My Review: Virgin Jackson is back in the second instalment of Marianne De Pierres’ Peacemaker series. This one’s just as action packed as the first, as gun-toting ranger, Virgin, aided by the taciturn US cowboy Nate Sixkiller, her spirit animal and her possibly psychotic self-appointed bodyguard, Hamish, set out to discover the truth about the Mythos. She’s got a mystery to solve and her name to clear, and a bounty and a murder rap both hang over her head. Beautifully written and tightly paced, De Pierres’ novel takes us from wild, open spaces to cramped city slums and back again. Urban Fantasy meets sci-fi, meets western, this is a book that will grip you from start to finish. Yee-haa!
Australia and New Zealand are home to some of the greatest dark fiction writers the world has to offer — disturbed minds firing out shots of madness into the night. Maybe it’s our isolation from the rest of the world: island nations so far removed from the rest of society; mountainous landscapes; bone-dry deserts; and endless oceans the perfect breeding ground for horrors and monstrosities unknown.
Comprising of two dozen twisted tales, ranging from emotionally haunting pieces such as Martin Livings’ Boxing Day (a story that examines one Australian household’s traditional form of ensuring the hierarchy) to the purely creepy Carlington Black’s The Urge, where changes in the atmosphere start changing people, either physically, mentally, or both, At The Edge has something for every lover of the dark and macabre.
Every author in this collection has their own voice, their own story to tell, their own fright or ghast to let loose upon the reader. Some such as Jodi Cleghorn’s The Leaves No Longer Fall and AC Buchanan’s And Still The Forests Grow Though We Are Gone predict environmental catastrophes that we may already be facing, making these stories much harder to bear.
Others simply hold up a mirror, demonstrating that the things in our own heads are the things we should fear the most. The most eloquent of these is Joanne Anderton’s Labyrinth inspired tale of goblins and misplaced wishes, Street Furniture, and AJ Ponder’s corrupted story of the demons that hide within the stories we read, BlightSight.
At The Edge is an anthology that is best read in a well lit room, preferably during the day when sleep is far off. Each author has their own way of worming into your subconscious, nesting behind your eyes, and not letting you forget that while the things that scare you might not be real, that doesn’t mean they should be ignored.
At The Edge
Edited by Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray – Published by Paper Road Press
Game Changers is a non-fiction book that explores the videogame industry and how games culture is changing and diversifying, while also dissecting the misogyny and harassment that has permeated facets of the games community. The book tackles large issues and acts as an educational experience for those unfamiliar with what has been happening within the industry.
Simultaneously, Game Changers is a comforting and cathartic release for those who are embedded in the videogame world as developers, writers, and players, and who are familiar with the damaging harassment that has come to the fore over the last couple of years.
This dual audience is established very deliberately, with authors Dan Golding and Leena van Deventer explicitly noting they have ‘written this book for the uninitiated, the curious, and the confused, as much as for the weary and the experienced’ (p. 4).
The book’s intentional appeal to a dual audience makes Game Changers an incredibly valuable text. I want to share it with everyone I know—those inside and outside the games industry—as a means of explanation, of comfort, and of support. I feel as though Game Changers perfectly captures the intricacies of the space I am involved in—both the reasons I love the work that I do and the reasons I am sometimes scared to continue it.
I spoke with Dan and Leena about writing for a dual audience and why it was important to both of them. Leena made a point about Gamergate—a movement thoroughly covered in the book—saying that the issue ‘got a lot of attention in mainstream media and left a lot of people scratching their heads’ and that therefore it was ‘important to write the book in a way that many people can understand’.
Dan felt similarly, saying that the book should be for everyone ‘because videogames should be for everyone’. He added that ‘the terror of Gamergate is specifically about excluding people; it seems appropriate that the best way to respond is through inclusion.’
The topic of Gamergate is a difficult one to explore and a potentially dangerous one to discuss. In fact, in Game Changers, Dan and Leena advise not to ‘use the Gamergate hashtag on social media—if you do, you’ll immediately want to throw your laptop into the sea’ (p. 4). There’s a reason Dan and Leena wrote an entire book covering the topic; the ‘movement’ and the complex series of events that led up to its commencement in August 2014 are difficult to summarise.
Perhaps, for those who are unfamiliar with the topic, it is most important to consider the fear and feelings of isolation that Gamergate has caused for many people who write about videogames, particularly writers who represent a social minority group.
Game Changers is a powerful response to this fear and isolation. The book feels like a rallying cry, allowing those who have experienced harassment to feel as though they aren’t alone while also giving those outside the games industry a peek in at what has been taking place. This includes a look at the lives of Anita Sarkeesian and Zoë Quinn, who are central to the Gamergate abuse and who are also incredible voices in the mission to make the videogame world a safer space; the book features informative, fascinating, and heartbreaking exclusive interviews with them, embedded within chapters of thoroughly researched and referenced content.
No matter who you are or whether you think a book about games might be accessible for you, I recommend picking up Game Changers and reading the beautifully constructed non-fiction within. As Dan said during our correspondence, ‘this book has a lot in it for people who don’t see themselves as having anything to do with games. They might pick it up in a book store, but see the word “game” on it and decide that it isn’t for them.’ Game Changers is an incredibly informative and powerful experience that acts as a bridge between those inside and outside the game industry, and I would love for you to experience it with me, no matter who you are.
Disclaimer: I have interacted with Dan Golding and Leena van Deventer online and in person at industry events, conventions or conferences. I have great admiration for both of them and for their work within the games industry. This review is based on a copy of Game Changers that I pre-ordered with my own money and waited for like everyone else.