July has been characterised by sunshine, heat, and generally all the things British summers aren’t known for. It’s been pretty nice, but I much prefer decent heat when there’s a nice ocean to dip into to cool off.

Staffie laying flat out on a sofa

Piglet versus heat

We finished the readthrough on Nige’s script! I know the story outline, but it’s much fun reading through the full detail and dialogue. He’s got his next steps planned out. Fingers crossed for him now.

Writing

I tracked my weekly goals for July at Write-a-thon 2018It’s been a pretty productive month, despite a few writing days skipped because of the stifling heat, so I’m happy. It’s a nice way to see how easy it can be sometimes to dip in and out of stories, writing new Phoenix Reborn one day then editing The Cursed Heir the next.

I’ll be sticking with Phoenix Reborn now until I get some feedback on The Cursed Heir at the end of August. Then we’ll see how much work there might be there.

Books

I managed a decent amount of reading this month, including a decent amount of not-trackable words in beta reading.

First up is Malcolm Devlin’s You Will Grow Into Them. In this collection of ten short stories of wonderful weird fiction and creeping horror. Beautiful writing mixed with unsettling oddness in genres that exist just at the tip of your tongue. My favourites were Passion Play and The End of Hope Street, but every story was compelling.

You Will Grow Into Them

The demons we carry inside us are very real indeed, but You Will Grow Into Them.

The Boy on the Bridge is a prequel to The Girl With All The Gifts (though I’d still say read that first), but it’s such a loose tie it doesn’t matter if you don’t remember the details. This is all new characters. It wasn’t quite as compelling as the first, but I still enjoyed dipping into the world of hungries and the tensions between the remaining humans.

The Tea Master and the Detective was a fun novella. The tea master is a mindship, a spaceship suffering PTSD that is hired to help out the detective. While loosely riffing on Sherlock Holmes (A Study in Scarlet I think), this is much more than those roots. I’ve read many computers/spaceships and The Shadow’s Child is by far my favourite. It felt like a ship. Beautiful worldbuilding, wonderful characters, I’d love to read more in this universe.

Death of a Clone is a fun sci-fi mystery. A clone is found murdered on a mining asteroid miles from earth which has no real structure for law and order. The narrator, Leila, having read Miss Marple, decides to investigate the crime herself. It’s a good fast-paced story with some thoughts regarding identity and memory.

The Palace Job is a nice light heist by the lovely Bioware writer and Clarion West alumni Patrick Weekes. It’s a good fun fantasy heist (I am reading so many heists, wow) with nine diverse characters from a unicorn to an innocent with a mysterious birthmark.

“A lock-man, a second-storey operator, and somebody who can jigger with the crystals the Ancients used,” Loch said crisply, “plus anybody who can handle magic and isn’t insane, evil, or overly religious.”

There were definitely elements that reminded me of Pratchett, especially the farcical humour and Dairy who isn’t Carrot honest, but I felt that with nine characters and five villains, a couple only existed to embody their roles. I did find the race elements to be a little clunky (use a sensitivity reader!) but not offensive. 

Films

Hollywood loves writer-directors – from Alfred Hitchcock to Steven Spielberg to Christopher Nolan to Wes Anderson or Woody Allen (ick) or Peter Jackson or Joss Whedon or Quentin Tarantino… anyway, it’s a long list. It’s also a long list of white men.

Enter my fave – M. Night Shyamalan. It was refreshing to see someone born in India rise to the heights he did, and despite falling to the depths, he has managed to rise again. Despite the ongoing critical hatred, the majority of his films have made decent returns on investment. 2015’s The Visit brought in box office revenue of thirteen times its budget.

Back to Split (which does NOT rely on a twist), which also made good numbers at the box office. I’m not touching on the portrayal of dissociative identity disorders (formerly known as split personality or multiple personality disorder), as I don’t have the knowledge but here’s an article on it. It’s been used a device in films from Psycho to Fight Club to Mr Robot.

It’s a film that really lets James McAvoy shine. He plays 23 characters, sometimes multiples within the same scene, and is on top form. One of his more troubled personalities kidnaps three girls and the film shows their captivity, the backstory of one of the girls, and McAvoy interacting with his therapist.

Split

Those are some of my favourite scenes, his troubled personality pretending to be one of the personalities usually in control and the therapist as she figures out that he’s lying to her. The film relies on the (disputed) research that says DID patients neurobiology is dependent on the identity and pushes it at little further to the extent that the whole body can change.

It’s a good, solid film that shines thanks to McAvoy’s performance with a strong ending, made even stronger by adding a tie-in to Unbreakable, his second most popular film. Which leads to Glass.

TV

The category is: Pose. This incredible show is set in the 1987-88 New York LGBT community. In an era where the majority of trans roles go to cis actors, Pose has five trans mains.

It’s a wonderful show that highlights a world I didn’t know anything about, the ball culture. Houses ‘walk’ for trophies at events called balls. Houses are alternative families for gay, gender non-conforming and trans youth. Led by ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’, the houses provide support their ‘children’ need and together they compete at the balls. (Madonna borrowed Voguing from the community for her song and video ‘Vogue’.)

Angel voguing in the royalty category

Pose

The series also shows the rise of the Trump-era businessman, with one of the leads working at Trump Tower and living with his wife and two kids while yearning to be with his lover. The contrast between the two worlds is vast, someone working lurid peep shows for much needed cash while another balances unfaithfulness in exchange for a new dishwasher. Anyway, it got renewed for a second season, so I’m here for more of this world!

I feel like he wanted to keep me. Like a doll. That’s all I ever wanted. But when I had it, I just felt like I wasn’t nothing until he decided to come home and play with me.

Killing Eve was a nice surprise. I saw the emmy noms so I decided to watch it. It’s a great show. I love Sandra Oh as the lead detective Eve investigating an assassin who becomes obsessed with her. The main cast are great and I love the recurring ones. I can see why she got a nom.

I also watched S1 and 2 of Queer Eye and as someone who hasn’t watched any reality TV, I loved it. Five very lovely guys who not only help people with their clothes and style, but with their lives and homes as well. I adore Tan France. As a Pakistani lad from Doncaster, he’s so wonderful to see on television. Plus the whole show is about rejecting toxic masculinity which the world really needs.

Luke Cage S2 was a strong season. Despite blips with the never-likeable Danny Rand, I enjoyed watching more Mariah and Shades and Misty and the new villain the Bushmaster. (I’m not getting into the Jafaikans accent discussion but check it out here). 

Bushmaster beats Luke easily by ignoring his invulnerability and using Capoeira to kick him to his ass. It’s good to remind Luke that he can’t do everything right. That comes up again when Luke is talking to Claire about his desire to protect Harlem, his dislike of being a brand, and their experiences of racism, and her experience of domestic violence. When Luke punches a wall in anger, it frightens Clare into leaving.

Shades and his lieutenant Comanche have a strangely close relationship until they revealed their past. It’s a good moment I didn’t expect and really made his ongoing actions that much more compelling and poignant.

Between Luke and Bushmaster and Shades, S2 does a good job of showing how men are raised to absorb their trauma and end up re-inflicting it instead of healing from it.

The women truly shine such as Misty and her learning to live with her disability and her ongoing struggle to stay on the right side of the law when surrounded by people who flaunt it so brazenly. Mariah and motherhood and her own traumatic past. Claire and her calming influence and how sometimes that isn’t enough.

The ending and the implications for S3 are intriguing. I’ll be sad if that’s the last of Claire on Luke Cage, but I’ll stay for Misty.

Games

So I’ve never really watched anyone else play games. Maybe the odd Twitch stream when a friend asked me to bump numbers, but it’s not how I find out about games.

Except for Two Point Hospital. Damn, do I want this game. To the extent that when the developers gave out streamer demos I watched a few (too many.) And holy shit, how does anyone do this? Every single person I tried made me desperate to take control. They ignored warnings that popped up! They placed items down in inaccessible places! They built a room so it looked pretty but it didn’t function! They missed the point of the level entirely! (No, a queue of 20+ for your GP means go train your GPs to be better, not to unlock another plant for decor.) I’m still watching the odd stream, but the four week wait for release is painful.

I’ve also been playing some early access Raft. I’ve not gamed with Evo in a while, so when he suggested it I bought it. It’s a survival sim where you start on a 2×2 raft with a shark regularly attacking. Evo’s only died a few times, so I feel I need to try harder, but it’s been good fun.

Raft

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