This was originally written on January 1st, but got bumped due to technical issues and…well, a rather large announcement that took precedence over my random musings. Rather than go back and change the beginning, I decided to be lazy and…well, not.
Well. Here we are. On the cusp of a new year. 2013 has gone its way. 2014 has dawned.
Okay, I need to stop there. I was going to try to get all poetical on everyone, but I just can’t muster the creativity this morning. I’d like to say that it’s because I was at a wild party, but that wouldn’t be true. Instead, my family did our usual thing. After the kids were in bed, my wife, my brother-in-law, and I played board games into the night. Then, about an hour before midnight, we debated whether or not we should throw in the towel and all just go to bed. For some reason, the debate stagnated and we wound up watching my wife play “Plants vs. Zombies 2” on her iPad until midnight. We’re a wild bunch here, that’s for sure.
Over the past week or so, news organizations have done their usual retrospectives, looking back over 2013 and at the big stories that captivated our attention. I suppose I could try to do that too, but truth be told, I don’t pay that close of attention to the world at large. I certainly can’t add anything to the broader discussion of books and movies and such that have come out in the last year. So instead, I thought I’d be a little selfish and introspective and come up with a list of my top ten speculative fiction-type things that I discovered, enjoyed, or recommend from the previous year.
Here we go (and not necessarily in any particular order):
10) Discovering Brandon Sanderson. So he’s not Christian spec fic, but he’s still an awesome author. Actually, I didn’t discover him. Jill Williamson basically forced me to read him. Okay, so that’s not technically true either. But she did “discover” him first and then told me about his book Steelheart, the story of a young teenager trying to take down a supervillain in a world without heroes. And since I do the whole superhero fiction thing, I decided to read the book for myself. I’m glad I did. It was a fun read, a rollercoaster that kept me turning pages to the very end. Now I’ve got another of Sanderson’s books loaded on my Kindle and I’m hoping to get to it soon.
9) Devouring Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s books. Here’s another one that I stumbled across during 2014. Actually, “stumbled” isn’t quite the right word. When the list of finalists for the 2013 Christys came out, I decided that I should acquaint myself with the work of some of my fellow finalists. I knew I couldn’t read them all, so I stuck to the YA and Visionary categories. Since Stengl was nominated in the latter, I snagged her first book, Heartless, and started reading. Once again, I devoured all of her books. I still need to read a few of the latest, but I’m not surprised she was nominated. If you haven’t checked out her books yet, you definitely should.
8) Feeding my board game addiction. Hello, my name is John, and I am addicted to buying what I call “nerdgames,” namely board games that are incredibly complicated with numerous rules and complicated strategies. Notice I said “buying.” My kids are a little too young to play them at present and it’s hard to find time to meet up with people who can. But I’ve found a couple of gems this year that I’m happy to recommend. I backed Nothing Personal when it was on Kickstarter and I’m glad I did. It’s a fun mafia-themed game that looks complicated when you first start playing but is really pretty easy to pick up. Qwirkle is another fun one, sort of like “Bananagrams” with colors and shapes instead of letters. My seven year old son can play this and regularly beats me at it. I could keep going, but those two are probably the best of the best.
7) Reading Patrick Carr’s novels. Patrick and I roomed together at an ACFW Conference a few years ago. His was the first novel I was asked to read and endorse as a published author, and I was more than happy to do so. If you haven’t checked out his books yet, you definitely should. It’s set in a very imaginative world and the characters come to life in a wonderful way. Start with A Cast of Stones and keep going. You won’t regret it.
6) Getting sucked into “Arrow.” Again, it’s a superhero thing. I started watching Arrow on the CW and I’m so glad I did. The first season really hit its stride halfway through and the second season is making this one of my “can’t miss” favorites. The addition of a lot of DC’s characters have just made things better. Get caught up on this. You’ve got time before the show comes back from its mid-season hiatus.
5) Getting bent out of shape over Amish Vampires in Space. I’m not mad that this book was published. Far from it. If you haven’t read this one, you absolutely have to! The book is simply amazing. I wish more people would give this one a chance. Now, I understand, the title or the cover or some combination thereof has put some people off the book. That’s a shame, because they’re missing out.
4) Playing waaaaay too many videogames. Yes, I’m a gamer. My particular poison is PC gaming. And this year, I found some fun ones to occupy my time. Scribblenauts Unmasked, Reus, Papers, Please, the list could go on and on. But if I was going to pick the one that surprised me the most, that has to be Miasmata, a game programmed by two brothers (I think). You’re a plague victim trying to synthesize a cure from jungle plants. You have to fight the ravages of the disease and use a unique cartography system to find what you need and cure yourself. Simply incredible!
3) Miss out on too many movies. I still haven’t seen the second Hobbit movie. I missed Ender’s Game. I did see Thor 2 and loved it. I did see Star Trek Into Darkness and left feeling “meh.” And I did see Man of Steel and was horrified at Supes’s snap decision (pun intended). But perhaps one of the best movies I saw this year was a kids’ movie. My older son went to see Frozen and became obsessed with it. I eventually took him to see it a second time and I understand why. Very funny, heartwarming, with an ending that surprised and delighted me. If you haven’t seen it yet, go check it out.
2) Became a Whovian. Before the beginning of this year, I didn’t get Dr. Who. Well, I understood that people enjoyed it and loved it, but I never had sat down to watch an episode for myself. This year, I finally decided to bite the bullet and see what it was all about. And I quickly burned through all seven seasons in time to watch the 50th Anniversary special. I was almost despondent when I realized I couldn’t watch the Christmas Special and then elated when I realized I could get it on iTunes. Suffice it to say, I’m in the Whovian fandom now, although I’m a little worried about Peter Capaldi as of right now. We’ll just have to wait and see.
1) Published three more speculative fiction stories. I added three more stories to the critical mass of Christian spec fic this year: Gauntlet Goes to Prom, Failstate: Legends, and Numb. I love all three and I’ve loved seeing people’s reactions to them.
So there we go. 2013 in review. I’d do a list of what I’m looking forward to in 2014, but I need to get moving. So I’ll ask you: What was your favorite spec fic related thing from the previous year? Or What spec fic related thing are you looking forward to most in 2014?