that has me excited to explore more of this world.

Secret Passages by Axelle LenoirSecret Passages by Axelle Lenoir is a fictional memoir about growing up in a small town. The story imagines the author as a young girl being raise by parents who may or may not be aliens and whose brother’s imaginary friend may be a blood-thirsty demon. As a girl, she has a hard time relating to school, which seems like a strange place to her, and so she communes with the forest for comfort. It’s a delightfully weird book, and I hope the author continues the tale.

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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.

Continue reading “Culture Consumption: August 2022”