This year was a busy year for all things science fiction and fantasy, across all mediums and in current events. I was happy to have spent much of the year reading (although not as much as I would have liked) and watching films / television (more than I would have liked) and generally getting to a solid group of books and films throughout 2010.
Here’s what I liked the best:
- Stargate Universe: SyFy’s last foray into the Stargate franchise for the foreseeable future, Stargate Universe quickly established itself as my favorite of the three series. This second season got very, very good, with some excellent character stories, and some real movement forward for the crew as they encountered aliens and the start of what appears to be some incredible story arcs. Hopefully, these will come to a satisfying conclusion with the close of the series. What I liked the most about SGU was not just the stories, characters or CGI, but the realistic and gritty approach to the genre, much like what Battlestar Galactica had done in its early days. This was serious science fiction, and I sincerely hope that we’ll see more similar approaches to stories, either on the SyFy channel or elsewhere.
- Caprica: Caprica was another that got an early death, before its first season finished out. I have yet to see how the series ends up, but I loved a lot of what I saw: the complicated storytelling, numerous, diverse story arcs and an excellent cast of characters. This show was very different from Battlestar Galactica, and I liked that approach. Mainly, I’ll be missing the digital life where Zoe Graystone ended up. The retro flair to the costuming and look and feel to the world was just outstanding.
- Fringe: Fringe was a show that has grown on me. This season saw an excellent shift for the show – less blood and gore, replaced by two storylines in alternate worlds. With the loss of the two SyFy shows, this is the best genre fiction on the television right now, and I’m eagerly waiting to see what happens next for the two worlds.
- Sherlock: Steven Moffat’s modern take on Sherlock Holmes was nothing short of spectacular. Exceptionally acted, conceived of and shot, each episode of Sherlock was something special. Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch owned their characters, and I absolutely cannot wait for the next series after an incredible cliffhanger.
- The Walking Dead: Started off strong, but fizzled. I loved the pilot, but the rest of the show just hasn’t stuck with me, despite its quality.
- Castle: Not a genre show, but it stars Nathan Fillion, and it’s done several great nods to Steampunk and the X-Files over this past season.
- Predators: The original Predator film didn’t do much for me, so I was pleasantly surprised at how good this third entry into the series was. Smarter than the average blockbuster, this Predators didn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s certainly one of the better action films I’ve seen, with a number of dynamic battles and action scenes.
- Inception: By far the best science fiction film of the year (and one of my favorites in the genre), there’s not a whole lot that I can say that hasn’t been said about Inception. It’s smart, straightforward, with excellent action and great visuals.
- Tron: Legacy: Tron Legacy seems to have fallen into the love it or hate it category: I really enjoyed it. It was a shiny, spectacular blockbuster that was quite a bit of fun to watch, with a great soundtrack by Daft Punk.
- How To Train Your Dragon: While I’m not sure that the Vikings would have had Scottish accents, How To Train Your Dragon was a fun animated flick – great, time-tested story, good visuals and all that jazz.
- Toy Story 3: The presumably last entry in the Toy Story series, this film was a great end to some of my favorite films of all time. Smart, well done and is something that felt that it lived up to its predecessors. (Something rare indeed!)
- Sherlock: Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Sherlock Holmes was excellent, and this adaptation was a fun, although a little overblown for its own good.
- Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell: Vermont singer Anaïs Mitchell put together an incredible project: Hadestown. It’s best described as a post-apocalyptic, indie-folk retelling of the myth of Orpheus. With a brilliant cast of singers, this feels more like an cast recording of a musical. Well worth a listen or a dozen.
- So Runs the World Away, Josh Ritter: This doesn’t fall too much into the speculative fiction genres, but Ritter’s latest album has an incredible storytelling feel to it, with Mummies come to life, Polar explorers and killers.
- Marian Call: She embarked on an incredible, fan-funded tour of all fifty states. She’s geeky, plays on a typewriter and has an incredible voice. You should all pay very close attention to her.
- John Anelio: I met SF Signal Regular John Anealio at ReaderCon and was hooked on his music pretty quickly. He’s released a number of fantastic songs this year using a pay as you want system, and his take on Stormtroopers was fantastic, and his song Unicorn Pegasus Kitten was included in the Clash of the Geeks publication by John Scalzi.
- Horns, by Joe Hill: My first book by Joe Hill blew me away completely. Horns is a stunning, intimate read of a man who sprouts horns on his head after a night of drinking. The story revolves around love, fate, good and evil and captured me for a couple of days while I blew through the pages. It’s a brilliant book, one that surpassed my expectations.
- The City and The City, China Miéville: While this was published in 2009, I only got to it this year. Winning the Hugo and a slew of other awards, China Mieville’s book was another such stunning book that took apart my expectations. This story, set against two split cities in the same place, wowed me with its excellent characters, prose and storytelling.
- How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Charles Yu: Yu’s first novel is an outstanding one, and a fun take on time travel stories. Charles Yu, a protagonist in his own book, brings the book itself together as part of the story, and I loved his style and world that he’s put together.
- The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald: This is a bit of a cheat, as I haven’t quite finished the book yet, but McDonald’s Dervish House has already wowed me with its prose and complicated story, set in a futuristic Turkey. Detailed, smart and nothing short of brilliant, this may be his best book yet.
- Spellwright, Blake Charlton: Charlton’s first novel in a trilogy is a fun, exciting romp in the woods. A major bonus for the author’s real world dyslexia becoming a major part of the plot and characters.
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin: Jemisin’s first novel is set in a fantastic world that’s been wonderfully thought up and executed to play host to a story of gods and mortals.
- The Gaslight Dogs, Karin Lowachee: Lowachee’s steampunk-ish novel is a fun story set in the far North, shedding most of the steampunk conventions and focusing on the story and characters.
- Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman: This collection of short stories has one hell of a table of contents, with tons of fantastic authors each telling an outstanding tale.
(See also: John’s Take)