Good things to read.
I want you to trust me on my good things, so I am recommending novels with unreliable narrators.
The Egyptologist, by Arthur Phillips. Ralph Trilipush is looking for the tomb of an apocryphal king/erotic poet. Don’t trust a word he says; he lies in his own author biography. Harold Ferrell is a detective on a very complicated case. Don’t trust a word he says; he puts people in his story who haven’t even been born yet. It’s unreliable narrators all the way down with this one, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun trying to extract the truth of the matter. A story about primary documents told in primary documents, it explores the very nature of truth and history itself.
Bad Monkeys, by Matt Ruff. Jane Charlotte spins a far-fetched yarn about being recruited by a secret organization she can’t prove exists, telling tales the psychiatrist comes back with verifiable facts to contradict. Whether or not she’s lying, her story is such rollicking fun you don’t care. This is one of the most compulsively readable books I’ve ever read; once I started reading I literally did not want to stop.
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. Captured by the Gestapo, a World War II spy code-named Verity drafts a confession to her captors in a bid for safety, detailing her friendship with a pilot, Maddie, her imprisonment, and her own emotional breakdown, all the while taunting them with hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking asides. Wein does some amazing things with the unreliable narrator, playing with the idea of our lives as stories, and the truth of stories in general. The narrative twists and turns throughout, forcing you to continually recontextualize the whole story. I highly recommend the audiobook: this is a good thing to listen to.
Good things to watch.
This blog has a theme, and so will each of my sections. Here are great shows you can watch on Netflix.
Black Mirror. This anthology series is one of the best pieces of science fiction being made today. Charlie Brooker imagines the future of humanity through our relationship with technology, and it’s not pretty. Darkly satirical, the show cuts right to the heart of its characters. Each episode leaves you with the feeling you’ve read an incredibly powerful, incisive short story.
Daredevil. Daredevil is my favorite superhero, and Marvel and Netflix have done him justice, taking inspiration from the more crime noir-tinged Miller and Bendis runs and crafting a story of one man trying to protect his neighborhood, both inside and outside the confines of the law. That he happens to be a blind man with superpowers is almost incidental. With fantastic cinematography, music, fight scenes, performances (Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk is a deserved standout), and writing, it dazzles with its storytelling, brutal both physically and emotionally.
Sense8. Eight very different people from around the globe discover they’re psychically connected…and engage in a beautiful examination of who we are as people, what connects us all as humans, how we can learn from shared experiences across cultures, and why we must put aside our differences and work together. Also there are car chases and fight scenes and explosions. This show is the slowest of burns (it takes three or four episodes to start digging its claws into you), but it’s absolutely rewarding: by the end of the first season you, too, will be hugging all your Sense8 babies.
Good things to use.
Finally, here are some things to use if you’re a writer! Free things, specifically. Because you thought I’d list Scrivener, didn’t you. Didn’t you. (Use Scrivener. Bonus thing.)
. Christie Yant developed this wonderful spreadsheet that includes a word count tracker that gives you pretty colors for writing words, a career bingo card to celebrate your milestones, and a table to manage all of your stories. You can use it however you want, but it’s an excellent way to keep yourself accountable and appreciate your accomplishments.
. David Steffen developed this wonderful website that helps writers find markets based on pay rates, genre, story length, and other parameters and then track submissions. Through user data, you can see a market’s average response time and how long it’s been since there’s been activity. I find it indispensable when I’m submitting short stories.
. Twitter developed this wonderful client for actually being able to use Twitter. Because, as a writer, you want to network with writers and also waste time on Twitter instead of writing. Make columns for lists! Mute as many hashtags or phrases as you want! Schedule Tweets for when you’re not around! I don’t know how people survive on regular web Twitter.