What’s New — July 2017

July is a month I have been long awaiting, for a few reasons:

  • It’s Camp NaNoWriMo, so I can focus on writing my novel again
  • Final Fantasy XII is coming out on PS4, so I can replay it
  • A ton of good movies are coming out

Plus, days off for 4th of July and all that good stuff. =)

Last month, I played some more Injustice 2, started making my way through Wolfenstein: The New Order, spent a lot of time working thanks to E3 madness, and saw the amazing and funny Wonder Woman movie. This month…

Novel Writing

On the writing front, I have been pretty bad about keeping to a schedule lately. I’ve had a lot of ideas, so in general things are going in the right direction — I just need to make time to write. I’d blame a super busy work month, but there’s never an excuse for not writing!

In any case, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has a camp in April and July, which lets you group up with other writers online to encourage each other through the month. You set your own personal goals with this one. Mine will be to write seven hours per week. I’d say one hour per day, but I’m going to give myself the leeway to write a little extra some days and skip a day once in a while, depending on when I have time. Life happens, after all. But by the end of the month, with that much writing, I should feel like I made some good progress!

Final Fantasy XII

final-fantasy-xii-key-artI don’t need another video game in my life right now. I’m wrapping up both Mass Effect Andromeda and Wolfenstein: The New Order, I’m playing some Nex Machina co-op with my partner, and I’ve started a new playthrough of Dragon Age Inquisition that I’ll be chipping away at for the next little while here. I also have Persona 5 on my list of games-to-play. And Night in the Woods.

But… Final Fantasy XII is one of my favorite video games ever, and one of the first I played. The characters and rich settings are so stuck in my mind. I remember battling through tedious dungeons just to get to that next beautiful cutscene and unravel more of the story. I was in love with Balthier. It’s just such a magical game to me, I have to play it again now that it’s coming to the PlayStation 4. It’ll take me some time, but hey, video games are meant to be enjoyed. I can take my time. =)

Movies

Summer is known for blockbuster movies, and the ones I’m most looking forward to are Spider-Man: Homecoming next week, and then Dunkirk and Valerian later in the month.

I’ve started reading Valerian (specifically the comic tied to the movie) to learn about the characters and world. I love that it’s fun, over-the-top science fiction adventure, but with that underlying young romance. Maybe unrequited, which can be even better.

What’s everybody else doing and playing this month?

— Ashley

5 Episodes of “Black Mirror” to Get You Started

I recently finished watching the science fiction show Black Mirror. Created by Charlie Brooker, it’s a dark look at what our future could be, focusing mostly on our obsession with technology. Each episode is a self-contained story — so you can watch them in any order without missing a thing — depicting a different version of our current world or near-future.

Continue reading 5 Episodes of “Black Mirror” to Get You Started

Reading “American Gods”: The Longest Road Trip Ever

This past month I finally read a Neil Gaiman novel. I’ve been wanting to read his work forever, as he’s a sort of mythic figure in nerd culture for his comic books, his work on Doctor Who, and his fantastical stories and books. I know a lot of people who are huge fans, so hearing that his novel American Gods was being made into a Starz TV series, I settled in to explore what might be the most famous work from Gaiman.

American Gods poses a fascinating idea: What if pagan gods were trying to survive in modern-day America? Immigrants would bring their beliefs from their original countries to the United States, and the gods would survive through people’s belief — however long that lasts.

So what if the goddess Bilquis (the Queen of Sheba) — a divine being who eats men alive as they worship her during lovemaking — lived in the United States today? And how would the ancient Egyptian gods fare, if they made their livings as modern undertakers? The idea that their enemies would be today’s media and technology — the things we American are currently obsessed with — manifests into exactly those kinds of new gods, like Media and the Technical Boy. So a war is brewing between the old gods and the new.

Continue reading Reading “American Gods”: The Longest Road Trip Ever

Why I ♥ “Cosmic Star Heroine”

This past month I have fallen in love with a little game called Cosmic Star Heroine. It’s a Kickstarter by Zeboyd Games, featuring 16-bit graphics and a conspiracy story set on another planet. Because of the retro art style and turn-based combat, I would recommend it specifically to gamers who enjoy those things. It’s not for everybody. But it feels made for me, and since it’s not a AAA title getting tons of attention, I want to make sure to share it with you all. Here are a few reasons I’m loving it so much.

Continue reading Why I ♥ “Cosmic Star Heroine”

Experiencing the Music of “Game of Thrones” Live!

This week I attended the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience. At least I think that’s the official name for it. Stadium acoustics aside (it was in the arena where they often host hockey matches), it’s an amazing touring event led by Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi, who serves as the evening’s conductor, musician, and host. The orchestra that played was a local one, which was a nice touch for this particular show of a touring performance.

Continue reading Experiencing the Music of “Game of Thrones” Live!

What’s New — June 2017

Hey everybody! I can’t believe summer is already here, and this month the thing I am most looking forward to is E3. While I’m not attending this year, I am eager to see what new games are announced so I can keep on filling my already way-too-full stack of games I need to play. =)

eos outpostRight now, I’m in the process of finishing my playthrough of Mass Effect Andromeda. I’m not sure exactly how far along I am, but I feel like things are starting to crescendo, so the finale must be on the way! While I can’t say I am as hooked on the game as I was on the original Mass Effect trilogy, it’s definitely scratching my itch for sci-fi, and I love the exploration aspect of the game. The characters are great, missions are exciting — the biggest issue I have, I would say, is that it does still rely too much on fetch quests and repetitive side missions, like their other open world game, Dragon Age Inquisition. But I’ll post my thoughts when I’m all done with the game!

DA8KVQHUMAAsJr5I’ve also been really into Injustice 2 lately, although it’s harder for me to get the hang of than Mortal Kombat X was. I tried a bunch of characters until I decided Catwoman was the one for me, but even then, it’s been taking some time to nail her special moves and combos. She doesn’t come as naturally to me as D’Vorah did in Mortal Kombat X. I’ve also enjoyed playing as Poison Ivy, Black Adam, and Robin, and I’m in love with Black Canary’s outfits which makes me want to play as her sometime too. But I have to focus on one character at a time, because getting those combos down is all about muscle memory! I can only learn so much at once. Plus, Catwoman has some pretty kickass moves — she uses a whip, guys — and I love her gear. One of my favorite things about Injustice 2 so far is the ability to play with gear, outfitting your characters the way you want. Different outfits come with different stats, but you can swap gear with something you like the look of more, and use shaders to customize colors. For someone like me who gets way to into character creators, playing dress-up like this is really addicting.

Anyway, other than that I’ve been reading The Witcher books. I just re-read The Last Wish — well, specifically I listened to the audiobook this time — and now I’m moving on to Sword of Destiny (which I totally missed before) and then the first novel in the series, Blood of Elves. You can read my thoughts on The Last Wish here!

uk-orig-the-blade-itselfI also just started reading my first Joe Abercrombie book, The Blade Itself. I know I just started it yesterday, but I’m now five chapters in and falling in love fast. It feels like everything I want in an epic fantasy — amazing world-building, deep characters, hand-to-hand combat action — but with a real sense of humor. It actually reminds me of the tone of The Witcher series, just because it’s both fun and funny, while still tackling some serious fantasy politics and danger. (I mean, one of the main characters is a torturer.)

For other entertainment, I’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu and American Gods on Starz.

The first is an adaptation of one of my favorite books, and in the latest episodes it’s been taking some very dark turns, some of which deviate a little bit from the novel. I think everyone should read the book, honestly. The show is excellent too, but I think it would probably help to read the book first, as it’s a pretty stark world to dive into on a screen; somehow reading it feels like a more gentle, if still disturbing, introduction to this world where fertile women are forced into servitude to produce children.

american gods tv show.pngThe latter, American Gods, is an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel, which I read recently and only kind of liked. However, the show is amazing. I like it a lot more than the book so far, in part because it visualizes things with much more color and excitement than the novel did. Where the book plodded along, the show creates a distinct energy as you take in the details of the setting, the characters’ expressions, and the beautiful cinematography. The fact that the show doesn’t shy away from the conquests of Bilquis, who devours those she sleeps with, is impressive too. I appreciate the novel’s concept so much, but in execution, it works better as a show for me.

And then there’s my writing. I am getting back into noveling lately. I miss it. I’ve been pretty busy with work and video games the past couple of months, but National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is also awesome enough to organize a couple of months every year dedicated to making your own writing goals. The next one is in July, so I’m going to come up with a goal for it. In the meantime, I’m prepping by getting back into the habit of writing on a daily (or almost daily) basis, and outlining in greater detail so I don’t get stuck when I sit down to stare at a blank page!

What are you all up to this month? Are there any new games or shows you are excited about, and what are you most excited to see from E3?!

Ashley

The Mind-Expanding World of “Legion” (& Why I Loved It)

I just finished watching the most amazing show, Legion, by creator Noah Hawley. It’s technically a show about mutants in the X-Men universe, but I didn’t realize that going into it. I didn’t know quite what to expect, except a superhero show. But it wasn’t like other superhero shows. That first episode features such explosive action — all based on mental abilities rather than super-strength or some more traditional power — I knew this would be something really different to watch.

And it was. Instead of constant action, the show focuses on the disturbed mental state of protagonist David Haller, and midway through the season I was hooked. This is a hallucinogenic drug of a show that explores mutant abilities and mental illness, like two sides of a coin. It’s also a character study of a man with inner demons that are more real than any you or I could ever have.

Here are a few reasons I fell in love with this show. Some minor (not end-of-show!) spoilers to follow, but I hope reading this is incentive to watch it if you haven’t yet. :)

Continue reading The Mind-Expanding World of “Legion” (& Why I Loved It)

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, and VIDEO GAMES!