Strange Horizons: 2012 in Review

Erin Horáková: More than anything, for me 2012 marks the death of LiveJournal as a “media”-fannish space. While some people continue to produce content on the platform, the critical mass is gone—and with it, most of my interaction with fandom. LJ was admittedly hella-dated, and in need of some form of revamp, but Tumblr, AO3, and individual blogs can’t really match it for community-building, comment functionality, and convenience for hosting and receiving long or complex projects. It feels like a lot of these valuable networks and modes of productivity are dead or dying. I find this profoundly sad.

Alif the Unseen cover

Doctor Who continues to be a weeping ulcer on my fannish heart. Big Finish even managed to give the eighth Doctor a blindingly stupid, macho costume change in audio. (In brighter news, lovely Bernice Summerfield turned 20.) Over the year I read some really terrible books the Internet had told me were masterworks, and then I wondered if I had truly unreasonable expectations. Legend of Korra and The Dark Knight Rises were awful. Sword Art Online S2 went all rapey and dim. While I did have fun last time, I don’t have high hopes for the new Star Trek. In a genre/art sense, I am not very hopeful about 2013. But in an resigned, post-hope sort of way.

It wasn’t all bad. I gave panels at my first con, and had a lovely time. My PhD program is allowing me to read some really great classic genre work that I look forward to writing about. I’m rewatching Blake’s 7 with my partner, with whom I also watched atmospheric and entertaining Sapphire & SteelDBZ Abridged was fun. In books, I enjoyed Alif the UnseenKrabatThe Killing Moon, and Red Moon, Black Mountain.

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Strange Horizons: 2011 in Review

Erin Horáková: Most of 2011 was consumed by writing my Masters thesis on how we construct the literary illegitimacy of fanfiction. Of my reading list, I’d recommend N. Katherine Hayles’s mature and engaging My Mother Was A Computer (2005). Among other things, it discusses the role of books and digital culture not as a struggle for dominance but as a dynamic remediation.

I embarked on an epic re-watch of my childhood friend Star Trek: The Next Generation, in part as a response to my wretched estrangement from Doctor Who. Last year’s Christmas special, “A Christmas Carol,” rounded off an increasingly worrying series with its own, not unrelated, issues. I haven’t watched Doctor Who since. Steven Moffat continually devalues narrative causality, while simultaneously sacrificing consistent and engaging characterization (especially where women are concerned) to the narrative. Moffat has created a Cyber-Who. It has the body of something I know and love, but its heart’s been ripped out. Fans of long-running shared canons often weather writers they dislike, but increasingly I wonder whether this particular process is reversible—whether the show will ever be able to grow out of Moffat.

I enjoyed much of the genre television I did watch. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is a charming, fun, well-written cartoon that sidestepped many of the problems of 2011’s higher budget film comic adaptations: ThorCaptain America, and X-Men: First Class. Some of the criticism of Game of Thrones occasioned by the new series—along the lines of “X happens in the book, and X is bad, therefore this is a bad book, which only rabid misogynist geeks would defend”—was the sort of stupidity favored by Harold Bloom. Social justice and good writing are hardly incompatible. As a feminist nerd, I find both the adaptation and the original Game of Thrones compelling.

For 2012, I’d wish for more Katherine Hayles’s style of intermediation thinking in the blogosphere. This would value the demands of good writing, good genre-work, and good feminism, seeing these as potentially synergistic processes rather than forces locked in a struggle for dominance.

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Strange Horizons: 2013 in Review

Erin Horáková: As ever, what I enjoyed and hated in genre this year has very little to do with what came out in genre this year—which I suspect is true for the majority of (loosely defined) readers. I like to use this space to promote whatever awesome things I discovered in 2013, regardless of when they were made.

In 2013 I fell in love with G.K. Chesterton’s genre fiction (and his Dickens crit) and Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci series. The Edinburgh Fringe presented some fantastic genre plays—genre theatre deserves more discussion and attention! On screen, I adored The Five-ish Doctors (the less said about the proper show the better). I enjoyed Star Cops(Chris Boucher is an amazing writer and script editor), Blakes 7 (ditto), and original-series Star Trek (in other Star Trek news, I preferredInto Darkness when it was Wrath of Khan and contained anything like feelings and consequences). I quite liked Iron Man III, the new Hunger Games film, and uneven-but-jolly Teen Wolf (though wtf happened to Lydia?).

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Terra by Mitch Benn

Terra cover

There’s a good chance that if you’re thinking of reading Mitch Benn’s Terra, it’s because you’re familiar with Benn as a songwriter and performer on the BBC radio program The Now Show. While that’s certainly a lure the publishers would be foolish not to publicize, you should probably decouple this satisfying little novel from any notion of the celebrity book deal. Snooki’s A Shore Thing this isn’t. With his strong body of song lyrics and stand-up, Benn is, in an obvious and important sense, a writer by trade. Terra deserves to be read as though fiction were his primary genre, rather than with the raised eyebrow rightly given to the blatantly brand-building celebrity cookbook and its ilk.

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Deprivation by Alex Jeffers

Deprivation cover

Deprivation; or, Benedetto furioso: an oneiromancy is a long title that alludes to literary works and larger thematic concepts, but ultimately doesn’t engage with these referents substantively. It is thus an absolutely perfect title for this book. While Deprivation has some likable characters and engaging language, what it’s missing is a sense of plot or an adequate replacement for one, a meaningful engagement with its speculative element, and a sense of the book’s unique and specific contribution to the traditions it builds on.

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The Queen, the Cambion and Seven Others by Richard Bowes

The Queen, the Cambion, and Seven Others cover

The Queen, the Cambion, and Seven Others is a collection by Richard Bowes, consisting of eight short stories and one brief essay. The book is thin, yet manages to contain an earnest, appealing, welcome contribution to the fairy-tale tradition. It explores the cultural operation of fairy-tale-telling, the moral mission of the fable, and the consequences of descending from your lovely old grandma’s demon lover. By paying attention to the different forms and purposes of fairy-tales (though not, I think, in precisely the way it intends to) and by working with rather than against its material, The Queen, the Cambion moves beyond either rehashing the canon’s greatest hits or sneering deconstruction. The collection unearths these tensions, and learns how to put precise pressure on them, through occupying rather than razing its chosen territory.

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