This week’s commercial break is running fashionably late. Catch it ordering Starbucks like the pumpkin spice ho it is.
Book and movie: The Last Unicorn
What’s better than a unicorn?
A unicorn on a quest, of course.
Ever since I was a tiny bitty baby, long before I ever knew what to call them or why they were so wonderful, I’ve always loved a quality hero’s quest. It’s hardly surprising, then, that one of my earliest movie loves was The Last Unicorn. The hero’s quest had it all: bravely setting out from the safety and security of your home for a righteous cause that only you can undertake; adventure and colorful characters along the way; setbacks; danger; perseverance; overcoming the odds. As far as I was concerned, it was a perfect story structure.
Of course, almost every hero’s quest out there was about . . . well, a hero, in a very gendered sense. Going by these stories, heroics were for boys and men. Female characters might participate, but they were rarely if ever the story’s protagonist.
Not so with The Last Unicorn.
The unicorn is not the object of a quest, she is its master. She moves the story, she commands it, she pushes the action forward. The central conceit is simple enough at the beginning: she rejects the overheard theory that she is the last unicorn in the world, learns that the others ran away with a creature known as The Red Bull at their heels, and sets out to find them.
The story itself, though, is filled with occasionally Alice in Wonderland-esque surrealism, sprinkled with enough intentional anachronisms to make it charming, and peopled with characters that exist just to the left of their traditional archetypes. The world’s greatest magician who can barely cast a spell, cursed to eternal youth until he can figure his shit out. A band of outlaws with both aspirations towards and disdain for the tales of Robin Hood. A woman who, as a consequence of age and experience, no longer qualifies for the position of damsel or ingenue. A fairy tale prince with neither the understanding nor desire to become a hero, until . . . well, that’s a bit of a spoiler.
I’ll be up front with you: the movie is weird. We’re talking 1980s what-was-the-creative-team-smoking high fantasy weird. That said, the animation is absolutely beautiful, and both the book and the script were written by Peter S. Beagle, which means that the movie stays wonderfully true to the source material. Not to mention that the soundtrack is all done by America, and if that’s not a selling point for you I honestly don’t know what else to say.
Watch the movie, then read the book. Or read the book and then watch the movie. There’s really no way to go wrong. And to tide you over, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from my favorite book:
“Real magic can never be made by offering up someone else’s liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back.”
Book: Monstrous Regiment
Monstrous Regiment is one of my favourite Discworld novels, and I don’t say that lightly. Pratchett is a master storyteller but what makes Monstrous Regiment the beauty it is are its characters.
This is the tale of Polly, a girl who cuts her hair, shoves a pair of socks down her pants, and runs off to war to find her brother. It’s a trope to be sure, but because this is Pratchett, of course, it’s flipped on its head and turned inside out.
If you’re into trope savvy writing and feminist fiction I highly recommend this book.
Monstrous Regiment is also one of the easiest gateways into the Discworld series at large. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the series without having to commit to a back catalogue of novels, give this one a go.
Hello! This week’s commercial break is running a little behind schedule but here we are crashing into your eyeballs fashionably late.
After you read this scintillating commercial break, of course.
Book: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Allie Brosh’s hilarious, matter-of-fact approach to depression was one of the reasons I survived my own struggles in high school so when her book dropped I threw money at it so fast I’m still slightly dizzy with it.
It’s been a few years (and a few more diagnoses) since I first found Allie’s work and the effect of her humour hasn’t waned. This is a book that will get you through some bad times and it’ll do so with hilarity and kindness. I simply can’t recommend this baby enough.
You can get it through Amazon here.
Even if you don’t know Noelle Stevenson you’ll know her work: she’s the creator behind the new She-ra series and the infinitely awesome Nimona.
Today I want to highlight another of her awesome creations: Lumberjanes.
Lumberjanes tells the story of a scout group surviving camp and all the supernatural entities that go along with it. It’s got everything: mystery, adventure, bears with too many eyes, and so much queer rep I want to weep with how good it is.
You can grab the first in the series on Amazon here.
How’s everyone enjoying Hug Your Local Werewolf so far? Are the supernatural shenanigans to your liking? Do you have a favourite character? DO YOU HAVE FAN THEORIES?
While you’re cataloguing your extensive responses to yell at us on Twitter, we’d like to invite you to another commercial break. This week involves plugging a couple of writers close to our hearts: Terry Pratchett and K.J. Charles.
Without further ado!
TV Show: Good Omens
Listen. Listen. LISTEN.
When I heard they were adapting Good Omens for the screen I was tentatively excited. “Excited” because it’s one of my favourite books of all time and “tentatively” because… well, it’s one of my favourite books of all time.
Anyone who’s read Terry Pratchett knows how difficult it is to translate his writing style to the screen. So, folks, I went into this with trepidation.
I came out of it the physical manifestation of heart eyes. This show is a gift, my friends. A GIFT.
Even if you haven’t read the book, I recommend this show HEARTILY. And if you have read the book: welcome to Narnia, my pals, we got a fucking perfect Pratchett adaptation.
Author: K.J. Charles
Look, we all know what we’re about here. Victorian England! Beautiful people! Queer romance! MURDER! Beautiful people in Victorian England engaging in queer romances while solving murders! And also sometimes people have magic powers?! Heck yeah!
Come with me, friends, to this corner of the bookshop. Yes, that’s right, under the sign that says “KJ Charles Will Make Your Queer Tropey Dreams Come True”.
The writing is reminiscent of fanfic in the best possible way—those who habitually haunt AO3 will feel right at home with these stories. They’re a wonderful mix of romance and smut, with complex characters and genuinely interesting plots.
With a catalogue of over twenty novels, there’s a wealth of options to explore, with both standalones and series. My personal favorites are the “A Charm of Magpies” and “Sins of the Cities” series. Check out her work and find your own faves!
It’s that time again, folks! Another round of signal boosting our favourite stuff so you have something to occupy you between werewolf shenanigans.
Without further ado:
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
Superheroes! Mysteries! Queer protagonists!
“Welcome to Andover, where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship–only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain.”
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee is the book I wish I had growing up. It’s the perfect combination of superhero worldbuilding and adorable queer crushes. Y’all really need this book in your life.
You can get it on Amazon here.
Podcast: Not Another D&D Podcast
I started listening to this podcast fairly recently, off of a recommendation from a friend, and I’m SO glad that I did! Fans of The Adventure Zone will love this comedy real-play D&D podcast set in the magical land of Bahumia as it follows the adventures of our three heroes (Hardwon Surefoot, Moonshine Cybin, and Beverly Toegold IV) as they try to clean up the mess left behind by the last group of legendary heroes, collecting NPCs and pushing the shenanigan limits along the way. Check out their website to get a taste for yourself!
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
You can also support these good folks on Patreon! And because people have already done so, they’re able to offer a bonus campaign (set in the Lisa Frank-fantasy world of Trinyvale) as well as a whole bonus PODCAST, “The Short Rest Podcast”, in which the cast talk about their latest session, their favorite ice cream flavors, and what sort of ridiculous plans they can get way with next time.
All in all, this comes HIGHLY recommended. But don’t just trust me! To quote Moonshine’s possum companion Paw Paw Gump, brilliant legal mind and registered scrambleboy, “REEEEE reeee ReeEEEEEE!!!”
Yooooo! We’re up to part 2 of Hug Your Local Werewolf and the reception to our little project has been PHENOMENAL. If you haven’t already, please feel free to yell at us on twitter about the story so far.
Part 3 is due to hit your eyeballs this coming Monday, but in the meantime: commercial break.
Here’s some cool stuff we think you ought to check out in between werewolf shenanigans – all vetted and loved by us.
Game/Hobby: Dungeons & Dragons
This game is going through a resurgence right now, which let me tell you, is GREAT for me personally. Twitch is full of livestreaming games, there are tons of real-play podcasts, Stephen Colbert is playing to raise money for Red Nose Day!! And with all of that, more and more people are learning about the game and deciding if they want to play.
So maybe you’re wondering what it’s all about?
D&D is a game for everyone who loved to play pretend as a child. At its heart, it’s about communal storytelling: you and your friends coming together to build a story, with help (or hindrance) from Lady Luck. You build your character and the DM (Dungeon Master, or GM/Game Master in some circles) builds the world. They tell you what’s happening and you decide how your character will react. It can be casual or crunchy, Lord of the Rings epic or Spaceballs goofy, and everything in between.
But there’s SO MUCH MORE! There are websites like Roll20 and D&D Beyond where you can organize your information and build maps. There are pre-made adventures if you don’t feel like building your own, indie publishers releasing third-party content, SO MANY BEAUTIFUL SHINY DICE!
If you can’t afford to invest in a hobby like this right now, check your local library for copies of the core books. There’s also the d20 SRD that contains all of the core rules.
Visit your local gaming store! Ask your friends if they want to play a game where they get to wield swords and cast spells! Embrace your inner child and make the OC of your dreams!!
Podcast: Writing Excuses
Writing Excuses is a podcast by writers for writers. Helmed by Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler this podcast is THE writing podcast for me. They tackle everything from story structure to magic systems to genre blending to representation.
Basically, if you’re a writer looking to improve your craft, you can’t go past this show. I know my writing has improved immeasurably because of it.
Listen to it wherever cool podcasts are hosted!
We’re absolutely goddamn over the moon with the reception of Howloween: Part 1! We have 22 awesome patrons so far and your feedback has been the wind beneath our tiny independent-artist wings!
Our patrons can look forward to the next part in a few hours, but in the meantime it’s time to introduce a new sort of post: our commercial breaks.
Sticking with the episodic format, we thought it’d be cool if we took some time between each part of HYLW to highlight some other cool stuff we’d seen about the place. In these posts you’ll find recommendations for anything from books to podcasts to Netflix binges to bars – all of them vetted and loved by us.
So! To kick off today’s commercial break:
Podcast: Welcome to Night Vale
Welcome to Night Vale is my absolute favourite podcast. It’s structured like a community radio show, the twist being that said show is set in a Lovecraftian fictional town that’s regularly host to shadowy government figures, carnivorous librarians, and sentient glow clouds (ALL HAIL).
The show is hosted by Cecil Palmer, a total nerd who approaches his town’s eccentricities with matter-of-fact optimism. He’s also queer, which warms my cold, dead, bisexual heart.
You can listen to Welcome to Night Vale just about anywhere there are podcasts.
Book: The Calculating Stars
Mary Robinette Kowal is one of my all time favourite authors. Her mastery of genre twisting is honestly awe inspiring and The Calculating Stars is a great example of her skill.
Part history, part spec fiction, The Calculating Stars tells the alternative history of what would happen if a meteorite struck earth in the 1950s.
Elma, our main character, is a WASP pilot and mathematician who works as a calculator, aiding humanity’s efforts to migrate to space ahead of the impending extinction event.
Basically, Elma and her friends are not having a bar of societal norms keeping them from fronting a space expedition and I am HERE FOR IT.
You can grab The Calculating Stars on Amazon here.
Comic: Raven Pirate Princess
Raven Pirate Princess (written by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt) is technically classified as middle grade/YA, but let’s be real: when has that ever stopped any of us?
A spin-off from the Princeless series, the story starts off following Raven, the daughter of the pirate king, now that she’s been freed from her tower and ready to reclaim her birthright from her villainous brothers. To do so, however, she needs a couple of key things: a ship, and a crew.
An all-female pirate crew. A first love filled with betrayal, regret, and reconciliation. Magic. Shenanigans. AN ALL-FEMALE PIRATE CREW. A multitude of queer identities and relationships. This story has it all! (Fans of Brienne of Tarth and/or Scorpia from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, just wait until you meet Katie.)
There are 6 collected books so far, with a seventh due out July 9, 2019.
If you’re interested in picking up the first book, you can find it on Amazon here