Welcome to Smugglivus 2017! Throughout this month, we will have guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2017, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2018, and more.
Our next Smugglivus guest is Jim C. Hines, Fantasy and Science Fiction author, writer of this year’s super fun Terminal Alliance
Please give it up for Jim!
Greetings, Smugglerteers! I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve found 2017 to be overwhelming in pretty much every way. From the maelstrom of U.S. politics to the power of the #MeToo movement to the outpouring of new Legendaries to catch in Pokemon Go, this year has been intense. If it weren’t for Black Panther coming out next year, I’d be tempted to sleep through 2018.
Instead, I’m gonna throw out some recommendations that help me recharge. Stories and creators who make me feel hopeful about the world, and energized to be a part of it. Starting with…
Hellspark, by Janet Kagan.
I never had the chance to meet Janet in person, but we corresponded when I was getting started as a writer. She was a warm and kind-hearted person, and that comes through in all of her work.
Hellspark is full of beautiful worldbuilding, delightful characters, and lots of linguistic and cultural science. On the planet Flashfever, where pretty much everything is bioelectric, trader and linguist Tocohl Sosumo and her joyfully childlike AI Maggie in are brought in to help determine whether the native sprookjes have their own language, which would prove their sentience. Oh, and also to solve a murder.
Sosumo is bright, capable, tough, thoughtful, and fun. The worldbuilding in this one makes me despair of my own writing ability. Kagan plunges you into the middle of a well-developed universe, and invites you along for the ride.
More than anything else, Kagan’s stories are full of love. Love of language and discovery and adventure, with powerful relationships and real friendships. She’s also the author of the Star Trek novel Uhura’s Song, and a novel-length collection of intertwined stories called Mirabile.
This is a show that presents as fantasy before morphing into science fiction. It’s a team of superpowered women (the Crystal Gems) and the titular character Steven, who’s half-Gem, half-human. It’s got action and humor and music and surprisingly complex worldbuilding and relationships and character development. It’s a show that embraces diversity in multiple dimensions. It can be over-the-top goofy, then turn around and deliver stories as emotionally powerful as anything on television.
There’s plenty of action, an evil space empire, monsters of the week, and lots of pulpy SF/F-style goodness, including a full-on dystopic society, clone-type servants, spaceships, robots, swords, teleportation platforms, an altered Earth, etc.
It’s also subversive and refreshing, challenging assumptions about family and romance and friendship and trust and gender and sexuality and beauty and love and so much more.
These characters have so much love and respect and affection for one another. Whether it’s everyone’s love and protectiveness for Steven, or Steven’s love for…well, pretty much everyone and everything, it all just makes me happy. Steven has a number of powers, but his faith and love are the strongest.
Which sounds totally cheesy, I know. But it’s not a naïve, happy, “love fixes everything!” show. Sometimes there’s a cost. Sometimes there’s pain. Sometimes there’s betrayal. Sometimes there’s loss and guilt and trauma. It’s the characters’ strength and love in the face of all this that makes the show so powerful and energizing.
That and the kick-ass songs.
Sensation Comics, Featuring Wonder Woman, Volume 1
I’ve never been an avid reader of comics. Then a few years ago, I discovered our local library had an extensive collection of comics available both in print and for electronic checkout, so I’ve been working to remedy that egregious gap in my education.
I liked the Wonder Woman film, but I love the Sensation Comics take on the character, written by comic book legend Gail Simone, among others.
This is a Wonder Woman whose true strength comes from hope and compassion and love. There are plenty of villains and battles and other comic book standards, but there’s also humor and light. In Wonder Woman, we get a character not darkened by cynicism or bitterness, but one who truly and unashamedly cares.
It’s refreshing, to say the least.
Those are my top recommendations. What would you suggest for people looking to recharge as we careen toward the new year?