March Staff Picks: Pokémon, novels, jazz, and TV!
Words By F(r)iction Staff
Gina Marie Gruss
I lived 2020 and 2021 completely online: Zoom classes, Discord club meetings, hosting Gather events for my university and my friends, so on. I kept (somewhat) updated by checking social media, meme culture, the news, life. The internet is everything and nothing. It’s exhausting. And even as I’m back in physical classes, physical life, most of my existence is tethered to the internet.
No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood is a book about living terminally online, for terminally online people. It’s such a cool book, intentionally fragmented, written as little vignettes. Like the internet, it’s everything and nothing, about a woman who is “internet famous” going through a social media site that she calls “the portal.” Things in her real (non-internet) life happen. And the book remains weird, existential, and exhausting (in a way that the internet is).
It feels especially prescient in an increasingly virtual world, where other apps like the Metaverse are trying to pull people away from reality, and into virtual reality instead. While No One is Talking About This may be dated in part by its use of memes and pop culture references, it’s timeless in the sense that the “endless scroll” will likely be with us forever now. I highly suggest it!
The House is available on Netflix for older viewers who are fans of stop motion animation. This movie is three stories with each segment done by a different creative team but all the stories are set in the same massive house. Writer Edna Walsh also scripts each chapter, which allows the movie to build on the question of what makes a home versus a house. In most cases, the characters find out that bigger is not better and in some cases, they learn the empowerment that comes from moving on.
I’ll go with the album Here Be Dragons by The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. The band isn’t active anymore, but their music is available on Spotify (or wherever else you listen to music). I found them while trying to score the five-hour DnD sessions I have every Saturday. We’re currently in the Underdark, and I wanted to find creepy music that wouldn’t dominate everyone’s focus by being too cacophonous or easily identifiable, and TKDE delivered. The beats are eerie and hypnotizing with lots of strange sounds and movements, which is perfect for exploring underground cave systems during stealth missions. I don’t really know how to classify TKDE in a genre because the music is so varied and odd. Apparently, the band formed to write scores for silent films like Nosferatu, which makes complete sense when you listen to their music. In any case, I highly recommend Here Be Dragons for anyone who loves dark DnD ambiance and/or general noir fantasy vibes (now I’m just making stuff up, but that’s how this music makes me think.)
C. E. Janecek
Pokémon Legends Arceus came to me at the tail-end of my concussion—truly the perfect timing for a game that would become my full-time job while doing my actual jobs after a brain injury. Worth it? Yes. This mainline game has fundamentally changed the structure of navigating the overworld to create the sense of discovery and exploration you imagined a Pokémon world would feel like as a kid, allowing you to move freely while your Pokémon battle and even dodge stray attacks yourself. When not in danger, the more mild-mannered wild Pokémon come curiously nosing around you and your party. The rewards system for the player character has greatly improved my engagement in Pokédex completion, using a more varied team than just my main six, and returning to “wild areas” again and again. Even shiny hunting is enjoyable now! Most importantly, completionism doesn’t feel daunting for the average player anymore—completing the Pokédex isn’t just rewarding now, but also possible. As someone who’s played nearly every Pokémon game since GBA’s Ruby (2002), Arceus has become one of my all-time favorites.
This past Christmas, I was gifted She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, a queer historical fantasy about the rise of the Ming Dynasty—and a girl who seeks greatness in a world that tells her she is nothing. We follow this girl as she adopts her dead brother Zhu’s identity, first making our way to a monastery, and eventually to the rebellion waging war against the Mongol rulers.
This book is, in a word, incredible.
Equal parts devastating and triumphant, this book is everything I’d hoped it would be and more. From supernatural terrors to gritty reality, grand schemes of fate to intimate betrayals, exhilarating victories to heart-wrenching tragedy, this book has it all. Parker-Chan writes with attention and intention, deftly navigating the intimate complexities of gender to bring to life such vibrant characters on all sides of the conflict. These are characters who know that destiny is hard-won and never without sacrifice. They are all so endlessly fascinating.
Zhu, for instance, has easily become one of the most compelling protagonists I’ve ever read. She is smart, methodical, and hungry. I’ve never seen a character so driven; her every move is calculated, every emotion carefully controlled, all to push herself ever forward on her path to greatness. She doesn’t allow herself to become yet another woman forced into utter insignificance—she refuses to.
I can’t say more without giving too much away, so I’ll just leave off saying that I cannot wait to see what the sequel has in store.