Sunday, January 11, 2015

A New Year: Looking Ahead, Looking Behind

Happy belated New Year, everyone! I hope all of you had an enjoyable holiday season and a good start to 2015.

This year, the holidays turned out to be busier than I thought they would be... Things started with a new bunch of writing contracts from a former business associate, which was nice, as it's been a while since my last full-time gig and these assignments gave me some money to actually be able to buy Christmas presents. That kept me busy through most of December, preventing me from posting more to the blog than I had intended.

Additionally, there was some sad news in the family: my grandmother died in early December, and I had to make a quick trip back home one weekend for the funeral. As unfortunate as it was to lose her, she had a full life, and going in her sleep, just shy of 101 years old, with one of her sons at her side earlier that day is about as good a way to go as anyone could ask for. As a former teacher and librarian, Grandma was always interested in reading and learning about new things. While she wasn't into science fiction or fantasy, she was none-the-less an important figure in my early sf development. Most of the other adults around me dismissed, disapproved of, or were indifferent to my love of science fiction, but my grandmother was curious about what had so incited my passion. One year, when I was in junior high, and she was out for a visit over the holidays, Grandma asked if she could read one of the sf books I had just enjoyed. I loaned her my copy of Asimov's Nine Tomorrows collection (I've since forgotten most of the stories in it, but "The Last Question" and "The Ugly Little Boy" are still two of my favourite IA yarns), and she wasted no time diving right into it. To this day, I don't know if she actually enjoyed any of those stories, but it was incredibly validating at that point in my life for her to have made the effort, and it's a gesture I still appreciate. My Grandma will be missed.

Despite being tied to the computer for most of the season, and the flying back and forth across the country, I managed to get out to the movie theatre for the premier of The Hobbit - The Battle of 5 Armies (or Middle Dune, as Melinda M Snodgrass has so aptly suggested), and to read a couple of books (Patrick Rothfuss' The Slow Regard of Silent Things, the new Wildcards book, Lowball, George RR Martin, Elio M Garcia Jr, and Linda Antonsson's The World of Ice and Fire, and recently Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation - though, for the life of me, I still haven't been able to finish Martin & Gardner Dozois' anthology Dangerous Women). Christmas itself was pretty good. I was given a stack of sf books (buying gifts for me is pretty easy for my wife, she just has to take my "to buy" book list into White Dwarf and ask Jill or Walter to find a few of the items while they shoot the breeze, and she's done), a couple of nerdy t-shirts, and a bottle of scotch. New Year's Eve was quiet, but a couple of days later, we hosted the White Dwarf Gang for a dinner party and caught up on everyone's adventures over the past year.

Looking back on 2014 as a whole, the sf highlights for me, book-wise, were Kit Reed's collection The Story Until Now, Peter Watts' Echopraxia, and the aforementioned Slow Regard of Rothfuss. On TV, I enjoyed Peter Capaldi bringing more than a bit of darkness back to Doctor Who. The even darker Constantine (which I hope NBC will bring back for another season next year) was also worth watching, as was SHIELD (Flash is entertaining enough, but I could live without it, while Forever is utterly forgettable), and, of course, it goes without saying that Game of Thrones continued to be all kinds of awesome. In the theatre, it had to be Guardians of the Galaxy. And the crowning glory was being able to attend Worldcon in London.

Low points... Well, that had to be the new Godzilla movie, as I've complained about previously.

Looking ahead to 2015, I'm looking forward to Martin & Dozois' Old Venus hitting the shelves. Old Mars was such a perfect anthology, I'm pretty sure this companion will be the kind of book I'll drop everything else to read. On TV, Game of Thrones will naturally be a sure thing, but I'm really hoping this year we'll also finally get to see AMC's version of Dan Simmons' The Terror (which would be especially appropriate given the discovery a few months ago of the wreck of HMS Erebus in the Canadian arctic). A new series of Red Dwarf is also something I'm looking forward to, as long as we can download it here in North America in a reasonable amount of time. More Doctor Who will also be good, and I'm curious to see how Agent Carter will develop (and whether it will continue to depict a strange alternate version of the post-war 1940s where there are no smokers), now that the pilot's aired. In the theatre, it's all about Avengers: Age of Ultron and (despite a little worry on my part for what JJ Abrams will do to the franchise) Star Wars VII.

And then there's the Worldcon dilemma... Spokane is so damn close (just 7 or 8 hours' drive) that it's really hard to say no to the prospect of attending Sasquan, and it's probably going to be a while before another Worldcon will be so near again. No doubt, it'll be chock-full of cool authors, bloggers, podcasters, and book and merchandise dealers, and a couple of members of the White Dwarf Gang have already said they're going and are gently trying to convince the rest of us to join them. There's also the fact that summer's a great time for a drive through the mountains, and if we wanted to, my wife and I could take the long way home coming back through Canada instead of the faster US route, allowing us to stop in the Okanagan wine country. And, because it's within driving distance, it'll be a lot cheaper to get to than any other Worldcon. But not so cheap in other respects... the Loonie's tanking these days, so the exchange rate with the American greenback is a killer, and we'd certainly feel that difference at the hotels, restaurants, and dealers' tables. As for the con itself, it's going to be really hard not to compare it to the extravaganza that was London. And then there's the host city. No offence to any reader who lives there, but Spokane just isn't on our list of places to visit, and with our holiday budget being limited, and this year being our 10th wedding anniversary, other vacation destinations may take precedence. And yet, proximity doggedly raises its head again — how can I pass up a Worldcon that's so close? We certainly won't be going to Kansas next year, and, unless Montreal manages to land the 2017 con (and, as supportive as I am, I have my doubts), we won't be hitting a Worldcon in the next couple of years either. So, to con or not to con in 2015?

But enough of me. What were your highlights of 2014? What are you most looking forward to (science fictionally or otherwise) in 2015?


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