From the box office to the bookstore, 2015 has been an especially good time to be a fan of sci-fi and fantasy. Our plates are filled to overflowing with tasty treats, from Star Wars and superhero films, to killer TV shows, to more badass SF/F books than we could ever hope to read.
Here’s what the blogging team here at the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog is thankful for in 2015 SF/F. That this list should also include you, the reader, naturally goes without saying (except…we kinda just did).
Nicole: I’m thankful for Neil Gaiman’s quiet ubiquity. I thought Trigger Warning, his most recent collection of short stories, was going to be the highlight of 2015 for me. Short fiction, after all, is a medium in which he is a master. Little did I know just how much of a master. In October, I fell out of my chair at the news that some of Gaiman’s shorter works would be making their way to the small screen for a four-part miniseries. If you could die of squee, I would no longer be alive, and would very probably be talking to some urchin in a cemetery in a Neil Gaiman short story. Now pass the turkey. I’m feeling extra thankful, and this feeling’s got to last until American Gods starts shooting next year.
Ceridwen: My teenager has been filching comics from me for a while now, long enough that I know to put up the stuff I know I don’t want him getting into. (Even though reading age-inappropriate books stolen from parents is an important rite of passage, I’m not going to make it easy for him. That’s half the fun anyway.) My much younger daughter has gotten into stealing comics from me too, and I am so grateful for series like Ms. Marvel, which I can leave out casually on purpose, and know that they’re both reading the very best, coolest comics that are available for any age bracket.
Diana: I’m convinced that October 6th was the best day of the entire year, for two reasons: first, Carry On, by the brilliantly talented and brilliantly named Rainbow Rowell, was finally released; second, so was the illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It should have been a national holiday (and I understand that the new Rick Riordan dropped the same day, so for fans of Rowell, Rowling, and Riordan, it must have been the best day in like a decade. Also a great day for authors whose last names begin with R…). It’s fitting that Carry On was released alongside Harry Potter, because in many ways it feels like a cousin to that series (and to other beloved Chosen One classics as well), but it also brings a magic all its own—one that stems from the warmth of its writing and the complexities of its characters.
Sam Riedel: One of my biggest regrets in life so far is that I haven’t spent enough time reading the classics. I’m not talking about your Greek philosophers or the British literary canon, though; I’m talking about all the great 20th century science fiction. I’ve got a pretty good handle on Asimov, but Heinlein? Gibson? Not so much. I never seem to have time to hunt down and read all their best work, since I get too busy reading what’s new. That’s why I’m so thankful for new collections of old works, like the recent omnibus of William Sloane’s eerie sci-fi novels of the 1930s. Bringing these books back into print means a whole new generation of readers like me can absorb and learn from great writers that aren’t with us anymore.
T.W. O’Brien: I am thankful that the Syfy cable network seems to be finally living up to its name. I gave up hope when they added pro wrestling to their schedule, even after I tried to convince myself that it was role playing fantasy. But they have had debuted decent original series of late, and now they are hard at work adapting some fine science fiction and fantasy literature, from James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse, to Arthur C. Clark’s Childhood’s End, to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.
Kelly: I am more than a little thankful the BBC came through for me with a wonderful adaption of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, based on the fantasy classic by Susanna Clarke. They streamlined what is, admittedly a quite detailed tome into six entrancing hours of television filled much of the best the book had to offer: wonderfully idiosyncratic characters, an enveloping atmosphere, a riveting plot, and, of course, enthralling acts of magic (that’s really what we’re all tuning in for, right?). We book nerds can be tough customers when it comes to seeing our favorite books realized on screen. This is one time I felt like the show’s creators had my back.
Sam Reader: This year has brought me an affordable Thomas Ligotti collection, the promise of a new Matt Ruff novel (Lovecraft Country), and a host of other bounties, but I’m really looking forward to the new Netflix series Jessica Jones. One of my favorite actresses in a lead role adapting one of my favorite comics, and to top it all off, I can shotgun the entire series in a straight shot. I’ve been looking forward to this since it was announced ages ago. I’m happy it has finally made it to the screen.
Renay: Although I started reading Seanan McGuire’s October Daye urban fantasies in 2014 with Rosemary and Rue, 2015 was the year I caught up on the entire series—all nine books. I’m new to both urban fantasy and faerie stories, and this series is a perfect introduction to both. McGuire has crafted a fascinating world full of characters you can’t help rooting for, and complicated relationships between friends, partners, and family members. Each installment is fun and fast-paced, with multiple levels of soul-crushing emotion, but they truly shine due to her care in developing an ever-more-complex underlying mythos. This isn’t a series that limits itself to one adventure per book—McGuire is taking October (and us) somewhere specific. Through each installment, October learns new things about herself, meets new allies and enemies, and remains a hero that I’m thrilled to watch save the day. The skill and humor on display in these stories has made this series one of my happy places this year—even as McGuire does her best to rip out my heart with feelings.
Rich: I was a little worried when George Miller announced he was going back to the dystopian well decades later for a new entry in the Mad Max film series. The first two are pure post-apocalyptic joy, and even Beyond Thunderdome has its moments, Tina Turner’s ham-it-up presence aside. In glorious hindsight, I was worried over nothing. Mad Max: Fury Road is a rush of raw adrenaline, a razor-wire-under-the-nails experience that demanded the biggest screen and loudest sound system available. Sure, it was less about Tom Hardy’s Max than Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, but when the engines roared, it mattered little. This is 120 minutes of relentless, ugly future escapism, and revisiting it at home has pushed my subwoofer to its wall-shaking limits more than once.
Andrew: Space opera seems to be coming back in a big way. Books such as Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey, Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, The End of All Things by John Scalzi, and The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers have been earning acclaim from all corners of the internet. I’ve always been a big fan of stories about expansive galactic empires, ragtag starship crews, and adventure far out into the cosmos, and the genre’s recent resurgence is both exciting and terrifying: there’s not nearly enough time to read all of them!
Brigid: My advance copy of Dark Horse’s new omnibus edition of Planetes arrived the other day, and it reminded me of how many publishers are releasing (or rereleasing) manga in deluxe editions. Planetes, a sci-fi story about space junkmen, was published by Tokyopop back in the early days of the manga boom; it was loved by critics, but sales were anemic, perhaps because the production values (small size, pulp paper) turned off potential readers. Dark Horse has corrected the mismatch, compiling the four-volume series into two oversized omnibus volumes, with a gorgeous cover and nice paper stock. Dark Horse has generally been doing a nice job of collecting omnibuses of older series, including CLAMP’s shoujo manga, making them more affordable and often improving the reading experience. They’re are not the only ones: Yen Press is re-publishing Kaoru Mori’s Emma in a lovely hardback edition, Kodansha is publishing Vinland Saga (by the same creator as Planetes) as deluxe hardcovers with lots of extras, and Viz is giving the highbrow treatment to its reissue of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster and the classic JoJos’s Bizarre Adventure. It’s nice to see these series, new and old, made available to English-language readers in high-quality print editions.
Ross: I’m thankful for the increased visibility of women in sci-fi. From the conclusion of Anne Leckie’s blockbuster Ancillary trilogy; to Supergirl, Jessica Jones, and (the way underrated) Sense8 on TV; to Ms. Marvel, the Rat Queens, and Bitch Planet (!) in the comics. The biggest SF movies of the year, Mockingjay, Part 2 and The Force Awakens, both have female leads,. It’s not really a new phenomenon (women have been a part of sci-fi since Mary Shelley) but the increased volume and diversity is cool to see. More than that, the overwhelming popularity of the stuff suggests that even us boys are happy to fork over our dough to see these strong and interesting ladies.
Joel: No one said Star Wars? You guys are all fired.
What are you thankful for in genre this year?