Curiosities // November 2022
Curiosities // November 2022
Guess what! It’s time for a new curiosities post!
What I’m Reading: I just picked up Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, a retelling of the classic science-fiction novel The Island of Doctor Moreau. I absolutely adored Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, a brilliant recasting of Gothic tropes that explicitly weaves in the historical reality of colonialism, racism, and sexism that often underpin the genre, and I’ve been looking forward to The Daughter of Doctor Moreau since it was announced. It’s set against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Mexico and is off to a fantastic start. I’m also halfway through Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall. The story takes place on the set of Bake Expectations, a thinly-veiled analog of The Great British Baking Show, and, like Hall’s other books, it has me actually cackling out loud.
What I’m Listening To: Honestly, I’m still mostly listening to the VAMPIRES playlist that I made last month to celebrate the Carterhaugh community planting more than 1500 trees in Romania. (You can listen to it here.) But I’ve also been listening to the soundtrack of Kurios, which I saw last week. It’s part jazz, part electric swing, all pretty steampunk, and it’s great background music for reading or writing. More on Kurios in a minute…
What I’m Watching: I’m working my way through the latest season of What We Do in the Shadows, and I just saw the episode that is styled like a home makeover show. It’s one of the most bizarre episodes of the show (at least since “On the Run,” the episode that guest starred Mark Hamill, in which Laszlo skips town because of a long-owed debt and makes a new life for himself in Pennsylvania as bartender Jackie Daytona) and it made me laugh WILDLY. I’m also about halfway through Spy x Family, an anime in which a spy has to build a fake family in order to fulfill a mission…not realizing that his adopted daughter is a telepath and the woman he marries for convenience is an assassin. It’s, of course, completely over-the-top, but very cute and funny.
Something That Made Me Think: So I’ve been wanting to see Kurios, Cirque du Soleil’s nineteenth-century/ steampunk themed show for eight years, and I finally got to see it over the weekend. The concept behind the show is nineteenth-century cabinets of curiosity, also sometimes called “wonder rooms.” They were small collections of extraordinary objects – basically, the precursor to modern museums – and they attempted to categorize objects, tell stories, and both promote understanding of and a sense of enchantment for the natural world. This show was full of flying machines (planes, flying bicycles, and hot air balloons), giant music boxes that contained acrobats who performed impossible feats of strength and agility, and clowns who pretended to be cats with such accuracy that I laughed until I cried. It was just…really good art. As I watched this incredible woman (a velocipedestrienne, in nineteenth-century terms) ride a bicycle upside down through the air, I wanted to write a poem about her. And that made me think about why it was such good art. What made it so spectacular? And so moving? It wasn’t just that it was flashy and full of incredible props (which it was), but it made me feel a sense of wonder, made me want to make stuff that might make other people feel that way, too.
Something That Made Me Laugh: I know I said all this stuff about how Kurios was, like, great art and made me think profound things, but also there’s this one scene where one of the clowns flawlessly imitates a cat and I laughed until I cried, so.
What I’m Reading: Well, as you might have seen on Facebook, Sara’s been making me read all kinds of things :P. The one I’m in the middle of right now, however, is called The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen, and it’s totally weird and completely charming. Basically, it’s a You’ve Got Mail-ish inspired romcom set in a completely new fantasy world complete with unique gods, monsters, and adorable critters that deliver mail. Oh and Mercy is actually an undertaker, so there’s that too. I’ve also started another delightful book called In the Shadow Garden by Liz Parker, a small-town witchy mystery story that reminds me a bit of Practical Magic. Yes, I have a bad habit of being in the middle of at least two books at any given time, but hey, it works for me!
What I’m Listening To: I’ve been listening to two really cool new things lately! So the first is the album “The Secret Music of Lily Dale” by Jill Tracy, an instrumental album that’s billed as “a sonic exploration of Lily Dale, the private community of mediums and Spiritualists in upstate New York.” Tracy set up an antique piano inside the town’s 1883 auditorium (“site of séances and spirit communication for over 100 years”) and improvised gorgeous, otherworldly music to go with “nighttime thunderstorms, Lily Dale’s beloved bells, chimes, and nature.” It’s SO cool and perfect for this time of year!! I’ve also been really into Kiki Rockwell’s music recently – she doesn’t have a full album yet (just an EP and a few singles), but all of her songs are really, really cool. It’s all witchy and mystical but with a very modern edge. The first song I came across is “Same Old Energy,” which is fantastic, and I also really love “Cup Runneth Over” and “Composure.”
What I’m Watching: Mua ha ha the first three episodes of the new season of “Leverage: Redemption” just dropped, and obviously Josh and I have already watched all of them. New episodes will come out every week now (#4 will be available tomorrow!) and, frankly, I have been completely spoiled by binging. Having to wait a WEEK for a new episode?? What 1995 nonsense is this? :P. I’ve also been working my way through the quirky YouTube series “Headless,” which is a super weird and often hilarious take on the whole Sleepy Hollow “Headless Horseman” thing. I think my favorite part of this series is how nonchalant all the long-time residents are while completely magical stuff is happening around them constantly and Ichabod is like “OMG WHAT.” I’m eager to see how it will wind up!
Something That Made Me Think: I read R.K. Duncan’s piece “SFF’s Big Fat Problem” on Tor the other day, and it absolutely made me think. It’s pretty much a given that society at large treats anyone with a body that isn’t one very specific “ideal” as abject – as Duncan puts it, there is a “steady drip of cruelty and trauma that fat people experience in every public space” – but to see it patiently pointed out in speculative genres was eye opening in ways I didn’t expect. I think I tend to think that those who write speculative literature – at least the kind of speculative literature that I gravitate to and love – are… better than that? But they’re not, at least not always. Duncan points out that, while many SFF works have made efforts in this area, a lot of those efforts fall short, and there are still so many awful things that creep in, an ‘unconscious fatphobia,” as he puts it. It’s not enough to just, say, avoid making your villain a cartoonish fat person if your hero is obsessed with fitting into a certain size dress, or if your best friend character is described as “surprisingly graceful,” or if you’re still using the word “obese” outside a very specific context. Duncan writes: “I don’t believe this change from intentionally pejorative caricature to unconscious fatphobia in more recent works means the SFF community is taking a stand against or even noticing the more egregious fatphobia when it comes up.” Oof. SFF needs to do a lot better.
Something That Made Me Laugh: This absolutely cracked me up with delight 😀
What are you reading, listening to, watching, thinking about, and laughing at lately? Let us know in the comments!