Election 2020: Voting with She-Ra!

Elections are amazing things, but they can also be a bit tricky to get your head around–especially in a year like this! Luckily, the Electoral Commission has put together a fantastic website that covers everything from enrolment and voting to referendums and results, so for this blog we thought we’d enlist the help of some special guests to guide us through the process. Introducing She-Ra and the Princesses of Power! (Warning: spoilers ahead!)

Enrolment:

During the first season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, our heroes Adora, Glimmer and Bow spend much of their time travelling to different kingdoms to enlist Princesses in the struggle against the Horde empire. It’s not always easy to convince them (Princesses have their own worries, after all!), but by the end of Season One Perfuma, Mermista, Sea Hawk and even the skeptical Frosta have committed themselves to the Princess Alliance.

While members of the Electoral Commission may not be able to teleport or draw power from giant crystals, the work they do is not dissimilar: they travel Aotearoa — and the internet — helping in the struggle against non-enrolment (just like She-Ra travels the Whispering Woods fighting the Horde). And thankfully, they’ve made enrolling really easy: you can do it right now (or check if you’ve enrolled already) by clicking here, and learn the difference between the General Roll and Māori Roll here!

Need some help? We’ll have Electoral Commission advocates in our libraries at these times:

Thursday 1 October at Kilbirnie Library: 3–5pm
Saturday 3 October at Johnsonville Library: 11am-1pm
Thursday 8 October at Newtown Library: 10am–12pm
Saturday 10 October at Te Awe Library: 11am–1pm
Thursday 15 October at Karori Library: 3–5pm

Voting:

In the episode “The Battle of Bright Moon”, the Kingdom of Bright Moon is threatened by a resurgent Horde army. She-Ra tries to hold the army at bay single-handedly, but despite her strength she’s unable to protect the castle or the Kingdom’s Moonstone. It’s only when reinforcements arrive that She-Ra discovers her true strength as part of a team and turns the army back.

Voting in an election is pretty much the same: while your individual vote might not be able to defeat a Horde tank, you can lend it to a candidate and party of your choice, giving them more strength to promote the ideas and causes they’re standing for.

Also important to note: you can vote on Election Day itself, or beforehand. Check out the Electoral Commission’s website for more–including info on the referendums!

Want to find your closest voting booth? Have a look on the map!

Election Night:

The evening of the election can be exciting, stressful and mysterious–and is usually all three of these things! You might want to watch the results come in by yourself, or be with friends and family (and lots of snacks!). The most important thing to remember is that the whole democratic process is kind of like the Princess Prom, in that it’s an event that everyone is invited to. Sure, maybe some of the guests want to sting you with their scorpion tails, or kidnap you, but that’s just how it goes.

There are quite a few places you can follow election results on the night, including TVNZ and Newshub as well as RNZ, The Spinoff, Stuff and more. And remember, the election is on Saturday, 17 October–not long to go!

The Great Kererū Count is here!

Of all the birds native to Aotearoa, there are none quite like the “gluttonous and glamorous” kererū. Famous for their drunken antics–as well as their appearance in numerous works of art–the kererū is a particularly popular bird, frequently gracing parks, forests and back gardens across the country.

However the life of a kererū is not all fame and fortune: they also play a vital role in New Zealand’s forests. Kererū are the only remaining species that can successfully disperse the seeds from some of our largest native trees, including tawa, taraire, pūriri and matai. Without kererū our forests would be in serious trouble.

Hence the importance of the Great Kererū Count! The Great Kererū Count is the largest citizen science project in the country, and has been running for the last four years. One of the great things about it is its simplicity: all you have to do is wait for the week of the count (this year it runs from 18-27 September), then count any kererū you see as part of timed surveys or chance encounters. From here you send your observations through to the people at Kererū Discovery and the Urban Wildlife Trust (options here) and you’re done!

Want more kererū fun in your life? Head along to the official Great Kererū Count website for a range of resources, and don’t forget to share and tag your kererū photos to go in to win some great prizes!

Related Resources:

Native birds of New Zealand / Hallett, David
Native Birds of New Zealand is a photographic book of New Zealand native birds that will appeal to the casual bird-watcher as well as the ornithologist. The photographs in this book have been taken by David Hallett, one of New Zealand’s leading wildlife photographers.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Which New Zealand bird? : a simple step-by-step guide to the identification of New Zealand’s native & introduced birds / Crowe, Andrew
“This book covers 98 endemic, native, introduced, or migrant bird species from all of the main habitats in New Zealand. Nine identification habitats feature four similar-looking birds with simple tips for telling them apart. Each bird receives a code, from 1-100, indicating how easy the bird is to find. There are also distribution maps for each bird.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

New Zealand birds in pictures / Chen, Kimball
“From the barely-visible wings of the flightless kiwi to the immense wingspan of the wandering albatross, New Zealand’s fragile island ecosystem is home to a diverse array of spectacular birds. Delve into the fascinating world of our feathered friends with author and wildlife photographer Kimball Chen.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

New Zealand bird calls / Moon, Lynnette
“Lynnette Moon gives 60 concise accounts of the country’s best-loved birds, covering their habitat, appearance and behaviour. A description of their calls, along with photographs from the magnificent collection of her late husband Geoff Moon completes an attractive, fact-filled and useful guide. 60 links to birds’ songs and calls, recorded in the wild by renowned wildlife sound recordist John Kendrick and prepared for this collection by Karen Baird of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Birds of New Zealand : a photographic guide / Scofield, R. Paul
“From the Kermadecs to Campbell Island, beloved endemics to passing vagrants, albatrosses and shearwaters to kiwi and kaka, Birds of New Zealand is the ultimate guide to this country’s extraordinary avian life. It is illustrated with almost 1000 new photographs and uses the latest information from birders and biologists to draw a definitive introduction to bird identification and behaviour.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Birdstories : a history of the birds of New Zealand / Norman, Geoff
“A fascinating, in-depth account of New Zealand’s birds, which spans their discovery, their place in both Pākehā and Māori worlds, their survival and conservation, and the illustrations and art they have inspired. Geoff Norman covers a range of our bird families and individual species, and provides an up-to-date picture of how these birds are regarded by both Māori and Pākehā, the backstory of their discovery, and their current conservation status.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

e-Resources:

New Zealand Geographic: NZ Geographic has been celebrating our people, places, wildlife and environment for two decades. Its archives hold more than 600 in-depth features about our country, natural history and culture.

Environmental Studies in Context: Environmental Studies In Context -The Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources focuses on the physical, social, and economic aspects of environmental issues.

Home with Ghosts: Scary Stories Online (Part One)

How do you tell a ghost story in the age of lockdown?

In a world of pandemics, it can be easy to think that ghost stories aren’t really needed. After all, isn’t reality scary enough? But it’s precisely this fear that ghost stories are designed for: as anthropology professor Tok Thompson explains, “ghost stories deal with a lot of issues — not just whether or not one believes in ghosts, but also questions of the past that haunt us, perhaps past injustices that haven’t been taken care of.”

They’re also remarkably adaptable, making the transition from oral storytelling to novels and periodicals, then to cinema, television and the internet. And in a world where so many people are physically isolated, ghost stories have the benefit of “bringing their listeners closer to each other” — even if it is via Zoom or YouTube.

That brings us to Home with Ghosts! Below you’ll find four fantastic ghost stories from a range of authors — each one designed to scare, disturb, puzzle or haunt. For more, follow Home with Ghosts: Scary Stories Online on Facebook, and stay tuned for the latest installment!


Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts

Book: Blood of the Sun
Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press

If the beautiful and haunting cover of Blood of the Sun looks familiar, there’s a reason: it’s the third book in the excellent Path of Ra series. Blood of the Sun is due to be released later in 2020, and re-joins Penny and Matiu Yee as they fight to hold back chaos across Auckland’s volcanic skyline. The series has been described as a blend of “near-future noir and horror” and will thrill and scare you in equal measure.

Authors Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts have several other titles available, including Murray’s Taine McKenna Adventures and Rabarts’ Children of Bane series. The pair have also worked together on several excellent anthologies, including At the Edge and Baby Teeth: Bite Sized Tales of Terror.

Hounds of the Underworld (Path of Ra Book One) / Rabarts, Dan
“On the verge of losing her laboratory, Pandora Yee lands her first contract as scientific consult to the police department. And with 17 murder cases on the go, the inspector is happy to leave her to it. Only she’s going to need to get around, and that means her slightly unhinged adopted brother, Matiu, will be doing the driving. But something about the case spooks Matiu…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 


Andi C. Buchanan

Book: From a Shadow Grave
Publisher: Paper Road Press

It’s been over 10 years since Andi C. Buchanan’s first short story was published in Antipodean SF, and since that time they’ve gone on to produce not only a powerful collection of short fiction (including “Girls Who Do Not Drown”) but also the novella From a Shadow Grave.

From a Shadow Grave begins with the 1931 murder of Phyllis Symons, branching out to describe three alternative scenarios for Phyllis’ life. It’s this emotional and structural bravery that led to Buchanan’s recent success at the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, where they received the award for Best Novella/Novelette!

From a shadow grave / Buchanan, A. C.
“Wellington, 1931. Seventeen-year-old Phyllis Symons’ body is discovered in the Mt Victoria tunnel construction site. Eighty years later, Aroha Brooke is determined to save her life. Urban legend meets urban fantasy in this compelling alternate history by award-winning author Andi C. Buchanan.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 


Madison Hamill

Book: Specimen: Personal Essays
Publisher: Victoria University Press

Author and editor Madison Hamill’s debut collection Specimen was launched in March 2020, making it one of the first books to find itself released amid COVID-related lockdown. Despite this setback, Hamill’s work has been consistently popular at Wellington City Libraries–and no wonder: reviews of Specimen have described it as brave, precise and hilarious.

While Specimen is Hamill’s debut collection, her work can also be found at The Pantograph Punch, Scum, The Spinoff and more.

Specimen : personal essays / Hamill, Madison
“A father rollerblading to church in his ministerial robes, a university student in a leotard sprinting through fog, a trespass notice from Pak’nSave, a beautiful unborn goat in a jar … In scenarios ranging from the mundane to the surreal, Madison Hamill looks back at her younger selves with a sharp eye. Was she good or evil? Ignorant or enlightened? What parts of herself did she give up in order to forge ahead in school, church, work, and relationships, with a self that made sense to others?” (Catalogue)


Anna Kirtlan

Book: Ghost Bus: Tales from Wellington’s Dark Side
Publisher: Anna Kirtlan

You know that you’re onto something when your work is described as “a creepy love letter to Wellington”, and that’s just how Writers Plot summarised the spooky (and often hilarious) Ghost Bus: Tales from Wellington’s Dark Side. The title short story features not only the recent bus-pocalypse, but also the very real experience of riding on crowded public transport at the end of a long day.

Kirtlan’s previous work has also included Which Way is Starboard Again?, a book about learning to sail and overcoming anxiety and panic attacks in the midst of the South Pacific. Check it out below!

Which way is starboard again? : overcoming fears & facing challenges sailing the South Pacific / Kirtlan, Anna
“Many New Zealanders sail the South Pacific but not many do it with as little boating experience as uncoordinated, impractical, directionally challenged, desk-bound type Anna Kirtlan. Not only does she have to learn to sail, and navigate, from scratch, she also has to overcome recurrences of the anxiety and panic attacks that plagued her teen and early adult years.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Booker Dozen is Announced!

It is an unusually high proportion, and especially surprising to the judges themselves…

The above quote is from Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, and relates to the number of debut novelists whose work has been included in this year’s Booker longlist. The eight debutantes include Kiley Reid with Such a Fun Age (included in Wellington City Libraries’ #StayAtHome Fest) as well as C Pam Zhang’s How Much of These Hills is Gold.

Despite this, the majority of the Booker publicity has focused on two-time winner Hilary Mantel and the third book in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. The Guardian called the work a “masterpiece” and a “shoo-in” for the Booker, while Mantel herself has said that if she fails to win “it will be cast in terms of a disaster”. So who will make it through to the next round? The shortlist will be announced on 15 September!

The new wilderness / Cook, Diane
“Bea’s five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away. The smog and pollution of the overdeveloped, overpopulated metropolis they call home is ravaging her lungs. Bea knows she cannot stay in the City, but there is only one alternative: The Wilderness State. Mankind has never been allowed to venture into this vast expanse of untamed land. Until now.” (Publisher)

This mournable body : a novel / Dangarembga, Tsitsi
“Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a youth hostel in downtown Harare. She moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher. But at every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Who They Was / Krauze, Gabriel
Who They Was is an electrifying autobiographical British novel: a debut that truly breaks new ground and shines a light on lives that run on parallel, but wildly different tracks.” (Catalogue)

The mirror & the light / Mantel, Hilary
“England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Apeirogon : a novel / McCann, Colum
“Rami is Israeli. Bassam is Palestinian. Rami’s license plate is yellow. Bassam’s license plate is green. It takes Rami fifteen minutes to drive to the West Bank. The same journey for Bassam takes an hour and a half. Both men have lost their daughters. Rami’s thirteen-year-old girl Smadar was killed by a suicide bomber while out shopping with her friends. Bassam’s ten-year-old daughter Abir was shot and killed by a member of the border police outside her school. The men become the best of friends.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The shadow king / Mengiste, Maaza
“With Mussolini preparing to invade Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie heads into exile, and orphaned servant Hirut helps disguise a peasant as the emperor to bring people hope. Soon Hirut becomes his guard, as Mengiste shows us the brutal reality of ordinary people fighting a better-armed foe.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Such a fun age / Reid, Kiley
“Alix is a woman who gets what she wants. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler in their local supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping. Alix resolves to make things right, but both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about each other.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Real life / Taylor, Brandon
“Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends, but a series of confrontations conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Redhead by the side of the road / Tyler, Anne
“Micah Mortimer isn’t the most polished person you’ll ever meet. His numerous sisters and in-laws regard him oddly but very fondly, but he has his ways and means of navigating the world. But then the order of things starts to tilt. When a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son, Micah is confronted with a surprise he seems poorly equipped to handle…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Shuggie Bain / Stuart, Douglas
“It is 1981. Glasgow is dying. Agnes Bain has always expected more from life. She dreams of greater things. But when she’s abandoned by her philandering husband, she finds herself trapped in a decimated mining town. As she descends deeper into drink, her three children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Love and other thought experiments / Ward, Sophie
Rachel and Eliza are hoping to have a baby. The couple spend many happy evenings together planning for the future. One night Rachel wakes up screaming and tells Eliza that an ant has crawled into her eye. She knows it sounds mad – but she also knows it’s true. Eliza won’t take Rachel’s fear seriously and they have a bitter fight. Suddenly their entire relationship is called into question. Told in ten interconnecting but self-contained chapters, Love and Other Thought Experiments is a story of love lost and found across the universe.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

How Much Of These Hills Is Gold / Zhang, C Pam
“Ba dies in the night; Ma is already gone. Newly orphaned children of immigrants, Lucy and Sam are suddenly alone in a land that refutes their existence. Fleeing the threats of their western mining town, they set off to bury their father in the only way that will set them free from their past. Along the way, they encounter giant buffalo bones, tiger paw prints, and the specters of a ravaged landscape as well as family secrets, sibling rivalry, and glimpses of a different kind of future.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mistry Law and More: New Mystery Fiction

This month’s new mystery titles include the latest novel from author Sujata Massey, best known for her Agatha Award-winning Rei Shimura series. Massey’s most recent work is A Murder at Malabar Hill, described by The Spinoff as “a sumptuous crime story starring a rule-breaking badass in a sari”.

We’ve also got great new work from Berlin and London-based writer Jessica Moor. Moor’s debut novel The Keeper centres on a women’s refuge, and is based on Moor’s own experiences. For more on her time writing The Keeper, have a read of this interview at Crimespree Magazine.

A murder at Malabar Hill / Massey, Sujata
“1920s Bombay: Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? Perveen is suspicious…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Temple House vanishing / Donohue, Rachel
“In an elite Catholic girls’ boarding-school, the pupils live under the repressive, watchful gaze of the nuns. Seeking to break from the cloistered atmosphere, two of the students – Louisa and Victoria – quickly become infatuated with their young, bohemian art teacher, who encourages their flirtation. Then, he and Louisa vanish. Years later, a journalist uncovers the troubled past of the school and determines to resolve the mystery of the missing pair.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The guest list / Foley, Lucy
“On a remote island, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater. The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped. All have a secret. All have a motive. One guest won’t leave this wedding alive…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The keeper / Moor, Jessica
“When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police are ready to write it off as a standard-issue suicide. But the residents of the domestic violence shelter where Katie worked disagree. These women have spent weeks or even years waiting for the men they’re running from to catch up with them. They know immediately: this was murder. Still, Detective Dan Whitworth expects an open-and-shut case–until they discover evidence that suggests Katie wasn’t who she appeared.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The recovery of Rose Gold / Wrobel, Stephanie
“For the first 18 years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold. Turns out her mom, Patty, was just a really good liar. After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

We begin at the end / Whitaker, Chris
“30 years ago, Vincent King became a killer. Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed. Duchess Radley, Star’s 13-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The lizard / Bruce-Lockhart, Dugald
“Obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, Alistair Haston heads off to Greece, where she is on holiday, to try and rekindle their relationship. On the ferry from Athens he is offered a lucrative job, recruiting tourists to pose for and, he later discovers, to sleep with, Heinrich a wealthy and charismatic, German artist. Swept away on a tide of wild parties, wild sex, fine food and drugs Haston sheds his reserve and throws himself headlong into the pursuit of pleasure. Until, a body is found and the finger of blame points to Haston.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Little disasters / Vaughan, Sarah
When Jess arrives at hospital with a story that doesn’t add up, Liz is the doctor on call. Jess has devoted her life to family and home. But she is holding so many secrets. As the truth begins to emerge, Liz is forced to question everything she thought she knew: about Jess, and about herself.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The clutter corpse / Brett, Simon
“Ellen Curtis runs her own business as a declutterer, helping people who are running out of space. When Ellen stumbles across the body of a woman in an over-cluttered flat, suspicion immediately falls on the deceased homeowner’s son, who has recently absconded from prison. No doubt Nate Ogden is guilty of many things – but is he really the killer?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

CoNZealand is Here!

Almost two years after it was first announced, and despite the significant impact of COVID-19, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention is about to arrive on the (digital) shores of Wellington! The virtual convention will include special guests Mercedes Lackey, Larry Dixon, Greg Broadmore and toastmaster George R.R. Martin, and will be hosting a range of fantastic sci-fi related events — including the Hugo Awards! To get you in the CoNZealand spirit, we’ve selected titles covering everything from fandom and cosplay to cooking and short stories. Enjoy!

The fangirl’s guide to the galaxy : a handbook for geek girls / Maggs, Sam
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With a love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fandom : fic writers, vidders, gamers, artists, and cosplayers / DiPiazza, Francesca
“Have you ever finished a book or TV series and wished for more? Created stories, art, or videos based on a game? If so, you’ve entered fandom. Fan writers expand and mix up stories, sending the Star Trek crew to Hogwarts. They also enrich invented worlds with greater diversity, creating female and multiracial avatars for games peopled only with white male characters.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Kindred : a graphic novel adaptation / Duffy, Damian
More than 35 years after its release, Kindred continues to draw in new readers with its deep exploration of the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day. Adapted by celebrated academics and comics artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings, this graphic novel powerfully renders Butler’s mysterious and moving story, which spans racial and gender divides in the antebellum South through the 20th century.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Stolen sharpie revolution / Wrekk, Alex
“Since 2002, Stolen Sharpie Revolution: a DIY Resource for Zines and Zine Culture has been the go-to guide for all things zine-related. This little red book is stuffed with information about zines. Things you may know, stuff you don’t know and even stuff you didn’t know you didn’t know! Stolen Sharpie Revolution contains a cornucopia of information about zines and zine culture for everyone from the zine newbie to the experienced zinester to the academic researcher.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

How long ’til black future month? / Jemisin, N. K
“Hugo-winning and New York Times-bestselling author Jemisin sharply examines modern society in her first short story collection.” (Catalogue)

Cosplay crash course : a complete guide to designing cosplay wigs, makeup and accessories / Petrović, Mina
“True to the cosplay spirit of collaboration, Cosplay Crash Course shares favorite techniques from some of the community’s most imaginative artists. Step by step, you’ll learn how to turn ordinary fabrics, toys, thermoplastics, wigs and other humble materials into original costumes. Whether you’re making fabulous feathers, metallic armor, wicked horns, lifelike claws or form-fitting boots, this book puts it all within your reach.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The feast of fiction kitchen : recipes inspired by TV, movies, games & books / Wong, Jimmy
Recipes from Feast of Fiction, the innovative YouTube show featuring fantastical and fictional recipes inspired by books, movies, comics, video games, and more. With 55 unique and awesome dishes, this long-awaited cookbook will help inspire a pop culture dinner party, a fun night at home with family and friends, or an evening on the couch thinking about what you could be cooking.” (Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger (ebook)
“Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, who was rumored to keep her late husband’s heart in her desk drawer. But have you heard of Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier (and liked to wear topless gowns to the theater)? Part biography, part reader’s guide, the engaging write-ups and reading lists will introduce you to more than 100 authors and over 200 of their mysterious and spooky works!” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

I find your lack of faith disturbing : Star Wars and the triumph of geek culture / Jameson, A. D.
“A. D. Jameson takes geeks and non-geeks alike on a surprising and insightful journey through the science fiction, fantasy, and superhero franchises that now dominate pop culture. A lifelong geek, Jameson shines a new light on beloved classics, explaining the enormous love (and hate) they are capable of inspiring in fan and non-fan alike, while exploding misconceptions as to how and why they were made.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The City We Became: New Sci-Fi and Fantasy

What do you do when your past three books have all won the Hugo Award for Best Novel? In N.K. Jemisin’s case, you write The City We Became–a speculative fiction love letter to New York. Jemisin’s ninth novel has been described as “a celebration and an expression of hope and belief that a city and its people can and will stand up to darkness, will stand up to fear, and will, when called to, stand up for each other.” Perfect reading right now! (For more, check out this review in Vox.)

The city we became / Jemisin, N. K
“Every great city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Ghost species / Bradley, James
“When scientist Kate Larkin joins a secretive project to re-engineer the climate by resurrecting extinct species she becomes enmeshed in another, even more clandestine program to recreate our long-lost relatives, the Neanderthals. But when the first of the children, a girl called Eve, is born, Kate cannot bear the thought her growing up in a laboratory, and so elects to abduct her, and raise her alone.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

To be taught if fortunate / Chambers, Becky
“Adriane is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds, and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind, and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Across the void / Vaughn, S. K.
“It’s Christmas Day, 2067. Silent Night drifts across the ruins of a wrecked spaceship, listing helplessly in the black. A sole woman, May, stirs within–the last person left alive. There is only one person who can help her–her ex-husband Stephen, a NASA scientist. As May fights for life, Stephen finds his own life is under threat, putting both of them at risk. In this gasp-inducing thriller, their relationship is the difference between life and death.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The ice house / Clare, Tim
“War doesn’t end. It sleeps. Delphine Venner is an old woman now. She is old, but she remembers everything. She remembers what it is to be a child of war, she remembers fighting for her life and she remembers what the terrifying creatures from another world took from her all those years ago. She remembers the gateway, and those she lost. And in that other world, beast-filled and brutal, someone waits for her.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Sisters Grimm / Praag, Menna van
“This is the story of four sisters Grimm – daughters born to different mothers on the same day, each born out of bright-white wishing and black-edged desire. They found each other at eight years-old, were separated at thirteen and now, at nearly eighteen, it is imperative that they find each other once again. In thirty-three days they will meet their father in Everwhere. Only then will they discover who they truly are, and what they can truly do.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Firewalkers / Tchaikovsky, Adrian
“The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And thanks to their investment, the sun can provide power. But someone has to repair the solar panels when they fail, down in the deserts below. Kids like Mao, and Lupe, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope.” (Catalogue)

Seaward Stories: New Fiction

The ocean looms large in this month’s new general fiction selection. Lemuel Gulliver seemingly lost at sea in Gulliver’s Wife; Captain Cook’s Endevour wrecked on a coral reef in On a Barbarous Coast; wisdom from octopuses in The Octopus and I; a deadly sea crossing in We are Made of Earth.

Also this month: the French literary sensation All About Sarah by Pauline Delabroy-Allard and Love by Roddy Doyle. Love has been compared to James Joyce’s Dubliners, and has received great reviews from the New York Times, Boston Globe and more. Enjoy!

Gulliver’s Wife / Chater, Lauren
“London, 1702. When her husband is lost at sea, Mary Burton Gulliver is forced to rebuild her life without him. But three years later when Lemuel Gulliver is brought home, fevered and communicating only in riddles, her ordered world is turned upside down. In a climate of suspicion, Mary is caught in a crossfire of superstition and fear driven by her husband’s outlandish claims of the wonders he has seen, and it is up to her to navigate a passage to safety for herself, her daughter and the vulnerable women in her care.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

On a Barbarous Coast / Cormick, Craig and Ludwick, Harold
“On a night of raging winds and rain, Captain Cook’s Endeavour lies splintered on a coral reef off the coast of far north Australia. A disparate band of survivors huddle on the shore. Watching these mysterious white beings, the Guugu Yimidhirr people cannot decide if they are ancestor spirits to be welcomed–or hostile spirits to be speared. One headstrong young boy, Garrgiil, determines to find out what exactly they are. On a Barbarous Coast is the story of a past and future that might have been.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

All About Sarah / Delabroy-Allard, Pauline
“A thirty-something teacher drifts through her life in Paris, lonely in spite of a new boyfriend. And then one night at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party, Sarah enters the scene like a tornado–a talented young violinist, she is loud, vivacious, appealingly unkempt. Thus begins an intense relationship, tender and violent, that will upend both women’s lives. Delabroy-Allard perfectly captures the pull of a desire so strong that it blinds us to everything else.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Love / Doyle, Roddy
“One summer’s evening, two men meet up in a Dublin restaurant. Old friends, now married and with grown-up children, their lives have taken seemingly similar paths. But Joe has a secret he has to tell Davy, and Davy, a grief he wants to keep from Joe. Both are not the men they used to be. Neither Davy nor Joe know what the night has in store, but as two pints turns to three, then five, and the men set out to revisit the haunts of their youth, the ghosts of Dublin entwine around them.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rest and be thankful / Glass, Emma
“Laura is a nurse in a pediatric unit. On long, quiet shifts, she and her colleagues care for sick babies, handling their exquisitely fragile bodies, calibrating the machines that keep them alive. Laura may be burnt out. Her hands have been raw from washing as long as she can remember. When she sleeps, she dreams of water; when she wakes, she finds herself lying next to a man who doesn’t love her any more. And there is a strange figure dancing in the corner of her vision, always just beyond her reach.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Eighth Life (for Brilka) / Haratischwili, Nino
“On the edge of the Russian empire, a family prospers. It owes its success to a delicious chocolate recipe, passed down the generations with great solemnity and caution. Stasia learns it from her Georgian father and takes it north, following her new husband, Simon, to his posting at the center of the Russian Revolution in St Petersburg. Stasia’s is only the first in a symphony of grand but all too often doomed romances that swirl from sweet to sour in this epic tale of the red century.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Octopus and I / Hortle, Erin
“Lucy and Jem live on the Tasman Peninsula, where Lucy is recovering from surgery. As she tries to navigate her new body, she develops a deep fascination with the local octopuses, and in doing so finds herself drawn towards the friendship of an old woman and her son. As the story unfolds, the octopuses come to shape Lucy’s body and her sense of self in ways even she can’t quite understand. The Octopus and I is a stunning debut novel that explores the wild, beating heart at the intersection of human and animal.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Little Gods: a Novel / Jin, Meng
“Liya, who grew up in America, takes her mother Su Lan’s ashes to China. In a territory inhabited by the ghosts of the living and the dead, Liya’s memories are joined by those of two others: Zhu Wen, the woman last to know Liya’s mother before she left China, and Yongzong, the father Liya has never known. In this way a portrait of Su Lan emerges: an ambitious scientist, an ambivalent mother, and a woman whose relationship to her own past shapes and unmakes Liya’s own sense of displacement.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

We are Made of Earth / Karnezis, Panos
“When an overcrowded dinghy capsizes at sea, a doctor is among those refugees thrown overboard. The doctor and a boy he has saved eventually reach a tiny Greek island where they are offered shelter by the owner of a travelling circus. Debt-ridden, the circus owner knows that his most valuable asset is an Asian elephant, lovingly tended by the owner’s wife even as she mourns their 10-year old daughter. The doctor is drawn to his host’s wife, all the while keeping his young companion at arm’s length.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Road Trip of the Weird & Wonderful!

There’s nothing like a road trip to bring out the strangeness in a country: the oversized fruit; the abandoned houses; the mysterious side-roads that go who-knows-where. But if you choose carefully–or have help from your local librarian–then the same feeling can be created with books: the sense of being in between, or out of time, or unhooked from the everyday world.

That’s where this blog comes in! Join us as we travel across America, stopping at seven weird, wonderful, scary and strange sites, from New England to California and a few places in between. Along the way we’ll recommend a selection of titles that create a similarly peculiar feeling. Read on to begin!


Bread and Puppet Theater, VT

What: Politically radical puppets and sourdough bread
Where: Just outside Grover

Born in the midst of the anti-Vietnam War protests, the puppets of the Bread and Puppet Theater have loomed over crowds since the 1960s. Their giant faces and stilted legs have become one of the key symbols of American counterculture–but where do they go when they retire? To this barn, of course!

Related Readings:

The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff — What kind of life would you lead if you’d been trained to be a living mannequin?

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion — Suffering from writers block, Joan Didion sets off to the heart of America’s counterculture.

The Quiet American by Graham Greene — Written in 1955, The Quiet American predicted America’s role in Vietnam throughout the ’60s and ’70s.


Centralia Coal Fire, PA

What: A small town perched upon an everlasting fire
Where: North-west of Philadelphia

There are several theories about how a fire began in the tunnels beneath the coal mining town of Centralia, but when a 12-year-old boy almost fell into a fiery sinkhole in his backyard, one thing became certain: the town would have to be abandoned. Today Centralia has fewer than 5 residents, and is the inspiration behind the Silent Hill series.

Related Readings:

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer — Area X has been sealed up for over three decades, and has a strange influence on anyone who enters.

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson — The book that broke the romantic notion of life in small town America (and the traditional structure of the novel).

The Denniston Rose by Jenny Pattrick — 2000 feet above sea level lies Denniston, a tough, West Coast coal mining town for those with something to escape.


Fury 325, NC

What: The world’s best steel roller coaster four years running
Where: Carowinds Amusement Park

Have you ever wondered what goes into making a roller coaster? In the case of the Fury 325, the designers took inspiration from the hornet–not just the insect, but also Charlotte’s reputation as a “hornet’s nest of rebellion” during the American Revolution. (For the record, the Fury 325 is the fifth tallest roller coaster in the world, with a top speed of 153 km/h!)

Related Readings:

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal — There are just 50 years before Earth becomes uninhabitable, but for pilot Elma York, the first challenge will be convincing people that women should be allowed to fly.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe — Did you know that when NASA was preparing the first manned space flight, they wanted to use trapeze artists? (But settled on test pilots instead.)

Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather — A convent of nuns (and a living space ship) tackle the theological and physical dangers of a post-war solar system.


Creation Museum, KY

What: A museum where dinosaurs and humans co-exist
Where: Petersburg, Kentucky

It’s not often that a museum opens to protests, but that’s exactly what happened at the Creation Museum in 2007. With a focus on young Earth creationism, the Creation Museum has displays showing the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs, and drew 800,000 people in 2017. (By comparison, in 2015/16 Te Papa had 1.7 million visitors.)

Related Readings:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson — A dying reverend writes a letter to his six-year-old son about the strange wonders of the world and his place in it.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman — The book (and TV series) that asks the question, “What happens to gods when people stop believing in them?”

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin — Baldwin weaves together race, religion, sexuality and family in this seminal–and semi-autobiographical–work.


Iowa State Fair, IA

What: One of America’s largest state fairs (and home of the Butter Cow)
Where: Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines

With its carnival rides, butter sculpting and delicious deep fried foods (cookie dough in a waffle on a stick, anyone?), the Iowa State Fair is a Midwest institution. And every four years it’s also the place you get to see presidential hopefuls vie for votes while trying to eat deep fried oreos–never easy.

Related Readings:

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter — The life and times of Sophie Fevvers, a winged woman who tours with a circus to the far reaches of Siberia.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury — Did you know that Ray Bradbury’s inspiration for writing was a magician named Mr. Electrico who told him to “Live forever!”?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern — When magicians fight, giant dreamlike circuses are the result. ‘Twas ever thus.


Neon Museum, NV

What: Where Las Vegas’ neon signs go to die (and be resurrected)
Where: Las Vegas Boulevard

When you think about visiting Las Vegas, stopping at a museum isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. But the Neon Museum–or Neon Boneyard, as it’s often called–isn’t an ordinary museum! Scattered across the campus are signs from some of Vegas’ most well-known historic casinos and motels, including the Sahara, the La Concha and more.

Related Readings:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson — No matter what you do in Vegas, chances are it won’t rival what Hunter S. Thompson got up to (which is probably a good thing).

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky — Did you know that Dostoevsky wrote The Gambler to pay off his own gambling debts?!

The Power by Naomi Alderman — When women gain the power to emit electrical currents through their fingers, the world is changed forever.


Winchester Mystery House, CA

What: Secret passages, mystery doors, staircases to nowhere…
Where: San Jose, California

If you were designing a house for ghosts, and you had an unlimited budget, you’d probably end up constructing something like the Winchester Mystery House. Built between 1884 and 1922, the house was designed to appease (or escape) the ghosts of all those who had been killed by Winchester rifles. Pop in and have a look around…

Related Readings:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson — Did you know that The Haunting of Hill House is one of several novels influenced by Winchester House?

The Amityville Horror by Jay AnsonThe Amityville Horror is supposedly based on true events, but has caused a lot of controversy!

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes — A body is found in a Detroit tunnel. The top half is human, but the legs are those of a deer.


Black Lives Matter: Fiction & Film Resources

Omaha, Nebraska, 1915. A young postal worker named George Johnson quits his job to found the Lincoln Motion Picture Company with his brother Noble. Just over a year later the brothers have moved to L.A., where they go on to make six films before winding down in 1923. Today, the Lincoln Motion Picture Company is recognised as not only America’s first all-black movie production unit, but the first to “showcase African-American talent in the full sphere of cinema.

Two years after the closure of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company, another series of stories exploring the black experience in America is being assembled, this time in print. They emerge not from the Midwest but New York, in the pages of The New Negro: An Interpretation, under the editorship of Howard University professor Alain Locke. The New Negro will go on to become the key text of the Harlem Renaissance.

Film and fiction have been two particularly powerful mediums for exploring the black experience in America since the work of the Johnson brothers over one hundred years ago. Below you’ll find a selection of contemporary films and novels that continue this exploration, including the award-winning works of Spike Lee, the genre-expanding novels of N.K. Jemisin and the experimental movie-making of Cheryl Dunye. For equally powerful non-fiction examples, visit our Black Lives Matter: Non-Fiction Resources blog.


FICTION

Sing, unburied, sing : a novel / Ward, Jesmyn
“Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Nickel boys : a novel / Whitehead, Colson
“Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. But one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife. Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King’s assertion, ‘Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.’ But fellow inmate Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Such a fun age / Reid, Kiley
“Alix is a woman who gets what she wants. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler in their local supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping. Alix resolves to make things right, but both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about each other.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The fifth season / Jemisin, N. K
“This is the way the world ends…for the last time. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Red at the bone / Woodson, Jacqueline
Red at the Bone opens with Melody celebrating her 16th birthday at her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Melody’s mother never did get her own 16th birthday party, and therein lies a tale of two families separated by class, ambition, gentrification, sexual desire, and unexpected parenthood.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 


FILMS

The Watermelon Woman
Year: 1996
Director: Cheryl Dunye

Watch the full film here.

“Cheryl Dunye plays a version of herself in this witty, nimble landmark of New Queer Cinema. A video store clerk and fledgling filmmaker, Cheryl becomes obsessed with the “most beautiful mammy,” a character she sees in a 1930s movie. Determined to find out who the actress she knows only as the “Watermelon Woman” was and make her the subject of a documentary, she starts researching and is bowled over to discover that not only was Fae Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson) a fellow Philadelphian but also a lesbian.” (Kanopy)

Fig
Year: 2010
Director: Ryan Coogler

Watch the full film here.

“Directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Black Panther), Fig is a this sympathetic look at the life of a working class mother, a prostitute named Candice wants nothing more than to provide a good life for her daughter Kyla. One night that she is unable to find a babysitter for Kyla, Candice takes her to the corner where she picks up johns and leaves her in the car. When Candice is with a john, Kyla is found alone by the police and is taken into emergency foster care. When she finds out, Candice does everything in her power to convince the social worker in charge of Kyla’s case that she really does love her daughter very much.” (Kanopy)

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
Year: 2014
Director: Spike Lee

Watch the full film here.

“Spike Lee’s stylized thriller Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is a new kind of love story. Dr. Hess Green becomes cursed by a mysterious ancient African artifact and is overwhelmed with a newfound thirst for blood. He, however, is not a vampire. Soon after his transformation he enters into a dangerous romance with Ganja Hightower that questions the very nature of love, addiction, sex, and status in our seemingly sophisticated society.” (Kanopy)