‘Tis the season of socially relevant cinema, from Moonlight to Hidden Figures to Thirteen to I Am Not Your Negro. But, as always, it is the speculative fiction genre that distinguishes itself in its ability to package the sociopolitical ills of our present day into fantastic scenarios that entertain, spook, titillate, inspire, and fuel. While Get Out is much more overt, The Girl With All The Gifts is an artistically subtle tale of power, fear and exploitation.
Zombie fiction tends to have a common theme – the destruction of civilization sparked or exacerbated by the frailty of humanity. Centuries before George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) attempted to portray the relationship between race and fear through a zombie apocalypse, zombie mythos among western hemisphere Africans was a metaphor for racial oppression. While race may be deemphasized in recent zombie franchises (e.g. The Walking Dead, Resident Evil), zombie fiction continues to be a backdrop for dialogue on social power hierarchies.
Ah the podcast. This simple style of media has its roots in the old-school art form of radio and is a cheap, easy, and delightfully portable way to receive news, entertainment, and education.
If you’re like me, then you probably have a list of your favorite podcasts ready at the tap of a touch screen, but you’re probably also are always on the lookout for new shows to tickle your ears and fill up your mind with new ideas.
That’s why today I’m pleased to share four podcasts that I officially recommend for geeky ears.
2016 was a pretty interesting year for games: with the rise of VR and announcements about new generation consoles, there’s a lot more going on for gaming than in previous years. I didn’t get to play everything that I wanted to (of course), and although I played a lot of AAA games as well, I’m trying to spend more time looking at indie offerings. Here (in no particular order) is a quick list of some of the indie games that I played last year and would recommend:
Inside is a side-scrolling puzzle/platform game from indie studio Playdead, where you control a boy who, from the first scene, is being chased by soldiers, dogs and scientists. Although the narrative doesn’t do much to explain what’s happening, you do get to wear mind control helmets to move zombies around to solve puzzles, and there’s an underlying commentary about autonomy and ownership. The art is minimal, with the setting being mostly black and gray, except for your character and interactable objects. Likewise, there’s very little soundtrack, with only audio cues, and the sound of your character’s footsteps, which really adds to how eerie the setting is.
This one came out in 2014 but I only got around to playing it in 2016. There are lots of games about war, but This War of Mine is unique in that you play as non-combatant residents of a war-torn city–all the fighting you do is for your day-to-day survival. I think this one hit home particularly hard because I started playing as the Siege of Aleppo was intensifying at the end of the year, and there are some incredibly heartbreaking choices you have to make. It’s not a game I would say I enjoyed per se, but I think it is definitely one that is worth playing for the lessons in empathy, understanding and acceptance it can teach. (And if that’s not emotionally wrenching enough for you, there’s now an expansion called This War of Mine: The Little Ones where you experience the besieged city through the eyes of a child.)
Overcooked is a great little cooking game where couch cooperation is key to success–it’s not enough to just be good at the game as an individual; where it gets fun (and tricky and frustrating) is playing with a group of up to three other players, where you have to navigate a kitchen without bumping into each other to source, prepare, cook and serve food. With some clever mechanics that focus on teamwork and cooperation, hilarity (and a little bit of rage) ensues.
I absolutely love Unravel. It’s probably the most visually stunning game on this list, and it’s a little game with a lot of heart. You play as Yarny, an anthromorphic ball of yarn who—as the name suggests—unravels as he traverses across levels, using his yarn to solve puzzles and move objects around. The mechanics in the game are pretty straightforward, but what ties Unravel together (if you forgive the pun) is how lovely it is. The story is poignant and bittersweet, but it is incredibly clear that the developers really put their love into making it the game that they wanted. Also, you’d never imagine that a ball of red yarn could have so much emotion and personality.
I’m a huge fan of adventure games, but the majority of them that I’ve played are of the point-and-click variety. Firewatch is almost like a grownup version of that, with a mystery that drives the story and a first-person perspective that works surprisingly well for the narrative and the puzzles. You play as Henry, a volunteer lookout for Shoshone National Park, and your only means of connection to the outside world is via a walkie-talkie. As you patrol your part of the park, you discover a whole host of different storylines that interweave. I really enjoyed the way Firewatch set up dialog trees so that your responses in your conversations would drive how your experience in the game evolved.
Salt and Sanctuary
If you like the grindiness of games like Dark Souls, but set in a 2D platformer, where you can play cooperatively with your friends (and not just people who invade your game), Salt and Sanctuary might be worth checking out. It’s a hard game, but there are lots of player customizations, and playing with your friends helps soften the blow of the many, many, times that you’ll die in the game.
The Flame in the Flood is a roguelike survival game, where you play as Scout, a survivor in a flooded, post-apocalyptic America where the land has been transformed into a series of islands that she has to traverse on a makeshift raft. As she and her dog Aesop travel down the river, Scout has to contend with wild animal attacks, snakebites, hunger, and staying warm and dry, all the while as she uncovers the mystery of where everyone went during the rapture. What keeps the game together is the river, which varies between calm streams to rushing rapids that you have to maneuver through to get to the next destination. Will it take you where you want to go? Or will you be dashed upon rocks? I also highly recommend the soundtrack for The Flame in the Flood; I didn’t stop listening to it for weeks after I finished the campaign.
What did you play in 2016 that you enjoyed? Are there any other indie games that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below! Happy gaming for 2017!
Ah, the transportive joy of reading. It is frequent geek girl companion, and one of my favorite topics in the whole world.
Many geeky people use the new year as a time to set reading goals, make lists, visit bookstores and libraries, and decide how many books they can cram into their brain before the ball drops on another year.
Although I’ve never been the kind to set a physical book goal, I love to journey into new realms of reading, filling my mind and my bookshelf with undiscovered worlds and new pockets of thought, feeling, and idea.
Choosing what to read next is similar to journeying through the wild west: limitless paths with distractions, surprises, and discoveries around every corner. While this “shoot-from-the-hip” style certainly keeps things interesting, it doesn’t make for very intentional explorations of genres, authors, or themes.
As a writer, and a fictional writer at that, reading takes up a great deal of my time. I love perusing the shelves at the local bookstore, searching for new books to add to my library. In celebration of a fresh start as we welcome 2017, I set a fairly lofty goal for myself: to read at least one book per week, aside from the arsenal I already read in professional pursuits. I set this resolution in order to force myself to rethink how I utilize my downtime. Whether it’s a more thoughtful memoir by someone I admire, an educational anthology that’ll help inform my work, or an epic fantasy for pure leisure, I want to make sure that I’m actively enriching my mind with a good book.
For those of you who share my love of reading, and have set similar goals for yourselves, I’ve come with an author recommendation that is bound to keep your reading time well occupied.
Last summer I was introduced to the world of Sarah J. Maas. I was immediately enamored with her work, and read everything that she had published (at the time) in the span of one month. To date, Maas has written two stellar young adult series that are ongoing, currently totaling in eight novels, that are bound to interest readers young and old — she’s easily become one of my favorite modern authors. I even included her debut novel, Throne of Glass, as a part of our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide out of admiration.
A manifesto of sorts, I’m going to do my darndest to tell you why these books are absolutely fabulous, and worthy of a good read (all spoiler free!):
Both series take place within the same meta-universe, and are high fantasy “epics” about some pretty stellar girls doing some pretty stellar things. Throne of Glass, which currently sports six novels (one of which is a little collection of short stories that take place before the events of the first novel), and A Court of Thorns and Roses, which currently has two. Both series are scheduled to wrap up this year, with spin-off novels of the latter, ACOTAR, in the future works. That’s over 3,500 pages of material to blast through.
At 9am on Thanksgiving morning, my father was in the kitchen cooking our turkey and heating up sides that were prepared the night before. By noon, after we were done eating our “Thanksgiving Brunch,” my mother began fluffing one of her five synthetic Christmas trees. At 4pm, we went to go see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at their local theatre, and proceeded to spend the car ride home defending it to the nonbelievers (I’m looking at you, Pat). Finally, at 8pm we were all stringing up twinkly lights, and ogling at our massive, life-accrued collection ornaments whilst decorating the tree(s) as a family.
The Holiday season is officially upon us, and we are all abuzz with family traditions, seasonal drinks from your local coffee joint, and time with laughing with your friends and family. We are a diverse community that celebrates a plethora of different holidays. My family personally celebrates what we like to call “Commercial Christmas,” as we are avid fans of baking cookies and watching our favorite holiday movies on repeat. Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, or which traditions your family shares, many of us are looking for the perfect present to give your loved ones to let them know how much you care.
In order to help you take a step back and enjoy the holiday season that much more, or give you more time to finish up your last bits of work before hunkering down to spend some well deserved time with family, we’ve curated some of our favorite books, games, and festive plush toys that your geeky loved one will absolutely adore. Whether your geek is a big fan of Supernatural or renewing their love of Pokemon with the recent release of Sun and Moon, we’ve got something for every geek…and maybe just maybe, a little something for yourself!
Coloring Books, Novels, and Art
For your book-worm geek we’ve put together a list of coloring books (because those are trendy, right?), a unconventional YA series about a 16 year-old female assassin who takes on a world of magic, graphic novels, and art books detailing the beautiful concept work from the latest Disney flick:
We’ve found some great stuff for your media-obsessed geek. Whether your gamer has been plugging away since they could hold a controller, or is even newer to the gaming scene, we’ve got a few video games that are breaking the mold with fabulous female leads and compelling stories. We’ve also found an amazing but lesser-known film from some of our absolute favorite studios, Studio Ghibli, following a woman as she looks back on her childhood. Included are also a couple of coffee table books highlighting the history of Tomb Raider and the film Aliens’ cinematography.
Does your geek have an annual countdown to the holiday season, to when it’s appropriate to wear “ugly” Christmas sweaters and listen to nothing but Carol of the Bells for two months, non-stop? Well, that’s my kind of geek and I’ve got you covered. For my festive friends, we’ve got sweaters and other snuggly gifts, plush toys wearing plush sweaters, and nerdy cookie kits:
Whether you’re looking for stocking stuffers, or something a little extra special, we’ve also put together a ton of miscellaneous gifts. Scarfs and shower curtains for your science lovers, cosmetics and bath bombs for a little self-love, and PUSHEEN! We wanted to make sure that there was something for everyone under the tree or by the fireside:
Note: Links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means GeekGirlCon receives credit if you make a purchase using them. You can also sign up for AmazonSmile for free and help out GeekGirlCon! Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the charitable donation of your choice, like us!
I’m not alone when I say I’ve had a hard few weeks. Things have felt slightly broken, shook askew, tilted into fantasy mayhem. I’m trying to take the long view, trying to steel myself for a fight, but sometimes some of the best uses of our time is taking a step back and looking through different eyes.
I’m a big reader, so in the days since the election I’ve been trying to understand things through fiction. So here’s a small list of inspiring and thought-provoking books I’ve been dwelling on.
I suppose that I’m getting a bit of a reputation around these parts as being the sci-fi/pop culture geek, and today isn’t going to break the cycle.
The best science fiction is a way to look at the world we live in and ask ourselves what it means to be human–I know, it’s a tall order. So, when a movie comes along that fits the bill, I go out of my way to support it.
That movie is Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival.
Arrival is about a linguist who is recruited by the government to help communicate with mysterious aliens who have landed on Earth.
What follows is a beautiful, quiet, and measured reflection on communication and understanding. Not only does the story dive deeply into the science of communication (what elements of speech do you have to teach someone to convey that you are asking a question?), but it also stands as a more reflective metaphor for global society.
Once the cold weather returns to my neck of the woods, I like to cuddle up with a blanket watch and science fiction. There’s something about the dark evening that sends my mind to a dreamy, speculative place.
While I’m always on the lookout for new shows, books, and movies, sometimes it’s nice to revisit old favorites. To kick things off, here are my picks for sci-fi shows to re-watch (or check out for the first time) this season.
Starring the incredible Tatiana Maslany in more than 14 different roles, this BBC America series is one of the best ongoing series around.
The plot revolves around Sarah Manning, a troubled British woman who wants to make amends with her daughter and adopted family. While waiting for the subway she encounters a crying woman who looks exactly like her. Before Sarah can confront her, the mysterious twin throws herself in front of an oncoming train. Sarah gets more than she bargained for when decides to assume the dead woman’s identity. The truth is that they are clones, and there are a lot more of them. As she is wound deeper into the mystery, Sarah must struggle to keep herself, her family, and her new-found sisters safe.
This near-future science fiction show has so much going for it that I don’t know where to start. The writing is superb, the characters talk like real people, and although the plot is complex, it’s always presented clearly. More than anything, the writers have an excellent understanding of voice, and they use it to full effect. Every character is three-dimensional, which is very important when you have one actor playing so many different roles.