6 min read

Nebulas, Tingle, Ronin

Digest 06.07.2024 - Stone Soup
Nebulas, Tingle, Ronin
Photo by Tengyart / 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.

Hello friends! As always, here are your links to resources that can help you fight where the fight is needed. Below that, some things to take delight in. Don’t forget to do both.

I’m Toastmastering the Nebula Awards 

This weekend, I’ll be at the Nebula Conference and Nebula Awards! I’m acting as Toastmaster for the award ceremony, hosting and helping to usher in the celebration of this year’s nominees and winners. I’ll also be at a meet and greet on Saturday at 2:30pm. Here is where you can watch the awards online if you want to see me make a hopefully-coherent speech.

Bury Your Gays Audiobook Cast Announcement!

Chuck Tingle’s upcoming horror novel, Bury Your Gays, will be produced as an audiobook, and the full cast has just been announced! Including me! It was so much fun to contribute to this production, and the cast is absolutely incredible. Take a look and preorder the audiobook here!

Stories About Stories: The Worst Ronin by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Faith Schaffer

Go check out Middle Finger to the Sky, an interview with Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Faith Schaffer, and the production team at HarperCollins, about how The Worst Ronin came to be! Learning the ins and outs of graphic novel production was a wild ride–you don’t want to miss this one.

Alasdair Stewart Reviews: Deliver Us the Moon

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.

Any time you give me a variant of ‘last astronaut’ you get my attention. Developed by KeokeN Interactive, Deliver Us The Moon is one of those stories that’s intimate in scale but vast in scope. 

Deliver Us The Moon plays with the trope in ways I’ve not seen used before, using the iconic anonymity of a spacesuit, at first, to plant you solidly inside the game’s increasingly desperate situations. Environmental collapse is ongoing, and Earth’s last hope was the MPT system, which wasa network of power stations (and a really cool) space elevator. It used Helium 3 mining on the moon to transmit power back to earth. It worked, until it didn’t The system malfunctioned, the staff vanished, and now, years later, the last chance of turning it back on is you. 

What follows is a journey to orbit, to the space elevator and down to a handful of facilities on the moon. There’s no combat, very light stealth elements and a lot of puzzle solving. I’m a late comer to puzzle games, and I’ve written elsewhere about how engaging with them has mirrored a change in how I approach focus in general. The puzzles here are intuitive, smart, and all drive the plot. You’ll get stuck, you’ll walk away, you’ll come back and you’ll find the answer (or a walkthrough). Regardless, progress is constant, and the plot and game loops want you to get to the end. There’s only one beat that didn’t quite land for me, and it’s the one time they get in each other’s way, but even that doesn’t take long to resolve.

Tonally, the game feels distinctly Nordic. There’s a lot of quiet isolation to the game, especially the starkly beautiful lunar landscapes and the Stalenhagian technology you’re trying to get up and running. It’s also meditative. It’s just you, the moon, and the problem. The straightforward Apollo 13 pragmatism of the sub-genre keeping pace with you as you walk purposefully around the ruins of the last best hope.

You’re never alone, though. The game is full of audio logs from previous crewmembers and station staff that all humanize the mystery even as they deepen it. You find comics and magazines the staff have left behind. You encounter the Johanson family’s memories as they struggle with being a multi-planet family, and you find ourselves confronted by the moon’s digital ghosts. Your first big task when you get there is to repair an ASE unit, a spherical robot helper that doubles as a flight recorder. In addition to being adorable, the ASEs have also captured the truth about what happened on the moon–a truth that starts with the crushing existential dread of realising the world isn’t saved and finishes with you finding out who you’re playing and why they’re so invested. 

If this all sounds desperately said, at times, it really is. But as the game progresses you realize the sadness is just one element of a broader melody. This is a game about adversity, what we do when we fail and what we do when we get back up and try again. Whether dragging monumentally powerful equipment back into position or discovering the impossible choice the Moon staff made, there’s always hope. The world isn’t saved yet but it could be. It will be. And you’re just the astronaut to do it.

Deliver Us The Moon is out now for Windows, PlayStation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. It’s the first in an unofficial trilogy set in the same world. Deliver Us Mars is also out now for Windows, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One and  Xbox Series S. The final game in the series, Deliver Us Home, will crowdfund later this year.

I’m Reading: The Hunter by Tana French

It’s a blazing summer when two men arrive in a small village in the West of Ireland. One of them is coming home. Both of them are coming to get rich. One of them is coming to die.

Cal Hooper took early retirement from Chicago PD and moved to rural Ireland looking for peace. He’s found it, more or less: he’s built a relationship with a local woman, Lena, and he’s gradually turning Trey Reddy from a half-feral teenager into a good kid going good places. But then Trey’s long-absent father reappears, bringing along an English millionaire and a scheme to find gold in the townland, and suddenly everything the three of them have been building is under threat. Cal and Lena are both ready to do whatever it takes to protect Trey, but Trey doesn’t want protecting. What she wants is revenge.

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

The year is 2006. Martin Hench is at the top of his game as a self-employed forensic accountant, a veteran of the long guerrilla war between people who want to hide money, and people who want to find it. He spends his downtime on Catalina Island, where scenic, imported bison wander the bluffs and frozen, reheated fast food burgers cost 25$. Wait, what? When Marty disrupts a seemingly innocuous scheme during a vacation on Catalina Island, he has no idea he’s kicked off a chain of events that will overtake the next decade of his life.

Martin has made his most dangerous mistake yet: trespassed into the playgrounds of the ultra-wealthy and spoiled their fun. To them, money is a tool, a game, and a way to keep score, and they’ve found their newest mark—California’s Department of Corrections. Secure in the knowledge that they’re living behind far too many firewalls of shell companies and investors ever to be identified, they are interested not in the lives they ruin, but only in how much money they can extract from the government and the hundreds of thousands of prisoners they have at their mercy.

A seething rebuke of the privatized prison system that delves deeply into the arcane and baroque financial chicanery involved in the 2008 financial crash, The Bezzle is a sizzling follow-up to Red Team Blues.

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

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