Tom Chick

Welcome to Lovecraft Country, where cosmic horror is a white people problem

, | Book reviews

In Lovecraft Country, being called a nigger, refused service at a restaurant, harassed by the police, or treated with contempt by an elite coven of warlocks is just another day. This cast of black characters living in Chicago in 1954 is accustomed to America. They have learned to navigate it. Literally. One of the main characters publishes a travel guide called The Safe Negro Travel Guide. It steers black people around — or, if necessary, through — the more virulent racism in America, especially where Jim Crow laws are still in effect. Which restaurants will serve black customers? Which highways should you not be on after dark? Which garages can you call if your car breaks down?

So the characters in Lovecraft Country don’t seem terribly surprised by the idea that maybe the universe is a vast and ancient expanse of indifference at best, outright hostility at worst. Why would someone go insane from learning what minorities know every day? If you look into the abyss long enough, you still have to ride in the back of the bus on your way to work. Continue reading →

Tinker, tailor, soldier, Sandbagger: sometimes TV from the 70s holds up

, | TV reviews

From watching The Sandbaggers, I have come to appreciate two things. The first is Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade’s ode to bad British genre TV from the 70s is hilarious even if you don’t know bad British genre TV from the 70s. What else would it be with Holness, Ayoade, the incomparable Matt Berry, and the even more incomparable Alice Lowe? But now that I’ve seen Sandbaggers, which has the same style, tone, and production values that Darkplace lovingly mocked, I get the joke even better. So this is what it was like to watch TV in the UK!

But then there’s the second thing I’ve come to appreciate. Continue reading →

Spirit Island unleashes your inner divine wrath. Take that, history!

, | Game reviews

Consider a wilderness, lightly populated by natives. They have pagan sites dedicated to local nature gods. They worship a river or mountain or clouds or nighttime or something. Some sort of quaint animism. Now here come European explorers from across the sea. They set up small towns. The towns coalesce into entrenched cities. Culture spreads. The holy sites are abandoned and the natives are assimilated. The wilderness is now tamed. Settled. European. Probably Christian.

Continue reading →

Worst thing you’ll see all week: Armed Response

, | Movie reviews

Aliens is one of the easiest templates for a low budget sci-fi thriller. Just gather some sci-fi props, secure a shooting location, and figure out what to do for your monster. In the case of Armed Response, these are, respectively, an RV, a warehouse and, uh, they’re invisible. The invisible monsters bit is a great way to save money. Or you can also just pretend something infects or haunts some of the characters. Now they can be your monsters. To its credit, Armed Response splurges on a couple of bad CG sequences late in the movie involving ghostly arms. Literally arms. Not weapons. But actual arms. That’s your reward for sticking with it. Continue reading →

The Wire, season 1, final episode: where don’t you wanna go?

, | TV reviews

I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t this. I thought the first season would feel like a complete experience from A to B to Z. But just as I think it’s wrapping everything up, it instead resets everything. It goes from A to B to A-point-one. The situation has not changed substantially. Some of the characters’ lives have certainly changed, but the overall situation might as well be a reset to the beginning of the season. Continue reading →

12 reasons Agents of Mayhem isn’t just another open-world playground

, | Game reviews

When writing about Agents of Mayhem, it’s tempting to call out the obvious similarities and influences. The amped up cartoon charm of Overwatch. The infinitely customizable character classes of Diablo III. The gratifying doo-dad hunting of Crackdown. The intricate combat and character interaction of League of Legends nee Defense of the Ancients. The cheery superhero team spirit of The Avengers. The breezy vulgarity of Archer. The purple hues of Saints Row.

But none of that tells the whole story. None of that gets at why Agents of Mayhem stands mightily on its own. This is not just an open-world Overwatch. This is not just Saints Row with superheroes. This is a masterpiece that’s been waiting for 30 years to bust out from the collection of talent at Volition. For a number of reasons, it demands a place among the best of the best. Twelve reasons, to be precise. Continue reading →