MIND MELD: The Best Genre-Related Books/Films/Shows Consumed in 2009 (Part 5)

“Best of the Year” lists start appearing as early as November, so we are perhaps a little late in asking folks around the community:

Q: What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows you consumed in 2009?

[Also added was this note: They don’t have to have been released in 2009. Feel free to choose any combination of genres (science fiction/fantasy/horror) and media (books/movies/shows) you wish to include.]

Read on to see their picks (and also check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4)…

Sandra McDonald
Sandra McDonald‘s novels – The Outback Stars, The Stars Down Under, and The Stars Blue Yonder – are about an Australian military lieutenant, her handsome sergeant, and their adventures in deep space. She also write short stories that have appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy and other magazines and anthologies. Her short story collection Diana Comet and Other Tales, the fantastical romps of a Victorian heroine of questionable gender, will debut at Wiscon from Lethe Press.

For television, my favorite genre-related show continues to be Supernatural. I was a little late to the party, having resisted the handsome heroes for as long as possible, but finally fell hard. This year I’ve been watching in awe as Dean and Sam Winchester follow separate hero’s journeys that nevertheless always bring them back to each other. We’re currently in season 5 (no spoilers here) and let’s just say the showrunners have taken that journey to places I never anticipated, with awesome interior and exterior obstacles to hurdle, and I’m looking forward with great anticipation (and not a little fear) to the season (or series) finale coming next spring.

I’ve also read a lot of Supernatural community writing this year, and deeply appreciate the legions of writers out there weaving tales of the apocalypse, rewriting canon in inventive ways, and spinning the characters into hilarious, tragic, and complex alternate universes (sometimes all three at once). Some stories are short romps, some are novel-length adventures, and more than a few are written by traditionally published authors. If you’re on twitter you can follow Henry Jenkins at USC and his informative links about transmedia, participatory culture and digital storytelling. Or email me for story recs – I’ve got dozens. Maybe hundreds.

On the book-related front, I’ve been catching up on Rachel Caine’s excellent Weather Warden series, enjoying Linnea Sinclair’s romantic military sf (the Dock Five series, including Hope’s Folly), and reading more than a few YA adventures, from science fiction (Pete Hautman’s Hole in the Sky) to Victorian fantasy (Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty). All highly recommended. Break down the barriers of genre and I think many writers would get a kick out of Steve Hely’s How I Became a Famous Novelist. For the craft of writing itself I’m very much enjoying Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and With Others.

Movies? Who has time to go to the movies? Okay, I confess to sneaking away to the cineplex once in awhile, but nothing genre-related had me reaching for the popcorn in 2009. Here’s to 2010!

Michael Boatman
Michael Boatman is best known as an actor. He co-starred in the ABC comedy, Spin City, as well as the HBO original series ARLI$$. He’s appeared in movies like Hamburger Hill, The Glass Shield, and The Peacemaker, and in television shows like The Game, Criminal Minds, Law and Order and China Beach. He is also an author. His horror-comedy, The Revenant Road, was published by Drollerie Press in 2009 (available at Amazon.com) and his short story collection, God Laughs When You Die, was published by Dybbuk Press in 2007. His fiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Red Scream, Horror Garage, and in anthologies like Dark Dreams 2 and 3 and Dark Delicacies 3: Haunted.

Genre related novels I read in 2009:

The Prince of Nothing series by R.Scott Bakker. Four novels that tell the story of Kelhus, a warrior/prince who masters the art of reading human faces. He uses this skill to manipulate powerful forces, namely human emotions. He does it so well that he becomes a messiah to an entire nation, spreading war and chaos in order to further his own goals. It was fantastic, violent, filled with fascinating takes on magic, as seen through the wizard Achamian, another great character. It also contained some of the greatest battle/mayhem scenes I’ve ever read. Even the wizard fights are brilliant, devastating and utterly original.

The Terror by Dan Simmons. It was a fantastically realized horror/survival story set aboard the HMS Terror. Two crews of royal British explorer vessels are locked in the ice at the top of the world. They struggle to survive hunger, freezing cold and dwindling resources, all while resisting the carnivorous attacks of a supernaturally powerful predator that stalks both ships. A fantastic original story, again, deeply detailed and brilliantly realized.

I loved Gun Work, by David J. Schow. A brutally brilliant, funny bloodbath, horrific in its beautifully detailed carnage, and featuring a darkly sympathetic character in ‘Barney,’ the retired spook who must redeem himself and his dignity against assaults from Mexican drug lords and a beautiful red-headed femme fatale. Great book!

I enjoyed The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, although enjoyed is a very difficult word to use when talking about this book. It’s a horror story alright, filled with terrors that could happen right now, but McCarthy elevates the whole apocalyptic milieu into the realm of allegory, good versus evil and all the gray areas in between. This book traumatized me. I came away stunned and shaken and irrevocably changed by it. It was published a few years ago, but it was definitely the best thing I read this year. Although I have to warn anybody interested in reading it, The Road pulls no punches. There are few glimpses of light in the gray world McCarthy describes, and the few that are there are quickly pulled into the darkness by hungry human hands. Cannibalism abounds, the threat of violence is everywhere and the constant horror of a parent losing a child to the worst kinds of deprivation imaginable. Add to all this the fact that one of the main characters may or may not be dying, and you’ve got a recipe for a tremendous, but traumatizing read.

In terms of movies, The Road, follows closely on the heels of the book, which I for one appreciated. The movie is just as hard to watch as the book is to read, and just as bleakly beautiful and terrifying.

I enjoyed Watchmen this year. I thought it was a gorgeous restaging of the graphic novel, violent, beautiful and darkly comic. The Doctor Manhattan character is brilliantly realized by CGI magic. I also enjoyed Paranromal Activity and Thirty Days of Night…which I feel is highly underappreciated and one of the best vampire films in recent circulation.