In no particular order, and with no cohesive fabric between them, here go five sources that have I have recently consumed, and provided great inspiration.
As my disclaimer usually goes, these are things that I personally like, paid with my own money, and nobody is pushing my way. Other than the sophisticated advertisement apparatus of the tech giants, of course.
1. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, by Ken Liu
Just finished this book, and my mind has been blown.
This book contained, by a wide margin, the best writing I've had the privilege to read in all of 2021. And possibly including 2020 as well. My reading habit is certainly not what it once was, so take that statement as you will.
The collection of short stories is insightful, paced, and thought provoking. Evocative writing flows from the page. There is so much sentiment and soul embedded in every single sentence. Fantastical elements, science-fiction and alternate history are blended with gusto. Doesn't really matter.
The titular "Paper Menagerie" story had me literally crying, its themes of migration, culture, and heritage strongly resonating.
"Good Hunting" was adapted for the brilliant Netflix show "Love Death + Robots", and deserves high praise. Industrialization, and our land and culture losing its magic.
"The Perfect Match" could change its entity to Facebook, Alphabet or Amazon, appear on a newspaper, and I would strongly believe it true.
"The Literomancer" is a gorgeously saddening story on the magic of words and language.
"The Regular" tells in 50 pages a credible and engaging neo detective story.
I could go on and on. Stories range from great to brilliant. There are repeating themes, heritage, language, communication, history, industrialization fantasy and futurism.
This book is a must read. Broadened my view and mindset. Pick it up, and thank me later.
2. NOD magazine, by John Stater
Ran into this series of zines in the OSR space, where John Stater has consistently been throwing together very complete material. Mainly centered around his land of NOD, they include robust hexcrawls for OD&D, with interesting flavor, including bestiaries and interspersed articles. They are a tour of the world in terms of flavor and influences. You have your pseudo-european setting (issues #4-#7), but also one based on african mythology, another with east asian roots, and even a tour of Hell!
The PDF pricing is extremely fair for the amount and quality of the content. I would highlight issues #7 and #34 from the dozen or so I purchased thus far.
In all likelihood one of these will form the basis of what we do in The Calaveras campaign. I'm thinking of issues #19-#21. After we rebooted our game with 1 less player, we should be done with Magical Murder Mansion in a bit (it's taking us a while, but we're getting there...).
3. Watchmen, the 2019 TV mini-series
Swinging in quality from episode to episode, and very derivative from the graphic novel, I still enjoyed the first six episodes of this mini-series. The last third is a bit of a hot mess, losing its grounded reality, and going into realms that made my eyes roll... I would have dropped it if it wasn't for Jeremy Irons' performance. The original Watchmen graphic novel was a favorite of mine, so take that as you want.
The topics are ominous and worryingly prophetic, given its release was end of 2019. Before the mask reality. Before the BLM movement exploded.
Other than the great portrayal by Irons, I felt the secondary characters also had strong performances.
4. A series of Bloomberg Quicktakes
My failure to latch to the Expanse hype train has not prevented me from enjoying and consuming more quality science-fiction than in recent years. Books, serials and movies. I ran into this series of videos with interesting cutting edge technologies. Interesting topics.
5. James Bond Movies
Slowly making my way through the Bond movies of old, with Connery and Roger Moore on display. Man, pacing in these movies was completely different experience back then. Cheeky, campy, and a good deal of relaxed fun. Sometimes my pandemic brain can only take this amount of complexity, and I'm ok with that.