Tis the season for listicles!
And we didn't want to miss out on the fun, so we asked our contributors... friends... family... strangers... slow-moving housepets... for their 2015 favourites. As you'll see, the results aren't only indisputable and irrefutable, but also exhaustive. If something happened in 2015 and it isn't on one of these lists, it didn't happen.
There are even more lists coming over the next week, because we're lazy super-excited about sharing lists.
These were my favorite reads of 2015, though most of them weren’t released this year. It’s strange, now that I’m looking over them they all share certain obvious elements—I didn’t think I had such a strong type, but apparently I do. Maybe you do, too?
A puzzle box of everything I want from fiction.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
The best time I’ve had with dark fairy tales this side of Angela Carter, and beautifully illustrated to boot.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
As perfect as its reputation, and as difficult.
The Pleasure Merchant by Molly Tanzer
Her best novel yet, which sometimes feels like Barry Lyndon reimagined as a cautionary tale about Nice Guys but also has all the feels. Every single one.
Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
A hilarious romp that definitely doesn’t make you want to wander off into a dismal forest and lie supine in the rotting vegetation, each breath a labored sigh, until the night closes around you like a gunnysack pulled down over the head of an innocent just before they are hanged.
Justin Landon (Not a Blogger, @jdiddyesquire)
Best Republican Presidential Candidates (mind you, this is based on entertainment value, not ability to be President)
Carly Fiorina. No one wears red like Carly. She's pwning all these mofos when it comes to style.
Ben Carson. His Gentle Hands(tm) are always waving about in front of him. He reminds me of the dude in Happy Gilmore who has a wooden hand. Ben's hands look like they don't move.
Marco Rubio. He seems like he has dry mouth a lot. I like to count how many times he licks his lips. How many times has he campaigned in Colorado?
Jeb Bush. If someone is going to cry because everyone on stage is being mean to him, it's Jeb. I'm not saying I'm waiting for it, but.... I'm not not waiting for it.
Rand Paul. His perm is sweet. 'Nuff said.
Not on this list: Donald Trump. There's nothing entertaining about him.
Five good things that I have drunk in 2015
Krupnik. (Polish honey vodka). I don't even like vodka. Why did I drink this? What happened to my coat and boots? Whose goose is that?
Sloe gin. It sure ain't fast. I'm making it myself this year, which involved picking sloes, otherwise known as fighting trees full of thorns until you look like you've gone four rounds with an angry tom cat. Picked some other fruits too; I think they were sloes but I ain't sure. I put 'em in anyway.
Whiskey Doughnut from Crosstown Doughnuts. Not a drink, but so full of whiskey it was about to either spontaneously combust, or start a saloon brawl.
A Pickleback. My drink of choice. A shot of whiskey, a shot of pickle juice. As in, the juice from a jar of pickles. Damn delicious.
A "Scout's Honour". I don't normally hold with cocktails, but this were something else... Tequila, lime and smoked marshmallow syrup in a tin mug with toasted marshmallows on the side and a tin can stuffed in the top that contained sweets, a party popper and an awful joke. I was too bewildered to argue and just drank it. And I have to say it were mighty tasty.
Will Hill (Vampire Slayer, Yankees Fan, @WillHillAuthor)
Best ways to annoy geek Twitter in 2015
- "There's a new Star Wars movie coming out?"
- "I think it's time for a critical reappraisal of Rob Liefeld's work."
- "I don't care that there isn't a Black Widow movie."
- "Doctor Who is for kids, right?"
- "I think Batman v Superman looks pretty good..."
James Smythe (Voted 'Uplifting Author of The Year' Three Times Running, @jpsmythe)
Top Five Books I Read in 2015 That Have Nothing To Do With The Kitschies
I'm one of the judges for the Kitschies this year, which means I've read a stupid amount of SFF and weird genre books that somehow fit into the 'progressive, intelligent and entertaining' definition of that award. BUT I have also read a load of books that didn't, either because they were not genre novels (or they acted like they weren't, even though they very obviously were) or because they weren't submitted for the award, or because they were, I don't know, nonfiction or whatever. These are the best five of that lot, in no particular order at all.
Yes, it won more awards than this, but I suspect my including it here will be the highest accolade it gets. It's an amazing book, it really is. Do you know how hard it is to juggle multiple narrators, and well? It's bloody tough. Nightmarish. I did it in The Testimony, and I think I managed to reach a level of adequacy that meant the book worked. Seven Killings does it in the most amazing, jealous-making way possible: you forget, and you can't tell, and then it's just this perfect storm of character and plot (remember plot? Some major novels in 2015 managed to forget all about it!) and you just SIGH while you're reading it because you will never be as good as it.
All Involved by Ryan Gattis
Another novel with multiple narrators. This was given out in proof form in a way that mimicked DVD box sets, because it's sort of like that. Set over the course of the LA riots, so it's sort of factional, ish, but with characters that take you from The Wire-esque SERIOUS FICTION art to - not a joke - bits that felt more like ER to me. And that's not a knock, I should point out. ER was excellent. Anyway, blah blah blah, the voices are amazing. The story is super. The whole thing sings.
Slade House by David Mitchell
Another novel with multiple narrators. YES ANOTHER ONE. This was a thing this year, I think. And this is a weird book. I'm - okay - a bit of a fanboy. Not quite 'Camping outside his house' levels of it, but still. I haven't yet not enjoyed (double negative) a Mitchell novel. This one was born out of a twitter story (ack) and he wrote it quickly by all accounts (no come back) and it's sort of a side story to The Bone Clocks (seriously don't run away) but it's brilliant. The best thing he's written since Jacob De Zoet. Which, you know, was only a book before, but I didn't love the second to last section of The Bone Clocks, whereas I loved all of this. Oh and it's a ghost story. We can pretend it's not, but it's totally a ghost story. And it's tied into the massive mythos of his joined world stuff, but works totally on its own. (Also, if he or his editor come across this, I would really like a Mitchell short story collection now.)
Okay, so when 2015 began I had a plan. I was only going to read books published in 2015. It was a thing that I thought would be interesting, and tied in with the aforementioned prize judging quite nicely. Focus me, on what's going on in fiction. It was amazing for the first few months, somehow, and then it became a living hell of not reading what I actually wanted to read, and forcing myself to read Generic SFF Novel Number 7. Then, over the summer, I went on holiday, and I gave myself a break. One week where I was allowed to read whatever I liked, from whenever. I didn't go back far, I must admit. Broken Harbour was published in 2012, Secret Place in 2014. Both are crime novels, sort of, in Tana French's sort of linked Dublin-set series. Both are v. good. The Secret Place is a murder mystery set in a boarding school, a bit Secret History, and it's lots of fun.(It actually goes a bit SFFnal, when some of the characters might have weird witch powers, but it's a wholly underdeveloped and, frankly, silly bit of the novel that deflates the whole. But still!) But Broken Harbour is exceptional. It's about a murder, with all the twists that you need for a good murder story, but the focus is also on the housing crisis in Ireland - and the UK - with abandoned new builds and the pressures of finances. Which sounds amazing, doesn't it? Trust me. Seriously. French is my favourite crime writer in the world right now. That's an endorsement.
Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
This isn't published until 2016 in the UK. It's sort of a post-apocalypse thing, sort of. Weather stuff. Set in California, and the drought is insane. But it's sort of a love story. Sort of a relationship thing. About parenting, but then there's also this stuff that's like a Mad Max origin story. It's absolutely incredible, and because I'm not judging it next year, I can predict this: it's winning the Kitschies best debut novel award in 2016. Stick that in your climate change pipe and smoke it.
Here are five horrible ways to die. [Editor's note: FESTIVE, PERRY. VERY FESTIVE.]
Crumbling away to dust (The Colour out of Space) Lovecraft's classic "The Colour Out of Space" is my favourite of his stories, because I love a tale of creeping dread, and what's more creeping (and dreadful) than being struck down by some awful space... thing (is it a living entity? Who knows! Doesn't matter anyway!) and watching everything on your poor little farm turn grey and crumble to dust... including your wife?
It was quite dark inside, for the window was small and half-obscured by the crude wooden bars; and Ammi could see nothing at all on the wide-planked floor. The stench was beyond enduring, and before proceeding further he had to retreat to another room and return with his lungs filled with breathable air. When he did enter he saw something dark in the corner, and upon seeing it more clearly he screamed outright. While he screamed he thought a momentary cloud eclipsed the window, and a second later he felt himself brushed as if by some hateful current of vapour. Strange colours danced before his eyes; and had not a present horror numbed him he would have thought of the globule in the meteor that the geologist’s hammer had shattered, and of the morbid vegetation that had sprouted in the spring. As it was he thought only of the blasphemous monstrosity which confronted him, and which all too clearly had shared the nameless fate of young Thaddeus and the livestock. But the terrible thing about this horror was that it very slowly and perceptibly moved as it continued to crumble.
Cursed pie (Thinner)
Something about the description of the pie in Stephen King's Bachman novel, Thinner, stayed with me long after I finished the book (one of its ingredients is the protagonist's blood); worse than the pie, however, is what happens if you eat it. (Spoiler: you die.)
Melting (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
This death is a classic for a reason: it's disgusting. Also, would last long enough that you could really feeeeeel it.
A cement overcoat (Dick Tracy)
I first learned about this classic gangland method of disposing of enemies from the 1990 film Dick Tracy, and it has haunted me ever since. You drown in cement. I'm not kidding when I say I've had nightmares about it.
Being turned into a human cello (Hannibal)
Everyone's got a favourite/most gruesome death scene from Hannibal, and I definitely struggled with a lot of them (Mason Verger eating his own face, for example). But the one that stuck with me was from the Season 1 episode 'Fromage'. The villain, a cellist, kills people and then turns their vocal cords into cello strings. While the cords are still in the victim's neck. Then plays them. It's awful, okay?
Here are five of my favourite non-2015 books that I read in 2015:
This is more-ish madness, a properly addictive read.
Zot!: Complete Black & White Collection by Scott McCloud (2008)
Reviewed and hey, now I'm crying at my desk again.
Africa39 (edited by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey) (2014)
Not only a brilliant collection of writing, but also jumping off point to discover new (to me, at least) authors. Beirut39 is also spectacular.
With the Night Mail by Rudyard Kipling (1905)
A charming piece of early SF, projecting the heady days of airship travel! Brilliant, enthusiastic and kind of joyous. Brilliantly presented, too, as the original publisher surrounded it with fake ads and editorial content from the 'year 2000 AD'.
Scruples by Judith Krantz (1978)
Reviewed. Just a hoot.
My Five Favourite Fantasy Comics of 2015
Foul-mouthed and filthy-minded, the drink, drug, and sex-loving Rat Queens are a team of badass mercenary warriors (more specifically, warrior, rogue, cleric, and mage) who battle trolls, assassins, and even a Cthulhu-esque entity from beyond the edges of human madness. But it’s the Rat Queens’ tight if unusual friendship and the emotionally resonant presentation of their personal lives that forms the core of the narrative, as well as the spot-on humor.
NSFW (and I mean very NSFW), Alfie is an ongoing web comic about… okay, I’ll just come out and say that Alfie is (largely) about a Halfling mother and daughter and the sexual adventures they end up having when a caravan of humans and elves comes to their remote village. I missed it when it was featured on io9, so I figured I’d include it here because… because it needs to be read. Yes, the sex is hot, but it’s the actual story that keeps me coming back. Um, I swear.
Oglaf is another NSFW web comic for the fantasy fan. Though not a narrative like Alfie, Oglaf manages a great balance of rewarding the returning visitor with recurring themes and characters and keeping the jokes fresh. And hot—though Oglaf isn’t a porn comic, it has plenty of sex, and actually funny sex humor.
Princess Ugg is such a delight. A sweet and fierce mix of Conan the Barbarian, Disney princess… stuff… and your standard “outsider girl attends a new school,” I can’t remember enjoying a comic more. The main plot revolves around Princess Ulga’s decision to obey her mother’s wish that she attend school in civilized lands to learn diplomacy in order to help her people, and, well, yeah, it’s just great. The second trade just came out, so it’s a great time to dive into this series.
Gunnerkrigg Court has been around forever, but this year has been an astonishing one, both in terms of the ever-increasing quality of the art, and the plot revelations. For new readers, Gunnerkrigg Court is the story of Antimony Carver, a young woman with strange abilities, who attends a mysterious school on the edge of a magical forest. If this setup seems a little bland, let me assure you I am redacting the details so you can discover them for yourself—it’s an intense journey and I have checked in literally every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday since I caught up because I love it so much. You can read it online or in the lovely hardbacks put out by Archaia.
Mark Charan Newton (Whisky Snob and Occasional Author, @maltreview)
GlenDronach - whisky prices are going through the roof, but GlenDronach single malt is generally super-tasty and super-good value too. If you like sweet, fruity, sherry-style whiskies, made the old-fashioned way, then you must try a bottle.
Bruichladdich - an experimental distillery based on Islay that produces the world’s most heavily peated single malt (Octomore) and some shit-hot crazy wine-matured whiskies. Some of their single cask releases (think limited edition books) are like nothing else on earth. Amazing team of people.
Lakes Distillery - English whisky! Okay, it’ll be a while before the whisky is ready (another two years) but the spirit at 4 months was really nice. They also make gin and vodka, but the place is great and you should totally visit if you’re in the area.
The Dalmore - I just wanted to brag, like a dick, that I got to sample a bottle of Dalmore that was worth over £20,000. And drink another that was being sold for £500. I paid nothing. Can’t really think of much else. Told you: like a dick. But I really love their whisky, even the cheaper stuff.
Kilkerran - most probably wouldn’t have heard of this one, but next year this little craft distillery (and I mean proper old style craft, not shitty hipster craft) is releasing some of the hottest whisky in Scotland. Next year they go mainstream (which means they make their whisky more widely available for the first time).
The Five Weirdest Things I Ate Off The Floor in 2015
A tortilla chip
A Post-It note
Some of Anne's jewellery
A spider [Editor's note: YAY]
Three series I re/read in 2015 that were totally worth re/reading
In an act of heroic self-sacrifice (or self-awareness), I've left The Rest of Us Just Live Here off of all of my 'best of' lists, despite my firm belief that it is the best book of 2015. And whenever there's a chance for me to vote for and/or champion it, I'll be taking it. That said, for obvious reasons, it sounds pretty silly when I rant about it online, so, c'est la vie. Fortunately, I also reread ;the sublime Chaos Walking trilogy this year, so, hey, I can enthuse about this instead. Because, god damn. And one of those series that, no matter what is happening in the real world, is relevant...
Will Hill's Department 19
Finally wrapped this up with Darkest Night, which gave me an excuse to reread the first four going into it. A really, really interesting series, as Hill ages his protagonists and their conflicts with a deft hand. Harry Potter set the baseline for this sort of escalation, but Department 19 does it, well... better. Also similar to Harry Potter, D19 deals with the hidden presence of the supernatural, but unlike HP, D19 commits to the revelation - and does an amazing job of colliding the two worlds, and showing the very real impact (on political leaders, on the media, on everyday people) of what happens as a result. Really brave, really fun, and, as noted already, a nice way of maturing the series. Which also has a lot of guns and vampires, so, hey - something for everyone.
If you listen to us on the One Comic Podcast, you'll know I reference this long-running Mike Baron/Steve Rude political space opera thing a lot. That's largely a personal thing: Nexus was 'my' Watchmen, the comic book that came along at the right time and taught me that comic books could be more than superheroes. I've been slowly rereading the complete series this year, and am pleased to announce that it (almost kinda not really) holds up. Generally speaking, there are still moments of complete brilliance, excellent (unpredictable, challenging) plotting, and a lot of philosophical introspection (although it never goes full Cerebus). Some of it is dated, and much of it is pretentious, but it is never boring. And that's important.