5 min read

Operation Olive Branch

Digest 02.23.2024 - Stone Soup
Operation Olive Branch
Photo by Emre / 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.

Operation Olive Branch

Operation Olive Branch is a way you can help people who need it right now. The link above will connect you to an initiative to help Palestinians in Gaza by securing their safe passage from Gaza to receive medical attention. This spreadsheet links to verified and vetted GoFundMes. If you’ve been feeling helpless or hopeless and want to alleviate suffering today, click that link above and find a family to help.

In Case You Missed It

The Personal Canons Cookbook Ebook

Last year, we saw the Personal Canons Cookbook series at Stone Soup, which solicited essays and recipes from people around the world. We dove deep into hunger and poverty, history and family, war and celebration. The collected essays, recipes, editorials, and bonus content are all in one gorgeous ebook. You can get your hands on the ebook by subscribing as a Supper Club Member or Booster! Sign up here to get access here.

Stories About Stories: The Woods All Black by Lee Mandelo

This year at Stone Soup, I’m interviewing the teams that make books happen! Go check out Unsanitary Work, an interview with the people who made The Woods All Black by Lee Mandelo into the incredible book that it is. I promise this interview is well worth your time.

Alasdair Stuart Reviews: Mothmen 1966

The incredibly insightful Alasdair Stuart is going to be joining the Stone Soup Digest as a regular contributor! Be sure to subscribe to The Full Lid for more brilliant pop culture analysis.

I think about a scene from the end of The Mist a lot. Without being too spoiler-y, because it’s a FUN movie in a nightmarish way, there’s a moment where something colossal, impossible, and oddly tranquil passes very, very nearby. For me, a lot of truly great horror is that sensation. A colossal form in the water, a light that moves wrong, and, to quote Mulholland Drive,

‘No Hay Banda, and yet We Hear a Band’

Mothmen 1966 takes that idea and wraps it around another one of those vast presences barely perceived. The Mothman is a fascinating, infuriating cryptid with a magnificently buttocked statue and a wingspan that takes in religious experience, UFOlogy, and personal trauma. If you’re interested, start with two texts. One is the 2002 movie The Mothman Prophecies. The other is Mothmen 1966.

This is the first in a series of Pixel Pulps from LCB Studios,. These are retro, text-based adventures that, if you grew up in the UK at the same time I did, will make the words ‘Ceefax and Teletext’ pop into your brain. Created by novelist Nico Saraintaris and artist Fernando Martinez Ruppel, the series is off to a great start with two more games currently in the series: Varney Lake and Bahnsen Knights. Given the former is a Stand by Me-esque story with added vampires and the latter is post-apocalyptic muscle car knights, it’s a safe bet I’ll be writing about them here pretty soon.

For now though, Mothmen 1966 sets a high bar for its successors. You jump between three characters: Holt, the gas station attendant with a fondness for Civil War weapons; Lee, a history student with a fondness for being paid to help Holt build Civil War weapons; and Vic. Vic is Lee’s girlfriend and she, and you, get pretty uncomfortable with that pretty fast. The tensions in their relationship are further heightened by the fact it’s the night the Leonid meteor shower hits Earth’s atmosphere. Lee wants it to be romantic, but the final character, a paranormal investigator named Lou, knows different. And so does Holt, who in the game’s opening chapters receives a visit from mysterious Men in Black…

In the space of the 4-6 hour runtime, you get a medley of Fortana’s Greatest Hits, Mothmen, alternate human species, the panspermia theory, the Men in Black, secret Civil War technology, possession, zombies, and alien abduction lore. It’s all presented with the right level of straight face too; not quite Mothman Prophecies but certainly unafraid to go grim when it wants to. The game lives inside of, and embodies the tone of, my all-time favourite line from The X-Files:

‘They’re here aren’t they?’
‘…Mr. Mulder, THEY’ve been here for a long, long time.’

Martinez Ruppel’s art is wonderful, exuberant and blocky and somehow tense and fragile all at once. The game feels tense and the low-tech nature of the puzzles heightens that. A closing gunfight feels vastly tense and complex even though its literally just a game of angles. An early confrontation on the highway feels clammy and dangerous, the world suddenly changing for player and character alike. Script and art and gameplay all combine to give the game a caffeinated pulp feel.

There are road bumps. One puzzle is unusually difficult because of the graphic style and there’s a sense of a lot of big ideas being slammed together at a couple of points, but those are minor quibbles. Mothmen 1966 is a game with a unique style, a unique voice, and a unique approach to its world. Its pulp to its bones; fast, fun, and weird in the best of ways.

Mothmen 1966 is out now for Switch, Playstation 4 and, Xbox, PC and Mac. Check out LCB’s itch.io page, including the visual novel Shark Riders too.

Expanded from this blog post

I’m Reading: The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle

Pepper is the surprised inmate of a mental institution in Queens, New York. In the darkness of his room, on his first night, a terrifying creature with the body of an old man and the head of a bison nearly kills him before being hustled away by the hospital staff. It’s no delusion: The other patients confirm that a devil roams the hallways when the sun goes down. Pepper rallies three other inmates in a plot to kill the monster that’s stalking them. But can the Devil die?

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

Goddess, goddess, count to fiveIn the morning, who’s alive?

In the course of a single winter’s night, four people vanish without a trace across a small town.

Nora’s estranged best friend, Becca, is one of the lost. As Nora tries to untangle the truth of Becca’s disappearance, she discovers a darkness in her town’s past, as well as a string of coded messages Becca left for her to unravel. These clues lead Nora to a piece of local lore: a legendary goddess of forgotten origins who played a role in Nora and Becca’s own childhood games... 

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

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