Nobody suggested that I do the fandom meme, but I took note of it on (guess who!) Sabotabby's Livejournal some time ago and thought it might be fun. And maybe, again, a way to kickstart this blog. (And nobody wants to hear about how I-can't-power-off-my-mobile-and-I-think-it's-broken-and-I-haven't-even-finished-paying-for-it-yet do they?)
Shit. First of all, I deny that I even have a fandom (singular), let alone more than one. Sure, I tend to write about Doctor Who a little more than most people, but I'm engaging in a critical dialogue with pop culture itself, damn it!
Or maybe not. Onwards.
Your main fandom of the year?
As I said, I'm not really a fan. I don't write fan-fic, I've never been closer to a convention (except for the one that elected Mike Cassidy leader of the Ontario NDP back in 1978) than the front door, when I drove a friend of mine, along with her room-mate's 10 year-old son (all decked out in Klingon regalia), to a Star Trek convention more years ago than I care to remember.
But yeah. I've a nearly life-long love-affair with science fiction. I saw Star Wars something like 15 times the first year it came out. I've read The Lord of the Rings probably twice that many times and, yes, there's all that Doctor Who love/hate and so on and so on. So I guess it's fair to say that I get more than usually passionate about some of the things I watch and read.
So, last year?
Your favourite film watched this year?
Hard question. With television becoming the place for auteurs to strut their stuff, film has become even more of a wasteland than ever — or so it seems to me, but I only saw one movie in the theatre last year (Kick-Ass 2 was it, I think), and not a good one.
And when I look back on it, I haven't watched many movies on video, either, and of those I have, almost none of them memorable.
The only exception I can think of were a junky-but-fun-on-the-cheap science fiction film called Iron Sky, about Nazis on the moon, and a documentary about the CSNY impeach the President (Bush) tour of a few years back.
Your favourite book read this year?
That's easy (and a full review is forthcoming, any day now). Samuel R. Delany's perverse masterpiece, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders (buy the book through the link and I'll get a cut, yes). A science fiction novel in which the technology and science are all in the (distant) background; a love story without conflict; a gay life with (almost) no homophobia or self-hatred, in which sex is both celebrated and treated matter-of-factly; in which the most extreme perversions are presented as part(s) of its characters' lives.
It's a novel that dares to present its characters without judging them, without pitying them, without condescending to them. You might (you almost certainly will) condemn some or much of what happens in the story, but you will believe that those it happens to see things very differently.
Despite the fact that the first 400 or so pages are mostly depictions of youthful sex — the novel follows its protagonist at roughly the same pace most of us have lived out lives: those early, formative years, take forever, while the later ones just rip by: blink, and they're gone, long past recovery — it is a novel rich with humour and replete with tactile details of taste and touch and sound.
I also published a book (as publisher, not writer), but I will pass over it without comment. I am not only the publisher, but the writer is my father and I couldn't possibly pretend to discuss it objectively. But I will say that more information is available here.
Your favourite album or song to listen to this year?
And it is Easter in the town,
I can hear as they strike up the band,
We're listening to some old man
Say he came back to life
With a hole in his hand.
And now the Sunday school is gathered
Together in pink and in blue
They're heralding angels for you,
But not for me ... — Emmy the Great, "Easter Parade"
2013 was a year of something old and something new for me. The old was Neil Young and Crazy Horse, a result of my going to see them in concert in late 2012. That show was something close to a religious experience for me, and thanks to the wonders of the net, I spent a lot of time driving with one or another of their live shows (why not the Ottawa show, damn it!) burned to a CD and blasting from the speakers.
The something new? Thanks (again) to Livejournal's Jade-Noir, the other new artist on my frequent rotation list was (and still is) a young Chinese-English woman called Emmy the Great.
At this stage in her career, Emmy (Emma-Lee Moss) the Great reminds me a bit of Ricky Lee Jones, after the decided not step through the doors her unlikely hit, "Chuck-E's In Love" opened up for her.
Like Jones, Emmy the Great is pretty, blessed with breathy, sexy pipes and an ear for a good riff. Also like Jones, she seems more interested in making art than in exploiting those qualities for quick fame or bucks.
Those riffs are buried beneath complexity; bits and pieces of her songs are easy to hum, but very hard to sing in their entireties. Similarly, her lyrics are dense, playful and sardonic, laden with allusions and quotations, jokes and jibes, and personal experience distilled and translated into story and so, made universal.
Her music is the kind that doesn't just hold up under repeated listening, it blossoms to it.
Your favourite TV show of the year?
2013 was a terrible year for TV in some — no, scratch that, it was awesome. And I'm sure I didn't catch more than a tithe of the worthwhile stuff out there. (Even The Simpsons was pretty good at times. And I say that comparing it to classic episodes, for the record.)
I started to say "terrible" because Breaking Bad failed at its climax, attempting to redeem its first four years of nihilism with a "redemption" that managed only to make plain the bankruptcy of America's savage mythology of violence. (Yes, full review coming soon(ish).)
But there was also a second season of Lena Dunham's Girls, which proved better than its initial season. Dunham, like Delany (if still in a minor key), doesn't shy away from offering us point-of-view characters who are, if not villains, at least not very likeable. We watch with empathy (for in them we recognize ourselves), but not much sympathy (for in them we recognize ass-holes who've done us serious harm). [Edit, 8 or so hours later: That's one of the dumbest comparisons I've ever made. Delany's character's are very likeable, at least on their own terms. We might not approve of them, but we can definitely sympathize, even if despite ourselves. At least, I did. (Jesus, that editorial we is pretentious, isn't it?]
And finally (Sabotabby especially, take note!), there was my late discovery of another bit of genre out of Britain, Misfits.
Misfits felt like what Torchwood might have been had it not been saddled with the Doctor Who mythology. Or you could think of it as the X-Men, if the mutants had never met their mentor, Professor Xavier.
A mysterious storm bestows upon a small group of young offenders a variety of super-powers. Powers than range from the awesome — invisibility, time travel — to the perverse — being able to remove another person's power by fucking them.
Though our young reprobates occasionally manage to do some good, they do just as much bad. And every time a potential Professor X shows up (usually in the guise of a new probation officer), they accidentally kill him.
Despite a weak series 4, it's definitely a show worth checking out, if your vices turn towards the fantastic.
Oh, and one more thing. Not fantasy or SF, but another example (I have a thesis in the offing) of The Revenge of Jane Austen. Also from Britain, this courtesy of writer Sally Wainwright, whom I first discovered with the excellent political fantasy, The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard.
Last Tango in Halifax starts off as a cheesy oldster-romance — childhood sweethearts find each other after 60 years and, by the end of the first episode, announce to their respective families, that they are getting married — but quickly becomes a full-blown ...
A full-blown what? My knee jerks towards calling it a soap opera. It's all about relationships, and the relationships tend towards the extreme. There's the philandering husband, with his alcoholic lover; the doting daughter with sluttish tendencies (and who may have murdered her ex-husband); the other daughter, now a lesbian; the teenage son with his knocked-up girl-friend ...
It is all a bit much, and yet Wainwright tells her story with such a sure and a subtle hand that, at the end of the 2nd series (of 6; and with a 3rd on the way), I felt moved, not used, and was happy to re-watch the early episodes with my sweetie.
Game of Thrones is great fun, but you don't need zombies, a clash of empires, buckets of blood, or even acres of bare tit, for compelling drama.
Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?
If you've been reading me at all, you know. Why won't Steven Moffat leave Doctor Who alone!?!
And of course, the object-lesson in what happens when a major corporation treats a personal project as if it were a commodity. The fourth season of Community was one of the most un-funny comedies in the history of the medium, as series creator Dan Harmon was given the Network Boot and replaced by a couple of hacks who proved that genius isn't, in fact, something you can just buy off the shelf.
Happily (and almost miraculously) the show is back for a 5th season, with Harmon once again running the ship. So far, pretty good.
Your TV boyfriend of the year?
It's kind of cheating, but I'm going with Troy and Abed from Community, even if I have to reach back to 2012 for examples of their awesomeness.
Your TV girlfriend of the year?
Last Tango's Nicola Walker as Caroline. Who knew I'd fall in love with a sheep farmer?
Your biggest squee moment of the year?
Cheating again. The best Doctor Who multi-doctor Episode of all time. Seriously. And it's in Spanish. (And I"m done, so I'll leave you with them.
Steven Moffat, take a fucking lesson. Please.
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