So little of 2017 left, but just enough time to post our year in review! We discuss media we enjoyed this year, whether it was objectively good or not, including the University of Alberta murder-mystery-but-not-really-a-murder-mystery The Next Margaret, Haruki Murakami’s slow melancholy, Nausicaä  of the Valley of the Wind (again!), Roger Zelazny’s fiction, and more.

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Farewell to 2017


The year is winding down, and the best I can say is that humanity hasn’t ended in a nuclear conflagration just yet. I have no personal accomplishments to really crow about this time either—no short story sales, very little work done on my still-in-progress necromancy novel, and a general feeling of creative malaise towards the written word.

However, I did turn my efforts towards art, and it’s been a fantastic year on that front. I started seeing some marked improvement, in part because I’ve managed to follow through on the pledge I made some time ago to create something every day, building up from the basics. I tried Inktober for the first time this year, and in balance, it was a hell of a lot more enjoyable than my last experience NanoWriMo, with some tangible benefits at the end.

Now for the usual rundown of media and culture that I either enjoyed or at least made me think.

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The Eaten One


Painted over 3 evenings using MyPaint 1.2 and Krita.


Few people put Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind at the top of Hayao Miyazaki’s filmography, though there is a sizable contingent who absolutely love the film. At the same time, while Miyazaki’s first original feature-length film has been eclipsed by what he made under Studio Ghibli, you can’t deny the importance of that first work in the pattern of his career. Nausicaä contains the seed for all the work that came after: the visual sensibility, the treatment and choice of characters, the pacing, and most obviously, the underlying themes. It has the mark of an early passion project that encompasses an entire creative vision: everything Miyazaki wanted to express poured into a single story, which would then grow and change and spread to his future creative projects.

It’s not as obvious in the film as in the manga which he had to draw and write in order to get his dream-movie produced in the first place. The manga of Nausicaä began in 1982, before the film’s earnest development and wasn’t completed until 1994, long after that film’s release. Considering the long timespan, it’s hard to hold up the complete run of Nausicaä as an “early work” in the way you would the 1984 film, but it still functions as an incubator for other ideas, a forgotten centrepiece (at least in North America) to his particular brand of visual storytelling.

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Inktober Postmortem

I took part in Inktober this year, a challenge created by artist Jay Parker. The premise is simple: 31 ink illustrations in 31 days, with an optional prompt list to provide some inspiration. The goal is to improve your inking skills.

I don’t know how much better I am at inking, but I did see subtle improvements in my art as the month wore on, gained a new appreciation for thumbnail sketches, and overall, had a lot of fun with the exercise.

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Interregnum Aesthetics


Video games are often less than the sum of their parts. For me, all the time and effort that goes into crafting individual elements is often impressive but never seems to come together as a cohesive whole. However, sometimes one or two well-executed individual elements in a game can still make the whole thing worth playing.

Dishonored (2012) hardly counts as recent, but it’s the last title I played out of the modern game development era. While I enjoyed it as a dip back into the gameplay model from some of my favourite games, Thief and Thief II, the play experience hasn’t overcome my general antipathy towards AAA games. I could immerse myself in the stealthy gameplay but the narrative as a whole wasn’t as deep or meaningful as I’d hoped. Much has been made of the moral choices and framework in the game, but the nonlethal options that led to the “good ending” sometimes seemed worse than just plain killing the target. Though I do appreciate a game where you play an assassin but can complete the game without murdering anyone.

Where Dishonored (still) excels is in the material outside its narrative and gameplay choices—the meticulous worldbuilding and devotion to an atmosphere of industrial dread. Dunwall is well-realized through every detail: architecture, handbills, the class and social structure, the material culture of its whale-oil based technology. Background characters shine when you overhear their brief snippets of conversation. The plague of rats and infected citizens progresses as you play and the city itself transforms in subtle ways as you revisit the districts. I found myself standing on rooftops just appreciating the artistry of Dunwall as the sun sets over labyrinthine streets and tumbled-down ruins of urban decay. There’s a sublime beauty to this setting built around the exploitation of Lovecraftian whales despite the inhabitants having character designs that are often deliberately grotesque. Continue Reading »

Episode 35 – Unfinished


In which we speak of books we never finished, or wish we had never finished. Normally, I would provide a list of the novels we talked about. But this time, I think it’s better if you go in blind.

Download the Podcast (archive.org page)

Marie’s blog

Cory’s blog

Source of our theme song