As the long year draws to its close, I think it’s time we looked back at some of the highlights from 2015. I’m not normally a fan of “Best Of” lists, but I think this is a good season for “Favourites.”
I don’t watch a lot of TV, but 2015 left me with two genre shows that stick in my mind as examples of complex narratives done well. Both of them, rather surprisingly, are made-for-Netflix series, and both of them are strongly character-focused.
Sense8 is a many-faceted gem of a show about eight people across the world who abruptly find themselves mentally connected to each other, and under threat from a mysterious organisation. Despite the background of global conspiracy, on an emotional level the narrative impact is intensely personal: it succeeds in making you care, almost painfully, for each of its characters.
Jessica Jones is, on the surface, a much more traditional narrative, focused more closely on a single protagonist—the eponymous Jessica Jones—but it does so much so well that it really sticks with you. It’s a story about abuse and survivors, about boundaries and recovery, about women and friendship. And the way in which Kilgrave and Simpson mirror and reflect particular—typically masculine—real-world monsters is downright eerie. Also, explosions, snark, Shit Getting Real, excellent characterisation, excitement: it’s an absolute gem of female-focused superhero noir.
I suppose Agent Carter really deserves an honourable mention. But despite the awesome that is Hayley Atwell in the title role (and despite the snark and explosions), it never satisfied me quite as well as my other two favourites. Still! Mostly a good year for interesting new genre TV, I think.
I’ve no idea if it was a good year for genre film, because at the time of writing I’ve only seen one new-release film. Mind you, I saw Mad Max: Fury Road three times in the cinema, which is probably the whole of my cinema-going budget, so… draw your own conclusions. It might be my favourite film of the decade, and not just for Charlize Theron being brutal and brilliant.
If I read more short fiction, I might have more than three favourites from the whole year. But I didn’t fall harder in love with anything short published this year than Arkady Martine’s “When The Fall Is All That’s Left,” Elizabeth Bear’s “And The Balance In The Blood,” and Aliette de Bodard’s “Of Books, Earth, and Courtship.” They are very different stories, but each is in its own way memorable—whether for gentleness or the sharp, scalding point.
On the other hand, I’ve read too many novels this year to have an easy time choosing favourites. (And too few: there are still so many I’ve missed.) But could I say Justina Robson’s Glorious Angels is better science fiction than Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy, or that Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings is better fantasy than Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory? Did I love Leah Bobet’s An Inheritance of Ashes more than Heather Rose Jones’ The Mystic Marriage, or Kate Elliott’s Black Wolves? Is Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library more batshit fun than Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, or Fran Wilde’s Updraft more than Amanda Downum’s Dreams of Shreds and Tatters? Is Jo Walton’s The Just City not pure classics-geek joy, and is Becky Chambers’ The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet not a bit like a giant space operatic hug?
(I’m not even mentioning Max Gladstone’s Last First Snow or Django Wexler’s The Price of Valor.)
It’s been a really good year for books, is what I’m saying. Will 2016 manage to top it? I somehow doubt, but I’m looking forward to seeing if it does.
What favourite things do you all have from this year?