Book Recommendation: Mermaid Anthology

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Forget about Disney’s little mermaid (or even Hans Christian Andersen’s). Don’t let the cover fool you; while the occasional fish-tailed beauty makes an appearance, the mermaids and other sea creatures in Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, edited by Paula Guran, are just as likely to be genetically engineered navy officers or full-on monsters. And the writers take full advantage of the range of folkloric subjects available. Ships’ figureheads, male mermaids, selkies, and more appear among this anthology’s pages.

These deep-sea myths come to life both prey on humans and fall victim to them. This brilliant anthology makes use of the mermaid and associated myths to tell rich, socially aware stories that question both the power and mystery of the mythical other AND the monstrosity that can live within the human heart. Furthermore, the ocean itself is also often as much a feature of the stories as those who dwell within it. This anthology’s is as much as a love story for or ode to the sea as it is an investigation into the mermaid myth.

If that isn’t enough to make you dip your toes, this fresh, nuanced collection also boasts some big names in the speculative fiction scene, including Neil Gaiman and Elizabeth Bear.

The range and depths of these stories coupled with the impressive talent assembled to tell them make Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep one of my most enthusiastic anthology recommendations.

4 fishtails out of 5

-Sarah

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Neko Atsume: English Edition

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When I heard that a popular Japanese game about cats was being released in English, I immediately downloaded it. A game about collecting kitties is basically an embodiment of my childhood fantasies (especially having grown up with a mother allergic to cats).

As for the game itself? It has good points and less exciting points. The goal of the game is simple: buy and arrange food, toys, and furniture to attract cats. Collect them in a cat album. Be rewarded with fish that you can then use to buy more food, toys, and furniture . . . and attract MORE cats.

The Pros

The graphics are cute and colourful, and the mementos that the cats give you are endearing and weird (from small mittens to cicada skin). There’s decent variety in terms of the food types, toys, and furniture you can buy, and working your way up to the point where you can buy a room expansion can be addictive. The cats also sometimes show up in funny costumes or odd positions, which can be entertaining.

The Cons

I feel like I want more features like the mementos to feel like I’m getting something out of my relationship with the cats, adorable pixels that they are. It would be nice if, when you clicked on a cat, you could do more than just see its stats—like maybe pet it or have it react in some way.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 fish

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Overall, the game is a fun and somewhat engaging time waster, but to maintain my attention the way I’d like it to, it would need something to make it more interactive and personal. I’ve been playing for a few months, but ever since I got the room expansion and the main items I wanted, the appeal has waned somewhat, and I usually only feed the cats every couple of days when I’m bored waiting for the subway. That said, maybe that’s all the game needs to be there for.

Fan Expo, Crafting, Doctor Who, and Wedding Geekery

Last weekend, we dropped by Fan Expo for the opportunity to get costumed up and the requisite visit to the Doctor Who Society booth. I wore a Silence costume that I put together last-minute in an obsessive frenzy over the week before the con and Devin wore his awesome 11th Doctor costume from our wedding (oh yeah, that happened). See below for Doctor Who geekery galore.

First, here are some Fan Expo shots.

Aaand the making of the mask.

And finally, here’s some geeky wedding porn (and yes, I made a medieval dalek as a photo prop/stand-in for an absent bridesmaid). Wedding photos are all by the awesome, geeky, talented Alexei Malokhov of Open Eye Studio.

And now to await Halloween with eager anticipation!

-Sarah

As Equals to Premiere at The Quilliad Launch

Our new short film ‘As Equals’ directed by Sean Marjoram, will premiere at the launch of The Quilliad‘s 5th issue. We are so proud to partner with this incredible arts journal to bring a multi-media aspect to our arts and poetry geeks’ portfolio. The films’ web debut occurred earlier this week. View the film below:

As Equals – A Poetry and Film Inter-Arts Project.
Poetry by Devin P.L. Edwards. Photography by Sean Marjoram.

Book Review: The Time Traveller’s Almanac (anthology)

wpid-2015-02-09-10.45.27.jpg.jpegWhile suffering from Doctor Who withdrawal, I came across this time travel tome in the science fiction section of Indigo. The authors advertised on the cover (Douglas Adams! Isaac Asimov! Ursula K. Le Guin! George R. R. Martin! H.G. Wells!) would have been enough to pique my interest on their own. The beautiful matte cover (which I have since destroyed by dropping my copy in the tub) impressed the graphic designer in me, while the intimidated size of The Time Traveler’s Almanac promised hours (days) of reading. The tiny font of this 948-page volume is necessary to keep a book containing 72 stories a manageable size.

A quick Google search for reviews of the book revealed overwhelming positivity from the GoodReads community, and the price-to-page-count ratio was more than fair ($29.99 CAN before tax), so I purchased the book and carried it lovingly home, filled with the thrill of a new geeky find.

And it was worth it. While some stories in this anthology are a bit stuffy or long-winded for me, there are others that are clever, poignant, eloquently written. While not every story will suit all tastes, there’s something here for everyone: strange worlds, the mundane-turned-strange, paradoxes, cross-temporal corporations and agencies, the far future, the distant past, lived lived and re-lived, silly adventures, cerebral contemplations, hardcore science fiction, and wistful romance. I found I liked the first half to two thirds of the book best, but it’s possible that I just lost steam near the end after a month-or-so-long marathon of nightly reading. That, or the creativity (sometimes heartwarming, sometimes silly, sometimes tragic) of some of the pieces contained within The Time Traveler’s Almanac (such as Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Another Story or a Fisherman of the Inland Sea”, Connie Willis’s “Fire Watch”, Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore’s “Vintage Season”, and Tamsyn Muir’s “The House that Made the Sixteen Loops of Time”) left me far pickier by the end of the book than I was at the start. The book contains an impressive eclecticism not only in terms of the content of each story but in terms of the era the stories are from. In a way, some stories contain double the time travel, embodying the values of the time they were written (some were written as early as the 1800s) as well as providing the author’s tale of the future or past. Some stories feel dated, while far more speak to the power of the written word to transcend the eras between reader and writer. I recommend giving each story at least a page before moving on, as some will surprise you.

The book’s boast that it is “the largest and most definitive collection of time travel stories ever assembled” feels entirely justified. In addition to the 72 stories, the book also includes short essays on time travel between sections, ranging from tongue-in-cheek instructions to explorations of scientific theories around time travel. This anthology increased my appreciation for and knowledge of time travel literature and, more broadly, the science fiction genre overall dramatically (and I say this as someone who was exposed to Star Trek in utero). And in addition to being enriching (to borrow the diction of some 19th century authors), it is a fun, wild read, one that I will probably return to many times, doubling back on my own literary timeline.

If you like Doctor Who, science fiction, short stories, time travel, or any of the authors whose work is bound between these sprawling pages, I’d advise that you find yourself a copy of The Time Traveler’s Almanac.

4 pocket watches out of 5.
-Sarah

Zombies in PEI?! Reviewing Unturned

Have you ever wondered how a zombie apocalypse would play out in PEI? Well, the answer you are seeking can be found in Unturned, a free-to-play sandbox survival game based in the Cradle of Confederation. The game offers a single-player mode, though I would highly recommend playing with friends on a hosted server or joining an open server because surviving the zombie apocalypse alone just isn’t as fun.

Zombie hoard at sunset.

Zombie hoard at sunset.

When you start playing, you’ll find your character naked in a random location on the island; then the long journey to find your non-zombie comrades among the undead hordes begins. There are a few elements in this game that help speed up this process. Firstly, there are a number of cars you can find which boost your travel time and have the added bonus of loud engines to alert fellow players of your presence. There are also a number of landmarks that make meeting up a little easier—so far, my group of friends has a good track record for managing to meet up at the aircraft control tower in the zombie-infested airport. Then it’s up to your group to scavenge for supplies: weapons, food, clothes et cetera. These supplies make it possible to create a home base equipped with sleeping bags or cots, which serve as future respawn points if one happens to be eaten by zombies.

Pondering the nature of respawn points.

Pondering the nature of respawn points.

The thing that makes Unturned really special is the attention to little details. For example, the cars you can find will eventually run out of gas, making it imperative to find a gas can and a town with a gas station to refuel.  It is also important to find canteens that can be used at the well so that there is a steady supply of drinking water. Though the graphics of the game are simple, the elements of survival are complicated and involve more forethought than “shoot the zombies”. The zombie killing is still an important aspect of the game, however, both for entertainment and to gain experience so that levels can be put into things such as endurance or marksmanship.

Out for a gas run.

Out for a gas run.

There is also the crafting side of the game that allows you to farm, make bandages using cloth and clothing, and create building supplies to build your own custom safe house. I personally like to be situated near a farm, but being situated near the water to watch the reflection of the moon can offer some poignant moments of philosophizing over the zombie apocalypse.

 

4 zombies out of 5

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-Steph

It’s You VS Cthulhu, A Review of Elder Signs: Omens

I have a love for cellphone games, board games, and Lovecraft lore, so lucky for me all these things come together in Elder Sign: Omens, an adaptation of the Elder Sign dice game (also a great game) with the feel of a true board game–it’s just much harder to lose the pieces.

To begin each game, you must choose which Lovecraftian boss to go up against, from Azathoth to Yog-Sothoth. Each boss has its own nefarious game mechanic and doom tracker (once that doom tracker is fulfilled, the game is over and the entire world is destroyed through some unspeakable horror). Your job is to play against the game and collect enough elder signs to seal away the Terror before it can be unleased. You do this by clearing the different locations on the map where quests and/or small-time Lovecraftian monsters appear. Sometimes otherworld adventures spring up where places like R’yleh open portals on the map. The only way to seal off these openings is to finish the accompanying quest. By completing these mini-quests, characters are able to collect items, money, and occasionally the extremely useful elder signs.

Boss choice: Hastur

Boss choice: Hastur

Each character has 6 dice, though this number can be bumped to 8 depending on the character’s items. Each monster and quest has a number of symbols attached to it, and you have to match these symbols to the required dice roll to vanquish monsters and complete quests. Sometimes, to successfully defeat a monster, and always when you fail a quest, a character must take a hit to their sanity and/or health. If either of these stats go to zero, the character either dies or is driven mad (and is therefore out of the game). You can play the game with 1-4 characters, so it’s easy to play solo or with friends. Personally, I would recommend playing as 4 characters even if you are playing alone–I find that’s how the game plays best.

Quest-hunting time.

Quest-hunting time.

The triumph of a successful role

The triumph of a successful role.

How difficult the game is depends on the difficulty level of the boss in question, and some are seemingly impossible to beat (I’m looking at you, Ithaqua). The fun of the game comes from how invested in the quests you become; there is nothing that can quite describe the triumph of a perfect roll that allows you to beat a particularly tough quest, or the despair when you can’t roll that one symbol you need. If you are a fan of Lovecraft or a fan of board games, this cellphone game really can’t be passed up. With the expansions and number of characters you can choose from, the replay value is high, and I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to pass time when waiting in a particularly long line.

The game retails for $4.42 on the Google Play store and has three expansion packs: The Call of Cthulhu, The Dark Pharaoh, and The Trail of Ithaqua.  Each expansion comes with new playable characters, new monsters, and a new game mechanic.

Five elder signs out of five.

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-Steph