2015 was fantastic. Yes, I know: terrible and terrifying things happened. The world got worse for some people, and we lost others, and it is not my intent to dance on either the sadness of the former or the graves of the latter. But this was one of my favorite years, and I’m sad to see it go.
Only a small part of this had to do with writing or reading. In fact, I wrote less in 2015 than in either of the preceding two years. But I had decent reasons to be unproductive, which for me is itself an accomplishment. I got married, which will always top my 2015 best-of list. The first seven months of marriage have been amazing. Not always easy or uncomplicated, but always better than before. My beloved soccer team won its first national championship. That may seem, especially to the sports haters among you, to be a minor thing, but it was a big deal to me. Screaming my lungs out at Paddy’s Pub in downtown Portland as the Timbers raised the MLS Cup is far below my wedding day, but it’s still a memory that I will hold tight to for many years.
Now, for the reading part. There were some absolutely amazing stories, in every medium, this past year.
I’ve limited myself to four in each category. As with my earlier monthly post, I have skipped novellas, because I am awful and have read so few. I need to do better on that. This pretty much doubles as my Nebula awards ballot, and I’m excited to see how many of these gems actually grab nominations.
Favorite Novels of 2015
I loved Library at Mount Char so much that when I put it down, I knew it was probably going to be my pick for favorite novel of the year. As much as I love Neil Gaiman, this took a Gaiman-style set of archetypal characters and plopped them into a world like ours more completely than Gaiman has ever done, a world where sometimes people are unreasonable and shoot each other. This book gave me a wonderful set of new gods and monsters, while staying very much fixed to that messy, scary real world.
1. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
2. The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
3. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Craynor
4. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Favorite Novelettes of 2015
Fantasy and Science Fiction’s July issue was amazing. The rest of the year was very good, but that issue’s two novelettes managed to stand up all year as two of my four favorites. Tamsin Muir’s The Deepwater Bride still sticks out in my mind as my favorite, but Kowal’s Like Native Things is very close. Ridiculous variety and quality at this length out there this year.
1. The Deepwater Bride by Tamsin Muir (Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine)
2. Like Native Things by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s)
3. The Curse of the Myrmelon by Matthew Hughes (Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine)
4. The Hunger Tower by Pan Haitian (Clarkesworld)
Favorite Short Stories of 2015
This was always going to be the hardest, just because I read so many short stories in a year. Southard’s superpower story did a better job than I’ve ever read of showing me what a regular flawed person would do with special abilities. It’s never cartoonish, but manages not to slip into the grimdark grit that screen superheroes have been drowning in. Other than that one from Nightmare, Clarkesworld owned this category for me. Robert Reed is becoming one of those writers I will follow anywhere, and Sara Saab’s story jumped onto this list in the last few months, when I thought it was cemented shut.
1. The Cork Won’t Stay by Nate Southard (Nightmare)
2. Cremulator by Robert Reed (Clarkesworld)
3. Somewhere I Have Never Traveled (3rd Sound Remix) by E. Catherine Tobler (Clarkesworld)
4. In the Queue for the Worldship Munawwer by Sara Saab (Clarkesworld)
Favorite Screen Things of 2015
What a year for TV. There were some decent SFF movies, but the small screen completely dominated in my mind. Fury Road was the only big-screen movie that truly blew my mind, something that three or four TV shows were able to do. Sense8 stands out most as changing the game, but Mr. Robot was fantastic and The Flash, though sillier than the others, mostly managed to work with one of the least approachable rogues’ galleries in superhero fiction. I loved all four of these, and this is the first year I can remember that carving out reading time was harder because there was so much good on TV.
1. Sense8 Season 1
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Mr. Robot Season 1
4. The Flash Season 1