My Favorite Things: Mad Scientists, Life Model Decoys, Horror Biographies, Episodic Board Games, and The Legend of Zelda

They might not be raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but that doesn’t mean that we love them any less. Welcome back to My Favorite Things, a weekly column where we gab about the greatest in geek. This week, we’re talking about dimension-hopping mad scientists, the latest installment in the Zelda video game franchise, a biography for one of the most important writers in horror, a fantastic story arc on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and our first ever board game selection on My Favorite Things. Read on for more!


Keyes’ Favorite Thing is…The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild!

I have many fond memories of the Zelda franchise. Ironically few of them involve me playing the games myself. One of the side effects of being a second generation gamer is that I am rarely adverse to watching other people video games. My strongest memories during one of my father’s deployments was watching my mother play A Link to the Past on Friday nights, and I never played all the way through either Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword myself, having been content to watch my husband’s play-throughs instead. So it is high praise indeed that my husband and I are currently bickering over whose turn it is with Breath of the Wild…and it’s a testament to just how huge this game is that although we have both put substantial time into the game already, we still watch each other and go “Where is that? I haven’t seen that.” This game isn’t like anything else I’ve ever played, reminding me at different times not just of the classic Zelda’s like Ocarina of Time and Link’s Awakening, but of Skyrim, Dark Souls, Xenoblade Chronicles and Witcher 3. This game and I are going to spend many, many happy hours together, and I can already tell we will be paying it the high compliment of ‘double dipping’ and buying it on Switch when we get around to purchasing that console.

 

Casey’s Favorite Thing is… Rick and Morty!

I am beyond late to the party, but my latest favorite thing is Rick and Morty, an animated show on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.  If you’re unfamiliar with the show, here’s a quick breakdown: Dimension-hopping mad scientist grandfather takes his vaguely dimwitted grandson on amazing, dangerous, occasionally shady adventures throughout the time/space continuum.  On the surface this is a rather foul cartoon, with some truly over-the-top situations.  Looking deeper reveals a complicated set of characters who are trying to get through this life that they have all somehow stumbled into.  If one can get through the initial episodes and learn to ignore grandpa Rick’s belching (the biggest issue I had with the show at first), there is such a treat waiting.  The humor is irreverent, yet occasionally dark.  The family dynamic is messy.  Some incredibly serious situations arise from time to time.  Various episodes have taken hard looks at subjects such as scientific ethics and classism throughout the galaxy that our Rick and Morty inhabit (and we are told that there are infinite timelines).  This show has become a go-to for Spouse and I when we need something quick to watch during a meal or when we’re winding down for the night.  I can’t recommend this for everyone, but if you feel like taking a trip into the darkly absurd, Rick and Morty might be for you. All episodes are currently streaming on Hulu, so go watch!

 

Nancy’s Favorite Thing is… Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — LMD!

The landscape of superhero television had certainly gotten crowded over the last few years. You have the gritty crime shows of the Marvel Netflix series, the sprawling DC television universe, and the occasional wild card, like the office comedy Powerless, or the trippy newcomer Legion. So the fact that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has stood out the most to me during the 2016-17 television season says a lot about the consistency of quality coming out of this once uneven show.

One neat thing that S.H.I.E.L.D. has decided to do this year is to break up its season into three, interconnected arcs. This allows them to tell large, more complex stories that never overstay their welcome, or get repetitive. The first story arc, Ghost Rider, brought in an A-list Marvel superhero in a thoroughly satisfying way. But it’s the second storyline, LMD, that’s really deserving of praise. Yes, the arc started off with a pretty conventional, if still entertaining, look at artificial intelligence. And then the twists started coming. The kind of twists that you don’t see coming, but in retrospect make perfect sense. The LMD storyline has brought our beloved characters to new and interesting places, allowing the talented cast (especially Chloe Bennet, Ming Na-Wen, Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker) to really show off their acting chops.

The LMD storyline recently finished off with the fifteenth episode “Self Control,” which delivered season finale worthy drama. I can’t wait and see how the next storyline picks things up when the show returns this April.

 

Lisa’s Favorite Thing is… Pandemic: Legacy (Season 1)!
One of my many geeky hobbies is playing board games. Every once and a while my friends will come over and we’ll play some casual board games like Coup, Love Letter, King of Tokyo, and others. All of those I highly recommend. A few months ago we picked up Pandemic: Legacy (Season 1), which is a little more than casual. It’s unlike any game I’ve played before; I’m not sure how you’d describe it, but I suppose it’s “episodic”. Each time you play the game it’s different; everything from the story, to the characters, to the situations, evolve as you go. Here’s the setup: a virus has broken out across the world, you and your team have to figure out how to beat it while trying to contain the damage it’s doing. The story plays out across 12 months (January to December) and you play a game in each month (two if you lose the first one). Your decisions on how to contain the outbreaks can have lasting consequences: cities will riot and raze, characters can become permanently scarred, or even die. The board itself changes so you remember where you left off at your last game. As you progress, you get new rules, open boxes with new pawns, and read out story cards with new objectives. It’s really one of the best board games I’ve ever played. If you ever wanted to live through a outbreak, get this game. Oh, and stay away from any spoilers online because living through the story is one of the best parts; there are plenty of twists and turns!
Oh, and one last thing: there is also a game called Pandemic. It’s by the same company but it is the generic version (not episodic/no continuing story line). It’s great for playing one-offs, but the real fun is with Legacy.

 

Sharon’s Favorite Thing is… Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

Inevitably, with so many wonderful books being published every month, I miss some good ones. But I just found this: the fantastic (and now Stoker-nominated) biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. I’m usually not a fan of biographies but I’m an absolute fan of Shirley Jackson. Her 1959 classic, The Haunting of Hill House, was the first time a novel scared me so badly that I couldn’t sleep. I once acted in a stage production of her famous short story, “The Lottery.” (And let’s be honest, The Hunger Games series owes so much to “The Lottery” that Suzanne Collins should be sending royalty checks to Jackson’s heirs.)

Jackson was a huge influence on my own writing as well, but did I know that much about her? Beyond the fact that she was a woman and died long before I started writing? Nope.

I didn’t know that her mother didn’t really want her (mother issues are always the stuff of great horror), that she was a student of witchcraft and magic (and liked to scare interviewers with that information), and that she died tragically young after struggling with drugs and alcohol.

This book is full of tidbits about writing fantastic fiction, and how her writing was received. It’s a fascinating window into a quirky woman’s mid-century life. It’s also sad and tragic at turns. Jackson died without ever receiving much acclaim for her work, but in her husband’s words, “I think that the future will find her powerful visions of suffering and inhumanity increasingly significant and meaningful, and that her work is among that small body of literature produced in our time that seems apt to survive.”

He wrote that five decades ago, and it’s true. Jackson holds up. But underneath the great work she left behind was a fascinating woman with a complicated life. This book is a gem.


Any thoughts on the selections above? Let us know in the comments below!

 

4 Comments

  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier March 13, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    Breath of the Wild looks BEAUTIFUL. I’ve only watched a couple videos, but it seems like such an intriguing game.

    Reply
    • Shara White March 13, 2017 at 10:31 pm

      It does look beautiful. That picture is so pretty I want to pet it.

      Reply
    • Keyes March 16, 2017 at 6:50 am

      It is amazing. Full stop.

      Reply
  • Kelly McCarty March 14, 2017 at 1:40 am

    I love Rick and Morty. My brother got me started watching it and at first, I was like, “This is weird. Why does he call his grandpa Rick?” but then I really started to enjoy the weird humor. I think they’re cut back on Rick’s drooling and belching because I started watching the newer episodes and I didn’t realize that Rick has spit on his chin, not a beard, until I saw the first episode.

    “Listen, Morty, I hate to break it to you but what people call “love” is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard, Morty, then it slowly fades, leaving you stranded in a failing marriage. I did it. Your parents are gonna do it. Break the cycle, Morty. Rise above. Focus on science” –Rick

    Reply

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