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MIND MELD: The Best Genre-Related Books/Films/Shows Consumed in 2008 (Part 2)

[See also: Part 1]

“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 2008?

[We also added this note: They don’t have to have been released in 2008. Feel free to choose just some of the genres (sf/f/h) or a subset of the media (books/movies/shows) as you wish.]

Here are their replies…

Andy Remic
Andy Remic is a hard-drinking, hard-swearing, fluffy bunny rabbit of a man, who enjoys kick-boxing, sword-fighting and mountain climbing. He’s written some SF books, and some thriller books, too. His book War Machine is about an elite combat squad on a series of deadly high-octane missions through different colourful dangerous galaxies. It also has believable women characters. Honest. Remic’s latest book BIOHELL has just been published the U.S. by Solaris Books, and is about what happens when vanity nano-technology goes horribly wrong, and turns a full planet of vain footballer’s wives into quite horrific zombies. With machine guns. BIOHELL has believable zombie women characters. Truth. You can read more of the conundrum who is Andy Remic at and suffer his really boring pointless dribbling at

It’s been a good year for media. I’m just finishing Joseph D’Lacey’s The Garbage Man, which is excellent, unique and scary. Mark Newton’s The Reef gave me a lot of smiles (but not as many as when I throw him off a mountain next February) and offered superb characterisation, and I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading Ian Graham’s Monument, in my opinion one of the finest fantasy books ever written, with a totally ghastly anti-hero called Ballas who gets drunk, throws up a lot, and fights everyone. Proper hero stuff!! I enjoyed Rochard Morgan’s The Steel Remains, which I think put a new spin on Moorcock-type fantasy, and I also really enjoyed Iain Bank’s Matter which saw a return to my favourite amoral good guys, The Culture. Gosh. And I just discovered Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, which is such a brilliantly written book it’s almost a crime against the Family to watch the movie- capiche? I was hugely amused, as ever, by the toffee-haired eco-hating rubber-faced human scarecrow who is Jeremy Clarkson, and his rabid spittle-flecked ramblings in The Daily Scrotum or whichever godforsaken rag he scribbles for, and once again was thrilled to see Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new movie about bent politicians and the corrupt world of bent and dodgy politics. What? That was real? Never. Gok Wan produced another brilliant book about fat women looking less fat in bad clothes, and it was cool to see the man-idiot Russelly Brand the Unshaved and his plethora of tight trousers and cash-in tomes entitled things like My Spunky Booky and Other Dribble.

Movies! Movies were good. I really enjoyed (as did my little boy) Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Yeah yeah, there were moments of cheese (lead-lined fridges, anybody?), but this is Hollywood baby and they have the full Gorgonzola. Christian Bale was just orgiastic as Batman, in the Dark Knight film, and Heath Ledger’s Joker was brill. Am I being predictable? What, no artsy shitsy French arthouse productions? Sorry. I don’t watch that. My six year old boy wants entertainment, baby. As does his 12 year old father. I also enjoyed the Grindhouse films. They were fun.

Shows? I’m going to watch a Christmas pantomine, in which there will no doubt be lots of fat women. But that’s cool, because I like fat women. Predictions? I think it will be cerebral.

Jason Sanford
Jason Sanford co-founded the literary journal storySouth, through which he runs the annual Million Writers Award for best online fiction. His fiction has been published in Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, Interzone, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, The Mississippi Review, Diagram, Pindeldyboz, and other places. He’s also published critical essays, book reviews, and news articles in places like The New York Review of Science Fiction, The Pedestal Magazine, and The Fix Short Fiction Review. His website is

2008 wasn’t a great year for science fiction and fantasy movies. Hellboy II: The Golden Army was a disappointment–a very visually pretty disappointment, mind you, but pretty scenes and character designs only go so far without a solid story. Jumper wasn’t even aimed at anyone without zits on their face, while Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and Star Wars: The Clone Wars both showed that the same old crap is only good for running a series even further into the ground. There were some very good comic book movies this year–notably The Dark Knight and Iron Man–but call me a purist because I refuse to count them as either fantasy or science fiction. And while the jury is still out on the upcoming remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, but I’m not holding my breath. Not after what Keanu Reeves did to the last two films in the Matrix trilogy.

So with those grumbles aside, the best SF/F movies of 2008 were:

  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Yes, it’s a SF story. People need to get over this fact and simply enjoy the ride.
  • Cloverfield: Fun in that it brought back the old fashioned monster movie, and you got to see all the trendy, hip people get eaten or crushed.
  • WALL-E: Overall an amazing and touching film, even if the last third preaches a bit too much about how fat and lazy humans get after watching Pixar films all day.

With regards to SF/F literature, 2008 was a very good year, even if this was the fantasy genre’s first post-H.P. year (post Harry Potter, that is, much to the chagrin of booksellers everywhere). My picks for the best SF/F books this year are:

  • Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi: This collection of science fiction short stories should be on everyone’s must read list. The title story, “Pump Six,” is a reverse echo of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and presents a 21st century warning about how societies exist because people maintain them. If there is any justice in the world, the title story will win the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: This young adult fantasy is a reimagining of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, only this time the young boy is raised by ghosts in a cemetery. At once touching, exciting, and timeless, this is Gaiman’s best book in years.
  • Singularity’s Ring by Paul Melko: This science fiction tale feels both old-fashioned and new, and offers one of the most interesting views on post-singularity humanity that I’ve seen.
  • Space Vulture by Gary K. Wolf and John J. Myers: The creator of Roger Rabbit joined forces with a childhood friend (who happens to now be a Catholic Archbishop) to write a classic 1930s space pulp story with a few modern additions–you know, little things like solid writing and realistic characters. A fun, fun read.
  • The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe: This four-volume novel (not counting the coda The Urth of the New Sun, which definitely must be counted since it’s equally amazing) was first published 25 years ago. Call me lazy or a procrastinator, but 2008 was the year I first read this novel. Unbelievable. The novel ranks among the best works of American literature, up there with Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. Not an easy read, but one that is well worth the effort.

Dan Dos Santos
Dan currently resides in the small town of Beacon Falls, Connecticut. He is happily married and is the proud parent of a baby boy. Dan has worked for such clients as GE Engines/Boeing Aircraft, Saatchi & Saatchi, Scholastic Books, Ace Books,The Greenwich Workshop, Penguin Books, Random House, Bantam Books, Tor books, UpperDeck, and Wizards of the Coast. Aside from freelance illustration, Dan also co-hosts a series of instructional demonstrations called ‘Art Out Loud’. Dan has been the recipient of many awards. Most recently, he has received the 2007 Jack Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist, and was the Chesley Award winner for Best Paperback Cover of 2007. His illustrations have graced the #1 spot on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Dan Dos Santos’ “TOP 10 SF/F ART WEBSITES OF 2008”:

  1. Imaginistix – Newly launched blog by Boris Vallejo and Julie. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this develops.
  2. GFX Artist – A great collection of Art tutorials from some of the industry’s hottest artists.
  3. Turtle Art – A massive database of SF/F artists… an amazing efficient way to kill time.
  4. Lines and Colors – Updated frequently, with a focus on modern and classical illustration
  5. Gorilla Artfare – A group art blog, much of which is either SF/F based or concept art.
  6. Google SketchUp – Sketch-up is a new program from Google. Not only is it rapidly becoming a staple of many SF/F artist’s process, but it is totally free!
  7. ConceptArt – A staple of the art community.
  8. Gurney Journey – James Gurney’s blog is still one of the best out there. A must see for fans of illustration.
  9. – My favorite blog for daily art doses.
  10. – Years in the making, any SF/F geek will find Tor’s new site hard to resist. Be sure to check out the artist galleries!

Carl Vincent
Carl Vincent is the proprietor of the eclectic Stainless Steel Droppings.

Allow me to take a moment to absorb the shock of the fact that 2008 is nearly at an end. For those who doubt the existence of time travel I must point out that we have all, as a race, traveled at warp speed from January 1st of 2008 until today. Or perhaps we were abducted by aliens and implanted with a set of shared memories to be returned at this moment. It has to be one or the other because my internal clock is telling me that an entire year simply could not have passed so quickly. Forgive my digression, on to the question:

For me 2008 began with a focus on courage. A great deal of my previous years’ science fiction reading had revolved around old favorites and low risk selections. This year I determined to take some risks. One of my first was to read a series that, for some reason had always intimidated me: the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. It was a richly satisfying experience and one that has stayed with me throughout the year. The structure–a series of short stories tied together by an overall unifying thread-worked to ensure that I was engaged throughout the series. Despite a few dated concepts I find the work to be a brilliant and exciting piece of storytelling even after 5+ decades.

I have an irrational fear of books that feature more than one author on the cover. However, positive pre-release-date-buzz inspired me to pick up Hunter’s Run by George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois, Daniel Abraham when it hit the local bookstore’s shelves. 30 years in the making, Hunter’s Run, turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining read. I am always pleased when my pre-conceived ideas are shattered and the trio of Martin, Dozois, and Abraham did just that. A testament to the strength of this story is the fact that the protagonist in Hunter’s Run is a self-absorbed and unlikable character and yet this did not effect my enjoyment of the story. Unexpected twists and turns and a page-turning pace makes this one of my favorite reading experiences of 2008.

I can count on one hand the number of translated novels that I have read in my 40 years of existence. That fact did not stop me from picking up We by Yevgeny Zamyatin after it called out to me in my local bookstore. To read a book written in 1921 that has such chilling relevance today was quite the amazing experience. This is dystopian fiction at its finest and reading it while considering different periods in history was very intriguing. One of the many things that made it impossible for me to put this book down once I started was traveling along with the main character, D-503, as he experienced emotions and sensations that he had never experienced before. The book is written in diary format and it contains the vulnerability and self-awareness that one would expect from a personal, private journal. I found the book inspiring and horrifying at the same time. Definitely a must read.

Halting State was my first experience with the work of Charles Stross. In my review I described it as “A post cyberpunk, near-future caper. A spy-vs-spy story of greed, fraud and deception set in and among the world of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). A police procedural techno-thriller with undercurrents of espionage and a healthy dose of so-near-you-can-almost-taste-it technology. A tale filled with hi-tech big-brother-is-watching-you gadgetry and gaming in-jokes with a dash of geek-on-geek romance thrown in for good measure.” The second-person narrative of the book initially threw me but I soon wrapped my head around it and the adventure began. I am a gamer and the culture of gaming certainly plays a part in Stross’ tale, but I would like to think that the story would be an enjoyable read for science fiction fans who are not gamers as well, especially given the fact that, at its heart, Halting State is simply a good old-fashioned heist story.

Finally, one of my favorite genre reading experiences of the year was The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. This book was the winner of the first ever Hugo award in 1953 and I could not think of a more fitting author to hold that distinction. With The Stars, My Destination and now The Demolished Man, Bester has established himself as one of my favorite authors. One of my good friends had already read this book and another was in the process of reading it so I headed to my local library to grab its one-and-only copy so that I could participate in the inevitable discussion the next time the three of us got together. I opened the book that night intending to simply get a start on it. What followed was a non-stop, cover-to-cover read that ended shortly after midnight. I have never read a ‘classic’ author that has the kind of contemporary feel that Bester does. Amazing! Like Hunter’s Run, the protagonist in The Demolished Man is an unlikable character. Yet I found myself rooting for him and enjoyed the guilty feelings that this engendered. Bester writes an anti-hero like no other and it has to be said that Bester set the bar high with this inaugural Hugo win.

As for films:

Iron Man was a surprise. I had high expectations, especially once I heard that Robert Downey, Jr. was cast as Tony Stark, but I never expected it to be as good as it was. Comic book movies have been hit and miss over the years but this one was definitely a hit for Marvel.

Many of us have talked at length about The Dark Knight. Suffice it to say that this was a movie that took expectations and shattered them. The truest test for me of a movie’s worth is liking it better upon a second viewing and that is exactly what occurred with The Dark Knight. Its release this week ensures that it will be a part of our family viewing over the upcoming Christmas holiday.

My favorite genre film of the year has to be The Fall. It is a visually stunning fantasy with real heart that is a labor of love for film maker Tarsem. The film was panned by many a critic and is the kind of movie that I watch and wonder just what people are wanting in a film. Romance and adventure, whimsy and humor, and a genuinely engaging child actress-what more could you want? Despite several viewings I continue to be charmed by this film.

I have went on far too long here but allow me to also give a shout out to a Pushing Daisies. It is a great tragedy that the quintessentially cute Anna Friel is soon to be removed from my weekly viewing pleasure. Like the incomparable Wonderfalls before it, Pushing Daisies is another of Bryan Fuller’s creations that is set to leave the airwaves well before its time. In this world of cookie-cutter television series and endless reality show derivatives, quirky, intelligent, visually stimulating shows like Pushing Daisies meet an early demise and I vacillate between feelings of profound sadness and righteous anger. Even though I am a fan of comic books, the rumors that this series will continue on in that medium does not encourage me, it frustrates me. Perhaps I am too much of an old-fashioned romantic to be considered part of a demographic worth courting, but I am becoming increasingly cynical of television as I see worthy series being canceled and storylines left unresolved.

Mike Resnick
Mike Resnick is the author of 50 novels, 200 short stories, a pair of screenplays, and the editor of 50 anthologies, as well as the executive editor of Jim Baen’s Universe. According to Locus, he is the leading award winner, living or dead, of short fiction. His work has been translated into 22 languages.

The 15 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels:

  1. Star Maker (Stapledon)
  2. Herovit’s World (Malzberg)
  3. Last and First Men (Stapledon)
  4. Dimension of Miracles (Sheckley)
  5. City (Simak)
  6. The Demolished Man (Bester) [magazine version]
  7. The Stars My Destination (Bester)
  8. Galaxies (Malzberg)
  9. Dandelion Wine (Bradbury)
  10. The Martian Chronicles (Bradbury)
  11. The Complete Northwest Smith (Moore)
  12. Way Station (Simak)
  13. The Once and Future King (White)
  14. The Voyage of the Space Beagle (van Vogt)
  15. Cosmicomics (Calvino)

The 10 Best Science Fiction Films:

  1. Forbidden Planet
  2. The Road Warrior
  3. Blade Runner
  4. Dr. Strangelove
  5. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  6. A Clockwork Orange
  7. Charly
  8. The Terminator
  9. Them
  10. No award

Yes, I saw the Star Wars and Star Trek movies.

The 10 Best Fantasy Films:

  1. Field of Dreams
  2. Harvey
  3. The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit
  4. Portrait of Jennie
  5. Something Wicked This Way Comes
  6. Sinbad the Sailor (Douglas Fairbanks Jr. version)
  7. All That Jazz
  8. Fantasia
  9. The Wizard of Oz
  10. The Mummy (Stephen Sommers version)

(After 30 years I still do not know if They Might Be Giants and Black Orpheus are fantasies. If they are, place them first and fourth on the list.) Yes, I saw the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies

The 10 Best Fantasy Musicals

  1. Amour
  2. City of Angels
  3. Grover’s Corners
  4. The Fantasticks
  5. Follies
  6. Celebration
  7. It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!
  8. Assassins
  9. The Bone Room
  10. Into the Woods

The Best SF/F TV Shows

  1. The Prisoner
  2. Science Fiction Theater
  3. The Twilight Zone
  4. The Outer Limits
  5. Night Gallery
  6. -10. No award

Yes, I saw Star Trek. Have not seen any series since 1982.

Robin Shantz
Robin Shantz, also known as bloginhood, is a life-long SF fan. In addition to cobbling together bloginhood, he is also the co-creator of Not A Planet Anymore and the author of “Passage” – the third-place winner in the On Spec postcard fiction contest. When not babbling about science fiction, fantasy, etc, he works in communications for the non-profit sector in Vancouver, BC.

“Consumed in 2008” is a great way to put it. I’ve had a lot of fun feasting on new stuff that’s just come out this year, as well as some classics that I was finally able to get around to.

At the movies, the 5 best were:

  1. Ironman – Robert Downey Jr. fits comfortably into Tony Stark’s suit, but the movie excels also because of the characters around him. For most of the film, Jeff Bridges played a very realistic business exec – I’ve met guys like him (without the power armor, that is). And Gwyneth Paltrow had one of the best moments in the entire movie during an exchange with one of Tony’s “guests” near the beginning.
  2. Cloverfield – Flicks with giant monsters rampaging through cities are a weakness of mine from way back. Putting the first-person home video camera spin on this one worked magnificently. The real success though was in the characterization – these are the types of people I normally wouldn’t associate with much in real life, but by the end of the film I found myself caring very much for what happened to them.
  3. The Dark Knight – Lots of people have commented on how great this film was, so I don’t think there’s much I can add (especially without spoiling it) except to say it took a lot of guts for Jonathan and Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer to resolve the explosive choice the Joker forced Batman to make in the end the way they did.
  4. Dreams with Sharp Teeth: A Film about Harlan Ellison – It says a lot when a documentary is worth paying to see in the movie theatre these days. I’m not a huge fan of Ellison’s work, but I enjoy it from time to time and it was definitely worth while seeing this portrait of this ferocious author – not just for Ellison’s own reflections, but for the candid opinions of his friends and colleagues who are as honest about his shortcomings as they are generous with the kudos.
  5. WALL-E – Again, there’s not much I can add to the heaps of much-deserved praise already out there. Wonderful characters and relationships, SF references aplenty, and some interesting big issues raised (everyone talks about the environmental warning, but I really enjoyed how the movie also examines the relationship between creator and creation and poses the question about the responsibilities that arise from this) make WALL-E a film that’s definitely worth re-watching.

On TV:

  1. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – I’d initially had my doubts about this show, but it’s turned out to be reasonably entertaining. It’s been interesting watching Summer Glau’s pretty little killing machine evolve over this season, betraying hints that emotions are beginning to form behind that impassive mask. Not a perfect show though. I could do with less of Lena Headey’s troubled stares into the distance at the end of most of her scenes.
  2. Reaper – A solid, funny genre show. Pleasantly surprising that it hasn’t gotten stale yet.
  3. Doctor Who series 4 – Lots of fun, as usual, watching David Tennant racing around through time and space squaring off against pretty much everything. Catherine Tate as Donna Noble has been really refreshing as the sharp-tongued Companion who’s unflinchingly critical of the Doctor when she thinks he’s out of line. The end of the series/season was a bit weak though.
  4. Battlestar Galactica season 4 – Some really spectacular character building this season, although at times (like Adama’s crisis) it seems a bit rushed. The tension points in the plot surrounding the Cylons have worked really well. And I enjoyed the letdown of their arrival at Earth. I’m looking forward to seeing how the series resolves itself in 2009.
  5. Chuck – I’m putting Chuck at number one not because I think it’s the best show of ’08, or the best on this list, but rather because for me it’s been the best find of this year. I’d missed the pilot and several initial episodes last year, so I never really got into it. But that all changed a few weeks ago. I stumbled across a season 2 episode in progress, stuck around until the end, and loved it. We’re now regular watchers in our house and at some point we’ll have to find a season 1 collection and see everything we’ve missed.

For books, this year’s been a combination of new releases and older fare that I hadn’t gotten around to yet. The best of the lot were:

  1. The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi – Just finished reading this one a little while ago. A perfect combination film noire cat and mouse, interstellar diplomatic shenanigans, an AI bildungsroman, and fart jokes.
  2. Firstborn – A Time Odyssey 3 by Arthur C. Clarke & Stephen Baxter – A solid conclusion to the series (with room for more sequels). Clarke & Baxter paint mega scale disaster in this series, but there’s always an underlying optimism that when people pool their talents (with some help from individuals working solo as well), humanity can survive just about anything and come out stronger on the other side.
  3. Song of Kali by Dan Simmons – I’ve been a Simmons fan for a long time, but I’d never read his debut novel until this year. One thing that strikes me about his stories is that for all of the supernatural (or science fictional, depending on the book) horror that his characters have to deal with, the most frightening atrocities are committed by human beings upon each other.
  4. Very Hard Choices by Spider Robinson – The book was released this year and I had the privilege of listening to Robinson read an excerpt at VCon in October. The story is impressive for its characters who may fit into certain roles but who all have the ability to change in believable ways when confronted with very hard choices. It also contains one of the most frightening depictions about what it’s like to die that I’ve ever read. The passage is deeply unsettling and is one that’s guaranteed to stick with a reader for a long time.
  5. Spin by Robert Charles Wilson – Wow. I read this book and promptly kicked myself for not picking it up when it first came out. It’s got a grand-scale crisis faced by the Earth that’s worthy of Clarke, but the real story about three friends growing up together and how they develop as individuals and how their relationships with one-another evolve is deeply absorbing and believable. Wilson’s a genius.

Lots of great SF devoured this year. I only wish I’d had room for more.

Tracy Falbe
As the author of The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series, Tracy Falbe seeks to establish herself as a better-known fantasy author. She lives in Northern California in self-imposed exile from her homeland of Michigan. She has a journalism degree from California State University, Chico and writes almost every day. Currently she is working on a new fantasy series. Readers from around the world find her completed books and ebooks at Brave Luck Books or at her genre watering hole The Fantasy Tavern.

Surprisingly my first pick for best genre entertainment of 2008 comes from television. Gasp! I am not a big television viewer, but January 2008 brought the DVD release of BBC’s new Doctor Who the Complete Third Series starring David Tennant and Freema Agyeman, which coincided nicely with my birthday. The third season of Doctor Who delivered in my opinion tremendous sci fi entertainment and especially rewarded fans with nearly perfected Doctor Who motifs and an absolutely epic three episodes that closed the season.

Upon watching the season finale entitled “Last of the Time Lords” I declared without hesitation that it was the best episode of Doctor Who that I had ever seen. The Doctor’s sidekick that season was Martha Jones (Agyeman) who rose to the heights of a world-saving heroine who rallied the survivors of a beleaguered Earth while the Doctor (Tennant) was imprisoned by his arch nemesis the Master, who the Doctor in the preceding episode “The Sound of Drums” explained had been driven insane at the age of eight when all Time Lord children must look into the raw vortex space and time, where they will either be inspired, terrified, or driven to madness. As the Master holds the Earth hostage, he allows flying spheres that wield knives and laser guns to decimate the human population. He has brought these murderous cyborgs to Earth by stealing the Doctor’s TARDIS and twisting it into a paradox machine. With the ability to create a paradox the Master saves the ultimate descendants of humanity (now enclosed in the spheres) from the end of existence trillions of years in the future by transporting them back to 21st century Earth where they slaughter people because “it’s fun.” Marvelous yet horrifying commentary on humanity’s enduring habit of killing.

Doctor Who often slips in such heavy themes amid frenetic unapologetically fun-loving adventures that encompass space and time with a tendency to focus on modern-day London. This sci fi institution of British television, especially in its newest incarnation, provides clever scripts that celebrate humanity in all its bawdiness, greed, and goodness. Plus there are monsters, alien invasions, killer plagues, and exploding suns.

Moving on to the big screen, I cast my vote for Iron Man as best sci fi/comic superhero movie of 2008. I went to this movie without any expectations and ended up being delighted. Although the human in me has to deplore the ultra-militaristic rah-rah America stuff in the movie, I still ate it up with a big spoon. Robert Downey Jr. as brash womanizing Tony Stark delivered a cocky performance that in every scene fulfilled his declaration “I am Iron man.” Gwyneth Paltrow (Could there be a better movie star name?) is sincere and adorable as Pepper Potts, and Jeff Bridges clearly relished his role as crooked weapons contractor Obadiah Stane. The script of this movie pops like machine gun fire as the incorrigible Tony Stark drinks and shoots his way through mansions, corporate galas, and terrorist hotspots. Although this is far from a serious movie in almost any regard, I did find the portrayal of the terrorists quite compelling and appreciated the film’s touching inclusion of the local people who suffered terribly from the cruelty of their warlords.

As for books, my genre reading was a little off in 2008. What I read was not newly published. I did finally pick up the fantasy classic A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin that has been in print since 1968. The book proved to be worthy of its reputation with brilliant prose and lessons about the shadow that lurks always alongside our pride and ambition. I also read the second book of Greg Keyes’ Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series entitled The Charnel Prince. Keyes has some writing skills, except for his chronic over-reliance on unnecessary cliffhangers. His series has a complex and frightening world of magic and the supernatural, a good-hearted warrior who can summon berserker rage, great female characters, and a penniless noble swordsman with charming shades of d’Artagnan. I plan to keep reading this series. During 2008, I found my genre book consumption somewhat stymied by the lack of the next installment of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. I know that I am not alone in this painful wait. Hopefully 2009 will bring out the next book and I will like it.

The genres of sci fi and fantasy will always be mainstays of my entertainment choices. When I’m ready to watch or read something, I want to save the kingdom or sacrifice all to stop the cyborg invasion. I get to ride in the “humdrum-vee” of daily existence more than enough thank you very much.

Shaun Duke
Shaun Duke is a modern literature student with a focus in speculative fiction. He is currently working on a research project for the University of California, Santa Cruz that focuses on the human in science fiction film. He also writes science fiction and fantasy with the hope to be published one day and blogs at The World in the Satin Bag.

This last year has been one hell of a year for genre, that’s for sure. Not just movies and TV shows, but books too. It’s perhaps somewhat unfortunate for genre writers, however, that the economy took a dive when it did. 2008 was shaping up to be a pretty good year, but with the media and bloggers predicting doom and gloom people are buying less and the result are layoffs across the industry board (and most recently in the book industry, unfortunately). Still, there are some other potentially great films and books still to come out (The Spirit, anyone?) and hopefully things will shape up to make 2009 a good year for genre.

With that in mind, I do think this has been one of the bigger years for genre films in the past decade. Iron Man probably takes up the biggest slot, what with it being the “badass” film of the year and perhaps the most action-packed and enjoyable. I actually enjoyed it about as much as everyone else did, but was surprised to find that other films I enjoyed in the last year were not so successful. Prince Caspian was actually a massive improvement over the first Narnia movie, but it bombed in the box office, for the most part. The good news is that they’re still making the third movie and perhaps Disney will be more intelligent about timing. Then there’s Sunshine, which I think came out in 2007. Sunshine was actually a great surprise for me and has since become one of my favorite genre films of all time despite the fact that a lot of people thought it was subpar. I personally found the themes and the emotions behind the film remarkable, since it isn’t common that science fiction films intentionally delve into the human condition. It too didn’t do so well in theaters.

But all was not doom and gloom, obviously. You had Iron Man, which did a darn good job tearing up the box office, and then WALL-E, which was probably one of, if not the, most anticipated Pixar film in a long time-and which likely took the “cutest film of the year” award from wherever such awards are given. All of these films, whether they did well or not, were great examples of good genre filmmaking. Who didn’t love WALL-E?

Oh, and then there’s television. I only watch one show on T.V. these days: Battlestar Galactica. No other show can match BSG. Not a single one. It’s brilliantly written and perhaps one of the few shows to actually dig deep into what it is that makes us human. It’s simply a stunning show and the fact that more people don’t watch it depresses me. Why aren’t you watching BSG?

And what about books? Well, I read less “mainstream” work than I do the obscure or small press. I was fortunate to be a judge for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award this year. Many of my favorite books for the year came from the reading for that award. Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale, Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery, Ha’Penny by Jo Walton, Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman, and One For Sorrow by Christopher Barzak – all wonderful books with LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transsexual) themes. I’d recommend them all to anyone who enjoys fantasy or science fiction. Each of them has something really interesting to say; Wicked Gentlemen actually won the Spectrum Award!

On top of all that are some of the books I read from small presses and large presses. Probably the top contender for my favorite book of the year is Tobias Buckell’s Sly Mongoose. Buckell is the only person I know to have merged two of my favorite genres: science fiction and zombie movies. The result was this bizarre, action-packed, dark, and downright awesome romp with the infamous Pepper at the helm.

Then there’s The Golden Chord by Paul Genesse (an adventurous fantasy tale that was exciting and interesting, the author of which I had the chance to meet in San Francisco – in case you’re wondering, he is a really nice guy and also jokingly mentioned that he has a role for me if his work is ever turned into a movie…I have since gotten an agent), The Thirteenth Reality by James Dashner (the only YA book I know that throws quantum physics into a fantasy setting), Ten Sigmas by Paul Melko (a short story collection from Fairwood Press that I think is a prime example of what the short form is capable of being), The Innocent Mage/Awakened Mage duology by Karen Miller (a fantastic epic fantasy tale; I’d recommend reading them as one book), and Tales of the Tikongs by Epeli Hau’ofa (which was a book for one of my university courses and has some really weird magical realist moments). Not all of these books were published in 2008, but so be it.

All of these were standouts for me this year. Granted, I don’t read nearly as much as some other blog reviewers, but I think I can tell a good book/movie/show from a bad one. Or maybe not…

It’ll also be interesting to see what genre-related things I read or see next year. I’m doing a research project at UC Santa Cruz on science fiction, so the next eight months will be spend reading my head off and gluing my face to a TV screen. Who knows, maybe I’ll read or see some long forgotten, but stunning piece of specfic!

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

13 Comments on MIND MELD: The Best Genre-Related Books/Films/Shows Consumed in 2008 (Part 2)

  1. So now we know that Mike Resnick not only can’t write, he can’t read either.

  2. “So now we know that Mike Resnick not only can’t write, he can’t read either.”

    Neither of those were called for. He can write. And he can read. Didn’t you read his list of books? Have you read, for example, Olaf Stapledon or is it too “hard” for you. How about Clifford Simak’s “City”, one of the best damn books that the field has ever produced?

    Sorry, but your snark seems unjustified. Or are you just looking for a good troll?

  3. Dude, that’s harsh. I like Resnick’s work (the ongoing Starship series from Pyr is wonderful), and given that he continues to be published and nominated for awards, I’d say other people do, too.

    Granted, he didn’t really answer the question as it was asked, but that’s still a bit overharsh.

  4. To clarify: I left the question wide open for our panelists to respond as they wish. At the heart of this, I was looking for their “best of” lists, and that’s what they gave.

  5. thanks. I love these books for sure.

  6. Not sure if I’ve read anything of Mike Resnick’s, but that comment seemed unfair. And he listed some great books. Glad to see Cosmicomics mentioned here once again.

  7. Mike Resnick’s a wonderful writer and I for one enjoyed reading his comments. Andy Remic is a very entertaining fellow and I’m glad to read his best of picks for the year as well. I second A_Z’s comment; it’s great to see Calvino pop up on a list πŸ™‚

  8. The books I haven’t seen mentioned:

    Spin Control, Chris Moriarty – posthuman spy thriller!

    Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds – really grand scale space opera

  9. John Wright // December 12, 2008 at 3:09 pm //

    I must politely disagree, Martin. Mike Resnick correctly puts STAR-MAKER and LAST AND FIRST MEN at the top of the best SF list, as well as CITY and DEMOLISHED MAN and NORTHWEST SMITH.

    Resnick can read, and he reads deeply and well.

    Had only he put SHADOW OF THE TORTURER at the top of his list, I would praise his reading even more.

  10. Two things:

    First – I am coming to respect Jason Sanford’s opinions more and more. I agreed with nearly everything he said. “Pump Six” had some amazing stories – and you can read some of them for free on Mr. Bacigalupi’s web site.

    Also, “The Book of The New Sun” is my all time favorite SF series – I considered it absolutely mind blowing!

    Second – I thought Mike Resnick’s list was fine, and even though I haven’t liked everything he’s written, I really enjoyed “Old MacDonald had a Farm”, “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” and “The 43 Antarean Dynasties” – those were some excellent short stories!

  11. It seemed to me that Resnick was trying to say that nothing produced in 2008, or for the last 20 years, is any good. That is an extreme point of view. It calls for a sharp response, I’d say. I know nothing of his work, so I can’t speak about his writing. But it does seem odd that someone whose job is thinking about the future (I assume he does this as a writer of SF), he seems to be stuck in time.

    I’ve been reading some of the classics he mentions, trying to fill in some gaps in my reading. There are some great books there, no question, but to not include the work of Gene Wolfe or China Mieville, the LOTR films, or Battlestar Galactica (the first two seasons, at least) is just plain silly.

  12. No, Resnick just supplied a list of his favorites, with which no one has to agree. And the last time I looked, it was still not a crime to be unimpressed by Tolkien in print or on film.

    Mike Resnick

  13. It is refreshing to see a diverse selection of book/movies/shows making the respective lists.  For the record my favs were:

    movie – Iron Man (though wasn’t crazy about the sequel)

    book –  Pump Six

    tv- DR Who (just ahead of Battlestar Galactica)

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