31 December 2017
I wanted to share my personal highlights out of the entertainment industry in 2017.
I’m going to skip a lot of the “obvious” stuff that you’ve all probably already heard of, and jump straight into the more independent and obscure stories I fell in love with.
Also, note that a lot of these things weren’t necessarily new in 2017 – but I’m counting them here because I discovered them in 2017.
I’m indescribably grateful that I discovered my new favourite novel of all time in 2017.
I didn’t expect it to happen. I didn’t go looking for it. I heard about it on the Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project podcast, and I figured if these folks like it, maybe I will too.
So I picked up a copy of Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.
At first, I was grumpy. The opening is 75%-ish the same as a novel I’ve got on on the back burner right now – Closed for the Winter – and I was cross that I wasn’t as original as I thought I was.
I chilled out, though, when I realised Seveneves goes down the hard science-fiction path, while I was telling a more personal story which hand-waves over the technology.
So then I dived into Seveneves.
And I couldn’t stop reading.
Seveneves answers the question: with modern day technology – and modern day human fallibility – how could our civilisation survive the death of Earth?
It’s fantastically tense. My anxiety flared up something rotten – in the best possible way, of course. I was terrified for these characters. At several points, I just had to put my Kindle down and cry. I was emotionally devastated by this novel.
And I bloody loved it.
If it hadn’t been for Seveneves, I think Dark Matter by Blake Crouch would’ve been my favourite novel of the year. Take Sliders, make it hard science-fiction, and give it a horrific, sickening and logical final act. Just utterly, utterly gripping.
If you fancy a story about the end of humanity but just a tad lighter than Seveneves, I also loved Field One by Simon Winstanley. The technology in the story is a little bit more fantastical than Seveneves, but that’s not a criticism. It’s an absolute riot, exciting and tense as all hell.
My final recommendation from 2017 is Destroyer by Chris Fox. If you’re not keen on all the “dark” and “harrowing” novels I seem to like, then rest assured that Destroyer is an all-out exciting adventure with interesting characters, thrilling battles, and a very satisfying story.
Of all the writers’ guides I read in 2017, I want to recommend two that distinctly stood out from the rest.
On the ground floor, I loved How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. While I realised that the Snowflake Method isn’t right for me, the book is in-and-of-itself a feel-good story about a struggling writer, and serves as a great reminder of how to make a story interesting.
A deeper-dive into story telling which I adored was GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction by Martha Shields. I can’t tell you how many lightbulbs this book flipped on in my head. My Kindle edition is chock-full of annotations and notes. Reading this book was a real watershed moment for me, and for the quality of the characters I write.
Early in 2017, I was stuck in an airplane crossing the Atlantic for nine hours. I noodled around in the in-flight entertainment, and I found a TV show I’d heard about but not watched yet.
I didn’t have anything to lose, so I gave it a try.
And 2017 will go down in history as the year I discovered Steven Universe.
Yes, I suppose it’s a kid’s show. I get that. I’m okay with that. But it’s damned mature for a kid’s show.
The show celebrates queer love. The show shines a spotlight on sexual consent. The show encourages emotional expression. The show throws a loving – and sometimes broken – family up on the stage, with all the laughs, fears and heartbreaks it entails.
And it does all this with a deep, intelligent mythology going back thousands of years.
I also fell in love with Star Trek Continues. It’s an entirely fan-funded, fan-created continuation of the original series, which fills in the gap between the end of the show and the beginning of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
It’s free to watch on YouTube, and I deeply recommend it to any fan of the show. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll remember how great Star Trek used to be.
If there’s one incredible movie I saw in 2017 that might’ve flown under your radar, it’s Midnight Special.
At first glance, it looks like a movie about a boy with supernatural powers. Believe me when I say, I hate those kinds of movies, and Midnight Special is so much more than that. It’s a thrilling road trip, with a breathtaking ending that hints at something wonderful.
Well… this is awkward.
Before I started this blog, I used to write about video games. Every year that I wrote that blog, I struggled to narrow down my favourite games into just the top few.
Frankly, 2017 sucked for video games. I didn’t get anything even close to the games I love: Life is Strange, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Thomas was Alone, Tearaway Unfolded, to name only a few.
In fact, I gave up my PlayStation 4. I had a horrible encounter with Sony when I reported a bunch of accounts for sending me dick pics and rape threats, and I got threatened with suspension for filing “fraudulent” harassment claims. I lost interest in playing in a world where those messages are par for the course, and I couldn’t in good conscience continue feeding money into that ecosystem.
I’m all-in on the Nintendo Switch now. I’ve played some cracking games on it: Mario Kart 8, SteamWorld Heist, and so on – but I don’t want to throw accolades at ports.
So, no video game awards this year.
2017 was an awesome year for storytelling. I’ve read the best novels of my life, and I’ve seen the best television shows of my life.
Here’s to all the indies and weirdos who are making this good stuff happen. All the best for 2018!
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