Best of 2011
by Cat Rambo
I love spec fic that thinks about gender roles, and was lucky enough to get an advance read of Kelly Jenning’s Broken Slate from Crossed Genres Press this year, a far future story of a male slave which explores power and class dynamics. 2011 was a great year to find GLBT characters and two joined my list of all-time favorites. One, a transgendered courtesan, appears in Amanda Downum’s The Drowning City and The Bone Palace. Downum’s writing reminds me of what I like about authors like Martha Wells and P.C. Hodgell - vivid and interesting, beautifully drawn worlds, including cities that feel drawn with the obsessive eye of a DM, down to the last street. The other character, Chess Pargeter, comes from Gemma Files’ Hexslinger series, so far consisting of A Book of Tongues and A Rope of Thorns, which is a wow of a fantasy western world.
I also got an advance read of Elwin Cotman’s The Jack Daniel Sessions EP. I loved these stories, both Cotman’s more contemporary pieces as well as the ones that go back and take looks at more traditional pieces, both celebrating and making new things of them. In blurbing the book, I said, “In The Jack Daniels Sessions, folktales and modern landscapes collide, exploding and reforming in the form of an intriguing and intelligent collection. Cotman seizes the stories of tired tradition and galvanizes them, setting them to dance for us in wonderful, new interpretations.”
I read a LOT of stories in 2011 and should have tracked them better. Several that stood out were: Charlie Jane Anders’ Six Months, Three Days (http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/06/six-months-three-days); Nancy Fulda’s “Movement”, Genevieve Valentine’s “Demons, Your Body, and You”
http://subterraneanpress.com/index.php/magazine/summer-2011/fiction-demons-your-body-and-you-by-genevieve-valentine/ (which appeared in the terrific Subterranean Press Summer 2011 issue edited by Gwenda Bond - http://subterraneanpress.com/index.php/magazine/summer-2011/introduction-by-gwenda-bond/); Lily Yu’s “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees,” (http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/yu_04_11/)
I was sorry to see spec fic magazine Crossed Genres go, but I’ve been enjoying the success of Daily Science Fiction, which is really publishing some strong stuff. Beneath Ceaseless Skies also continues to knock it out of the ball park on occasion. 2011 also saw Realms of Fantasy go under for the third and final time, as well as the announcement of Fantasy Magazine and Lightspeed’s new owner John Joseph Adams and his plans to merge the magazines, which looks like it will continue to publish some great stuff (disclaimer: every magazine mentioned has published my work, so I am biased.)
2011 started with a strong movie, The King’s Speech, and also held several superhero movies that were big and silly and full of spectacle: Thor, Green Lantern, and X-Men: First Class. But my favorite of the year was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which had some problematic aspects, but crafted the lead up to the final battle so well that you rooted so solidly and satisfactorily for the apes that I’d go see it again, anytime. TV was the usual crap (and I happily watch that as much as anyone, but I refuse to celebrate it) but I did really, really enjoy the BBC modern Holmes series, Sherlock, which celebrates and updates the traditions of the series in a loving, meticulous way and which any Holmes fan will adore.
Game-wise, there was nothing more outstanding than Skyrim, which looks to carry me into 2012 as well. I’d been very hopeful about the new Civ release, but in looking at it, I felt like they’d taken away the parts I liked the best and dumbed down the rest. World of Warcraft certainly took its share of time, but it’s grown less appealing somehow, perhaps because the gender stuff in Skyrim is a little less...I dunno, full of ass-slapping succubi. Go figure.
Cat Rambo writes and teaches in the Pacific Northwest in the wilds of Redmond. Her collection Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight was a 2010 Endeavour Award finalist, and her work has appeared such places as Asimov's, Tor.com, and Weird Tales. Her website can be found at http://www.kittywumpus.net