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A Sending Off For The Rest

This was a great year for reading fantastika.

Not only was there a lot of great stuff published, but I read more of it than I have in quite a while. I discovered new writers, had my love of certain literary things rekindled, and explored fantastic fiction more widely than ever.

This delightful wandering helped me to produce a lot of the columns I wrote for FOG! this year, inspiring me as columnist, writer, and sometimes even as a person.

One of the hallowed rituals of American media in many of their episodic forms is to “round up” the elements of the previous year, from “Best of” discussions to “Top 10” lists, and all sorts of other summaries.

I just did a Top 10 list for fantastika over at my blog, but in the spirit of the season, of endings and beginnings, I thought I would provide something a little different, a short List of Geeky Things That Deserve a Rousing Send-Off for 2010:

1) A Raised Glass: To Kage Baker, Frank Frazetta, and Harvey Pekar, who all died this year, ending several amazing creative careers. I wrote about Frazetta at length earlier this year. I came to Baker’s work recently, but was quite taken with her Mythopoeic-nominated The Anvil of the World. Pekar was one of the most distinctive voices in literature, even when he was infuriating you with its sometimes whiny tone. I found the comparison to Chekov in his obituary to be quite apt, given his gift for communicating the essence of his stories in conjunction with other creators. To write what he did within the limitations that the comic form sometimes imparts on stories, and to expand the mundane through that magical form, was quite a feat. All three of these artists were not only distinctive, but masterful in their forms.
2) Novel That I Most Wanted to Like, But Kinda Didn’t: There were great novels in 2010, and there were stinkers, and there were some that just made me shrug my shoulders and mutter “meh.” But only one novel tormented me and made me want to like it, constantly made me wince and wonder and scratch my head as I struggled to grok it: How To Live Safely In a Science-Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu. The book has garnered many positive reviews, and appeared on a number of “Best of” lists for the year, including Amazon’s. It is an intricate and well-written book, but one that kept drawing me in, then pushing me away.
While part of the narrative is concerned with confusion and bewilderment, and the progression of action (such action as there is) is intentionally conditional and sometimes bizarre, there were moments of banal introspection and too-intricate, overdetermined sentences that kept distracting me from the heart of the story. It is wildly inventive in places, but in other ways underimagined, partly I think to maintain the focus on the main character’s angst-ridden struggle, which seems to boil down to the fact that his family is achingly bourgeois in its aspirations and cannot fulfill them. What bothered me, in the end, was the projection of a vanilla middle-class sensibility, stripped of most of the outside universe’s influences and problems, into a vast universe of possibility. The emotional terrain being explored, metaphorized, and reconsidered ends up being rather trite, a feeling heightened by the emotionally-shallow narrator.
I do recommend the book, but I still find myself wondering about it.
3) Favorite Fantastical Moment of the Year: Listening to Robert Shearman read one of his short stories at Readercon this past summer. His reading matched the tone of his writing perfectly, with a combination of whimsy and sorrow. When I saw him the next day he was carrying a Shirley Jackson Award with him, but was just as pleased when I told him that I had loved his reading. The funny thing is, I had gone to the reading based solely on his performance the night before at a late panel on bibliophilia. And I found a great writer!
4) Favorite Stupid Controversy of the Year: This just in: a made-up version of a mythological figure used in a comic book and then brought to film is not of ivory hue! Yes, revel in the paradoxes generated by the talented Idris Elba playing Heimdall in next year’s Thor movie. Paradoxes such as, well, the whole damn thing is made up! Groups such as the Council of Concerned Citizens and Stormfront (whom I refuse to link to; you can Google ’em if you really feel the need) are up in arms over Marvel’s otherwise completely accurate and reverent portrayal of Old Norse religious figures. Clearly, they have not seen who is playing Hogun yet!
There were a few of the things I wanted to give a nice send-off to for the year. I am also signing off of Forces of Geek with this post. The time has come to move on, but I thank Stefan and you, the reader, for your kind attention and support. And here’s to hoping that 2011 is a great year for FOG!
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