I’m now, suddenly, in the way of freelancers, working, with a job that’ll require my attention over the next two weeks. This is both extremely welcome, and a bit of a panic, considering what those twelve weeks cover. But this is the life I chose, and I’m delighted to find myself so busy. (I really don’t know what to do when I’m on holiday. I suspect I’ll never retire.) Plus I’m doing a reading at Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday (you would not believe how crowded with stuff that day is) and we’re off to see Star Wars, obvs, on Thursday. I promise, dear reader, you will see none of this reflected in the quality of the blog. Ahem.
One nice thing to mention today. Emma Newman and her butler, Latimer, have received the card I sent them, on Day 15 of the Tea and Jeopardy Advent Calendar. They actually do a longer run of Christmas social media than I do, and they do it on audio! I have no idea how they manage it.
Also embarked upon a festive sequence, by the way, is dear old Si Spurrier, who is writing ThirteenDays of Mythmas, a folkloric partwork essay. If anyone else is doing anything similar, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Today, I’d like to mention the various different media that keep me going, those things that have entertained me in this last year. ‘Keep me going’ sounds a bit grim, but actually, the weekly schedule, when one has a toddler and a wife with a job that relies on the calendar, becomes important in a way which freelancers aren’t used to.
So Mondays, from around noon, are about ‘ooh, I wonder what Marvel Unlimited have added to their current and back issue stocks today?’ (I may do a longer piece about MU again this year, like I did last.) Wednesdays, from around teatime, are ‘ooh, what’s arrived on ComiXology today?’ and ‘ooh, a new Verity podcast, which I can listen to when driving Tom to football tomorrow.’ And every day, at 5pm, this Christmas, has become ‘ooh, what issue has ComiXology decided to put up as a freebie?’
I do ridiculously little reading for pleasure, and a lot of it is non-fiction, because that doesn’t work the writer part of my brain, but I was impressed with both Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson, a very English New Wave/alternate reality/spy/campus novel that is both an easy read and an extraordinary one, and Planetfall by the aforementioned Emma Newman, a deeply and immediately involving alien planet story that keeps tight focus on character from moment one. Also, Space Hostages by Sophia McDougall is an awesome YA Pixar-esque space adventure, and if you like adventure with meaning, then Gareth Powell’s Macaque Attack (now big in Japan, as Gunmetal Ghost, with this awesome new cover), and Adam Christopher’s Made to Kill are for you. I also enjoyed Adrian Tchaikovsky’s venture into Austen-esque Napoleonic fantasy battles, Guns of the Dawn, Peter Newman’s funny and exciting low fantasy debut, The Vagrant, and Jaine Fenn’s fantastical adventure The Ships of Aleph. Also, the new Tor.com Publishing range of novellas has kept up an incredible level of quality, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
Phew, actually it looks like I did read a few books this year! It’s because I move in circles where the above would be considered puny.
Here’s a list of what I’m currently subscribed to on ComiXology (apart from 2000AD, which is via its own app).
2000AD. (Rebellion.) The cycling of writers on Judge Dredd continues to work wonders, and Pat Mills has not mellowed with age.
Bandette. (MonkeyBrain.) A Parisienne souffle of thieving, witty delightfulness.
All of Titan’s Doctor Who titles. (I’m particularly enjoying George Mann and Emma Vieceli’s Eighth Doctor and Si and Rob’s Eleventh with added Abslom Daak, and I’m glad Cav Scott is going to be able to continue his excellent Ninth Doctor work in a future ongoing.)
Lazarus. (Image.) Greg Rucka’s dark American future looks more plausible every day.
Lucifer. (Vertigo.) I just got the first issue today, but I’m loving the new Vertigo across the board. I’ll let you know.
Rat Queens. (Image.) The voices of a group of modern women in a vaguely Dungeons and Dragons fantasy world, like the players live in the game. Huge fun.
Rivers of London. (Titan.) More faithful to the books than any comic should be, and Lee Sullivan’s photo-realist art is excellent.
Survivors’ Club. (Vertigo.) What happens after the horror movie is over? I’m loving how well Lauren Beukes does comics.
Unfollow. (Vertigo.) Rob Williams’ classic Lost-style character thriller format has of course been optioned for TV.
The X-Files Season 11. (IDW.) I’m loving how Joe Harris so utterly has the voice of the show, authenticity created through faithfulness.
The Wicked and the Divine. (Image.) Numinous youth saga of gods gone wild.
And an ever-varying bunch of Marvel and DC super hero titles. I’m keeping up with everything Avengers (having now read the whole run of almost every variation on Marvel Unlimited), and the work of Al Ewing is always a delight. I’m also enjoying Rob Williams’ Martian Manhunter at DC.
Phew, remembering everything is always tough, but this year we’ve loved (and remember that I always say Doctor Who is a life choice, not a ‘favourite TV show’):
Thunderbirds Are Go. It’s weird to be obsessed with a show that’s on at 8.30am on a Saturday, but as I said yesterday, it’s Tom’s favourite and mine. Better than the original.
Supergirl. Oh my goodness, how well-plotted is this? And it’s surprisingly easy and straightforward to do a show about a hero that does good and saves people. Because that’s actually the default with the viewing public.
Gotham. Again, good plotting, and making the setting and characters so interesting with not always waiting for Batman to begin.
Jessica Jones. A landmark. A tough, serious piece of television, a meaningful emotional story that could not be told without involving super powers.
Agents of SHIELD. Varies so wildly in tone, but they’ve got the characters right, and they’re obviously heading for something huge.
Person of Interest. The best SF show on TV, warring AIs resulting in glamourous violence. Treated very badly by its UK broadcaster.
Penny Dreadful. Such great writing, with remarkably few gimmicks, letting the characters do the work. And Eva Green is extraordinary, a living special effect.
Elementary. I love its commitment to realism, to keeping Sherlock and Joan fascinating but true, and above all the almost unique agency of Joan Watson.
The Big Bang Theory. I really dislike geeks hating it as a point of pride. Great writing, great playing, great timing, especially from the female characters.
Midwinter of the Spirit. A dark Stephen Volk piece with a lead character Caroline recognised as a real vicar, an utter rarity. (It’ll be shown complete on 19th December on ITV Encore.)
Prey 2. Writer Chris Lunt is a mate, and his commitment to the pure chase story is something to behold.
The Musketeers. I love how surprisingly historically accurate it can be, particularly when it comes down to the business of fighting with muskets. Also: great fun.
Parks and Recreation. There’s something sublime in the way this show couldn’t help but stop mocking and start loving its everyday strivers.
Agent Carter. As it turned out it was the start of an immediate revolution, with super hero shows actually leading the way for woman-led TV.
There are several more shows we watch avidly, but it feels weird including live events like Strictly Come Dancing here, and in terms of drama and comedy I wanted to only mention the stuff we absolutely love. I’m sure I’ve missed something. Remind me!
These are just the ones I always listen to. I pop in and out of others. Podcasts now form such a big part of my weekly entertainment experience that I want to thank the creators. (And do via a hefty Patreon habit.)
The Coode Street Podcast. Two SF experts have a weekly phone call, warmly chatting about the current life of the genre. Essential for the SF fan.
Doctor Who: Radio Free Skaro. The warmth of what sometimes feel like three squabbling brothers who make between them the definitive Who news show.
Doctor Who: The Memory Cheats. Two Who fans talk off the top of their head about a randomly-selected Doctor Who story. Go!
Doctor Who: The Writers’ Room. An erudite and sometimes surprisingly against the grain review of the work of one Who writer at a time.
Doctor Who: Verity!The definitive all-woman Who show, with great analysis and all emotional reactions allowed. Pleasingly feminist.
Down and Safe. A bunch of folk, including one complete newcomer who doesn’t know what’s coming next, talk, hilariously but loving, about each episode of Blake’s 7.
The Impossible Girls. Three very erudite female Who fans come at it from an all-rumours-listened-to angle, and rave about the cool stuff.
Lazy Doctor Who. A married couple make their way through classic Doctor Who from the start, at their own pace, and yet remain married. So far.
Reality Bomb. An actual Doctor Who magazine show, with panels, interviews, editorials, even comedy sketches. So hard to do. Proper radio.
Tea and Jeopardy. Emma Newman and her butler, Latimer, in dramatic and comedic settings, interview a single genre creator each time. And put them in mild peril.
Two-Minute Time Lord. A tightly-edited burst of opinion, sometimes against the mainstream.
The 2000AD Thrill-Cast. Michael Molcher, of 2000AD himself, interviews current and past creators in a very loving, professional yet fannish way. Award-winning!
It’s the work of these guys that made me want to join in. I love the idea that in some deserted station car park, I can plug in my iPod and be connected to actual friends, talking about shared enjoyment. I think the reason so many of them are about Who is that it’s a world I know inside out, so I very quickly know if I’ll like the show because of how a particular team treats individual memes. I sigh a bit about how each of the Radio Free Skaro team has to share their own opinion on every point, no matter how minor. (‘I like cake. So, moving on-‘ ‘I love cake.’ ‘I sometimes like cake, but it depends on the cake. There was this one cake -‘) I get worried for the teams that row with each other. (Podcasts are a lot rougher than radio in that respect, but more real too.) I emote along with the ongoing soap opera of what will happen between Emma and her butler now they’re estranged. I sing along as Mike Molcher gets himself thinking time by rephrasing what his guest has said in their last three answers. I live with all these guys close to my heart. I think that’s exactly what they want from their audiences, and I applaud them for it.
I have Fortean Times on order at my local Co-Op. (I’m sure it causes raised eyebrows with the till ladies.) I’ve got every issue in one form or another, and this monthly window into other realities of unexplained possibility, from flying saucers to lake monsters, all looked at from a slight distance, neither believer nor sceptic, is a lifeline in a narrow world. I get Doctor Who Magazine, obviously, which is possibly the best it’s ever been, still far more academic than a populist magazine about a hit TV show should be, and balancing the two needs really well. I also love the regular deliveries of the partwork Doctor Who: The Complete History, which, apart from some proofreading problems (‘The Sontaran Experiment’ was a bit up the wall in terms of introducing the production process to new fans, describing memos about script moments otherwise not referred to), is full on nerdy joy. I also follow SFX, which continues to be the benchmark for SFF journalism, and also enjoy its new stablemates Crime Scene, which has successfully brought a populist, accessible style to all forms of crime media, and Comic Heroes, which provides the kind of in-depth, serious journalism comics needs as the field grows.
You know, I wish I was a gamer these days. My wife is roaming around Fallout 4 shooting things, and I’ve just got Cricket Captain 2015 on my desktop. It’s something I’ll get back to when I have time, you know, in that six months when Tom wants me to join in on his new brain-operated console. I’d also like to be a tabletop gamer, but that’s just not possible given where we live and how little time we have.
The above is what has given me joy in 2015, and I look forward to hearing what your own favourites are, and what you’re sure I’ve missed because I was raving about it on Twitter only a couple of months ago. Now I return to thinking about my new sudden big serious project, and will see you tomorrow for more fun. Cheers.