Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month everyone! Last year, to acknowledge both this annual commemoration of contributions from the AAPI community and the ever-present following of the ’90s Disney Channel original series, So Weird, I compiled together a list of supernatural recommendations, created by and about people of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
While the odds of ever seeing a comeback of sorts for the series remains slim, re-watches can only do so much, especially when there are new stories being created and put out there all the time.
For the viewers who grew up on So Weird, here is a second iteration of supernatural recommendations, by and about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. There will also be a few sci-fi recommendations included this time around, and some of the works hail from outside the U.S.
Book Recommendation: Light Years from Home by Mike Chen
A family is torn apart following the mysterious disappearance of a father and son. While the father returns convinced that he was abducted by aliens, the son, Jakob, remains missing. Fifteen years pass when Jakob suddenly shows up and is met with a mix of reactions from his estranged sisters, Evie and Kass. He goes on about working with aliens that is only taken seriously once the FBI is on his tail. When the stakes are at its peak, the siblings must work through their tensions towards one another in order to help Jakob.
The strained family dynamic, a sister seeking a larger-than-life truth, and the presence of aliens are elements that So Weird fans will most definitely gravitate towards in this latest novel from the author known for writing “sci-fi with feels.” Also, the fact that, in the book’s acknowledgments, Chen credits The X-Files as the boost for him to lock everything in place in this book is additional encouragement to give it a read by the original audience of The X-Files for kids.
Light Years from Home is available wherever books are sold.
TV Series Recommendations:
What We Do in the Shadows
Created by Jemaine Clement, this comedy-horror-mockumentary originally premiered on FX in 2019. Based on the 2014 film of the same name (which Clement also co-directed and starred in), the series follows four vampire roommates living together in Staten Island, as they go about their nightly (and occasionally daytime) vampiric shenanigans.
Anyone who watched So Weird may remember the infamous second season episode that was centered on these undead, blood-sucking beings. While it was more or less campy, so is What We Do in the Shadows, but in the best kind of way. Much like the film, it doesn’t take itself too seriously as it pokes fun at nearly everything associated with vampires, as well as other supernatural beings. It’s a hilarious show with some of the smartest TV writing out there. Its opening theme alone, Norma Tanega’s “You’re Dead,” is a musical indicator for what audiences are in for.
The first three seasons of What We Do in the Shadows can be streamed on FX on Hulu and will be returning for a fourth season.
Before you say it, no, this is not a repeat of last year’s item of Budgette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo’s Filipino horror comics. Rather, this is the anime adaptation. Executive produced by Jay Oliva, the series brings some of the stories from the first few volumes of the comics to life, as crime investigator Alexandra Trese goes head-to-head with mythological creatures of the Philippines.
Much like the comics, So Weird fans will admire the badass that Trese is in utilizing both her knowledge and skill set in navigating the supernatural world. Also, for those who maybe aren’t familiar with Filipino mythology, each episode serves as a gateway to some of the lore and the creatures intertwined in it, such as aswangs, duwendes, Santelmo, and more.
Trese is now streaming on Netflix.
Once caught up with What We Do in the Shadows, this other comedy-horror-mockumentary is another laugh-worthy series to get into. Originally premiering in New Zealand back in 2018, this series was made available in the United States for the first time on CW last summer. Co-created by Clement and Paul Yates, Wellington Paranormal follows the two cops from the film version of What We Do in the Shadows, Officers Minogue and O’Leary, as they are recruited by Sergeant Maaka to be a part of the paranormal unit of the Wellington Police Department. An incurious duo, who’s occasionally joined by Maaka, they encounter everything from werewolves, to zombies, and even creatures from Māori mythology like the taniwha.
So Weird fans can only imagine what Fi would make of such a police unit. It’s a beloved addition to the What We Do in the Shadows universe in its dry humorous take on when the modern world encounters the supernatural.
Wellington Paranormal can be streamed anytime on HBO Max.
In a mountain town in France, four friends are celebrating the birthday of one of their own in a bunker, when the test of an experimental particle collider sends them separated across parallel universes. Across time and space, the friends must find their ways back to each other to reverse the effects from before, while dealing with memory loss, a problematic stepfather, and in the case of one character, increasingly dangerous resentment along the way.
Created and co-written by Quoc Dang Tran, this French sci-fi series is an incredibly crafted show for So Weird fans to delve into. Tran’s willingness to take things to dark places in order to tell an effective story is right up the alley of interest. Although the concept of parallel universes was never explored in So Weird, it was considered as such for the original third season plans. Parallels gives a glimpse at just how far it can be taken.
Parallels is now streaming on Disney+.
Feature Film Recommendations:
In director Kogonada’s sophomore film, Jake is seeking guidance on what to do when his daughter’s android, Yang, malfunctions. While looking for solutions to have him fixed, Jake finds himself aware of the life he has grown unattached from, by way of exploring Yang’s memory bank, and in the process, also realizes just how human the android really is.
So Weird is a notable series for a number of reasons, and one of them is that it redefines what a family or family unit looks like. After Yang is centered on that concept and then takes it to another place. While it could have easily become a dialogue about how our technology knows us a little too well, fans will appreciate its meditative exploration of what a family is and the roles each member serves.
After Yang is now streaming on Showtime.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
A middle-aged, Chinese American woman is struggling to get her taxes completed, while juggling several familial difficulties at once. However, when she suddenly is made aware that the multiverse is a thing and that she is the only one who can save the world, she prepares herself by acquiring skills from other versions of her life.
I would not be doing this list of recommendations justice by leaving out this latest endeavor from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (a.k.a. the Daniels). It’s a cinematic explosion of multiverse madness, whose emotional core is prominent through the different dynamics the protagonist, Evelyn, has with members of her family; most notably, her daughter. So Weird fans love the development of the character, Molly, and her relationship with her daughter, Fi. While it would be incredible to one day have a story through Molly’s perspective, Everything Everywhere All At Once comes pretty darn close, and then some.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is now playing in theaters.
(The Nerds of Color has done interviews with several of the stars of the film, including Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and James Hong.)