2018 Recommended Reading/Viewing List

Now that the deadline for this year's Hugos is almost upon us, it's time to start the page for next year.

Short Story 

"How To Make a Medusa," Ziggy Schultz, Daily Science Fiction 3/12/2018. (A dark little flash story that lives up to its title.)

"The Library Is Open," Beth Cato, Daily Science Fiction 1/15/2018. (A lovely tale about life and hope in the middle of an apocalypse.)

"A Witch's Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies," Alix E. Harrow, Apex Magazine February 2018. (This is a wonderful story of a librarian/witch who matches people with the book of their heart.)

"Safe Space," Rich Larson, Daily Science Fiction 3/17/2018. (This is a pretty thorough refutation of the hoary old cliche that one has to "suffer" to make art. The antagonist in this short but affecting tale has no idea what "suffering" is.)

"The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington," Phenderson Djeli Clark, Fireside Magazine February 2018. (This series of nine vignettes tells the backstory of the slaves that provided teeth for George Washington's dentures, in an alternative American history of mages and magic, where unfortunately slavery still existed.)

"A Priest of Vast and Distant Places," Cassandra Khaw, Apex Magazine March 2018. (A lovely story of plane gods, and the weight of family.)

"All the Time in the Sky," H.L. Fullerton, Daily Science Fiction 3/28/18. (The website lists this story as "slipstream," and while I've never seen an exact definition of that, this story seems to fit it. It's a brief, compelling little tale with a bittersweet ending.)

"Ghosts of Mars," Kevin J. Anderson, Daily Science Fiction 3/30/18. (This is a poignant little story of the first manned expedition to Mars, and the dreamers who came before.)

"Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse," S.B. Divya, Uncanny Magazine January/February 2018. (This is a fascinating story, set in a future America after what appears to be either a second Civil War and/or the Balkanization of the country. The protagonists perform illegal abortions, and after the death of one of the main characters, the surviving member of their little polyamorous family risks everything to get their children across the heavily guarded border between California and Arizona. I would love to know more about this world.)

"Since We've No Place To Go," Daily Science Fiction 4/13/18. (This story will hit you like a ton of brick. "Making Christmas Great Again," indeed.)

Dramatic Presentation

"The Book of Little Black Lies," Black Lightning, S1 ep 9, the CW. (This superhero series centering on an African-American family is finding its stride and beginning to gel. In this episode, the superheroics and family dynamics are given nearly equal time, to excellent effect.)

"Sins of the Father," Black Lightning, S1 ep 10, the CW. (Maybe it's just me, but all of a sudden this show seems to be hitting on all cylinders. The pieces are being set up for the final showdown, and we're getting some great character work. The Pierce family is the heart of this show, and the writers seem to be getting that.)

"AKA I Want Your Cray Cray," Jessica Jones S2 ep 7, Netflix. (Thus far, this season of Jessica Jones is neither as focused or as intense as season 1. This does not mean it's bad--see below--but that first season was a masterstroke that probably won't be repeated. But this episode, coming after the midseason turning point, reveals a great deal of Jessica's and Trish's past, and features two stellar performances by Krysten Ritter and Rachael Taylor.)

"AKA Three Lives and Counting," Jessica Jones S2 ep 11, Netflix. (As Season 2 of Jessica Jones marches towards its climax, this episode features the return of David Tennant as a ghost in Jessica's head, helping her come to an important epiphany about herself. Meanwhile, real cracks are developing in Jessica's friendship with Trish, as Trish's desire not only to do what Jessica does, but be like Jessica, is leading her down a dark and twisted path. I've seen people say this season is bad, and that simply isn't true. In particular, Janet McTeer, as Jessica's mother, is riveting.)

"AKA Playland," Jessica Jones S2 ep 13, Netflix. (Thoughts on the season as a whole: it isn't quite as good as the first season, but eps 6-13--and in particular Jessica and her mother Alisa--are gripping. Callum Keith Rennie, in a small role as the scientist/Alisa's husband/enabler, is also quite good. In this last episode, everything comes together, Jessica rids herself of the dysfunctional people around her--including, sadly, Trish--and takes a few shaky baby steps towards what might be a normal life.)

"Annihilation," written and directed by Alex Garland. (My first good movie of 2018. If you liked Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival--slower-paced, more thoughtful SF movies--you will probably like this. I haven't read the Jeff Vandermeer book it's based on, and it's reportedly a very loose adaptation anyway, so adjust your expectations accordingly. The only quibble I have is that Lena, played by Natalie Portman, is the only character really explored, and in particular Tessa Thompson is wasted. But it's a gorgeous film, with moments of beauty and horror, and an ambiguous ending that apparently gave the studio fits.)

"Black Panther," written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, directed by Ryan Coogler. (This, of course, is the curb-stomping gorilla of this year's film season, unless the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War surpasses it. [It's of note that the latest trailer for the latter emphasizes the point that the climax takes place in Wakanda. Marvel obviously knows which side of the whole-wheat bread--a joke snagged from Steven Barnes on Facebook--its butter is on.] This movie, despite its big-budget CGI superhero formula, has a lot to say about racism, colonialism, and how we create our own demons. Chadwick Boseman may play the titular character, but Michael B. Jordan, as Killmonger, and Letitia Wright, as Shuri, come damn close to stealing the show.)

"A Quiet Place," written by John Krasinski/Scott Beck/Bryan Woods, directed by John Krasinski. (This is one of the best horror movies I've seen in years. It's on the SF/alien invasion side of horror rather than the supernatural, with a tight script and direction--there's not a wasted moment. Bonus points for casting a Deaf actress to play a Deaf character, and her Deafness and cochlear implant play important roles in the film's tense, riveting climax.)

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