November has been a busy month with less going out and more writing completed. The colder weather also meant a little more curling up under blankets while Netflix bingeing.

Writing

November is the month of NaNoWriMo were people are encouraged to try and write every day to a goal of fifty thousand words. I usually sign up, even if I often skip around projects rather than complete one. All words created and edited are good words so I’m happy with that.

NaNoWriMo 2018

I completed a good first draft of Codename True Blue which was my goal for November, plus I had time spare to work on a few edits of another project.

Books

More beta reading and sensitivity reading this month.

I was also lucky enough to receive an arc for Junction by Daniel Benson. I met Dan at a writing con which meant I was lucky enough to read an early version of this.

Dan is one of those people whose words are as creative, funny and, original as his presence. Junction is inventive, ridiculous, and just on the edge of believable. The characters are very different than usual, the story is an exciting romp into the incredible unknown, and the monsters are so vast and creative and wonderful.

I also finished Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, edited by N.K. Jemisin. Series editor John Joseph Adams compiles a list of eighty short stories that he considers the best American S&SF of the year. He passes those onto a guest editor – this year N.K. Jemisin, who chooses their top ten fantasy and ten sci-fi. Of course, with twenty stories you’ll find some you love more than others, but I enjoyed or was made to think by every single story in this anthology. There is a real diverse range of innovative, thoughtful stories and I’m hard pressed to pick one favourite, so I’ll mention the ones I’m still thinking about:

You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych, by Kathleen Kayembe
Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn by A. Merc Rustad
The Resident by Carmen by Maria Machado
Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sure by Charlie Jane Anders (transphobia TW)
The Orange Tree by Maria Dahvana Headley

Empire of Sand

I’ve been waiting for the release of Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand – the Mughal Empire inspired fantasy novel. The setting is glorious, shifting sands, a huge desert, Mughal-like architecture, supernatural daivas and mystics who control them. The story opens with the main character Mehr living in the palace with her father and step-mother before quickly sweeping off into almost fanfic-like fake-marriage and forced proximity relationship with a mysterious mystic Amun where they develop a slow-burn romance before an action-packed conclusion. It feels like the story is well concluded, but I hope for more mostly to find out how her sister and parents fared.

Films

Searching, starring John Cho and directed by Indian-American Aneesh Chaganty was a real treat. The approach – only showing what appeared on the computer screen – worked really well, with only the odd slight wiggle to keep the narrative flowing.

I love the use of videos and news clips to set up the story, especially as David (John Cho) realises how little he really understands his teenage daughter. How many parents know all of their kids’ friends, their phone numbers, the details of their lives?

Searching.

Plus I was so drawn into the digital world, I scanned each screen to spot clues and stumbled upon an alien invasion subplot. At first, I thought it tied into the main plot, but I wasn’t disappointed that it was just a cute Easter egg.

A film that feels timely, despite being set in the early ’70s, BlackkKlansman shows how plain ridiculous racism is when the Klan invite black cop Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) to join their group via a phone call. I love how quickly Ron disproves the idea that the KKK can tell how a ‘negro’ speaks by not changing his speech patterns at all and still fooling them.

“How does a black man speak?”

It’s a police drama, based on a true story, that shows the officers trying to infiltrate two groups, the Ku Klux Klan and a black student union activist group. This is a film of political ideas that clearly shows the rotten core of American society. From the Gone with the Wind opening, to the speech regarding white social views of beauty, the anti-semitism and homophobia and misogyny all laid bare.

BlackkKlansmen.

TV

I’m watching Doctor Who and Butterfly, but am midseason in both. I’ll hold off reviewing for now but I’m enjoying them. It’s good to see diverse and interesting shows becoming the norm. Doctor Who did really pull me in with a South Asian companion and the season home setting being Sheffield. It feels so unusual and different, I’m enjoying it so far.

There was one standout for me of Season 3 Daredevil and it was FBI agent Ray Nadeem (Jay Ali). It is rare to see someone speaking Hindi on a TV show and they’re not a terrorist. (Iron Man, you’re still my leave fave Marvel). Ray is a good agent driven into the ground by paying for his sister-in-law’s medical bills when her insurance stopped. Financial pressure makes Ray step up at work, which brings him onto Fisk’s radar. He manages to get Fisk to part with information and he truly believes he’s doing a good job.

Ray Nadeem, Daredevil.

Of course, it’s all fake. Fisk manipulated the medical insurance, Fisk manipulated the FBI and now Ray is blackmailed into working for him. He allows terrible things to happen under his watch and he struggles with it. He’s a brilliant, deep character and I loved his story.

“No, I didn’t do them. But I didn’t stop them from happening, either. And that’s just as bad. I was trying to keep you and your mom safe. I don’t care what people say about me. All I care about is what you say about me. And that you get to live the life that you want.”

This moment, this pivotal scene where Ray sacrifices himself to save his family is actually about Matt. Because Matt is listening to this speech and relating it to himself. To his own father and his own upbringing. This speech lets Matt understand his father and forgive his mother. This season was a little too heavy on Matt and Bullseyes manpain for me. I’m sorry it got cancelled but I’m not mad about it.

Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act has started on Netflix. Only a few eps in, it’s clearly playing to his strengths as a storyteller with good slices of both humour and politics.

Games

Yes, I am still playing Red Dead Redemption 2. Yes, I finished the main story. No, I do not want to talk about it.

Well, that’s not true, I do and I will but perhaps next month so I can dig into spoilers a little. But suffice to say it’s an exceptional story that is mostly marred by my inability to use a PS4 controller because jeez, mice and keyboards are way easier. (Also, way easier for a leftie who has customised the shit out of her peripherals). Despite my lack of riding ability, despite my many headlong smashes into the trees, I’m loving appreciating every second of this.

Arthur and John my favourite dumbasses.

To put this game in perspective, it made $725 million 3 days after release compared to Marvel’s biggest film (Infinity War) which made $640 million worldwide on its opening weekend. The biggest difference though, despite digital vistas reminiscent of John Ford, is that this is interactive. You can ride along the plains, but you can also go hunt the animals or rob a store or help someone in trouble in the woods. The difference is this changes the world. Hunting animals means others nearby run for the hills. Robbing a store puts a wanted price on your head. Helping someone in trouble might result in a reward or an attempted robbery. You live by your choices and the consequences of them. It’s incredibly dynamic.

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