6 min read

Feast Makers, Ghosts, Locus

Digest 03.29.2024 - Stone Soup
Feast Makers, Ghosts, Locus
Photo by Jr Korpa / Unsplash

Welcome to the Stone Soup Weekly Digest! This is where I share what I'm up to and some of my favorite things from around the internet. Subscribe to Stone Soup to get this in your inbox every week.

An announcement I thought I’d get to make this week is happening next week instead! Keep your eyes on your inbox. Something very, very big is coming soon.

Meanwhile, the ongoing genocide in Palestine requires and deserves your attention. You have neighbors around the world who need you to show up as best you can right now, today. If you have the ability to help them, here are a few places where you can start:

The Locus Fundraiser is Going on Right Now

If you read SF, fantasy, or horror, Locus impacts your life, whether you realize it or not. It's been a go-to resource for readers, writers, fans, and industry pros for decades, and they're one of the only venues out there reviewing short fiction. Each year, the Locus Awards highlight the best work in the field, and now they need our support

Alasdair Stuart Reviews: Infinite Murder Party Games

The incredibly insightful Alasdair Stuart is a pop culture genius, reviewer extraordinaire, and regular Digest contributor. Be sure to subscribe to The Full Lid for more brilliant pop culture analysis.

Infinite Murder Party games put you in a sandbox environment with a gun and as many morals as you want to bother with. Grand Theft Auto, whose sixth installment is Tokyo drifting towards us this year, is the undisputed champion of the field and brings with it an at times deserved reputation for empty calories sociopathy. Look at the pretty things you can destroy! Look at the people you can murder! Look at how much work the word ‘satire’ is doing!

Like very nearly everything, this isn’t a binary situation. I spent some time at the Infinite Murder Party over Christmas, and here’s what I found. 

The 2022 edition of Saints Row has a game loop with the greasy familiarity of a bad cheeseburger on a good night: slick and more than a little unpleasant.  You murder, you rob, you cause relentless property damage, and then you go back to your badass church HQ and party. Fun but you feel just a little bad about it.

What makes the game fly is the writing and the voice cast. You have four roommates: business expert and larper Eli, former gang member and DJ Kev, getaway driver and art enthusiast Neenah, and Snickerdoodle, a cat. The four of you, and how you interact are the heart of the game, so much so that a threat to your friends is the inciting incident for the endgame and leads you through a gutshot feverish maze based on the most frightening boardgame night in the world. The game’s best moments are its oddest and the quest line which sees you take part in the city wide post-apocalyptic LARP with Eli, complete with cardboard covered SUV battle wagon, is especially great. The game is full of moments like this and they’re all both a delight and a relief. It’s like attending the Infinite Murder Party and finding a group of friendly nerds in the kitchen who brought cookies.

Mafia: Definitive Edition is an update of an older game, and its different approach is fascinating. Here you play Tommy Angelo, a depression-era taxi driver who saves the lives of Sam and Paulie, the two made men of a local Don, and is inducted into the Family Business. Tommy’s life becomes an endless cycle of violence and retaliation, constantly risking his life and bending the knee to a man who demands everything and gives nothing. The game carefully parcels up its violence in between driving, fetch missions and long, narrative driven interludes. At first, those frustrate, but structure is story here. You want and expect the same thing Tommy does: a ticket to the Infinite Murder Party. What you get instead is a hall pass, at best, and a never-ending stream of consequences. Tommy’s alcoholism is mentioned in passing, Paulie becomes painfully aware of the fact he’ll go no higher in the organization, and Sam’s glacial calm is fractured by numerous near-death experiences. By the time you’re hopping church pews engaged in a pitched gunfight at the funeral of one of your last victims, both you and Tommy realize something has to change. When it does, that change is born in familiar blood and leads to the one place it was only ever going to lead for Tommy. The fact that the people who come for him are, in this edition, the protagonists of the sequel makes a meta-fictional point with some espresso-level darkness raised further, again, by stunning voice acting. The cycle never ends. You’re at the Infinite Murder Party, and now you’re the victim.

Saints Row is a desert punk headlong sprint into crime as the gig economy and the true heist being the friends we made along the way. Mafia: Definitive Edition is an unblinking look at the meaningless brutality of organized crime. They’re at the Infinite Murder Party for sure, but they do things very differently and show just what the field can do. Here’s hoping GTA 6 does the same.

Saints Row 2022 is out now for Playstation, Xbox and Windows. There’s a season pass with DLC that has to be bought separately.

Definitive Editions of all three Mafia games, including all the DLC, are out now. The first is only available for Xbox, Windows and Playstation. 2 and 3 are available for those plus Mac.  

Physiology & Behaviour published this, the SCIENCE! I mentioned earlier.

I’m Reading: Feeding Ghosts: A Graphic Memoir by Tessa Hulls

Tessa Hulls tells the story of three generations of women in her family: her Chinese grandmother, Sun Yi; her mother, Rose; and herself.

Sun Yi was a Shanghai journalist caught in the political crosshairs of the 1949 Communist victory. After eight years of government harassment, she fled to Hong Kong with her daughter. Upon arrival, Sun Yi wrote a bestselling memoir about her persecution and survival, used the proceeds to put Rose in an elite boarding school―and promptly had a breakdown that left her committed to a mental institution. Rose eventually came to the United States on a scholarship and brought Sun Yi to live with her.

Tessa watched her mother care for Sun Yi, both of them struggling under the weight of Sun Yi's unexamined trauma and mental illness. Vowing to escape her mother’s smothering fear, Tessa left home and traveled to the farthest-flung corners of the globe (Antarctica). But at the age of thirty, it starts to feel less like freedom and more like running away, and she returns home to face the history that shaped her family.

Barnes & Noble | Bad River Website | Local Library | Find an Indie Bookstore

After restoring their powers, Sideways just wants to get on with senior year. But the covens have convened for the trial of Madeline Kline. When this stubborn, independent witch begs the Scapegracers to save her from a cruel and unusual punishment, Sideways knows they have to get involved. It’s the right thing to do, even if Madeline did steal their soul and wear it for a time. Right?

Making an example out of Madeline seems, strangely, just as important to the most powerful covens as divvying up the Scapegracers amongst themselves. Sideways, Jing, Daisy, and Yates are reluctant to abandon what they’ve built together, but as the college acceptances (and rejections) roll in, the offer of a magical family beyond Sycamore Gorge becomes increasingly tempting.

Unfortunately, choosing a new coven will have to wait: witchfinders are gathering in town, and some of these visitors make the Chantrys seem tame in comparison. Every witch—Scapegracer or not—is about to be in grave danger. 

And on top of all that, Sideways thinks they just might be in love.

Barnes & Noble | Bad River Website | Local Library | Find an Indie Bookstore

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