Another year has passed, another year where my inability to drink had me at a distinct disadvantage. Fortunately, as is always the case in times of darkness, entertainment and media of all forms excelled. While I felt like I consumed less this year than in years prior (especially with respect to books), I do feel as though my consumption had more merit or worth to it than is sometimes the case. In some instances I felt like I needed to absorb or fall into specific things this year, to stave off some of the more harrowing aspects of reality, or to further/better educate myself on the task at hand (i.e., overthrowing the patriarchy, making racists afraid again… you know, the usual).
Let’s start with games. Didn’t play all that much this year in terms of breadth of titles, but the few that I did play… let’s just say that I used games as an escape in 2017 more than I have in the past. Part of that involved being completely and utterly taken by a narrative and world, as in the 100-plus hours I spent hunting robot dinosaurs in Horizon: Zero Dawn (which, point of fact, excels in representation, matters of class, race, sexuality, gender roles, etc., all wrapped up in a cogent, thought-provoking narrative involving a post-post-apocalyptic world, shattered in the past due to the actions of a single, exceedingly wealthy, war-mongering white dude—aspects of Native American appropriation aside, the game’s narrative blew me away). Part of it was spent alongside Wolfenstein II’s completely-over-the-top-yet-still-unnervingly-grounded-in-our-current-shitty-reality revolution against the Nazi takeover in 1960’s America. And yet another part of it was spent catapulting through the joy-for-joy’s-sake of Super Mario Odyssey, which proved to be a perfect, and perfectly happy balm for the open wound that was 2017’s news cycle.
The real story for me and gaming this year, however, is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, or, How Andrew Reconnected with his Sister over a Cumulative 500+ hours spent Lost in Hyrule. Yeah. That happened. Both of us had hellish years in terms of stress and overwork, and during the summer, when I was out west and helping the family deal with a (thankfully small) medical crisis, this was the thing that we both found we needed, even if we didn’t know it at the time—an enormous, puzzle-based open world full of endless nostalgia and discovery. That they finally go all the way and make Zelda that badass she should have been from the jump, and not just another damsel in distress, is just icing on the cake. And we’re still both engrossed in this damn game, having done almost everything there is to do, which is testament both to how wonderful an experience it is (especially having grown up with the now-thirty-year-old series), and how much we needed something to help us step outside of ourselves and our usual routines.
I managed to see more films in theatres this year than the past few, and was impressed by more than I usually am. Without wanting to recount them all (because I can’t), I’ll say that my top two spots go, without question, to Get Out and The Shape of Water, with honourable mentions to Lady Bird, War for the Planet of the Apes (unexpectedly, one of the best modern SF trilogies), Logan, Baby Driver (despite Kevin Spacey’s assholery), Atomic Blonde, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi—a.k.a. the most interesting Star Wars has been in… forever. Probably others, too, that I’m forgetting, but these are the ones that stand out most in my brain.
For books… well, due to a number of factors—work, school, starting a magazine requiring I read more short fiction than ever before—I actually read fewer books this year than the last ten. In fact, this is the first time since, I think, 2006, that I’ve read fewer than 100 books in a year. That said, the latter half of this year has included some of the strongest experiences I’ve had with books in some time. Because there’s nothing quite like a flood of terrific, soul-destroying reads to let you know that you’re not as jaded as you fear you’ve become, and you can in fact fall in love with reading again—you just need to find the right material.
For reference, a brief demographic breakdown:
Books read (including graphic novels and edited collections: 90 (DNF: 2)
Books by male-identified authors: 35
Books by female-identified authors: 47
Books by more than one author (i.e., edited anthologies): 10
Books by white authors: 39
Books by non-white/POC authors: 51
Graphic novels: 24
Best of the year (in order read): Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay; The Devil in Silver, by Victor LaValle; Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal, by eds. Kiera Ladner and Myra Tait (full disclosure: I was copy editor for this collection, but still think it’s a must read, despite my obvious bias); The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, by Ken Liu; Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay; Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind, by Octavia Butler; The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin; Brother, by David Chariandy; Son of a Trickster, by Eden Robinson; Scarborough, by Catherine Hernandez; What We Lose, by Zinzi Clemmons; What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, by Lesley Nneka Arimah; An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay; Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado (apart from the terrible novella in the middle that kills almost all momentum); The Break, by Katherena Vermette; Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler. (Not listed: books I’d already read, like Daytripper and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which are perennial faves.)
The worst: Beforelife, by Randal Graham (dear god it was terrible); White Noise, by Hari Kunzru (mostly just disappointing, as I’d heard such glowing praise for this book but felt nothing for it in the end); Dhalgren, by Samuel Delaney (did not finish); The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis (did not finish); Brown Girl in the Room, by Priya Ramsingh.
And that’s it for my 2017 media wrap-up. And may 2018 provide both the content we need and a better social and political climate in which to enjoy it.