Among the podcasts my husband and I enjoy listening to when we make trips to Atlanta and elsewhere is NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” a roundtable discussion about what’s hot in books, film, TV, and music. Every episode ends with a segment called “What’s Making Us Happy This Week.” To end the year 2015 on a positive note, I’ve decided to steal a page from their proverbial book and highlight some things that have made me especially happy this year, in no particular order.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
I intend to devote an entire post to this film, once the tidal wave of media coverage surrounding it starts to subside. For now, I’ll just say I think it’s awesome and I love it.
Naomi Novik’s stand-alone fantasy novel, a portal to the landscape of fairytale Poland, took me to my happy place this year with some of the most vivid descriptions of magical workings I’ve read in the genre. The heroine, coltish and clumsy Agniezska, uses what she has, a unique brand of magic no one else understands and even she isn’t quite sure about, to rescue those closest to her and, in the end, save her world. This was a good year for heroines who get the job done.
As a long-time fan of The Muppet Show, I found this new show took some getting used to. A friend of mine complained that the pilot was too mean-spirited, and I could see all too clearly where he was coming from. But new shows often take time to find their footing, and by the time I saw the Christmas episode — which was anything but mean-spirited — the show had become one of my sources of happiness. Plus, Uncle Deadly, the miniature dragon with the Vincent Price swagger who made me chuckle every time he turned up on the classic series, features prominently in this one.
Fantasy is always my genre of choice both as a reader and as a writer, but I do relish falling in love with a good science fiction novel. This summer I finally got around to reading Sarah Zettel’s book, and I wish I’d read it sooner, just so I could have had it in my life longer. I enjoy it for its diverse cast (in gender, race, and ethnicity), its intriguing theme (the nature of artificial intelligence), and its central heroine, Evelyn Dobbs, who confronts a painful moral dilemma with aplomb and integrity. Plus, its style is solidly accessible even to a science/technology dunderhead like me.
Since I’ve discussed this one in a previous blog, I’ll limit myself to a few words. “Congratulations, San Francisco, you’ve ruined pizza!” “I am positive you could get lost in there.” “Triple Dent Gum.” “Take her to the moon for me, okay?”
The Thousand Names and The Shadow Throne
Django Wexler’s The Shadow Campaigns series was also the subject of an earlier blog, so again I’ll keep it brief. Sometimes I hesitate to recommend books, even ones I adore; I always think, “Well, I loved it, but he/she might not,” and catch myself wishing to protect those beloved books from possible negative opinions. But the first two volumes of this series I would recommend without hesitation to any fan of fantasy, especially lovers of heroines like myself.
Critics gave Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror costume drama a lukewarm reception, so my expectations were hardly in the stratosphere. Yet for all its flaws, this movie may have been designed with me in mind. An aspiring writer as its heroine. A haunted mansion beyond Charlotte Bronte’s most feverish dreams. An atmospheric score and gorgeous costumes. I let myself be seduced, and I can’t say I feel very guilty.
This was my first DragonCon as a published novelist, my first time as a dealer. Gilded Dragonfly Books had a booth in the Exhibit Hall, and my husband and I both did our share of “manning the table.” We took twenty copies of Atterwald to the Con, and by its end we had sold every one of them. Definitely a highlight of my year.
Honorable Mention Name Drop:
Supergirl. Marvel’s Agent Carter. Miles Cameron’s The Red Knight. Kate Forsyth’s The Witches of Eileanan. Kristen Britain’s First Rider’s Call. Jennifer Fallon’s Treason Keep. PBS’s remake of Poldark. Season 2 of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Wild Seed. Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens. Elizabeth Bear’s Steles of the Sky. Far From the Madding Crowd (2015 movie). Mad Max: Fury Road. Orange is the New Black. The final season of Continuum.
That’s a lot of happiness.