With 2009 drawing to a close, we naturally have a tendency to look back upon the year that was. We have our favorite genre-related media: books, TV, movies, comics, games and more. We asked around too and got some additional input from Doctor Who Fans Unite‘s Crystal Shedrock-Rangel, KiDDandGEEZER‘s Frank Zieglar, James Hartz from Film Classics Productions, SA Synthpop Superman Jeff from Hyperbubble and Fotoseptiembre USA mastermind Michael Mehl.
So, what was the best genre-related (SF/F/H) item you enjoyed in 2009. This does not have to be something that came out this year, just something you read/watched/played and really dug. Book, TV, Movie, Album, Game, Comic…whatever. Drop us a comment and let us know.
Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist by James Gurney: My favorite art book of 2009. Despite the title, it’s not a ‘how-to’ book as much as it is a window into how a great illustrator solves problems and makes pictures. Gurney offers the kind of practical info that all illustrators, novice to professional, covet when they talk shop or visit each other’s studios. His writing is concise, generous, and personal, and he’s a great example of the truism that great artists never stop learning. His book feels less like a “voice of authority” laying down absolutisms and more like a friend inviting you into his studio for the day. I wish it was available in hardcover because it’s a keeper.
26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss by Kij Johnson. I’m going to cheat and name something that was released in 2008. I rationalize this in two ways: First, so uninformed am I that I wasn’t aware of its existence until this year. And second, it won the 2009 World Fantasy Award for best short story. “26 Monkeys” is about a woman who buys a travelling monkey show then tries to figure out the secret behind the primates’ nightly disappearing act. But, as with other great short stories, it’s about more than that. Namely learning to work through grief and loss. As shitty as 2009 was for many of us, “26 Monkeys” has special resonance for that reason. And there, I suppose, is a third way to rationalize my cheat. Read it online at Kij’s website.
Mistah Pete – Left Foot Red Productions
Film: if you miss 80s action movies like I miss 80s action movies, you must see Punisher: War Zone, out now on DVD. The most subversive Hollywood action movie since Robocop. All blood and neon and exploding chest cavities, but fun. If you’re of an artsy stripe and can get past the subtitles, I strongly endorse Tokyo! It’s one of those anthology movies, where three directors make short films about their favorite city. Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, Joon-ho Bong: if you’ve seen anything by the famous first and last ones, you know how incredible it is when I tell you that the middle one is just as groovy. And The Men Who Stare at Goats is one of those divisive movies that some people love and some hate. Despite the Star Wars references, it’s not strictly science fiction. It purports to be docu-drama. Me, I don’t care if it’s true; there’s psychic phenomena, a cast I’d go gay for, and it makes me laugh at 80s cock-rock in a whole new way, and that’s enough for me.
TV: Television has become so much better than movies. If you watch Mad Men or Dexter or Battlestar Galactica, that’s probably not news to you. But what might surprise you is how much better kiddie TV has become. Chowder and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack are two new fantastical entries from Cartoon Network that are not just amazing to watch, they give you hope that a generation of children will grow up demanding their entertainment be this good. Coming soon is Adventure Time! which promises to make me just as giddy.
Comics: Scud: The Whole Shebang is a collection of Rob Schrab’s incredible series, Scud the Disposable Assassin. He started it in the early 90s, then quit, leaving fans with an impossible cliffhanger. This new volume includes the entire run, along with the final four issues that wrap the story up ten years later, in a most satisfying way. You start reading for the zombie dinosaurs and robot sex and psychotic devil-worshipping American forefathers, but you stick around for the story of a killer robot in love. This is one of the great achievements in funnybooks, and it’s finally available in one big volume.
Crystal Shedrock-Rangel, President – Doctor Who Fans Unite
David Tennant/Doctor Who: Looking back on 2009, the one thing in the Sci-Fi realm that stands out in my mind is that this is our last year with David Tennant as Doctor Who. Tennant cemented himself in the hearts of many fans after portraying the 10th Doctor for the last four years. Season 4 ended with a spectacular finale and left the Doctor without a companion. Beginning at the end of 2008, the BBC ran a series of specials throughout the year: The Next Doctor, Planet of the Dead and Waters of Mars. Though many fans loved these specials, I felt that they were missing something. Could it be that the news of Tennant leaving skewed my opinions or does the Doctor just function better with a regular companion? Now at the close of 2009 we find ourselves standing at the end of time itself. Part 1 of The End of Time aired on BBC America last Saturday night and part 2 airs this upcoming Saturday. This is Tennent’s farewell with Matt Smith waiting in the wings to take his position as the 11th Doctor.
Though we will be losing Tennant, the series will be taken over by Steven Moffat as head writer and executive producer. Moffat wrote the award winning episodes, Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace and The Empty Child, to name a few so the Doctor’s prospects look good. Part 1 of The End of Time left me guessing, but I didnt find myself reaching for a kleenex. I am very curious to see where outgoing writer Russell T. Davies is taking this story line because right now I have no idea. He has a lot of questions to answer in part 2. For a complete review of Part 1 check out Geek Speak.
Doctor Who Fans Unite is not going to let Tennant leave without a proper farewell. On January 20th we will screen both Parts 1 & 2 of The End of Time at The Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes. It will be an event not to miss. We will be celebrating his departure with blow out bash. There will be: Trivia Contest, 10th Doctor Era Costume Contest, Special Doctor Who Art, Shirts, Buttons and Adipose will be for sale.
Frank Zieglar - KiDDandGEEZER
I watched Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica this year. I don’t have cable television, so I got the DVD’s from the San Antonio Public Library and watched everything they had on both. I never watched the original Doctor Who as a kid, but this new series makes me wish I had. Now my teenage daughter considers herself a Whovian. One of these days we’ll make it a showing at the Drafthouse. I did, however, watch the orginal Battlestar Galactica as a kid and it helped me appreciate the new version even more. Now if I could only get my daughter to watch it…
I loved the Watchmen movie that came out in March. I’ve been a fan of the graphic novel for years now, and thought the movie was very well done. Faithful to the source (mostly) while still being it’s own independent creation. Last but not least was Star Trek. I thought this movie was so well done, including lens flares. Sure, there were a few minor things to overlook, but this movie ROCKED! One of my favorite scenes is Spock (Zachary Quinto) fighting with Kirk, because it feel like I was a kid watching a young Leonard Nimoy again.
Michael Mehl – Fotoseptiembre USA
Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue: The best example of SF/F/H I’ve seen (but not read) in a long time.
James Hartz – Film Classics Productions
Doctor Who: I recently became hip to Dr. Who this past year via my friend’s involvment in Dr. Who Fans Unite. I came into the series cold. All I knew about it was that is about a time-travelling alien who has adventures throughout the universe. I saw one episode (“The Girl in the Fireplace”) and was hooked. The show is stylish, witty, and most of all, fun, which is something you don’t see in a lot of sci-fi these days. Dr. Who embraces its silly campiness and still manages to deliver heartfelt stories with well-developed characters. One of the best things about the show is that it doesn’t condensend to it’s audiaunce. Dr Who throws a lot of high concepts out there very quickly without getting bogged down by explaining every little thing or holding the viewer’s hand. Dr Who brings you along for the ride instead of just watching it.
I finished (sorta) two great series of books this year. Kim Stanley Robinson‘s excellent Mars Trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars. These books present the concept of colonizing and terraforming Mars in brilliant detail with compelling characters. Spanning more than 200 years, the series follows the three aspects of humanities efforts on Mars, from colonization by an elite hundred (Red Mars) to terraforming (Green Mars) and finally to the long term results (Blue Mars).
Along a different tact, I also read George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series…at least all of the books that are out. The first four books (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows) spin an intricate tale of a noble family’s struggle to survive in an epic fantasy world filled with treachery, intrigue and just enough of the fantastic. Each chapter follows a specific character and I was continually spurred to get back to favorite characters only to discover that every character is fascinating. I found myself talking to the book, not believing where the story was going but unable to set it down. The last book of the series, A Dance with Dragons is long overdue, but with HBO filming an adaptation due to air in 2010, Martin should have heavy incentive to get the book out the door.
Jeff from Hyperbubble
The Mighty Boosh by Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding: First off, any show that draws inspiration from The Goodies is already on the right track. The Mighty Boosh pick up where The Goodies, at their peak (the Kitten Kong episode), left off and then crank the volume up to eleven. Their TV series has gotten braver and weirder with every episode, and has now reached a point where anything can happen. The show is impossible to describe in a paragraph, so I’ll use the age-old “recipe” bit: Put Gary Numan in a blender with Monty Python, add a dash of Flight of The Conchords, sprinkle gently with The Mahavishnu Orchestra, top it off with Freddie Mercury’s hairstyle from Queen II, and you’re still only halfway there. There was some stiff competition this year from Tim Exile’s album Listening Tree, but the Boosh boys make the top of my list for their excellent cast, costuming, concept, and for televising the ultimate sci-fi synthpop band, Kraftwerk Orange.